Friday, July 19, 2013

#83- Truth Does Not Matter To Religious People.



The title of the post seems provocative and it may be so. However, allow me to prove my point. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of religions that are active today. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of defunct religions as well.  Some of these religions make competing claims that cannot be reconciled.  It is possible, however, that all of these active religions are wrong about their claims at the same time.



I am currently taking a class on world religion and I am learning more about the faiths of the East.  Just like all the other religions that I am familiar with, the Eastern religions have many denominations.  In time these denominations my splinter off into new religions and make more claims.  For the purpose of this blog, I will reference the 3 most popular Abrahamic religions because they are the ones that I am most familiar with.



Claim Judaism Christianity Islam
Nature of god/s 1 god named Yahweh who favors Jews and Judaism over other peoples and religion. A Trinity made up of Yahweh, Jesus, and a Holy Ghost. Allah is god’s name.  He really hates when people attach partners to him.  He wants you to be Muslim and follow Muhammad.
On Jesus A guy who tried to lead Jews astray from the true religion. God himself in the flesh. A prophet but not a god.
Word of god. TaNaKh (24 books) Some combination of the Jewish Bible (TaNaKh) and Greek writings (New Testament) 66 books for Protestants and 73 books for Catholics. Qur’an as reveal to Muhammad.
How to be saved from Hell. There is NO hell. Repent and accept Jesus as Lord and savior. Worship god alone and follow the examples of Muhammad.
Day of rest Saturday Sun Day (for most Xtians) Friday
Can you eat pork? No Sure No
Is Jesus a messiah? No Yes Yes
Is the Pope an agent of God? No Yes, if you are Catholic.  No, if you are Protestant. No





OK, so we have covered some basics.  There are a lot more differences between these religions but these examples should suffice for now.  Let us assume that Judaism got all the claims right.  Let us further assume that Jews have successfully carried the burden of proof for the above claims with evidence, logic, etc.  Finally, let us assume that after the Jews have done the job of presenting their case that all the major news networks around the world decide to broadcast the results of the findings.

The question is:  how long will it take for people to give up the various forms of Christianity and Islam?  Do you really think that the evidence and logic presented by the Jews will make a difference to the believers of the sides that lost the argument?  I don’t think so.  Now, keep in mind that the sampling of differences above does not include questions that affect and involve all 3 religions at once.  For example, all 3 religions share the myth of Adam & Eve.  We know that humans evolved out of Africa and that the early populations could not have come from 1 pair of Homo Sapiens because of the need for variation in the genetic pool to avoid deformities.  This has been one of the big issues with the culture war between Creationism and Evolution.  But we won’t touch on that now.  I just wanted to show some theological difference that the 3 popular Abrahamic religions share.

I don’t think that if the Jews were indeed correct in the categories above that it would make much of a difference.  This includes after news presentation of the facts.  Therefore, facts or truths of the claims ultimately do not matter to some people.  They will continue to believe for their own private reasons.

So, how exactly did the other religions die off?  What is your opinion?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

#80- Conversions: How Does It Affect You?

How many converts do you know personally ?  I know quite a few.  Does the testimony of converts sway you at all?

I know converts from all different walks of life that have chosen  a myriad of different religions and philosophies.  Their testimonies can be powerful and effective.


I remember hearing a Muslim podcast of a young man who became Muslim.  It was very moving and sincere.  After he found Islam he reported feeling a sense of inner peace.

I also remember my aunt telling me about a woman who ran away from her husband who was a Freemason.  The woman came to her church to testify of her ordeals.  She supposedly talked about all the weird things that her Mason husband was doing and could not take it any more.  I think at the end of the story my aunt said that the husband saw the error of his ways.  As a young man this story stuck to me because I didn't know what Freemasons did and I certainly never entertained the thought that my aunt was lying or mistaken.

When I became a Christian it wasn't really a conversion.  I was born to a Catholic family.  I came to the United States and started to go to the churches that my mother went to by force at first.  These churches were Protestant and not Catholic.  I noticed the differences between the different kinds of Christianities but didn't ponder much on them.  At about 17 years old, I gave in to  pressure and said the magic words (The Lord's Prayer) and became Christian.

I would hear testimonies sparingly after I became Christian.  New converts and people who felt that God saved them always seemed to have riveting stories.  Most of these testimonies were from Christians that had fallen away however.  I rarely heard or thought of other people converting OUT of Christianity.  I did not occur to me that people had interests in other religions as well.

