So Nancy Pelosi is at it again, essentially stating that Hamas is a humanitarian organization. Way to go Nancy! John Kerry, for his part, has the backing of nearly all of the world’s major governments and yet has been ineffective in brokering a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. So the needless violence continues.
A series of maps of Palestine have been making the rounds recently with no serious explanation of the context as to how this area has changed over the years. Therefore, a little history lesson probably is required.
To begin with, the country of Palestine has never existed. Never. No kidding. The way that everyone talks about Palestine one would swear that Palestine was a real country, at least at some point in history; but no, Palestine has never been a country.
Palestine was the name given by Western powers to a large part of South Syria after the end of WWI, which ended with the defeat of the Ottoman Empire who ruled that area for the previous 600 years or so. As for the Palestinians, the word was then used to refer to all people residing in the general region of Palestine, regardless of religion or ethnicity (even Christians and Jews).
After World War I, the Ottoman Empire was carved into little pieces by world leaders. It was at that time that Iraq and Syria, for example, became nations for the first time. Don’t ask what gave them the authority to do that – more on that later. The League of Nations, a forerunner to the United Nations, mandated that a large area of the old Ottoman Empire would be set aside for a Jewish homeland. That area was given the name Palestine, and accordingly their action was referred to as the Palestine Mandate. Once that was accomplished, they then carved out three-fourths of Palestine to create a new Arab state. Of course politics being what it is, the new Arab nation called Transjordan (later renamed Jordan), was given to the Hashemite family (Saudis) to rule because they aided the British in fighting the Turks (Ottoman Empire). The Palestinians, who made up the vast majority of the people living in Jordan (and still do), were left out in the cold. Politics is wonderful, isn’t it?
Fast forward to 1967. In 1967, Israel was attacked by neighboring Arab states and at the conclusion of the Six-Day War took possession of certain parts of Jordan (generally known as the West Bank), among other lands. The United Nations has since declared that these are occupied territories. Again, what gives the United Nations the right to dictate to sovereign nations? Besides, down through history the winner of wars has always acquired so-called “occupied territories”. Otherwise by the same logic, California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas are occupied territories because they were acquired by the U.S.A. as the result of their war with Mexico. So once again, politics rules the day.
The seeds of discontent in the Middle East were sown by politicians at the end of World War I and their meddling continues to this day through the United Nations, or otherwise (for example, the U.S. government provides substantial financial support to both Israel and Hamas). The truth is that, in politics, war benefits many people whereas peace does not. Because of their financial support provided to both Israeli and Hamas, don’t you think that the U.S. government could pretty much dictate terms of a Middle East peace if they wanted to? After all, they committed large numbers of troops to Iraq and Afghanistan to presumably bring stability to those countries. Why not to Palestine? Politics is why not.
So the next time you hear the call for a Palestinian homeland, just remember that for politicians it is just rhetoric – part of the process of continuing the conflict rather than ending it. After all, the Palestinians already have a homeland – it’s called Jordan.
“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
– H. L. Mencken
In 2006, Mitch Albom wrote a book entitled The Five People You Meet In Heaven. You may have heard of it as it was a best-seller at the time. The premise of the book is that you won’t know what impact you have had or will have had in your lifetime until you die and go to heaven.
It’s an interesting premise and a great book too, in case you haven’t read it. The premise is somewhat true, although incomplete. Here’s the reasons why:
Reason #1: You are not born, at least not as you understand it.
Reason #2: You do not die, at least not as you understand it.
Reason #3: There is no place called Heaven, at least not as you understand it.
That’s saying quite a lot so, if I haven’t lost you already, let’s try and break it down.
