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The Mysteries of the Universe

We have had a lot of fun discussing and debating hidden secrets in movie form throughout this blog. Movies with double or triple meanings. Stories beneath the stories. Riddles wrapped in riddles. It is entertaining to sift through a complex story and mine it for the deeper meanings in order to come to some real enlightenment about the story.

And its one thing to do as a lark with regard to movies or books. But its an entirely other enterprise to do it in real life.

Have you ever gone in search of the mysteries of the universe? Or to grapple with the deeper Truths of life? Is this world we walk through just a temporary experience and then darkness? Are we reborn to do it over again? Do planets await where we birth offspring? What is the deeper meaning to the mysteries of this life? Is it possible to know or will they remain elusive until the day we die and experience the answers for yourself?

I believe we can know – and that these mysteries have been revealed and are awaiting your discovery.

By now I’m guessing I’ve been dismissed as a crackpot by 50% of you. Give me a little while longer and I will convince the rest of you! haha. But it doesn’t matter what you think or don’t. The Truth is the Truth and opinion or conjecture won’t change the deeper facts about the mysteries of this life. But to quote Fox Mulder – the Truth is out there.

Blaise Pascal, the brilliant mathematician and inventor, coined this search and desire perfectly in his Pensees 10.148

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and unchangeable object; in other words by God himself.”

Maybe you don’t believe in God. Maybe you’ve decided He does not exist. And yet, Pascal has coined the problem perfectly. We all have an infinitely deep desire for love – an infinite striving for affection that will never be filled. Does that resound at all? I know that it makes perfect sense to me. When you are alone and the world has slipped quietly to black, what do you think about when confronted with the broadness and vastness of the universe? Or when you were hurt, yet again, by your boyfriend, or your father, your wife – what is that deep ache and yearning saying?

So, What Are The Mysteries of the Universe?

The saddest of all sad things is that most of us don’t stop, slow down and grapple with these deeper issues. We don’t ask the important questions. It seems as though society as a whole is complicit in this massive game of avoidance as well. Movies, books, television, advertisements all point to denial and avoidance as the solution. Very rarely does society take hold of these deeper questions and investigate them.

But you deserve answers to the mysteries of the universe. You deserve to know why we are here and what the goal of this life really is. You deserve to understand what you were made for as opposed to avoiding these questions and just listening to society at large that is telling us all to just avoid these pesky problems. Are you wanting to find the answer to the meaning of life is the only question? Or are you hiding from it? Will it burden you or cause difficulties in your life if you discover it? Are you worried about what it might mean? Isn’t that secondary though to discovering it though? Isn’t it more critical to learn what the mysteries might mean or might entail?

Believe me, the Truth of the mysteries of life will be worth discovering. So much so that seeing clearly will cause you to understand the larger problems you face. It will put into perspective all of life and the chaos of this world. But first we need to discover the mysteries of this life and the meaning of all things. Hehe, not a small thing really. “The meaning of all things”. And a part of me chuckles at the thought of it. Like I’m some late night advertising con-artist trying to get you to buy my weight reduction sweat belt thing. There really is nothing in it for me except that I want everyone to know the mysteries of this world too. Promise.

“I do not want you to be uninformed of this mystery – so that you will not be wise in your own estimation…” says the Apostle Paul in Romans. And In the oldest book of the Bible, Job, it says that God reveals mysteries from the darkness and brings the deep darkness into light. So we must not become wise in our own estimation, but must look to God who can reveal the light from the darkness.

“According to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations…” Romans 16:25-27

Did you catch that? That these things are the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past and that is now manifested. Not only that, but by God’s commandment it has been made known and revealed to every nation. This is enormous. Not sure if you are grasping what kind of enormous insights Paul is laying out for you here. That what was once hidden is now able to be found. That what was once the exclusive domain of one nation is now available and understandable by every single nation.

Congratulations. You can seek out the meaning of the universe. It is knowable by you. You too have been privileged with the opportunity to learn the meaning of life – if you are receptive to the truth that is. This is a longer quote, but its worth the read. I’ll walk you through it afterwards.

“If indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.”

Ok, complicated! hehe. Let’s walk through it step by step. We are born – and we mess up. Everybody messes up. The Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Regardless, our failings separate us from a perfect God. I like to think about it this way – if God were a bucket of white paint, and you are white paint too. Then when we sin even if we become one part per million grey – we are not white anymore. Right. So if you mix your white with God’s white you’ve just made God something other than white, no? Even if only very subtly. We may or may not have started with a bucket of Behr pure white, but that’s not what it is today anyway. No? Does that seem off base? Or does it seem like you have lead a perfectly blameless life? If you do – then boy do I want to chat with you some more offline.

So we, in our mistakes and failings, are separated from God. But separation isn’t what we were created for. We were created to live in connection with our creator. Genesis seems to indicate that Adam and Eve were in the habit of walking with God in the cool of the morning which seems like an amazingly intimate way to spend time with one’s creator. Pascal hit the nail on the head when he characterized all of us as having a God-shaped hole deep within us.

Let’s head back to the mystery of long ages past from the quote mentioned above. There are several mysteries revealed in this passage. The first is that God wants to draw close to every person on the planet. Throughout the Old Testament it seems as though God is fairly partial to the Jews. But then it is revealed, in quite stunning fashion (a topic for another time), that God desires that none shall be lost. This may seem obvious to you, but it wasn’t for several thousand years before Jesus’ birth. The second, and larger revelation of the mystery was that God Himself would pay the price for our rebelliousness. That He would provide a way back to Him through Christ’s death and resurrection.

This mystery is so counter intuitive and so blatantly bizarre that it is difficult for a small mind like myself to fully grasp this. For the Christ to come and be born in a manger is crazy. That He would come to the world as a poor carpenter, insane. That He would die instead of conquer – completely nuts. God is declaring a completely different paradigm here. This is upside down world in the extreme – and yet His ways are so much higher than mine and yours. He is, after all, the creator of everything. We are talking about someone that has hobbies and meddles in fusion and fission for giggles. The spiral galaxy photo above from Hubble? He created that by speaking it into being. Would you expect Him to restore us to Himself in a way that completely makes sense to us? I hope not anyway. If I understood God completely, wouldn’t that mean I am as smart as Him?

So, back to the mysteries of the universe. First we were united with Him and then we were adrift. God then made a way for us to return to those cool of the morning walks for which were created. Which I for one cannot wait for personally.

Great. All done. Perfect sense.

But wait. So a way has been made. Great. That’s like saying a new super highway was built without on ramps. What good is that if you can’t get on the road and use it? So, where is your on ramp?

Back when Christ was living 2,000 years ago there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus who wondered the exact same thing. What’s most interesting about Nicodemus was that nearly every Pharisee despised Jesus completely. They didn’t like the way He upset their power amongst the people. They didn’t like how He didn’t listen to the rules that they thought He should listen to. He seemed to not care about position and title (which I’m thinking makes sense for the creator of all things not to care about) – and their entire culture was all about positions and titles. So back to the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus.

Nicodemus starts by saying, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” which isn’t actually correct. But it was close enough for Jesus who then responded,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

That’s a strange thing for anyone to say, even for God. It’s confusing at the least, and disturbing in the extreme! But look at how Nicodemus responds: “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Which is probably the most sane response to this sort of a statement. I don’t think I would have done much better.

Then Jesus answers Nicodemus –

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus responds to Jesus with, “How can these things be?”

And here Jesus does the inexplicable. He tells Nicodemus everything…

“Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.”

I have to jump in here before we continue. When Jesus said the Son of Man must be lifted up he is referring to his death on a cross. So He is saying, I must die on a cross – so that whoever believes will have eternal life. The dying is critical for the solution to work. But so is the believing apparently. And with that we have our on ramp. But Jesus isn’t done explaining things to our hero Mr. Nicodemus…

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

Here we have the famous football end-zone Bible verse – but in context it makes more sense. And we also have the refrain of belief repeated as well. So many people think of Jesus as an exclusive and vindictive character. But we see here that Jesus says himself that he isn’t about judging, but about saving. He wants all to be saved, including me. Including you.

So now we’ve seen the mysteries of the universe explained. I know that I haven’t done a great job at it. There is a lot more to it and more scriptures to be investigated if you are interested. But I have tried to be as simple as I can in my explanation. We are separated from God by sin. We have a need for reconciliation to Him. Christ died because of this chasm… making it possible for us to cross the gap. If only we believe. The question is – do you believe?


Feel free to comment anything you like, you don’t have to agree with me. I actually enjoy a good discussion as indicated by the numerous long running discussions throughout this blog. But please know that I will delete all hateful or disrespectful comments. Fair? Great.

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93 Responses

  1. Jane

    The only problem with the theory of a single benevolent God is – the suffering and destruction in the world does not fall in line with it…

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      I love this line of thinking, because I can relate to it so much. Watching my mother-in-law (mentor and friend) die painfully of cancer. A close friend and co-worker committing suicide after realizing his marriage was never going to get back together again. And I’m about to get on a plane and visit hundreds of kids in the jungles of Peru who live in less than shacks and are even more desperate for love and affection. Yeah. I can relate to that sentiment. Totally agree even.

      Because I’m not an apologist I can’t completely lay out the argument perfectly but I’ll give it a go in a sec. But I would recommend a book by C.S. Lewis (Of the Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe fame) – it’s called, “The Problem of Pain”. You can find it here: http://amzn.to/SV0n7E

      This problem is definitely multi-faceted and complicated. I’ll walk down one arm of this problem for a second. So let’s abstract a bit. I have a little four year old daughter. (Have three kids actually, but that is neither here nor there.) And the other day Anica asked if she could have something (candy? I really don’t remember) and I said no. Because dinner was a half hour away. And I knew that there was no way she was going to eat if she ate anything at all before dinner, let alone candy. I turn my head back to whatever I was doing and then I notice that Anica – in the most NON-SUBTLE way imaginable – was tip-toeing her way out of the room with both arms firmly planted behind her back.

      Well, it doesn’t take a genius to realize what she was doing. She swiped the candy and was off to scarf it down. Right? Everyone has had a kid do something like that. Mine do it often for some reason! haha.

      So, as her father, I am like morally bound to do something now. Right? I can’t just let her go. I love her way too much for that. Otherwise she learns the lesson that what I just said didn’t matter. And worse than that, what she learns is the I don’t care about her one iota. And the fact is I love her with all my heart. And so I disciplined her. Right?

      Heb 12:9-11 “Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

      While this may be a small portion of what you are talking about – it does set the groundwork for plausible pain in the world that would be good. If my father hadn’t corrected me, I would have become a derelict. And would have come to despise authority. Right? But that’s a fairly simple vein of the response.

      What about evil? Serial killers? Genocide and Hitler, anyone? There are terrible, terrible people in this world who do unspeakable things. I was walking through my fairly well off neighborhood after dark a couple weeks ago and I heard in 3 or 4 separate houses a number of people screaming obscenities at one another. Just acid-laden terribleness. And I just thought, my gosh… even in this well-off corner of suburbia there is just unspeakable awfulness everywhere. So what is all that about?

      I’ve recently had the pleasure of doing an in depth study of Genesis and it is such an amazing thing to see God interacting directly with Adam and Eve in the garden before the fall. And the fact that Eve saw the fruit and that it was good for gaining wisdom… and for some odd reason God allowed us to have free-will all of our own. And we chose the fruit. And we’ve been shattered ever since. But only a few short verses away we get the first foreshadowing of the coming savior – here is God speaking to the serpent:

      Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

      Eve’s offspring here – the one that will crush the serpent’s head – is Christ. Satan bruised Jesus’ heel by his death on the cross. But Christ crushed the serpent’s head by defeating death ultimately and rising again on the third day. But even so, freewill exists and there is evil in the world today. God has made a way to come out from under the curse of sin through faith in him. But that doesn’t mean this world is sinless. We are still given the choice every day to hurt others or to help.

      There are a billion more points I could make. But I think C.S. Lewis’ book is the best philisophical treatise on this issue I have ever read. Get it from the library. Heck, I’ll gift you the Kindle version if you’d read it or even mail you my copy. C.S. Lewis is an interesting character in that he didn’t get married until late in life and this his wife (an American) died of cancer I believe. And so “Problem of Pain” and even more so “A Grief Observed” is all about Lewis grappling with this exact problem that you brought up. I’m really sorry for the enormous response. But very large BOOKS have been written on this issue. Just consider this yet another book written! hahah.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Reply
  2. Jane

    I hadn’t heard of this book by C.S.Lewis ! Thanks for the suggestion, will check it out. The basic idea seems to be – pain makes people sadder but wiser. While God has created all living things with a capacity to feel pain.. Very few people seem capable of becoming wiser through it.

    Reply
  3. Jane

    Even atheists agree that man is not supreme. We are ruled by nature – a superpower that’s miraculous and terrifying at once.
    Existence of life on this planet hangs on such a delicate balance – if the ozone layer wasn’t as thick as it was, if the earth was any closer to the sun than it is.. END of story. Humans are obviously insignificant and helpless. Definitely under control of a superpower called Nature. Where does God fit in though ?
    In my mind, the definition of God is like this :
    God = Nature with a heart
    Maybe an oversimplification but that’s how I like to think about it..

    Reply
  4. Taylor Holmes

    Hey Jane,
    love talking about this stuff. So interesting to hear other people’s opinions and thoughts. Forgive my longwindedness (not a word?) but you’ve probably read my blog a bit and know I don’t have a clue what succinct even means.

    The basic idea seems to be – pain makes people sadder but wiser.

    From a Christian perspective (wait, check that – from MY Perspective in the Christian faith) I don’t think I completely jive with that summation, but its’ close. Let me flip it on its head for a second. Happiness as the world sees it is irrelevant and actually leads to shackles. But joy from a Christian perspective may look terrible from the World’s perspective.

    1 Cor 3:19 – Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.

    So what does the world’s definition of happiness look like? Money? Beautiful spouse? Gorgeous house? Good health? Great car? I don’t know… you tell me what success looks like to the world. But the glamor rags tell me that its all about success, the red carpet, the latest fashions, the car, the mansion, the hair, the dress… what have you.

    Tripe. All tripe.

    That’s just a form of bondage and slavery to a fleeting desire for acceptance. A desire for love that can only be found in a perfect being loving me perfectly. So “HAPPINESS” is so so flimsy a think to semantically argue about without defining it. And I don’t want anything to do with that definition of happiness. Though I struggle with truly and fully understanding what that means daily.

    Existence of life on this planet hangs on such a delicate balance – if the ozone layer wasn’t as thick as it was, if the earth was any closer to the sun than it is.. END of story. Humans are obviously insignificant and helpless. Definitely under control of a superpower called Nature.

    Sounds like you are making my argument for me right up until the last word there! hahah. I totally agree. Isn’t that argument called “The Fine Tuning Argument”? And its normally employed by someone trying to prove the existence of an intelligent designer. I think it was Hawking that originally noted that the laws of science had been so finely adjusted so as to make possible for life. No?

    Where does God fit in though?

    I personally believe that those dials were set specifically and intentionally to one end and that end is life and relationship with Him. Its better if I just quote what the Bible says He fits in. This section is speaking about Christ…

    Colossians 1:15-20 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

    Kind of a dense passage. But basically the Bible’s response to your question is that through Christ all things were created. Not only that, but through Christ all things hold together. Right now. Things are blowing into oblivion because Christ is willing it so. But not only that but that it was through him to reconcile us to him. To personally come to earth and be crushed by a world that didn’t have the same agenda, to be ravaged by mankind for us so that we wouldn’t be subject to that same wrath.

    But what gives you hope? If there is no god beyond nature – what keeps you from committing suicide out of hopelessness? No offense. I just would be suicidal without my own faith. I’ve read a lot of Nietzsche who grappled with that question in his writing alot. And I personally think he went mad trying to figure out a way to pull that philosophical triple gainer off – and ultimately couldn’t do it. Eventually he came to denial of the end. A blissful avoidance. And something a worship of nature maybe? But to what end? How does that help me in my pain today? What does that do for me and my understanding of the dials and their purpose. You know?

    Anyway – awesome thoughts. Sorry again for the length. I just don’t know how to quickly summarize this stuff. But you’ve been patient so far! hahah.

    Reply
  5. Jane

    Belief in God, participation in mass prayers etc. has been scientifically proven to be a good tonic for the human brain. It releases a lot of ‘good chemicals’ in the head, essentially keeps the believer in good psychiatric health. (Have you read ‘Why We Hate’ by Rush W. Dozier ? He goes into all the technical details on this)

    You hit it right on the head with one line – ” I just would be suicidal without my own faith”

    The atheists claim that this is exact reason why man believes in God – because faith provides emotional security, a source of hope. Is your life awful ? – don’t worry, there’s a great afterlife awaiting you in Heaven. They say God was created by Man (in his head), and not the other way round.

    I am not backing the atheist argument..Just noting that scientists, atheists and believers – purportedly arguing diametrically opposite points of view – are often saying the same thing in different ways..

    Reply
  6. Taylor

    Jane,
    Loving this exchange. So insightful. Thanks for the responses. Spent all day traveling to Peru so I’m more than a bit looped out – but!! I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to respond. Just know that if I go dark in the next bit it’s probably because I just went over the Andes and am I the jungle. Fair enough?

    I have put that book on hold at the library. Looks like a very interesting read. I have done quite a bit of reading in this general space and have also seen studies on twins separated at birth that spirituality tends to run in the genes? Not sure exactly if that means anything at all. But it’s interesting.

    The thoughts you convey here are classic Marx… No?

    It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.

    Something like that anyway. I really understand where he was coming from and the larger goal – and yet at the same time… For me it all comes back to Ex Nihilo creation … And a lack of a prime mover makes zero sense to me. Maybe you could walk me through it.

    I’ve read a ton about string theory and see it all as grasping for the wind. And atheists who say (like the movie Prometheus) that life on earth originated from alien life else where are just delaying the inevitable. But life and matter are just two different problems I guess (travel talking sorry this is confused). Where did MATTER come from originally? And where did life then come from afterwards?

    Between you and me Jane, (and the three other people reading this particular post) it requires more faith to not believe in God than it does to believe in God. But I really am interested in how you think about these two key points. Ex Nihilo (ex nihilism?! hehe) more than anything really.

    Thanks again for the conversation – awesome stuff.
    Taylor

    Reply
  7. Jane

    Excellent point there – It requires more faith to not believe in God than it does to believe in God… So true. In my heart I’m a believer too but that doesn’t stop my head asking questions !
    Where did life come from ? How could everything come from nothing ? Hmm that’s a tough one – all the theories in science and religion both seem fantastical. But what I like about science is that science admits we don’t know everything 🙂
    My major problem with religion’s theory of how-life-originated is that it assumes man to be the centre of God’s creation. It sounds like other life forms on this complex planet are supplementary and dispensable. The sheer variety of ecologies and species on earth suggests otherwise. 75% of earth is water – and the oceans are simply teeming with life – with innumerable aquatic species that we have not even fully identified. There are thousands of species of insects alone. So how are we to believe that Earth was created for mankind ?
    Life on earth existed for eons before we homo sapiens arrived. And will likely exist for eons after we have become extinct.
    We are just another species that comes and goes. An awfully dependent species with a very narrow ecological niche. Just because we have the ability to think and imagine we imagine ourselves to be the centre of creation ? That sounds so egoistic, so unbelievable.
    BTW- thanks for opening up this discussion – I’ve been wanting to talk about this for a long time.

    Reply
  8. Taylor

    Jane,
    Whatever you do, don’t stop thinking. If it turns out that to be a Christian I need to ‘stop’ thinking then I will join you as we go and search for another religion or system of philosophy because I just won’t put up with that at all.

    I personally believe that science and Christianity are extremely compatable systems. And it’s science that is constantly illuminating truths in the bible and vice versa. Sometimes the two appear to conflict but in reality they don’t. For example the stars and the signs in the Bible. At first they appear to be incorrect and completely irroneous. But in time we see how right they both are. Do a search for a video called The Star of Bethlehem I believe it is. This might do it? : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGeSRyzN49Q I can’t pull it up because my Internet is hanging on by a thread right now. Larson is the man’s name who does it.

    But all that to say, just because I believe in God doesn’t mean that I think physics and the laws of science are bogus. In fact God is the one who created physics and everytime scientists learn more about the world around us I believe it shows off more of God’s amazing handiwork. Hubble? The best way to see God at work. Hobbs Boson? God’s miracle in the miniature world. DNA? Eloquence of life by a master artisan.

    Show me am area of science that conflicts with the Bible and I will show you a misunderstanding that will eventually be resolved with another discovery or revelation in science.

    With regard to man being the center of the universe and of all creation I disagree. Man is not the center. God is. And God created all things not for me – but for him and to reveal his Glory and majesty. There are whole galaxies of stars and planets that man will never know anything about. But that doesn’t make them irrelevant. Whole categories of species in the sea or jungles that we will never catalog and they still are known by God and speak of his wonder. Seems like you think I believe it is the other way around and it’s a crucial distinction.

    I personally believe that God has built a marvelously beautiful creation from one end of the scale all the way out to the other. And the only reason it was created was so that it would point you – Jane – to Him.

    “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4)

    And this passage in Romans:

    “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

    I had to basically break into the hotel’s wifi closet here in the jungle of Peru in order to get it working again so I could write back! Heheh. And it keeps going up and down. So it makes responding difficult. But know that I have been trying my best to respond!! Hahah.

    Until next time.
    Taylor

    Reply
  9. Jane

    I like your thoughts on how religion and science concur. Find that a very interesting subject myself. (We need to talk more on this later)

    When I said religion supposes man to be the centre of creation – I think I didn’t express myself properly there. What I meant was – Religion supposes God created the planet primarily for humans.
    C.S. Lewis says as much in ‘The Problem of Pain’ : “Man was appointed by God to have dominion over the beasts, and everything a man does to an animal is either a lawful exercise, or a sacrilegious abuse, of an authority by Divine right. The tame animal is therefore, in the deepest sense, the only ‘natural’ animal – the only one we see occupying the place it was made to occupy, and it is on the tame animal that we must base all our doctrine of beasts.”
    I’m not a Christian, and have not read the original Bible – so I need you to tell me whether C.S. Lewis was giving his personal opinion in the above, or does the religious text really say something to that effect. Personally I can’t believe that man was supposed to have dominion over either flora or fauna.

    I started C.S.Lewis’ book with the chapter on Animal pain (because I think its the most difficult type of pain to explain), and was so upset by it that I stopped reading right there.
    “This would mean that if you give such a creature two blows with a whip, there are, indeed, two pains: but there is no co-ordinating self which can recognise that ‘I have had two pains’. ” – that is so heartless. Animals experience pain just like we do – not just physical but emotional pain as well. Look at a pet dog abandoned by the owner and you will see the meaning of ‘heartbroken’.
    And even if animals cannot remember a sequence of events as we can – does that make that pain immaterial ? Will it be tolerable to whip a mentally retarded person just because he/she can’t remember it later ?

    If God who created man created the animals as well – I would expect God to love the animals and protect them too (as He would the humans)

    BTW – appreciate your efforts in keeping up with this post 🙂

    Reply
  10. Taylor

    Hey Jane,
    My apologies for that chapter. When my wife and I read that book together we had long discussions about that one chapter and I had forgotten about it completely. The reason I pointed you to that book was not specifically because of the topic of animals but about justice and the lack there of. Pain around the world – like the stuff I saw today that would just blow your mind. (Family of 5 in an adobe house about 8 foot by 10 foot? Check out my latest blog later today and maybe I can get a picture posted. We shall see, but I digress).

    Lewis was an old school Oxford Don so you have to take him with a grain of salt. Another problem is taking him out of context. Jumping into the middle of the book without understanding the entirety of his logic isn’t really fair to him. But I agree, even context it’s indefensible.

    Here’s where he is coming from. In Genesis 2? Or 3? I am not going to look it up. It says that man was given a job to maintain the garden. To name the animals. And then God said there was no reasonable partner for Adam and he created Eve. Ok? Fine. He then says:

    “ Be fruitful and multiply , and fill the earth , and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth .” Then God said , “Behold , I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth , and every tree which has fruit yielding seed ; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life , I have given every green plant for food ”; and it was so.

    God declares the plants to be food for the animals and for the humans alike. He says to man subjugate the land and rule over it. This is where C.S. Lewis is coming from. It’s a very naive vantage point. But I will agree with him on one point and disagree with you on one… Animals were not breathed into by God when Rey were created. So from a Christian vantage, we take that to mean they don’t have souls. Can they feel pain? Heck ya. That’s easy science. And I would go so far as to say that there is a spiritual commandment here to take care of the earth in this “subjugating it” quote. The other command here is to multiply the humans, the fish the animals. To govern the earth and to make sure it continues. That’s how I read it. My wife, the horse and country lover would agree with that stance as well. She cares so much about animals she wants to see them continue on to heaven after they die. Will they? No idea. There is no indication that they will… But I wouldn’t be to surprised if they do.

    So all that to say, I’m sorry about that chapter. If pain of animals is more your thing then he’s not your guy. But taking religion off the table, I would say to you, there are so so so many children in desperate need of love and attention. Children who have been and neglected. Why would you place the needs of animals above those of children? I don’t disagree that they are important, but if we place them above kids who are suffering it seems like we have turned everything upside down and our priorities are out of whack. Just curious about your perspective on this line of thinking.

    I work for a Christian NGO and we connect sponsors to children in desperate need. This trip I am on is taking us out to the remote jungles of Peru just so we can see how desperate these children are. The water has parasites in it. The houses are not locked and are very small. The roof leaks in the rainy season. I could go on and on. It’s all very sad. And so I’m sorry – these kids are on the forefront of my mind right now.

    But it doesn’t minimize your questions. They are very good and I’m sorry I threw you in the deep end there! But his perspective on pain, his perspective on sufferings are amazing. His logic turns the arguments upside down. But if that isn’t an issue for you then never mind! And I think that I owe you 6$ for the book!! Hahah.

    Alright, I’ll see if I can get this posted. Until next time

    Reply
  11. Jane

    Do animals have a soul ? I rather think they do. In my heart I believe that at least dogs and dolphins do. They are such emotionally charged creatures, capable of great affection and compassion. Pet dogs deserted by their owners literally go through a heartbreak. Dolphins have risked their lives trying to save a diver in danger. Just can’t think of these creatures as soul-less. Being very fond of animals as I am, I admit that my views may be biased somewhat.

    But to compare animals in pain with human suffering is unfair to both parties. My take on animal pain is this – even if we cannot do anything to stop it, we should do everything we can to stop causing it. Stop killing snakes for leather, stop killing animals for meat (cattle are literally skinned alive in slaughterhouses), stop destroying the forests. We humans don’t own this earth and we should stop acting like we do. The Jain doctrine of ‘Live and Let Live’ says it all.

    On an aside, psychologists have observed that violence towards animals at some point leads to an indifference towards pain in humans. In other words, callousness becomes a habit.

    I will go on with the rest of C.S.Lewis’ book – am curious to know what he has to say about human suffering.

    Where human pain is concerned – it is a great thing to try and help out. Its an amazing thing what you guys are doing out there. Personally I consider compassion to be the greatest of all human virtues. Who was it who said that the point of being born human is just that – to be human.

    Reply
  12. Taylor

    Hey Jane,
    Back stateside now. Got back late last night. The Internet connectivity got much worse before it got better. So it made it very difficult to respond. So, my apologies for the delay.

    Our conversation here has been so fascinating to me that I’ve considered doing a complete blog post about it. Basically a conversation between different view points about the meaning of life. A Christian, an Atheist, a Buddhist, a Mormon, etc etc. So if you are reading this and think something like that would be fun, let me know! It wouldn’t be to pin someone down and convert them, but to just detail out differences in view points. Or similarities. Or what have you. If I gave you the questions in advance Jane would you jump in? (Like how I’m putting you on the spot?)

    To your specific points about animals I really don’t know. Could be. I square my vantage point against scripture, and scripture is decidedly mute on this point. So I really don’t have much of an opinion here. I do believe animals were not intended to be eaten before the fall. It says so clearly. But post fall it all went pear shaped as they say.

    I would be interested in your perspective on the book of John. The fourth book of the New Testament. You seem to be curious about the larger picture of the Bible and you have some really great questions that are amazingly well handled in John. Like the amazing conversation detailed out between Jesus and Nicodemus in John 3. And the Samaritan woman who comes to the well and the comversation Christ had there in John 4. Chapter 8 and Jesus’ intervention for the adulterous woman. Etc etc. Regardless, I’d be fascinated what you think of John. You could probably have it read in a couple hours, if. Maybe 1 hour? Depends on how quickly you chew it up.

    Thanks again for the chat. Really thought provoking.
    Taylor

    Reply
  13. Jane

    Hi Taylor,
    Great idea for a new blog post 🙂 Would love to join.
    I will read the part of the Bible you have pointed me to. Sounds like great food for thought.
    Thanks.

    Reply
  14. Taylor

    Hey Jane,
    Been brain storming a way to get different perspectives to answer the same questions – if you have ideas I’d love to hear them. Maybe trolling Jewish, Budhist, Taoist boards? But convincing them that it’s on the up and up would be the tricky bit. Hrm. Still thinking.

    How goes the reading? Would love to read along at the same time if I just knew how far in you were. Hopefully there aren’t TOO many abused animals in the book! Haha. Anyway, just thought I would check in.

    Taylor

    Reply
  15. Jane

    Hi Taylor,
    Sorry for the late reply – been busy this weekend. You are throwing stuff at me faster than I can read… (No offense, I mean that as a compliment)

    John seemed like heavy reading to me (I’m sure there must be more than one way of interpreting every incident). I have read it once so far. My first impression is that Jesus speaks in metaphors always while his listeners seem to be very simple people. They take the literal meaning of everything he says, while he mostly never means what he says in the literal sense of the word. His words are usually laden with meaning, perhaps with layers of meaning. My first basic question is, why did he speak in riddles ? (When the intended audience is obviously not getting it)

    Second impression, there are multiple references to eternal life. (This seems to be an ideology common to multiple religions.) But I didn’t find anything describing what this eternal life is like. Is it an allusion to heaven ? What is heaven supposed to be like – is it described in the Bible ?

    BTW, have you read religious texts from other religions ? Point me to a few books that you liked. Translation of religious text, work of an apologist, whatever. Curious to read up definitions/descriptions of heaven/eternal life.

    Reply
  16. taylor

    Hey there Jane –
    great insights on the book of John. Let me see if I can respond to each of your comments in turn.

    You are throwing stuff at me faster than I can read… (No offense, I mean that as a compliment)

    No worries – I’m harder to offend than that! hahaha. I’m always reading something new, something different – so as things hit my radar – you may get inundated!

    John seemed like heavy reading to me (I’m sure there must be more than one way of interpreting every incident).

    Well congratulations on finishing the book. Can I ask what translation you used? And if you don’t mind, I’d like to give you some advice. Don’t read it in the King James. That was translated several hundred years ago by a committee that was influenced heavily by the politics of King James. But it seems to be the preferred translation for most people coming to the Bible for the first time. My preferred translation is NASB. In my opinion (other christians wandering through – just chill and hear me out dangit.) the NASB is the most literal and yet the most readable translation. NIV is a very very good alternative to NASB as well. NIV is very readable, a lot easier to understand than most translation. So that may help for your next reading. Just a thought.

    My first impression is that Jesus speaks in metaphors always while his listeners seem to be very simple people. They take the literal meaning of everything he says, while he mostly never means what he says in the literal sense of the word. His words are usually laden with meaning, perhaps with layers of meaning. My first basic question is, why did he speak in riddles ? (When the intended audience is obviously not getting it)

    This is such a good question that even the Disciples asked Jesus this same thing. First, a primer on the New Testament. You may know this already – but I just don’t want to assume. The first four books are called the Gospels. All four (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) detail out the exact same things from different perspectives. So they are very very similar, and very very different at the same time… The Gospels gives us a full picture of Jesus’ time on earth, his death and resurrection. Acts, the 5th book of the New Testament details out what happened after Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension to heaven and the establishment of the early Church in Jerusalem.

