Showing posts from November, 2008

Paul vs. Jesus

I just finished a book that forcefully argues one of my points in God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky —the discrepancy between the teaching of Jesus and the teaching of Paul. In How Jesus Became Christian (copyright 2008), Barrie Wilson gives the Jewish perspective on that gap. Vividly he shows the conflict evident in New Testament letters between Paul, whom he dubs “a Jewish dropout,” and the Jewish Christians led by Jesus’ brother James, who continued Jewish practice while upholding the memory of Jesus. Wilson writes, So the human teacher . . . became elevated quickly into a Christ and then into a God. . . . How did a God come to replace a thoroughly human, Jewish Jesus? Wilson attributes Christian anti-Semitism to “guilt at having killed off the historical Jewish Jesus in favor of a Gentile God-human.” Jews were witnesses to this “crime,” the only ones who “could ‘blow the cover’ off” the crime, and this explains “the sustained attack on Judaism throughout Christian history,” accordi

What’s good about the financial crisis

This writing of mine appeared in the St. Cloud Times: “Cutting back is good for planet.” The current financial crisis could be a good thing if it stops foolish consumer bingeing, which is destroying the planet and its people.

Distinguish religion & spirituality

I swim in contrasting spiritual cultures—with those who are attached to religion and with those who are hostile or indifferent to religion. I reconcile them by keeping in mind an important distinction. Religion and spirituality are not the same thing, but they are often conflated. I think distinguishing between them could ease communication between two communities that chafe against each other. Spiritual experiences that happen to everyone are called religious, and this conflation of the two deprives those who want to avoid religion of appreciating their essentially spiritual nature. In a discussion with atheists, I asked whether they didn’t prefer kindness to cruelty. Yes, they said, but that’s not spiritual. Not spiritual! It reminds me of a government declaring, “We don’t torture,” and, when given an example of their torturing, simply changing the definition of torture. In my July 31 blog post, I cited a feature on artist Meinrad Craighead in the National Catholic Reporter , which s

The Trinity

October 9, 2008 Before I published God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky I had written several times as much on theological questions. One topic was the Trinity. Since a comment came in on that, I’ve decided I need to write some blog posts on it. Today I’ll just say that the Trinity is not unique to Christianity. There are Buddhist and Hindu trinities, a variety of Hellenistic pagan trinities, and countless other religious trinities, among them Goddess trinities. Religions reflect our universe of three dimensions governed by the laws of physics. Objects have height, width, and depth. Matter appears as solid, liquid, or gas and animal, vegetable, or mineral. Time is past, present, or future. More three-fold stages are maiden, mother, and crone; larva, pupa, and butterfly; the primary colors of red, yellow, and blue; and Hegel’s thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Alert readers will discover more examples. I expect I will return to this topic intermittently. ******** It stuns me t

Catholic bishops on abortion

Not too long ago I resolved to avoid discussing abortion in this space. It’s more political than religious and my primary purpose here is to provoke new reflection about religious beliefs. This political campaign threw me into the abortion issue again. I hope this is my last post on it but, “never say never.” I agree with the Christian right that abortion is wrong, but radical pro-lifers fail to consider difficulties surrounding the issue and insist it’s black and white, abortion is murder, and we have to vote for candidates who want to overturn Roe v. Wade . Catholic bishops quoted in the National Catholic Reporter seem to disagree. In an article headlined “Antiabortion imperative more complex than acknowledged,” John Allen writes that most bishops consider abortion a grave evil but "also recognize that a specific court decision or piece of legislation can never be an article of faith . . . there are other ways, perhaps even better ways, to oppose abortion. . . . The desire to d