It’s Time for Religion

There are times when we must return to religion. This is difficult in today’s helter-skelter value systems and rapidly shifting beliefs in the world in which we live. To the extent that religion itself is caught up in the raging politics of wealth, depravation and transition, finding a value to which to return is difficult and precarious. As religious believers, we are lost in a morass of myth change, unstable human value and empirical disruption.

Sometimes, it is helpful to discard that which is confusion. What has proven to be survivable, worldly, simpatico and stable beneath the fray of economics, politics, common prejudices and conflict? There is comradeship in basic human existence. There is comradeship in nature’s rule of life. There is partnership in the pursuit of survivability.

But who will lead the path to religious morality? Who will reset the world to the powers of creation and sanctity? Who will link the power of ethos and universal value to a day in the life of humanity?

You.

Elected officials and government cannot do this. Militarism cannot do this. Great leaders cannot do this. Elitism cannot do this. You can do this. Live your life according to your beliefs in Divine Providence. Do not allow your sense of right to be distracted by the confusion and misdirection of life. You know what is sacred. Believe your faith in the holiness of reality; believe in the virtue of equality among humans and humanness. If God is your leader, obey God’s rules.

Politics will not save us. Wealth will not save us. Battles against oneness will not save us. Love will save us.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

This is a strange, scary World

The Atlantic Magazine has an article about the love relationship between Evangelical Christians and Donald. Mariner suggests only the strongest in faith and self-confidence read that article.

Reason, a so-named ‘skill’ of Homo sapiens, is not to be trusted. Reason is free to imagine anything, whether reasonable or not. Further, the human success derived from inventions and discovery, while entertaining and imaginative, has not changed the human brain one iota in its 100,000 years of immediate evolution.
Humans first respond to the five senses as all creatures do (one will never put one’s finger in the fire twice); humans then respond to sustained survival (me, my offspring and my belongings come first); finally, humans make the mistake that they can create a reality that fits one’s unique perspective, bending or dismissing empirical reality, existential experience and the core virtues of sympathetic awareness – the last of which is present in all mammals.

Relating to theology and doctrine first, humans toyed with how the universe came to be. In the western world, the earliest documentation of a theology emerged around 7500 BC with the creation of Cybele, the female creator of nature who always had two fierce lions beside her.[1] Cybele may have been the first super hero because of her ability to procreate an entire biosphere. In the rest of the world ancient Egyptians and others applied anthropomorphic values: rocks were gods, trees were gods, the Sun, the Moon, etc. Later, theology allowed males to be gods and also to have more than one god at the same time. The panoply of Greek and Roman gods reads like Downton Abbey.

About 2,000 years ago, a religion emerged that was based on love as its core value. The power of God was love. God created Jesus so people will understand who god is and how they should live accordingly. While proselytizing in Turkey, disciple Paul learned that the local name for this new religion was ‘Christian’. The name stuck.

Until this day there has been confusion about how god relates to individuals or perhaps how individuals relate to god. There is a huge library on this issue, especially on whether god is a personal god (Old Testament) that interjects himself into the daily life of individuals or is a force to which all believers respond (New Testament).

Perhaps the sagest observation was made by theologian Reza Aslan who said, “Humans want a god like themselves.”

A good segue to the second subject, politics. Many Evangelical Christians (ECs) have adopted Donald as a current day savior (for the sake of sanity please don’t correlate Donald to Jesus). Forgetting every verse of faith and decorum in the New Testament, ECs believe Donald will preserve the culture and doctrine that ECs believe. The enemy is the rest of the population who generally are more liberal and Donald’s non-Christian behavior, indeed criminal behavior, is exempted just so he can fight the liberals in the nastiest way possible.

This political circumstance was true for Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and all of history’s despots. ECs believe all virtues are dispensable to sustain the EC world. Welcome to Sodom and Gomorrah.

But mariner knows this will begin the decline of the Evangelical Christian. Dare he say God works in mysterious ways?

Ancient Mariner.

[1] See mariner’s post, Cybele, posted April 7 2016

Postmodernism

Mariner was drifting through the endless world of the Internet last evening when he came across the author Frederic Jameson, a prolific writer in the 1980s and 1990s who contributed ideas about postmodernism. Mariner hasn’t thought about postmodernism since the 1990s. It is refreshing to revisit the perceptions of Jameson and others about the philosophical interpretations that underlie the way people perceive the world today.

