The Way Out

Every so many generations a tumultuous time arises. Everyday life is less pleasant, less secure and society is destructive to many social norms. We live in a time like that today. Life is not fun and for too many, not even possible. There were similar times in the past – the 1960s when racism erupted, the Democratic Party was in conflict, national leaders and college students were assassinated. The 1930s suffered unbelievable economic tragedy that affected everyone; the turn of the century suffered riots and prejudice as suffrage and labor rights disrupted daily life. The greatest example of disruption included a deadly civil war that occurred in the 1860s. Further back in US history is the shame of genocide against the Native American.

The telltale signs are present today. Way too frequently innocent people suffer death by gunfire. Riots and protests are daily events. Government at the same time is imperialist and authoritative and otherwise dismissive to the need of its citizenry; justice is served by the flow of cash and favoritism.

Each tumultuous time posed a threat to the high minded principles of a democratic republic based on equality, personal freedom and the right to happiness.

It is time to reintroduce humanism as the rule of society. How the nation emerged from those tumultuous times was not by the wisdom of a great orator or a magic pill that settled society. Emergence occurred because there was just enough faith, just enough opportunity, just enough public intelligence that individual citizens took command of daily life; humanism became the influential judgment.

Humanism is the belief that a human is the most important form of existence on this planet. Humanism implies equality for each human for no other reason than that person is a human. Humanism as a philosophy promotes unity and promoting the rights of humanness. Humanism induces oneness instead of identity politics and populism.

Humanism is not competitive between humans. It is allegiance to the principle that every human has inalienable rights. If a human is disadvantaged, that is not acceptable – after all, they’re a human. Many historic sources allude to the fact that humans are made in the image of God; where is someone willing to take on God?

There is a common phrase that can be used as a first response to general wellbeing. It is required to be the first emotional reaction to any and every human despite political or class differences. It is “I have your back if you need me.” Live by that statement with conviction and a surprising phenomenon will occur: the tumultuous time fades away.

Ancient Mariner

IF

IF the reader was born before the Vietnam War (1954), their core understanding of reality and related social values is outdated – functional but outdated. Life values accumulate via growth experiences until around the age of 25; developing pragmatic skills through adulthood by participating in society benefits society. The opportunity to successfully participate in society fades after the age of 60 because two younger generations have created a different reality during their growing and productive years.

A good analogy for elders is walking lost on a Manhattan sidewalk at noon. What is important to social stability is that everyone over 60 has earned and deserves a pleasant time during their retirement.

It is true that some personalities will insist on an active, decision-making role in this century but their values and experiences are not quite in tune with the needs of a newer society.

IF

If the reader believes in the sanctity of the Universe, its tough and rugged rules for existence, its rules for sustaining a sensitive balance of life forms and further that all life forms are subject to the rules of Nature – then the reader tends toward being a naturalist. Perhaps the broadest philosophical point for a naturalist is sustaining Nature’s status quo, its balancing act among all matter living and nonliving.

Being a naturalist, the reader is aware that Homo sapiens has tinkered with longevity beyond what Nature would grant. Just in the modern era, the lifespan of humans in 1943 was 53; today it is close to 80. “Why,” the reader might ask, “has society nearly doubled the lifespan of humans but feels no responsibility for the overpopulated outcome not only concerning humans but their imbalance with the rest of the ecosystem?” Three alternatives have been tried that inadvertently limit population but have not become a sustained practice for balancing human population:

(1) Execution. Imposed death of family members and servants was practiced by Egypt for centuries; even today there is a voodoo group that still practices ceremonial sacrifice for the good of the family or society. A small remnant of ritual assassination remains through execution of unwanted criminals. And, of course, before the invention of explosives, changes in culture or climate forced relatively large armies to brutally kill each other in a war.

(2) Limited reproduction. From time to time, especially in Asian societies, a family was constrained by social rules to have only one child. A different variation existed recently when Asian families decided not to have that one child be female because males were more valued for their opportunity to work and bring more resources to the family. In 2015 Xi Jinping removed the offspring limitation for economic reasons.

