Friday, December 1, 2023

I think Christians got it wrong.

 After Jesus died, the apostles, and close disciples met and prayed together for many days. It's pretty clear that they struggled with the idea that their messiah was killed. It is reasonable for them to ask themselves what significance was the death of Jesus. Why did Jesus die? Why did Jesus have to die? In other words, how can we justify the death of Jesus with Jesus being the messiah to free the Jews from the yoke which held them down? If Jesus was not a true messiah, then why were we hoodwinked into following him all this time?

Not wanting to look like fools, it is reasonable for the apostles to mold testament stories to justify them and their actions. The stories they found in the prophet Joel or the words of David could have represented anything. But by applying it to their situation, the would feel vindicated for their choices.

All they had to do was apply old stories to their present situation, without regard to if they are related. This way, they could validate themselves and their time with Jesus.

How can I determine this? Why could they not have been right and I be misguided? Well, I may likely be misguided. However, me being misguided does not clear the apostles from their questioned stance. Let's look at what they did with their "justification". Take Peter's second sermon as an example. Yes, it is prophesied that God's chosen one would suffer. The Jewish people, in general, were suffering under the yoke of the Romans. The various Jews living during the captivity of them by Assyrians, Babylonians, and others suffered too. How is it that the prophesies applied to Jesus and not any of the other Jews who suffered?

At some point, someone decided that the death of Jesus is what pays for our sins. It is the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross with frees us and grants us the salvation of life eternal with God. And with that, we jumped ship, losing the message of Jesus.

You see, someone forgot to mention that in the earliest of books about God, God created mankind by taking clay (physical stuff from this world) and breathed life (a bit of the immaterial and eternal world... heaven) into each person. That means, we already have something outside the physical dimensions of space and time (call it a soul if you wish). So, unless the death of our physical body also kills the immaterial part of us (that is outside of the physical realm of time), we are already immortal. We don't have to buy our immortality as we already have it.

We don't have to pay for it either. We don't need someone else to die for that payment. Looking at the lessons Jesus taught us in Luke to give with no expectation of return. The justification is that we should behave like God who gives to all, including sinners and the unworthy. If God gives to all without expectation of anything in return, they why must Jesus have to pay for our sins with his life?

Wouldn't this all work more in line with the message of God as taught by Jesus if we simply are given the gifts of God without Jesus paying for it with his life? Humans were already given God's breath of life from the heavens. Why can we not simply say Jesus was killed because there are people in this world who are attached to their selfish egos and possessions. They had Jesus killed because Jesus taught God's message of love unconditionally. The fact Jesus was killed doesn't diminish the message. It simply points out that there are still people who refuse to listen and live by the will of God.

We cannot change others. We can change ourselves. Let others live their lives and we will do what we can to love everyone unconditionally, to encourage diversity with all the beauty that comes from it, and to be a humble servant, helping everyone without prejudice or favoritism.

The message Jesus taught is the focus of our faith, not the results of the actions of selfish people.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Teachings of Paul

Why are none of the letters of Paul in this version of the bible? Perhaps it is because of the difficulty I face with Paul and his message.

It is clear to me that a key message of Jesus is to be humble. This message shows up time and time again. Jesus washes the feet. Jesus teaches us that whoever is first will be last. Jesus takes the role as a helper. If this is a key message of Jesus, I would expect his followers to try to exemplify the teachings of Jesus.

Yet, when I read Paul’s letters, it seems to me that Paul never got the message.  Not surprisingly. Paul never lived with Jesus nor saw Jesus in day-to-day behaviors. Paul only knows Jesus from one short vision Paul had on the road. The rest of what Paul knows about Jesus is what others told him. It appears that Paul’s vision changed Paul from being a hunter of Christians to presenting himself with the label of Christian. Paul’s ego, however, never wavered.

Consider the following examples. Paul writes “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) He doesn’t tell people to be imitators of Jesus. No, he has to pull the focus to himself. Does he understand Jesus’ message of humility? Nope, he goes all in: (Galatians 2:20) “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Paul draws the focus to himself in the guise of telling others that when you see him (Paul), you are seeing Jesus. This is a level of ego mania I don’t see in Jesus.

I suppose I would be fine looking past the ego of the individual if the message was compatible. Jesus taught his followers and disciples to comply with what is commanded from the scribes and Pharisees who sit in the chair of Moses. However, Jesus went further to say “Do as they say, not as they do.” Jesus described the leaders as preaching what they themselves do not practice. Jesus taught his followers to treat one another as equals, with nobody better, higher, or more authoritative. “But as for you, do not be called Teacher; for only God is your Teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters.” (Matthew 23:8). How does Paul handle this topic? Well, if you believe Paul wrote first Timothy, “I was appointed as a preacher and an apostle -I am telling the truth, I am not lying-, as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” (1 Timothy 2:7) This would mean that Paul is claiming to be God. So much for humility…again.

