Category Archives: RELIGION, PHILOSOPHY & SPIRITUALITY

Getting back to pre-paganized Christian beliefs & practices

MESSIANIC CHURCH ARISINGIf you happen to be a believer who feels drawn to the faith tradition that was embraced and practiced by followers of Yeshua HaMashiach aka “Jesus the messiah” (before Constantine “paganized” everything, that is), then do I have a book for you! I refer to Dr. Robert Heidler’s “The Messianic Church Arising”.

Rather than reinvent the wheel in terms of writing a review, I will instead steer you to an excellent one at http://www.prophecytoday.uk/study/resources/item/364-review-the-messianic-church-arising.html

I, like this reviewer, have bought and given away many copies of this insightful tome. This link is to a retail source that offer’s Dr. Heidler’s book at the lowest price I could find on-line: http://www.deepershopping.com/item/heidler-robert/messianic-church-arising/4175247.html?utm_source=GoogleShopping&utm_medium=datafeed&utm_campaign=GoogleShopping&gclid=CKTu7JD3384CFQePaQod_QgDCA

Buy it, read it, then reread it. I would wager you’ll wind up buying and giving away copies to your family, friends,  associates and others.

The Dark Charisma of Donald Trump

FARIAS ON CRUZWhat follows below is a slightly truncated & edited email I sent to Rev. Bert M. Farias in response to a 5-4-16 article of his concerning the ever-growing embrace of Donald Trump by many Republicans, evangelical Christians and others.   

Good Thursday (May 5, 2016), Rev. Farias!

I perused your 5-4-2016 Flaming Herald entry titled How Cruz’s Dropout Exposes the Corruption of the American Soul and thought you might welcome some feedback on it.

First off, I have no doubt but that some of your readers and even supporters (especially any diehard Trump supporters) will take exception with your article and make an exit, stage far right (of course). As you yourself stated, “I know I may lose followers, readers and even friends over this article, but that’s OK”.

I am not a Trump supporter or fellow traveler — quite the opposite actually (I’ve been a democratic socialist since 1986). But even if I were, I would not head for the door after reading your article. One of the things I discovered early on in my work as a theorist is that truth, not only in science but in most other areas of life, is arrived at haltingly in the form of what famed astronomer Edwin Hubble characterized as “successive approximations”.

As such, I accept that none of us has truth all wrapped up in any realm, secular or sacred, but instead possess a mix of beliefs, facts and insights that vary in terms of the degree they approach what is “indisputably true” (in the absolute or final sense).

This way of approaching reality tends to put brakes on becoming so polarized (politically or otherwise) as to stop listening to worthy contrary opinions. And even when a particular belief, conviction, prophecy or what-have-you turns out to have little or no merit, I do not turn my back on the speaker, writer or such and head for the proverbial exit (Unless the speaker, writer or such consistently doles out material that is so intellectually and/or morally bankrupt as to lead only to error or harmful deception).

Sadly, I think many in the community of believers cling to an Americanized Gospel which equates what is biblically true and reliable with being part and parcel of various right wing political agendas. Actually, Christianity itself in the US and many other nations has been interpreted (and by virtue of this) rewritten to gel with  sentiments and ideas that actually run contrary to what Messiah taught and advocated (Torah based Judaism), e.g., unbridled capitalism and the greed it is predicated on and the corruption it engenders and promotes.

I dare say if Yeshua HaMashiach physically visited most American churches he would not recognize what was being taught and advocated as being remotely like what he articulated and lived.

Now, off my soapbox and back to your article:

In your article you mentioned that “Benny Hinn prophesied on New Year’s Eve 1989 that a woman would one day be president of America and would destroy this nation. It seemed like a far-fetched prophecy then, but not so much anymore.”

Whether this is a genuine word of prophecy or not, I can’t help but think Hinn’s pronouncement was in some way influenced by the fact Geraldine Ferraro was the Democratic Party VP candidate in 1984. Many of us back in 1984 speculated that her nomination presaged a woman becoming President at some point in the near or far future.

Of even greater concern is Hinn’s very disturbing track record: http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/bhinn.html

Be this as it may, the Almighty has (at various times) used very imperfect vessels to transmit prophetic words. Maybe he spoke to Hinn — or maybe Hinn is like the proverbial broken clock stuck on a single time reading — right twice each day no matter what.

Whether Hinn and others who have said similar things about a future woman President heard from God or their own mental processes (i.e., subconscious thought streams bubbling to the surface which may or may not be a divine mechanism for weaving prophecies), I actually am fearful of having Hillary Clinton become this country’s chief executive. I base this on her track record which simply does not encourage confidence she is honest or a person possessing the kind of integrity one associates the leader of the free world. On the other hand, Senator Bernie Sanders is her almost polar opposite in terms of being consistently honest and an individual of unwavering integrity [His actions are IMO closer to the “care and share” core of Torah and (later) Rabbinic Jewish teachings, which the Messiah wholeheartedly embraced and exemplified in word and deed].

Of course, the alternative (now) to Hillary appears to be Trump (I am still holding out hope Bernie Sanders will get the Democratic nomination as this would shake things up in the best possible way and change what follows so as to avert the road Hillary or Trump would likely take America down). To be honest, his “fruit” has to be the most nauseatingly rotten to pop out on the political tree in many moons (The closest American equivalent I can find is Huey Long, who was not exactly unsympathetic to fascism). As you noted:

The crowds clamored for Trump no matter how arrogant he got, or how much he lied, or cussed, or was exposed for his filth and fraud. He told you what you wanted to hear and you believed him. Now you will pay and be held accountable for your most unwise choice. Standing up against one of the most electable and upright candidates of our lifetime, you have continued to use your mouth as a weapon to defend your idol against the opportunity gave you.

Naturally many people have found parallels between Trump and the patron saint of mass  manipulation, Adolf Hitler. Some of their analyses are deeply flawed, but there are elements and parallels that hold up and are very troubling. Trump’s pitches to evangelical (and other) Christians is very reminiscent of Hitler’s to the Church in Germany in his day, something very cogently laid out in the CBN segment “God & Hitler”: http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/churchhistory/godandhitler/

And when people talk of Mr. Trump’s charisma, I am reminded of Hitler whose own charisma emanated from his ability to discern what people wanted to hear and then feed them this in ways that mesmerized them. The BBC laid this out quite well  in a documentary titled “The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler” which is available online:

The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler – BBC – links to parts 1, 2, 3

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x12expq_the-dark-charisma-of-adolph-hitler-episodio-1-bbc-hd_school

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2zauo4_o-sinistro-carisma-de-adolfo-hitler-ep-2-the-dark-charisma-of-adolf-hitler-historia_shortfilms

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2zeca7_o-sinistro-carisma-de-adolfo-hitler-ep-3-the-dark-charisma-of-adolf-hitler-historia_shortfilms

Along this line, I ruminated on Hitler and his dark ways in “How do you kill 12 million people? Evil then and now: Recognizing & containing it” at https://biotheorist.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/how-do-you-kill-12-million-people-evil-then-and-now-recognizing-containing-it/

I would be remiss if I did not add this personal note:

My maternal great aunt-by-marriage, Val, was born and grew up in Germany under Hitler. She like most virtually all young ladies in Nazi Germany was a member of the Bund Deutscher Mädel and, as I recall, attended some of those massive Nazi rallies back in the 1930s. After her father surreptitiously witnessed the SS wipe out a Jewish community including women and children, he returned home and told his family that, “Our country is finished. The SS is murdering Jews, which means our Fuhrer is mad.” [I would say evil, but not mad — not until near the end of his days maybe.] Anyway, Val’s father smuggled Jews out of the evil empire from 1942 to 1945 — often with the Gestapo chasing him all the way. He was a cobbler, BTW — owned his own shop and made and lost a fortune many times over. Val inherited his wealth.