(3) Prevented reproduction. These methods can be considered to be common practices to prevent pregnancy; for example, abortion, sexual preventatives like condoms and vaginal obstruction, and pharmaceuticals.

If one is a naturalist, given the overpopulation issue, one is confused by a culture that insists on enforcing the birth of children who may not be wanted or who will burden the life of the family beyond normal circumstances and at the same time other factions insist on pregnancy as a personal choice unaffected by reproduction issues.

As is almost always the case, Nature controls biological balance. Does the reader know that caucasians, Asians, Europeans, Russians, in fact the whole world is losing population? Just in the United States, where white supremacists are active, the white race will be a minority in the 2124 Presidential campaign and will disappear as a political entity by the end of the century.

Mariner is reminded of the noted mouse and rat studies in the 1960’s that showed when the caged population reached a point of imbalance in terms of space, mating environments and social bickering, the population suddenly dropped to about a third and stayed there for a long period.

Ancient Mariner

Repurposed Churches

The following article was in a November 2018 copy of The Atlantic magazine. Mariner thought it may be an interesting read. In the Methodist denomination if a church closes, church buildings and property revert to the state-wide Annual Conference; local parishioners seldom and only under peculiar circumstances are allowed to take ownership for local decision-making. In mariner’s rural county many churches are in death throes and face a serious dilemma. In mariner’s town, the Presbyterian church closed decades ago and has been converted to a private residence.

Ideas

America’s Epidemic of Empty Churches

Religious communities often face a choice: Sell off the buildings they can no longer afford, or find a way to fill them with new uses.

Jonathan Merritt, Nov 25, 2018 Contributing writer for The Atlantic.

Three blocks from my Brooklyn apartment, a large brick structure stretches toward heaven. Tourists recognize it as a church—the building’s bell tower and stained-glass windows give it away—but worshippers haven’t gathered here in years.

The 19th-century building was once known as St. Vincent De Paul Church and housed a vibrant congregation for more than a century. But attendance dwindled and coffers ran dry by the early 2000s. Rain leaked through holes left by missing shingles, a tree sprouted in the bell tower, and the Brooklyn diocese decided to sell the building to developers. Today, the Spire Lofts boasts 40 luxury apartments, with one-bedroom units renting for as much as $4,812 per month. It takes serious cash to make God’s house your own, apparently.

Many of our nation’s churches can no longer afford to maintain their structures—6,000 to 10,000 churches die each year in America—and that number will likely grow. Though more than 70 percent of our citizens still claim to be Christian, congregational participation is less central to many Americans’ faith than it once was. Most denominations are declining as a share of the overall population, and donations to congregations have been falling for decades. Meanwhile, religiously unaffiliated Americans, nicknamed the “nones,” are growing as a share of the U.S. population.

Any minister can tell you that the two best predictors of a congregation’s survival are “budgets and butts,” and American churches are struggling by both metrics. As donations and attendance decrease, the cost of maintaining large physical structures that are in use only a few hours a week by a handful of worshippers becomes prohibitive. None of these trends shows signs of slowing, so the United States’ struggling congregations face a choice: Start packing or find a creative way to stay afloat.

Closure and adaptive reuse often seems like the simplest and most responsible path. Many houses of worship sit on prime real estate, often in the center of towns or cities, where inventory is low. Selling the property to the highest bidder is a quick and effective way to cut losses and settle debts. But repurposing a sacred space for secular use has a number of drawbacks. There are zoning issues, price negotiations, and sometimes fierce pushback from the surrounding community and the parish’s former members.

A church building is more than just walls and windows; it is also a sacred vessel that stores generations of religious memories. Even for those who do not regularly practice a religion, sacred images and structures operate as powerful community symbols. When a hallowed building is resurrected as something else, those who feel a connection to that symbol may experience a sense of loss or even righteous anger.