Love unconditionally. That is a foundational message of Jesus. Turn the other cheek. Love your enemy. Help those who oppose you. On and on, Jesus tells us to not be judgmental. Yes, Paul writes that if someone says anything that does not agree with Paul’s words, Paul invokes God that they be under God’s curse. (Galacians 1:8)

Love unconditionally includes not being racist or sexist. Jesus never taught sexism. While the gospels seem to be thin on Jesus’ interactions with women, every story shows Jesus treating them equally. Jesus talks about his “brothers and sisters” not just his brothers. Paul is not so considerate. 1 Timothy 2:8-15 is pretty harsh with many “I want…” and “I do not allow…”. Paul demands women be seen and not heard… with entire submissiveness.

Then there is the discrepancy between who goes to heaven. Jesus says only the people who do the will of God will enter heaven. (Matthew 7:21) Paul pronounces that faith alone will save you. (see Romans 10:13, Ephesians 2:8)

God’s mercy? Jesus tells us God will judge us on how we judge others. How we treat others is how God will treat us. “Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy. (Matthew 5:7) Paul, on the other hand, teaches that God will do as God pleases, and mercy, from the perspective of a human is at best random.

What I conclude from my side-by-side comparison of Jesus and Paul, they are not the same. Jesus, for the most part, practices what he preaches. Paul contradicts Jesus and tries to draw focus on Paul himself.  Why are none of the letters of Paul in this version of the bible? Perhaps it is because of the difficulty I face with Paul and his message.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Is COD deism?

I've been told I am simply a deist, someone who believes God exists, but beyond creating this world has no involvement in it. I disagree. I've been told God is involved in every aspect of every person and thing in this world at all times. I disagree. I may be wrong. Instead, I think there is a middle ground where God is most likely to be found.

Once again, it is not possible for me to know the details of God beyond what I have observed and been told. Once again, I'm going to try anyway.

I like the analogy of a child playing with a toy. Without reading too much into the concept of play or toy, the analogy has some merit.  People play with their toys in different ways depending on their goals and objectives. How they play with them says something about the person.

Imagine a collection of toys. Imagine some person made all of those toys. 

  • The first toy is a stuffed animal. Imagine once the stuffed animal it made, it was tossed in a toy box and ignored from that day on. 
  • Another toy is made. It is a wooden car with wheels that spin. The toy is then allowed to roll down a ramp or hill on its own as the person watches it from the starting point. 
  • Now, imagine the next toy made is a doll. It also gets tossed in the toy box, but every now and then gets pulled out and played with. This toy is held in different poses and made to move in ways the person wants the toy to move in.
  • Next is a ball.  The person plays with the ball by making it spin on the tip of his finger like a basketball player may do with a basketball. The person watches it carefully, observing the speed of the spin, any wobble that may happen, and anything else that might make the ball fall off their finger. On occasions, the person interacts with the spinning ball by brushing their other hand against it to add more energy to the spin to keep it going.
  • Finally, a watch. The person pays attention to every gear and every dial to ensure everything is working perfectly. If a speck of dust falls on a dial, the person removes it. If a gear needs grease, the person is ready with some grease to fix the issue. Nothing escapes the ever vigilant eye of the watch maker.
The "stuffed animal" god is what I call a deist. Many christians think of god as the watch maker. My suspicion is God falls into the basketball category. God is ever vigilant on all the details, but performs actions that move the whole to the desired outcome by specific actions that impact other elements which in turn accomplishes the bigger picture. God doesn't run around doing many different tasks for individuals and their personal needs. Those needs factor into the bigger picture and may, as a element of a greater whole, be addressed using a broader stroke. The difference between the basketball and the watch is the degree of response to individual needs independent of the bigger picture.

The added spin God gives the basketball seems to be reasonably consistent. Whenever this world needs attention, the solution is for God to remind us to love one another. The message has been with teachers and prophets telling us to do so or, in some cases, risk something bad happening. Sometimes it has been to show us how beneficial loving one another is for us. Sometimes, we get a gentle spanking or scolding to remind us to change our ways. But the message seems to be consistently the same: love unconditionally.