Val married my maternal great uncle, Horace, in August 1952.  Horace was a US soldier during WWII –a  Military Policeman  — later a high official in the Lubbock, Texas fire department (I was born in Lubbock).

What my great aunt Val and so many other Germans experienced and got caught up in the 1930s and 1940s carries all kinds of warnings about what is prophesied for the “end times”. The fact the core of Hitler’s evil and the Holocaust especially took place over a 7 year period with the last 3.5 years being devoted to the industrial scale murder of the Jews in Europe has convinced many Rabbis that this was the great tribulation period predicted in the book of Daniel. I consider the Nazi period an experiment in which HaSatan essentially tested and refined many of the methods & instruments for achieving total domination over people (I also contend that God is an experimentalist of sorts in this essay). Armed with insights gained during the Nazi period, he will recreate this wheel but without the obvious and largely rejected elements that characterized Nazi Germany. I personally tend to believe the anti-Messiah will have a neurotronic implant in his brain that will connect him to one or more supercomputers (Such an expanded intellect will make him appear all knowing). Hitler on biochips magnified many-fold. His “magic” will be largely technologically facilitated & enacted but will be more persuasive than anything Hitler pulled off or could have conjured up in his wildest imagination.

With this background and bit of commentary in mind, let me now return to Mr. Trump: I have heard many former members of the Hitler Youth — and understand my great aunt Val, who is now 89 or so years of, has said something to this effect too — that America is on a path that is very reminiscent of the one Germany was on just prior to the rise of Hitler.   In December 2015, New York Times op-ed columnist Roger Cohen captured this eerie “reinvented (evil) wheel” (–> history repeating itself) in an article he wrote titled “Trump’s Weimar Americahttp://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/15/opinion/weimar-america.html?_r=0       

And with this, I will draw this lengthy missive to a close. Perhaps there is something in my verbiage (or in the articles and videos I provided links to) that will prove helpful in terms of your own ruminations and future writings.

Dr. Anthony G. Payne

Below: links to articles of mine on various eschatological topics which may contain insights & ideas you can adopt & adapt to spin future articles & teachings on prophetic especially “end times” topics:
Biblical prophecy is primarily about Israel & the Jewish people, not the US!

Is the Shemitah upon us? (Divine judgment in the form of economic collapse)

When these specific events happen, you will know “doomsday” is near

Déjà Vu: Muslim extremist evils should sound familiar

Is global upheaval knocking at the door? (Red moons, ancient prophecies, and more)

Book recommendation for Rev. Farias’s “Purity of Heart”: “You shall be holy, for I am holy”

Buy Rev. Farias’s book “Purity of Heart” on Amazon.com by going to http://www.amazon.com/Purity-Heart-Rev-Bert-Farias/dp/0615722148?ie=UTF8&psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s00 or on his ministry website at http://holy-fire.org/books.html

© 2016 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

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For those who feel unqualified, under qualified or disqualified to play a significant role in God’s doings in this world

If you are a believer who feels unqualified, under qualified or disqualified to play any sort of role in the Almighty’s work in this world, do yourself a BIG favor and watch the interview below.

 

 

Bernie Sanders and the Christian Vote

I became a democratic socialist in 1985 because, in large part, this approach seeks to address many societal and Red_Rose_(Socialism)other ills by addressing underlying (as opposed to superficial) causes. Many of these problems and their solutions lie in redressing specific moral failings such as unbridled corporate greed, which is something democratic socialists such as Senator Bernie Sanders tackle head-on with genuinely progressive, transformative ideas and proposed legislation. And, at the heart of democratic socialism, is a sharing and “level the playing field” ethic that is consonant with core Jewish and Christian beliefs and teachings.  Luke Tomycz “cores the apple” on an article titled “Bernie Sanders and the Christian Vote” which I wholeheartedly recommend you read and then share with others in your orbit: https://medium.com/@ltomycz/bernie-sanders-and-the-christian-vote-2350b31a6bbf#.94h2wp30g

Bernie Sanders and the Christian Vote

 

Body decomposition video (“Body Farm”) to help round out your Halloween 👻

Curious about what kinds of physical changes happen post mortem? The video below will fill in many blanks. Of greater concern to you is likely how and when you’ll shuffle off this mortal coil. Naturally, most of us prefer to “stage left” with as little pain and discomfort as possible, something medical science has make more certain than was true long ago. But die we must. The larger question is what lies afterwards – click to read.  First, satisfy your curiosity about what becomes of your “earth suit” after death and then read what follows below.

 

So you know what’s coming: You die and then face judgment. It is natural to think “Well, OK, I  think my good deeds outweigh my bad so I am good to go, right?” Wrong.  Ahem, dead wrong. The penalty for sin either must be paid by you or by someone qualified to pay it for you. The trick is there is only one individual who qualified to pay the penalty for your sins which he did. However, like a gift certificate purchased for you by a benefactor, you have to claim or redeem it and then follow the directions that come with it to preserve it. So how do you learn about this gift and how to claim it? The best way in my opinion is to hear from someone who has done it. In this vein, I heartily recommend you watch this video featuring scholar Dr. Michael Brown in which he shares how he went from hell bound to redeemed:  https://askdrbrown.org/about/personal-testimony/

 

© 2015 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved

Extraordinary vocal talent – young boy & girl sing “You Raise Me Up”

PSALMS 71:20 http://biblehub.com/psalms/71-20.htm

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
For you have shown me great trouble and evil and you have returned and you have saved me, and even from the depths of the Earth you will return; you will raise me up!