Most readers are aware of ‘the age of enlightenment’, a movement that occurred in the 18thcentury. It evolved because of new scientific understanding at the time and the beginning of industrialization – both of which changed how people lived and identified with society (Luddite rebellion in 1811).

Then, from about 1900 to 1965, came modernism. To keep the post short, mariner cites Wikipedia:

[Modernism, in general, includes the activities and creations of those who felt the traditional forms of art, architecture, literature, religious faith, philosophy, social organization, activities of daily life, and sciences, were becoming ill-fitted to their tasks and outdated in the new economic, social, and political environment of an emerging fully industrialized world.]

It is intriguing to note that the end of modernism was imprinted in American history by three significant assassinations: John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. As an example of the breadth of philosophic change at the time, one of mariner’s favorite authors, Paul Tillich, wrote “Christianity and the Encounter of the World Religions” in 1963 and “Situation Ethics: The New Morality” by Joseph F. Fletcher was written in 1966. Since then the role of Christian doctrine in American culture has been changing dramatically.

Postmodernism is the next interpretation of society, religion, art, economics, etc. It defines how everyone today experiences society and daily ethics. In the turbulence of the sixties, from Viet Nam to Woodstock, a conservative resurgence occurred to quell general disruption and was empowered by the election of Ronald Reagan. During this conservative period especially during the 1990s, philosophers like Jameson began to realize a new world was emerging that would be culturally segmented and institutions of every kind would not be sacrosanct.

Just like the earlier periods of enlightenment, change has been brought about by scientific advancement, an emerging new kind of economy, and a separation of human values from religious and ethical traditions. Today, the polarized conflict between conservatives and liberals in all walks of life represents the same conflict experienced at the end of earlier periods of philosophical change. It is interesting that shifts in global philosophy occur more rapidly each time.

Ancient Mariner

 

In the News

֎ [Newsy] New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that would eliminate religious exemptions for children’s vaccinations amid an ongoing measles outbreak. Under the new law, children who attend school or daycare can only be exempted from vaccine requirements if they have a medical reason. In a statement, Cuomo said: “The science is crystal clear: Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to keep our children safe. This administration has taken aggressive action to contain the measles outbreak, but given its scale, additional steps are needed to end this public health crisis.” Opponents of the bill say it violates religious freedoms and that they’ll continue to fight for their rights. The U.S. is currently facing one of the worst measles outbreaks in decades. In Rockland County, New York, there have been more than 260 confirmed cases since June 12.

Vaccination is a classic example of confrontation between freedom of religion and freedom of state. The largest religions address the common good in their doctrine but there are uncountable variations and assumptions in religious practice. The same is true of most governments; they are founded on principles of common good but the interpretation of common good runs to irrational extremes.

Common good must prevail else humanity may not survive. At its simplest, humans are a tribal species. Sans an available vaccine, the black plague wiped out sixty percent of Europe’s population in the fourteenth century. Regarding the issue of vaccination, whose freedoms take priority? Solutions require some doctrinal or legislative adjustment; whose common good is more important? Can one imagine a Venn diagram solution? Mariner leaves this issue with the reader to reconcile.

Ancient Mariner

The Meaning of Pride

Mariner and an old friend visited yesterday. The conversation rambled across many experiences, opinions and bad jokes. Part of the discussion centered on the failure of expectations in family life and on the motivations that promote goodness or destructiveness. At one point in the conversation, the role of pride was the focus. It reminded mariner of an old sermon he preached a time or two about pride.

The word ‘pride’ occurs in many different circumstances and under an assortment of conditions. Why is a family of lions called a pride? Is there a nuanced meaning? A frequently used aphorism is ‘Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall’ (Proverbs 16:18). Change the noun pride into the adjective proud and a specific definition is difficult to abide by; a common skeptical retort is “Well aren’t we proud?” Wikipedia settled on the following description for pride:

“Pride is an inwardly directed emotional term that carries two antithetical meanings. With a negative connotation pride refers to a foolishly and irrationally corrupt sense of one’s personal value, status or accomplishments, used synonymously with hubris. In Judaism, pride is called the root of all evil. With a positive connotation, pride refers to a humble and content sense of attachment toward one’s own or another’s choices and actions, or toward a whole group of people, and is a product of praise, independent self-reflection, and a fulfilled feeling of belonging.”