It was none other than Albert Einstein who said that reality is an illusion. Max Planck, the father of modern science, added another layer to the mystery by declaring that the physical world is organized by consciousness. Despite the mystery, scientists have had some insights, though, into the nature of reality. Here are some interesting ideas on the subject:
- The act of observing is an act of creation – physicist John Wheeler
- Man experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. – Albert Einstein
- Our reality is an expression of a deeper order of existence that exists beyond space and time. – Michael Talbot, The Holographic Universe
So according to a number of scientists, our reality is really an illusion of consciousness, which harkens back to indigenous people who have always believed that reality is nothing more than a dream and that when we “die” the dream ends and we return home. If that is the case, what do we make of the physical world and our physical bodies? One way of looking at our physical selves is that they are a container, a suit if you will. Our bodies, then, can be more aptly viewed as vehicles for Creation to observe itself.
As Michael Talbot says, the source of Creation (heaven, for some) is beyond space and time and that is where we truly exist, and have always existed. Not here, but there. Think of the Source as a flashlight in a dark room (the universe). When you are “born”, the flashlight projects your light onto a wall of the room and when the flashlight is turned off you “die”. Of course, when you are ready to be reborn, your light can be projected onto another wall and you would then don a new suit.
Going back to The Five People You Meet In Heaven, I believe what needs to be added to its premise is this – since you have always existed you can not be born, nor can you die. It’s an eternal circle of life. Further, when you “die” and go to “heaven” you will be surprised to find that all of your loved ones are there, be they “dead” or “alive” in this world! Such is the illusion of life. Of course no one, not even religion, is going to tell you that.
Unfortunately, man is too preoccupied with surface values to notice the magnificence of nature, his true reality or his purpose in life. We blindly accept other people’s definition of good and evil, right and wrong or our place in the universe. Hopefully, you’ll eventually meet your five people in heaven. However when you do, I highly doubt it will be what you expected.
“We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love…and then we return home.”
- Australian aboriginal proverb
In 1996, John Horgan, a writer for Scientific American, wrote the book The End of Science. Ever since, it seems that certain scientists have been fretting over whether the role of science is diminishing because there is a limit to knowledge.
Andrew Strominger, a physics professor at Harvard University, would certainly disagree with Horgan. In a 2013 interview, Strominger said that while science knows very little about understanding the fundamental laws of Nature the “fun is just beginning” with regards to new discoveries. However, while Strominger admitted that there are a lot of things that scientists are sure that they don’t understand, they can still describe them in a very precise way. Really! One can precisely describe something that they don’t understand. It’s probably better to just admit that you don’t understand it and leave it at that.
Actually, I agree and disagree with both Horgan and Strominger. Strominger is right, but for the wrong reason. While it’s true that we have not fully explored the cosmos, there are limits to our knowledge of Creation. Science has actually admitted as much. It was none other than Albert Einstein who declared that, “The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe.” In other words, the fundamental laws of Nature are beyond man’s ability to comprehend them.
Einstein’s thinking goes like this: ““As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” Science’s own theory of quantum mechanics partially explains why. According to that theory, our physical world vanishes into vortexes of energy, into a quantum world beyond space and time, a world which is beyond our ability to experience. Since science is a process of observation and measurement, it can not prove what lies beyond our world, be it in a parallel universe or in another dimension within the Multiverse, or wherever else. Assuming that we even have the ability to understand the unexplainable (which is doubtful), there is still a limit to our knowledge because there is a limit to our ability to observe all of Creation (i.e. Creation, not just the Universe).
Max Planck, the father of modern physics, said that there is no such thing as matter, per se, and yet science continues to look for it (dark matter, for example). It’s sort of the trade secret of quantum physics – all there is, is consciousness. According to Planck, it’s consciousness that organizes quantum energy to produce “matter”. Of course, they don’t want you to know that you exist in a virtual reality matrix because that would imply the dreaded G word (i.e. “intelligent design”). After all, it was Jim Gates, a physicist at the University of Maryland, who said that there are computer codes embedded in the fundamental nature of the Universe!
“Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.” – Max Planck
Some say that the universe created life; further, that the universe has always existed and will always exist. Of course, that’s just a theory. No one has been able to explain exactly how that could be possible.
Einstein said that space/time (our universe) is a construct. So, the operative question is: Who constructed it? If our universe is simply a composition of naturally occurring elements (like, say, oxygen and hydrogen), then something had to have created it.