God’s Chorus of Crickets (Jim Wilson)

All Creation Worships God

 

Is the Shemitah upon us? (Divine judgment in the form of economic collapse)

By

Anthony G. Payne

Lightning from Blue Cloud

Reports are beginning to surface indicating that retail sources for emergency preparedness or survival gear, dehydrated foods, seeds and such cannot keep up with demand. It isn’t hard to figure out why with articles and tweets and such appearing almost every few minutes on what is happening or lies ahead in term of climate spawned global upheaval, tectonic activity that is triggering volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and other calamities, fracking induced quakes, super droughts and massive wildfires, epidemics, increasing social conflict & unrest and gun violence, economic instability in nations great and small, the unrestrained barbarity of ISIS, not to mention terrorist acts taking place worldwide by people of every extremist stripe, and a seemingly endless litany of calamities both human-made and natural that are sending millions of refugees streaming into Italy, Hungary, and elsewhere. And this hardly begins to scratch the surface of how many ways life is now making various doomsday movies, books and such that appeared in the 1950s,  1960s and beyond almost prophetic.

As you might expect, many well known televangelists and other prominent figures in the evangelical world are frantically linking  headlines to their reading of ancient prophecies in the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, Revelations and other biblical books. Some are even offering emergency preparedness or survival supplies for donations.

At this moment messianic Jewish Rabbi Jonathan Cahn’s books such as “The Harbinger” (2012) and especially “The Mystery of the Shemitah Unlocked” (2015) are selling like hotcakes and keeping him booked on various religious programs aired on TBN, CBN and such. Just in case you haven’t read anything by Cahn or about his spin on prophecy, he basically claims that certain laws, principles and promises originally given solely to Israel and restricted to her, apply to the United States.

Of course, it is almost a given that any attempt to tie in “end times” prophecies to America (which isn’t remotely alluded to anywhere in the Bible according to both Jewish and Christian scholars, historians and others), requires building a house on speculation and linkages that are typically tenuous at best.

Mind you, I very much believe that the ancient prophecies will be fulfilled. And yes, I see many, many patterns and events unfolding that indicate that what was promised will be fulfilled. But this does not lend credence to futurist predictions that are based on reading prophecies that apply solely to Israel into unfolding events in the US (and the EU for that matter).

Now let me sit back and throw a few thoughts at you:

(1) As I write this (9-2-2015) world economic markets are in upheaval. Economists and others see this as an expected “course correction”.  Many proponents of “The Shemitah” thesis argue that this signals a fast approaching economic tsunami and all the chaos and sociopolitical insanity this would likely unleash.

While it is possible Rabbi Cahn and those in his camp could be right, I would not see such a major economic crisis as prophecy fulfilled at all, as the “Shemitah” has no connection to the US. I would put it on the same level of prognostication as the old joke that “even a broken clock is right twice a day”.

If you need convincing that spinning predictions that plug America into biblical prophecy is problematic, go online and buy used copies of prophecy-based books such as Hal Lindsey’s “The Late, Great Planet Earth“. Then go through historic records and see how much of the speculation in these tomes came to pass.

(2) Now a word about ministers and others who are urging their congregants and TV/virtual viewers to donate money to get literally years of dehydrated foods, grains, etc., plus solar power generators and such: I think having a preparedness stash to make it through a 3-14 day power outage or such is a prudent move (Hurricane Katrina and other recent natural disasters alone argue for this). But for most people buying and storing years of supplies and solar generators and such is not only cost prohibitive, but would actually make them targets if our society was plunged into total chaos. I have often wondered how long these people think it would be before roaming hordes of hungry people would break into and pilfer their stockpiles. Some of these “Christian survivalists”, yes, are probably setting up underground bunkers to hide in and also have enough firepower and ammo to fend off scores of the desperate, but it is doubtful they can hold out interminably (The last 3.5 years of the “Great Tribulation” anyway, when evil has its way on a grand scale). And how, I ask, is this living out the Bible and Yeshua/Yehoshua’s admonition to share with those who are hungry, cold, etc.? It amazes me that neither the ministers and Bible teachers who are feverously hawking these survivalist supplies or their supporters see the inherent problems and (biblical) contradictions in what they are advocating and doing.

If you are interested in reading exposes on the biblical difficulties presented by Rabbi Cahn’s books (“The Harbinger” and “The Mystery of the Shemitah Unlocked”) read these articles:

“The Shemitah” (A critical response)

THE MYSTERY OF THE SHEMITAH: Is it real?

That God expects or will impose a Shemitah upon any nation other than Israel has no scriptural basis. Neither do the Scriptures provide any indication that the Shemitah is some sort of universal principle that operates throughout or even at various times in history.

And these “yours truly” penned:

Biblical prophecy is primarily about Israel & the Jewish people, not America!

When these specific events happen, you will know “doomsday” is near

Is global upheaval knocking at the door? (Red moons, ancient prophecies, and more)

If you are a believer who is fearful the “end times” is fast approaching — and it may well be (But be aware of those things that must precede it as laid out in When these specific events happen, you will know “doomsday” is near) — my advice is to steep yourself in faith-edifying teachings and prayer, bring your conduct and actions into obedience to what the Almighty requires, learn to discern what is evil from what is not (And yes, they are getting increasingly confused these days, i.e., evil is called good and good, evil), and connect with other believers who worry less about “worshipper friendly” banter and political correctness and more about holiness and empowerment (Spirit baptism, Grace, the fear of God). I highly recommend these books as a sort of “Faith & Empowerment 101” crash course:

Breakthrough Faith: Living a Life Where Anything is Possible by Larry Sparks

Go and Sin No More: A Call to Holiness by Dr. Michael L. Brown

Good or God? by John Bevere

But let me add this caveat: A lot of Christian theology and beliefs (including portions of the books above) draw on the very flawed letters (epistles) of Paul (Saul of Tarsus). It is therefore important that you also acquire the knowledge and insight to identify what is edifying and true from what is not. These two free, online resources will help you mightily in this regard:

http://www.judaismvschristianity.com/

Jesus’ Words Only (Second Edition 2007) (Free online in its entirety) by Douglas J. Del Tondo, Esq.

I am, by the way, a novice monk in the Knights of Prayer Monastic Order (Full monk in 2018) as well as in service as a monk to several other religious communities & monastic organizations which are part of the New Monasticism movement, and have my own website devoted to spiritual matters and resources at http://summerclouds.weebly.com/ which is geared to help people “sort the wheat from the chaff”. Unlike some believers especially clerics you might have read, watched or listened to (especially fundamentalists and many evangelicals), I do not have all the answers in every area of life and faith. I have come to adhere to certain core truths and am morally conservative, yes, but like many of you am still wrestling with and working out some aspects of what is most consonant with God’s word (Hebrew & Christian scriptures).

Anthony G. Payne (American Indian name “Summer Cloud”)

© 2015 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

Christian Rock Music Video Supporting Israel Is Rightfully (Righteously!) Going Viral!

As a Texan, a Country Western music fan, and a novice monk (Click to read about Celtic Christianity’s Hebraic or Jewish roots & practices) I found this music video tribute to Israel a joy and well worth sharing. Enjoy and then tell others!

