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Tag Archives: Religion

Hello everyone. Went through my old blogs and realized that the last time that I had blogged was June 27th *wince* Ouch. Well I am back and I am going to be trying to blog more in the future but with the next semester of school rapidly approaching not sure how much free time I am going to have between this and my projects, nevertheless I am committed to continuing to blog and bringing you my high quality opinion when I get time between my school, writing, and my job.

Nevertheless there is a lot to talk about.

As I write this, yesterday was Chick-Fil-A appreciation day, and I went to go eat at the fine restraint for the first time…probably this year. The lines were packed nearly out the door and we had to wait at least an hour for our meal to arrive. But I have to admit I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I do support everyone’s right to free speech, but I was concerned about what everyone else was doing there. What were their motivations I wondered? Do they want to ban Gay Marriage or are they here simply to support the right of an American business and its owner to state their opinion?

As many people know through this blog I am reasonably in the middle on this issue. I respect gay ‘rights’ but I also respect the rights of Christians to state their opinion and to support their traditional views on marriage. No one should use the power of force to silence or force themselves on another group which was not what the owner of Chick-Fil-A was doing…all he was doing was supporting traditional marriage in his view…but more on that in a bit.

But I realized that all I was there for was to stand together and support someone else in their right to speak. Me and hundreds, thousands, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of people gathered in order to support a company in their right to have an opinion. And in the end that is all that is important. People coming together as one group to give their hard-earned money, to wait hours, just to show solidarity with an American Company.

Nothing else could be more fantastic.

This event brought together Christians, Jews, and even gays. Yes a gay called into the Sean Hannity show yesterday and gave his support and approval of Chick-Fil-A saying that they were always nice and courteous and that he was going to participate in the day. A paraphrase anyways he might eaten or was going to go eat…but that is not what is important.

What is important was that no matter individual beliefs and motivations, no matter the orientation of some people or their personal preferences, people came together
in common cause to support differing opinions and the rights to free speech and self conscience. That no matter what we are Americans and we may not always disagree with each other, but Gosh darn it I will defend your rights to disagree.

Because tomorrow we could be divided again, tomorrow we could be on opposite sides of some issue or something, tomorrow we could be disagreeing on some fundamental principle or natural order.

Because in a crowd of over 600,000 people (at least) (link) as some have reported who knows the full range of beliefs, ideologies, opinions, religions, and tastes that could be represented in that group. From the good, to the bad, to the grotesque.

But whatever that opinion they have a right to it every bit as much as the owners of Chick-Fil-A.

And thank God for Chick-Fil-A, thank God that they made a stand and did nothing wrong other than stating their belief and preference on what the family unit should be. Not coming out against homosexuals, or gays, not even saying its wrong, just giving a preference and being for something. (link) Thank God for Chick-Fil-A for allowing us to have this debate, to continue a national dialogue and conversation on all sorts of rights. Thank God for weeding out the true bigots and the people intolerant of others and their opinions. Thank God for giving us this opportunity.

Because the lesson here is that when you are for something that does not mean you are against something else. Sure they probably do not believe in gay marriage, but all they did was stand for what their interpretation is. And just because I link hands with Christians or anyone else does not mean we agree on every issue. In fact its safe to say we don’t.

It does not mean we are a member of the Westboro Baptists or Bush’s b**** or that we are going to lead this country down a path that Pope Urban the Second chose. All this means is that we are standing together. With human dignity, human rights, and the mass of humanity, making that connection, uniting, even if for just one day, one hour, one minute, or one second.

And we should thank God for that.

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Last month I wrote a series of blogs dedicated to religion, a whole series of blogs dedicated to some basic, but yet fundamental, beliefs about religion and religious liberty. But, since this blog deals primarily with politics and current events I think I should get back to discussing that. But I feel a bridge is needed, stretching between the two concepts and leading back into the elections and the current threats we are facing from radical Islam and any number of other important political debates and points.

So in that vein is the discussion of Social Justice. It is a concept that, if you pay attention, you hear an awful lot lurking in the shadows. Its something that is effected and is influenced by religion, politics, and how we deal with everyone else around us.