    All that to say – in Matthew, the disciples asked Jesus this question you just asked. Matthew 13:10 specifically. I’ll quote it here – its a long quote, but bear with me, and I will explain it. Here’s a link to it as well out on a really great website for reading the Bible in pretty much any translation or language you could ask for – https://www.youversion.com/bible/100/mat.13.nasb

    And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,
    ‘YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND;
    YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE;
    FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL,
    WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR,
    AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES,
    OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES,
    HEAR WITH THEIR EARS,
    AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN,
    AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.’

    Alright, let me break it down for you. When Jesus was ministering for 3 years before he was crucified in the crowds there were people who really wanted to know about God, and there were those that just were trying to catch him in a blasphemous statement, and condemn him. There were also people who just came for the circus of it. Think of it – what would happen today if someone like Jesus were walking around your home town? He healed people. He cast out demons. He rose people from the dead. He was controversial and he was a rebel to the current religious traditions that the Pharisees had constructed incorrectly. Jesus attracted all manner of chaos around him.

    So when people asked questions he spoke in riddles (they are actually called parables) to convey truth to people that were actually listening. And here’s the tricky bit. If you really want to know what the parables mean, God will reveal the meaning to you. He will make them clear. But if you just want to ridicule them or to tear them down, the wisdom inherent in them will not make any sense.

    Another cool thing about this passage is that Jesus is quoting a prophecy from the Old Testament about him that was fulfilled by his speaking in parables. (There are hundreds of prophecies that were fulfilled from the old to the new testament – which is an amazing study to go looking for them all. From where he was born to how he died so many that the Jews have removed some of these sections from their Bible because they point directly at Jesus, and… well, that just won’t do! haha.) So, I could talk about this one for an hour without slowing… so I’m trying to be brief. But the parables were important. And there are many examples in the other gospels where the disciples go – UM WHAT?! WHAT WAS ALL THAT ABOUT? And Jesus would stop and explain the detailed meaning to them. Pretty interesting.

    But you are right. The people were dense. But think about it. If Jesus is God in flesh (and I believe that he is) then what would you expect that interaction to look like. The being that created universes and formed the earth. And if that God that created all those things wanted you to love him first and foremost, and to relate to him and talk to him about everything… what would that look like? Here’s another interaction where the disciples asked a similar question:

    As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables. And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that WHILE SEEING, THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND WHILE HEARING, THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND, OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT RETURN AND BE FORGIVEN.” And He *said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables? 14The sower sows the word….

    And then Jesus goes on to explain that particular parable of the seeds. The capital words is the reference back to Isaiah, and the prophecy being fulfilled. Which is pretty important.

    Now – as to your questions about eternal life. That’s a fun topic too. I will answer your question from the Bible’s point of view and then will speak to other religions and their perspective on the heaven concept. Your question first though:

    Second impression, there are multiple references to eternal life. (This seems to be an ideology common to multiple religions.) But I didn’t find anything describing what this eternal life is like. Is it an allusion to heaven ? What is heaven supposed to be like – is it described in the Bible ?

    Ok, so eternal life is a multi-faceted concept. If you have accepted Christ as God, and as the one person in the universe that can forgive your sins then you are alive eternally even though you will one day die physically. So eternal life begins here on earth – and that is Life with a capital L. Real Life. Not the counterfeit life that so many on earth are consumed with. (Fashion, money, entertainment, pursuits that just don’t fulfill our deepest needs and desires – like I talk about in the blog.)

    But it also refers to heaven. And on this topic I could go on for hours and hours and hours without slowing. So I will really try to be brief here – but I apologize in advance, because I know I won’t be.

    So – in Matthew 22 the Sadducees, trying to trick Jesus pose to him a bit of a riddle. I will rephrase the trick question here. It’ll become relevant soon enough. Man A is Married to woman A. Right? Man A dies. His brother B marries woman A (which was customary in those days, so the widow would be taken care of and wouldn’t be destitute.) Brother B dies. And Brother C marries woman A. Brother C dies… Brother D marries woman A… you get the picture right?

    Then comes the question. Who is married to woman A in the resurrection. Now, this is where the hidden hand grenade is. The Sadducees don’t even believe in a resurrection. The Sadducees and the Pharisees were the religious rulers of Israel that had operated throughout the old testament and they drove the truth of the Old Testament directly into the ground. Regardless, the Sadducees were tricking Jesus by trying to show him how stupid this resurrection thing was.

    Well, Jesus responds with these words:

    “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: ‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

    So, first thing we learn about heaven is that there is no marriage in heaven. We also learn that there are angels in heaven. And that they too don’t marry. With regard to the resurrection – Jesus quotes what the Old Testament says about God (he is using their text back to them) and shows them that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (the founding fathers of Israel really) weren’t dead, but were alive.

    Ok? so with that one scripture I’ve tried to point out a number of details about what Jesus’ said heaven was like. With regard to what heaven is physically like, we don’t have a ton of details. But in John you’ll remember reading in chapter 14:

    “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

    Hebrews 11:16 (Hebrews is a New Testament book written to the early church) and it describes heaven as a city.

    But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

    Hebrews 13:14 makes another similar claim:

    For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.

    Revelation 21:2 (Revelation was a book of prophesy written by the apostle John while imprisoned on the isle of Patmos for his testimony about Jesus.) This quote indicates that Heaven will come down to earth physically.

    And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God

    Revelation 7 also says that the lamb, or Christ, will wipe away our every tear. In heaven there will be no hunger or thirst. That we will have springs of Life (like what Jesus talked about with the woman at the well).

    For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

    Theres a ton more. If you want to ride this rocket longer I can keep going. But here are some general statements made about heaven throughout the New Testament. That it is considered a great reward (Matthew 5:11). That any suffering we go through today is nothing in comparison to the future glory awaiting those that believe (Romans 8:18). That the glory of heaven will be impossible to compare it to anything else (2 Corinthians 4:17,18). And its more than you can even ask for or even imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

    The Old Testament even describes Jesus’ second coming and the establishment of his throne on earth. But wow. That’s a whole ‘nother rabbit hole. But that is important to understanding what heaven will really be like. But I’m stoping there for now. Just way too much to handle in this format.

    Now, as to the comparative religions question. Its good you ask such simple questions! hahah. Yes, I have read a ton about the various other religions on the planet. If you just want a list of the details about heaven from the various vantage points – here is a pretty good one: http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/2005/09/Whats-Next.aspx

    As for books I like – it really just depends. The best primer in this space would just be a comparative religions book – like one you’d read in a comparative religions philosophy course. This one is from a Christian perspective, comparing and contrasting the various world religions to Christianity. http://amzn.to/WYkRnr – but it just depends on what you are looking for. But if you want a philosophy of religion text from a secular – or non-christian vantage, I have read through most of this one – http://amzn.to/UdZkkx – not this version of it. But an earlier version.

    So, I’m sure I just blew you away for another week or two. Wasn’t my intent, just trying to answer your massive, massive questions as succinctly as I know how! haha.

    Reply
  17. Jane

    Hi Taylor,
    Great explanation there ! Thanks.

    I read the John book at this website – http://www.readbibleonline.net/. Not sure which version it is. Till now I did not know there were many different versions with possibly different interpretations.

    Jesus spoke in parables so only the worthy followers would get the message. Hmm. Wisdom is not meant for all. There is a similar belief in Hindu religion also. That you need to be blessed to seek God’s blessings. It is fatalism in a sense.

    Quite interesting what is said about heaven. “first thing we learn about heaven is that there is no marriage in heaven”. I am sure tons of people will agree with that .. he he he.

    So we are told life in heaven is totally different from the mortal life we live on earth. No pain, no thirst, no hunger.

    While descriptions of heaven differ between religions, the descriptions of hell seem to be similar. I’ve heard of ‘burning in hell’ very often.

    Interestingly the perceptions of Heaven and Hell are based on what we like/dislike about life on earth. Heaven – a place with no pain. Hell – place full of pain.

    BTW, what is your take on rebirth ? It is a very popular notion in eastern religions, would like to know what you think of it.

    Reply
  18. Taylor Holmes

    Jane,
    Personal question – Where are you from? What do you do? Do you happen to know any Christians (BESIDES ME) like in your daily life at all? And as a seriously random question – would one of them happen to be praying for you? Because I personally think God is orchestrating things on your behalf. I can tell you why later, but I’m just curious if maybe a family member is a Christian or a good friend? Maybe I’m your only one?! Regardless, Let me start by answering this bit of misunderstanding:

    Jesus spoke in parables so only the worthy followers would get the message. Hmm. Wisdom is not meant for all. There is a similar belief in Hindu religion also. That you need to be blessed to seek God’s blessings. It is fatalism in a sense.

    You are close, except you are EXACTLY WRONG! hahahaha. Sorry… I wish we could have this conversation over coffee and a scone. Would be easier to do – and you’d laugh more that way. I’m sure you are reading my comments and wondering if I’m insane! hahah.

    Anyway, you’ve got it backwards. Right now… wisdom is unfolding to you Jane (that isn’t your real name I’m guessing – seems fake to use your blog name, but you get my meaning) just because of the simple fact that you are looking for it. God opens wisdom to those that honestly seek. The Pharisees wanted to kill him… oh wait, they did kill him. So Christ was working to communicate simultaneously to multiple groups at once. But to the individuals throughout John that really wanted to know he gave them truth without filter or sans parable.

    James 1:5 – If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

    Remember John 3? Nicodemus was a pharisee… but he came to Jesus at night… under the cover of darkness… he probably hid behind a bush until the coast was clear… he really wanted to know about what Jesus had to say. And John records the conversation between the two. It is possibly one of the clearest explanations of the deep inner workings of salvation and what is necessary to be saved. Jesus was talking not to a disciple (though I’m sure they were there) but to normally someone out to kill him. And Christ just pours out pure wisdom to the man. He’s patient. If you get a chance read John 3 again with that back story in mind. So all that to say, God has given you Jane a freewill to choose him with or not. And if you knock – the door will be opened to you. There’s no provisions there. Not if you hop on one foot. Not If you pray correctly. The Bible just says, Knock and the door will be opened…

    Matthew 7:7 – “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

    Hell is a different topic. I won’t dive into it now mainly because you didn’t really ask… you just made a comment. But yes the Bible is pretty clear that Hell is a place of fire and torment, but most importantly its a place of separation from God. Christ used the term Gehenna often to describe it. Gehenna was a deep narrow glen south of Jerusalem where in the Old Testament (pre-Christ) the Jews offered their children as sacrifices to the pagan god Molech (2 Kings 23:10, Jeremiah 7:31, Jeremiah 19:2-5). I personally can’t think of any life worse than that – living for a god that requires you to sacrifice your children to him. That’s about as close to hell as I can imagine it. Anyway, later on, this same area became the trash dump of the city. A place that was constantly and perpetually on fire. So yeah… Christians agree on that point with other religions. Currently digging through some of my books comparing various concepts of hell… Maybe I’ll comment next time.

    Interestingly the perceptions of Heaven and Hell are based on what we like/dislike about life on earth. Heaven – a place with no pain. Hell – place full of pain.

    Yeah, that is interesting. Think about this though. So let’s say I was God. (Go with me here). And you were my one follower – and you asked me, what is heaven like… and what if I answered like this: “So there is a lot of blue there. And bubbles. And hour upon hour of wall staring. And did I mention we sing songs made of a single note? ITS GREAT!” You’d say, ‘Eh, not digging it.’ So even if that is what it is (God Forbid) I would communicate it to you in terms that make sense to you… no? There are many scriptures that speak of work, and responsibilities in Heaven. They speak of governing and ruling. My own personal view of heaven is messier than most. I won’t go into it, but I will say that when Christ returns to earth he will rule from Jerusalem and Christians will participate in all of that.

    BTW, what is your take on rebirth ? It is a very popular notion in eastern religions, would like to know what you think of it.

    Rebirth is a neat idea. It gives someone a second chance to figure out what they messed up in the previous life. Its like a Groundhog’s Day for the soul. (Have you seen that movie Groundhog’s Day with Bill Murray I believe. If not, the guy has to relive a single day over and over and over again until he gets the girl to love him. Pretty funny little movie.)

    But here’s what I don’t like about it. The first objection is spiritual. It is reliant on my figuring this thing out on my own. Saving myself, in a sense. In Buddhism the bodhisattva reaches enlightenment and then pulls one person into his slot as he heads to heaven. But generally speaking you are on your own. You can atone for your sins through sheer effort and motivation. From my own introspection I know that I can never be good enough. I can’t do it on my own.

    From a practical standpoint what I don’t like about it is that the math is all wrong. Shouldn’t the number of humans on the planet be going down as they realize enlightenment? Either Hinduism is FAILING in its promotion of people to heaven, OR something else is going on. hahaha. But I think Hinduism counters this argument (if I remember correctly) by saying that animal’s are constantly being promoted into human form and thus the increase in the number of humans.

    And my final question there is – The Earth will eventually expire and burn out. Is that when my chances are over? Do I have until then to figure it out?

    In my own investigation of religion I look for someone to take away my guilt, my shame, my sin. That resonates with me. I look for a savior. Or a God figure to absolve me anyway. Buddhism and Hinduism definitely do not roll that direction.

    What are your thoughts on rebirth? Does it make sense to you? Would love to hear from your vantage. Thanks for continuing the conversation. I’ve found it enlightening. By the way – we should put together a list of questions and see if we can pull together a blog by getting friends and acquaintances to answer them. We could write it together. It would be a blast. The questions I’d like to hear everyone answer off the top of my head would be questions like: What is life for – why are we here? What is good? What is sin? How do we achieve heaven – enlightenment, what have you? Do you doubt? What is love? Stuff like that. Maybe 10 questions? I’d be interested in your thoughts though.

    Until next time!!
    Taylor

    Reply
  19. Jane

    Hi Taylor,
    I do know a number of Christians in my personal life. But I do not discuss religion with Christians, or staunch believers from any religion at that. That’s because people are generally offended by anyone questioning any of the tenets of their faith. And offending people was never my intention. If I had met you in person I would have never had this discussion with you he he he.

    Religion is too serious a topic to discuss with strangers.. And too sensitive a topic to discuss with friends.

    I am from India. Jane is my pen name (or keyboard name as I like to say). I do not like to get my real name published but Jane feels quite genuine to me since I’ve used it for so long..

    There are a multitude of religions in my country. Gets me interested in the subject, you know. Religion has refined people wonderfully. People have worked miracles, led perfectly honest lives themselves in the name of their religion. People have also killed each other in the name of religion. It is the ultimate paradox.

    Appreciate your explaining the point about wisdom – available to everyone who seeks it.

    BTW, rebirth theory does not mean you work out everything on your own. There are saints who have spent their life figuring it all out. And they have laid down their wisdom for other mortals to learn and follow. That is why most eastern religions are based on following a Guru.

    Rebirth theory holds that all life on earth is difficult and painful – flora, fauna, humans – all suffer. Human birth is a step above the rest in that you are gifted the intelligence to go on a spiritual quest – and if you succeed you break the cycle i.e., no more rebirth. If someone lives a very ethical and pious life they are usually complimented with, “This is your last birth”. I dig this theory, it makes more sense to me than a separate heaven or hell. Heaven/Hell seems contrived to me, I buy them as metaphors but not as physical places.

    Reply
  20. Taylor Holmes

    Jane – (if Jane works for you then it works for me)
    Its a good thing I didn’t know you well enough then! But I’m glad you know me now though. Its been a fun chat. Go ahead and kick and chip away as much as you want. If my personal relationship with God can’t handle it, then something is missing and I need to figure out it all over again.

    Your English is fantastic! What part are you from? And what kind of work do you do? I’m betting technical work? I’ve worked with a number of web developers from around India over the past 10 years. And Compassion International (where I work) has been supporting kids there for over 20 years. I’d guess we support over 100k kids? Trying to find out how many, but its trickier than I imagined. I would love to visit one of our projects there someday. I manage Compassion’s website, so if I can figure out a clever enough justification maybe I could swing it! We’ll see.

    Good clarification on the rebirth viewpoint. What I meant by work it out on your own I understood there might be a Guru or teacher to help. But at the end of the day its on you to be good. And if you can’t be good enough (which is a topic all its own, who decides what’s GOOD ENOUGH?) forget it… beetle for you next time! haha. Christianity is very counter to that concept with all the other worlds religions. In the old testament God entered a contract (called a covenant) with man (that particular man was Abraham) and then did the unthinkable – he said that He would keep both sides of it. He would fulfill both Abraham’s side as well as his own. Which spun the conversation around and turned man’s relationship with God upside down. And the ultimate fulfillment of this covenant was in Christ.

    THUS, my comment about my having to do it on my own. If I came and lived near you… and went to see a Guru there in India he would show me how to be good. Myself. He would teach me the ways to sin less. And the ways to reach this enlightened state I’m sure. But it’s still my doing it on my own. Do you see what I mean there? Big difference between the two religions.

    I will respond in much more detail about hell next time. Maybe I’ll do a comparative analytic of the similarities and differences if I get time? We’ll see. Really glad you didn’t know me well enough – but hopefully you are getting to know me now! haha.

    Reply
  21. Jane

    Hi Taylor,
    Yes it’s been a fun chat. Guess we’ve had a really long discussion by now.
    I am a techie, right guess there. I live in South India, move around between Karnataka and Tamilnadu. We get educated in English since nursery school so we get quite comfortable with the language. I didn’t realise you were employed by Compassion International, thought it was something you did besides your job.
    You are right about the fundamental difference between the religions – you get help from wise men but there’s still some work to be done by the disciple/devotee. There is no free lunch ! What is it they say – God gives every bird its food but does not throw it into its nest ? There are answers but we need to go seeking them..
    The basic idea is that the good/bad you do sticks with you for life – or, more appropriately, for all your many lives. Everyone needs to pay off their sins sooner or later. If not in this lifetime, then in the next. There is also another line of thinking that claims that the sins committed by a person will affect their children/grandchildren. I hate this part – it seems so unfair – but sometimes it does appear to be true.
    BTW, what do you think about ghosts ? We talked about heaven, hell, rebirth – this is the only option remaining he he.
    On an aside, I really liked in the Inception idea about ‘waking up’ when dying. We are always imagining a heaven/hell – someplace totally different from the life we know. What if we just ‘wake up’ to another life just like this one ? Really novel idea. Hats off to Nolan for that.
    -Jane

    Reply
  22. taylor

    Guess we’ve had a really long discussion by now.

    A Long Chat?! Nah. This is just us getting warmed up!

    I am a techie, right guess there. I live in South India, move around between Karnataka and Tamilnadu.

    Awesome! Two techies at heart. I do mainly web stuff – have for my entire career. Microsoft technologies primarily. IIS, .NET, SQL – that stack. Though I’ve started doing a lot more Oracle, Rails & LAMP work lately. But I love it all. Oh – and phone app development too all of a sudden. I’d love to hear exactly what kind of tech stuff you do.

    Also as far as those locations go in India – we have HUNDREDS of centers in both of those states. Most in Tamilnadu. Though we have a pile through Karnataka as well. Our biggest cluster of projects are throughout Chennai and Bangalore in that region. Pretty cool stuff. And yeah – I do Compassion stuff primarily. But I do a lot of side work as well… so it probably comes across upside down from the blog because I talk more about my own side work more here.

    You are right about the fundamental difference between the religions – you get help from wise men but there’s still some work to be done by the disciple/devotee. There is no free lunch ! What is it they say – God gives every bird its food but does not throw it into its nest ? There are answers but we need to go seeking them..

    I love this saying of the bird and the food – great colloquialism… what have you. So there is no free lunch. Which I think is true in life… but not in spiritual matters. I’ll clarify below.

    The basic idea is that the good/bad you do sticks with you for life – or, more appropriately, for all your many lives. Everyone needs to pay off their sins sooner or later. If not in this lifetime, then in the next. There is also another line of thinking that claims that the sins committed by a person will affect their children/grandchildren. I hate this part – it seems so unfair – but sometimes it does appear to be true.

    So let’s delve on that a moment. Let’s say last life you were a hellion. Just EVIL. Hitler… or what have you. Or not that bad – just bad. You stole things and were rude, and mean. Right? And all of those bad things stuck to you. But what is the method for paying for those sins? Right now I have sins in my life – tell me what I do today… this moment to make recompense for these evil things that I have done. Lay it out for me Jane! From a Christian perspective I can’t do ANYTHING to get rid of those sins. In the old testament it was a blood sacrifice that covered them. But after Christ’s death I trust in Him and ask for forgiveness. But what do you do from a rebirth vantage?

    BTW, what do you think about ghosts ? We talked about heaven, hell, rebirth – this is the only option remaining he he.

    Awesome! Keep ’em coming Jane. From a Biblical perspective Jesus interacted with people who were demon possessed regularly. He cast them out and forbade them from coming back. There were actually some pretty interesting interactions between Jesus and these demons. One time Jesus asked the demon his name and he responded, “‘Legion’ he replied, because many demons had gone into him.” (Luke 8) (There are a number of interactions like this through out the gospels.) There were also indications of similar experiences in the Old Testament as well. I definitely believe that “Ghosts” of some sort exist. Though I don’t think of them as exactly the same as you do. In the Christian explanation they are fallen angels. They aren’t wandering spirits of those who have died. There is no indication of that existing in the Bible. So yeah – there is some ghost type thing going on of some sort.

    Do you believe in ghosts? What are your thoughts on them? I’m definitely intrigued.

    On an aside, I really liked in the Inception idea about ‘waking up’ when dying. We are always imagining a heaven/hell – someplace totally different from the life we know. What if we just ‘wake up’ to another life just like this one ? Really novel idea. Hats off to Nolan for that.

    You kidding me?!? You know I loved the layers of the inception dream. I’ve seen you over there chiming in. Nolan is a demi-god. He’s brilliant. And I adored this concept of his. Almost as good as his Memento or Prestige ideas!! hahah. That is why I loved thinking that Mal was right and she was safely sitting a layer up as Cobb slept and fought with the idea of killing himself. Just brilliant stuff right there.

    Awesomeness. Until next time.
    Taylor

    Reply
  23. Jane

    Hi Taylor,
    Good question on how to pay for sins. Simple answer to this in the rebirth theory is – rebirth ! Paying for sins is not exactly in the sense of repentance – as in Christianity. One may or may not know what sins one has committed – but still continues to pay for it by suffering. If at some point of time we realise the truth, and correct our lives we get some reprieve. Or you may be helped by a Guru who points you in the right direction. When your sin account is finally ‘cleared’, you won’t be born again. No more birth, no more pain.That’s one line of thought.

    There is another line of thought – the fatalism theory – that says there is no good or bad. Everything happens as it was destined to be. And that no one is responsible for their actions, no one is in control of anything. The world is a stage and all men and women are actors. This one can’t be argued with 🙂 You can either take it or leave it.

    I don’t know about ghosts. Too many people have said they have seen or felt them, all of them can’t be lying. So I think there must be such a thing. No personal experience myself and I am glad of it !

    Eastern religion acknowledges the ghost theory somewhat. We do perform rites for dead ancestors to seek their blessings. Though that considers only the ‘good’ ghosts. Halloween is also based on the ghost assumption, right ? Or is it just a fun occasion ?

    I knew you would relate to Inception, that’s why I discussed that point. Inception almost as good as Memento ? I say better than. (Okay, that conversation belongs in one of the other posts I guess)

    My work, all of it, is on the technical side of Oracle ERP. Though I do have some personal ambitions to be a writer someday.

    Reply
  24. taylor

    Hey there Jane –
    One million apologies for the delay in response. My head has been buried in this NaNoWriMo chaos and just trying to keep my head above water. Need to get a blog post out about it. It’s been fun. If completely and totally overwhelming.

    Good question on how to pay for sins. Simple answer to this in the rebirth theory is – rebirth! Paying for sins is not exactly in the sense of repentance – as in Christianity. One may or may not know what sins one has committed – but still continues to pay for it by suffering.

    That is the definition of fatalism pure and simple. Reminds me of Kafka’s book The Trial… where K is arrested and spends THE ENTIRE book trying to figure out what he was on trial for. If that is the definition to the meaning of life, then we should all go out and get Hemlock as quickly as possible. Very sad. But you say, that “When your account is cleared” without any sort of method of payment. Is there like a quotient of pain to sin points or something? My wife dies and 42 menial sins are atoned for? Or I could save them up and I can get one mortal sin forgiven? Very confusing to me. Doesn’t solve the need for restitution in my book. Or even attempt to, it appears. Maybe I’m missing the point. But personally my own need is to be forgiven… and it doesn’t seem like it does that.

    Halloween is also based on the ghost assumption, right ? Or is it just a fun occasion?

    Halloween is totally a secular holiday. We take our kids out trick or treating, but I’m not sure why we do it except that they have fun dressing up and getting candy. But it really makes very little sense to me. You are right, it is a celebration of evil spirits… though it isn’t thought about quite like that throughout the culture. But that’s what it is none the less – and only a simpleton would disagree I think.

    I knew you would relate to Inception, that’s why I discussed that point. Inception almost as good as Memento ? I say better than. (Okay, that conversation belongs in one of the other posts I guess)

    Totally belongs on one of the other posts! hahah. But that is fine. I personally like The Prestige the best of the three. But if you’ve read my blog on that one you will see the complete lunatic in me coming out on that one. But some would say that I’m insane on all of them. But that’s ok. We use Oracle On Demand here at Compassion – and have had some fun integrating it with the website.

    To double back I would ask what your larger goal is in investigating or discussing religions/spirituality. From my myopic viewpoint my goal is to draw closer to my creator. And to do that it requires my sins to be forgiven or absolved. But it doesn’t sound like that is as critical to you as it is to me. Just curious.

    Reply
  25. Jane

    Hi Taylor,
    Knew you would get back on this sooner or later !

    The rebirth theory is not fatalism intrinsically. Though we cannot change what we have done – we can control what we do in future. Live a better life from today, work to not accumulate more sins. Only the past – and the effect of what one has done – cannot be changed. No fatalism about that. Only the ‘no good no bad’ theory is fatalism.

    Not sure about menial sins and ‘big’ sins. Interesting question that. I need to read up quite a bit to find answers for those.

    I guess my basic issue is about pain – the first one we discussed in this blog. Pain is a huge thing for humans. So big we made our impressions of heaven and hell based on it.

    Somehow I do not buy the theory that pain is good and helps to make people more mature. Most of the time it doesn’t. People who were abused in their childhood become abusers themselves (That was shocking news to me when I first read it). Just born babies are abandoned by their mothers and some of them starve to death in a few hours. What was that pain for ?
    “What really raises one’s indignation against suffering is not suffering intrinsically, but the senselessness of suffering”, sums it all up so nicely. Most pain is just senseless.

    I think the pain-maturity theory is actually the other way round. Mature people deal with pain better. They learn something from the experience and evolve. But pain itself does not make anyone better.

    Even if pain can be explained away somehow, the desire to inflict pain is inexplicable. Why are there people with a sadistic tendency ? The sadist and the saint were created by the same God who loves them both equally ? Really ?

    I am not looking for any answers from a personal point of view… I think of God as creator/administrator of life on earth. I get the God as creator concept. But absolving sins/healing pain etc is all on a very personal level. You can pray and get your pain healed. That’s great. But how about the bigger picture ? Can we pray for peace on this planet and achieve it ? Why does our creator stand by and watch while people slay one another ?

    -Jane

    Reply
  26. taylor

    Jane,
    My apologies. You will think this is stupid – but its how my brain works (doesn’t work?). Something happened to my site over the last couple weeks that makes it EXTREMELY SLOW TO LOAD. And every time I come to the site, and it loads slowly, I go running off to try and fix it. I try this. I try that. And I forget what it was that I was doing. I haven’t forgotten you though. I’ve known I needed to get back to you. Very sorry. Let’s see if we can get the conversation going again to where it was!

    The rebirth theory is not fatalism intrinsically. Though we cannot change what we have done – we can control what we do in future. Live a better life from today, work to not accumulate more sins. Only the past – and the effect of what one has done – cannot be changed. No fatalism about that. Only the ‘no good no bad’ theory is fatalism.

    I think this idea of “live a better life from today” is intrinsic to most religions. And it is the one big thing that differentiates Christianity (true Christianity, I’ll admit there are Christians who have lost their way and chosen to work for their salvation, like the entire Church before the Reformation) from all other religions that I know of anyway. There are works… but they mean nothing to your salvation. They show that you are save, but you aren’t saved by them. Yes?

    I guess my basic issue is about pain – the first one we discussed in this blog. Pain is a huge thing for humans. So big we made our impressions of heaven and hell based on it.

    Somehow I do not buy the theory that pain is good and helps to make people more mature. Most of the time it doesn’t. People who were abused in their childhood become abusers themselves (That was shocking news to me when I first read it). Just born babies are abandoned by their mothers and some of them starve to death in a few hours. What was that pain for ?
    “What really raises one’s indignation against suffering is not suffering intrinsically, but the senselessness of suffering”, sums it all up so nicely. Most pain is just senseless.

    Very insightful thoughts. I don’t disagree with you. Pain is troubling. But here’s the thing. We were given free will to choose. Freewill to choose to love Him, or to hate Him. Strange idea, but its true. And when we were given this freewill, we were able to see the difference between good and evil. And I believe all of us know there is a moral code, a moral law, that we break when we inflict pain on others. This is our choice to do. Its a collision, right? And if we choose to love God, we choose to push back against this darkness of these choices that cause pain.

    But pain will remain until Christ returns to earth. Do you know much about what Christians believe with regard to his return to earth? No there’s a topic I can talk about for hours and hours without slowing. hahah. Its complicated, but at the end of the day, its simple. If you want more than this tell me. The Jews believed their Messiah will come the first time as a ruling King and Judge. Christians believe that the Old Testament prophesied about the Christ’s coming TWICE. First as a redeemer and then again later as King. (If you want to see many of the prophesies about Jesus in the Old Testament that were fulfilled in the gospels – this is the first site I saw, its a pretty good overview – http://www.godonthe.net/evidence/messiah.htm)

    When he comes the second time, Israel will be on the run from the countries surrounding it. (Zechariah 14:4, Matthew 24:30) The will be getting their tails beaten pretty badly. 1/3rd of the planet will have died through some terrible war. And 2/3rds of the Jews will die. (Zechariah 13:8)
    Zechariah 14 actually paints a pretty vivid picture – you should read it (NIV PLEASE! Here you go: https://www.youversion.com/bible/111/zec.14.niv hahah). Which IM SURE will raise a lot of questions for you. But it is as a result of sin. This sin caused this end time pain. Choosing not to acknowledge God and love him. But Christ will return and rule over the Earth and literally setup his Kingdom from Jerusalem.

    I think the pain-maturity theory is actually the other way round. Mature people deal with pain better. They learn something from the experience and evolve. But pain itself does not make anyone better.

    This is much better said. I agree. Definitely don’t disagree. I personally God gives us the wisdom to mature spiritually and give us the ability to see beyond the pain that is so evident right in front of us. And to do something about it. He is the one that gives us eyes to see and ears to hear those that are desperate all around us. And to lend a hand and help. Basically that’s why my wife and I want to adopt. I don’t want more kids. Sheesh. But do I want to save a life out of a misery? YES! And in so doing do I get to love on a little one. Sure. And how exciting that will be. Do you have $40,000 I can borrow? hahah. Little joke.

    Even if pain can be explained away somehow, the desire to inflict pain is inexplicable. Why are there people with a sadistic tendency ? The sadist and the saint were created by the same God who loves them both equally ? Really ?

    Yes really. Morally there is very little difference between a liar and Hitler. (To use an extreme example.) One’s lie has eternally separated him from God. Hitler’s million lies, and million executions, separated him from God equally. Both are in need of having their sins taken away. For the Sadist, it is the same. The rapist. The murderer. The swindler. The cheat. The stealer. All are desperate for the love of God, they just don’t know it. And they all are equally able to receive the love of God and have their sins forgiven.