It is one message, spoken different ways at different times to accomplish one goal. We do this by showing God we are grateful for the creation by treating it as God wants us to treat it: with love.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

What does God want?

 What do we know about God?

We’ve been told there is only one god. We’ve been taught that God is a loving, personal god who listens to our prayers. We’ve described God as all powerful, all present, and all knowing. I suspect this is not the correct description of God.

Ask, and you shall receive. God is listening and answers our prayers. As a child, I asked for a million dollars. I guess I should have included “right now” in my request. In a similar vein, I know others have asked to stop their suffering and their prayers seem to be answered with equal frequency. When prayers appear to go unanswered, the proposed rationale is that God works in mysterious ways. Is God really listening? Does he answer our prayers or is the frequency of our prayers being answered closer to random chance?

Perhaps we should start with what we know about God. God created the intangible and the tangible (heaven and earth). God created light and shadows. God created land and water. God, we can say, created diversity and a spectrum of degrees between the two extremes.

God spoke to Adam and Eve. God spoke to Abraham and Moses. God did not speak to the rest of the Hebrews. It appears that God picks a person or perhaps a small handful of people at any given point in time and has that person pass along God’s message. What this tells me about God is God wants us to know something at various points in time. Since God has a messenger to spread God’s message instead of simply telling everyone all at once makes me suspect God lacks the ability to talk to everyone all at once.

Using Occam’s Razor as a guide, God does not get involved with the minutiae of the creation but has a continued interest in the creation itself. As the whole of creation is constantly changing, the more reasonable explanation for God’s continued interest is to watch the evolution of the creation. God’s occasional interaction suggests God wants something and interaction is needed to achieve that something.

Let me jump out on a limb here and suggest God wants to see how the creation will evolve and change over what we perceive as time. For the creation to collapse and end would be counter to God’s will. This would explain how various people over time have presented a message from God and why I didn’t get a million dollars as a child. God’s involvement with the creation is similar to a person spinning a ball on the tip of their finger.  Once it is spinning, it will remain spinning for some time.  Occasionally, the person needs to add a bit of energy to the spinning ball by brushing their other hand against the ball. Perhaps God needs to be slightly involved to have the creation in general do what God wants from it.

So, then, what does God want? Why does God need to talk to various people over the history of mankind? What does God need from us? If God’s goal is to keep the creation going and humans can have a huge impact on this planet, perhaps God talks to us to have us keep this planet alive and productive. Again, the answer may be hidden in what God has told Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad, the Dalai Lama, and others. The message is fairly consistent: Love unconditionally. The way it is presented may change and the choice of words may differ, but the underlying message is consistent. God needs us to stop discriminating against one another, to stop hurting one another, and to instead love, care, and support one another. PERIOD. FULL STOP.

Why does God need us to love unconditionally? I haven’t a clue.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Why baptism?


Purpose: Wash away sin and to wash away the person's pre-conversion life as they transition to a "christian life".

History: John the Baptist performed the ritual before christianity began. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Jews use a mikvah for ritual cleansing.

However, we have no record of Jesus ever baptizing anyone, recommending baptism, or ensuring anyone was baptized.

Okay. Let's go through some of this. We're taught that we only have one baptism for the remission of sin.  (Remission: cancellation or forgiveness).Wash away sin? Do I have to be baptized every time I need to be cleansed of my sin or is it an act that is only done once per person?  Only once?, then why do I have to do it? Why not simply repent and ask God for forgiveness? That's all a person has to do all the other times.

Proclamation of a transition from an old life to "a life in Christ"? Isn't that "confirmation"? Do we have to transition twice?

Infant baptism? How can an infant confirm their commitment to a christian life? Or is infant baptism simply a little presumptuous for parents to give their child a bath in public?

I'm not sure baptism is all that important for someone to live their life according to God's message.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The bible is unnecessary, because...

Like Jesus, I like my collection of pithy quotes. Take for example "Nobody talks about purple polka dotted grass." It's a great statement to remind myself, and those I've discussed it with, that the person I'm referring to has been thinking of what they are discussing. Nobody talks about something that isn't on their mind.

I cannot remember the first time I used that phrase. I certainly cannot recall the comment the person made that led me to creating "purple polka dotted grass".  I'm even more certain that the person I told it to the first time has no clue I had created on the spot for that conversation. Moreover, I have no clue how often I have used the phase or how often others have mentioned it to me. I've even heard people use the phrase when talking to other people who have heard it. Moreover, I've heard people tell people of some of my pithy sayings, sometimes out of context with the original meaning (but nonetheless close enough to apply). It is clear that, even in my lifetime, people are repeating what I have said and applying it to new/similar circumstances.