But what is it? What is Social Justice? Well in basic language it is creating equality, it is doing things to promote equality in our society and in all of our social interactions. Monetary, economic status, equalizing the sexes or people of different orientations or almost any other aspect of our life. (Link)

In a nut shell that s it.

Sounds pretty good right? Shouldn’t we all be striving to create a more equal society, by any means necessary, where there is no or very little differences between us? Where no one is treated unfairly or has anything that could lead to conflict? Hmmmm

Well it depends.

But something caught my eye as I have been studying religion and trying to come up with new and unique ways of expressing information. A bit of the statement of the principles of Reform Judaism. (Link)

In it talks about how it is their belief that they should mandate the highest traditions of Judaism and the prophetic relationship with God by repairing the world. This includes the need for social justice:

We are obligated to pursue (tzedek), justice and righteousness, and to narrow the gap between the affluent and the poor,…

And while we should be concerned about the gap between the wealthy and the poor, the wealthy having all the power and the control while the poor have no options and no recourse, I do think that many people who complain about such things are missing the point. Especially those who would make it apart of their official statements that is the core of their very existence as an organization.

You see it is easier to destroy then to create. (Blog Link)

It is easier to take to take someone else’s money while trying to work to improve those below you. It usually doesn’t work out that way but that is the general intent. To take from the more affluent in some way to provide either that money or a service to the poor to try to be of benefit to them. Usually by Governmental action when you are talking about this kind of income distribution.

This almost never works as intended but it is easier.

But shouldn’t we be working to encourage everyone to improve their situations? Their lot in life? To work towards a goal and to better themselves? And not just in terms of money or the size of ones house either.

Because isn’t the pursuit of money solely for the pursuit of money something that is usually considered bad? Doesn’t it raise red flags? If the situations were reversed and we were talking about some unscrupulous businessman who was making money without a concern with the well being or dispensation of his employees, would you not react negatively? In fact these people are often vilified in pop culture and history books, and sometimes for very good reasons. See Scrooge, the robber barons, JP Morgan, and Mr. Potter from It’s a Wonderful Life.

How are you rising above the system and ignoring the greed and temptation and problems and evils of money if you are having someone steal it for you on your behalf?

Should we not be practicing the essence of charity? (Blog Link), (Link).

If you want true Social Justice and to forge a more just, more equal, and more righteous world it starts with you. Not the Government. We may never achieve these goals but we can move in that general direction.

You can make the world a better place by working to better yourself then working to better others through your deeds and your actions. Through your materialistic possessions.

This really is it. Religion and religious obligations begin with you and your family. With individuals striving to fix things. Not with Governments or large institutions.

You pursue the definition of Charity and a just world that you want to see, and I shall do the same.

I talk to Atheists…a lot. On issues religious and political. And while this is not true of all Atheists (most certainly) I do get the sense sometimes that the reason why most Atheists are not religious is that they want God to be Government. Or at least their version of what they think a Government should be.

You see a lot of people think that Government should take care of them. Provide them with their food, clothing, internet, healthcare, jobs, houses. That everything should be provided for you even if you have to ‘balance the scales’ by taking it from someone else.

To make sure that the scales are balanced and if someone has more than you or just more than someone else in general, and their ‘needs aren’t met’ then that is bad of them and something should be done about it.

This is all wrapped up in class envy, or class scorn, or class warfare. This is all a symptom of the same cause.

But since naturally God is perfect they assume God to be the same way as they are. To automatically have the same world view.

That how can a perfect, loving, God allow suffering in the world? Why must some people have more and some have less? Why can’t everything be heaven and all of our needs are provided for? Or even why do we have needs?

Why do some people have to die and some people live?

I do not have a good answer.

All I do know is that our free will and our own actions play some part in this. What exactly and how exactly the formula of life works I have no idea. I do not even really want to know either.

I just know that He does indeed exist.

But people look at the world and see evil and suffering and assume that God does not. That this is all truly a random crap shoot and nothing has any long-term meaning behind it at all.

I know its hard. And this is actually one area where I do sympathize with Atheist thought. That sometimes the evils in our lives do seem to contradict with a perfect and loving God. That it is hard to watch the universe suffer and think that there is some caring and loving hand behind it all. Or any kind of force at all really. Let alone the loving ones.

But in my opinion He did, and He does exist. That He did set up this universe.

We just have no idea on the why or the how.