With such polarized meaning, there must be another dimension to pride that makes it as important as it seems to be. That dimension also is an inwardly directed emotional term: Love. On the one hand, pride, or hubris, is a defense mechanism to compensate for perceived incompetence or inadequate self-esteem, often caused by unsuccessful relationships with family or significant others. Angst and insecurity are common sensations.

At the other end, one may feel arrival, achievement, creativity and silent reward. Real pride grows the spirit not only of the individual but of those who receive benefit from the individual’s efforts.

To connect this human phenomenon to religion (quite briefly), major religions believe the power of creation and salvation is love. Love creates salvation whether now or in the afterlife. When an individual improves the state of human affairs without personal reward, one has created with love.

If one wants to grow inside and feel good about it, try love. One can be proud.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

In Defense of Criticism

From time to time mariner is chastised for his skepticism toward what he refers to as ‘pew’ Christians. Similar to his favorite prophet Amos, mariner criticizes the behavior of those who come to church on Sunday for a social hour with some ritual thrown in and that’s the end of it. Prophet Amos said,

“Seek the Lord and live, or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire, and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it. Ah you, who turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground.” (5:6-7)

Throughout his lamentations Amos focuses on duplicity. The Israelites feign allegiance to God but sell slaves, will do anything for improved self-interest, wealth and comfort, and who visit harm on perceived dissidents and the poor. That sounds a lot like a modern nation with which we may be familiar.

Every religion has rules for social behavior whether it’s Moses’ Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount and the parables of Jesus, the Eightfold Path of Buddhism, or the Five Pillars of Islam. Some of the rules at least appear to be easy to follow; some rules strike at unpleasant and unfair attitudes that often do not survive a day. Fortunately, all major religions contain a central kernel based on love. Each religion holds love to be a creative force that makes one’s life and all of reality a better, healthier and growing experience – a life in synchrony with the Great Creator.

Theologian Paul Tillich identified the influence of culture, politics and economy on Christianity – and other religions by inference – and concluded that Christianity is highly, almost fatally modified by three ‘quasi’ religions: capitalism, authoritarianism, and communism. There were other examples as well but these three were the primary examples. Add to Reverend Tillich’s philosophical insights mariner’s street pragmatism: Never work with Christian volunteers who are participants in one of Paul Tillich’s quasi religions.

In one sentence, in this case focusing on Christianity, the difference between Christianity and the quasi religions is the quasi religions placate an individual with worldly benefits and advantages while Christianity requires unending personal sacrifice and 24-hour compassion for the wellbeing of all others. In mariner’s generalist manner, he has adopted the Two Great Commandments as the core verb of it all and reworked them into a phrase that fits any cultural or religious environment: Pass it forward – with continuous and fervent intent. That goes well beyond the pews and out into a needy world. Sunday services are for renewal in commitment and energy – not for a social hour once each week and reciting a bit of liturgy, turning it into wormwood.

Ancient Mariner

 

Now to the Court

The electorate has been misinformed by the Executive Branch and uninformed by the Congress. Now it is the Court’s turn. Aside from the many legal challenges percolating from the mire of political infighting, the Supreme Court is considering some cleaving decisions – cleaving in that large portions of American society will rise or fall on those decisions.

Increased activity largely is from the conservative side of society trying to leverage a newly conservative court. But long overdue Constitutional issues also are on the docket e.g., citizenship, gerrymandering and Native American rights. Needless to say, soon Roe v. Wade will be addressed; one or two Presidential authorities as interpreted by Donald eventually will come before the Court. In the near future, voting rights will be addressed – especially as they are violated in Dixie.

֎ Native American rights – In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled Monday in favor of Native American rights in a Wyoming hunting case. There is another Native American rights case to be decided this term — a case from Oklahoma that deals with tribal territorial rights. Justice Neil Gorsuch — who is a champion of American Indian rights has been the deciding vote on several cases including Monday’s — is recused from this particular case. That means the court could deadlock.