I was reading the bible today and saw a number of sayings of Jesus prefaced by some situation.  That made me wonder... Was the scenario in the bible the original scenario that generated the saying or was it a later example that is simply similar? Like people twisting my words slightly to fit the new circumstance, did the evangelists of old do the same with what Jesus said? Did they even know what the original scenario or care?  Did they instead, like people around me, apply the pithy saying to a circumstance they felt it related to?

Sometimes, changing the scenario changes the impact or scope of a saying. This made me consider what would happen if I ignored the prefix/scenario and concentrated on the pithy saying alone. Would I be better off simply collecting the pithy sayings without the background story that generates it. It is reasonable to assume the background story presented in the bible could be completely unrelated to the reason Jesus created/used his pithy words. The easy answer is removing context entirely removes useful information.

Having said all of that, my mind is drawn to a Big Bang Theory television episode where it was determined that Indiana Jones was not needed for the outcome of the story, even though he was the main character of the film. Is the work I was doing having an impact on the outcome? Does the bible matter?

Consider the following questions:

Who is Jesus?  Is he:

1. Another word for God
2. The trinity, as in simply another facet of God
3. A distinct, but connected element of a holy trinity
4. Another god... perhaps a lesser god
5. Half god/half human with all the powers of god
6. Born human, but God elevated Jesus to god
7. Born human, but God elevated Jesus to a divine being (less than "god")
8. Human, but God controlled him (like a puppet)
9. Human and God spoke to Jesus, enabling him to perform god-like powers
10. Human and God inspired him, but Jesus had his own will to choose to comply
11. Human who was well informed by others (not God) about what to teach
12. Human with awareness of the sociological and ethical issues and created a solution
13. ?myth? never existed? Everything about Jesus is made up?

Question number 2. Do you believe in salvation by faith alone?

If you answered question one with anything between 1 and 8, and answered question two with a yes, then why should you care what the bible says? Why care about the pithy sayings at all? A god has told you that if you believe in them, you are saved.  What else is there? All the bible stories and commandments matter for nothing because salvation is promised by one able to grant it simply because you believe in them. Throw the bible out and get on with your life. The rest of the bible has no impact on your outcome.

On the other hand, if Jesus existed as a human (9-12) and/or salvation is through good works, then defining "good works" matters. Knowing what Jesus said is the proper behavior matters. Knowing what scenarios need to be associated to which pithy saying matters. Knowing the context matters.

Unfortunately, if my own pithy sayings are misapplied, even in my own lifetime, how can I trust Jesus' sayings would remain sacred and accurate through decades of retelling and centuries of transcriptions. Identifying what he really said and the context he said it in matters more to those who don't fall into the first group. To these followers, the bible matters.

What was it like back then?

consider the following possibility...


Many cultures were travelling around the eastern mediterranean around the time of Jesus.  There were three major cultures present: Greek City-State, the Roman Empire, and the Jewish Temple-State.  None of these were working efficiently at the time.

The various cultures lived in semi-isolated groups within cities trying to keep their culture/history alive.

This produces an environment of tension, bigotry and racism.  

Along came Jesus.  He was (most likely) a reformed rabbi who saw the problems caused by the cultural clashes and wanted to teach people how to get along in peace and harmony.


Prior to Alexander the Great, there were three models which societies would use to structure themselves. Yes, there are others, but these three are most predominate in the time of Jesus.

Let's call the first one the "Ancient Near-Eastern Temple State". Every city had its own god (maybe more) who ruled the citizens of the city. Assyrians, Babylonians, Canaanites, and Judeans are familiar examples. Common in these temple-states was social stratification (power vs purity, or king and high priest) and some form of scribe would mediate between the two organizations. This was the culture of the jews before the first destruction of the temple. There was one high priest for all of Judea.

Then there was the polis or Greek City-State. The polis was a creation of the Greek spirit of independence and free thinking as well as the practical need for aristocratic clan leadership. The Hellenistic approach was to push the control of government down to the city level. Each city choose what type of government they wanted, from democracy, monarchy, oligarchy, or tyranny to name the most common. What they had in common was the sense of rejection to a large, national dictator predetermining how they are ruled.

And, of course, we cannot overlook the roman republic. This social system, based on patricians and senators, demanded order from all within their domain.