Click to access CBN’s Cross Country radio

 

Ashley Madison as a wake-up call for would be and real life cheaters

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By

Anthony G. Payne

By now just about everyone who keeps up with the news has read something about the hacking theft and now publication of the Ashley Madison “Life is short. Have an Affair®” database. If you somehow missed it here is a summary article that appeared today, Thursday, August 20, 2015: Hacker’s Ashley Madison data dump threatens marriages, reputations

In an article that also appeared today titled The Ashley Madison hack will have a mixed result for those involved, the writer shared this:

I had joined out of curiosity and for research purposes when I was Townsville’s premier dating columnist. And it’s safe to say that I am not alone in being a relatively ‘innocent’ Ashley Madison user.

teenage depression - teen woman sitting thinking isolated on white

I somehow suspect that more than a few individuals who joined Ashley Madison did so just to see who’d respond to the (no doubt inflated or totally fake) profile they posted.

In the same article, a computer security expert by the name of Graham Cluley shared this:

“For one thing, being a member of a dating site, even a somewhat seedy one like Ashley Madison, is no evidence that you have cheated on your partner,” he wrote.

“…if your email address is in the Ashley Madison database it means nothing. The owner of that email address may never have even visited the Ashley Madison site.”

It is also noted by Cluley that “It turns out Ashley Madison didn’t require users to verify their email address in order to use the website.”

“Put simply, people could enter any email and have access to the free features of the website.”

With all this said, a computer programmer created a simple search feature anyone can use to see if an email address appears in the Ashley Madison database. It is at https://ashley.cynic.al/

There are, of course, some high profile people who set up one or more Ashley Madison accounts and left a trail that leaves little doubt about who is responsible. One that is in the news is Josh “19 Kids” Duggar whose alleged connection to AM is discussed in this article EXPOSED: Josh Duggar revealed as having ‘paid almost $1,000 for multiple Ashley Madison accounts’ as 37 million would-be love-cheats are named by hackers who stole Ashley Madison accounts

As you might expect, articles now abound which offer advice as to what folks listed in the AM database should do next. Predictably this advice runs the gamut albeit most advise “fessin’ up” and dealing with the fallout head on. Naturally, lawyers, marriage therapists, psychologists and others are likely to see an upswing in couples visits in which one party cheated through Ashley Madison and was exposed after the AM database came to light.

Of course, there really isn’t anything all that shocking in all this. After all, a day hardly passes in which some prominent politician, religious figure, television personality, high ranking military officer or such gets caught up in scandal after an affair comes to light or some other dark sexual pursuit comes to light.

I get human weakness. And the fact that people (perhaps men especially) are predisposed by their nature (evolutionary biology) and upbringing to have wondering eyes. Throw in lots of free time and the ease of reaching others anonymously through the Internet and you wind up with the current situation: Married people flocking to date sites, sex chat sites, cheating sites, porn sites and all the rest.

Of course, people who have considerable influence, power or wealth seem even more vulnerable, if only because they attract those seeking solace or sex or money or what-have-you. Some feel “entitled to cheat” due to their special station in life or the challenges they must deal with.

If you are reading this and happen to be cheating on your significant other be it an emotional, sexual, or cyber affair, and feel shameful, guilty or troubled, then there is hope for you. How so? Ask yourself this: When people do immoral or unethical things and feel no guilt or shame about this, what happens when their dark pursuits are exposed? Typically, rationalizations and arguments surface that place the blame on the victim.

So if you are cheating in some way and feel bad about this, you have a conscience and know you are doing wrong. I now have another question to ask you: Why are you cheating?

Bored? Looking for missing passion? Lonely? Lust-filled and unfulfilled? Emotionally isolated or adrift? Feeling misunderstood by your significant other or ignored by him or her? Getting older and feel you need the attention of another to validate your good looks or worth? Overwhelmed in some way and feel you can’t look to your mate or family for help? Think there are things about yourself that if revealed are so dark or loathsome that only a stranger or new love interest could brush it aside and love or desire you anyway?

Maybe it’s one of these things or many of them or all of them or none of them. Let’s set aside the “why” for now and look at the fruits of cheating: Betrayal, disloyalty, a violation of sacred commitments, and, yes, cruelty. Does bad fruit bear a good crop? You don’t have to be a farmer or horticulturist to answer this question.

In our age of “I’m spiritual and not religious” there is a tendency to replace the 7th Commandment with platitudes that allow and excuse latitude; to forget, ignore, dismiss or downplay the fact that infidelity is sin; to gloss over the fact it offends the Almighty and has both spiritual and real world consequences.

The good news is that if you recognize you are sinning, forgiveness is a simple matter of changing your mind about what you are doing and asking forgiveness (A process called repentance or teshuvah), and then marrying right actions to your beliefs and commitment to do the right thing.

For most of you reading this, admitting your sin and seeking forgiveness is actually the easy part. The real knockdown, drag out part is breaking free of the pull of sinful pleasure and surmounting the temptation to backslide or (to use modern parlance) relapse. Triggers and lures abound and many find themselves so weak and overwhelmed by the almost drug-like pull of pleasurable sin that they can’t hold a straight course.

I get this too. To put it in familiar, Star Trekkian terms, your shuttle craft is caught in a powerful tractor beam and you have burned out your engines trying to break free or in the process of burning them out. Or so it seems.

The good news is that you actually can break free and achieve and maintain a moral course. Now for the nuts and bolts of how to “make this so”.

First, of course, there is the simple act of calling sin, sin and turning your back on it. I assume if you’ve read this far you either have made up your mind to do this or will seriously consider doing so soon.

Now the part that trips up so many people: Bringing conduct into conformity with their wishes, convictions and beliefs. The hard part which actually isn’t IF you do something most folks fear doing: Run to God rather than from him and ask that he do whatever is needed to redeem and change your sexual nature and its expression.

Whoa…say what?!?

Ask yourself this: What is the natural thing for people to do with bad habits and sin? Of course, hide them from man and God. Think about when you were a child and did something wrong and you feared your Mum or Dad would find out. Did you run to them and confess your wrong doing and seek help? No, you most likely hid the cookie crumbs or broken vase or what-have-you and lied. Then you grew up and stopped doing this with respect to a lot (maybe most) of your mistakes, sins and such, at least with respect to trusted others and intimates in your orbit. But when it comes to especially grievous sins did you run to or from God? And if you ran to God, did you do so without any real deep desire that he actually do whatever it takes to, well, straighten you out. Too scary eh, like opening yourself up to a spanking as a child?!?