    When Christ was on the cross, there were two men, thieves, on both sides of Him. One scoffed at Jesus, and made fun of him. The other was appalled and said, “Don’t you fear God?” And then went on to say, this man has done nothing wrong, but we are getting what we deserve. And a moment later he said, please remember me when you come into your kingdom. What was Jesus’ response? “Today I will see you in paradise.” This thief lived a terrible life we can imagine. Right? Cheating, stealing, swindling. And yet, his faith in Jesus as the Son of God changed all of that in a heartbeat. His sins were forgiven and he was ushered into heaven a few hours later when he died. There is no more stark example in all of the Bible of what Grace can do in a life. Now, hopefully… let’s say the Roman authorities pulled that thief down… and let him live. If they did, I would expect that his life would forever be changed by his encounter with Christ. He would be transformed into someone that doesn’t sin and tries to help others in need. But his heart condition – the problem of his sin – was forgiven. Is that appalling to you? What are your thoughts on the guy on the cross being granted passage directly to heaven? Curious.

    I am not looking for any answers from a personal point of view… I think of God as creator/administrator of life on earth. I get the God as creator concept. But absolving sins/healing pain etc is all on a very personal level. You can pray and get your pain healed. That’s great. But how about the bigger picture ? Can we pray for peace on this planet and achieve it ? Why does our creator stand by and watch while people slay one another ?

    Oh he is upset. He is grieved by what humans are doing. He is particularly upset by sins committed against the vulnerable. The widows, the orphans, the poor… the least of these. And when Christ returns there will literally be hell to pay. It will be ugly. But you are right, right now, it is hard, very hard to see the injustices of the world. And in your country, I’m sure they are even more terrible than in mine. God has called those who love him to reach out to the needy… the poor… the destitute… and to help them. And to share God’s love with them.

    Sorry this response took so long!!
    Taylor

    Reply
  27. Jane

    Hi Taylor,
    I totally get how you’d feel about the blog being slow. Performance issues distract me the same way. I’ve also been late replying to this, been busy shifting my residence last week.

    I read Zechariah 14 at the link you suggested – yes, really graphic descriptions. I’ve heard about the Judgement day prophecies fairly frequently. There are a couple of TV channels showcasing the terrible accidents from the news and telling us that the big day is not far off. Do you believe that too ?

    Personally I believe that justice delayed is justice denied.. Would like to see both punishment and reward given out immediately. Childish but there it is.

    Also this gets us to the topic of How Will the World End ? One of Hollywood’s favourite movie subjects, and my favourite too ! What’s your favourite disaster theory ?

    The guy on the cross given passage to Heaven is Christianity’s message isn’t it ? Sins being forgiven instantly. Sometimes it’s nice to think about and sometimes its troubling.

    Theft isn’t such a bad crime in my opinion though. People who would kill a man by crucifixion just because he’s a thief – they are the ones who should go to Hell. No one has got a right to inflict pain on another human that way..

    Maybe this is a little out of context but I’d like to share one of my favourite short stories with you here. A group of four friends embark on a joint business venture and end up making a good profit. They can’t reach an agreement on how to divide the money between themselves – every one thinks he should get a bigger share than the rest. So they go to the village’s wise old man and present the case. The wise man asks them, “How do you want to divide the money ?”. The friends say, “Divide it as God would do”. The wise man thinks for a minute. Then he gives half the money to the first guy, most of the other half to the second guy, the leftover small amount to the third guy, and nothing at all to the fourth. The third and fourth men protest that it’s not fair, and the wise man snubs them with “Well, you wanted it to be divided as God would have done, right?”. Hehehe. That hits the nail on the head I think… Everything is so unequally divided in this world – wealth, health, intelligence, happiness – you name it.

    -Jane

    Reply
  28. Taylor Holmes

    Hey there Jane,
    Let’s kick this off…

    I’ve heard about the Judgement day prophecies fairly frequently. There are a couple of TV channels showcasing the terrible accidents from the news and telling us that the big day is not far off. Do you believe that too ?

    There are early Christian church writings attributed to around 300 AD that talk about Christ’s return coming soon. The Bible itself speaks of the disciples hope for Christ’s quick return. But Christ himself says that no one knows the day or the hour. And to beware of people who say they know when it will happen. So, no – I don’t personally think it will be soon. But I also don’t know exactly. The Bible says to be prepared for his return in season and out of season… to always be ready.

    Also this gets us to the topic of How Will the World End ? One of Hollywood’s favourite movie subjects, and my favourite too ! What’s your favourite disaster theory ?

    Well God judged the world with water once already. And he promised to never do that again. Thus the rainbow. Revelation, Daniel, Ezekial, etc say that the final judgement will be with fire. And I actually don’t think the world will end. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, so I guess the “old earth” will have to end. But when Christ returns to the earth he will setup his Kingdom in Jerusalem and as it says in Zechariah 14 all the nations will come and pay homage. So while the old way of things will end… the world itself won’t end. But fire. Definitely by fire.

    The guy on the cross given passage to Heaven is Christianity’s message isn’t it ? Sins being forgiven instantly. Sometimes it’s nice to think about and sometimes its troubling.

    How could the message of forgiveness be troubling? I can’t even fathom where you are going with this one. Maybe that a proven criminal just instantly was extended grace? Without a life change maybe? Definitely need to hear your logic on this one.

    Theft isn’t such a bad crime in my opinion though. People who would kill a man by crucifixion just because he’s a thief – they are the ones who should go to Hell. No one has got a right to inflict pain on another human that way..

    Speak to the Romans. Heheh. Yeah, the sinner next to Jesus was a theif, not such a huge deal. I don’t disagree. But what about Jesus himself? He did nothing wrong. Even Pilate found no wrong in him and tried to release him. So yes, a society crucifying people regularly has serious problems. That much goes without saying.

    But to the point of Grace, and instantaneous forgiveness, its the only way it could work. I personally think that in the system of rebirth there is no physical way to become good enough to attain this enlightenment on my own. I just don’t buy it. Bring me the holiest of holy people and I guarantee you in his life he sinned. Repeatedly and often. And so he has an infinite debt that needs to be repaid by someone outside of himself. At least that is how I see it anyway.

    As for your story about the story about God’s distribution of the money. Its funny. But I would say to this particular point – money doesn’t matter. Money makes life easier, true. But at the end of the day money can be a huge curse that keeps one distracted from God and from our true dependence on him and him alone. So, I would actually say, that money could actually be the worst thing for a person spiritually.

    For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. -1 Timothy 6:10

    But that is definitely a hard concept to wrap one’s head around. Requires thinking of spiritual needs above physical needs first. Either God is the most important thing, or he isn’t. And if he isn’t then yeah, money seems like a good second… but it really isn’t. Its a chimera.

    Reply
  29. Jane

    Hi Taylor,
    This is what I was thinking…
    Instant forgiveness sounds like too simple a solution for the very complex sins of mankind. Broadly speaking, I’d say there were two kinds of sins –

    Hedonism – living a selfish, purely pleasure seeking life. Nothing to be proud of but the sinner doesn’t really hurt anyone but himself. That kind of thing may be forgiven immediately once the person concerned has a change of heart.

    Inflicting pain on others – either physically or emotionally, with malicious intent. As an extreme example consider murder. Person A kills Person B. After person B dies, person A regrets his act of violence. Question : Can person A be forgiven ? I would say NO. No more than the victim can be brought back to life…

    To make an oversimplified statement I’d say that only reversible crimes can be forgivable. Person A robs person B, later changes his mind, confesses his theft and returns the stolen stuff. Person A is forgiven. Okay, great. But we can’t say the same thing about the previous example of murder, can we ?

    “But what about Jesus himself? He did nothing wrong. Even Pilate found no wrong in him and tried to release him. ” Great point there.

    In fact I’ve heard one another version for the reason of pain on earth – Some people say the human race is being punished by God for what they did to Jesus. And that generations of people are still paying for that crime.. What do you think of that ?

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Hey Jane,
      Been thinking about this response of yours for a bit. My first thought to you is – have you committed a sin in this second category? One where its impossible to make restitution? Let’s just assume you have. I am sure I have. I think there are a ton of sins that can be classified in your second category that aren’t murder exactly. Ones where restitution is impossible.

      Let’s say you killed me. I’m dead. Did you sin against me? My family? My kids? No. You didn’t. You committed a crime against me. You committed a crime against my family. You broke the law. But the law is immaterial here. It really doesn’t matter. There are many illegal things that really don’t matter because some government said it was illegal. Right?

      The sin wasn’t against me, or against my family… it was against God. Which makes it a moral issue. Right? Morality is a matter of debt against a perfect being. At least I think so anyway. So the issue isn’t with me, or my family… or my neighbors, or whomever. So back to you killing me… (which would be unfortunate) your issue isn’t with my family or the people that you wronged, or hurt. Your issue is with your creator. So the questions on the table are entirely different than you posed them with your situation 1 and situation 2. All sin is sin against a perfect creator and nothing else. Are there natural impacts here on earth because of your sin? Heck yeah. Totally. But the debt is sitting somewhere bigger.

      So when you look at your life, maybe you have 42,432 sins that you’ve racked up to today. And whether even 1% of them were in the second category (malicious crimes against another) or maybe 0% – it really doesn’t matter. Sin is sin is sin. It is a separation between us and something perfect, right? A perfect entity can’t interact with an imperfect being, can it? No. Definitely not.

      If you have a bucket of perfectly white paint – what happens if you drop just a little smidge of black paint into it? That paint is not white anymore is it? Its close to white, but not white. What if you have a 40,000 gallon pool of white paint, and you drip a single drip of grey into that paint… still not white anymore. Right?

      If that’s the case, then how do we get the chance to be close to our creator? There has to be some way. And thus Christ’s death on the cross, his resurrection. In so doing he made infinite restitution for all sins that man will ever create. Thus a path from here to there. I have a million more things I could say – but do you track with that at all?

      Taylor

      Reply
  30. Jane

    Hi Taylor,
    Nice new look for the website ! (It looks like italics and other formatting in the text are gone though ?) Have you rebuilt the site entirely ?

    Sorry for the very late reply. And best wishes for the new year 2013. Hope you had a great time with your family during the Christmas-new year vacation.

    Getting back to our topic… Yes I get the idea that sin is a separation between man and God, and restitution
    cannot happen without spiritual help. But I can’t swallow the concept of instantaneous forgiveness completely. On a personal level I don’t want criminals and murderers to be forgiven just like that. I’d like to think that they will pay for what they have done. Maybe that is just my immaturity.

    Crime and sin are yes, two different things. My point of view is that crime is an evil action while sin is evil – either in intention or in action. Using your example (though I don’t like it), if I plotted to kill you and succeeded it would be a crime and sin both. If my plot failed, and you got away without a scratch – there is no crime, but there is a sin nevertheless. And God knows about it.. And would punish me for my malicious intent.

    Conversely, if you tried to help someone and did them good, you make so many anti-sin points. (for lack of a better term I am calling it that… In my mother tongue there is an exact opposite word for sin). If you tried to help someone out and ended up hurting them inadvertently (does that not happen a lot more often than we like), you would still gain some anti-sin. Because even though the person you were trying to help does not understand your motive, God will. And He will reward you for your goodwill.

    That’s my theory – that’s what I like to believe.

    But I really loved the concept of God as King (following Judgement Day). It’s awesome, it is exactly what the Earth needs. Humans need to be RULED by God, we seem to be too evil to learn from God as a saviour. Look at what humans have done ruling ourselves – hypocrisy, tyranny, genocide, what not!

    On an aside, New Year was a big celebration in India as well. When I was a child Jan 1 wasn’t such a big deal, we only celebrated the new year per our Indian calendars. Now I see that the shopping areas and bakeries are overcrowded, everyone is getting together with their families, even the traditional temples are opening at midnight for a special darshan! It really is a global village now.

    -Jane

    Reply
  31. Taylor Holmes

    Hey hey hey Jane – welcome back…
    Just back from a trip just over your neck of the woods. Went around the world. Good times. Thought of you as we sped past.

    Anyway, what is this word? The anti-sin word? Lets just use that. I like “anti-sin” but we should just use your word instead. My question to you about the sin/anti-sin balance is this: do you really think that you could ever, even with a million groundhog days (I’ve mentioned this Bill Murray movie before I’m sure) get you sin/anti-sin averages even to 50%?! I don’t think I could personally. I just don’t think it’s physically possible.

    The Bible states (Romans 3:10? Can’t remember) there is none that is righteous, no not one. I personally, speaking honestly here, agree. I am, my thoughts are, and can be… Fairly selfish and generally awful. Maybe you disagree? I’d be interested in your own thoughts on how morally “good” you believe yourself to be. The math just doesn’t add up to me. I don’t care how much anti-sin I do. It’s usually tainted with selfishness. Or some other sin that subverts any good that might have originally been in the act.

    I have like 15 nieces and nephews. One Christmas I went out and bought them each a gift (my wife does it by herself normally) and as we sent them off I remember thinking, “man, I am pretty amazing – they are going to think I’m awesome!!” Right? It was selfish. There was nothing good in that gift to this kids at all. Sure, they were happy I’m sure… But I know I was doing it out of impure means. Right? Or no?

    So I would posit that even when we THINK we are doing good – a lot of the time we actually aren’t. But it sounds like this anti-sin idea leans the opposite direction. If you do good, regardless of your heart, it gives you a bonus. No? Interesting.

    Reply
  32. Jane

    I’m not able to post anything to this blog.. Is it blocked or something ?

    Reply
  33. Jane

    Hi Taylor,
    It’s been a long time ! Good to see your blogs busy as usual.
    I have been reading again on the subjects of God-Pain-Life etc and I found some interesting material I have now bought into. I read all this in a place I least expected to find it – in self-development books that teach how to make more money !
    I’d love to hear what you think of this stuff – so do let me know. I’ve summarised it as best as I could below.
    God – The life force that is in all things living and nonliving. In living things it is the desire for more life (Self development does not use the word God, though they mean the same thing). The life force always works towards fuller life and always helps you find what you seek.
    Pain – Non acceptance of what is. They hold that all pain – emotional as well as physical – are some form of denial of the current reality. Continuous denial of reality (Thinking “it shouldn’t be this way”) manifests as some sort of pain.

    They are simple and powerful ideas. Have you heard this before ? What do you think of it ?

    Regards,
    Jane

    Reply
  34. taylor

    Hey there Jane…
    This idea is very familiar to me. Its almost a Taoist approach. Or maybe Buddhist? The more I approach a state of acceptance of reality the more I approach a Zen-like state. Since I’m a movie guy – the closest corollary would relate it to would be Jacob’s Ladder. Or maybe Lost! hahaha.

    Where my spin on this becomes interesting, in my world view, I see this as a fascinating lie attempting to convince you that you are your own god. Because that is just yummy goodness – right? To think that I am the master of my domain… that I am either a fragment (New Age) or progressing towards (Buddhist) being a god or what have you. Right? But how is it that a created being can be a god, or part of this god-ness? It makes no sense to me. Reminds me of God telling the Jews in the old testament about their future:

    Deuteronmy 4 “There you will serve gods, the work of man’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell. 29But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. 30When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice. 31For the Lord your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.”

    There are other times in the bible where God laughs at man’s inclination to worship his own creation. About to get on a plane. I’ll think more about it and get back to you.

    Reply
  35. Jane

    Hi Taylor,
    Yes I had this question too for a long while.. How can can a creation be equal to the creator ? The explanation from the spiritual side was never satisfactory to me on that one. But the explanation from the self development gurus seems to make sense… How man creates through his thoughts.
    Have you already read the ‘Power of your subconscious mind’ by Joseph Murphy ? One of the many books on this subject that have impressed me greatly.
    Physics and psychology seems to agree on the concept that every man creates his own destiny through his thoughts.
    I’ve read about a dozen books on self help along these lines and was intrigued to find many of the authors quoting the Bible. “Man was created in the image and likeness of God” – means man has a degree of power in creation, in the “likeness of God”. That’s a very interesting take on the subject.
    “Beyond Positive Thinking” by Dr. Robert Anthony is the book that got me started on all this. It’s awfully convincing. I do believe I have found the gold I have been looking for ! Seriously expounding the subject now. Delighted to discuss it with you !

    -Jane

    Reply
  36. Taylor Holmes inc. » Blog Archive The Bible Experiment Genesis

    […] The only glitch?  The “Hey Guys It’s the Bible” blog petered out around Haggai.  And that was that.  But I have always wanted to do a response to this blog.  The more I have thought about it the more I’ve reveled in the idea.  Of reading the entirety of the Bible with an Atheist perspective in mind.  I am not interested in creating a theologically profound companion reading guide.  Or even come to any enormously new insights about the Bible.  I just want to read it and comment on it from an unbelievers vantage in order to challenge myself and those that are reading.  The point is, that you don’t need to be a Christian to read this series as it unfolds.  To be honest, my hope is to engage with those that don’t believe as apposed to those that do.  And where I’m missing it, feel free to call me out.  Dialog is definitely appreciated as indicated by this particular thread. […]

    Reply
  37. Taylor Holmes

    How man creates through his thoughts. Have you already read the ‘Power of your subconscious mind’ by Joseph Murphy ? One of the many books on this subject that have impressed me greatly.

    No, I have not read that particular book. Just downloaded it though and flipped through it, and will read it deeper over the next week. But I can already see where it is coming from. I had a distant relative who subscribed to this sort of power of positive thinking. She was a pretty widely read writer on the topic of cancer healing through positive thinking. She wrote for some really well known blogs like Huffington. And I don’t mean this in a snarky way, because she is very missed, but she recently died of cancer. Its very very sad to me, the tragedy of this flawed thinking. Buddhism is a great example of this thinking. Good thinking makes it possible to a have a better life, which in turn allows you to move up the chain of life. Until ultimately you have done everything you can to become a Christ-figure… a savior to one other person. Basically, pull yourself up by your bootstraps… I’ve talked about this before, but please don’t rely on me to save you. I will let you down. Everytime.

    Physics and psychology seems to agree on the concept that every man creates his own destiny through his thoughts. I’ve read about a dozen books on self help along these lines and was intrigued to find many of the authors quoting the Bible. “Man was created in the image and likeness of God” – means man has a degree of power in creation, in the “likeness of God”. That’s a very interesting take on the subject.

    I am going to fall down now. (That was a reference to the Michael Douglas movie Falling Down). Lots of people like to take the claws and power out of the Bible by saying that Jesus was a good man, that lived a good life. Let’s put that one to bed right here right now. Jesus said clearly that, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man can come to the Father but by me.” While strolling on the water, defying physics, and all manner of sanity, when asked who it was out there walking on water, he responded, “I Am Who Am.” Basically invoking the name of Yahweh. Either Jesus was insane – I mean just looney bin certifiable – or he was God. These self help books love talking about him like he had a lot of good things to say, but wasn’t God. If he wasn’t who he said he was, then why take ANY of what he said as truth? That is just so baffling to me. Throw all of it out as the rambling of a madman.

    “Beyond Positive Thinking” by Dr. Robert Anthony is the book that got me started on all this. It’s awfully convincing. I do believe I have found the gold I have been looking for ! Seriously expounding the subject now. Delighted to discuss it with you !

    Isn’t that an older book published under a different title? Like back in the 80’s? I think I have read that one. But I’ll go and get that one too. But personally it comes back to the simple question. Can I save myself from this condition I am in? Or do I need someone else to save me? I have not seen much in the vein of saving myself because I know myself all too well. But that’s just me.

    So here is a simple question I’ve always wanted to ask someone who’d give the chance – when you think of submitting to a sovereign God does it freak you out? Do you bristle thinking about living under a Creator’s control? Do you think it won’t allow you the ability to do what you want? What is the rub there? Assuming there is a creator anyway! hahah.

    Reply
  38. Jane

    Hi Taylor,
    Our long discussion is warming up again! I didn’t express it very well on the last post – let me have a go again here.

    These self development gurus are not at all saying there isn’t a God. They are saying God isn’t separate from you, or separate from anything else for that matter. This monistic theory of God is probably easier for me to digest because it is in line with the Hindu philosophy I’ve heard since childhood. The twist is that I’m now told that “God works through you, and you as a human are partly responsible in the process of creation”. That’s very different from the ‘you are helpless’ fatalistic interpretation.

    Think of God as a life force – the force that makes a huge tree grow from a tiny seed, the force that makes a single cell grow into a human being, the force that restores a sick body to good heath again (medical men would call this one immunity). The idea is that by becoming aware of, and by cooperating with, this life fore, you can have the life of your dreams.

    “Until ultimately you have done everything you can to become a Christ-figure… a savior to one other person”
    No, not at all. You can save no one but yourself. You can help other people but they can only benefit if they are ready to be helped. Conversely, whenever someone is ready to be helped, help will arrive in one form or another.

    “Can I save myself from this condition I am in? Or do I need someone else to save me?”
    You can save yourself, or rather God can save you through yourself. When you have finally stopped resisting reality, stopped worrying about an imaginary future, stopped mentally living in a dead past, and are “fully present” in the now – God can work through you, manifest anything you may desire.

    “when you think of submitting to a sovereign God does it freak you out? ”
    No, not at all. It is actually a very comforting thought, the idea of an omniscient omnipotent benevolent God taking care of you. The authors I am now following, would explain “submitting to God” a little differently. Everything in the universe was created by and is permeated by God. So everything is in perfect balance – has to be. Even though our intellectual opinions and moral judgements may point things out to be out of order, it really
    isn’t. Submitting to God, then, would be to fully accept and surrender to what is now.

    As regards to the quote from the Bible, I take that back (though I do dig it personally). The devil can, after all, quote the scripture for his reference. The Bible being full of metaphors and layers of meaning, lends itself open to numerous interpretations. So we’ll argue that on a separate blog post maybe.

    By the way, did you get the time to read any of those books ? ‘Beyond Positive Thinking’ was initially published as the ‘Advanced Formula for Total Success’ – you may have heard of it in that name.

    Personally I buy into the theory of a neutral God who supports the balance of life – as against the concept of a “good” God who protects the innocent and punishes/saves the guilty. It just seems to make more sense.

    As usual, I’d be interested to know why you disagree.

    -Jane

    Reply
  39. Taylor Holmes

    Sup sup sup Jane!
    Sorry its taken me a while to respond. Took me a book to snag the Positive Thinking book and read it… or rather, read AT it. I will admit I didn’t read it from cover to cover. But I got the overall gist of where the author was going and understand his perspective anyway, if nothing else! hahah.

    I want to start with where you ended off – because it was the most interesting bit: “Personally I buy into the theory of a neutral God who supports the balance of life – as against the concept of a “good” God who protects the innocent and punishes/saves the guilty. It just seems to make more sense.”

    Balance of life. Are you talking about the symbiosis of the existence of life? IE, a god that maintains fairness and the continuation of the species? I remember that you are quite partial to animals – otherwise I wouldn’t have thought this. I would think that a ‘balance of life’ god would not be considered a Monotheistic God, but rather a pantheistic sort of a concept. God is in everything, everywhere, in me, in you, the fish, the elk, the clouds… etc. Right? Which is straight up and down a New Age mindset.

    When you say that you wouldn’t dig a God that protects the good and punishes the bad – I wouldn’t like that either. In the Christian tradition all are bad – and are in need of being saved. So let’s speak extraordinarily frankly from a Christian perspective. I am a Christian, you are not. Right? (No offense intended, just walking through the details of this supposition). The only difference between you and between me with regard to how God treats us is my belief that God can save me. That he did save me when he died on the cross and rose again. I did nothing good. You did nothing bad. I am just as bad as you are. Yes? But I have trusted in his covenant to redeem me from my sin. I did NOTHING good to deserve this redemption. He did it all.

    The only question I would have of you and this Pantheistic, Balance of Life, perspective would be if you believe there is an afterlife. If we are all shards of god, or are all struggling to realize how we can come to a better way of living through enlightenment do you follow the Hindu perspective of the afterlife? Rebirth until enlightenment is achieved? The problem I have with Reincarnation is a basic mathematical one. If the path to nirvana is through reincarnation and the population continues to grow it would seem like more and more people are going backwards, not forward. Do I move from insect, to animal, to human, to nirvana? I think it clever – for sure. But as a religion my problem really isn’t the rebirth or the math, but more around the hole in my chest that tells me that I need someone to save me from myself.

    Hey Jane – do you consider yourself a good person? If so, how do you quantify that? Is that an average? Is that because you do more good than you do bad? Do you do bad at all? I personally can’t figure out how to stop doing bad things. Not on my own anyway. I just can’t figure it out. So for me, I need a spiritual model that will take into account my need of help. You may seem good to yourself – but in my own personal assessment of my good to bad ratio, its pretty stark… its pretty bad. But maybe that shopping list item isn’t important to you somehow. If so, I’d like to understand how.

    As far as the book goes – it seems like he is taking this concept of the Guided Visualizations or Creative Imaging to the Nth degree. There have been many scientific studies that confirm the power of positive thinking. There was an awesome Radio Lab podcast that discussed Placebos and their effect as real medicine. And so I get that bit. But those studies also show that the brain’s resolution is a third less lasting than a drug. So there are definitely limits to what the brain can physically do. What I didn’t understand in the book was if the author was positing that my brain and I, we can do ANYTHING? Or was he saying we could do anything reasonable? Like get an A on a test? Or was he saying that we could move a mountain into the sea? You know what I’m saying here? I do believe there is a power in being positive. But HOW MUCH!? Definitely not enough to save me from myself anyway! haha

    Alright, well meetings to run to and this has been evolving on my screen here for over two days. So I’m just going to hit submit and be done for now! Thanks for the post Jane…
    Taylor

    Reply
  40. Jane

    Hi Taylor,
    I know this blog is cold but I recently watched the movie ‘PK’ which is so bang on our topic so I couldn’t resist posting about it. While I’m not sure if this hindi movie was released and is still running in the States, I highly recommend that you watch it – at least a DVD should be available.
    The movie mocks the arrogance and narrow mindedness of all organized religions. Whether or not you dig the concept the film is still an enjoyable watch. Unsurprisingly the subject has raised a lot of controversy , which ironically reinforces the theme of the movie.
    Picking up from your last post of about an year ago… Why are you sure that you need “saving” ? Why should we believe that we are “all bad” ? God gave us free will, in other words, the permission to make mistakes. We’re not “sinners” because we committed mistakes. Since God is, by our definition, benevolent, I would expect Him to be tolerant of our mistakes ( a lot more so than we ourselves are). He does not require us to go on our knees and beg forgiveness (I would think God never even condemned anyone in the first place). We can do that it if makes us feel better, my point is that God expects nothing from us other than that we learn from our past and move forward. The purpose of prayer would be to clarify and focus the human mind rather than to appeal to God.

    -Jane

    Reply
  41. Taylor Holmes

    Hey there Jane,
    Been meaning to get back to your Edge of Tomorrow comment – but life is eating my lunch of late. But I’ll get to it as soon as I finish this comment. I noticed that PK was tearing it up a couple weeks ago, and I added it to my list to download. So the fact that you are commenting on it cements it for me. I’ll definitely get it and watch it. Seems really really good. Thanks for the recommendation.

    I may have talked about this before – but this is an uber long post now and its been a while, so forgive me. The definition of a real God is perfection. Right? And if he’s perfect, then that is the crux of our problem. I am not perfect simply by the previous definition. I’m not God. So I’m not perfect. And if a perfect God chooses to interact with imperfection, wouldn’t that taint Him? So that’s the general gist of the argument.

    Now, let’s spin this a bit… and not look at it from a Christian perspective, but from a Jewish one. (You may see little difference there, but they are significant and worth examining for what we can learn.) Amongst Jews, they believe the definition of SIN is the separation from God. Which is actually the larger point here.

    Isaiah 59:2 “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”

    I understand that most of the world loves this idea of tolerance. That we make simple mistakes, and that’s just the way it goes. But the Bible is pretty clear that that isn’t the case. It is these “mistakes” that completely cut us off from God. There is hope though.

    Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

    But what if we looked at this from a conspiracy theory standpoint? You love a good conspiracy theory. I know that much about you. What if the entire world is telling you a lie? What if they are doing so simply because they want to do what they want to do. They want to be “FREE”. Right? But actually, what they don’t understand, is that this “freedom” is actually a chain of bondage? This willfulness of independence is actually a lie. Kinda like Pinocchio. The fox comes and tells Pinocchio of the real path to success, and dissuades him from heading to school. Then later Lampwick goes on to make fun of Pinocchio’s “beetle” sitting on his shoulder:

    Lampwick: [picks up Jiminy] Hey, who’s the beetle?
    Jiminy Cricket: Let go! Put me down!
    Pinocchio: He’s my conscience. He tells me what’s right and wrong.
    Lampwick: What? You mean to tell me you take orders from a grasshopper?
    Jiminy Cricket: Grasshopper? Look here, you – you impudent young pup! It wouldn’t hurt you to take orders from your grasshop – er, your conscience, if you have one!

    This is similar to what is happening now in the world. We have traded in freedom for chains and called the chains freedom. The only real freedom is relationship with God. Anything else is a sham and a lie, charading as a truth. Like Timothy says in the new testament:

    2 Timothy 4:3 -For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

    Let me rewrite that into modern English so that it is PERFECTLY clear. (Again, this is the Taylor translation after looking at the Greek and trying to get the tone right, not any official translation.)

    2 Timothy 4:3 (NTT – New Taylor Translation – hehe) “The time has now come when people will not tolerate truth any longer… and instead, they will search for teachers, journalists, bloggers, doctors, environmentalists, scientists, who will all conspire together to tell them exactly what they want to hear, so that, so that so that, they can go off and do whatever their hearts desire.”

    I get where you are coming from. But from my perspective, you are espousing a belief that supports this global conspiracy theory. I want what I want, and I don’t want to be chained by any God. And therefore I am going to dismiss Him as irrelevant. Or as whatever.

    Let me put it very very clearly. Let’s leave the land of the theory and talk about you specifically Jane. God loves you. He loved you so much that he sent His only son to live a perfect life here on earth, and die in your place. You don’t have to continue to buy into this lie that the world would have you believe. And you don’t have to continue to live in chains to our own desires and sin. You can be free. This conspiracy theory isn’t fiction. Its real. And you don’t have to believe the lie any longer.

    Reply
  42. Mica

    I was at first very excited when I began reading this post. Upon hearing or reading the words, “mysteries of the universe” my heart rate goes up, my pupils dilate and I get that look on my face like a lovesick adolescent. The search for the meaning of life is, I think, the whole purpose of life.

    Then I got disheartened. I have many issues with contemporary Christianity, on multiple levels. I confess it triggers me. And there are so many things I disagree with (I may get into that elsewhere). But I love your site, and your deeply insightful analyses. So I tried to separate my own bias from what you were actually saying. And although I still disagreed, I told myself, this is Taylor Holmes! One of the most intelligent, insightful minds on the interwebs! Usually, I just walk away. I find that, 9 times out of 10, getting into this kind of discussion leads to neither party feeling any wiser from the other.

    The only real exception to the case that I’ve experienced are discussions with my wife, Elizabeth (also, a Christian with whom you have had a few conversations with about movies). Her and I have had some great, heated discussions, which have indeed shed light on how aggressively prejudiced I am against Christianity (working on that).

    So here it goes!

    My own spiritual background is two-fold. I am very deeply connected to the Hermetic tradition, which has its roots in Alexandrian Egypt, was picked up by the Arabs, then imported into Europe during the Crusades and melded a great deal with medieval Catholicism and Neoplatonism (and especially later Protestantism and Calvinism). The grand symbolic science of Hermeticism is alchemy.

    Then I am also a Buddhist. Which has a huge influence on how I look at the Mysteries.

    One of the things about Hermeticism is that, particularly during the Renaissance, it formed a whole new stream, known as Hermetic Christianity or Esoteric Christianity, the founders and followers of which incorporated many elements of the Judaic Kabbalah into their faith and practice. I have always felt that Christianity could be deeply enriched by the Kabbalah. It has been said that when Moses received the Law, he also received the soul of the Law (the Torah) and the Soul of the Soul of the Law (Kabbalah).