After St. Augustine’s Church in South Boston was abandoned, the developer, Bruce Daniel, encountered a number of unforeseen difficulties. Demolishing the 140-year-old building and starting from scratch was the most economical option, but sentimental neighbors’ protests forced Daniel to retrofit the existing building into condos. Many local residents remain unsatisfied with the compromise.

“Anybody who goes into a neighborhood and buys a church, without having some knowledge and sensitivity, they’re asking for trouble,” Daniel told The Boston Globe.

Converting old churches into residential spaces, like St. Augustine’s and St. Vincent De Paul, is becoming more popular. Churches’ architectural flourishes—open floor plans, exposed brick, vaulted ceilings, and arched windows—often draw buyers of means who are looking for a residential alternative to ubiquitous cookie-cutter developments.

While this type of sacred-to-secular conversion may be a tough pill for former members to swallow, many are even less satisfied with the alternatives. A large number of abandoned churches have become wineries or breweries or bars. Others have been converted into hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, and Airbnbs. A few have been transformed into entertainment venues, such as an indoor playground for children, a laser-tag arena, or a skate park.

When St. Francis de Sales Church in Troy, New York, closed in 2009, it was converted into a fraternity house for the Phi Sigma Kappa chapter at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. A communal symbol that once served as a beacon of hope and welcome now seems like little more than an emblem of American youthful superficiality. Imagine the emotional impact of driving past the place of your mother’s baptism only to see frat boys stumbling down the front steps.

Calling it quits isn’t the only option for dwindling congregations in possession of expansive, expensive buildings. Some are moving upstream of the crisis, opting to repurpose their buildings before they go under.

Larry Duggins left a successful career in investment banking a decade ago to attend seminary at Southern Methodist University. There he met a professor of evangelism named Elaine Heath with whom he brainstormed ways to help dying churches who maintain a will to live. The pair eventually founded the Missional Wisdom Foundation, a 501c(3) that functions as a kind of think tank for “alternative forms of Christian community that makes sense for traditional churches that may be declining.”

“Years ago, the neighborhood church was the place many in America got together and, along with local schools, was where they got to know their neighbors,” Duggins told me. “But this model is no longer relevant for many people, so churches have to think creatively about how to help people encounter others and God in their everyday lives.”

To test their idea, Duggins and Heath approached the pastor of White Rock United Methodist Church in Dallas about collaborating. Half a century ago, it was a massive congregation with robust weekly programming, a strong reputation in the community, and a 60,000-square-foot building. But the neighborhood’s demographics shifted in recent years, and church membership waned. Its combination of sprawling space and shrinking attendance made White Rock the perfect guinea pig for Duggins and Heath’s experiments.

Missional Wisdom moved into the bottom 15,000 square feet of White Rock’s building and got to work. It converted the fellowship hall into a co-working space and transformed Sunday school rooms into a workshop for local artisans, including a florist and a stained-glass-window artist. It formed an economic empowerment center, where the group teaches a local population of African refugees language and business skills. And it finished out the space with a yoga studio and a community dance studio. Today, the church building is bustling most days, and the congregation is both covering expenses and generating revenue from its profit-sharing agreement with Missional Wisdom.

Next, the Missional Wisdom team partnered with Bethesda United Methodist Church in Asheville, North Carolina—a congregation with challenges similar to White Rock’s. Together, they created a community center called Haw Creek Commons. In addition to co-working space, they retrofitted the building with a textile and woodworking shop, meeting rooms that are used by local business and AA groups, a retreat space that can sleep up to nine, and a commercial kitchen in the basement for local bakers and chefs. Outside, Missional Wisdom constructed a community garden, food forest, beehives for the Haw Creek Bee Club, a greenhouse, and a playground for the children who attend the school next door.

Duggins said that the goal of these two experiments was simply to create opportunities and space for the community to gather and connect with one another. But as with White Rock, Haw Creek Commons has had residual positive effects on its host congregation.