When I look at the United States, I see a similar behavior: cultures moving about and coming in contact with one another, each wanting to maintain what they have. When that interferes with another culture, conflict increases. I've often said people raise their "voice" when they don't feel heard. If someone's culture is being ignored, pushed aside, or otherwise not honored as the people of that culture expect, the tendency is to push back. In the US, we tend to deal with pockets of cultural infusion at any time.  The western mediterranean area must have been overwhelmed by all three of these cultures clashing everywhere all at once.

In the meantime, the Jewish temple state was undergoing change as well. After the hasmonean rulers attempted to integrate Greek ideas, the more "pure temple-state priests" pushed back harder. This lead to the pharisees, who wanted to push back time and integration to their more familiar world. These separatists developed schools of ethics, piety and politics based on the law of Moses to counter the changing environment leading away and towards Hellenistic practices.

This "raised voice" began to divide the Jews into those moving towards new practices and those wanting to keep their culture intacted and unchanged. Needless to say, there was a vast amount of diversity in the area at the time of Jesus.

Like the current United States, I'm certain that groups would cluster tightly together in small micro-cultures. Just as we have the chinatowns, Japan towns, little Italy, and more, people wanting to preserve their culture will band together in small tight communities. As these communities bump into one another, the chance of conflict increases. Once that conflict has gone on more than a generation, people forget what caused the conflict and simply integrate the hatred and animosity into their daily lives.

This is the world Jesus was born into. This, therefore, is the underlying world Jesus worked with as he preached a message of love. To this chaos, he taught the following three things:

  1. The notion of a perfect society conceptualized as a kingdom
  2. ANY individual was fit for this kingdom
  3. That the kingdom should be a mix of people (ethnic, cultural, etc)
Needless to say, but this message did not sit well with people trying to enforce their cultural beliefs or even those who simply wanted everyone else to just go away.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Musings on the deification of Jesus

 I wrote the following notes back in April 2005.  At some point in the near future, I should review it and see if I am still aligned with it...

Is God a trinity?  Should we honor Jesus as an equal third of a trinity?

To begin, let's first examine the nature of God and God's creation: Is God an artisan or a parent?  Did God create the world, as the Jewish faith proclaims, like a painter brushing oils upon a canvas?  Or, is God more like a parent who births the world by copying, or replicating, God's own essence into everything (as the Greek philosophers' would have us believe.)

This question is crucial, as the ramifications produce entirely different views of religion.  If we were to accept the parent explanation, God donates a part of himself to the creation.  Another way of looking at this is God duplicates himself, or part thereof, like a cell, cloning himself in the creation process.  If this view is accepted, then all of creation is God.  If this is true, then we are all begotten of God and Jesus would be nothing more than another part of God's essence. (This does deify Jesus by deifying everything God begot, including us.)

On the other hand, if the Jewish perspective were to be considered, God was more of an artisan.  God created everything out of nothing.  God willed the world into existence.  The world had a point where it came into existence.  It had a beginning.  God is different because God has no beginning.

If God is a parent, then humans do not need salvation.  Jesus would never have considered mentioning salvation if we all are part of the essence of God.  If God is a artist, then we, his creation, have fallen short of the glory of God.  Salvation would have meaning.

Arius wondered: "If the Father had begotten the Son, he who had been begotten had a beginning, and therefore there must have been a time when the Son did not exist."

Like us, Jesus was one of God's artistic creations.  Like us, Jesus has a beginning.  Like us, Jesus does not know everything that God knows.  For example, Jesus points out in Mark 13:32 that only God knows when the world will end, and that Jesus does not know this information.  In John 14:28, Jesus points out that God is greater than Jesus.  Jesus even points out that, like a puppet, God commands Jesus on what to say in John 12:49.  If the Gospels don't spell it out directly enough, there is always the first of the ten commandments: "You shall have no other gods before me."

Jesus even spelled it out clearly when he said that we should "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength."  Jesus did not say, love the trinity, or love me, or even love the essence of God.  On the contrary, Jesus separates God from God's creation with the golden rule.

Is Jesus part of God?  No more than we are part of God.  Jesus was, like us, God's creation.  Jesus falls short of the power of God.  But is Jesus a god?  The first of the ten commandments implies that there are other gods.  Could Jesus be one of these gods?  That is very possible.  Any case, Jesus is less than God (capital "G").  Think of Jesus as a "lesser god".

It would appear that Jesus was aware of the greek perspective (god as a creative parent).  

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

 I was looking at the dates scholars provide for the various books of the bible, and was comparing it to the attributed authors...  At that point, I began to digress to my more mathematical portion of my brain get to play...