Now let me show you what really turning something like lust and sexual weakness completely over to God’s keeping consists of (Again, this is the key to moving towards the obedience and holiness God demands if we are to live decent, happy, genuinely fulfilling lives):

In dealing with men who are cheating on their wives or did so and are tempted to do so again, I invariably walk them through admission of their sin and repentance, and then ask them if they are ready to marry actions to their intentions and beliefs. Once they say “yes” to this, I ask them if their sex drive or fantasies or memories or such seem to ruling them and undermining their resolution to do what’s right. For those that signal this or something like it is making mincemeat of their commitment to change, I hand them this challenge (This is a condensed version of what I tell them):

I want you to trust God completely with all you are including your sexuality. Your prayer to him is for resolution and empowerment, not a band aid that fits what you want or think will work. You need help and power to be obedient and do what the Rabbi from Nazareth said to sinners he encountered which is ‘Go and sin no more’. You’ve told me that your sexual needs are not being meet and your sex drive is overwhelming. What you are really saying is ‘God, help me but don’t mess with my sexual needs and drive’. I am telling you now that this is exactly what you must surrender to his keeping. And now comes the test of your desire to be holy as he is holy: are you willing to ask the Lord to diminish or even remove your sexual desires if it takes this for a time to free you to get into him and his Word and become conformed to what he would have you be sexually?

I call this “radical surrender” and for good reason! It isn’t for the faint-of-heart or insincere but I think it within the reach of every person who sees sin in him- or her- self and wants to do a 180 about and live in obedience to (and dependence on) God and his revealed Word (The kind of active faith that produces holiness). And, by the way, it works.

Can this be done without fingering underlying issues and dealing with them? I’ve seen some people do a turnaround that unleashed God’s power in their lives which effected change in them that resolved previously unresolved issues and weaknesses and the like. Others needed to identify their problems and issues, typically in therapy with their significant other, in order to get resolution and set specific goals and objectives for themselves and their relationship.

For those that need some guidance and tools to identify unfulfilled needs and “relationship busting” habits and behaviors and weaknesses, I heartily suggest heading on over to “Marriage Builders®” at http://www.marriagebuilders.com/. This website is filled with tests, article, guidelines and such.

Readers might also want to take this 5 minute online “Attachment Style” test which was developed by university researchers: http://www.web-research-design.net/cgi-bin/crq/crq.pl. Certain attachment styles are detrimental to intimacy with God and significant others and need to be addressed.

In this regard, check out Problems relating well to God & your fellow man? Your attachment style may be a major contributor

In addition, you’ll find many other free online tests covering personality, moral foundations and such here on my personal blog site: https://biotheorist.wordpress.com/2011/11/26/know-yourself-better-free-on-line-tests-empathy-systemizing-attachment-style-moral-foundation-implicit-biases-etc/. “Knowing yourself” better may reveal areas that need healing or shoring up.

And now for some “meat not milk” spiritual help (Evangelical in orientation but nonetheless brimming over with insights gleamed from Biblical truths and principles):

But let me add this caveat: A lot of Christian theology and beliefs (including portions of the books above) draw on the very flawed letters (epistles) of Paul (Saul of Tarsus). It is therefore important that you also acquire the knowledge and insight to identify what is edifying and true from what is not. These two free, online resources will help you mightily in this regard:

http://www.judaismvschristianity.com/

Jesus’ Words Only (Second Edition 2007) (Free online in its entirety) by Douglas J. Del Tondo, Esq.

If you are one of the people listed on the Ashley Madison database and were or are cheating, or cheated or are cheating without the use of any club or service or forum, consider the AM hacking scandal your wake-up call; your invitation to repent, turn your back on infidelity, and do what’s needed to “go and sin no more”.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anthony G. Payne, whose American Indian name is “Summer Cloud”, is a native born Texan and an American Indian (Bureau of Indian Affairs CDIB card holder) and member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Despite having grown up in the “reddest parts” of North Texas, Tennessee and Louisiana, he is a political liberal who embraced democratic socialism in the 1980s. He is also a religious and moral conservative but no friend of fundamentalism/creationism or those pet beliefs of evangelical Christians that run contrary to what the Rabbi from Nazareth advocated and lived. Dr. Payne is a married monk in the Knights of Prayer Monastic Order and is in service as a monk to several other religious communities & monastic organizations which are part of the New Monasticism movement. Readers and seekers can readily reach him at nativescienceguy@gmail.com.

© 2015 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

100 year old Jim Downing, USN Lt. at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, remembers the trauma & triumph of WWII (CBN Video News Segment)

Centenarian Remembers the Trauma and Triumph of WWII

As the 70th anniversary of World War II’s conclusion is commemorated, one eye witness, veteran Jim Downing recounts what it was like to live through this unparalleled time in history.

When these specific events happen, you will know “doomsday” is near

SOONER THAN YOU THINK - CoverHere is a analytic thought exploriment for you: Sit down and juxtapose current events (especially the darker side of the news) with the prophecies in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. I suspect that if you weren’t concerned about where civilization is headed before this exercise, you likely will be afterwards.

If you happen to be a Baby Boomer you probably have watched a succession of popular books and films on eschatology themes (“End of Era” events and corresponding prophecies) such as those of Hal Lindsey (Author of the bestselling 1970 book, “The Late Great Planet Earth“) come and go. A look back through these makes it very clear that nailing down the “End Times” is an iffy enterprise. However, today events are unfolding that line up with ancient prophecies in ways that are both starling and difficult to dismiss or gloss over.

And it isn’t believers in the mainstream religions that are blogging and tweeting on “End Times” prophecy. The Web abounds with fearful speculation on the part of people who are more secular in their thinking than religious or spiritual.

Many people are turning to prophecy teachers for help in piecing together and understanding what is unfolding. They are not so much asking “Is this stuff true?” but, rather, are saying things like “The books of Daniel and Revelation (among others) are being fulfilled right before our eyes. But are we yet in the End Times?”

There is no lack of books and videos by prophecy experts who have tackled this question.  One of most cogent recent books (which I recommend) is Sid Roth’s book* “Sooner Than You Think: A Prophetic Guide to the End Times“.

I have read Roth’s book and probably one hundred other recent tomes on the subject, distilled down what I deem on target, and come up with the following tentative conclusions:

First off, I do, yes, believe we are on  the cusp of what is so oft called “The End Times”. However, with this said I do not believe we are not as close as some writers and believers think, although things could come together quickly to herald in the “final chapter”.

We are, I believe, at a crossroads in history in which the timing of prophetic events rests with what people (especially believers) do or don’t do. If for instance,  believers intercede and begin behaving themselves and eschewing sin, then I believe the Almighty will give humankind more time before the seven year “Great Tribulation” kicks off. But if believers do not make teshuvah (i.e., repent & then do what is pure, right & holy) and get their ducks in a row in every respect, the Great Tribulation could commence in no time at all.

Here is what I am certain must happen that will signal we are entering the seven year Great Tribulation:

Before I get into the meat of the matter, let me share some thoughts on the very popular line of speculation that states a future Mahdi will be the Anti-Messiah, i.e., a phony messiah who gives lip service to keeping the rules governing Jewish conduct laid out in Torah but whose actions will encourage lawlessness. This is illogical as the prophesied Anti-Messiah is a false messiah, and the only way this man could qualify as a messiah Jews will accept is to be Jewish. However, with this said it is possible the anticipated Mahdi could fulfill the prophesized role of “False Prophet”.