But in the end I am glad God does not provide for our every whim. Because that is the only way that we can understand the darkness and the light and learn to appreciate things about our very existence.

Which is why I do not expect a God to be a Government.

Charity. Its one of the things that defines Civilizations, our civilization, our roots, and our religion. It defines the boundaries between good and evil. Enabling people to help the poor or take care of one another each in their own way. But for something that is so important we really do not have any idea what it is.

It is a concept that despite being so central and so core to our very being is one that does not seem itself to be easily defined. There is a lot of debate, and always will be on who should help, who shouldn’t, how you should give, where you should give, how much you should give, even if you should give at all. Whether or not it is your individual responsibility or if an organization or Government should force you to give…to it…so then they can put that money to use on…whatever they want. Trying in their minds, I’m sure, to help.

But lets stick with generalities here. What does Charity usually mean in the modern context? Well giving money to soup kitchens. Your favorite non-profit cause. Helping a granny cross the street or giving five dollars to someone on the side of the road so they can build a sandwich.

Helping each other, assisting one another, being there to offer a bed, or clothing, or food, or money or even sage counsel.

Charity, today, is about investing your resources, usually time and money, to do an altruistic and selfless thing, with little to no personal gain, in order to provide for someone else. Usually out of religious obligation or a sense to be kind.

But that is not all Charity is, it is not all Charity can be.

It is the ability to not only give help, a place to sleep, or a warm meal. But it is the ability to get someone going, to get them out of their current situation and try to make them a better person to where they do not need your charity.

According to the Jewish thought that I have read there are eight levels of Charity. (source). All the way from ‘giving begrudgingly,’ to allowing a person to become self-reliant, to make it on their own.

It’s not a matter between good or evil, or good or bad types of charity. All of these charities are good, just that the highest level of charity is to provide so that the other person can move off your assistance and become a benefit to others.

To teach a man to fish, in other words.

To teach a man to work and to be educated while you are providing for their basic needs. Or doing that without providing for their basic needs.

So in a sense scholarships are the purest form of charity.

But also, dare I say it, jobs. The rich providing work and working conditions for employees and giving them a pay check so they can make money and be self-reliant and hopefully improve their lot in life.

That is what Charity is. It’s not just to give to give and to give without end hoping that the band aid can magically sprout wings and they can take off. But it is charity, with a purpose.

That is the highest level of charity. To move forward and teach, and allow them to get to a point where they can make their own charities, and then from there the cycle continues.

This is what charity has to be, otherwise it’s not worth it.

Once again Christmas and the Holiday have passed, or are wrapping up. Those that follow the Jewish faith are looking forward to the end of Hanukkah, those of the Christian have celebrated the birth of their savior, and we still have the New Year to ring in. So it is time, once again, for another holiday blog. To reflect on the ‘true meaning of Christmas’, and the season. It does seem to me that the season has become just about the celebrations, its become about the rush and the material…rather then the Spirit.

I think we need to talk about the spirit and get back to it.

Christmas is not just about the tree or the copies of Call of Duty Modern warfare 3 or copies of Star Wars the Old Republic and Ace Combat. Nor is it about the food.

But it is about celebrating the birth of one of the greatest humans to have ever lived. (blog link).

Hanukkah is not about the presents or the coins, or heck it’s not even about the Menorah. But celebrating a miracle and giving thanks to God.

We have lost our way. We have turned these celebrations about our heritage and our values into a giant rush. A rush to go out and get the newest fad or the greatest prize. To go out and do a million things in preparation for dozens of parties. To rush through it all and lose the meaning in the hustle and bustle.

It is something that I think we all struggle with. At least many of the people I talk to on a daily basis. Feeling sick and worn out but also feeling obligated to do this or get that. Or to get lost in the wanting of a thing so badly that we forget the meaning. I know I do, I know it is a struggle for me.

So instead of doing this, instead of just going mad in one mad dash at the end to go to this party or schedule this present opening, maybe we should spread things out? Instead of opening it on one day (or eight) give it some time and get into a ‘Christmas season’ where we are exchanging things here and there all along. And then on Christmas we can exchange simpler gifts and getting back to worshiping the baby Jesus? (Or at least celebrating his birth)

But I got no rush. I know this change may be slow. Heck it may even be impossible or unnecessary. I am still trying to toy with this idea in my own life and it has been…pretty mixed. But I don’t know if we try simplifying things and enjoying them, maybe this can work out? Without all the hustle. Just a thought.