One of the hot topics in science today is what came before The Big Bang. Many scientists now believe that there is something beyond our universe, be it parallel universes, other dimensions or whatever. The implication is that there was a beginning to life, or a First Cause, that is outside of space and time (outside of our universe) and, therefore, beyond our ability to observe or understand. That means that science doesn’t know what caused our universe to come into existence in the first place. As Andrew Strominger, a physics professor at Harvard University, put it, “A singularity is when we don’t know what to do. What’s so embarrassing about singularities is that we can’t predict what’s going to come out of it.”
On the other hand, perhaps the universe created life through its own intelligence. In that case, it’s obviously an intelligent life form. We would then have to give a name to this intelligent life form. As I’ve suggested before, perhaps we could call it Bubba. However, for some, God might do just as well.
Yet, many people believe that they can use their own intelligence and logic to define the world that they live in. However, our perception of reality is severely limited, as it’s based largely on our physical senses. It was Albert Einstein that first told us that reality was an illusion and quantum mechanics has confirmed it. Therefore, what may seem logical to us is merely the brain’s interpretation of sensory data and not necessarily an indication of what is real. After all, what is truly real? In his book The Holographic Universe, Michael Talbot explained that reality is simply an expression/reflection of a deeper order of existence that exists beyond space and time. This “order of existence” then would have had to have been responsible, either directly or indirectly, for the Big Bang.
Yet, man has the arrogance to think that he somehow knows everything about the unknowable. As Stephen Hawking said, “One can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, but science makes God unnecessary.” I’m curious. Could God ever be unnecessary? Does Hawking feel that a Creator would not have provided the impetus which eventually would have resulted in all things, including science? I assume that what Hawking is really saying is that we should pray to him instead of to a higher power. However, he has yet to explain to us just who created God. Was it science?
“Beyond all finite experiences and secondary causes, all laws, ideas and principles, there is an Intelligence or Mind, the first principle of all principles, the Supreme Idea on which all other ideas are grounded.”
A number of people seem to have liked “Conversations With A Prophet” so I endeavored to bring him back again. Fortunately, I was able to ask the following questions and got these responses:
Query: What existed before the Big Bang? Reply: Creation has always existed in one form or another, even before the Big Bang.
Query: Okay, but since energy can be neither created nor destroyed, our universe must have come from somewhere. Reply: As it applies to this universe, it is true that energy can be neither created nor destroyed. However, the rules of physics don’t apply beyond space and time. So, technically it came from nothing.
Query: Nothing? Reply: To be more exact, nothing that you would understand.
Query: So when Joseph Campbell said that “God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought,” was he correct? Reply: Yes, except that God is much more than a metaphor.
Query: So Stephen Hawking was wrong when he said that, “One can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, but science makes God unnecessary.” Reply: To refer back to Joseph Campbell, isn’t science an intellectual thought (emphasis mine)?
Query: Okay, but why do some scientists, like the aforementioned Stephen Hawking, insist that science trumps God? Reply: He is an atheist, isn’t he?
Query: I get that, but can’t science tell us whether or not there is a God? Reply: Science is a process of observation, is it not?
Response: Yes. Reply: Do you understand that science cannot prove what exists beyond space and time simply by observing the universe?
Query: I had a discussion with an atheist friend of mine about morality. He said that atheists can be moral too. I reminded him that Sartre, an atheist himself, agreed with Dostoevsky that if God does not exist, everything is permitted. Who is right? Reply: Yes, atheists can be moral too – because they have the same innate wisdom that all men do. Interestingly enough, though, that innate wisdom comes from the very source that they reject. Sometimes, people reject that which they can’t explain as they seek certainty in their lives.
Query: Why is there such animosity between atheists and Christians? Reply: Some Christians are certain that they are right because of their faith while some atheists are certain that they are right because it’s so obvious, at least to them, that Christianity is – shall we say – illogical. However, certainty is an absurdity. People who do not have open minds will forever be arguing with one another and will never learn anything. They will be forever committed to a certain way of believing and thinking and a certain way of life.