Now for a rundown of “what’s coming down the pike” including those specific events that precede and declare that “The Great Tribulation Lies Immediately Ahead”:

(1) There will be a war in the Middle East in which Iran, Syria and other Arab countries will try to attack & conquer Israel. This is prophesied in Psalms 83. This invasion will fail. However, I believe that during the attack an Arab or other missile will veer off its prescribed path and strike and destroy the Dome of the Rock (The one major physical impediment to the rebuilding of the Temple). Damascus will also be utterly destroyed. As a result of Israel’s victory, she will also acquire vast new territory and think herself safe. Walls will come down and a false sense of invulnerability will take hold.

(2) With the Dome of the Rock gone and the Islamic world paralyzed by widespread destruction, Israel will be commence building the Third Temple unopposed and, following its completion, resume animal sacrifices for sin (Check out The Temple Institute’s website at https://www.templeinstitute.org/ and http://www.jewishroots.net/library/end-times/rebuilding_the_temple.html).

(3) During this period of time the world will be in economic and social chaos, most likely due to the Psalms 83 Arab-Israeli war and the destruction of many oil refineries and other industrial complexes across the region (Not to mention nuclear contamination unleashed by the military destruction of Iranian nuclear facilities and any others in existence in the area at the time). Things will get so bad that it will seem as though the 1930s in Germany have come roaring back (As in it will take a wheelbarrow of money to buy a loaf of bread).  Stocks and such will likely become worthless or nearly so. And, as you might expect, It is during this dire time — when the world is desperate for leadership that will set things right  — that  the Anti-Messiah will rise to power rapidly and forge a peace treaty that will formally end Arab-Israeli hostilities (A prophesied 7 year peace covenant)..

(4) At the mid-point of his reign, the Anti-Messiah will enter the Temple in Jerusalem and declare that he is not only the Jewish messiah, but divine or semi-divine to boot (A malignant narcissist whose self-serving evil will dwarf that of his “spiritual predecessor and twin”, Adolf Hitler). This will result in the Jewish people (among others including genuine Christian believers) turning against the evil one’s regime.

(5) Following the Anti-Messiah’s sacrilegious announcement, the “Wrath of Satan” laid out in the book of Revelation will then begin. This includes almost 3.5 full years of persecution (Jews and believers) and the inauguration of a cashless economic system in which only those who embrace the Anti-Messiah as their source and take his “mark” (radio frequency identification biochip most likely) will have access to goods & services. The church will see the “Great Apostasy” unfold quickly, as many believers will be expecting to be spared the Great Tribulation and will be unable to deal with living in the midst of it (A great many will willingly receive the implant and even turn against believers who do not). Apparently, though, there will be “cities of refuge” in which genuine believers who have God’s favor will be able to escape the reach of the Anti-Messiah. [This “Pre-Wrath” perspective is ably laid out in Sid Roth’s book and also in Robert Van Kampen’s “The Sign” (1992) and his “The Rapture Question Answered: Plain and Simple” (1997), among other cogently argued works on the subject]

(6) Towards the end of the 3.5 year Great Tribulation period, perhaps about 45 days before the final curtain goes down, God’s Wrath will be loosed on the inhabitants of this planet. As believers will not  be subject to this, they will be removed to Heaven (Parousia or Rapture). They and all the saints in Glory will return with Messiah at the end of this period of God’s Wrath to restore & inaugurate the Almighty’s reign over men.

So, bottom-line — once people see the Psalm 83 war, the construction of the Third Temple, and the enactment of a 7 year peace treaty between Israel and her Arab neighbors (and possibly others), the Great Tribulation will be at-hand. I am hoping and praying this will not happen for many decades yet. However, if believers (and it is they and not unbelievers who stay God’s anger with sin) continue to “play church”, chase women, drink heavily, and pretty much do whatever the world offers in the way of pleasure & narcissistic self-indulgence, the Great Tribulation could be realized within a few year’s time.

The good news is that many, many ministers, priests and others – men and women who have been given the gift of prophecy by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), – are saying a Great Awakening (like those in past history such as the one spearheaded by John Wesley) is coming to America and to other lands as well. Many of these spiritual turnaround periods lasted for decades. If this one does, then the Great Tribulation will (I posit) come to pass in the 2060s.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

* Readers interested in hearing what Sid Roth has to share from his book and other sources, should click this link (Video)

RECOMMENDED READING

Robert Van Kampen’s “The Sign” (1992) and his “The Rapture Question Answered: Plain and Simple” (1997)

2015-2070: Red moons, ancient prophecies, and more

Church Is Facing a Dietrich Bonheoffer Moment

Biblical prophecy is primarily about Israel & the Jewish people, not America!

A world gone mad and what lies ahead

YOUR “GET SPIRITUALLY EMPOWERED CRASH COURSE”:

But let me add this caveat: A lot of Christian theology and beliefs (including portions of the books above) draw on the very flawed letters (epistles) of Paul (Saul of Tarsus). It is therefore important that you also acquire the knowledge and insight to identify what is edifying and true from what is not. These two free, online resources will help you mightily in this regard:

http://www.judaismvschristianity.com/

Jesus’ Words Only (Second Edition 2007) (Free online in its entirety) by Douglas J. Del Tondo, Esq.

ARE YOU IN AN ADULTEROUS MARRIAGE?

If you are in a 2nd (or..etc.) marriage you need to dig into these websites:

http://www.cadz.net/remarriage.html

http://www.marriagedivorce.com/index.php

http://www.biblicalresearchreports.com/divorceandremarriage.php#scripturalevidence

 

© 2015 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

The antidote for judging, backbiting & similar ills

Whenever the temptation to judge, gossip or interpret peoples’ motives or conduct comes a-callin’ just watch this video and afterwards read this https://biotheorist.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/neither-a-roman-at-the-games-nor-a-supporter-of-those-who-play-at-this-be/:

 

What will you let life do to you in 2015?

whiteboard - free MorguefileWhen you were a young lad or lassie how many times were you asked, “What will you do in life when you grow up?”

I have a different spin on this which is not peculiar youth or young people: What will you let life do to you?

“What do I mean?”, you ask. It’s really quite simple: Every person, influence, work of art and music, hobby, passion, group, tribe and such is writing paragraphs and chapters in the unique storybook which is your life. Your very being may even form a dynamic circuit with select others.

Picture your life as a huge whiteboard. Now walk along and read the entries on it — “the good, bad and ugly”, if you will. As you look around you see the various people in your life writing on your “lifeboard”. What kind of story has emerged? Are you happy with it? If not, how many “bad content writers” can and should be banned from writing on your lifeboard in 2015?