    There is a lot I could say about the Kabbalah. Tons in fact. But I’ll just say one thing for now. The most Holy Name of God is four letters – Yod Heh Vav Heh (Yahweh) and the name of Jesus is the addition of a fifth letter, Shin, to make the word Yeheshua. The Kabbalistic AND Christian implications and deeper meanings behind this run very deep. This led one prominent Renaissance scholar, Pico della Mirandola, to write, “There is no knowledge that proves the Divinity of the Messiah better than . . . kabbalah.”

    Anyway, tangents aside, these two separate streams of wisdom have given me my own understanding of what that “on-ramp” is and the nature of our separation from God or Unity.

    “Alchemy teaches that God is in everything; that He is One Universal Spirit, manifesting through an infinity of forms. God, therefore, is the spiritual seed planted in the dark earth (the material universe). By art it is possible so to grow and expand this seed that the entire universe of substance is tinctured thereby and becomes like unto the seed–pure gold. In the spiritual nature of man this is termed regeneration; in the material body of the elements it is called transmutation. As it is in the spiritual and material universes, so it is in the intellectual world….”
    Manly Hall

    ” Although we are in samsara, we can still see proof of the existence of buddha nature permeating all living beings…. All beings have buddha nature because all beings have within themselves what we call the essence of the buddha, this seed, which can blossom into a buddha and which constitutes our potential for enlightenment.

    “But what is a buddha? Briefly, a buddha is one who has developed his or her compassion and wisdom to the ultimate level, beyond all limits. Wisdom, in this context, refers not to an accumulation of knowledge but to the ability to see the true nature of things”.
    Ringu Tulku Rinpoche

    “For [he] must die to the world, to the flesh and
    to all the senses and to the whole man animal,
    who would enter into the closest of secrets …”
    The Rosie Crucian Secrets

    The thread running through both the Dharma and Hermetic teachings is this – the seed for enlightenment, union with God, awakening to the mysteries universe is ever-present. The skies may be cloudy, but behind them, the sun shines on. In order for the seed to grow, however, certain conditions must be met. These are the laws of Nature. You plant a seed in good soil, nurture it with water, let it get sunlight and in its own time, it matures and grows fruit.

    This means certain conditions must be met in order for the spiritual seed present in all beings to flourish. So here is my little analogy. Faith is like water. It nourishes the spirit, enlivens the mind, and quenches the thirst (to a degree). An open, receptive mind is good soil. But what is the sun? It is a critical piece. Without it, the whole system loses its true spiritual vitality and inner, subjective meaning. This piece is what I call gnosis (not the same as historical Gnosticism). Gnosis is the direct experience of the numinous, of the divine, and it is a vast, often touchy subject. Gnosis can be getting struck so hard by the Holy Spirit that you are laughing and crying at the same time (been there). Gnosis can be stepping into the heart of silence, where, for a split second, you bathe in an ocean of the deepest peace. And gnosis can be attaining the deepest insights the into mysteries of life and the universe. In the Kabbalah, for instance, there is a system of attaining gnosis on the relationship between God and Creation, between the One and the Many (the ten Sephiroth). As well as gnosis even into the nature of God Itself (Ain Soph).

    In Buddhism, emphasis is placed on attaining gnosis of the nature of the human mind. God is left as an open question.

    There is so much more I can talk about here. Such as the reason for the separation from God according to Hermeticism (and it isn’t sin). Like you, I love getting into this stuff! But I will leave it there for now, and I may add to other comments as well.

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Hey there Mica,
      First things first nice to meet you. You need to point me at an exchange between your wife and myself. I know several Elizabeths that have wandered through, and to be really honest, I feel battered sometimes as I interact with so many cool people! hahah. But you probably know this already but my main goal on this site it to share, to dialogue, to peacefully debate and discuss opinions. Everyone is respected here. Even when they are wrong! hahaha. Totally kidding. If you’ve been around a little while then you know me as a curious individual that is always digging and diving for insight. I also adore talking to people of different perspectives and opinions. So few people really do want to understand how other people perceive the world around them or their philosophical underpinnings. (Check that, so few people have philosophical underpinnings, let alone want to understand other’s philosophical opinions.)

      First, I want to make it clear that right now, you are a marked man. Your wife Elizabeth, I GUARANTEE IT, is praying for you that the eyes of your heart will be opened to the true reality of the universe. And now I am too. She and I are joined in prayer for you. This isn’t meant as a curse or any sort of occult voodoo doll sort of thing. But rather a blessing. Whether you accept or reject that truth is totally your decision. But that you will comprehend the real truth of the gospel is what I’m praying for for you. And in so doing see the gift for what it is.

      Now, I want to be really clear… I understood about 50% of what you wrote. All of the Buddhist sections I got. About 30% of the Alchemy, and something like 10% of the Hermetic. But I just read a couple of quick primers on the idea of Hermeticism and I generally get it now. No offense intended to the complexity of the ideas… but I understand mainly because I have heard very very similar things before within the New Age and Deistic strains of faiths.

      According to Robert Langdon, in Chapter 82 of The Lost Symbol, an ancient Hermetic precept states: “Know ye not that ye are gods.” Langdon refers to this as “one of the pillars of the Ancient Mysteries” and a “persistent message of man’s own divinity” in many ancient texts, including the Bible.

      I’ll get back to this in a minute… but what I didn’t hear from you is how does your interesting perspective on the life the universe and everything solve the one fundamental problem of the separation between us and God?

      Which brings me to our first key difference probably. I believe that I am broken and in desperate need of saving. (If only you could see inside of my brain for about 12 seconds you would whole heartedly agree.) You on the other hand probably do not believe that you are in need of saving, seeing as though you are a lost shard of god. (Not meant derogatorily, just trying to leap us forward as quickly as possible.) If I miss represent just tell me. Which is the key difference between New Age thinking and Christianity.

      It’s fascinating to me that you ascribe to a belief in the connectivity between Jesus and God. It may be the most fruitful to discuss who you believe that Jesus is. My guess? You probably see Jesus as one of many shards of god? Maybe a lot of god? But still just like you, a shard? That might be helpful to me if you could explain your position on who Jesus Christ is.

      I was just reading this morning in 1 John 5:9-12 “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son. The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”

      Story time… I grew up in a Christian home. My father was a Pentecostal preacher actually, and my dad and I disagreed about almost everything. (Very very long story, as my therapist would readily attest to.) And so, through college, though at a Christian college, I spent a lot of my free time wandering through the tenets of other major religions. Kicking the tires, trying to understand the differences and the similarities. I also spent a disproportional amount of time with Nietzsche and other convincing atheists in search of a atheistic aesthetic (see what I did there?) that I could join that wouldn’t immediately cause me to kill myself. (I am not being hyperbolistic there.) And at the end of the day it seemed to make sense to classify the world’s religions into two categories.

      1. Religions that believe we can save ourselves or don’t need saving
      2. Religions that believe we need to be saved

      Amongst category 1 religions, I would include Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Mormonism, etc etc… actually almost every religion. To be clear, they all believe that we can save ourselves. In some this thread is more clear than others. Works usually is where you see it most. By doing good things, I will eventually elevate myself into this higher plane of existence. This is true definitely for Buddhism – eventually, by performing good works I will ascend to the position of the bodhisattva, and then I will pull someone else up to the level of bodhisattva behind me, as I head into Nirvana. But the emphasis here is on good works. (Actually did 2 or 3 sentences for like 5 different religions, but that is too long… deleted all that. You are super smart, you get my point.)

      Now, as for category 2 religions, there is only one. (And this is per a pure reading of the Bible literally… some segments of the Christian church have wandered off reservation (eastern orthodox, most catholics, etc) and have taken on a works mindset which Luther dropped the mic on hundreds of years ago with his Diet of Worms speech and writings.) And that is Christianity. Heaven solely comes through faith in God’s ability to save. (Rom. 3:28-30, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.” basically that is just saying that everyone on the planet is saved through faith alone, and not by works.)

      So, that brings me back to the quote above I mentioned about everyone is a god from the Hermetic vantage. It sounds like you have spent a lot of time thinking and thinking and thinking about this stuff. Which is awesome. Most don’t think about it at all. But by ascribing to a philosophy that has as one of it’s key tenets that we are all gods, means that you have this life thing figured out. That somehow, some way, you will claw your way into this nirvana, or heaven, or taoist state of blissfulness. Or whatever. I can’t buy it though. I’m broken at my core… and have no natural ability for goodness. Let alone enough to scrabble my way to becoming a god.

      From my perspective (and probably Elizabeth’s) God loved us so very much that he sent himself (in the form of Jesus) to die for you. He wants nothing more than to walk closely with you, but you can’t walk closely with him while in a state of sin. So He made a way through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection to conquer sin and death. And now you can walk closely with him if only you just believe. He’s paid that debt, that caused this chasm, between us and him. But to those that don’t believe the words that I just spoke have the smell of death. (2 Cor 2:16) Which is why I think it’s pretty cool that you reached out. And I won’t think any more or less of you if you don’t change your mind. But you are a marked man now! hahahah. Seriously though, I am praying for you that the crazy truth of this wildness would become real for you.

      I would like to know your perspective on who Jesus is though. Good Teacher? Philosopher? Wild raving lunatic. I would also like to hear more about your problem with “Church”. You do realize this conversation has nothing to do with church, right? It has everything to do with what you personally believe. Go to church or not, I don’t care. (Though the Bible does admonish us to meet regularly so that we can encourage one another. But is this church right here if we are encouraging one another? I don’t know.) If you have baggage from your church experience don’t let that keep you from the truth. I had to get past my own issues with my dad and my years of church going experience to figure out for myself that God really did love me. If that makes sense.

      alright… I delayed releasing my review of both A Cure For Wellness and Get Out AND the final episode of Taboo because I wrote and rewrote this response! hahah. Sorry it’s so long. I tried to pair it down. This conversation really needs a beer at a pub. Maybe the next shot across the bow will be done there instead! hahah.

      Taylor

      Reply
  43. Mica

    Hey Taylor!

    “I delayed releasing my review of both A Cure For Wellness and Get Out AND the final episode of Taboo because I wrote and rewrote this response!”

    Hahaha! I’m doing the same thing. I’m supposed to be spending my free time preparing as Game Master for the next Dungeons and Dragons night! Y’know, that game depicted so accurately here – https://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0046/0046_01.asp (haha!)

    My Elizabeth is the one who shares your passion for “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” and is also the one who, on more than one occasion, has encouraged you to watch “Antichrist”….

    Yuck at Dan Brown! I have only read The Da Vinci Code, and it was ok. A fun, fluffy read, but not, by any stretch of the imagination, what I would call an accurate depiction of the Hermetic tradition. The ultimate secret is some dead body buried beneath a church and that thousands of years ago Jesus had sex? Really??

    But the question of shards of God is an interesting one. Not exactly how I would put it, but in the right spirit of things (pun intended). I could just say yes, and leave it at that. But what does that mean?

    Where we should really start is taking a look at our separate ideas around God and Creation, where they match up and where they differ. The problem, as I see it, is that they are going to differ. Nothing wrong with that, but much confusion occurs when people’s definitions of the same things are different.

    This is the wonderfully juicy stuff for me! Many people just use the word God and might add, “or whatever term works for you – Goddess, Unity, etc” and then move on. But if you took a look at that wikipedia entry I posted, you can see that the real good stuff comes from not being satisfied with that, but digging deeper, always deeper.

    One of my main disagreements with Christianity (and much of monotheistic religion in general) is imputing human characteristics onto God. God is judging you, God is disciplining you, God feels this way about what you’re doing, etc. I just don’t buy into that. I never will buy into that. However, I do believe there are more like divine forces that can be understood within the limited framework of human experience: notably desire (yes, God desires) and unconditional love, but more on that later. Anyway, the reason I disagree with this is because I don’t believe God is an entity. Ok, let me explain that. Most (who believe in God) see it this way: there is the tree, there is a dog, there is me, there is a rock, there is Saturn, there is the moon, and then there is God. Right? I say, Nope!

    Let me take you back about 17 years ago – the year my father died of cancer. He and I are out walking the dogs together in one of the most beautiful parks in the world, Helliwell Park on Hornby Island, which happened to be my backyard at the time. I’m standing there, with my beloved dog, Diva, who is grinning/panting with mad joy, and my father is standing a little ways off. There is this moment of silence. I look down at my dog, and she is looking out over the bluffs, taking in the beauty of Nature as I am. Just as my father and I are doing. Then, Diva, out of nowhere, begins to scratch and sniff at the ground, and as she is doing so, a puffball is dislodged from the earth. The wind, coming off the sea from the cliffs, grabs at that puffball and whisks it away under her, between her legs and away. She doesn’t see it, and then stands back up to again take in her surroundings.

    And this is where things get weird. The only way I can explain it is that for a split second, Diva and I became mirror-images of each other somehow, and that what she experienced, I experienced. What happened to her, happened to me. It was like, in the fabric of the universe with each thread being a continuum of experience of all the beings in the universe, for a split second hers and I became the same thread or something. I don’t know. What is important is that just as something passed through her, and she didn’t see it, something passed through me, and I couldn’t see it. And if she had seen the puffball, she would have gone chasing after it, barking. And so would I have, in my own way.

    Something huge passed through me. As if I were no more than smoke. An angel?

    And then it happened. My mind just dropped out. My senses took everything in, but my mind was not labeling it. I saw a tree, but my mind didn’t go “tree.” I saw the sea and the rocks and the dog, but my mind didn’t see “sea” and “rocks” and “dog”. I just saw. And what I saw and what I was were one and the same. It’s so hard to explain, but in a single moment, I experienced self in and of itself as nonexistent. What I experience as “self” is in truth, God wearing a glove, experiencing Itself through Itself. I was God looking at God, thinking about God. Nature is God coupling with Itself to give birth to Itself to kill and eat Itself to crap Itself out. And in this, there was this overwhelming desire to know Itself. God created Nature because It desired to know Itself.

    And yet, if you were to try and pull down all the masks, if you were to try and find that elusive pea beneath the cup, you would find nothing. The infinite cannot be made finite, the unknowable knower defies all attempts to be known. But it can express itself through the finite. It can be hinted at.
    All this I experienced in a matter of seconds.

    And then I was just “me” again.

    Later in life, I discovered that what I had experienced matches up pretty much word for word with Hermetic philosophy. For instance, the symbol of the Ouroboros, the serpent eating its own tail, is a symbol for God as Nature as a closed system that I described above. “since it is said of the Ouroboros that he slays himself and brings himself to life, fertilizes himself and gives birth to himself.”

    So there are octaves of meaning of God, layers upon layers. There is the mystery of God as Nature, of Nature as an emanation of God. And there is the mystery of the ultimate nature of God Itself – inscrutable Ayn Soph. And then there is the mystery of God expressing Itself through self. And these mysteries are all intertwined and are all revealed when the mind is released from the illusion of separate selfhood. When the mind slips out from under the prison of observer-observed.

    Hermetic philosophy talks about it this way (this is a very simplified explanation of much deeper subject, by the way):
    “the Supreme Being created our universe with the
    intention that it should serve as a medium for Its
    desire to experience Itself.

    “Deity originally existed in a state which we might
    describe as complete Unity. In this state there are no
    oppositions, no distinctions and no comparisions.
    Everything is at-one.

    “It is said that in order for Deity to understand what
    It is, to understand Its potential, It had to separate
    Itself from Itself, and that from this a binary arose
    … everything that is not (the unmanifest) and
    everything that is (the manifest), as well as all
    subsequent binary manifestations in nature.

    “The details of the explanation of how all of this
    works, and how hermetists understand these abstract
    concepts, can be discovered in Jacob Boheme’s
    writings. Boheme could reasonably be considred the
    author of ‘the’ definitive alchemical-hermetic
    philosophy – par excellence…..”

    “This binary condition is the very foundation of our reality. We
    might say it is the universal and ultimate ‘rule’ that governs
    everything we experience in our reality …. after the unified
    condition. Because of this we can never find anything here that is
    unified and wholly in balance with itself. Because unified and
    completely balanced things are always ….
    beyond the average person’s reach. Therefore, when we are
    investigating our reality, which is based on binary law, everything
    we find here displays this binary nature. From this fact we get
    things like … male and female things. Positive and negative electric
    poles. Positive and negative magnetic poles. Day and night. Up and
    down. Left and right. Back and forward. Fixed and volatile,
    observer and observed, etc., etc.

    “We cannot forget, though, that while all things we commonly
    experience are defined and based upon binary law, at their root is a
    unified harmonious commonality, and that because
    that unity is the origin or source of everything else, it maintains the
    position of ruler or governor. Because of this there is always an
    urge within the binary state to return to the unity state. In animals,
    for example, this is the source of the urge to procreate. In Hermetic
    philosophy, it is the basis for the ideal that ‘love’ is the governing
    force in the universe.

    But the Creator did not create the binary reality so that it can be
    escaped from. It was created for a specific purpose, and that is
    because in unity no growth can occur, and the Creator desired
    evolution and expression. So the binary reality was created in order
    to stimulate and support growth and development.”
    Rubaphilos

    So it’s not “sin” that separates us from God, but the binary “laws of Nature”. However, seen in another way, these laws are more like habits or patterns of mind (very, very deeply ingrained) than “laws.” It’s somewhat of a paradox. (I have to jump in here. As I am writing this, some beautiful synchronicity just occurred. I put on my headphones to listen to some music as I love to do when I am writing. And then I picked a random youtube video I never heard before of some down-tempo trip-hip music. And then, going back to Microsoft word, pondering my next sentence, I heard the unmistakable voice of Alan Watts, speaking over top of the music. And he was saying exactly what I am trying to get across, and I could not have said it better: “Some people will use a symbolism of the relationship of God to the universe, wherein God is a brilliant light, only somehow veiled, hiding underneath all these forms as you look around you. So far so good. But the truth is funnier than that, it is that you are looking right at the brilliant light now, that the experience you are having that you call ordinary everyday consciousness–pretending you’re not it–that experience is exactly the same thing as ‘IT’! There’s no difference at all, and when you find that out, you laugh yourself silly. That’s the great discovery.”)

    Man! There’s so much more I can say here. So many different branches to take from here. On the nature of pain and suffering, on evolution from a Hermetic standpoint, on the mystery of God as It is expressed through the human psyche, and on some of the startling similarities between Hermetic and Buddhist thought. To Buddhists, for instance, the only true sin is spiritual ignorance, defined as dual existence, or subjective-objective dichotomy.

    By the way, you talked about how Buddhism sees “works” as the road to salvation. Not true. It is often said that karma (the law of cause and effect, reaping what you sow), good or bad, is still just karma, and it’s karma that holds you to Samsara (binary or “cyclic” existence). Good karma alone will not give rise to the Nirvanic state.
    “This is the quintessence of the Buddha’s teachings – he showed followers how to train their mind so that they are able to realize their mind’s true nature.”

    In Buddhist doctrine, it is this realization that is the cause for awakening (Nirvana). And it is this awakening that is the cause for the cessation of inner suffering. This is a whole topic of conversation in and of itself. But it is very pertinent. A Bodhisattva is someone, who, having realized the true nature of mind and attained awakening (infinite wisdom), observes the suffering of other beings trapped in dual existence, and feeling infinite compassion, vows to free them from their bonds.

    “The self appearances that never existed are eluded as objects.
    Overwhelmed by ignorance, self-awareness is reified as the subject.
    Under the sway of clinging to duality, we wander in the expanse of cyclic existence.”
    Rangjung Dorje 

    So, after 4 pages (haha!), I will answer your question. I think Jesus was a Bodhisattva. I don’t know the truth, because I wasn’t there, but he was probably born somewhat special or different. In Tibet, there are many stories of the great saints and awakened ones having signs at their births, and having a propensity to spiritual things at a very young age. Buddhism has its own explanation for this. But who knows? Anyway, I am convinced Jesus somehow found his way into some form or forms of esoteric training quite young. Who knows what these forms may have taken, but I think it’s highly likely that Jesus studied and trained with the Essenes, and that he got the bulk of his spiritual education through them. The Essenes were known, by the way, to possess some form of the Kabbalah.

    I think Jesus was a spiritual prodigy that emerged to become a fully awakened one. I would put him on equal footing with Siddhartha, the Buddha. However, I also believe that much of his original teaching was distorted and suppressed by the Church. For instance, I am not certain because I have not actively studied this, but I read somewhere (can’t remember where) that it is provable that the basis for papal authority is a complete deception, a lie. That some of the early founders of Catholicism twisted Jesus’ words and fabricated the myth that the Church was God’s kingdom on Earth, in order to establish absolute power and dominance. I do believe this, and that they then proceeded to stamp out any “heretical” threats. Along with those “threats” were some of the key teachings of Christ. Some of these teachings I believe were keys to the hermeneutics of scripture. Keys which can still be found in the Kabbalastic traditions.

    all the best
    Mica

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      That is a book. give me 48 to respond. seriously have to actually post a few things. but know this – this thread is the most important thing going on right now for me. But DAMN… you make my prolificness look like serious weak sauce. Want to join me as a writer here?!? hahah.

      Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Hey Mica,
      I don’t have a lot of time – and I’m on my phone, so this won’t be nearly as prodigious a bloviation as my previous message by a full tenth. But let me start anyway, to talk to some things.

      I read your comment on The Prestige, and it’s obvious that you like a good riddle, or head job idea. So let me paint you a picture, entirely from my vantage point, and then that painting will help me illustrate points as I walk through a few of your ideas. From a Christian perspective, your story, has an interesting twist. I appreciated your deeper dive into my obviously too high level perspective on Buddhism, now I will similarly illucidate on Christianity so that we can talk to the stories behind the story.

      God, whether anthropomorphized or not (I would argue any God that describes Himself as “I am who am” (which is the literal translation of what He said to Moses) is too big an idea to just be seen as a man. But I digress.), allowed free will of choice. To create other gods. To worship Him as the one true God. But amongst this simple lattice of choice, lurks an ex-angel, fairly determined to ruin you. Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has requested to sift you like wheat…” or better yet, (in a letter Peter later wrote after learning first hand) “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

      So step back. Stop thinking about this like a cartoon. Stop thinking about it like a myth. And think literally for a second. What if, there was a spiritual war going on just beyond your eyes. Not too unlike that D&D game you setup for the other day. (Props, by they way, I loved the Dragon Lance D&D books and games from years ago.) But instead of warring for treasure, cloaks, enchanted swords or bows… they are warring for your soul. If the story didn’t have so much baggage to it, and so much Dan Brown carnage (figured you’d get a kick at my brown reference) to it, it might just take your breath away. But here’s where the story goes all kinds of inside out for you. In order to keep you from believing the truth, you have been tempted with a story about Buddhism, and shards of God, and the oneness of all things. What if, all religions, save for the one that depicts this grand story for your soul, were used as bait to trap you? What if you’d been out played accidentally because you didn’t even believe the game existed? And wouldn’t that be the greatest chess move this enemy could make, is to make you believe it doesn’t exist? “God is dead and we have killed him…”

      The central dissonance between Christianity and all other religions is one clear thing. In Buddhism, you are the god… or working towards this god-like enlightenment. You are the one that unlocks your potential from within. Taoism. Hinduism. Everything. You are in control. It’s all about you. And that is the central and single most seductive lie ever told. Mica. You are a god. Woah! Shot a thrill up my spine just saying it. But what if, this is the lie, the bait, simply to devour you? (Or at least in what I believe to be true, you obviously are capable of deciding for yourself.) it’s the perfect lie because man does not want to give up control under any circumstance. But if I say to you, allow God to be the center of your life. Allow Him to become everything as you become less? Woah!! That breaks all earthly common sense.

      And then give a thought to your wife. Who obviously is smart – wicked smart from what I remember – and yet she digs this God thing? What position is she in with you? What if she were right? What if this battle is raging for you, for your soul, and yet the eyes of your heart are closed to it. Now, consider this for a second. She sees two truths simultaneously. She sees the you now, playing with religious ideas and with theories. And she loves you. But she also knows that eventually, the runway of this life runs out. And on the other side of said door, if she’s right, that there is this lie happening in this world, this struggle for you is happening, what will you think of her then? WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME?!? Gah. I’m not talking necessarily about hell. Though that’s a thing. I’m talking more about the separation from God, which is a bigger thing. What of her and this conundrum she is in?

      And so the battle, in this painting that I am splashing (inelegantly splattering with my thumbs currently) across the canvas is to convince you that anyone of these myriad of religions are fine. Heck! Pick Agnosticism even. No even, Atheism. Sure that’s fine too!! Best yet even. But don’t realize or fully buy in on the idea that there is a battle raging for your soul currently. Whatever you do. That this lion that’d love to devour you whole is feeding you lines about the oneness of all thing. That this lion is feeding you interesting and insightful ideas about this life force. Etc. All with the hope to keep you focused on You. Keeping you at the center of everything.

      But I would tell you there is a bigger purpose out there. A bigger story. One worth dying for. One worth giving your life for. Church today may not be the greatest thing ever. But the Disciples got it, and the early church got it. All the disciples save one? died a horrible death. Peter upside down on a cross. Thomas by Spear. James, Jesus’ half brother crucified. Now think about that. James grew up with Jesus. James was Jesus’ younger brother. Saw everything. Originally doubted, but then came to lead the early church in Jerusalem. And then had the conviction to die for this lie? Or this good teacher? Wah? Person after person close to Jesus died a horrible death because they believed strongly. Now, look at Watergate. Nixon. And this awful coverup. It was a cabal. It was a secret group trying to change the world. How long did their secrets last? Hours? They flipped on each other to cut plea deals. They ratted each other out to give up Nixon. Talk about the converse story line.

      I would recommend a book for you called “The Case For Christ.” Heck, I’ll have it sent to you right now if you email me your address. The setup is this… this reporter from the Chicago Tribune is sick and tired of his wife talking to him about this fake Jesus thing (Sound familiar? hahaha). So he lists out all the reasons why Christianity is fake, and with his reporting acumen starts tearing apart the Bible and investigating it inside and out. And over the course of his Stalin-esque investigation he actually becomes a Christian because all his assumptions turn out to be false. Seriously. Email me your address. taylor at taylorholmes.com and voila.

      You’ll notice I’m not discussing your personal opinions of faith and the world around you because I’m too caught up in the story behind that story. Your own account supports my argument. You say that Jesus was a good man. Good teacher. But by saying this, you condemn him to a raving lunatic. Because he literally said he was God… sent to the world, to save the world.

      Now, as to your claim about the Catholic Church… Catholicism, in my opinion, has walked away from salvation through faith. And they have built onto the message with works. Praying to Mary? And other deviations that aren’t found in scripture anywhere. (Literally, if you are a a random reader out there right now, and a Catholic and would like to educate me… I’d love to walk through the Bible verse by verse and discuss many of the deviations from scripture that has occurred over time.) But yes, the scripture that the Catholics hold onto for Peter as the first Pope is Matthew 16:18. Here it is:

      “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

      See, it seems to say that Christ is building his church on Peter, or he’s using peter as his foundation? But read it in context with the verses before it and after it:

      “Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’” (Matthew 16:16-19).

      It’s different now. Peter says, You really are the one we’ve been looking for for all these millennia. The one that will come and save us. And Jesus responds and says, dude… you nailed it. That’s exactly who I am, and not only that, you didn’t come to this conclusion on your own, but God himself has shown this to you. And it is on this truth… that I am the Christ… here to save the world from its sin… that I will build my church. Does that make sense? So yeah, the Catholic church has high jacked Peter. But in my opinion, the Catholic church is it’s own heretical threat. Hahahah.

      Alright, my thumbs are shot… I’d love to know if Elizabeth would like me to stop speaking on her behalf! hahaha. She’s wicked smart. Heck, anyone that finds the brilliance of rosencrantz and guildenstern has to be wicked smart.

      Appreciate your honesty and opinion Mica. If I’ve gone off the rails just say so.
      Taylor

      Reply
  44. Mica

    Hey Taylor
    I have been asked by Elizabeth to leave her out of this discussion, so I will not comment on her own path with God.
    But here’s the part I was hoping wouldn’t come: you and I might just have to agree to disagree. The chasm here between our respective viewpoints on how we approach God is so wide, I don’t think it can be bridged. But I do respect that you are reaching for God with all your heart, and in your own way. As am I.
    I have many problems with the story you put to me.
    First, let me express to you the fundamental bedrock of my outlook. Everything stems from this one thing, and, in my mind, it is the single most important truth of the human condition: our own experience is all that we have, it’s the only thing that we truly possess. Everything else is derivative – our core beliefs, our morals and principles, our ability to relate to others, our intuition, and our sense of the sacred. Everything. What this means in this context is that our sense of the cosmic, of a higher power or powers, can only ever be filtered through the medium of our own experience. Even the most seemingly objective truths about things can only ever be apprehended within the framework of the subjective mind. There is nothing that can be known outside our own experience. This doesn’t mean of course that nothing really exists beyond our own experience; that would be nihilism. Nor am I an existentialist; I don’t believe the only meaning in life is what we ourselves assign to it.
    But I do believe that our own experience is perhaps the only tool we have in the search for meaning. And people too often forget that, or do not give it the proper respect. In my not so humble opinion, spirituality must be experiential, or it is a game, a trick of the mind, that is all.
    What this means is that if we want to explore the mysteries of the universe, we need to take the bull by the horns. We need to have the courage to break out of the comfort zones of our own limiting perceptions and beliefs and step into the outer reaches, and become explorers, psychonauts. This can take many forms, but the fundamental rule here is that you must not, ever, let your fear control you. Do not ever let fear hold you back. And never, ever, accept what we have been told by others as good enough or definitive. Not even if it comes in the form of “scripture.” Complacency in the face of the Mysteries is a sin in my book. We must “see” the truth for ourselves. This “seeing” (and not thinking, believing, etc) is of the nature of totally direct, naked awareness. This is so important!
    This is why the Buddha urged his followers not to simply accept his teachings, but to test it for themselves. As one Buddhist teacher said, “the job of the spiritual path is to pull the rug out from under your feet.” Because this “seeing,” this gnosis, will often if not always be an uncomfortable threat to the secure walls that our culture, our family, and our own egos have built up to define who we are and what our experience is to be.
    On a side note, I (and in general other Buddhists) do not believe that the self is God, as you say we do. I just think you are not understanding what it is that I am saying. But that happens in these kinds of talks, haha!
    “man does not want to give up control under any circumstance.”
    This! Yes! Here we can agree completely. More accurately, we do not want to give up the *illusion” of control. Because we are controlled by our own minds – the notion of the self, with all its wants, needs and fears, its like and dislikes, its dreams, hopes and opinions. This is the lie – that I am Mica, and you are Taylor. That we are these separate little selves, fighting for survival. A teacher of mine once said, “We are little waves on the ocean of God. But where does the wave end and the ocean begin? And where does the ocean end and the wave begin?” We cling so dearly to these little rocks of self. To surrender to the ocean is to know what we really are.
    I think when Christ spoke about the devil, he was talking in the same way as when Buddha talked about Mara (and also what Jung called the Shadow). As a metaphor, but a metaphor for that real force within our own minds that is responsible for that clinging, among other things. I could go into that more, but what is relevant is that the Church then took that powerful metaphor and twisted it, perverted it, making it a literal being and used it as a scare tactic, as very effective propaganda to instill fear in the masses, in order that they would obey, listen to their superiors, not question, not think for themselves and above all, not explore the Mysteries through their own experience, because… well, Satan is out to get you.
    Look, we can talk philosophy and theology until the cows come home, but what good is that? I don’t think either of us can convince the other.
    I will leave you with this, however. I have had further experiences along the lines of what I mentioned before, and they all had one thing in common. What I normally associate with as the mind, just stopped. My addiction to thought folded in on itself. Each time this has happened, the “I” that “I” call Mica ceases to be, and in its place, there is something radically different. An ocean of peace. Love beyond what we can imagine. Presence interpenetrating every atom, and manifesting Itself as the family of ALL beings. You can call this the devil feeding me lies if you want to. But I know, with every fiber of my body, with every drop of blood pounding in my veins, with this wide, open heart, it is the truth. It is my truth.
    Now, I’ll give that book of yours a read if you like. And in exchange, I ask you to watch a 20-minute TED talk by a neuroanatomist who had a stroke, and who knows exactly what I am talking about. You can read her book, too if you like. A powerful story, and a powerful message. And we don’t need to have a health crisis to experience it.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyyjU8fzEYU

    All the best
    Mica

    Reply
    • Mica

      P.S.
      Just some quick questions. I don’t mean to offend. But I ask you these to challenge your mind and spirit. Don’t just gloss over these questions with self-persuasive rhetoric (that’s easy, and you’re way too smart for that). Really sit back and chew on these questions with a critical mind; the same critical mind you use when examining a mind-bending movie from all angles.