One of the big themes that seem to tie the conversions that I'm familiar with is the notion of finding inner peace.  A lot of the converts describe a type of relief to have found the right way to live or the right religion.  They often seem to become docile and kinder.  Others seemed relieved to find a community that shared their views or religion.

A lot of converts overcame some very terrible situations.  Some found their calling while in jail.  Some became convinced after doing research.  Others were impressed by someone who they met.  Some stories are more fantastic than others.

I chose to highlight a few converts and share my thoughts about them.  I will go in alphabetical order in order to promote fairness.  These people fall into the following categories:  Atheists, Buddhist, Christians, Hindus, Jews, and Muslims.


Atheists: Seth Andrew and Dan Barker.




Seth Andrew is The Thinking Atheist.  He was a Christian.

The Thinking Atheist was a mystery to most for a while.  Not too long ago Seth Andrew decided to show the face behind the powerful voice.  He was a Christian and now has a successful podcast series.


















Dan Barker was a Christian minister and became atheist.









Dan Barker was an evangelist for a long time.  He learned to speak Spanish in order to win people to Jesus in Mexico.  After a long bout with doubt he decided to leave Christianity.  He now helps run the Freedom From Religion Foundation with his wife.













Buddhists: Steve Jobs and Richard Gere

Steve Jobs is the late genius from Apple.  Many people are aware that he help create the iPod and iPhone.  Jobs' legacy was helped Apple maintain an edge in the electronics market.  What many people didn't know about Jobs is that he was a Buddhist.




Richard Gere is best remembered for his role with Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman".  Julia Roberts made my list as well but Gere has made no secret of his devotion to Buddhist philosophy.   Hollywood has be associated to Scientology lately but Gere keeps on doing his thing.


Richard Gere

















Christians: Kirk Cameron, Anthony Flew*, and Lee Strobel





 Kirk Cameron is a former child star on the show "Growing Pains".  He is now a Christian.  He said that he was a "devout atheist".   What a devout atheist is only Kirk knows.  He now can be seen making crappy movies and co-stars  with Ray Comfort in a horrible set of apologetics called "The Way of the Master".
Kirk Cameron








 Anthony Flew


Anthony Flew
Flew was rumored to have become a deist at the end of his life.  I include him here only because I have heard Christians use him as a positive example how someone can stop being an atheist.  As far as I know Flew became convinced of a deity based on an argument from ignorance.  However, when discussing atheism and conversions, do not be surprised if a Christian uses his name as a reference in their favor.





 Lee Strobel

Lee Strobel
Lee Strobel was a former journalist who used his investigative skills to inquire into Christianity when his wife became a Christian out of nowhere.  Lee said that she became a much nicer person after her conversion and he wanted to see if there was anything to this Christian thing.  After a lot of research, interviews, and reading Lee became convinced that Christian had an "unfair advantage" in the market of facts in regards to religion.  He went on to write a series of books about this investigative adventure with "The Case For Christ" being the most famous and the one that I read.

I gave The Case For Christ a good look as I was doing some last minute cross-examination into my dwindling belief in Christianity.  His book seemed excellent at that time.  After I saw a review of it on Amazon the proverbial scales started to fall from my eyes.  Strobel did not interview an serious critic of the Bible or Christianity.  Today I know of plenty of resources that he could have used.  Also, what would have happened if he looked into other religions with the same fervor?

At this point I am comfortable calling out Strobel as a liar and a salesman.  I don't think he was an atheist as much as he was ignorant of Christianity.  I rejected Christianity because I researched.  He apparently found Christian gold at the end of some rainbow.  The result is a huge payday for him and I toil in obscurity.



Hindus:  Julia Roberts and Ricky Williams





Julia Roberts
Julia Roberts has had a successful career as an actress in Hollywood.  She is mostly known in her role as a lovable prostitute in "Pretty Woman" opposite Richard Gere.  While going through the list of converts to Hinduism I found her name there.



















Ricky Williams giving #24 da business
Ricky Williams was a great running back who came from the University of Texas.  He was drafted by the New Orleans Saints and went on to play for the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens.  He was suspended for using marijuana multiple times.  He is Hindu as well.