“We wanted to transform the church into a place that would draw people who might not otherwise come, and in Asheville, we’ve seen it break down stereotypes of what the church is,” Duggins said. “At Bethesda, there were less than 10 people in the church on a given Sunday, but now there are more than 50.” Multipurpose spaces lower the barriers to entry. When someone using a co-working space experiences a personal crisis, they have a comfortable place to turn to.

This relatively small organization can only do so much to turn the tide of congregational death in America. Missional Wisdom has shifted its focus from one-off projects to publishing books, conducting seminars, and consulting with struggling churches. They hope that these resources will be helpful to America’s flailing congregations who are forced to choose between evacuation and innovation. The latter may be the harder road to travel, but many faithful will find it preferable to watching their childhood church converted into luxury lofts.

Ancient Mariner

 

What do You Believe?

That is not an easy question to answer today. There are no clear hints about what is absolute or true or real. It used to be easier way back in the very old days. For example, if you lived 75,000 years ago, the only source of belief was one’s experiences with the natural environment. What was true was simply an anthropomorphic existentialism (Yes, writing about philosophy invokes the use of philosophical words – which is why novels dominate the retail book market). What ‘anthropomorphic existentialism’ means is that nature had its motives and you had yours. The interaction with nature was not always predictable; after all, nature thought for itself just like you did.

Interestingly, anthropomorphic existentialism easily lends itself to a way to measure whether you are a successful thing or not by the way nature, an uncontrollable power, treats you. This method of measuring success still exists in today’s world. Just one example among many, it is how monetized religion works today – if you give enough money to the television evangelist, you will be rewarded in kind by God (AKA nature). Speaking cynically, this con was developed by religious middle men from the beginning. Remember having to pay the church so your family could get out of purgatory? How about sacrificing your child in exchange for a good rainy season (AKA nature)? Given this perspective, it is understandable why military leaders pray to a supreme influence before going into battle.

Given some thought about it, one realizes the tit-for-tat relationship that even today requires some sacrifice or commitment on our part before a deal can be made. If Nature (God) is to be served today, what is our modern tit-for-tat? Is it global deforestation or contaminating air and water? Just food for thought; that’s what philosophy is good for.

Jumping forward a lot of years, humans learned enough about nature to define how nature thinks differently than we do. Nature says all living things are created and survive according to the rules of evolution – nature’s measure whether you behave well or not and deserve a tit-for-tat. Our species will thrive and be successful simply by following nature’s evolutionary playbook. Unfortunately, this is hard for us to do.

After 90 million years of evolving the hominin branch of living things, one hominin, Homo sapiens (us), began to do well using an extra amount of intelligence. We figured out a way to consume nature without participating in a tit-for-tat. In other words, instead of surviving like other life, which is living in balance with nature’s rulebook, we figured out a way to make a profit from nature without the balance part.

Nature is not petty or judgmental. The evolution rulebook was written in the very beginning; astrophysicists named the event ‘the big bang’ – the beginning of nature itself. So nature lets our existentialism play out. That means sooner or later, nature will claim its tit-for-tat.

So maybe anthropomorphic existentialism is the right belief. Functionally, what’s the difference between one child sacrificed and civilization sacrificed, functionally speaking. Quite like a reverse mortgage, don’t you think?

Ancient Mariner

 

It’s all about Sixty Year Cycles

Mariner and his wife were having a discussion about the socio-economic cycles of a town. When mariner was in college, he read a book about the relationship between generational lifespan, economic growth and consumption, and group dynamics. He has long forgotten the author and title but has been fascinated since how perceptive the author was when he stated that the life cycle of any town or defined group was approximately 60 years.