      Everything you believe about God, Jesus and the Devil: what beliefs have you taken to heart that come from nowhere else but what other people or books have told you is truth, and that you then took on? Where in all of this are things that have come from your own God-given experience? Did you have an experience of what some call “taken by the Holy Spirit?” If so, great! What was that experience exactly? Did you take anything away from that experience and that experience alone? Did you give that experience a chance to speak for itself? Or was there any part of you that went, “If this experience is true (because I experienced it), then everything else they say is true!”

      Ideas about Satan specifically: has there been anything in your life that has shown you that any problems we experience are the responsibility of being(s) other than the person(s) involved, and/or unbalanced, delusional, out-of-control mental and emotional states within said person or persons? What exactly convinced you, beyond the thoughts in your own head, and the words you read on a page, that Satan is a real, literal entity in the way you say that he is?

      Question about God/Christ in particular: as above, what have you experienced, beyond what other people and other books have said, that has convinced you that you know what God is thinking and feeling about you, and what God wants or doesn’t want for you, and others?

      Reply
      • Mica

        P.P.S. Again, please don’t be offended. I’m not trying to make you doubt or question your faith. I do believe things I have not experienced. I am just asking you to chew on these questions, because I feel they are important.

      • Taylor Holmes

        Dude… take a deep breath! hahahah. I am 100% ok with everything you said. You could have even started calling me names and you’d still be far and away better off than many exchanges on this topic. Feel free to go wherever. Ask what ever. Question etc. Just had too much going on last night to finish it.

    • Taylor Holmes

      Amigo,
      last time I pulled the ripchord on the trap door and evaded everything you said, in effect. I mean, not exactly. But I wasn’t exactly straight forward now was I? This time I will respond directly. Wish me luck!

      “I have been asked by Elizabeth to leave her out of this discussion, so I will not comment on her own path with God.”

      – yeah, she has to live with you. I just get the honor of bumping into you occasionally. hahah. Tell her I said hi though! And thanks for letting me borrow you for the next month! hahaha.

      “But here’s the part I was hoping wouldn’t come: you and I might just have to agree to disagree. The chasm here between our respective viewpoints on how we approach God is so wide, I don’t think it can be bridged. But I do respect that you are reaching for God with all your heart, and in your own way. As am I.”

      – I do believe that if you really are looking for God He will reveal himself to you. Like, literally. I rode on a plane on the way back from Amsterdam and chatted with two gals about religion the entire 10 hour flight to Denver. Or whatever it was. We had a literal crap ton of alcohol, and laughs, and talked about the meaning of life the universe and everything. And the last thing I told them as they headed off with their bags was exactly that. God will be found if you search for Him. And so I honor that about you sir, if you really are digging and scraping and searching for him… Kudos to you. (“Him” presumes I’m right of course! hahahah.)

      “I have many problems with the story you put to me. First, let me express to you the fundamental bedrock of my outlook. Everything stems from this one thing, and, in my mind, it is the single most important truth of the human condition: our own experience is all that we have, it’s the only thing that we truly possess. Everything else is derivative – our core beliefs, our morals and principles, our ability to relate to others, our intuition, and our sense of the sacred. Everything. What this means in this context is that our sense of the cosmic, of a higher power or powers, can only ever be filtered through the medium of our own experience. Even the most seemingly objective truths about things can only ever be apprehended within the framework of the subjective mind. There is nothing that can be known outside our own experience. This doesn’t mean of course that nothing really exists beyond our own experience; that would be nihilism. Nor am I an existentialist; I don’t believe the only meaning in life is what we ourselves assign to it.”

      Ok, so think about that for a second. No actually, answer this question… is beauty in the eye of the beholder? In my opinion the saddest and loneliest of experiences would be subjectivity. And i don’t mean like, you like blue and I like red. I mean, the standard of beauty. Like the Greeks thought of… that there was a cosmic order to balance and beauty. But if you believe that beauty really is relative… without any sort of normative basis, then if you and I were best friends (and it does sound like we could be fast friends regrardless of this conversation) and hanging on the beach, watching the sunset, and I say to you, hot damn that sunsetting sky and horizon is amazing. And you are like, what? Right? You understand? Without a common standard and common framework we miss each other on simple things like a sunset, and never mind even trying on complicated things like other things like ‘good’ ‘bad’ ‘morals’ etc. But I’m going to give you the crib sheet to where I am going with this, and then I’ll stop because you are a smart guy… if there is a standard of beauty, if there is a common understanding of anything, ‘good’ ‘bad’ what have you… then there must be a standard, some higher normative standard given to us by something bigger than ourselves. And maybe have already agreed that there is some sort of god-thing, so you don’t care… but I want to not ceed this point… I want very badly to connect with you. To connect with others on the blog. With my wife. My children. And without a common language of standards that is impossible. So your opinion, is not an isolated opinion. Your beliefs are not in isolation. Yes? Maybe you don’t mind that jump.

      “But I do believe that our own experience is perhaps the only tool we have in the search for meaning. And people too often forget that, or do not give it the proper respect. In my not so humble opinion, spirituality must be experiential, or it is a game, a trick of the mind, that is all.”

      – I don’t specifically disagree. I have experienced the Grace of God physically. The freedom from sin. The ability to grasp God guiding and directing. No offense, but I see this conversation as God directed. But I hear you yelling at the screen… BUT IS IT GOD EXPERIENCED?!? hahah. Yes, I do, did, am doing. When this chat kicked off, (and there is another similar one going on another thread on the site) and when they both kicked off I had a fairly long slow conversation with God… prayer I think some people call it. hahah. And I heard him say something to the effect of, ‘share the truth because you see, … the fields really are ripe unto harvest.’ And then a little while later after reading the Bible, I got a sense that God was clear, that I should just share his love, that I should not take it personally if eyes aren’t openned as a result. But I should share anyway. Keep sharing. Never stop sharing.” And that was a very real experience… just this week. (sorry, already answering your ps there…)

      “What this means is that if we want to explore the mysteries of the universe, we need to take the bull by the horns. We need to have the courage to break out of the comfort zones of our own limiting perceptions and beliefs and step into the outer reaches, and become explorers, psychonauts. This can take many forms, but the fundamental rule here is that you must not, ever, let your fear control you. Do not ever let fear hold you back. And never, ever, accept what we have been told by others as good enough or definitive. Not even if it comes in the form of “scripture.” Complacency in the face of the Mysteries is a sin in my book. We must “see” the truth for ourselves. This “seeing” (and not thinking, believing, etc) is of the nature of totally direct, naked awareness. This is so important!

      Dude. My dad was a pastor, but that doesn’t mean I’m an idiot. I’m just as comfortable reading in Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals, The Bible, or Dr. Seuss. If I had one book to take to an island, I’d take the Bible. If I had two? I’d take Alice in Wonderland. This should tell you a little bit about me. Right? In the last year I read almost all of the Quran because I was tired of people telling me what it said. Not the whole thing. But almost. I keep meaning to get back to it and finish. I’ve read the book of Mormon just because I was curious. I’ve told people online I was a Devout Jew, and joined an under cover IRC Chat channel so I could hear what they thought first hand about The Christ’s ‘first’ coming. And the events that would happen from their perspective. I literally want to know what you think about whatever. I do. But nothing has swayed me from my very deep rooted conviction that Christ is God. Full stop. But to answer your point… I am digging, reading, and open to experiencing from God.

      “This is why the Buddha urged his followers not to simply accept his teachings, but to test it for themselves. As one Buddhist teacher said, “the job of the spiritual path is to pull the rug out from under your feet.” Because this “seeing,” this gnosis, will often if not always be an uncomfortable threat to the secure walls that our culture, our family, and our own egos have built up to define who we are and what our experience is to be.
      On a side note, I (and in general other Buddhists) do not believe that the self is God, as you say we do. I just think you are not understanding what it is that I am saying. But that happens in these kinds of talks, haha!
      “man does not want to give up control under any circumstance.”

      “This! Yes! Here we can agree completely. More accurately, we do not want to give up the *illusion” of control. Because we are controlled by our own minds – the notion of the self, with all its wants, needs and fears, its like and dislikes, its dreams, hopes and opinions. This is the lie – that I am Mica, and you are Taylor. That we are these separate little selves, fighting for survival. A teacher of mine once said, “We are little waves on the ocean of God. But where does the wave end and the ocean begin? And where does the ocean end and the wave begin?” We cling so dearly to these little rocks of self. To surrender to the ocean is to know what we really are.

      I think when Christ spoke about the devil, he was talking in the same way as when Buddha talked about Mara (and also what Jung called the Shadow). As a metaphor, but a metaphor for that real force within our own minds that is responsible for that clinging, among other things. I could go into that more, but what is relevant is that the Church then took that powerful metaphor and twisted it, perverted it, making it a literal being and used it as a scare tactic, as very effective propaganda to instill fear in the masses, in order that they would obey, listen to their superiors, not question, not think for themselves and above all, not explore the Mysteries through their own experience, because… well, Satan is out to get you.

      Yeah, I didn’t mean to describe Satan as a power that is worth being afraid of – more a power hiding the truth from you. But I understand what you are saying here. Personally I think the positive of walking daily with God – like Adam and Eve did in the cool of the morning in Eden, is so much more attractive than hell is detractive. If that makes sense.

      “Look, we can talk philosophy and theology until the cows come home, but what good is that? I don’t think either of us can convince the other.
      I will leave you with this, however. I have had further experiences along the lines of what I mentioned before, and they all had one thing in common. What I normally associate with as the mind, just stopped. My addiction to thought folded in on itself. Each time this has happened, the “I” that “I” call Mica ceases to be, and in its place, there is something radically different. An ocean of peace. Love beyond what we can imagine. Presence interpenetrating every atom, and manifesting Itself as the family of ALL beings. You can call this the devil feeding me lies if you want to. But I know, with every fiber of my body, with every drop of blood pounding in my veins, with this wide, open heart, it is the truth. It is my truth.

      I’m really not trying to win this “argument”. It may sound like I am. But I’m not. I’d rather get to know you better, and when the chips are down, give me a call and let me pray for you. In a college upper philosophy course I told a woman that I was sorry that her husband was chronically ill and that I’d like to pray for him. And she literally came over the table at me. HOW @$@#$% DARE YOU. Well. Hahah. Think about my intention when I say that. If I’m a New Age follower, everyone is cool with me sending you positive energy. But if I’m a Christian, I can’t pray for you? If you and I are bot honestly searching for God… and we are friends… and you are a Buddhist… and you tell me you want to pray, or meditate, on my behalf, I’d tell you thank you. I want the best for you. Specifically, I want God’s best for you. Literally.

      “Now, I’ll give that book of yours a read if you like. And in exchange, I ask you to watch a 20-minute TED talk by a neuroanatomist who had a stroke, and who knows exactly what I am talking about. You can read her book, too if you like. A powerful story, and a powerful message. And we don’t need to have a health crisis to experience it.”

      Alright, I’ll watch it. Easy enough. I started watching Antichrist by the way. Tried to download the whole thing so I could watch it right now during a swim team practice… but my interwebs died before I left. So tell Elizabeht that I’m working on it. (But then I wouldn’t have responded to you! hahahah. See, God is working! hahahahah. Pardon my maniacal chuckle.) So email me your address. I’ll buy it. You don’t have to buy it. Or do you prefer epub? I can’t stand books personally anymore. Name your poison and I’ll hook you up. Now, to the PS…

      “P.S. Just some quick questions. I don’t mean to offend. But I ask you these to challenge your mind and spirit. Don’t just gloss over these questions with self-persuasive rhetoric (that’s easy, and you’re way too smart for that). Really sit back and chew on these questions with a critical mind; the same critical mind you use when examining a mind-bending movie from all angles.

      “Everything you believe about God, Jesus and the Devil: what beliefs have you taken to heart that come from nowhere else but what other people or books have told you is truth, and that you then took on? Where in all of this are things that have come from your own God-given experience? Did you have an experience of what some call “taken by the Holy Spirit?” If so, great! What was that experience exactly? Did you take anything away from that experience and that experience alone? Did you give that experience a chance to speak for itself? Or was there any part of you that went, “If this experience is true (because I experienced it), then everything else they say is true!”

      Yes. I do believe I fairly regularly hear God speaking. Could be I’m insane. Usually He speaks in scripture that I have read. He calls to mind verses that are applicable to my situation. But I have also just experienced God in and through everything around me. Many of the posts I have done on this site about science are me marveling at God’s artistry and the beauty of his creation. I even remember an interveiw I did with an Atheist, and we agreed to disagree about the beauty of the scale of the solar system. I’m not good at science. At all. I do like to read scientific white papers. But I read them just so I can learn more about how God crafted us and the planet. Which sounds stupid to someone who doesn’t believe. But I really do think that science, physics, art, math, everything will reaffirm the details of the Bible. I’ve spent hundreds of hours trying to understand what the stars were over Bethelehem that guided the Wisemen. Right? Did the astrological account tell us something? Can we rewind the star clock and see the things that happened during those important dates? And when were they? It should all line up. And if it doesn’t tear it down. I am fearlessly critical of the scripture. If it isn’t right I’ll walk. But nothing has contradicted anything I have learned. But to your larger point, yes, I want to drink deeply from life and experience spiritual truths literally. Or thank you very much, I’m diving off a very very tall building. Why bother? So yeah, we seem to be cut from the same cloth. And though we disagree spiritually… I don’t think that is a bridge too far. We are joined by deeper truths. And I have faith that the larger story will unveil itself if we really are looking. If we really are diving deep into the truths of this life then it should open itself up to us.

      Ideas about Satan specifically: has there been anything in your life that has shown you that any problems we experience are the responsibility of being(s) other than the person(s) involved, and/or unbalanced, delusional, out-of-control mental and emotional states within said person or persons? What exactly convinced you, beyond the thoughts in your own head, and the words you read on a page, that Satan is a real, literal entity in the way you say that he is?”

      I don’t know if I understand the intent or the detail of what you are asking here. Satan. Demons literally. The Bible talks of demon posession like it was freaking everyday and everywhere. I grew up in a pentecostal church, and walked away from that action. And have landed in a much more even keel denomination. Which really is irrelevant if I am searching for truth on my own, right? But I mention the pentecostalism because there were demons under every tree. I don’t share this often, but my father had exorcisms in our front room occasionally. Like, normal people, became very very unnormal when confronted. Dude, the playbook for converting someone to Christianity doesn’t include me telling you about that. hahahahah. Seriously. That just makes me sound stupid. But dude, I saw some crazy things happen as a kid. Normal middle age women flipping out and chewing on the carpet, foaming at the mouth. Just strange. So you asked, I’m telling you. What do I think now? Yeah, I believe that the spiritual warfare that I told you about in the last post manifests itself literally in people literally. Personally, I have noticed darkness and real terror coincides with real evil and pockets of badness. I have also found that when I talk to folks like you, and share honestly and openly about the truth of salvation, I regularly have very bad things happen afterwards. I really am not supersticious. At all. These are things that I take for granted now. But does that make sense?

      Question about God/Christ in particular: as above, what have you experienced, beyond what other people and other books have said, that has convinced you that you know what God is thinking and feeling about you, and what God wants or doesn’t want for you, and others?

      Freedom from the effects of sin and condemnation is the biggest literal experience. I have also found peace that passes all understanding. I am not really searching anymore, I have found what I was looking for. Sure, I continue searching for confirmation where I can. But, the peace and solace of the God that created supernovas? hahah. I have also seen him intervene on my behalf literally with people donating cash when I was completely out of luck. But you may say that that is convermation bias? Maybe? I don’t know. But yeah, I could probably write like 3 pages just on this topic alone. I really would be suicidal if I wasn’t sure of my relationship with God.

      Alright, sure… (and then I spilled my guts for like two hours – we cried, we hugged… and then we bought lots of Kleenex stock.)

      Reply
  45. Mica

    (Yeah, I know. Another book… Sorry!)

    You know, I got worried there with that last exchange, thinking uh oh, he’s trying to convert me, time to exit stage left. But I know you have a good heart, and you’re coming from a good place. And we do have a lot in common. And I am really enjoying this exchange!

    “Ok, so think about that for a second. No actually, answer this question… is beauty in the eye of the beholder? In my opinion the saddest and loneliest of experiences would be subjectivity. ”

    In the way you mean here, I agree. I don’t think beauty is just in the eye of the beholder either. That’s why I mentioned the existentialism bit. And yes, I have also felt a sense of higher forces guiding or directing things in my life. This sense though is an integral and inherent part of my subjective experience – one cannot be separated from the other. This is what skeptics and atheists cannot wrap their heads around – but it’s all in your head! Then a tug of war ensues – it isn’t! It is! It isn’t!

    Neither camp, however, are giving any credit to the true nature and potential of the inner, subjective experience. Pharmacologists routinely have to factor in the placebo effect in their tests, and then they will turn around and say, “Mind cannot affect matter.”

    “But I have also just experienced God in and through everything around me.”
    Yes! In a way, we are talking about the same thing. I just take the above statement to its extreme.

    “William Blake in ‘A Memorable Fancy’ writes:

    “‘The prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel dined with me, and I asked them how they dared so roundly to assert that God spoke to them; and whether they did not think at the time that they would not be misunderstood, and so be the cause of imposition. Isaiah answered: “I saw no God, nor heard any, in a finite organical perception; but my senses discovered the infinite in everything, and as I was then persuaded, and remain confirmed, that the voice of honest indignation is the voice of God, I cared not for consequences but wrote.

    “‘Then I asked: “Does a firm persuasion that a thing is so, make it so?

    “‘He replied: “All poets believe that it does, and in ages of imagination this firm persuasion removed mountains; but many are not capable of a firm persuasion in anything.'”

    “Blake claimed to have had this experience of prophetic poetry and:

    “‘To see a World in a grain of sand,
    And a Heaven in a wild flower,
    Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
    And Eternity in an hour.’

    “‘and by doing so:

    “‘To open up the Eternal Worlds, to open the Immortal Eyes
    Of man inwards into the Worlds of Thought: into Eternity:
    Ever expanding into the Bosom of God, the Human Imagination'”

    We have no idea of the true nature and potential of the inner, subjective experience. For the Western mind, conditioned so deeply by Descartian philosophy, it is difficult to really get this. I believe that at a very deep level of the atom, its quantum “substance” is identical to the “substance” of consciousness, of mind. And that things like biology are not the cause of consciousness, but the reverse. That biology is the inevitable result of this Mind. The quantum ground of matter is an aspect of consciousness, which is itself a reflection or emanation of the Divine.

    “The All is Mind. The universe is mental.”

    “No offense, but I see this conversation as God directed. But I hear you yelling at the screen… BUT IS IT GOD EXPERIENCED?!?”

    Perhaps it is. I think so, especially considering what we both know each other now. What we’ve been through.

    When I first experienced the Holy Spirit, it brought me to my knees. I was crying and laughing at the same time. Everything became lit up with a Holy Fire. After, I wanted to run out in the street, shouting it from the rooftops. How could I experience this, and not want to share it? I think, later I wrote something on a scrap of paper to the effect of “Let my heart do the loving, my hands do the giving, and my legs do the walking.” We do this, I believe, by really walking it out, by not putting so much attention on our own desires, but by surrendering the heart in service. Easy to say, but God, I sometimes find it hard.

    I have also found that there is a range of experiences of being in connection to God. There is the deep immersion, where this drop of water that is “me” merges with the ocean. All sense of separateness between self and God, and self and others disappears, and one realizes it was never really there to begin with.

    Then there is just like dipping the toe in the water – there is that sense of God, but then you are still firmly you, and so there is this relational experience, like between you and another person. But the presence is the same. This, however, can be just as profound in its own way. For instance, I have found myself in these moments directed to think about someone I really can’t stand, that I’d love to kill with my bare hands, and I am suddenly seeing them with eyes of love, with the eyes of their mother or child perhaps. My mind often rebels in this moment, saying, “No! I HATE this person! There is no way I can love them!” (THAT, by the way, is an example of the “devil’s” voice).

    However, none of this is guided by scripture. I do not follow scripture, nor do I pray to Christ or believe he is more of God than I am. Or any of that. But am I “saved?” What does that even mean? That if I don’t become Christian, I will go to hell? That my eyes are closed? Or that all of what I said above is Satan’s voice, lying to me, and hiding the real truth? Really? That doesn’t sound like God to me at all, but man’s ideas, pretending to be God’s.

    Think of it this way: when you are a child, you are a very pure, open being. Then let’s say you go through horrendous abuse, made to do terrible things, and end up believing awful things about yourself. You grow up, and get out from under the abuse, but all this baggage that isn’t you is still there, and you need to deal with it. You need to separate the real you from what you’ve been told and made to believe is you.

    That is really how I see a lot of religion. It usually starts out pure, but then it gets corrupted. In the case of Christianity, it was used as a weapon in the hands of the most powerful and enduring fascist regime this world has ever known. The Catholic Church committed more crimes against humanity than the Nazis. It also promulgated the most destructive beliefs about women. In fact, much of the history of Christianity is the history of the oppression of women, and fear around their creative power.

    I have to hold myself back from going on a rant here, as opposed to the rest of my postings (haha!) But I specifically disagree with your criticism of the worship of Mary, simply because it is not in scripture. When the worship of Mary is one of the most beautiful aspects to me of Catholicism. When you think about it, there’s really very little to nothing in the Christian stories for women. On the contrary, I have seen the bible used as justification for blatant misogyny and male chauvinism. I could go on here, but it would be a tangent in this context. And you know this story already, I’m sure… “Blah blah blah Patriarchy blah blah!”

    Anyway, rant aside, the true spirit of Christianity is still there, underneath all of that. So it is the job of the true spiritual warrior to have the courage to find for oneself what the true spirit is and separate it from all the baggage. But it is and can be a scary process.

    So when you started telling me that all this experience of unity stuff is just Satan, that’s when I ask you to look deeper, question things, rely more on your own experience than what some book says. If Christ truly resides in your heart, then that’s the first place you need to look for guidance. That still, small voice that beckons you to open to source and see with the eyes of love. All the other stuff (including the bible) is *at best* just window dressing.

    I’m not saying to throw the Bible out the window, but neither is it the be-all-end-all of the truth of God. In fact, it’s got some pretty shitty stuff in there if you ask me. Like that God thinks homosexuality is a sin and an abomination. That’s not God, that’s man’s opinion, but because it’s in the bible, they say it’s God saying it.

    By the way, I can’t help throwing this clip in of Martin Sheen from The West Wing
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSXJzybEeJM&t=140s

    Ah, the issue of the spirit world and the whole good vs evil thing! (Just gotta say, I feel like I’m back in college, drinking craft beer and having all-night bull sessions)

    This is a vast topic, and very, very complex. I really appreciate sharing your experience. We are getting into deep spiritual waters here. But one caveat before I say anything: around this issue I have had very little to no experience on this subject. But the topic of spirits fascinates me, and has fascinated me for a very long time. So I have done a lot of research in this area. What I have is one very strong belief, based on the implications of what I have experienced combined with the testimonies of some of those who have sailed these waters.

    So you shared with me your Pentecostal background. I’m going to go out on a limb and share with you something that might freak you out a bit. If it doesn’t freak you out, you’ll most likely get really worried about me!

    But I’ll get to that in a bit. 🙂 First, let me go into my pet theory. I have said that consciousness is more fundamental than atoms (think of it as like the fabric of space-time, but composed of consciousness), and that all phenomena and all forms of life and matter are “fluctuations” of this field. This field, as I said, is a reflection of pure Divinity. This is basically what I experienced that day with my dog. Essentially, this makes me (among other things) an animist, since *everything* in Nature has a corresponding consciousness or intelligence to it, that, while seemingly localized and “individual,” is nevertheless an integral part of the whole.

    So, say for example, storms: there is intelligence there, there is consciousness. Same with trees and lakes and mountains, etc etc. Even yes, technology. This is the basis for the shamanistic interaction with spirits. But this is still a very simplistic illustration.

    This is one of the reasons I just don’t buy into the whole good vs evil thing. It’s just way too simplistic and reductionist. It’s like walking into a forest, pointing at a snake and saying, “That’s bad!” and then pointing at a deer and saying, “That’s good!” It may good and bad in relation to you, but that’s ignoring the complexity and holism of the ecosystem. Everything plays a role in the organism that is the Earth, and in Nature as a whole.

    This obviously extends also into the spiritual domains.

    That being said, there is shit going on we just don’t know about it and don’t understand. Including spirits that, in relation to humanity, can be malevolent. So, let’s say that malaria or HIV has a corresponding consciousness (spirit) connected to it. Is it really “evil?” To humans, yeah. But there is a greater picture we likely aren’t seeing.

    Like for example, how human colonization spreads into the wilderness, forcing predators out of their natural habitat. Everyone hates and wants to kill the wolves that hunt the cattle or the coyotes going after people’s pets. Without thinking about the consequences of human action.

    However, there is a saying in Buddhism – the higher the mountain, the deeper the valley; the greater the Dharma, the greater the Mara. In other words, as we push deeper into spiritual growth, there is an equal and opposite force pushing against us. This is natural law, and it’s not our enemy. Hermetic alchemy has some very interesting things to say about the nature of this natural force.

    But going out and combating “demons” directly, like some kind of inquisition on the spiritual planes is I think deeply misguided as well as horribly destructive, for everything involved.

    So, I mentioned I do a lot of research in this area. Here is the part where I freak you out: I have studied magic and the occult for many, many years. I consider myself to be very knowledgeable in this field. But not very experienced. That we can talk about another time.

    There are many, many, MANY streams of magic, many different approaches, many different traditions, many different forms. And many different motivations. But my sense is that, on a fundamental level, they all make use of the same natural laws. Because matter and energy are facets of consciousness, that means Nature is like an infinite computer that can be accessed, downloaded from as well as hacked and reprogrammed (to a certain extent) etc. Or think of all the different things you can do with electricity.

    But playing around and making a radio in your garage and understanding these fundamental laws and the nature of what you working with are two very different things.

    So I’ll share with you a few PDFs. This one writer is what I would consider an expert in the field of working with spirits and understanding what she is working with and why. She is also the most prolific writer on the subject. She has written ten books’ worth of material on magic and shared it all online for free.

    So if you are up for a little late night reading (about 60 pages), here is what she has to say on demons and parasitical entities. I cannot recommend her work highly enough. Even if you totally disagree, you have to admit, it’s a fascinating read!

    Remember that these docs are taken out of context. The writer assumes you have read the docs in order.

    https://static1.squarespace.com/static/539af6bee4b0cef061847e36/t/54ab8d3ae4b01e05d9bdc5ef/1420528954753/QUAREIA_M6_L3.pdf
    https://static1.squarespace.com/static/539af6bee4b0cef061847e36/t/54ab8d7ae4b01e05d9bdc6b0/1420529018076/QUAREIA_M6_L4.pdf

    Reply
  46. Taylor Holmes

    Hey Mica
    Welcome back! Diving straight in:

    You know, I got worried there with that last exchange, thinking uh oh, he’s trying to convert me, time to exit stage left. But I know you have a good heart, and you’re coming from a good place. And we do have a lot in common. And I am really enjoying this exchange!

    Of course I’m trying to convert you. Hahahah. Duh. As are you me. But it’s out of zero maliciousness or towards any other goal than of sharing Truth with a friend. Every philosophical, political, check that… ANY conversation is towards the end of “converting” the listener to your own vantage point or perspective. Come on man! hahahah. But seriously…

    In the way you mean here, I agree. I don’t think beauty is just in the eye of the beholder either. That’s why I mentioned the existentialism bit. And yes, I have also felt a sense of higher forces guiding or directing things in my life. This sense though is an integral and inherent part of my subjective experience – one cannot be separated from the other. This is what skeptics and atheists cannot wrap their heads around – but it’s all in your head! Then a tug of war ensues – it isn’t! It is! It isn’t! Neither camp, however, are giving any credit to the true nature and potential of the inner, subjective experience. Pharmacologists routinely have to factor in the placebo effect in their tests, and then they will turn around and say, “Mind cannot affect matter.” “But I have also just experienced God in and through everything around me.” Yes! In a way, we are talking about the same thing. I just take the above statement to its extreme.

    So, you believe that the inner mind has power to do spiritual things. To control things that normal science can’t actually account for? And I do believe the mind can do unexpected things. Like, release endorphins while stressed to all mere humans to pick up cars or whatever. But there are obvious limits to what the mind can do.

    However, none of this is guided by scripture. I do not follow scripture, nor do I pray to Christ or believe he is more of God than I am. Or any of that. But am I “saved?” What does that even mean? That if I don’t become Christian, I will go to hell? That my eyes are closed? Or that all of what I said above is Satan’s voice, lying to me, and hiding the real truth? Really? That doesn’t sound like God to me at all, but man’s ideas, pretending to be God’s.

    The conversation, for me, though not for you, completely hinges on this one sentence… ‘nor do I pray to Christ or believe he is more of God than I am.’ But you know this. Zero hostility in my saying this, but 100% yes. You understand completely. Which brings me back to that guy who wanted to prove his wife’s belief in the Bible as false… and I am still waiting for you to email me your address so I can send you that book.

    If you actually took the time to investigate the Bible with the same vim and vigor you investigate other religions you might be surprised. I mean, honestly. I am well familiar with that West Wing clip as I am possibly one of the biggest Sorkin fans of all time. For example, the Old Testament prophets routinely predicted the overthrow of Israel by empires that didn’t even exist yet. All the way down to the names of the leaders. And when these leaders were shown these prophesies it had amazing impact on them and their lives. The Old Testament even predicts Christ’s first coming with 44 clear and precise predictions. Would you just say that all of the Bible was written after Jesus’ arrival on the scene? (The Jews might have a bit of a problem with that view.) And there are even more prophesies about his second coming… which makes me personally curious about what the Bible says about his return. But that’s just me… because I believe the Bible is accurate.

    Back to the first assertion, that Jesus’ first coming was predicted by 44 prophesies. You can read them specifically on this page: https://www.thoughtco.com/prophecies-of-jesus-fulfilled-700159 – But the odds of these 44 coming true are really in the realm of lottery ticket land. Here is just one example, which not only tells what happened but also referred back to the Jeremiah prophesy as well – which you can find in Jeremiah 31 if you want to validate:

    Matthew 2:16-18 “Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. 17Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: 18″A voice was heard in Ramah,
    Weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; And she refused to be comforted, Because they were no more.”

    There are 43 more that are similar. You should investigate them yourself. Sure, some are more, WOAH, than others. But when you add up the odds of all of them it becomes extraordinarily complicated to fulfill them all.

    But going out and combating “demons” directly, like some kind of inquisition on the spiritual planes is I think deeply misguided as well as horribly destructive, for everything involved.

    So, I mentioned I do a lot of research in this area. Here is the part where I freak you out: I have studied magic and the occult for many, many years. I consider myself to be very knowledgeable in this field. But not very experienced. That we can talk about another time.

    There are many, many, MANY streams of magic, many different approaches, many different traditions, many different forms. And many different motivations. But my sense is that, on a fundamental level, they all make use of the same natural laws. Because matter and energy are facets of consciousness, that means Nature is like an infinite computer that can be accessed, downloaded from as well as hacked and reprogrammed (to a certain extent) etc. Or think of all the different things you can do with electricity.