Choctaw Doc

 

Some questions for you

Br. Anthony - Dec 2014SOME QUESTIONS FOR YOU:

Which dominates your life: Competition or sharing & harmonization?

Is what you’ve been doing with your life consistent with your core nature, or not? That is, are you faithful to your true or authentic self or not?

Do you tend to think your own thoughts or those of Madison Avenue, Wall Street, etc.?

Are you nurturing what is genuine & true in life or something else entirely?

Which is better: To be whole or something else?

Do you resist learning what closed doors have to teach you?

Have you consciously embraced your limitations?

Are the “ought’s” & “should have’s” that bedevil you reflect who you really are?

Do you run from failure and “experiments gone bad” or learn the lessons they offer and revise your life course accordingly?

Have the roles you play in life, its pleasures, indulgences, escapes, or obligations, or something else eclipsed or undermined the “you beneath & within”?

Do the conflicts and paradoxes in your life demand resolution, or embrace & integration into all that you are?

Is your trip through the valley preparing you to fulfill your unique purpose in life?

►►MY MOST POPULAR BLOG ENTRIES (CATEGORIZED)

Confident BusinessmanCANCER, ALS, REVERSING ARTERIAL BLOCKAGE

Killing cancer, sparing the patient (Targeting tumor cells while leaving normal ones unaffected)

Looking for treatment options for ALS, heart disease, cancer or eczema?

Reversing arterial blockage: Experimental regimen that worked for man facing amputation of his lower legs

 

GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME…THEORY

Is cooking the main culprit behind the arterial blockage seen in the Horus mummies study?

Getting stem cells to target using magnetic means

Papers by Choctaw Doc

HYPOTHESIS: Two ways in which cytomegalovirus carrying male germ cells may play a role in the genesis of autism spectrum disorder

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS): Stimulating Proteasome Activity in Motor Neurons to accelerate degradation of misfolded proteins

 

A SPOONFUL OF NATURAL MEDICINE

Of PQQ, Nutcracker Man & Tiger Nuts (PQQ as radioprotective with heart & nervous system benefits)

Can an ancient Chinese herbal blend turn the tables on eczema?

PADMA: Scientifically validated Tibetan herbal blend

 

SPIRTUALITY

More spiritual than religious? Perhaps a messianic God-fearer?

From the “sure to throw off your spiritual gyroscope” department: 3 books — 2 free online & 1 cheap through Amazon

Is global upheaval knocking at the door? (Red moons, ancient prophecies, and more)

The Spiritual Aspect of Holistic Medicine

Did the Almighty send an emissary to the ancient Cahokian (American Indian) people?

The dog you feed the most will dominate your life

Alienation: Pervasive and insidious

 

THOSE WHO DO NOT LEARN FROM LIFE & HISTORY ARE…..(YOU KNOW)

What to do with militant extremists in our midst? It’s a question Americans have faced before

How do you kill 12 million people? Evil then and now: Recognizing & containing it

Dark times and the allure of evil solutions

 

SEX GONE WRONG

Sexless relationships: What accounts for this reverse alchemy (Gold to lead)?

Sexting, Sex Tapes & Sexual Exhibitionism: Why have so many folks thrown caution to the wind?

 

BOOKS WORTH BORROWING, BUYING OR (AHEM) PILFERING

Mind Expansion: Recommending Reading (Books, books & more books)

 

 

From the “sure to throw off your spiritual gyroscope” department: 3 books — 2 free online & 1 cheap through Amazon

Books - free MS photoWill Islam Be Our Future? A Study of Biblical and Islamic Eschatology (This book is FREE online in its entirety) by Joel Richardson

Jesus’ Words Only (Second Edition 2007) (This book is FREE online in its entirety) by Douglas J. Del Tondo, Esq.

The RAPTURE QUESTION Answered: Plain & Simple by Robert Van Kampen

 

Déjà Vu: Muslim extremist evils should sound familiar

Lightning from Blue CloudFew reading this, I dare say, have any qualms about seeing religious extremists who believe they please the Almighty by dealing with nonbelievers, sinners, so-called apostates and “infidels” with intolerance and especially cruelty and butchery, contained and even eradicated (Mandated when an armed response is the lesser of 2 evils — kill or else have more innocents killed).

At the moment (October 2014) a coalition of nations including many predominately Muslin ones are involved in rolling back the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL) whose atrocities and wanton evil are regularly showcased and discussed on TV and in newspapers, not to mention web, blog and social media outlets galore worldwide.

In the midst of all this most justifiable righteous indignation with extremist violence and monstrous wickedness, there is also a growing hostility towards Muslims in countries throughout the world in which peaceful, law-abiding ones are not only suspected of being sympathetic to Islamic extremists like IS/ISIS/ISIL but are thought to be fellow travelers, even members of planted “sleeper cells” who lurk in the shadows awaiting conditions to favor their popping out and engaging in terrorism.

And, even though Muslims including scholars have come out and denounced the extremist evil of IS including their cherry-picking of the Quran to support their beliefs and actions (Examples: Here & here), this is oftentimes ignored or eclipsed by our all-too-human in-group/out-group sentiments (wiring?) which in many instances has given rise to xenophobia and then paranoia. There is something both ironic and paradoxical in the fact that many who decry the intolerance and acts of cruelty championed by extremists began to treat anyone or anything that “smacks of the enemy” with intolerance and cruelty (ranging from subtle ostracism to physical violence).

It is also tempting to filter out contrary evidence within the Islamic world and conclude that IS/ISIS/ISIL actually reflects the heart and soul of Muslim beliefs and heartfelt convictions. It doesn’t help that stories and accounts come out of how many Muslims actually do believe that certain Islamic extremist groups, often dominated by clerics, are an antidote for deviating from a literal interpretation of the Quran or “creeping liberalism”. This sort of thing is naturally seized upon by those who argue that Muslims who bomb, shoot, crucify, bury alive, behead and otherwise dispatch “infidels” in bestial ways represent the real Islamic McCoy. Here is one of many posted articles on the Web that take this position (This one claims that the Oklahoma Muslim who beheaded an ex-coworker represents the “real Islam”): http://www.wnd.com/2014/09/oklahoma-beheader-represents-real-islam/

If this doesn’t should familiar, you’ve either forgotten your high school history lessons or slept through them. How so? At one time the Christian world, especially many of its leaders both religious and secular, sanctioned draconian measures against “infidels” which included torture, imprisonment, exile and cruel executions. What did these “defenders of the faith” base their actions on? They certainly didn’t need to make up scriptural justification for this sort of thing. The Bible provided them abundant material that when taken literally and narrowly applied, sometimes out-of-context and sometimes not, justified the cruelest imaginable treatment and horrific execution of gays, occultists, nonbelievers, heterodox believers (heretics), infidels (non-Christians) and more. Click to read a rundown of such verses.