Throughout life mariner has found case after case that adheres to this author’s premise. The sixty-year cycle, as one might imagine, has a lot to do with each generation as it passes through similar learning, socializing and aging. In mariner’s town, there are clear 60-year cycles. The town began in the 1880’s. One can imagine that virtually all the settlers were in their productive years and relatively close in age. This generation lived through the boom decades when the internal combustion engine launched a new technological age. This small town hosted four major implement dealers, a motel, four churches, two hardware stores, three grocery stores and a railroad.

Like the corona virus today, in the 1940’s (60 years after the town was founded) World War II forced an unusually rapid change from the previous 60 years to the second 60-year cycle. Overnight, the Baby Boomer generation took the lead away from the Silent Generation. The Boomers dominated a socially active era when there were clubs for every interest, and an active restaurant, tavern and movie society. The Civil Rights Act was one of several social modifications during the Boomer years.

As the Boomers passed into retirement age, generation X slowly took the reins and shifted the culture to a more conservative, economically aggressive society. By the turn of the century (60 years later), a new technology based on computers had evolved which began to push the X generation out of the way. Clearly, as the new century began, a new generation began to influence society – the Millennials.

It was hard to displace the X generation because science had found ways for humans to live beyond the lifespan of an evolved hominid: three generations or sixty years, more or less. Now hominids were living close to 80 years and were still meddling in the affairs of the next generation.

This extra-long lifespan has led to an intransigence of old people still involved in the society of the next age. This conflict between life in the twentieth century and life in the twenty-first century would still be dragging on except that the corona virus has put its foot down. With lightning speed our society, its technology and its economics will leap into the deep waters of the next sixty years. Welcome aboard, Centennials.

Ancient Mariner

The Beginning

May 4, 1970 was the beginning of mariner’s disillusionment with all things politic, including the citizens. His skeptical attitude remains with him today. It was the shooting to death of four Kent State college students and wounding of nine others by the Ohio National Guard. These assassins weren’t every day police, who even today can be expected to do such things; these were part of the Armed Forces of the United States.

Laurel Krause, whose 19-year old sister was killed, wrote on March 7, 2014 “It has been 44 years, and the U.S. government still refuses to admit that it participated in the killing of four young students at Kent State. There has not been a credible, independent, impartial investigation into Kent State. No group or individual has been held accountable.”

One can write all the US Constitutions they want; nothing constrains bias, prejudice and bigotry. The reaction of conservatives was that the students deserved it. They were the same bunch that today rebels against shelter-in-place. They were the same bunch that today rapes children while priests. They were the same bunch that today denies human value by denying health care to those who need it. They were the same bunch that today divides Christianity into racist and elitist factions. They were the same bunch that hoards wealth while thousands die in the US from starvation and disease. They were the same bunch that today elected Donald. They were and are the electorate.

Ancient Mariner

 

The Great Tool of Survival in Crisis: Displacement of Self

Oh-oh – mariner feels a sermon coming on. He’ll keep it short.

All the western religions except for a few voodoo and cult variations have a common core of belief. It is to love whatever is real, however it is defined, and to love other humans first before self. Love is at the core; one must interpret many extrapolations in religious literature only in strict contrast to love – not in terms of one’s preferences, biases or self-reasoned values.

Mariner will reference only one scripture: Matthew 19:16 ff.

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

“Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Mariner uses this particular scripture because it pits engrained capitalism in its greedy context against salvation. Of all nations, the United States lives by capitalistic principles – religious and otherwise. And rich means everyone; one is always better off than someone else.

Salvation means displacing self in favor of others. This is the hardest, most awkward, most irritating rule for religious followers. “Isn’t it enough that I have sympathy?” “Isn’t it enough that I give money?” “Isn’t it enough that I’m not a racist?” “Isn’t it enough that I keep a job when others don’t?”

Did the reader notice the subject, “I”? That is the flaw. There is no “I”. There is only “them” and “they”.