    You haven’t freaked me out any at all. Magic is real. “The Dark Arts” or whatever you prefer to call them are real. Sure, there are charlatans. Guys in it for money. But yeah, the Bible refers to magicians… there was actually a guy named Simon the Magician that attempted to purchase a miracle from Peter in Acts 8:9-24. Not only that, but in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 28) Saul, who God had turned his back on, turned to a medium in order to get wisdom from Samuel. Obviously there are more examples, but we are more prolific than we need to be already! hahah.

    So yeah, you haven’t blown my mind. It’s legit. But yeah, I’ll read through your PDFs… but know that I believe it is not motivated by a collective consciousness, but rather motivated by the spiritual war that is all around us. To be clear, engaging in a land war with the spiritual isn’t the goal, but the goal would be to open the eyes of the oppressed… or blinded. To allow them to be free from lies that the spirits use to keep individuals from the truth.

    But as I read, I will read as if it is fact… not fiction. I will read as if watching a car crash. When you play with these powers they will burn you. That is their only goal. And trying to harness these spirits will actually backfire cataclysmically.

    But I dig you Mica, I love your inquisitiveness. You remind me of what I’ve read about Sir Isaac Newton and his curiosity into metalurgy, transmutation and other craziness. Speaking of which, have you read Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle? Book one is called Quicksilver, if not you’d love it. Or his Cryptonomicon is amazing as well.

    Taylor
    ps – seriously, email me your address (taylor at taylorholmes dot com)

    Reply
  47. Mica Gries

    Hey Taylor

    Why am I not surprised that you are a fan of Neal Stephenson?! Hahaha! He’s kind of the Shane Carruth of modern fiction. I’ve only read one of his books – Snow Crash, but I loved it. I have a few others on my shelf, Anathem and yeah, Quicksilver, but haven’t gotten to them yet.

    “ANY conversation is towards the end of “converting” the listener to your own vantage point or perspective.”

    That’s funny you say that actually. I mentioned to you before how my wife and I have been really enjoying the Smart Couples podcast. The most recent podcast we listened to talked about this really great exercise called the Dyad – http://dyad.org/index.html – and it’s all about communication and how to turn what you just said around, so that one becomes a much better listener. I’ve got a long way to go myself, haha!

    “So, you believe that the inner mind has power to do spiritual things. To control things that normal science can’t actually account for?”

    Yes and no. The key words here are “inner mind” and “control.” The mind that identifies as self has no real power, but likes to believe it has or can have all the control, but this is only the illusion of control. There is another level of mind, what some like to call the Higher Genius. This Higher Genius is already one with God and always will be. When we die, this Higher Genius lives on and emanates another incarnation. It’s what I believe anyway. The Kabbalists call the deepest aspect of the Higher Genius the Yechida
    http://www.chabad.org/kabbalah/article_cdo/aid/380651/jewish/Levels-of-Soul-Consciousness.htm

    That being said, I do believe that there are forms of magic that can give the lower self a tremendous amount of power to affect change, granting access to levels and forces of Nature normally beyond human reach. generally speaking, this is thaumaturgy though, and it forms the majority of magical practice. Not what I’m personally interested in, however. What concerns me is a particular form of theurgy. Theurgy is “concerned with the work of spiritual regeneration, that in every sense of the word is an ancient discipline, revered and nurtured throughout history by those few who know it, yet, barely acknowledged or understood by the many who do not….

    “’Gather together your bones, make ready your members, throw off your dust, loosen your bonds. The tomb is opened for you, the doors of the coffin are drawn back for you, the doors of the sky are thrown open for you; ‘Greeting’ says Isis; ‘In peace’, says Nephthys..’

    “’…this king goes to his double, to the sky. A ladder is set up for him that he may ascend on it in its name of ‘Ascent to the sky’; its ferryboat is ferried across for him by the staffs of the imperishable stars. The Bull of the sky has bent down his horns that he may pass over thereby to the lakes of the netherworld.’

    “’O. King, you are this great star, the companion of Orion, who traverses the sky with Orion, who navigates the Netherworld with Osiris; you ascend from the east of the sky, being renewed at your due season and rejuvenated at your due time. The sky has borne you with Orion, the year has put a fillet on you with Osiris, hands have been given to you, the dance has gone down to you, a food-offering is given to you…etc.’

    “The processes, to which these quotations allude are essentially theurgic, being concerned with the creation of a spiritual body, a body of light drawn out of the physical, or perhaps I should say psychical body. The rites and the teachings involved in this metamorphic process were treated with the greatest reverence, and successfully maintained in absolute secrecy for many generations. Few people were privy to these mysteries, although it is on record that several non-Egyptians were given access to them, Moses being one….

    “If we can accept that from a religious point of view our ancestors recognized that life here has one fundamental imperative; to become! to evolve, to regenerate an original state of perfection, that was in the beginning made in God’s image, then we are in with a chance of understanding the essence of theurgy, and in doing so rediscover the tradition of spiritual development that our ancestors knew and maintained.”

    See, I believe that Jesus was 110% a theurgist. This is what the Church suppressed. Because the Church wanted people to obey and be powerless, not to ascend into a transcendental union with God while still alive.

    True theurgic processes work whether you believe in them or not. And they are catabolic – they work on you, and affect change on your own consciousness in unexpected ways – yet always to the same purpose and to the same destination. I’ll give you an example that might impress you 🙂 One of my teachers (I have 2) was practicing a meditative exercise using a mirror that is known to awaken higher states of consciousness (the exercise, not the mirror!), . He described himself at that time as having little to no interest in the figure of Jesus. But in the midst of his meditation, Jesus stepped out of the mirror, as real and physical as you or I (yet with a body composed of beads of light) and pressed his hand against my teacher’s forehead. My teacher flung himself backwards in holy terror, hit the floor and looked up. The figure was gone, but the effect on his consciousness was permanent.

    “The conversation, for me, though not for you, completely hinges on this one sentence… ‘nor do I pray to Christ or believe he is more of God than I am.'”

    My whole life hinges on what you said here (with some editing done on my part!): “the goal would be to open the eyes of … the blinded. To allow them to be free”
    Freedom! True freedom! To wake up! What is freedom? What does it feel like to be free? What does freedom taste like? Not just to say or think, “Hey I’m free because I’m American!” or something like that. But to live freedom, breathe freedom, to feel the very cells of your body singing with freedom. Ecstasy on the highest!

    There is a story of the Buddha that not long after he attained enlightenment, he came upon some men who recognized him as some sort of extraordinary being. They asked him, “Are you a god?” “No,” he replied. “Are you a spirit or angel?” “No.””Are you a man?” And still he said, “No.” “Well, then, what are you?” “I am awake,” he answered.

    I love this story so much! It alludes to the fact that our very existence as self-defined beings is a form of slumber. And that wakefulness transcends all characteristics, all limitations. It is pure, luminous and vast, without shape or form, like the sky. This is our essential nature.

    My first meditation retreat shook me to my core, because it made me face how little control over my own mind I have. And how I *think* I choose to do things and respond to things, but how, in actual fact, mostly every response, every minute act and thought arises as the result of unconscious tendencies; all the invisible pieces of software running in the background and determining what we believe, what we think, what we feel and what we do. I became hyper-aware of the addictive nature of the mind – that the ultimate addiction is to the content of our own minds (including this talk!), which determines who we are and what we do. If we are not even aware of this, how can we be free? We are like puppets on a string. And no one is lying to us but ourselves. We have only ourselves to blame. (This has always been another issue I have with Christianity – to assign the blame of things to “demons” and “satan;” things that we alone need to be accountable for).

    Now then what does freedom feel like? Freedom is that moment when you are, say, mid-rage and then you suddenly stop, step back, see yourself and go, “I don’t have to be like this. I have a choice.” For a split second, you have entered what Eastern philosophy calls “witness consciousness,” where you are simply witnessing what is happening inside yourself and not enmeshed with it, not identifying with it. And then you are back in the maelstrom of the mind again. But that split second was enough. It was all you needed to make a different choice. If something within us can be witnessed, it is not a part of our essential nature, but a temporary state that we nevertheless attach to and identify with.

    “A truly conscious action is one in which there is no individual observer, no personal objective, no expectations, no reference to memory or to a particular authority. Hridaya Yoga teaches us to discard or detach from the burden of attachments of all sorts, such as prejudices and physical and psychic attachments.

    “An action is conscious indeed only when it is not personal anymore; when we realize that the underlying background of that action is infinite consciousness, the Spiritual Heart. In reality, the Spiritual Heart is the ultimate source of any action. A conscious action is, then, an action which occurs free of any attachments and out of love rather than as a strategy to promote a self-image.”

    Regarding prophecy, Christianity does not have the monopoly on prophecy. Buddhist Tibet for instance, is just rife with prophecies. So I’m not really sure what you’re point is there.

    ” ‘The Dark Arts’ or whatever you prefer to call them are real… motivated by the spiritual war that is all around us… When you play with these powers they will burn you. That is their only goal. And trying to harness these spirits will actually backfire cataclysmically.”

    Sorry, I just don’t believe any of this. I don’t believe there is a spiritual war going on for our souls. The PDF document I sent you on demons actually goes into the roots of this belief in Zoroastrianism, which was in fact a degeneration of Egyptian beliefs around the maintenance of “order” (or balance). The philosophy around this balance is more like a cosmic ecology than a war. When I look at Nature, I don’t see war, I see a beautiful, delicate, balance of organisms and ecosystems. I see things like tics, mosquitoes and maggots, wolves, hawks and tigers as essential as any organ in the human body. (Have you seen this video of wolves and trophic cascades? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysa5OBhXz-Q ) I look at the Earth and I see a whole organism, with each piece interconnected with every other, and the Earth itself as part of an even greater whole.

    And why would the nature of the universe be so at odds with Nature Itself?

    Magic I think can be a beautiful digging into the soil of this universe, expanding our perceptions, awakening to and communing and interacting with the forces that surround us on an ever-deepening level- the fairies riding on the wind, the intelligence of stars, the consciousness of time and fire, opening one’s eyes to the engine of creation, ever-birthing itself anew, never a fixed, static thing, but a wondrous dance of the powers of creation and destruction. All is alive, all is alight with God’s love.

    “But I dig you Mica, I love your inquisitiveness. You remind me of what I’ve read about Sir Isaac Newton and his curiosity into metalurgy, transmutation and other craziness.”

    Hahaha! Thanks, man, I dig you, too. You’ve got an excellent and inquisitive mind yourself. But seriously, being compared to Newton is probably the biggest compliment anyone’s ever given me.

    Mica
    P.S. Sent you my address 🙂

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Hey Mica,
      First and foremost, I do not have your address. I checked my email inbox (taylor at taylorholmes dot com, yes?) and don’t see it. Please resend, because I’d love to read your response to that particular experience as this guy investigates his wife’s fraud filled religion.

      Secondly, not in priority but in order, is that I’m sorry that I’ve left you hanging. Life blew up on me and then vacation and then I lost the scent.

      But after reading your last post, I’d say that we both see the world fundamentally differently. I see it as broken and in need of saving. And you see it as a beautiful symbiotic dance of the various strains of life. To that I respond with a story.

      I recently discovered a particular company – that I won’t specifically mention – that is using Big Data and AI of sorts to track trends and details of pimps, sex traffickers and the like. They are able to trend and anticipate where and when traffickers will be based on big events and other data. I reached out to said company and told them that I’m interested. I told them I was interested in whatever. Anything. I wanted to know how I could help? Web development. Project Management. Full time employment? Volunteer? Contracting? Whatever, anything. I want to help. If I could even make the smallest of dents in this horror I’m in.

      But all that to say, the reason I decided to lean in was because the world desperately broken and heinous horrible terrible things are happening daily. “Necklacing” in Africa, genocide, pogroms, racial inspired lynchings, terror of epic proportions. We in America have zero idea of what level of evil really resides in the world today.

      So I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree there. I just don’t buy your mosquitoes argument… like, any. None. There isn’t a ying and yang of good and evil that is good for the world in its duality. It is an outpouring of chaos and darkness that has overrun the planet with just crazy crazy ends in mind. And we need a savior to save us from ourselves.

      Dude send me your address (again?) so I can get that book out to you so we can discuss it. Maybe I’ll even create a blog post for the book and we can start over there.

      Taylor

      Reply
  48. Mica Gries

    Hi Taylor

    Wow, great to hear back from you! I thought that was it! I hope everything is ok for you, and not still blowing up.

    Regardless of our differences, that is wonderful that you are so moved to help in the fight against human trafficking. What was their response? I have a next door neighbor who teaches martial arts and runs a security company, and he travels abroad to lend support, mostly on the border between Nepal and India.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbDS118IZX8&t=72s (he’s the dude wearing glasses)

    So, the problem of good and evil. Wow, not an easy one to tackle. One of the main issues with this is our use of language. My point of view is more in line with Buddhist though. So in Pali (the language the Buddha used), there is kusala and akusala, which can roughly be translated as good and evil, respectively. But it doesn’t quite fit. There are many things that may be kusala, like calmness of body and mind, that don’t come to mind when we think of good. And such things as depression, melancholy, sloth and distraction, while they may be akusala, aren’t exactly evil.

    The subtle difference here is that kusala and akusala point to conditions in the mind, conditions which give rise to physical actions and behaviors. Kusala are the qualities of mind which give rise to contentment and a natural sense of well-being (including compassion and empathy), not based on any external influence or condition. While kusala is just the opposite, giving rise to acts of anger, hatred, cruelty, suffering and apathy.

    It seems to me that if you were to look deeply into any of those people doing those horrible things that you mentioned, you would see that their hearts and minds are in a world of pain, no matter how they appear on the surface, even and especially if they are getting pleasure out of it. Their minds are twisted out of shape, out of alignment.

    In the West, we are used to thinking of good and evil as sort of cosmic absolutes, eternally opposed and at war. This is the thing I cannot buy. All duality is relative by its nature and cannot be called absolute. So there can be nothing absolutely good or absolutely evil. This is what I saw when I sat meditating one day and was guided to feel love for the man who tried to run over my handicapped step-daughter in his ride-on lawnmower. That his own daughter, his wife, his mother, these people love him, and if they love him, then there is some good in him as well. There is good in all people, even those who do the worst things. I wouldn’t be a real Buddhist if I didn’t believe this in my heart. Because all beings, *without exception*, possess Buddha nature.

    If the sky is cloudy is there still blue sky? If the water is muddy, is there not pure water still there? You may say, yes, but what about the mud, what makes it mud? It is ignorance and delusion clouding the mind. This mud is not part of anyone’s true nature, but is an inevitable quality of being asleep.

    Think of that moment when you are behaving in a way that is part of your programming or your baggage, you get triggered, and in this state, you are totally asleep, just pulled along by the current. In this state, you are not leading your mind, your mind is leading you. Now think about how this might be actually going on every second of every day. Even when we are in a seemingly happy state of mind, there is still delusion, there is still ignorance. For instance, our happiness is usually if not always dependent (seemingly) on an external cause. But what is actually the true source of happiness is always our own mind. It is the same with suffering. Yet we cling to external circumstances as sources of happiness.

    Just as all beings possess Buddha nature, so too all beings want and seek after happiness, and avoid suffering. It is common to all beings, right down to amoebas. However, our root motivation for the search for happiness is totally blinkered, utterly misguided. We are looking in all the wrong directions. If all beings possess Buddha nature, then where else is there to look than within to discover this true nature?

    Our minds are not peaceful, they are not calm, even if they appear so on the surface. Spend any considerable length of time doing meditation and you come to see this very quickly. There are deep undercurrents of conflict and inner struggle we are not always aware of. But spend any considerable length of time meditating, and you also get glimpses of what is on the other side. The greatest joys possible in life pale in comparison as a candle to the sun. When the mind (not the brain) is resting in its own nature – the ground of one’s own being – what begins to emerge is what Buddhists call the Clear Light of Bliss – infinite bliss, clarity of wisdom and the deepest compassion for others.

    So in a sense, you are also right. We do need “saving.” But any “flaw” lies in our own delusion and our ignorance, and does not lie in the way things really are. When we see the mind as it really is, we open the door to liberation, free from being trapped by the games and patterns we trap ourselves in.

    I do not know how humans came to be this way. What in our evolutionary path led us to this, in our collective karma (cause and effect)? Choices our ancestors made we are paying for in spades. Whatever it is, I just can’t accept that – like some comic book – it all comes down to some ultimate villain and his fiendish cohorts. That seems just too easy and just shifting the blame.

    I also don’t buy into the generally accepted idea that all our negativity (anger, jealousy, greed, hatred, etc) is just a part of human nature. That it’s “normal,” and it’s just a matter of degree, self-control, or whatever, that separates us from those who commit these terrible acts. From this view, it would be insane to think that someone could be totally without any negativity whatsoever. The radical view of Buddhism, however, is that none of this is normal at all, and that we are all actually insane. When the Buddha, through his own experience, accessed the deepest, most subtle level of mind possible (that in our culture, we don’t posit as existing), he discovered that these states, the akusala, are not native to our true being, and thus can be removed. This what Nirvana really is, and what all Buddhist mind-training comes down to.

    Where else can all the negative and positive states of mind arise from but the mind? As I have said before, the mind, the consciousness, is something we in our culture do not give the proper respect to. Even in the scientific community, the study of subjectivity has become taboo. All of our attention pours outward through the gates of the senses, and very little to none is turned inwards to investigate what it is that we actually are. So in way this does not need to be a religious discussion. I don’t really think Buddhism is a religion; it can be and it often is practiced as such. However, a personal investigation into the nature of one’s own mind would not, I think, conflict with any faith. I will go further, however, and state that Buddhist teachings on mind training are so profound and so valuable, that they are more essential than learning math and history. If meditation was taught in all schools, we’d have a very different world.

    I will leave you with a lecture (if you are up for it) from one of my favourite teachers ever. I feel that Pema Chodron is a literal saint, and living proof of the truth of these teachings.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcvEDXp9vPM

    Reply
  49. Taylor Holmes

    Mica,
    really sorry I am only getting back to you. And I really don’t have a ton to say this time. But wanted you to know that you are on my mind regularly. And find myself praying for you, and your wife fairly regularly. No idea why.

    One of the interesting differences between my position and yours is that I believe in a literal God. I believe in a sovereign that literally is everywhere, and is all powerful. And if that is the case (my belief, my ‘theory’) then it should be testable. In the Bible it says clearly in a number of different verses that if you actually seek out this God He will be found.

    Hrmm. Interesting. It’s starting to sound like a testable hypothesis. Now, the test results might not exactly be quantitative. But it definitely will be qualitative. And the most interesting thing about this test is that you are the only one that can tell me whether or not you find my assertions to be true or not. But I really do, honestly believe – that if you search for God, you will find him. I can’t tell you exactly how to do that. I remember you telling the story about your dog and the impact that that had on you. Maybe it’ll be like that? Maybe it’s God walking into your room and introducing Himself to you physically. But I literally believe that He can do anything and He will be found…… if you literally search for him.

    I have spent time reading and learning from you and your links. And I love the mind exercise of it. But eventually the mind ends and the heart begins… the spirit listens. I dunno.

    Jeremiah 29:13 – You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
    2 Chronicles 15:2 – He went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.
    Hebrews 11:6 – for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

    Literally a ton more I could have thrown your way – but this one, this verse is my favorite: Acts 17:24 – “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.

    If you seek him. He will be found. I say you put him to the test.

    Reply
  50. Mica

    Hello Taylor
    Thank you for your last message. It was quite beautiful and I know you are writing from your heart. However, I may have to conclude that you and I are really just talking at each other, and not understanding each other at all. Because I don’t believe in God as defined by orthodox religion, you think my belief is wrong. Either that or I have just totally confused you. The irony here is that my belief is very much in line with the old Kabbalists, who actually wrote much of the Old Testament.
    I would argue against what you said, and say that the main difference between our positions is that my point of view is more mystical where yours is orthodox. I am reminded of a wonderful Sufi parable: “It is a story of a group of blind men who have never come across an elephant before, learn and conceptualize what the elephant is like by touching it. Each blind man feels a different part of the elephant body, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then describe the elephant based on their partial experience and their descriptions are in complete disagreement on what an elephant is.” Each one feels that they are the one who has it right, and the others wrong.
    The mystical and the orthodox perspectives have often, throughout the centuries, and in many different religions, been at odds and unable to see eye to eye. Neither of them, however, are “wrong.” They are simply different. Although this is a huge generalization, I would say that orthodoxy has a tendency to approach God and the divine in a more anthropomorphic sense, and in terms of common human experience that we can all understand and relate to; God as a maternal or paternal figure, with human-like qualities, emotions, intelligence, judgements, etc.
    The mystical perspective, however, (and again, this is a generalization) is much more “deconstructionist.” This view challenges the very way we look at the world and ourselves, confronting our most basic assumptions about reality, tearing down structures and patterns of belief that are common to all people, not just the religious. This is not just some form of iconoclasm, however. It is a lived experience of a greater reality than that by which we normally operate – a reality that shows us, within a single glimpse, how false and fragmented our picture of the world is, formed moment-by-moment by our interpretation of sensory input. This lived experience, suffused with a striving to go ever-deeper, is always (regardless of the tradition) achieved when the mind’s addiction to thought and internal chatter is overcome, and the awareness is bathed in a holy silence. In this interior dimension, the Spirit enflames the heart to the same degree that the senses stimulate the mind. It is in this interior dimension that the heart beholds God with a pure, clear, naked awareness, uplifting and liberating the consciousness from slumber, and establishing within the psyche the seeds of virtue (patience, loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity).
    This is the foundation of my approach. This is why training the mind is so vital, (BTW, for the Tibetans, the heart is the seat of the mind, and not the brain) because we have to establish the temple (a calm and stable mind) before the lamps (the light of the Spirit) can be lit.
    So I hope you can respect and appreciate where I am coming from. I don’t really expect you to be a convert. But if you can respect my position, then a fruitful connection and discussion can take place. Otherwise, what’s the point?
    P.S. Since I have tried unsuccessfully to send you an email (not sure what is up there), you can try to email me at mtgries @ telus dot net

    Reply
  51. L

    This thread is like reading a book! It’s taken me on a journey of intricate beliefs shared by fascinating people.

    Here’s my book haha!
    I was initially brought up as a Christian in a particular sect. Then attended other churches to learn their ceremonies, differences in teachings.

    Interest and curiosity in other religions continued with non-Christian belief systems. I read, studied many sacred textbooks and watched their ceremonies.

    Spiritualism concepts/metaphysical practices really duped me. I initially bought in to the idea I could develop psychic ability, astral project, see auras, etc. All that happened was learning I’m a mere mortal, a naive doofus who wasted a lot of money on occult, self-help and “guru author’s books” touted on Oprah.

    I felt at home for awhile with Eastern practices of meditation but when a woman met who heads the local chapter of the Soka Gakkai invited me to her home to chant, things became awkward when I asked her what the words meant.

    At first she was hesitant but after expressing feeling uncomfortable not knowing what was chanted she gave me a book showing translation. Unfortunately, seeing the chant was like a reading of begats from a beginning chapter of the Bible, I lost interest.

    I am still reading about religion and philosophy today; however, what became clear is I could no longer believe in the man-made God of this world. And no, Taylor, not because it’s something popular to do these days haha! At my age now, I could care less about trendy things.

    The reason I’m an atheist is a choice based on a culmination of experiences and insights; witnessing the deaths of people I deeply loved and the complete helplessness to ease their painfully slow way of dying.

    When no prayers are answered you begin to wonder what kind of God is taught to us from all these churches, synagogues, mosques. Where is this seek-and-you-shall-find God; where is this knock-and-I-will-answer Savior?With gratitude and tears I spoke respectfully, softly and….Nothing. Silence.

    You don’t just wake up one day and say, “I’m an atheist!” Especially if you’ve been indoctrinated into religion at an early age by parents’ good intentions.

    Taylor, I like you and am a friend even though our beliefs are a huge chasm apart. I would like to share a few video links hopefully you’ll find time in your busy life to watch. I think you’ll find them quite entertaining:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6kgvhG3AkI

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8hy8NxZvFY

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8MzPmkNsgU

    Reply
  52. L

    If anyone has read this far, you’ve discerned a respectful sharing of different viewpoints whereby good people eventually realized the futility of accomplishing unison and a sharing of minds ceased. Respectful friendships may continue albeit a tenuous sort.

    This is what will continue to go on here should anyone else feel it necessary to express their beliefs. This is what is going on and/or here’s why:

    http://theoatmeal.com/comics/believe

    Thank you, Taylor, for allowing me to post what your Mysteries of the Universe blog seems to infer to my perceptions.

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Hey there L,
      Fascinating comic from the Oatmeal. And I don’t disagree with it one bit. If you wanted to convince me about the superiority of your BMW to my Pinto, I’d listen attentively and probably change my lame opinion and start saving right away. If you wanted to convince me to your worldview about life on other planets, my attention would be wrapt, as they say. And you could totally convince me that life is out there somewhere. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if you were to convince me. Your ideas on the fallacy of gravity… speed of light, or that of alien UFOs here on planet earth I would be the first person in the first row of chairs listening. I’m all in.

      I will also listen respectfully with regard to other’s ideas on religion. I will come with my questions. I will come with my ideas and my questions. I will wonder how the cogs work and how the levers push and pull together to make a coherent structure. I will ask about the problem of sin. I will ask about the solution for the hole in my heart. And if your religion holds up to my questions I’ll go get the book it is based on and read that for myself to get more data directly from the source.

      But at the end of the day, I’ve come to my conclusion for what BIG T truth really is. I have learned that God exists and that He died for my sins. I was desperately looking for grace, and I found it. That might be an abhorrent or uninformed opinion to some. But this is my… I Do NOT Care face. hahahah. I just don’t. It revolutionized my life. It blew my mind.

      Now, if the Bible thing logically unhinges, or something stops working… or the Hebrew or Greek reveals it for a sham? I’ll be the first to walk away from it and begin my search again. But right now? I’m not walking away from my fundamental belief in God as real. The God of the Hebrews in the deserts of Israel, Egypt and Babylon. I respect all the people that have commented here. I love the dialogue. I love the give and take. But no, you are right, I am not going to just up and say… WHOOPS! Wow. I was wrong when I gave my life, my heart, to this God and this belief. It would really take a seismic rift in the cosmic fabric for me to question my faith. It has been such a massive and amazing salvation to who I was, and who I am? I just can’t imagine walking away. But I believe that I have found cosmic Capital T truth. The Bible explains so much of what was missing and what didn’t make sense of this world and solved many of the cosmic craziness that just doesn’t get explained in any of the philosophers or other religions that I have studied.

      So yes. I agree. And I look forward to learning from all of you. And even when we disagree I learn. I understand what you are hoping for L. Dialogue, honest debate, and open exchanges that will change each other as we rub up against each other. Right? A lot of times I come off as knowing how a movie works. (But here’s a tip, I just throw crazy ideas against the wall to get you guys talking. I don’t actually believe half the ideas I push.) But I actually love hearing from others and learning what you bring to a film. Films are like Rorschach tests that tell us more about ourselves than about the movie. Which is why I have such fun discussing them.

      Anyway, yes, I agree L. We definitely should be open. Definitely should be amenable to dialogue. And I really am. But there are certain Truths that just are non-negotiables to me. If that makes sense at all. Maybe you don’t have a non-negotiable in your philosophical outlook?

      Reply
      • L

        The Oatmeal comic link presents the “Backfire Effect” which seems to be happening on this thread. It was shared to shine a light that I’m not here to convince you of anything. You’ve made it very clear where your beliefs lie and I have no problem with it.

        Previous communications on this thread between you, Jane and Mica became an eventual polite backing away. I, too, back away respectfully and kindly. Please understand it was my desire to share links of amazing discussions and debates in which people of any belief or non-belief system would enjoy and value, perhaps broaden perspectives.

        It’s a bit disappointing you didn’t open the other links, or did and only allowed a nanosecond to decide their interest to you. The debates had some of the finest religious and science minds present…but I guess they weren’t worth your time to listen to since it seems you already know what the “big T truth really is” as you say.

        Taylor, have you read many religious scholars and/or theologians findings about the Bible and New Testament? Because there’s things you mention in your Bible Experiment blogs which contradict what these folks have spent most of their lives studying.

        Wait!–I was going to back away from this so-called futility of sharing beliefs stuff. Perhaps I should do a Monty Python-ish thing instead and, “RUN AWAY, RUN AWAY!” Haha!

  53. Taylor Holmes

    “a nanosecond of thought” – there were deep deep pools of thought here throughout this conversation and throughout this thread. Some were used as a familiarization of something I had never heard of. Some I was very familiar with and just hadn’t had that deep a dive on.

    For example, Pema, that Mica linked to late in the game, was intriguing to me in her concepts of the spiritual warriorship, and the directions in which that can go. And the fear/fearlessness and knowing fear so that we can be fearless.

    Some of the Kabbalah centric links were very familiar to me, but can be such a deep and tiring train of thought that I have a hard time going there. And yet, I’m sure the Jews think that of Christianity in its entirety. But, I will say that vanilla Judaism is a truly fascinating set of beliefs that I have even posed as one on threads to learn more about what they think of the coming Messiah, etc, or the preparation of the Temple Mount, etc.

    But, I will admit, you guys have way more time to dive on one or two different threads here, while I’m sort of expected to keep all the plates spinning here on this site. And so I have had to create queues of things to read and to watch that takes me much longer to get back to you all. You are right though, I should have taken the time to given a feedback loop to those resources that I watched or interacted with, regardless of the time it took to get through them. On posts like this one (that has been going for years now) I will endeavor to slow down. How’s that? Slow enough to give those feedback loops.

    But I do, meta-read everything you guys send, read about the thing… even if I can’t read the thing. I try to dive to understand the point you are making even if I don’t have the time necessary to really grasp it. Which, could take a life time especially when dealing with a Pema, or what have you.

    Your point is taken. I receive it. And I will endeavor to respond to the speaker directly, as opposed to shoe horning the conversation back to the point of the blog. Touché.

    And as for whether or not I have studied people that contradict my vantage… yes. Very much so. I’d be happy to have you point out where my contradictions are per their theology. Fire away. Did I mention that I once considered becoming an apologist in order to discuss and debate and wrestle with all these various contradictory ideas and thoughts for a living and now just do it for fun? Yeah, I don’t read theologically as much any more, but I’ll give you a clear answer to your questions about my “contradictions”…

    Reply
  54. Senta

    Wow…I actually read most of this thread. I was waiting in a doctor’s office and you know how that gets. Anyway, this has been very interesting to read and what I liked was the civility. My da tends to shy away from religious discussions in today’s world because people are so easily offended by the fact that he believes in the Bible. If you believe in something like Christianity, you are immediately open game. Subsequently, he has taught his children to avoid debates on religion; it is a bit like that notorious movie quote, “never get involved in a land war in Asia.” It is a no-win situation. Even here at Taylor’s movie site, he says to try not to get involved, just talk about movies. The problem is he did not raise his children watching movies or telly, so there is not much I can talk about beyond the few movies I have seen. 🙂 So I asked his advice about discussing these side topics on Christianity and he told me I was big girl, go for it. I need only remember that people may not agree with me and I would have to accept that, as much as they must accept that I will not agree with them. My da feels if two differing points can remain civil then we have achieved a respectful parity where we learn tolerance and temperance, a sometimes far greater lesson than winning. We can philosophically call it, a variation on zero-sum game. I agree with my da.

    What makes me different in this conversation is I am neither Christian, nor atheist. I subscribe to no religion of this world, although philosophically, we all create our own “faiths.” We believe what we want to believe and we make our own rules. Whatever you believe is in actuality your faith. Organized religion and organized atheism are faiths that people subscribe to as a way to relate to the world around them, so whatever floats your boat separate from these, then that is your own personal faith. Yes?