֎ Political and racial gerrymandering – Three states, Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland, are before the court dealing with redistricting. Gerrymandering by race is one issue. The others are political party gerrymandering. Any rejection of gerrymandering will have immense impact on future elections.

֎ Separation of church and state – This particular case is known as the “cross case.” It’s about a World War I memorial concrete cross that sits at an intersection in Bladensburg, Md. — and whether it should be allowed to continue to stand on public land. The Federal government asked the Supreme Court to rule in favor of the cross, which critics say is an unconstitutional state endorsement of Christianity as the state religion.

Mariner notes other religion/state conflicts in many places – even money – where Christian doctrine and state authority are represented as co-equal. This confusion, generated in an early age of the nation despite the freedom of religion clause in the Constitution, is what causes consternation among Evangelicals and conservatives when the state takes actions in behalf of the US citizen which do not represent the authority of Christian doctrine.

֎ Census citizenship question – Donald’s administration is trying to add a citizenship question to the upcoming census. The court will decide whether it can. Based on questioning during oral arguments, the court’s conservatives agree with the Trump administration and allow it by a narrow 5-4 majority. The Census Bureau, however, states that there could be an undercount of 6.5 million people if the question is included.

֎ Race, murder and jury selection – This is a case about bias in jury selection. A Mississippi death row inmate was prosecuted six times for the same crime by a prosecutor with a history of racial bias in jury selection.

֎ When is a word too dirty to be trademarked? – A clothing designer, Erik Brunetti, tried to trademark his “FUCT” line, but it was rejected. The US Trademark Office has not exactly provided standards about what constitutes “immoral,” “shocking,” “offensive” and “scandalous”, leaving the justices to decide whether the term will be allowed.

Other potential cases of consequence:

-Gundy v. US: A sex offender case dealing with how much power is too much to give to the US attorney general for his application of the law.

-Gamble v. US: A double jeopardy case to decide whether a state and federal government can try someone for the same crime.

Major issues remain outside the priorities of all three branches of the Federal Government: cash in elections, Electoral College and misrepresentation in the Senate, antitrust enforcement, bank regulations, and not last and not least, privacy and state security.

Ancient Mariner

Abortion

This post, to say the least, reflects advocacy, prejudice and disdain.

Mariner’s mother had congenital heart disease. He was born when she was eighteen. Four years later, she became pregnant with his brother. She was advised not to have the baby but no one would perform a safe abortion. Mariner’s father could find no one to perform an abortion. She carried to term and mariner’s brother was born. Mariner’s mother was bedbound for two years then spent her last year in a hospital in an oxygen tent. She died when mariner was eight years old, leaving horrendous hospital bills for his father and left mariner and his four year old brother without a mother.

For the holier than others conservatives, irrational religious fanatics and political hackers, mariner has disdain. They don’t understand that pregnancy has many reasons not to be in the best interest of people’s intimate lives. They don’t understand that abortion is not a political decision. They don’t understand that the Constitution in no way gives them the right to own the life of any woman – any more than owning black slaves. Mariner’s mother wasn’t even black.

Basing the political conflict on fetal arguments of any kind is useless. People who oppose abortion aren’t scientifically minded nor would those arguments matter. Mariner notes that these same faux aristocrats have the same disrespect for other life-taking issues:

Among all other issues, war kills more than any other political misappropriation. The last thing a sane, emotionally secure person would desire is to go to war – about anything.

Failure to provide medical care to the poor and indigent is another way of saying “Let them die before I measure my dollars versus their life.”

Should a woman give birth to an unwanted child, the curse of prejudice stays with the child. The United States tolerates one in five children living beneath the poverty line. Further, the United States and its anti-abortionists cause the United States to rank 47th among all nations in infant mortality per 1,000 births. Anti-abortionists are rife with hubris, irrational thought and no capability to feel empathy and compassion.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

Dancing

Mariner wrote a post some time ago that defines a physical difference between liberal and conservative thinking (Red Brain, Blue Brain posted June 19, 2015). The difference is where decisions are made in the brain.