When there are hard times religion’s core principle of love becomes an important factor at the center of society. Continuing to promote self first will make the hard times worse. Hoarding, price gouging, buying and selling stock and property for gain only for selfish reasons not helpful to the greater good, taking opportunity away from others, leaving hardship at the foot of others, all fit the ethics of greed. Society will pay a harder price for these tactics. It may be in these times of pandemic that fatalities may be part of that price. It may be that the entire economy will collapse. It may be the United States may survive only as a second class nation among nations.

It is time to displace one’s self interest and ask, “What do they need?” Do they need money and resources?” “Do they need comfort and healing?” “How can they be helped?” and the hardest, “Do they need me?”

Ancient Mariner

 

 

Religion on the Internet

When Mariner arose this morning, stumbling and half-conscious as usual, He heard his wife singing a hymn. He went to her office to see what was happening. She was live streaming a worship service and singing along with the pastor who had a good voice and was playing a guitar. The hymn’s lyrics were in a box on the side of the screen.

In this age of pandemics, the pastor was sitting on a stool in front of the sanctuary in an empty church. A viewer had all the components of a service that can be performed by one person. During the sermon, while listened to attentively, his wife also was doing her morning exercises.

Faith lives in eclectic times.

Curious about how wide the selection of streaming services was, mariner launched his search engine to discover there were thousands of services from across the rainbow of denominations. If first impressions are meaningful, mariner felt the live streaming options were far better than the television offerings which were either Roman Catholic or salvation by money.

So one must consider, as the pews empty in these days, whether there is a larger count of attendees sans apportionments, budgets and behavioral overhead. Most readers have been aware of faithful elderly who watch, indeed contribute financially, to the TV worship services. Mariner is reminded of a Jerry Lewis movie back in the 1960’s where an elderly woman bought every item that was advertised on the television. Can one achieve faith from a screen?

Mariner knows a family that attended services regularly because they liked the preacher. When the preacher moved on, he continued to be available through live streaming. The family now goes to church in their living room.

This raises a question about doctrine. While commitment to live streaming is commended, how does a viewer apply doctrine?[1] One of the core issues in today’s society is the ‘practice’ of religion – that is, put your body and your money where your mouth is, if mariner may butcher an old idiom. What makes faith important is how it shapes a believer’s behavior among peers and society at large. The old fashioned word is evangelism or mission or works, practices that are disappearing in organized religion and, perhaps, letting the Internet in.

Mariner is pulling out some Elvis gospel for inspiration.

Ancient Mariner

[1] ‘Doctrine’ is a church word that means rules, like the Constitution is for the United States. In the New Testament look for Sermon on the Mount or the many parables defining Christian doctrine.

Church

Mariner had a conversation yesterday with a person of good mind and sound scruples. It started with the topic of Lent, which is upon us, but grew into a conversation about the contemporary Christian perception of ‘church’.

During Lent there are additional worship services, as there are for any special season in the liturgical calendar. Mariner challenged the role of the church today as a center for the promotion of what Jesus represented in the New Testament and what protestant founders like Martin Luther, John Wesley, John Smith and Jakob Amman perceived as the role of the church.

At the time of the Protestant Reformation, founders were adamant about submission to the spirit of God’s will. The central premise was to live life according to what God wanted rather than follow the will of false gods like wealth and self-aggrandizement. Mariner suggested that the modern church had lost its way; yielding to political authority (Pharisees), social gratification (pew Christians) and industrialized management of God’s will (name any protestant rule-setting authority).

Mariner proposed that the church, as a Christian entity, had the responsibility of evangelism, missions and social outreach – all of which are richly represented in the New Testament.

Mariner’s guest suggested that personal faith was more important than institutional (church) definitions; that the world today is not the world during Roman possession of Israel and not even the human reality of life during the Reformation. In essence, the guest was suggesting that morality and social responsibility is a condensation of the social psyche; the tools were sympathy, empathy and fairness.

Mariner suggested this was faith as a derivative of existentialism, that is, faith was a modernly equipped sailboat drifting with the weather rather than sailing with a rudder and predefined destination. The guest countered that at this moment in the twenty-first century there is no social destination, that morality is a response to a society in flux that has no traditional interpretation of social justice – let alone theological perceptions.