Jews:  Sammy Davis Jr., Elizabeth Taylor, Shyne (rapper)


Sammy Davis Jr.
Sammy Davis Jr. was a famous singer who was part of "The Rat Pack" which included the likes of Frank Sinatra.  Somewhere along the way he decided to follow the religion of Judaism.
















Elizabeth Taylor was a famous actress known for her beauty.



Elizabeth Taylor converted to Judaism























Rapper Shyne became a Jew
Jamal "Shyne" Barrow was found on the list of converts to Judaism.  This was a total surprise to me.  Please read the Wikipedia article about him.  I found it fascinating.
















Islam: Loon, Cat Stevens, Mike Tyson


Loon
The former rapper Loon was hot for a minute.  It was a shock to a lot of people when he became Muslim in 2009.











Cat Stevens


Cat Stevens is now Yusuf Islam.  He was born in England and is a proponent of peace in the world.  He first became famous for being a musician.  He converted in 1977.








Mike Tyson was one of the best and fiercest fighters in the 1990s.  He converted to Islam while in prison circa 1995.







Saul of Tarsus and Honorable mentions

The most famous conversion story that I know of is the one of Saul of Tarsus.  Saul was once a persecutor of the neophyte Christian religion.  Enjoyed terrorising any and all members of the then budding off-shoot of Judaism.  According to the legend, Saul was on his  to Damascus in Syria when he got knocked off his horse and heard (or saw) none other than Jesus.  Jesus essentially told him  to chill the fuck out and stop being a player hater.  Jesus then blinded Saul who was later renamed Paul.  Another new convert was sent to get him and care for him until scales was said to fall from his eyes and he regained his vision.

Paul went on to write most of the Christian writings.  His story is quite amazing and exciting.  I can not overemphasize how great of a 180 degree turn the story of Saul is supposed to represent.  In modern day times it would be as if Osama bin Laden went on to become the Secretary of Defense of the United States.  It was that drastic and dramatic.

I would describe Paul as a mix of a lawyer, politician, preacher and a Special Forces soldier.  After his conversion, the 12 apostles that were the core group of Jesus' followers, were very skeptical of Paul.  They reluctantly accepted him into their clique.  Paul went on to spread the message of his new conviction like his hair was on fire. 

It should be noted that most of Paul's audiences were Gentiles who had 0 clue of what the requirements of a Messiah was.  Paul was very unsuccesful where there were a large Jewish population who could fact-check his claims.  Paul sold his credentials as a former Jew who studied under a teacher named Gamaliel.
Saul of Tarsus rendering as Jesus confronts him on the road to Damascus







Tina Turner is Buddhist.
Tina Turner














 Russell Brand is Hindu.
Russell Brand















 Doug Batchelor is said to be a former atheist.  He is now a successful Seventh Day Adventist pastor.
Pastor Doug Batchelor



Ann Rice was atheist and became Catholic and is now something spiritual.
Ann Rice













Conclusion
Our lives take us down different paths.  People have different experiences and are often exposed to different information.  Changing your religion or leaving religion altogether can be a very traumatic experience.  I am sure that most of these people highlighted here would not convert after hearing each other's reasons for changing their beliefs.  I think that a persons innate personality may be a reason for that.  Just as we simply like certain colors because they appeal to us, it may be that religions are a type of "philosophical color" that appeals to certain people for their own private reasons.










#79- Language, Laymen, Lexicon, and Little Lies





Once upon a time I had thoughts of leaving my home church and joining another.  I visited an up-and-coming church called "Tabernacle of Glory" which was led by a young, energetic, multi-langual, and charismatic pastor named Gregory Toussaint.  It was there that I noticed something that caught my eye.  They had a Haitian Creole Bible on a table.






Happy members of Tabernacle of Glory
Pastor Gregory Toussaint and his wife
I picked up the Haitian Creole Bible and went to random verses of interest.  I found myself intrigued by the choice of words that the translators used.  Like most languages, a person may have a number of options when describing a certain thing.  I felt that certain liberties were carefully taken as to pacify some verses in the Bible.


Tabernacle of Glory (TG) is a diverse church
I remember feeling as if I could place the location from which the translator was from.  I pictured a White man or white people from the United States' South that had taken a liking to the plight of Haitians.  I imagined that they either took the trouble to learn Haitian Creole themselves or found a fellow Christian who was a speaker of Haitian Creole.  I think the former is more likely than the latter.