֎ From an Atlantic article by Dan Meegan

Conservatives Have a Different Definition of ‘Fair’ and liberals ignore it at their peril.

[Some people have more than they need, and others need more than they have. Even when liberal leaders describe policies that are beneficial to everyone, they make it clear that the most important beneficiaries are those whose needs are most urgent.

Conservatives tend to value equity, or proportionality, and they see unfairness when people are asked to contribute more than they should expect to receive in return, or when people receive more than they contribute. Consider a hypothetical comparison of two people who graduated from college five years ago with equal amounts of debt. Jessie successfully implemented a plan to pay off the debt in five years, while Sam still has much to repay. Warren’s plan forgives Sam’s debt, but offers nothing to Jessie, despite her industriousness and self-discipline. To add insult to injury, Jessie must contribute tax dollars to the $640 billion fund necessary to forgive outstanding loans, including Sam’s.]

 Sigh. ‘Pass it Forward’ must not be a conservative concept. Where are the Evangelicals when Christ needs them?

No doubt the example above proved to be a litmus test for the reader. One option will ring more true than the other. The conservative option is based on self-value while the liberal option is based on human value. The twain, as it is said, will never meet. When one gives it thought, one realizes this is the very core of the dysfunction of US governments. Conservatives are willing to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (ACA aka Obamacare) because they already have health insurance and balk at paying someone else’s health insurance as well – and gratis at that. Liberals, on the other hand see the imbalance of the human condition and seek to rebalance equality using the abundance of others.

In a more subtle sense, conservatives operate from a point of view that induces prejudice and classism; prejudice and classism simply are rules of the road that keep proportionality in place. Liberals on the other hand see the injustice of prejudice and classism as lack of concern for the human condition.

There are handy government philosophies for this conflict: capitalism and socialism. Mariner has said in the past that these philosophies don’t work if either is an absolute. It takes two to mambo . . .

Ancient Mariner

Happenings

[HuffPost] Confirmed: Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube, Viber, Snapchat and Messenger blocked in #SriLanka following series of deadly church and hotel attacks.

The United States is fortunate that misinformation did not lead to bombing and killing during the political campaign. Social media remains an uncontrolled communication service unhindered by the scruples and regulations of America’s free press. While the US suffers racial hate in the bombings and killings in black churches, Sri Lanka suffers religious hatred fueled by racism and politics. Life in the US could be worse. So far citizens yell and curse one another but warfare is not a tool of our religions or politics except for the armed crazies who seem to have a bias toward school children.

The real cause in Sri Lanka and many other situations is the ability to broadcast untrue and unwarranted information. Mariner believes that fact-checking can be automated to the point that attempts to spin falsehoods could be trapped.

– – – –

Talk about violence on TV, did the reader watch Bernie Sanders on Fox television? A notable moment to remember and one that caught the debaters off guard was when Bernie asked the audience if they would rather have single payer health coverage or stay with insurers. A significant majority raised their hands for single payer.

– – – –

[NPR] More than 80% of parents in the U.S. support the teaching of climate change. And that support crosses political divides, according to the results of an exclusive new NPR/Ipsos poll: Whether they have children or not, two-thirds of Republicans and 9 in 10 Democrats agree that the subject needs to be taught in school.

It is true that society would be less argumentative if our children were educated in contemporary subjects that provide a common (apolitical) foundation for life. However, public education is subject to imposing political and religious influence. Civics isn’t taught anymore because political locals prefer less complicated, controlled campaigns; American history of minorities isn’t taught because of race prejudice; Religions of the world and the accompanying sociology isn’t taught because of conflicts between other religions, science and Christian bias. Health practices aren’t taught because of biased resistance to issues like sex, abortion and flu shots.

Imagine if there were a class called ‘Living Today’ or ‘Contemporary Living’ where the material covered how government works, factual presentation of long-standing, polarizing issues and videos of economic circumstances around the world. Nah, mariner is dreaming.

While Betsy DeVos’ economic model for education would wipe out public education, private contractors may be encouraged to teach contemporary subjects by dangling increased profits for the effort. Nah, mariner is dreaming.

But just imagine if Donald’s base had studied civics and economics. . . Mariner is following Alice down the hole. God bless the US electorate.

Ancient Mariner