– – – –

A fascinating conversation for sure. The conclusion for mariner and the guest is that the traditional church of even one hundred years ago no longer exists. The doctrinal strength of Christianity does not meet the need of people in today’s topsy-turvy world. Even traditionalists who stand by the rituals of the church use the church for other reasons related to self-assuredness in a shifting society, a rule of thumb for responsible behavior in an existential world and even as a tool to joust with the political influences of government and as social standing in the community. This does not suggest that Christian responsibility is not practiced; togetherness, charity and authority as expressions of humanness are everywhere.

It is not an easy time in history to know what theologically-based faith requires. Is another reformation due?

Ancient Mariner

 

The Bible (Christian)

The great dilemma for all religions since World War II days is that local society over much of the world became aware of the international world. Adding to the dilemma was the broadening awareness through television in the 1950s. Worldwide communication became available inside the home when the Internet grew in the 1980s and broadband came along in 2000. Today, 5G technology in an instant will provide all the information of the entire age of humankind in one’s handheld device.

Since the first recorded goddess Cybele six thousand years before Jesus, religion has been the link between the suprahuman forces that shape reality and the personal worth of humans within that reality. In the earliest years, lack of correct understanding required that worth be linked through myth – stories that were based on personal experience, empirical reality and a functional relationship with the suprahuman forces.

Being anthropomorphic creatures, humans have been required to translate the forces of reality into anthropomorphic value systems. Simply stated, rules of godly behavior had to be defined in human terms requiring personality, motive and human-centric cause and effect. Reza Aslan, a well-known contemporary theologian, suggests that in order to be meaningful, one’s god must be very much like one’s self.

The most important role of religion is to establish human scruples and morality in a way that is compliant with the rule of God. This is where the Torah (Judaism), Bible (Christianity), Qur’an (Islam), Puranas (Hinduism) and Tripitaka (Buddhism) become important. These holy works articulate the rules that bind self, society and God into a way to understand the relationship between universal reality and human reality. These works integrate myth, existentialism and personal feelings into a working structure that defines theology, doctrine and ritual (who is God, what are the rules, how do I comply).

It is rare, indeed very rare, that studying the Bible to understand Christianity one begins by breaking the content into commentary about theology, doctrine and ritual. Most frequently, individuals start by reading the Torah (Jewish holy works). The myths of Genesis are learned without consideration of modern knowledge. One is exposed to continuous allegorical descriptions of faith easily misconceived as historical.

As the new student moves through the Old Testament, they learn that God is a personal creature who has human prejudices and acts accordingly directly with human history. Hence the common belief that it is God that bequeaths touchdowns, wealth, and behavioral worthiness. The New Testament part of the Bible (Christian) suggests that God is not so personal but rather is a creative force called love – universal, all-encompassing love. One does not need to part the Red Sea to demonstrate God’s acceptance; one does not suffer the variabilities of God as Job did. One needs, not so simply, to create love in God’s manner and if one fails, God’s love, ever present, forgives transgressions.

The major issue about the Bible is that today virtually no one reads it or has read it. Having no knowledge of religious content – in any holy work – leaves an individual on their own to fathom virtue in today’s hodgepodge world. Speaking simplistically, just as Cybele gave way to Roman mythology and Roman mythology gave way to Christian mythology, what will replace Christian mythology?

In mariner’s post “The Age We Live In” (February 9), mariner quoted Mike Allen saying, “we are aging, comfortable and stuck, cut off from the past and no longer optimistic about the future, spurning both memory and ambition while we await some saving innovation or revelation, growing old unhappily together in the light of tiny screens.” Is this a symptom of lack of myth, a loss of guidance in today’s version of suprahuman forces? Is there something to which humans can tie their worth in the universe?

God knows.

Ancient Mariner