Jesus is said to have been born in year zero.  At least that is why the current calendar says.  Scholars think otherwise, placing his birth at either 4 or 6 years earlier. (There are plenty of sources for both dates.) In any case, it seems like the calendar creator is the only remaining scholar to think Jesus was born on year zero. (which always confused me....  If December 25, year 0 was the birth of Jesus, then that year only had one week in it.  The other 51 weeks were "before christ"...  oops, I'm digressing)

It is commonly believed that Jesus started his work when he was 30 and died 3 years later.... Putting the year of his death at: 27, 29, or 33 (depending on when he was born).  His disciples were considered "men" when Jesus began teaching.  Jewish definition of a man is age 13.  So, if his disciples were "men", they had to be born no later than year 11, 13, or 17 (again depending on the year of Jesus' birth).

Life expectancy in they first century Judea was much shorter than today.  Infant mortality was much higher than today, as was childhood mortality.  We can thank modern medicine to save us from numerous childhood diseases which first century children could not survive.  If we pull out infant and childhood deaths, we can estimate the life expectancy of people in first century Judea.  Again, relying on scholarly research, the life expectancy of a first century Jew who survived childhood is about 45-50 years.  A few well-to-do people lived to 60.

Assuming best case scenario:  Jesus was born on year zero. His disciples were just 13 years old when they began following Jesus (who was 30) and the disciples were so well off that they could live to the maximum age of 60, then it is safe to say that the last disciple of Jesus was dead by the year 77.  On the other hand, if they were roughly the same age as Jesus (say 5 years younger) and Jesus was born roughly 5 years before the calendar, then the disciples were born in year 0 and were 28 when Jesus died.  The disciple would likely be dead by the year 50.  That puts the span between years 50 and 77.

Using similar math for the followers of Jesus (again assume the followers were 13 or older when they began following Jesus), they would also be dead by the year 77 at the latest.  In general, if you spent any reasonable amount of time with Jesus, you were most likely dead by the year 77.

Okay, so... who cares?  As I said, I was looking at the dates scholars provide for the various books of the bible. I then asked myself, "How well did any of these authors KNOW Jesus, or simply were told stories about Jesus?" If everyone who knew Jesus was dead by the time the books were written, then we are relying on people telling stories about Jesus. How much of Jesus' behaviors were captured by the stories?

Let me run off on a brief tangent.  Consider the following "event": The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. In the retelling of the event, even if the writer recites it accurately and "completely", there is much missing from the story: Where did it take place?  When did it take place?  What was the mindset of the fox (or dog)?  What was the aftermath? What was the motivation? Are any of these questions relevant? If so, would the written story be misleading? Is every element of the "event" relevant?  If not, would the inclusion of the irrelevant elements have an impact on future readers in an unintended way?

My wife likes to boast about me, often in my presence.  I've heard the dozen or so stories she tells about me repeatedly.  I hardly consider the sum of those stories a real description of who I am.  Some border on deceptive, but not enough to tell my wife she is wrong.  Other friends of mine (from before I met my wife) tell other stories about me.  Those stories paint an entirely different type of person.  Neither are wrong, just different because they view me from a different perspective and time period.

Getting back to the main thought thread... How much of Jesus' lessons are reported?  And of the ones repeated enough to make it into a written book, how well do they portray the message Jesus wanted to deliver?  How much of the stories have been embellished or the focus of the story changed to address some contemporary issue?

Going back to the quick brown fox...  What if the original focus of the story is the smartness of the fox to take the shortest path when addressing an emergency.  Would a couple decades of retelling lose the original focus as people discuss the differences between quick foxes compared to lazy dogs?  Imagine another group thinking the story is about how we should jump when addressing all obstacles.  How about a third group thinking the lesson of the story is to not allowing jumping foxes to disturb our focus.  Add a couple decades before writing down what you think you were told and presto, different books with the same story, but different meanings.  Add a couple centuries and have a handful of people decide which books are the most "authentic" canon.

Friday, March 3, 2023

Do not seek to follow the footsteps...

 There is a Buddhist saying: "Do not seek to follow the footsteps of Buddha.  Seek instead what Buddha sought."  The nuance may be subtle, but truly different.  Visiting the places Buddha visited and saying the words that Buddha spoke will not give you the enlightenment Buddha sought and found.

Buddha went looking for answers to life and found them.  Finding those answers ourselves require we bring into ourselves, at a much deeper level, the same questions and research.  Buddha helps point the way to enable others to find enlightenment easier, but each person must still follow the path that Buddha followed.

I've often tried to apply this logic to christianity.  I've even tried to figure out what pithy saying I could use about Jesus that would correlate to the Buddhist saying.  I think I found something close.