Query: So who is right? Reply: Neither one. Christians who believe that their holy book is holier than all other religions are taking a giant leap of faith – based on what? Did God favor only the holy men of their religion above all others? As for atheists, they often say that God doesn’t exist because Christianity is not believable. Even if Christianity fails to make a case for its god, it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist – only that one rejects God as defined by Christianity.
Aside: The Prophet told me later that God doesn’t need anyone to worship him at all.
Query: So where does mankind go from here? Reply: Be the co-creators of reality that you were always meant to be. After all, didn’t Jesus say that all men are gods and will do greater things than him?
Epilogue: For a man who isn’t religious, it seemed out of place for him to be quoting the Bible (John 10:34 and John 14:12). Then again, who am I to argue with a prophet.
“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.”
Once upon a time the top scientific minds in the world believed that the Earth was flat. The same thing is true with respect to the Sun revolving around the Earth. Of course, science now says that the Earth revolves around the Sun. That’s the beauty of science. It’s always changing.
A recent survey showed that one in four people still believe that the Sun orbits the Earth. So it’s probably fair to say that 25% of the people haven’t learned what is considered to be a basic science lesson. The scientific explanation for this is that lighter objects orbit around heavier objects due to gravity. At least that’s the way that it has been explained.
Here’s where things get a bit murky, though. If the Earth was rotating around the Sun in a circle, it would return to its original starting point after one year. However, after one year the Earth is actually billions of miles away from its starting point at the beginning of the year. I’m sure that sounds strange, but let’s break it down. The traditional picture of the Earth rotating around the Sun has the Sun in the middle of the picture with the Earth rotating around it in a circle. I believe that picture is, for the most part, incorrect. Here’s why.
The truth is that life doesn’t move in circles, but rather in spirals (think DNA or the Fibonacci Spiral). So too, planets, suns, solar systems and whole galaxies move in spirals. So in the picture of the Earth rotating around the Sun, the Sun is not really stationary (as pictured). That is, the Sun is in motion constantly rotating around the galactic center.
Our entire solar system is obviously, then, moving through space together. The solar system, including the Sun and the Earth, is moving at approximately 450,000 miles per hour, while the Earth separately rotates at 67,000 miles per hour relative to the Sun. The only way for them to move through space together is for the Sun to drag the Earth along behind it (not unlike an RV towing a car)!
Now I don’t expect the scientific community to accept my logic. Admittedly, I’m not a scientist and I didn’t follow the scientific method. However, in science, things are always changing as old theories are being replaced by new theories. After all, the Earth was once flat, right?
“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.”
- John Maynard Keynes
There were apparently two Eves, two mothers of all mankind. One, according to the Bible was created some 5,000 to 6,000 years ago. The other, according to certain anthropologists, first arose out of Africa perhaps 200,000 years ago and is referred to as Mitochondrial Eve. So will the real Eve please stand up. While the Bible, as I’ve mentioned before in a number of other posts, has never been able to come close to proving its timeline, science continues to struggle with its own theories. I say theories because they’re always changing or as Ashley Montague once said, “Science is proof without certainty.”
Take the theory of Mitochondrial Eve for example. Based on the work of Alan Wilson and Rebecca Cann, science discarded its previous concept of the origins of man and fully embraced Wilson and Cann’s “Out of Africa” theory. Again, it was simply a “theory”. In their seminal paper entitled The Recent African Genesis of Humans Wilson and Cann actually posited, “that all humans today can be traced along maternal lines of descent to a woman who lived about 200,000 years ago, probably in Africa.” The operative word here is probably and yet science gladly embraced it as fact.
Of course, the issue is now somewhat moot as Wilson and Cann realized that their findings were flawed. Based on their new tests on Australian Aboriginal mitochondrial DNA, they put the origin of man back to 400,000 years ago, in their opinion earlier than any other racial group. That’s Australia, mate, not Africa. The thing is that science is like a dog with an old bone. That is, it doesn’t want to give it up the “Out of Africa” theory.