But in the meantime I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas.

Another one of those all important religious questions. Just how much does our own will have to do with anything? Just how much control do we have in our own lives? This is a question that I often get asked during religious debates. How can free will exist with an all-powerful, omnipresent, all-knowing God?

How does free will exist if God knows what you are going to do before you do it?!

Well this focus on the nature of God, which I have dealt with in a previous blog (link), but this is more of a question of the nature of man. This is a question for man to answer, about man. And the point is that freedom of will, of choice, of expression, is really all we got in the long run, makes this whole ball of wax meaningful.

‘Pray like everything depends on God, act like everything depends on you.’ That is what Pat Gray says.

Because God may know what you know, know what you are going to do, how you were born, how you will die, and everything in between. But you don’t.

We still have to act, we still have to make decisions. We still have to go on and lead our lives to the best of our ability. Because we simply have no other choice.

Because we have to assume that we have free will. We are not all-encompassing. We do not know. All we can do is try to make rational decisions based on our intuition and our love. We only exist in the here and now.

So we have the Free Will to try to lead the lives in the manner that makes the most moral sense to us. So that we can try to explore the universe, creation, God, the supernatural, each in our own way.

And I personally do not think God would have it any other way.

This is one of the most fundamental issues for religion, for our times, for our personal belief systems. How we view the world around us. Government, God, our role in helping or hurting, how we can best help or hurt. Its how we relate to each other, who we expect to bail us out or offer a hand out. This issue is as almost as fundamental as the one relating to whether or not there is a God.

But yet its one that a lot of religions do not seem to have a definitive answer. I mean all religions have their answers and their interpretations but in each of the religions that I have studied…basically the Abrahamic ones…you can get an answer that says no…and yes. There are people who says yes yes, the bible preaches Social Justice and Collective Salvation and there are others that go…whaaattt you’re crazy man.

I do not really know what it teaches. I cannot speak with authority on that is up for you to decide. I can just say what I have learned and what I have observed and what I believe.

In short I do not believe in Collective Salvation. I lean, heavily, to the individual responsibility.

I lean so heavily in fact that I do not think it is up for anyone else in years past to be responsible for my sin, my corruption, or my salvation. I do not want or expect anyone to die for my sins, or to die so that I can be saved. I do not think that one man’s actions can be held against the entire human race for now since the end of time, that we inherited a fallen nature.

I just do not believe in these things.

Because I believe that this flies in the face of everything I believe, about the universe, religion, how God set it up, why He set it up. I mean maybe this part is arrogant and over reaching.

But I believe in free will, I believe in the divine spark, I believe that God has given us the ability to make free choices.

Does this not fly in the face of that? Of everything?

That our damnation or salvation is because a few select individuals did things throughout human history.

I think as long as we have our, God-given, free will, or our God given divine spark that it is up to us to use them. And then to be judged on how we have used such gifts from now to eternity.

Because this is about taking responsibility for our actions, for our inaction, for what we have done in this life.

This is not arrogance or chutzpah. This is mere curiosity on how I have lived my life and just what I have done. This is the wanting to do good. And to take responsibility.

And to get from the Father the knowledge that, hey kid, not bad.

I do not want to save myself. Note it says individual responsibility. Not individual salvation. I do not think I can save myself. I am not sure I need to be saved but that is a theological issue for another time and one I am still working on.

It is our collective individual responsibility. Lets be as strong as we can so that we can be the best servants of God, all I ask.

I do not like wondering about the nature of God. Sure I have theories, but it’s not my thing. But this seems to be the central issue, one of them, in religion. Especially the Monotheistic ones…is God a personal God?

Now on the one hand you have the idea that God is a puppeteer, he pulls the strings of the universe and everything is His Will. On the other you have the idea that God is some kind of ‘clock maker’ who just ‘created the universe’ X number of years ago but that is the only concern he has with creation. He just lets things run its course.