"Seek not to live your life with Jesus in it.  Seek instead to live your life as Jesus lived." It's like the difference between a cult and a following. The "Christ Cult" honors Jesus over the teachings. Whereas the "Jesus Followers" honors the message Jesus spoke over himself.

Mind you, there are some early references supporting a Christ Cult. Consider the volume of the Gospels space it taken up with the lead up and death of Jesus. The various letters in the bible, for example First Corinthians 15:1-3, spell it out as such.

I hear a great deal of "Praise Jesus" and "Hallelujah", as if recognizing the relationship between Jesus and ourselves is the main goal of christianity.  But is being christian about the relationship, or is it about the message and teachings of Jesus?

Jesus, in the earliest documents, tends to downplay his divine status focusing more on two things: helping and caring for one another, regardless of social stigma... and teaching us to behave the same.  By both word and deed, Jesus' focus was on love, caring, and community.  His message was not focused on "praise me."

So, I wonder, what percentage of time do we spend praising Jesus compared to time spent loving unconditionally everyone, including those we would otherwise disagree with?  How much time do we spend loving those who disagree with us, say...  politically? or sexually? or perhaps religiously?

Thursday, February 9, 2023

On the question of tithing and church size

 I have often looked at the magnificent cathedrals and churches and been amazed by what it took to make them.  The number of people, toiling hours on end - months!, to build and decorate these edifices.  And the scale: how large they are that they can gather so many people in one place.

Then, it dawns on me the financial requirements to create them as well as the source of those finances.

If you require a flat tax of 10% from each and every person, coupled with an large (and growing) congregation, the money needed to support the system vastly out paces the cost of the infrastructure.  What is done with the money?  (spent on oneself in the name of marketing.). Imagine, if you will, a group of 9 people, each giving 10% to support a preacher.  The math says, the preacher ends up living like the average member.  But, with a little marketing to grow the congregation, that same preacher now becomes the more well off of members.  Add 9 more people: the preacher is now bringing in twice the "income" as the average person in the congregation.  Now, look to those churches and cathedrals.  Imagine a small church with only 50 or 60 members.  Now the minister can really make a financial killing.  But build a cathedral with seating capacity in the thousands, and presto, the church can make a killing fleecing the flock.

It's no wonder the christian religion "encourages" tithing.  Is it really to "help the poor"?  What is the standard for "poor"?  Is it someone in the bottom 2% of people in the world?  If so, taking 10% from every member will seriously convert those poor to rather well off in no time at all.  Since that is not happening, one has to wonder where the money is really going.

This cycle of tithing and church size disrupts the very purpose of God's church.  Consider instead an alternative idea.  But first, let's talk about quantity.

A church is a community.  It is a group of people with something in common that binds them together.  As the number of people in the community grows, the need for infrastructure (and associated costs) grows with it.  There are side effects:  The individuals in the community become less intimate with the community at large.  Knowing every person in a 20 person group is greater than knowing every person as intimately in a 2,000 person group.  Having a dinner party with 10 people feels entirely different than a dinner party with 100 people.  As the number of people in a group grows, the ability for any individual in the group to be close with all the other members of the group declines.  Sociology and group dynamics tells us that smaller groups build tighter bonds with one another.  The more personal the relationship, the smaller the group needs to be.

For a general social life, sociology says we put a maximum limit of 150 people per group.  At this size, everyone will know everyone at some level of detail.  Groups designed to work together on a common activity (say participate in a workshop) loose effectiveness beyond 50 people.  But to really know a person, and to be able to devote time to helping that person, the number drops down to somewhere less than 25.

Of course, there is an issue with a group being too small.  Two people can be easily swayed to change things to fit their own desires.  It takes a larger group to keep the original goals on point.

Personally, I think church sizes between 10 and 25 are ideal.  It allows people to really get to know one another while being large enough to be effective as an organization.  With this smaller organizational size, people can find organizational units that meet their needs best.  Having one large organization makes people with different perspectives all be coerced into one common view, minimizing the benefits of diversity.  It also makes people less connected when they only share the critical issues, but not the associated issues.  Imagine a group whose goal is to help others and like to go bike riding for fun.  If one of those people also wants to help others, but doesn't like to ride bikes, that person will not feel as connected as they would if they found a group who likes to help others and play board games (as an example.)

The other advantage of smaller groups is the overhead is less.  Ten people can simply meet in a house or apartment, or even outdoors.  The need to give money to support an infrastructure is eliminated.  I told you I would get back to tithings.