As for myself, it doesn’t matter what science and religion believe in or which dogmatic idea holds sway at any point in time. As Bernard Werber so eloquently put it, “The point is not to believe or not believe. What matters is to ask as many questions as possible.” As for religion, it will be forever be married to the idea that God created the world in six days and science will constantly be in love with its theory du jour. Through it all, probably no one will believe that it would have been possible to have had multiple Adam and Eves in various locations around the planet; further, no one will believe that man had existed on this planet for millions of years; no one will believe that evolution was aided and directed by off-planet entities; and certainly no one will believe that there is a God, a prime creator of all things, but that he is not the god of the Bible. Instead, we are stuck with the tale of two Eves.
“Every conscious thought you have, every moment you spend on an idea, is a commitment to be stuck with that idea and with aspects of that level of thinking, for the rest of your life.”
- Kevin Michel, Moving Through Parallel Worlds To Achieve Your Dreams
Christianity has always been a puzzle to me. After all, how did a bunch of Jewish zealots produce arguably the greatest religion ever known?
The origins of Christianity are a tangled web of conflicting beliefs. During its formation (the 350 year period after Jesus), the church fathers, certain influential church bishops and different Christian groups, including Arianism, put forth their ideas for the new religion resulting in diverse interpretations of Christian beliefs. Out of all the confusion finally arose the Catholic Church with its Roman imperial theology which ruled the day and defined what Christians were, and were not, to believe in. Eventually, Christianity would splinter into the Orthodox Church and into Protestantism (through the Reformation) and the Protestant movement would further splinter into a myriad of different denominations and beliefs.
The roots of Christianity, however, go back much further – arguably to the Garden of Eden. The core tenet of Christianity is salvation through Christ and this presupposes the concept of Original Sin (otherwise, if a person was not born in sin, they might not need to be saved) and this in turn is based on the story of Adam and Eve and the Fall of Man. The problem is that the interpretation by Christianity of the Genesis story runs counter to Jewish custom, tradition and religious belief.
This tangled web has its roots in Judaism, as the Genesis story is part of the Jewish Bible (i.e. Old Testament). The Jewish Bible, of course, was written by Jews, about Jews and for Jews. It was never intended for Gentiles. It was never meant to be transformed from a story that is allegorical in nature to one that is supposed to be taken literally. As Origen of Alexandria (the first theologian of Christianity) said about the Genesis story, “For who that has understanding will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars? And that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life? And again, that one was a partaker of good and evil by masticating what was taken from the tree? And if God is said to walk in the paradise in the evening, and Adam to hide himself under a tree, I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally (emphasis mine).”
The Jewish Bible/ Old Testament is not about salvation, but rather is about the Law (the Torah). As Jesus himself said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke or a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18). Yet, how many Christians today believe in and obey the Torah. None, of course. However as the Dead Sea Scrolls make clear, the disciples observed the Torah – because they, like Jesus, were Jewish. Therefore, they did not believe in Original Sin (as Judaism did not recognize it); besides Saint Augustine (354-430 A.D.) was the first theologian to teach the concept.
Among the great minds of ancient times, Philo of Alexandria and Saint Augustine did not believe in the literal interpretation of the creation story either. Further, Paul in Galatians 4:21-31 refers to the Genesis story about the sons of Abraham as an allegory. So even the New Testament views that the Old Testament was, at least in part, allegorical (i.e. not the literal Word of God). Surprisingly, there is a diversity of opinion on Original Sin even within Christianity, with some Christian churches accepting the concept and others not. The Vatican, for its part, recently announced that aliens may be real and, if so, may be free from Original Sin!
So if the Genesis story is allegorical, then the concept of Original Sin is just that – a concept, based on a much later interpretation of scripture (Jewish scripture at that). Without the premise of Original Sin, there would be then be no need for a messiah like Jesus. Besides, Moses said, in effect, that a messiah was not necessary as man can and must merit his own salvation (see Deuteronomy 30:11-20). If Moses believed that, why would anyone want to change it? …unless….