Now the flaws in both these ideas should be apparent. And they both lead to the same question. What would be the point? If you had a God who pulled your strings and who you fell in love with, whether or not you joined the army, or whether or not you were going to sit down in a chair…or write a blog…all that would be His Will. But on the other if you had a God that…well was just bored one day and decided to create a universe just for the heck of it…what would be the point in our lives if he just left it like that, went on to other things…maybe take a nap?

I do not think either of these ideologies bears having much economy with the truth.

God, I contend, is a parent.

This should be quite obvious to anyone who is religious. You hear it all the time.

The Father the son and the holy ghost? Our Father who art in heaven? Heavenly father?

But yet people, at least in my experience, do not make the connection. Or at the very least do not delve deeper and fully explore what God being a parent means. Being a perfect parent even.

He lets us go out and do things in our lives. We stumble, we fall, we get hurt. He comes and guides us, and helps us, and offers us advice.

But since he is a Perfect Parent he does not do everything for us.

He does not go and do all of our homework for us, or shield us from the world, or constantly be there to catch us fall. He lets us experience things. And learn. And grow. And be more appreciative of the world around us.

He makes decisions that any other human parent would balk at, but often wonder how they can help when we are suffering, or cold and alone in the dark.

That is what God is. Something this is personal when He needs to be, and aloof when He must.

I was on…well my online watering cooler…and the subject of inequality came up. In the work place. And then a little while later I was on FB and the subject came up again, this time someone was distributing a survey about what gender mascots were on brand name foods, what do you think the gender would be when someone is at a restaurant, or a bakery, or the gender of the person who cooks your home meals. Needless to say, I found this quite difficult to take, and I did not take it. But it did get me thinking. (Haven’t said that in a while :D)

Now whenever I talk about this issue I feel a bit cheap, because I feel like I am having to seemingly ‘defend’ a position that I do not actually have. A position of bigotry and supporting evil, kind of end up sounding like a bigoted jerk.

Which often leaves me wondering the right way to get this message off.

So what does this have to do with religion? One might ask.

Well, to be honest I am not sure. This might just be an excuse to rant about a political issue resulting in something that I read on Facebook. Something that has been bothering me.

But what I do know is that religion has often been used as an excuse for…well bigotry. And has religion not been subjected to vile forms of discrimination itself?

Whether you are Christian, or Muslim, or Jewish, we all know the sting of persecution based on our deeply held beliefs.

But beyond that I believe that religion ultimately holds the key to ending this sort of abuse. On the individual level anyways.

But at the least my religious and political beliefs. The individual following God. Not relying on groups and not dealing in groups and only treating each other how we would like to be treated, and with respect, and love.

Following God as an individual living His commandments and doing what is right.

Is not Christianity a religion who preaches the love of God through Jesus Christ?

Does Judaism not command one to ‘love the stranger’? Or your neighbors?

Not to judge, not to demean, and not degrade. And then to share that message, in your own way, with others.

This is all that I can do, this is all that I can demand. People doing their best to live righteous lives and following their God-given sense of morality. To try to lead the best lives you can. And to encourage and be a beacon to others to do the same.

Or as Gandhi would say, “Be the Change you Wish to See in the rest of the world”

Thanksgiving has passed, the holiday season is fully underway and I am sure that many people are asking themselves what is there to be thankful of?

Sure I imagine that people are thankful for their cars, their Ipods or their families.

Or maybe even for their tax havens and their Government health care.

But again I wonder if we should not simplify these things. If it’s not time to get to the base needs of what we should be thankful for. To cut everything else out and yes family is very important.

So what should we be thankful for? What is the base ideal that we should be thankful for?

Our lives. Yes.

Who gave us our lives?

I am going to take a leaf out of Lincoln’s book and be thankful to what he was thankful towards. God.

But why should we be thankful to God? What does some magical sky being have to give us?

Well I am thankful to God for my:

Life.

My intelligence and my sentience.

For the ability to have free will and to freely reason.

I am thankful for the Torah, the Tanakh, the bible, and the Koran. And for God sharing them with us so we can better appreciate His law and His commandments and the way to best approach Him.

For my rights and my freedoms so I best may express myself, and live freely with God and His commandments.

For living in a corrupted world so I may better appreciate the divine.

All of these I believe are God-given. And thus we may and must be thankful to Him for providing us with the opportunities, to live our lives. And move on from there.