Considering a religion based on one statement, "Love Unconditionally", how much hierarchy does it really need?  If the groups are kept intimate, what infrastructure does it need?  With both of these issues resolved, what need is there for a regular tithing?  If someone has a need, the intimate group can pitch in and support them.  To love unconditionally means more than helping the poor and the stranger.  It is unconditional.

Two questions seem to rise up with this topic:  What happens when a group grows beyond 25 people.  Simple, it can divide itself into smaller groups.  Won't that create distance between people?  Perhaps.  But while you may be an tight-knit member of one group, that doesn't mean you must ignore others in other groups.  On the contrary, visiting other individuals and groups helps build bonds between the church as a whole.

What about tithing?  Without an overhead, there is no need to require a regular tithing being routed to infrastructure.  Does that mean there is no value in having a tithing?  Perhaps.  Perhaps a group feels the world around them needs money and, as a group, they may choose to tithe to help the group's goals.  Another group may find a greater need is skills or time.  The other advantage of smaller churches is the ability to focus on the needs of the world around them.  Again, if the need is greater than what an individual church can support, communication between churches may provide a solution.

A small church is not the same as an isolated church.  Instead, it is a stronger church with firm ties between each and every member of the congregation.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Waste of time?

 When I first created the Church Of Doug, it was to keep a library of programming code segments in one location.  In order to organize the various elements, I created the Church of Doug to help me find what I was looking for.  For example, if I needed a good randomizer, I knew if I built a page that randomly posted text (Sayings of Doug), I would more easily remember where to look for my random number generator.

Moreover, the Church Of Doug became my sandbox for testing out new code.  I would post something to see if it would work.  If it did, then I could simply copy the new idea into the project I was working on.

This no longer happens.  Instead, this site has become less of a development and testing sandbox and more of a slightly stale and crusty relic of my screams for attention?  Perhaps not the right word.  I have something meaningful to say and I don't want it cluttered with distraction.

I spent yesterday updating the back end of the site to be compatible with my new web technology.  I used an MVC format on my other sites before deciding to update this one.  And the only reason I wanted to update this one is so that I could have a simple way to post/share a specific saying as opposed to the random-only format it was.  I'm intrigued that the site I used to use for design and development is now the last place to receive my current (albeit almost outdated) process.

Why do I bother?  In general, nobody reads these posts or visits the Church Of Doug website.  The Facebook version draws very few.  Why then, do I persist?  Am I simply a glutton for rejection and enjoy being ignored?

I don't think so.  While I have a fantasy that someday, people will flock to my words, the realist in me knows that is not ever going to happen.  So is this now a waste of time?  What's it worth to me to keep this going?

With all the other areas of my life demanding my attention, this site still brings value to me.  I look back at what I've written.  I realize I have refined some things and changed my emphasis on other things.  It is for me, and me alone I am really doing this for.  I can help myself better understand myself and my motivations.  Helping me become a better me is a major goal of mine.

That brings with it a certain sadness.  I'm sad because I have something I want the rest of the world to contemplate.  I want the world to benefit from my discovery/understanding.  I believe my form of faith, a mixture of light heartedness and deep contemplation, paired with a loving and compassionate soul, is one society would benefit from.  (Certainly not the individual followers, as it is a difficult path to stay on.)

Yes, I want others to follow my example.  The world would be a better place if all people presumed innocence of the actions and words presented to them.  Imagine people helping each other selflessly to the point where there is no need to be selfish. Yes, the world I am encouraging through my own actions and thoughts would be better than the killing, theft, and abuse I see all around me.  If only people would be more like me!  Sigh, I also want them to live their own lives and not mine.  The diversity of this world is what makes it truly beautiful.  I would probably hate a world if everyone was "just like me".  It would be like painting with one color, no background color, no shades of brightness or texture.  All one and the same.  That would be boring.  Knowing me, I would do something to change it in the name of intellectual stimulation or variety.  No, I really don't want the whole world to read it and become identical no matter how much "better" it is.  It isn't.

So, why do I waste my time posting all of this if I don't want the world to see it.  I think it is for a few reasons.  It is for me.  I get to see myself with a longer view than my mind allows me to see.  I'm not distracted by current filters as much when I see what I was thinking before.  It is for my friends.  They get to see under the hood, into my naked thoughts.  They get to know me better, even if it is in retrospect.  And finally, perhaps a small handful of people throughout the world may see it and this is a seed of an idea they may germinate in their own lives and towns, done their way...with their own spin on these thoughts.

Besides, is it really a waste of time?  Compared to what?