    My father is a Christian and my mother was formerly an atheist, now agnostic. My older sister and I are basically blank slates. Both my parents agreed that neither would push their faiths down the throats of their children which makes them unique. In Christianity, it is generally frowned on to marry outside your faith, what is commonly referred to as ‘unfairly yoked.” A Christian marrying an atheist will seriously hamper their faith walk, which makes sense. My parents were able to maneuver this minefield because they are both rational, respectful human beings. They were not zealots, nor fanatical. My da is a basic good man, my mother is a basic good woman; in regards to Anne Frank’s famous statement that she believed all men were basically good at heart. My parents admit their faults openly and help each other cope with their own shortcomings and those of others. When you have this kind of rational thought, it is possible to survive alongside each other, and since they love each other very much, they work harder at their marriage than on religious differences, and atheism, contrary to common thought is a religion. It is a religion of nothingness, there is nothing before or after. Humanity to an atheist is just meat and we need not answer for anything. We can do whatever feels good because there is no judgement, nor sin. To an atheist, mankind is not a higher lifeform; we merely rule the world at this present time as the top predator. This is the underlying philosophy of atheism. Make no bones, it is a religion, just like evolution as science is a religion. It takes more faith to believe in evolution than it does in a god. To believe we evolved from a single-cell organism to a fish, to an amphibian, to a mammal, to a type of monkey, to a lesser man, to a higher man, to what we are now, is taking everything on blind faith. Where is the proof? Well, that is it, you cannot prove it because it took “millions and millions of years.” The more the evolutionists cannot prove something, the more millions they add onto the equation. I subscribe to none of this nonsense. I do not know how we came to be but we did not come from a single-cell organism. No man has ever been able to create a single-cell organism from nothing. FYI, a simple single-cell organism is in actuality not simple at all. On a molecular level it is highly complicated; its genetic blueprint is amazing. A creationist once said that according to evolutionists, he could take all the ingredients to build a house, all the electrical sockets, wiring, skeletal infrastructure, roofing, doors, nobs, windows, glass, etc, throw them into the air and hope that it will fall together into a functioning house. If one threw it up into air for millions and millions of years, will it ever assemble into fully structured house? I would say no. So one would have to ask, how did the single-cell organism come from nowhere? …Does this mean I believe in God? No, it means I do not believe in mankind’s evolution from a single-cell organism, baboon or otherwise.

    I believe in no religion, neither evolutionist, atheist, nor spiritual religion like Shinto, Hindu, Wicca, Buddha, Islam, etc. Do I believe in Freudian psychology? As my American friends like to say, “Hells, no!” That man did more to screw up mankind than anyone. From his vulgar vanity, we have modern psychiatry and all of its many offshoots that now say everything is natural. Homesexuality is natural, transgenderism is natural, whatever feels good is natural; bestiality and paedophilia is natural; whatever you want to do as long as it does not hurt someone else is natural. Thus we have our world today. Is it better? No, it is worse than in any other time in history, but whereas it was once only isolated in great empires that had the time to chase after vanity, like Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Asia, and now Europe and the US, we now export our decadence, banalities, and debauchery worldwide through media, so now the whole world infrastructure is crumbling. Mankind is screwed. We cannot fix ourselves, because no matter where we go we bring our shortcomings and problems with us. So where does that leave us? Where does it leave me?

    My childhood up to now has been easy in that I never had to scratch out a living. I lived well because my parents were educated and got good jobs. I am not ashamed to say I grew up privileged because my parents worked hard for a living, both by putting themselves through school and having a goal. For their efforts, I have traveled the world, gone to private schools and presently have a free ride through uni if I want to take it. My life materially, is very good. Philosophically, as scientist, my parents approached life from logic and kindness, and they instilled that in me, so I am a very brutally, logical animal. I see things as they are, rarely as I want them to be. If my life had been hard, I might see life differently and need religion. So much of our current religion is borne from long ago when hardship was the daily lot, where life and death were a daily gamble. When death from a nomadic war party can be at your front door in a matter of minutes, you reevaluate your life constantly. Death is the equalizer in all affairs of men. The rich as well as the poor die alone. It does not matter how much you have, you are still going to die. Where do you want to be when you are about to die?

    So I am agnostic. A religion, I suppose, for the non-committal. 😉 Anything is possible. There may be a god, there might not be; there might be life after death, there might not be. The burden of proof is on you, but I will never say never. But let’s say you are able to prove we were created by aliens like in the movie PROMETHEUS, well I would say, screw them because they messed up big time. I would not worship them because they are all arseholes. They do not care about me as a creation. The same goes for most religions of the world. Mohammed does not care about me, nor does Allah. They want to rule the world; that is their all. Buddha does not care about me. Shiva does not care about me. Manmade philosophies do not care about me. None of it is truly comforting. Why would I want to worship a man who sat in a cave or monastery all his life coming up with witty common-sense sayings or philosophies which are nothing more than the vanities of men?

    There is one catch to my life however. My father. Because of him, I have come to wonder about many things. His faith has always been a curiosity. In a world of selfishness, why would he be a Christian? I have perhaps read the Bible more times than many Christians. Anyone who knows me, knows I like to read. The Bible is a peculiarity. Every time I read it, I echo Alice, “Curioser and curiouser…” What is it about this book that has caused so much strife in the world? I have read many religious books from so many different cultures, and though some of them seem life-affirming, nothing compares to the Bible. There is nothing logical about Islam. There is nothing remotely logical about Hinduism, or Wicca. Buddhism is a philosophy, and philosophies are a dime a dozen. Shakespeare’s plays teach me more about people and life than most of these religions. And science alone is cold. It can break down my body, break down biology, geology, astronomy, chemistry, physics, which I adore being the daughter of scientists, but it has nothing to offer except for me to ask, Why?

    Christianity from a purely superficial perusal fits into the same category of most religions. It makes no sense…until you study it. Other religions fall apart under study. Christianity only gets stronger. Jesus himself said, “an evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it.” People do not study the Bible as the words inspired by God; they just want signs to prove it is real. The corrupt King Herod asked Jesus for a miracle to prove he was real; Jesus refused. We presently feel that if Jesus had done so, he could have proved to Herod he was the Son of God, but because he refused we are flummoxed. We miss the point, Jesus was after faith, for mankind to actively seek God in humility and desire. Short of this, what good are miracles? Israel had plenty of miracles but it still turned apostate in a relatively short time, such is the nature of fallen man. What Jesus is saying is that an evil and adulterous generation wants hard proof and if it passes muster then they will accept him. This does not fit into Jesus narrative. What Jesus wants is for people to come to God via him through faith. If we only come because we believe he has powers then the point is lost. Our hearts need to change; we need to follow out of love. Short of this, Jesus would not give Herod the satisfaction of seeing a miracle. This is logical within Christianity’s mythology. Very few religions are logical within their respective mythologies. Islam makes no sense when you study it. It is basically a bunch of laws on reward and punishment, and what to do to infidels; in a word kill them all in the most brutal way (highly descriptive!), or enslave them, and by this you can have peace. Peace for whom? Many religions sound nice but make no logical sense. There is only one religion I know of that has the history of the world in it, from creation throughout history – The Old Testament. Which culminates to the Coming of Christ, the Messiah – The New Testament. To the future events and the end of the current world, Judgement Day and beyond. Show me a book that does that. Current history has proven much of the Bible accurate. Those people really existed. The Dead Sea Scrolls are dated thousands of years old proving prophecy was written before it happened. Yet the Christian God does not go out of his way to prove anything with miracles. He wants your heart. He wants you to seek him out. If you only come to him because of miracles, then you will never truly be close to him. Israel, as already stated, had centuries of miracles and yet they turned apostate. Why? Because miracles and signs do not work on man in the expected way that men think. If you seek God only for miracles then your heart is not truly turned towards him. In Christianity, it is man’s fallen nature that needs to be rectified, not whether a man can believe in a miracle or not. If you cannot search out God and love God for what he is and who he is from the bottom of your heart, then the point is lost. Mankind is lost. We will die and we will vanish as if we never were. Only those who can truly convert, truly love and follow God based on faith, will get to meet God face to face and live forever with him in peace. This is because they allowed Christ to change them from the inside out. That is the goal of Christ, not to see if you can believe in a god or not. To a science girl, raised on logic, this is logical.

    So why am I not a Christian? I can debate the Bible better than most devout Christians because I have read it so many times and studied it from a purely logical point of view. It makes sense religiously. Its mythology works. I am not Christian because I am still young and I have too many questions about the world and why it is the way it is. And I have a grudge, a grudge I have to deal with and find my peace with in the time I have. My father is helping me with that, and because I love him so much, I am somewhat defensive for him even though I do not need to be. I see how Hollywood and the media treat Christianity. In movies, Christians are always portrayed as idiots and hypocrites, or corrupt and ignorant; most of all intolerant. Who owns Hollywood? Certainly not Christians. Hollywood is the antithesis of Christianity. Most of their movies are violent, licentious, and vilely ignorant. It is not a wonder that my parents, Christian and atheist alike, never really exposed my sister and I to Hollywood media because there is nothing really good in any of it. Most of it is puerile and voyeuristic, meant to change your moral standards without you even realizing it by slowly wearing down your moral compass. You may think you are resistant but before you know it, you go along with the flow because it’s easier than going against it. My father goes against it. Even my mother wants no part of it. Raised this way, I see the world differently than most views here. I have no real loyalty or allegiance to worldly dogma. King Solomon in the Bible said that life was “vanity, vanity, vanity.” That was all he had to say at the end of his life.

    I am of a cynical generation. We have seen too much, grown up too fast thanks to media. We are jaded and rudderless. Because of the dichotomy of my parents, I am able to discern the spiritual through logic, but I am unable to truly feel it with moral conviction. I understand but I do not believe. I see but I am still blind. I only know there is something in the Bible that haunts like no other book. There is something to the Christian God that I am trying to fathom, because of all the religions and philosophies of the world…it is the only one that makes sense. It is the world who wants to tell me that Christianity is false, that there is no god, that other religions are older than Christianity, but if the Bible has the history of the world then where were these other religions? Am I wrong to ask? Am I narrow because I will not entertain Hinduism, or Wicca? I entertain no religion, none of them are needed by me, nor do they haunt me. Save one. Just one. Why?

    The world whispers back, let it go. God is dead. We have killed God. We have science. We have other religions that might interest you if you merely want to mollify that hollow itch. The world is full of temptation. Is the world right?

    Has it ever been right?

    Reply
  55. L

    Senta, my folks were the opposite, mother, Christian; father, Agnostic. What you wrote was awesome. You blow my mind in the way you express yourself. I think I could worship you haha!

    In early teens, I began reading about Hinduism. It was from those many books I learned early Christians borrowed from Hindu texts in their stories of Jesus’ miracles which were affiliated with the many intriguing gods of India whose religious writings are far more ancient than the New Testament’s.

    According to the Pew Research Center only a third of the U.S. population has read the Bible and New Testament. That’s pretty weird considering how many believe in something they’ve never read about or studied in depth, yet argue their beliefs are “true”.

    Then there are the theologians who study and debate about the “literal” interpretations or the depth and meaning of psychological lessons presented in the Bible and NT…And then there are religious scholars and archeologists who devote their lives to finding, actually touching and deciphering writings on scrolls and stone artifacts; discovering new finds which better explain the culture of Jesus’ time, validate or disprove events.

    I’ve read the Bible and NT backwards and forwards, questioned at a very early age the validity of those scriptures. It doesn’t matter one whit the timeframe of things, if historical things match up during a particular time because it’s more important WHO WROTE what was being read.

    Books which claim to be written by the “Breath of God” deserve to be questioned about their authorship and the validity of said authorship. This is where things have become hotly debated by religious scholars.

    We are not reading those old scrolls and stone artifacts. We are reading a factory manufactured Bible and NT in which we can prefer certain wordage variations over others; yet, we are reading something which looks nothing whatsoever like what religious scholars are touching and deciphering.

    Religious scholars are debating the validity of the New Testament’s gospel authorship because NO AUTHOR’S NAME is given, meaning: what we’re reading as a particular disciple’s gospel, his name wasn’t there, didn’t show the disciple’s name as the author, or didn’t show any name (anonymous), or showed a name like the disciple but was another person entirely! Many religious scholars agree the New Testament was most likely written by early Christians quite a few centuries later. The early Christians who authored the NT named chapters after an apostle.

    Most religious scholars agree the largest chapters composing the NT referred to as Acts-Luke were NOT written by the apostle Luke. Most religious scholars agree from studying the writing of Acts-Luke that there were two distinctly different authors.

    Some devout Christian scholars became agnostic after discovering no names of authors were given on ancient scrolls or stone artifacts of “the gospels” and were written by early Christians, not by the apostles.

    There is an exception: Ironically, the apostle who initially hunted down and killed the new Christians in those times, Saul of Tarsus, does show as authorship to many epistles–letters– he wrote as Paul.

    There’s evidence Jesus existed but not as the story is told in the NT by the early Christians. Even television programs regarding the Bible and NT are ignored. PBS aired shows based on recent archeological findings which prove Jesus’ existence but not in the way the Christian’s have been taught to believe. He was not poor, nor was it likely he was born in a manger.

    More and more scrolls found which were buried, torn out or rejected by kings who employed scribes to form the Bible and NT as it is today. PBS aired recent archeological findings of these excluded writings which tell of a Roman named Janus whose life story conflicts with the NT’s story of events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion.

    As a kid I asked questions and still question things as I’ve become older. It NEVER made sense why an omnipotent God, a god of vast intelligence and infinite loving kindness would choose such a horrific way to save mankind’s souls. No matter how many times Jesus’ crucifixion is explained, it seems odd to believe a benificent, supremely intelligent god would choose such a barbaric way as the only answer to help lead mankind back to “heaven”.

    Reply
    • Senta

      Hey, L,

      It is late here and I am still awake. My sister and I are having our usual late night sister talks because neither of us can sleep. We hare having a thick heat wave here for the fifth week in a row. I have slept every night outside my bed! Anyway, I checked my phone and found your response. I don’t have time to respond but I do have a movie I want you to watch. It has touched me in ways few docs have in that it lays bare Christianity in a most unflattering light but it also validates it. Christianity is riddled with apostasy, and if there is a devil, then it would explain why. The whole world is anti-Christian for the most part. And “Christians,” or people who call themselves Christians are no more Christian than I am. This includes apostate pastors who preach half truths, un-Biblical teachings and who condemn all others to hell if they do not believe the way they do. This is not Christian and I do not fall for it for one moment, being the logical girl I am. I know a true Christian when I see one. How? They live as Christ did. The old adage, What would Christ do? is actually sound. When I watch these New Age pastors who preach “prosperity” sermons I am sickened. They preach if you are not happy, wealthy and content, then you are not following God properly; that you are in essence being punished for not following God. If this were so, then Jesus would have been a trillionaire, but he did not come to this world to be rich. And contrary to what you think, he did not “choose to be hung on a cross.”

      That’s what the Devil did, if there is one. The Bible is about a great controversy –
      Christ against Satan. There cannot be a discussion of the one without the other. You cannot minus the Devil and just leave Christ because then Christianity becomes pointless. The Bible is not an ideology of fancy, florid vanities. It is a book about the fall of mankind, a book about good against evil; Christ against Satan. That is the mythology of the Bible, so when you speak of it, always remember that. They go hand in hand. Jesus was not a philosopher like Buddha, or Hindu shamans and the such. In the mythology of the Bible, he is the Son of God, who came down to show humanity the face of God, because the Devil had made God into a tyrant. But God in the Bible is no tyrant. We have free choice. Tyrants do not give you free choice. Thus you are free to denigrate God all you want here. You can shat on Christ and the Bible. You can tear it to pieces, set in on fire, step on it, do what you will and God will not strike you dead. That is not a tyrant, and that is what Christ came to show. Mankind is allowed to choose his own destiny; Jesus merely warns, choose wisely. Being an atheist, you can choose not to believe in God; you are free to believe there is nothing beyond death, that when you die, you die forever. It is your choice. But let us say that it turns out what Taylor and my father believe is true…well, then you are up the proverbial creek without a paddle and you chose it. Judgment Day will come and you will stand before God and all your arguments will flash before you; and you will stand naked in your decrepit body before the universe, and make accounts for yourself. You can blame no one except yourself because you never respected nor believed in God. It is all hypothetical, of course, because you do not believe in the Biblical God, so according to your beliefs that will never happen. My point is, if you discuss the Bible, always discuss it for the mythology it is. When you speak Hinduism, you stay within bounds of their belief system, not the parts you disagree with. If you speak of Wiccans, you have to discuss what they believe in its entirety and not only what seems illogical to you. The same with the Bible. The Bible is a history. You can choose not to believe in the history it purports to tell, but you cannot leave out the central reason for its existence, and that is to bring man back to God. This world will end according to the Bible. There is only so much time a human being has. We are, in essence, on probation. When probation runs out (your death), it is done, finished. There is no going back. You are either with God or not. You have a choice. Correct?

      I am struggling with that choice. I do not need PBS to tell me anything because the world will try to prove the Bible wrong. How do I know this? Look at the world. The world of television is the world of man, and man does not like God, so he will say anything to undermine the Bible. This is the one thing I know of mankind. If I were say to the average man, I am a Wiccan witch, they would find me fascinating. I would be interesting, but if I say I am Christian, I will often be reviled and mocked, proving it is OK to be a witch rather than a child of God. This is what my logic picks apart. I do not need earthly historians on the History Channel tearing apart my father’s God. What I see in the world today is a step up in the violence against Christians both within the “Christian churches” and Paganism, i.e., anything that mocks God. These are the signs of the times the Bible warns about. For instance, what the media leaves out about the Middle East, is the systematic genocide of Christians. Did you even know this? Once in awhile, you might catch a small article about the killing of Christian towns. Did you know Christian migrants are not allowed into Europe, only Muslims? If you are Christian, do not bother running for Europe. You will not get in. Only Muslims are the ones who are victims, not the minority Christians. The world does not care if Christians in the Middle East are slaughtered, only Muslims. This is what Logical Girl sees. The Signs of the Times, what the Bible warns about.

      I am finding if you seek God, you will find God because all the while God is seeking us. It is we, you and I, who are not listening…but I am trying to because I want to understand the world I am living in and why it is the way it is. I am not yet to my father’s level, but I am understanding more and more of his faith. He is becoming a beacon in our family of heathens. 🙂 And perhaps, that was God’s plan all along.

      Good luck in your search, L. I feel you are searching too. It explains your anger, your vitriol at times against Christianity. Yes, you say what happened to your mother is what set it off, but your disdain is stronger than usual. Most people I know, do not care. You seem to care. As the Bard wrote, thou protest too much. I think deep inside, you are like me. You have a chip on your shoulder, not against Christians. I have no beef against Christians, especially fake ones which are easy as pie to discern. I do not need PBS for that. I have a bone to pick with God. My da has already said, I already believe in God because why would I have a bone to pick? Logic Girl says, da is right. So where do I go from here? …Maybe you and I can find God together. Why else would I have met you here?

      Anyway, my sister is telling me to go to sleep. Sister is correct. So watch this movie. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1FQkIUIfSg The beginning has some corny special effects but once it gets going, it will open your eyes about Christianity. Watch it and we can discuss it. 🙂 And if you are skulking in the shadows, Taylor, you watch it too, and come back and talk to me. Ciao.

      Reply
      • Taylor Holmes

        Hey,
        I’d rather listen and see where the two of you are coming from than blather personally. Just started watching your movie Senta… definitely going to have get back to it. But I am looking forward to it. Seems like such a strange thing that you are proposing! hahaha. But I love it. Can’t wait to get a chance to watch it through.

        L, you spent a large portion talking about the authenticity of the Bible and the authorship of the Bible. I did want to point to a post I wrote years ago, wherein I posited that Hebrews was written by a woman, Prascilla. (No, I’m not pandering here. But here is the link if you are curious how I came to that conclusion: https://taylorholmes.com/2012/02/09/author-of-hebrews-priscilla/) Just wanted to point out that yes, some of the books are unclear who wrote them, but we have very good ideas on who wrote them. (I would LOVE your footnotes on who wrote Acts and Luke, and why you think Luke didn’t write them both. I personally believe they were originally one book – and the style and the details are like, unmistakably the same in my opinion. But I would love to hear more on this.) But Theologians generally agree on authorship. And no, most books were not written several hundred years after Christ’s death. Most theologians place Revelation as the last book written and the consensus is around 90 to 96 AD or, 54 to 60 years after Christ’s death. And the vast majority of them being written within 30/35 years after his death. And these aren’t blind guesses, they are references to historical facts, interlinking connections between the books, etc.

        The books and the authors of the New Testament actually refer to one another, and know of one another. For example, look at 2 Peter 3:14-16, before Peter was martyred (upside down on a cross as tradition tells us) recommends the writings of Paul to the early church. According to 2 Timothy 4:9-12 Luke, Mark, and Timothy were there in Rome at the time of Paul and Peter’s martyrdom in 67 AD. (Clement’s writing actually
        affirms this as well – take a look at Clement 5 if you want a non-Biblical source.) Better yet, if we look at that scripture itself we see an interesting thing:

        2 Timothy 4:9-12 – “Make every effort to come to me soon; for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service. But Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments.

        First, we see that many of the early church fathers are assembling. Better yet? I’m betting that the “books” referred to here by Paul are not from the Torah, he would have access to that at any local synagogue. (Never mind that all disciples of a Rabbi were required to memorize the entirety of the Old Testament in order to become a disciple.) But I would bet that he is actually asking for his own writings and the writings of the other early church fathers. And the cloak referenced, was most likely a leather wrapping for the books, sort of a 1st century loose binding that pulled them into one pile. I personally believe that this scripture is referencing the very earliest assemblage of the New Testament even before it was completely finished. But at this point, I believe they already had 19 of the 25 total books circulating. And this is what he was asking for. The only books missing were two books by Peter before his death, Jude (Jesus’ half brother’s book), and John’s writings on Patmos (Revelation, the Gospel of John, the letters of John.)

        Currently, most of the debate around what should be in and what should be left out
        of the New Testament is just a back handed attempt by modern individuals to discredit the single most credit worthy book of antiquity. (This isn’t hyperbole – feel free
        to research the reliability of the content of the new testament: https://carm.org/manuscript-evidence – You take it for granted that Homer’s Illiad is authentic and genuine, but there are almost 10 times more copies available of the New Testament than the Illiad. Check other sources, they’ll say the same or similar things.) The New Testament interlocks with itself, refers to itself, and affirms itself. It also interlocks with the Old Testament and tells one cohesive and theologically compelling story of God’s amazing love for His creation and His willingness to die on our behalf for our salvation.

        The councils were just affirming what the disciples had already pulled together. Many of the books the New Age, and Gnostic individuals think ought to be included were written 2 to 3 hundred years later; Gospel of Thomas, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Apocalypse of Peter, and the Epistle of Barnabas, etc. etc. This assembly of their writings by the men about to be martyred was then “officially” affirmed later by the councils were just warding off these false teachers… but I personally believe that it was the men that were about to all die for their faith that pulled the key scriptures together right there in Rome at about 67AD. And the early church just differed to them. And the early councils (the first council of Nicaea specifically) just reaffirmed this self selection by the apostles.

        I will yield the floor to Senta to the rest of her argument. I couldn’t have said it better. I just wanted to clarify my own position on the Bible and its authenticity, and to agree that many in the Christian Church are very ignorant of the details surrounding the Bible and its creation and assembly. Personally, the more I study the Bible, the more clear it is to me just how well laid out this book(s) is (are). Divinely so.

        Yes, it is written by men, who had strife, and flaws, and errors. But that is another reason why I believe it is authentic. They dish on themselves. It shows their errors. It shows their stupidity. Peter, single handedly, proves to me the Bible is legit. Would he allow himself to look so incredibly stupid, time after time, after time if it weren’t real? Would they have written of three Marys at the tomb, really? What a dumb idea. And the disciples didn’t even get what Jesus had come for until well AFTER it had happened. After Christ’s death, they hid… and then went back to their old jobs of fishing. They abandoned him completely. If they were crafting a cool Reddit like socially constructed fiction, they would have done a better job of it. They would have told a story that made them look better at the very least. The book The Case For Christ goes into a lot of these details fully… which, I think just came out as a movie. (Haven’t seen it yet.)

        Any way… let me say, you two are very rare. Very special. So few people can pull their heads out of watching their Soaps to even discourse. Even though all three of us disagree on many things… we agree on one thing. Discourse, debate, dialogue is a much higher end than suckling at the teat of television, drugs, or whatever mind numbing, mind erasing banality you can think of. Push. Struggle. Grapple. Better yet… seek truth and it will be found.

      • Senta

        Just got up and had breakfast with my family where the kitchen talk was about my posts yesterday. 🙂 Da is very interested in what you will think of the movie. It is very good. It is depressing what has happened to Christianity, but if you are a Christian, this movie will be life-affirming. FYI, it was made by Christians so do not be afraid to watch it. It will most likely make you angry and sad how much Christianity has turned apostate but this is all in prophecy. This is the separating of the “wheat from the chaff.” This is end-time events. It harkens to what Christ said about people saying, Lord, Lord, we have done miracles in your name, given to the poor, etc, but the Lord tells them to get away, that he knows them not. These are the false Christians who have smeared the name of God with their false and vain form of pseudo-Christianity. One bad pastor can do more damage than a thousand L’s and Sentas. 😉 People purporting to be Christians will be held accountable far more severely than non-Christians. “To whom much is given, much more is expected.”

        Anyway, sorry I could not find a better version of the movie on youtube. The person who posted it, obviously distorted it for copyright purposes so it can mess with your eyes a little. 🙁 We actually have the movie on iTunes. My da showed it to me a long time ago when we were debating the hypocrisy of the church. In true fatherly fashion, that being of long-suffering patience, he asked me to watch this movie. I was blown away! It changed the way I viewed the church overall and helped me to realize I cannot judge God based on bad people and hypocrites. Common sense, yes? So if it helped me see Christianity more clearly, imagine what it will do for you. You might very well end up buying the movie on iTunes. 🙂

  56. Taylor

    I am almost complete watching it – and 100% agree with everything presented. Some of it is a bit lamely produced, but the facts, the research, the scholarship is fantastic. Yes, when I say I am a believer in the Bible, and the literalness truth presented, this is exactly what I am saying.

    Senta, I would love the chance to talk to your dad at some point if he is up for it. No agenda. Just would like to thank him for his contributions to the conversations behind the scenes. Ask him for me would you?

    Great movie – 5 minutes left before I complete with it. Spending the day with my kids and family before school starts again. So tonight I will finish.

    Reply
    • Senta

      Hey, Taylor,

      I knew you would like it! It explains things I have always known from studying history, especially Bible history, in deference to my da, but I have never seen it presented consecutively. I have always understood the Reformation and how the Catholic Church was an apostate church infiltrated with Paganism. They made it illegal to own a Bible, rewrote the Bible to their liking, changed the Ten Commandments to suit themselves, created purgatory (completely un-Biblical!) for indulgences, created dead saints to be prayed to as intercessors with God for their sins (Paganism!), tortured to death countless people in Inquisitions, etc. It was a horribly wicked den of thieves and vipers no better than the Jewish Pharisees and Sadducees, who were complete apostates. People rebelled and broke away from its hypocrisy, creating the Protestant movement. The problem now is we have the same thing in Protestant churches. Prosperity preachers, corrupt evangelicals out for control and riches, idolatry, the acceptance of homosexual marriage; all things that would turn their forefathers over in their graves. The Bible says there will be so few true Christians left in the end, because most will follow the world, especially when they are pushed against the wall.

      I see the world spiraling into a nightmare daily. Apart from the wars, the nihilism and hatred, I see the world itself dying. The advantage of being raised by scientists exposes you to the minutiae the world ignores because it is too busy waiting for the next big thing whether it is a television show, a movie, a song, a concert, a party, a video game (obviously, my peeps are all kids). 🙂 Pollution has destroyed the oceans. Aside from poisonous chemicals and sludge, did you know that there is an island of plastic garbage the size of Texas swirling around out in the Pacific Ocean? And as it dissolves it creates plastic dust that fish mistake for plankton? They are starving to death eating plastic. Did you know that every piece of plastic ever made is still with us today? It never goes away, even when it supposedly breaks down into little pieces. It pollutes the soil and water sources. Pretty soon we will be drinking plastic chemicals. Chemicals are very hard to filter. GMO’s have destroyed crops. If you knew what my parents know, you would only eat organic. We do. 🙂 I could go on forever. How long will the world itself last outside of mankind’s wars? Food for thought. This is why Logical Agnostic Girl is now questioning her life and the world around her. 🙂

      Reply
  57. L

    Yes, Taylor, I agree we’re “blathering” haha! However, before discussion began, it wasn’t my desire to debate (see earlier links which seem ignored in which fine minds of science and religion debate each other and speak more effectively than I/we ould accomplish).

    Taylor, where are you gleaning your impressive information from? Are you “in the trenches” of archeological discoveries; are you collaborating alongside religious scholars deciphering texts in the physical, right in front of you? Or are you, for instance, culling info from biased religious internet sites; reading books published by Christians for Christians as you sit in a cozy armchair at home?

    These questions aren’t asked in an angry manner or meant to cause defensiveness or acrimony. But what you answer will help me to better understand what kinds of sources are validating your beliefs. I don’t think Senta can answer that for you while you’re off to more important matters and allow us to blather on haha!

    There’s no doubt in these recent threads, despite mentioned openness and respect for non-Christians to opine, it is instead met with a wall of sermonizing and promotion via video of The Book of Revelations. That video reflects exactly what is popular on tv and movies: evil three-headed dragon, ethereal crowned damsel in distress–pregnant to show vulnerability…all stirred up in symbology, mysticism. It’s not the devil in the media, it’s religious beliefs played out via Game of Thrones!

    I regret saying I’m an atheist because it is not even defined or understood by atheists what it exactly is haha!, let alone what most religious folks misperceive.

    Senta, I am not searching for a god, The God, etc., nor am I fearing retribution and eternal damnation religions attribute will happen to non-believers of their made-up God. I have never felt more free and grounded in love/life for I have no more fear of what a mythical being will do to me if I am skeptical and desiring proof it exists. I have more fear of treatment by the living who hold onto mythological delusions.

    I agree with you, Senta, the Bible and New Testament is a history lesson greatly focused on Good and Evil. The very things you eschew in this world, particularly about the media, are filtered by religious beliefs. Folks can’t watch any program on television or movies that isn’t heaped in Good vs. Evil. The devil these days is a beautiful, misunderstood youth grappling dramatically with their vampire, wolf, witch, etc., persona. Even some demons become imbued with a conscience on escapism programs which continue to mesmerize and entertain the religious masses.

    I would love if programs promoted science, focused on real truths about what life is about instead of encouraging folks to choose a myth or some fantasy to escape; a made-up God who, by every second of abhorrent television news sound bite, seems very far away–perhaps because he doesn’t exist.

    I respect Buddhists for extolling tenets which asks folks to question, not be lead by blind faith–they could’ve easily claimed the Buddha was taken up into the heavens, make up stories to fashion him a god, but they did not, and yet thousands of people think their religion, because it has a god, will enjoy blessings Buddhists will be denied. And this is a “true”, “good” belief?

    There’s a great imbalance going on and religious ideology is the largest, worst contributor. I speak as a woman who is fully awake and aware of the way religion holds beliefs which define women’s role as inferior to men. Virgins are revered, motherhood is promoted and saintly, demur and docile countenance valued. Thanks but no thanks, I don’t buy into such rubbish and am appalled women stay in such patriarchal, mysogonistic religions. Wake up! We’re just as equal and deserving of pursuing a life without all the barriers religions brainwash us with, always beginning in our youth, at a tender age in which we cannot discern falsehood yet.

    Should the day ever come when a Pope is a woman, I’ll fall on my knees and pray forgiveness for ever doubting their wasn’t a man god.

    I conscientiously read your links and every word you type but am suspect you barely glance at links I’ve sent which show balance, broaden perceptions because they’re from voices of people you might not have paid any attention in your absolve that you’re right, you know the truth.