I did not appreciate the nuances of language and its effects on the Bible and religious books until then.  By that time I had already finished the entire New International Version (NIV) of the Protestant Bible.  Therefore, I was very familiar with the stories.  Although Haitian Creole was not taught to me formally as a child, I had little trouble reading the text.  What I discovered was that it was not easy to describe certain things to the target audience.  I read what I thought was a crude translation of things such as animals that some Haitians may not know exist and may not have a point of reference to work from. Using the NIV as my standard, I compared certain verses.



 The verse that caught my attention the most is Isaiah 45:7 which reads in some English versions as:
Haitian man steps around dead bodies after the 2010 earthquake



"I form the light, and create darkness:
I make peace, and create evil:
I the Lord do all these things."
-Authorized King James Version




Some English versions substitute the word "evil" for "calamity" or "disaster".  But the damage has been done.  The verse clearly displays a series of opposites and God says that he does all these things.
The Haitian Creole Version renders the same verse this way:
"7 Mwen mete limyè, mwen mete fènwa! Mwen bay kè poze, mwen bay kè sote. Se mwen menm Seyè a ki fè tou sa." 

The first part of the verse is a really good rendering of the key words "light" as "limyè" and "darkness" as "fènwa".  But then "peace" was rendered as "kè poze" and "evil" or "calamity" was carefully rendered as "kè sote".

So, what is the difference?  The better translation of "peace" would be "la paix" or "la pè".  The better translation of "evil" or "calamity" would be "malè" or "dezas".  Kè poze means "relaxed" while kè sote means "to be startled" or "fear".  I think this was done intentionally.





What would happen if the Christians in Haiti were to find out and acknowledge that evil and disasters came from their Lord?  I'm especially interested in them drawing a straight line of conclusion between the recent earthquake to the passage above.  As of now I have heard nothing about this.  I think that this is because very few believers actually read their bibles no matter what the language is.  Furthermore, some who are aware of these troublesome verses actually go out of their way to apologize in favor of the Jewish god while blaming the victims of disasters.






Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Virgins


The shift in words and meanings have had greater effects than people care to admit.  The book of Isaiah provides another example of a concept that has had a far reaching consequence.  This one is about the female found in Isaiah chapter 7.  The Jews maintain that the word in verse 14 should be "young woman" from the word "almah".  Christians turned that word into "virgin" from the word "bethulah".  This was then used as proof of a prophecy for the divine nature of Jesus who would go on to be elevated to the status of a god.

About 6 centuries later, the prophet of Islam Muhammad goes on to preach that Jesus was indeed born of a virgin Mary.  The Qur'an goes on to expand upon the story of Jesus' birth about events where the Christian Bibles are silent.

My claim is that if the Jews are correct, then Christianity suffers a blow to its credibility for forging a prophecy and Muhammad is also convicted of getting erroneous information from whatever sources Muslims claim he got his information from.





Since these books were translated and re-translated from a long list of languages it is not unlikely that mistakes and willful changes were made.  Bart Ehrman illustrated some of this things in his best selling book "Misquoting Jesus".





Monday, July 1, 2013

#81- ACN: A Cult Experience- Part 1

I promote critical thinking.  Unfortunately, I am not a champion of skepticism now or in the past.  I wish I could say that I will be a decision making titan in the future but that may never be the case.

Let me tell you a story that shows that I am human and susceptible to questionable decisions just like anyone else.

Background Story:

I was moonlighting/dating this young lady who had no further use for me and dismissed me unceremoniously.

I was extremely dejected and looked to make sure that I was never fired like that again.  She did not tell me exactly why she chose not to keep seeing me but I guessed that it came down to two main things:

1.  I was out of shape.
2.  She made more money than me.

To solve the first problem, I started going LA Fitness...religiously (pun intended).  To solve the second problem, I joined a company called "ACN".




The crazy thing is that I have joined other multi-level marketing programs before.  All of my experiences have not been positive.  But powered but my recent snub, I was determined to become the successful entrepreneur that I wanted to be for a long time.

Max Knowles
The first order of business was to attend one their weekly seminars at this hotel in Broward County.  The presenter and star of the show was Max Knowles.  He was the leader and organizer of the local group.  It took a few meetings to convince me to part ways with $500 I barely had.  I was walking out on faith.