“… and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth….” (Genesis 8:21). According to Genesis 8:21 then, man was not born evil, he became evil during his life.
I have this dilemma about the Old Testament that I’m hoping that someone can help me out with. You see the Old Testament is considered to be the Word of God by the Jewish people and is the basis for their religion and their belief system about God. The Old Testament is also considered to be the Word of God by Christians and, along with the New Testament, forms the basis for their religion and their belief system about God. It just seems to me that that is not possible. The reason for my quandary is that Judaism and Christianity come to different conclusions about what the Word of God in the Old Testament means. After all, by definition, their religions are different, right?
Not to digress, but I was reading the opinion of the Campus Crusade for Christ which addresses the question of why the Old Testament is the Word of God. Their website stated that,“‘Thus says the Lord’, or its equivalent, occurs more than 2,000 times in the Old Testament.”
Aside: For me, theses quotes in the Old Testament about “Thus says the Lord” kind of reminds me of my minister starting his sermon with, “And last night God spoke to me.”
A consensus of historians and theologians say that they don’t know exactly who wrote the Old Testament. So how can anyone accept at face value that these words were actually spoken by God. The answer apparently is that the prophets said so. More to the point, the stories in the Bible written by these same unknown authors say that that’s what the prophets said. How’s that for circular logic!
The only thing that we do know with some certainty is that these biblical passages were finally written down hundreds of years after the events were suppose to have occurred. To make matters worse, the New Testament says that God is invisible, God is spirit and that no man has ever seen God. Therefore, it’s unlikely that God actually spoke to anyone. Further, God apparently hasn’t conversed with anyone else in the last two thousand years or so. Not even a tweet.
And the answer is:
Keep in mind that Christianity has many different denominations some of which interpret the Word of God differently than everyone else, including other Christians. The truth is that there is no one Christianity and there is no one Christian interpretation of the Word of God (Note: even the Campus Crusade for Christ acknowledged the diversity in Christian doctrine as evidenced by the church fathers who differed in their teachings). However, despite the diversity the Old Testament is still suppose to be the Word of God, for everyone – Christians, Jews and, as the Pope would say, even the atheists. You see my dilemma? Help me out.
“No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says – he is always convinced that it says what he means.”
- George Bernard Shaw
Religious seekers tend to live their lives walking backwards; that is, they proceed by faith and not by sight. Too often, though, faith is the byproduct of the subconscious mind. Not possible, you might say. Well, consider that science says that at least 95% of our cognitive activity occurs in the subconscious mind (outside of our awareness).
Faith, then, is simply a belief – by definition it is not proof, as if there could ever be proof that God exists. Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein best expressed that sentiment this way, “At the core of all well-founded belief, lies belief that is unfounded.” In that regard, religious scriptures are beliefs, not truths. Scripture, however, might be considered by a believer to be the truth because they have faith in those writings. For example, Hindus have faith in their Bhagavad Gita, Judaism the Torah, Muslims the Q’uran and Christians have their Bible. To each group, their sacred writings are considered to be the truth about God, to the exclusion of all other religious writings and beliefs.
It’s a truism that man doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. Nevertheless, he still claims to be certain. It’s what I call proof without certainty. We claim to know God even though as the Pascal Wager states, “If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible.” Plato, one of the great thinkers of all time, reasoned that, “Beyond all finite experiences and secondary causes, all laws, ideas and principles, there is an Intelligence or Mind, the first principle of all principles, the Supreme Idea on which all other ideas are grounded.” What’s important to note is that his idea of God does not apply to most people’s use of the terms the Creator or the Father but rather to what Plato would call a First Cause. Can we even contemplate what a First Cause might entail? Probably not, even if we walk backwards.
“God is a metaphor which transcends all levels of intellectual thought.”
- Joseph Campbell