    I’m not here to argue I’m right. I’m here to tell you: I don’t know. And I’m just fine about admitting I don’t know. Maybe some folks might even find it refreshing that a person admits they just don’t know. And if a God punishes me for being honest about what I think and feel while living this short life, then that’s the most absurd God ever invented.

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Hey L,
      No offense, but you obviously didn’t make it past minute 10 of the video. It settles in to a very well reasoned and researched historical treatise. Not a fan of the Revelation prophecies at the beginning? It actually attacks the church and its own heresies and the errors that have settled in from the outside in a sort of attempt to overthrow it from the inside out. I have actually read a number of books in this exact vein. My favorite being Pagan. It literally castigates the church for its errors and wandering a from the source text and Truth. This video is actually good for quickly learning about many of those errors. But I get it that it wouldn’t be interesting to you. Especially with that start.

      As for my research – even the Wikipedia entry on the Bible dates the writings from the 50’s to at the latest early 100’s. But there are a million sites that talk through the ages of each book and the specific details for why dates are chosen. For example this page, talking about Romans shows how a couple of the books interlock with Romans and the reasons why they think it was written in 57. https://www.biblica.com/resources/scholar-notes/niv-study-bible/intro-to-romans/ each book is interesting and each one is worthy of individual research. A lot of the reasoning you and I could do just by reading them and comparing them to the events of the day. Mentioning of emporers, events (the siege of Jerusalem), cross references with Josephus and his writings (historian of the day). But it is nothing so difficult that we couldn’t do it ourselves if we wanted.

      Please know I enjoy solving these sorts of questions about the Bible more than I do discussing movies! Hahaha. I’m not offended. Ask tons and tons of questions. Great! And if I don’t know I’d love to figure it out! Hahaha.

      If I have given short shrift to your links I apologize. But in my mind, science is an AWESOME thing. That has literally nothing to do with this conversation. Maybe it does to you, so if so, you need to walk me through it. So I may inadvertently miss something you are giving import to. Maybe? Dunno.

      So sure! Throw links at me. Videos. What have yous. I’m all in! Hahahah.

      Reply
    • Senta

      Aw, the video was not your cup of tea, huh? 😀 I thought you would enjoy it for the way it trashes Christianity. It was pretty gutsy for them to do that, to show the dirty under-workings of how Christianity “tobogganed into apostasy” as one commentator so dramatically stated it. I found it interesting. Most of it I already knew from antiquity and medieval history classes, but when you line it all up, it adds up to a potent mix that really opened my eyes to the hypocrisy that rules today in so much of organized Christianity, but most of all, it gave me a why. Seriously, did you even watch it because what you said made no sense in relation to what the movie was about. Game of Thrones? Not even. This movie is vicious towards Christianity so what you said did not mesh with what the movie was saying. Hmm…

      O, my sister said, yes, Revelations is all in symbols; that is the way it was written. Do you know why? It was so people like you and me would never understand it; people who do not believe in a god, or who denigrate God are cut out. Only people searching for God will bother to read it and want to understand it. To someone like you, it would merely appear as gibberish. The Bible however was written to be studied. The Old Testament is rife with prophesy, one after another. It is written with complete purpose; the entire book is a prophesy pointing to the Messiah. Atheists will have no use for it, so you will never study it. It is only in the studying do the symbols of Daniel and Revelations begin to make sense. They are connected; Old Testament to New Testament. Jesus said it would remain hidden until the time of the end. We’re there and it is amazing how mathematically precise they are to the year. There is nothing vague about any of it. Anyway, you are a staunch atheist and that is your choice. If there is no god to you, then you have nothing to fear, right?

      I do not denigrate my father’s faith because he is my father, thus I will never mock God even though I have continually pushed God away and distanced myself from religion. But because of who my father is as a human being, the purity of his heart and how he unconditionally loves, I am continually stunned by his nature. He is a scientist in a world of atheists, yet all his people respect him. They all say the same thing – he could almost convert them. I grew up with that. I was free to worship with him or not. I did basically. I went to church with him sometimes, read the Bible with him a lot, but I was always a rebel. I questioned everything. My sister too; I followed her lead, she being the older one. We are partners in crime, but we love our da. In vulgarity, no one feks with da, thus there is a part of me that always defends his faith because I know it inside and out, and I also know all the atheist arguments like yours because I too question if there is a God. It is the same song over and over; been there, done that when I was ten, but…do you ever wonder, looking at the current world…why? And why does the Bible know so much?

      My father just now said something interesting. He is listening to me and my sister talk religion and as usual, he spectates at his keyboard. He said you and I remind him of the thieves on the cross. Both mocked Christ in the beginning but as the day wore on, one of them stopped. This thief watched Jesus show no anger, unlike himself and the other condemned man who cursed the crowd. He listened to the mob berate Jesus and mock him; they said if he was the Son of God then he should save himself. But the thief also saw people praying and weeping before his cross, for this thief had heard of the miracles Jesus had done, healing the sick and giving solace to the poor. He listened to Jesus forgive his killers. Unheard of! And the thief’s heart changed because he realized this man was like no other man. Before he died, he defended Jesus to the other thief who still continued to mock Christ, saying, “Leave him be. We deserve to die but this man has done nothing wrong.” And then he did something unexpected, he asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom. Think about the irony. It is not a coincidence. There is a message there. My sister just asked, “Did you get it, sissy?” …Maybe. Maybe.

      Reply
  58. L

    It’s okay I’m not part of your group hug over a video which uncannily reflects the popular viewer preferences of these times. Admittedly, I enjoy a few “Good vs Evil” fictional shows. Some of those angels and evil tropes are “hot” looking, right?

    I’m not fond of the “The world is coming to an end” gloomy-doomers hypotheses. There’s always been some crazy person on some ancient or modern urban street corner holding that sign, “The World is Coming to an End!!!!”. Enough already.

    There’s many ways we could hypothesize the world is coming to an end, and you bet religions will say, “I told you so!” It’s down to this really simple thing: attitude. Do you only focus on bad shit or do you think positively? Glass half empty or half full? Superior intelligence achieved by a higher education cannot, does not affect outlook; neither does choosing to follow a belief system which demands blind faith based on fear.

    Taylor, despite what you mistakenly presume, I watched the video in its entirety.

    It’s futile to share the diverse opinions of links of diverse, astute people on this thread when a wall of biased opinions exists. A seemingly lip-service kind of response is hastily given that it’s ignored and will be (someday, more likely never) looked into. I’m just communicating how it looks…I’d could be wrong.

    Someone’s been given biased information: EVERYONE at some point in their life is persecuted, it ain’t just Christians. Welcome to this beautiful, complex world. Despite what we see and hear on the news–and it has been particularly bad as of lately–the world is not coming to an end. And if it does? Well then, I guess the religious will meet the required number of virgins or bask in Jesus’s heaven.

    Reply
  59. L

    Taylor, I am aware you could delete my comments into the ether. Despite what you may think, I like you–even though you may be a tad delusional haha! Seriously, I am aware this is YOUR site and appreciate you allow me to post even if we’re coming from opposite viewpoints.

    I would like to swim to shore without another wave a words which may pull me back in to an ocean of dogma due to misperceptions or not reading with conscientious focus what I’ve shared.

    It’s clear I’m not really invited to this party except to receive Christian presentations meant to save my soul from pergatory. So cool you’re the chosen ones. (Okay, that was snarky, so forgive me haha!)

    I desire to leave this thread now and do so respectfully despite recent sarcasm which harkens from a gene that’s related to another gene in the DNA which contains the makeup which finds farts hilarious–to a certain extent. I’m only human after all…and do not expect others to be anything else.

    All my life I’ve served people. Heck, most of us do. You’d be surprised about the profession which further lead, came into being in my mid-life. It’s as altruistic as one could imagine and always demands continuing education and wonderment if I’m doing enough, listening intently to people, honing intuition to best serve those who help complete the way I make a living. Sounds all too goody two shoes, right? Maybe. But I do care about people, animals, this world and if it all ends tomorrow. It won’t be the first time a species became extinct in this world…and through evolution, other species will come forth. So it is written–in science!

    Reply
  60. L

    Senta, I value what you share. If I were standing in front of you now, my face and body language would show emotion which would take away any doubts.

    I’ve expressed desire to leave this discussion but after a long day at work might can muster a decent feedback about the video you shared with good intentions and respect for your da’s wisdom, but don’t take it personally if I perceive things differently:-)

    Without further delay:

    The video simply promotes Protestant Lutheranism. Period.
    It begins to blame those dern hillbilly pagans for toxifying the early foundation of the Christian Church and in the middle of the video, bashes the the “pomp and lavish ceremonial circumstance” of the most Holy Roman Catholics for adding more insult to injury to the Church. Got it. Right. I’m not disagreeing on some of it.

    However, the video offers such a blatantly skewed perception favoring Lutheranism, which actually is more tolerable than what the ritualistic pagans or the pompous stature of priests in the Holy Roman Church offered/offers, but it also did an injustice. It threw the pagans under the bus. For those who wonder about those pagans that don’t even get the respect of a name capitalization, they were a benign polyeistic people–meaning they dared to respect, believe in anyone and everyone’s God. For shame to be so tolerant!

    Paganism is actually a term which implies “inferiority”; considered and defined as the “religion of peasantry”. But, hey, didn’t Jesus speak in parables to the poor, the “peasants” of society? This video gives them no respect (as a comedian used to say). These very “toxic” pagans were the early Christians and main contributors of Lion dinner back in those days among other heinous inhumanities. Seriously, they died out because of their being the first to join, become followers of Jesus in the best way they knew how; but then, they might’ve also held a secret belief in a few other “false gods” in their kind and loving open-mindedness. Yeah, that existed in those days, too.

    This video may have cinched the slight increase in the Lutheran/Protestant population of 3.4 to Catholism’s 3.1 million adherents; however, according to the Pew Research Center I seem to often defer, Christian share of U.S, populations is dropping.

    Lutheranism comprises the largest Protestant denomination of approximately 80 million adherents. Which isn’t a bad thing if you still believe in in a such a myth built on the execution of pagans underwent to help establish the Church. Lutheranism, via video, simultaneously thumbs their nose at what used to be the best marketers of Christianity: the still wealthy beyond belief, Holy Roman Catholic Church.

    Yep, watched your video, Senta. Honestly, I did. It did nothing to inspire choosing a myth except further the show the eerily chameleonlike way Christian branches emerged to keep the myth alive. Poor pagans–they really died in vain so Protestants can now feel more superior, more “right” in how the myth is taught. Amen.

    This is only an opinion about the video, not you. You’re made up of a lot more complex thought than just one video. I mean, it shouldn’t “define” you. I’m sure there’s other things you have an opinion that I may not agree, but it doesn’t mean I think less of you. You’re a pretty amazing person that can talk circles around me. Please be kind and let me leave this thread. I look forward to seeing your commentary in movie threads. It’s incredible how you hit the nail on the head; the coherent way you describe and clarify a blurry film’s nuances. Taylor’s excellent at explaining movies, too, and can do so effortlessly, even if done while he’s half asleep haha!

    It’s funny we’ve never typed in French (but it would take me a tad longer to reply). Although, I entertain this feeling you’re really German. Go figure!

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      To be super clear – I am not a Lutheran. But I am a post-reformationist… if I may.

      The point that is exceptional about the movie is to show the global struggle for truth. Look at it this way, if you were literally hellbent on tearing me away from God – maybe instead of peddling gods and mythos that I won’t buy, maybe it would be better to buy in on the “truth” and pervert it from the inside out. Right? Bring in the paganism and idolatry internally. So yes, it is about the reformation and the amazing impact it had on Christianity that was otherwise trapped by falsehoods. For me, it is a description of the cosmic battle. For you, a bad, overhyped, poorly produced movie. I get it.

      As for the word paganism… please understand, I am not in a group you are excluded from. You are welcome to join. Heck, come to my church with me. Join in on the festivities and the rituals whether you believe or not. You are welcome. It requires zero tithing to join, and heck, you don’t even have to believe. Consider it social hour! Hahaha. I like you. I like the way you think. I don’t disagree with how you see things.

      But yes, paganism is just a term that differentiates the believers from the unbelievers. What’s interesting to me is why are you even here. 99.999% of all visitors never wander off the beaten path. They discuss Atomic Blonde and go. Even when they see a raging inferno happening one thread over on some mystery of the universe thread!! Hahahah. Why are you here? Why does it matter to you so much? What would you like me to do differently?

      Would you like me to say that God doesn’t exist? Or that we werent created ex nihilo? Or maybe you would like to know if I’m full of crap? Dunno. I am really curious. You have literally chased me around from unread thread to unread thread trying to find something!! Hahahah. What?

      I care about you. I think you are amazing. And practically speaking I would LOVE for you to meet the God of the universe and dump your baggage. But if you don’t, I won’t think anything less of you. You are still welcome at church with me! Heck, if you want to chat about (heck, laugh at) the most recent sermon at my church you can find them here: https://woodmenvalley.org/interact – or we can just head back to the movie side of this blog and act like nothing happened. Whatever.

      If you’d like me to take your ideas or spirituality more seriously, maybe you ought to start at the beginning and explain where the atoms came from. Explain where it begins. Give me a systematic world view and we can discuss it from the ground up. Whatever.

      Just so you know, I have never once deleted a single comment on this blog… save for people being mean to others. I won’t allow that. I leave the ones that are mean to me. I don’t care about that. But not to others. The last thing I would do is delete these awesome comments. And sure, maybe I have a long way to go until I figure out how to dialogue with you in a way that makes sense to you.

      But my questions still stand. Why are you here? You are welcome. But what is it that you are looking for?

      Reply
      • Senta

        Hey, Taylor,
        I am very sorry that I got involved with your conversation with L. I thought I was helping by suggesting the documentary. It would give her speaking points to validate her disbelief in Christianity and you two could agree on that, but at the same time it shows that Christianity is not defined by the rampant hypocrisy of the Catholic Church. That is why it splintered creating sects of Christianity that are Sola Scriptura, where the Bible is the only reference for the teachings of Christ, as opposed to the Catholic Church which shut down the Bible, rewrote it and created other catechisms that defined how they wanted to rule the masses by keeping people ignorant. I thought you two could dialogue on level ground, that you could mutually agree that Christianity is rife with problems, but that it is not defined by hypocrites, but…I walked into that one, yes? Very blind and stupid of me. I am sorry for making it worse.

        You know my father is a devout Christian like you, so I am grounded in Christian faith. I might know the Bible better than you because I like to read and study. Because my father is Christian, it behooved me to learn his faith. To watch a man pray daily is an amazing thing. When I was little I would ask him if he was praying for me and if he was, would he ask God to give me something vain or materialistic as children do. He would always say, sure, but I needed to pray too for it to work, and sometimes I did, and sometimes it worked. 🙂 I want you to know that I respect your faith completely even though I am agnostic. I would never belittle your faith. If there was any religion that I would accept and subscribe to, it would be Christianity because it is the kindest. Jesus was very kind and he wanted everyone to be kind and loving to each other. Love God, love your neighbor, yes? These are good things to hold and cherish. I believe, in this life, we are to leave better than we came. If we have not grown in love then we have failed. This is maman’s creed – love, and keep doing it better until you are dead, never stop. Now you know why da loves maman so much. My mother has never belittled what my father believes. She admires it, and I believe that she will become a Christian someday simply because my father is such a steady, calm influence in her life. We are going through a current family crisis that will test my father’s faith and my mother’s endurance. It is why we came to America. I do not know how they will cope when the hammer falls, so to speak, but I believe love and faith will get them through. I am counting on my da to carry my mother and sister, and perhaps, in the end, I will find God too. I still have time to figure it out. Anyway, I will never do this again, jump into a debate with blinders on. I apologize again for being very presumptive and…stupid, basically. To my father’s credit, he did warn me. I should have listened. How do Americans say this, shoulda, coulda, woulda? (sp?). Too late now.

        I am sorry.

    • Senta

      FYI, the movie was a production of Amazing Facts, produced by Doug Batchelor, who is a Seventh-Day Adventist (a Protestant church who keep the Seventh day Sabbath of the Bible), as well as most of the pastors in it, who are from differing SDA uni’s. They are as far from Lutheran as possible. Lutheran is a stone’s throw from Catholicism; indeed, it has pretty much reunited with the Catholic Church. Have you been following the news? This movie shows the gradations of Christianity from its inception at Christ’s death and resurrection, through the Reformation (Martin Luther). It was after Luther and the Reformation, that Protestantism was born. There were no Protestants before that. This movie does not promote Lutheranism, it merely shows the capstone of the Reformation and how Martin Luther shook the foundations of the apostate Holy Roman Church. After the Reformation and the invention of the Gutenberg Press, the Bible once more belonged to the people. That’s Protestant History 101. Adventists are completely different from Lutherans. Their religion is based on Sola Scriptura, a “Christian theological doctrine which holds that the Christian Scriptures are the sole infallible rule of faith and practice.” Lutherans are far from that; they are basically Catholic, which goes by what the Pope says. The Pope, according to the Vatican, is the Vicar of Christ on earth; if you break it down, he even has power over Jesus. Whoa… Now you know why Protestants fraction-ed off. Catholics and Protestants have been at war for centuries. European history is littered with the bodies of martyrs, armies and rulers, who have fought for power through the Church. That is European History 101. I know it like you know the Civil War, yes?

      I did not share this movie with you to impress you, or anything else that you might imagine. I shared it because it showed the gross underbelly of organized religion, something you and I discussed, and I thought you would find it interesting to see it in a chronological order…but instead you brought up how Christians were insulting pagans as uneducated people? What? That is a left field ball, yes? Nero, Caesar, Plato, they were all pagans, L, worshiping pantheons of gods. They were not little people; they were rulers and statesmen. All of Rome was pagan, rich or poor, high-born or low-born; all of Greece was pagan to Christianity. Yes, in simple semantics, it can mean villager, but when Christians use the word pagan, it is anyone who worshiped gods and pantheons outside of the monotheist god. I…I thought you were like me, being somewhat atheist, more agnostic, but we are actually worlds apart in how we perceive things. You have a deep rooted hatred of all things Christian that it bleeds out of everything you say. Like I would never deem to belittle Taylor at his own site, but you did, and continue to. You say you respect him, but it does not come across that way. FYI, I have about fifty or more family and friends following me on this site, family back home and family here. Most are secular like us, but they all say the same thing – you have issues. Your words are not discussion oriented, they are confrontational. There is a clear difference. I would never pick apart a Muslim’s faith, a Hinduist, a Buddhist at their own website, let alone at anytime, anywhere. Who am I to question their faith? Being agnostic, I truly do not care what you believe and I do not have to convince you of what I believe. Whether you agree with my POV is irrelevant to me. I will never mock you or pick apart any point of faith with you. Math, yes; quantum theories, yes; Plato’s Republic, definitely! 🙂 But never religion. My da taught me that. I know witches who pray to trees. Freaking cool. A Christian can tell me about her faith and I will listen; maybe I will learn something. The only faith I have a problem with is radical Islam. Who does not? I would be equally appalled by radical Christianity. Throw in the threat of open borders bringing in hundreds of thousands of people from a diametrically opposed faith and culture system, and you are committing cultural suicide. I am growing up in a very different world from you.

      My mother is typical French; by that I mean she is very secular. She does not subscribe to religion. France is one of the most atheistic countries in former European Christendom. It goes back to the French Revolution where the people wiped out the clergy, the rich, the titled and anyone else deemed an enemy of the new state. It was quite brutal, my history. Most of the French are agnostic or atheists, but not in a mean way. They are simply secular. It means nothing to be atheist or agnostic; it is quite normal, hardly a speaking point. If you keep a faith in France, you are somewhat of an oddity but people will respect you; the French are very curious of any faith you keep. How my father and mother got married is one of those amazing strokes of fate. My mother says she loved him almost within the first hour of their meeting. Da is wickedly humorous. He can slay with his twinkly eyes. He is a man’s man but he is very respectful of women. My mother had to kiss him first lest it never happen. In my da’s book, the woman makes the first move; the woman gives permission. They are still going strong after twenty-three years of marriage. My mother listens to my father’s words of faith and she finds them lovely. My father listens to my mother’s philosophy of life and he is enamored. Why? Because they are good people at heart who are extremely loving and respectful of others, and it is this aspect that binds their love. That is why they are still together, and not just together but very much still madly in love like two goofy teen-agers. Oi, they can be sooo embarrassing. 😉 Get a room! 😀 Anyway, my point – in all the time I have known my mother, since my birth 🙂 , I have never heard her confront someone’s faith under the guise of conversation the way you have with Taylor. You attack and Taylor defends, and then you call him ignorant for believing the way he does because he will not meet you half way. Wow, L… He is devoutly Christian; why would he do that? In all my years, I have always enjoyed asking people about their beliefs, but never in all that time have I ever told them what they should believe. You cannot even watch a Christian-bashing video without taking offense at the makers for belittling pagans. And bashing a movie because you wrongly said it was glorifying Lutherans? It was the Reformation! Martin Luther fired a bow shot. His push broke the yoke of Catholicism and hundreds of years of organized corruption. It is not about Lutherans and the modern Lutheran church. It has nothing to do with them. The movie was made by Adventists! …L! Come on. What is going on with you?

      …I think what floored me was when you tried to mollify the situation by saying you still respect me, yada-yada, and that I should not be “defined” by this movie, as if I am being forgiven for sharing it with you. I have shared this movie with perhaps a hundred friends of all faiths and non-faiths, who want to know how Christianity was born in a nutshell. It is basically a cinematic Cliff Note. Had you ever heard of indulgences before until this movie? I did not. I thought that was wickedly interesting. Who knew? In the end, it is just a movie, L. It is nothing. It is a very compact bon mot. You were not meant to choke on it. It was never meant to be a movie that defined me, or for you to go off on a tangent on how bad the makers of the movie were to insult pagans, or glorify Lutherans. Bon sang. I am…very young and very stupid. Da was right. Never get involved in a land war in Asia…

      I will never jump into a convo between you and Taylor again. I just muck things up. It sucks being a kid sometimes. I am so naive to think I could bring you two together. …Da is laughing at me. So uncool.

      Reply
      • Taylor Holmes

        It’s all good. It’s all fine. I’m not worried about any of it. It is what it is. I found the movie fascinating way to present a history I have known well for a long time. But to see it as a global struggle was fascinating to me. There are prophesies in Ezekiel or Daniel that would have even been more fun to play with. But it was good. I had not problem with your throwing in.

        This was a conversation that I have had with a number of people over the years. Everyone is welcome. Seriously.
        Taylor

      • L

        Hello, Senta
        You shared an “impassioned” commentary; demonstrated a loyalty, a deference to familial viewpoints. Your comments, approved by your da, do nothing to promote healthy discussion or a continuance. You’ve started a war of right or wrong, black or white, all or nothing. You’ve pretty much let it be known you do not value my opinion, that it’s beneath your intelligence and learned sophistication–you think I suck! How troll-like of you! It’s only fair at this point that you cannot continue to use your age as an excuse to dish out what you cannot take.

        Despite what you perceive about me, I really do like most people. I say “most people” because there are some I just can’t and do not desire to understand but can only hope scientific research on the brain will help cure someday in regards to people who choose to torture, murder other people, animals; or have sex with children. You are delusional in your accusation that I hate most–if not all–people.

        For you to say I hate Christians is tantamount to saying I hated my mother who was a Christian. Find a better way to defend the video because what you said is harsh, mean and simply, not true.

        This world seems messed up–especially if we watch a lot of news or focus on dark matters. Some folks are strangely attracted to and immerse themselves in negativity as if it feeds some poetic trope created and nurtured inside themselves. From what you share, you seem to focus an inordinate amount of belief in doomsday prophesies. I do not disrespect and will not debate that viewpoint. it’s simply your choice.

        A parent who is allowing you to be his vocal piece owes it to you to advise it is of a higher nature, a thoughtful intelligence, to allow and respect other’s perceptions and viewpoints which differ from your ideas.

        What I’ve liked–until now haha!–about Taylor’s site is the abundance of really interesting perceptions, interpretations posted on what people think a movie is about without anyone trolling or becoming pushy in an unkind way.

        Senta, you did not show respect for people’s perspectives on the Personal Shopper movie forum thread, in particular to TomT’s comment or my giving it a thumb’s up. Your following commentary was not warranted and is still there for you to read, perhaps see the negative tone it imparts. It made the next person preface the start of their opinion in a tentative way. It would be nice if you could try to contribute your initial amazing insights without becoming combative and disrespectful of other’s opinions so as discussions can continue on, are added upon, further unfold without you periodically reminding folks you’re “right”.

        There’s no Good vs Evil in a discussion forum; no wrong or right. Just folks wishing to express their viewpoint, perceptions without a war ensuing. By you choosing words which have offensive tone, it stops the sharing of commentary which may actually be more entertaining, a more broadening experience you could benefit from if you allow yourself to think the teacher might not you.

      • Senta

        @L
        I apologize immediately. It was not my intention to hurt your feelings. I never said you hated Christians. I said you have a deep rooted hatred towards all things Christian. This does not mean Christian people, like Taylor, whom you have said continuously that you like, but you obviously have a problem with his beliefs because you are relentless in attacking it. Why? I do not know. It is one thing to passionately debate a movie, another to debate someone’s faith without provocation. I never meant that you hated your mother; certainly not. I apologize if you inferred that by my wording. That thought never crossed my mind and I would never consciously say or infer such a thing to anyone.

        I apologize for any pain I have caused you and I will never involve myself in your conversations with Taylor ever again, so please feel free to comment all you want on his Christian writings. It will be just you and him from now on.

        I shared the video not because I thought it was good. It was merely a way of showing a condensed history of the Christian faith from Christ’s death through the Reformation and all the corruption that went before that historical breakout. I thought you would like this Cliffnote version. I have shared this video with Muslims and they loved it because it shows how messed Christianity was in the early days. 😀 It has cheap production values but it is only 90 minutes long. If you know of another movie that has condensed Christianity’s birth into 90 minutes then I would not mind seeing it. I was not upset with you for not liking it. It was just a movie I thought you would enjoy for its expose on Christianity; in that respect it is pretty good. You could have said, Garbage, and I would have laughed and said, OK. But you missed the whole point of the video and went off to find fault in tangents that left me baffled. Catholicism has a long history of bringing in converts but allowing them to keep their pagan gods. They did it in France, they did it in Britain. It is why even their churches have gargoyles and demons all over their structures to ward away evil spirits. The history of Catholicism is fascinating. So I apologize that I misread you. I apologize that I missed your points even though I honestly did not understand them. The movie was not about Lutherans. There was no Lutheran Church when Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the Wittenberg gates, which made me wonder if you even watched the movie because it is not anything at all about Lutherans. So…I simply apologize for not understanding you, or discerning your point. I thought we were going to have this rip-roaring conversation about how bad the early Holy Roman Church was. I thought it would give you and Taylor a platform to exchange. I was completely wrong and out of my depth.

        I apologize that I sent the video to you, and I regret it completely because it has detoured our online friendship, however tenuous anything online is. I apologize that I misinterpreted your response and I do apologize for my impulsiveness, presumptuousness and perhaps recklessness in involving myself into your debates with Taylor. I was wrong and I had no business doing that.

        I do not hide behind my youth. My da told me that. “Ah, yes, the impulsiveness of youth,” was his first comment when it blew up in my face. And FYI, my father has nothing to do with comments. I am here alone; I write what I feel. But perhaps if I had heeded his warning, then you and I would not be having this conversation. So I apologize for not listening to him either.

        I mean all my apologies from the bottom of my heart. I never meant to hurt your feelings or “declare a war.” I do not do wars. …Peace.

  61. L

    Taylor, thanks for the invite to your church. It is kind of you to extend such a courtesy considering we have differing opinion about the existence of a god. Anytime you’re outdoors taking a walk and communing with nature, you’re there, in what I consider “my church”.

    You asked why I’m here. Answer: To first read your and other’s viewpoints and sometimes contribute mine without feeling inhibited by doing so.

    I prefer reading people’s input than commenting because it’s quite wonderful how some are completely opposite than my idea, but I can begin to “see” their concept and agree, or add it on as an intriguing alternative.

    The Bible Experiments are also well written and I was hoping to add research with citations but realize it would most likely be ignored or possibly become misconstrued and resentfully unwanted. Like the fact Star Trek follows science far more realistically than the earthly-family-drama-oriented Star Wars. Haha! Okay, that’s not relating to the Bible or NT but I hope it lightened the topic.

    I no longer feel comfortable on this side of your site and will stick to the movie section should I find another film which befuddles and is in need of the movie site’s cool sharing of “ending meanings”. Except I’ll most likely read, not post, and move on like the significant number of those other folks you mentioned haha!

    it’s only fair, Taylor, since I’ve read your gospel scripture inserts you read a quote I value from sci-fI author Philip K. Dick:

    “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

    Yep, that’s about as “spiritual” as it’s gonna get from me! See you on the other side…the movie side of your fab site!

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Fair enough.

      For the record, citations would always be appreciated by me. But you are right, not many other than me read those posts! hahaha. Regardless, you are always welcome wherever. You have a free hall pass to wherever here.

      Taylor

      Reply
      • L

        Taylor, your site reflects the world within people’s minds; this is awesome beyond words.

        To those just arriving to this forum: If you’re someone who still likes people (haha!) and are curious as to what they’re thinking, this site is it.

        I can’t not like you, Taylor. How is it politicians and devoutly religious folks share the same diplomatic way of not saying anything which doesn’t convey as anything but “nice”, so as to not lose a vote or a parishioner?

        You ought to spank me for that comment, but you won’t haha! That’s why it’s so difficult to not like you. Like the science-minded atheist said in a video you shared–forgot his name…Somerstreet?–anyway, as a Christian you “walk the walk, talk the talk”…I agree with his opinion…and respect you on that premise, too.

  62. L

    No decent human being should ever take an apology as a sign of weakness, or that they won. If you want to know who the sociopath is, they apologize in a way that sounds like they’re being tortured; but mainly, prefer to never apologize at all because of their rabid need to win at any cost.

    Senta, your apology his accepted–and much of it was of your own imagined assumptions! How often are you going to test my initial observed and shared positive regard of you? Quit it!

    Senta, it was very big and wonderfully healthful, mentally, of you to apologize. You may not see that you apologized over many things you misread or had erroneously perceived about me. In a way, you projected–thought we are alike in some ways. I should be honored to be as intellectual as such a young person as you. My intellect is of average intelligence; what my step-father joked his as being: “smarter than the average bear.”

    So in my most astute way of words: I think you’re the bomb. But holy crap, you exhausted me with your conceptualizations even though they are brilliant…but not necessarily what I perceive or agree with.

    It pained me to criticize a certain thing going on, observed in the movie forum side: if I expressed an “Oh, Wow” to someone else’s comment that didn’t mesh with yours, you responded with the same resplendent diatribe as you’ve done here on the religious side of Taylor’s (love it!) quirkily split movie/Christian discussion forum.

    I’m awfully lazy by not cutting and pasting a person’s remarks to not make the mistake of responding to something hastily read to get the gist or, worse, totally misread. You do this too in your hurry to defend your awesome, but not always shared, viewpoints.

    Your apologies are accepted with open arms–even the ones you perceive as real. My, my, oh my…you stirred the pot in this thread just like the thoughts of things going on in your amazing mind. You exhausted me, dear girl! But it allowed me to see the futility amidst it all: Taylor doesn’t really need my knowledge garnered in years of study, research in religion or, more recently in science. So, something good came out of your so-called being “in-between things”…and I actually know that in-between world more than I’d like to…but it’s NOT the same as yours.

    It’s all good. Sleep well tonight.

    Jon, if you’re reading this, I regret taking your advice and appreciate your sanity, your thoughtful intelligence, more than ever. I lost everyone who loved me unconditionally and am grateful for time given, allowed to communicate with you. Your humanitarian kindness is healing; something I can only hope to aspire becoming in the short time left in this beautiful but challenging reality called life.

    Reply

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