Historic examples? Thankfully, a chap by the name of Mark Humphrys saved me having to dig out all the applicable historic incidents and practices and such, as he researched, organized and posted this to http://markhumphrys.com/christianity.killings.html (Readers are also encouraged to peruse what’s posted at http://www.heretication.info/_heretics.html).

Of course, most modern (Western) Christian believers and organizations including churches and denominations would never entertain taking verses such as Leviticus 20:10 as (ahem) gospel and acting on them: If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death (Albeit some especially aggrieved wives or husbands might wish this was the law of the land)

But ask yourself: What stopped the waves of church-sanctioned persecution, torture and cruel execution of heretics and those declared apostates, sinners or such who would not repent or otherwise bend their knee to those who held their lives in-the-balance? History reveals no sudden turnabout. However, over time a number of shifts and changes occurred that gradually undermined and eroded intolerance and forced conformity to orthodoxy: Among these, the church lost secular power and influence while Biblical literalism and militant, extremist Christian policies and actions lost steam as more moderate views won the day (And these because to a great extent religious scholars and others critically examined archaic beliefs and practices and even the scriptures themselves in light of contrary or mitigating factual evidence and reasoning).

This is viewpoint is reflected in comments made by Southern Baptist Theological seminary faculty member Dr. Timothy Paul Jones to the Baptist Press which were incorporated in a July 2014 article titled “Why Christians killed and why Muslim violence continues” by David Roach:

“Christians used to kill with some frequency over matters of doctrine. There was the Spanish Inquisition, Calvin’s Geneva, England’s notorious Bloody Mary, the drowning of Anabaptists, the Crusades and more.”

Dr. Jones, the author of “Christian History Made Easy“, also stated that “it was the intermingling of church authority and civil authority that made it possible for persons who claimed to be Christians to have the state execute others who also professed Christ.”

But,…and this is a big but…..this shift was not without acrimonious debates, calls for a return to “that old time religion” (i.e., a church with secular power that punished heretics and others), fist fights and open warfare, and worse, in various quarters at various times.

Now ask yourself: Does all that’s happening in the Middle East — the theocratic Islamic governments who rely on oppression and cruelty and public executions to hold the pot lid down on dissent, the pitched battles (literal and figurative) between proponents of a Muslim religious worldview that is exclusivist literalist, and radically fundamentalist and those who champion the opposite, etc. — represent the kind of “Future Shock” cultural, social and religious clashes and upheavals that arose from and signaled the transition from a Europe that was ruled by clerics and which burned heretics to one of nations largely democratic and essentially tolerant? (But not without periodic lapses into darkness when conditions favored the eclipse of reason and tolerance by fear, hatred and bigotry). I tend to think so.

The question of whether such a complete transition will occur may not be one of if but when. But at what cost to the Muslim world and Israel, the EU, America, and other countries before the dust settles?

Beyond containing militant/radical Muslim extremists, there are other variables at play that could up the ante and the “dust” that gets kicked up before it settles to the ground. Assume for a moment that those who warn that Iran is dead set on building nuclear weapons — something underscored by alarming developments such as this — are right and they do. What happens if a major offensive is launched by one or more Arab countries against Israel and Iran joins this? If so, it is not inconceivable that Russia, which has longstanding ties to Iran (not to mention Assad’s Syria), might seize the opportunity to support such military adventurism. This would surely result in America rightfully jumping into the fray to help Israel repel this armed assault and intended invasion. Bingo, WWIII or, if not something this dire, surely a major regional conflagration that will come awfully close to unleashing it.

A major war in the Middle East, too, seems less a matter of if but when. Certainly a great many Jewish and Christian believers view this as inevitable based on prophecies in the books of Daniel and Ezekiel (Among others). Read my blog entry on this by clicking this link.

However, whether a great war hits the Middle East in the near future, later on or not at all, we can all expect a lot of craziness and bloodshed not only there but in Europe, the US, Canada, and elsewhere before the Muslim world breaks free of the forces of extremism, oppression and such.

Our challenge here in the US lies not just encouraging and waiting out the hoped for transition among Muslim countries, but also in preventing terrorist acts by Islamic extremists and their sympathizers in our midst, while at the same time avoiding letting their occasional successes drive us into the arms of authoritarian solutions…or worse.

Dr. Anthony G. Payne (Br. Anthony of the Resurrection)

 

Additional/supplemental reading penned by “yours truly”

Dark times and the allure of evil

How do you kill 12 million people? Evil then and now: Recognizing & containing it

 

Book review: “To Heaven & Back” by Mary C. Neal, MD (Great read but it raises many concerns)

To Heaven & BackI am like many of you reading this fascinated by unusual happenings and accounts including NDEs (near death experiences), UFOs, Bigfoot, and so forth. Actually so long as a claim does not violate the established laws of physics or chemistry and has not already been convincingly refuted by contrary evidence, one must allow that the phenomenon or what-have-you in question might one day garner sufficient proof to compel acknowledging its reality. However, until the jury is in (solid evidence) it is usually prudent to remain agnostic on the matter (With the exception of things believed on the basis of faith and not testable using the tools of science — such as the existence of God).

There is nothing, for example, to disallow the existence of Bigfoot (Sasquatch) or a Yeti. The existence of such primates do not require a violation or suspension of the laws that govern the natural world nor even quality as extraordinary in the same sense, say, as an alien or fairy or ghost would. The problem with Bigfoot and the Yeti lies in a lack of evidence. There has been lots of frauds and biological samples that turned out to be from cows and bears and such, but no hair or tissue DNA (much less corpses) that reveal a previously unknown bipedal primate.

CLICK TO READ THE REST OF MY REVIEW

Biblical prophecy is primarily about Israel & the Jewish people, not the US!

Judaism Starburst grunge backgroundhttp://summerclouds.weebly.com/summer-clouds-blog/prophecy-is-primarily-about-israel-the-jewish-people-not-America

A world gone mad and what lies ahead

A worldSTORMY WEATHER gone mad and what lies ahead

Is global upheaval knocking at the door? (Red moons, ancient prophecies, and more)

Consulting Crystal Ball for Future of EarthAs a boy (1960s-70s) growing up in South in a  world of fundamentalist & evangelical Christians I not infrequently heard pulpit & TV sermons about “The End Times” (Eschatology). Later Hal Lindsey’s books (such as “The Late, Great Planet Earth“) appeared and with this Christian “future think” consumed millions who might not have otherwise ever even heard of such speculation. Lindsey’s peculation proved to be largely wrong but it was still good fun to mull over & debate. Of course, predictions were revised as they failed to materialize as one would expect.

There are, as you might expect, so many issues and problems connected with non-Jewish commentators & analysts trying to apply material written for Jewish audiences from a Jewish perspective (And even the earliest so-called Christian epistles and such on the subject were born in the early Jesus Movement which was Jewish in nature & outlook and led by Jesus’s brother, Yaakov aka “James” which later non-Jewish scholars & such made a mess of interpreting & applying).  You’ll find many books that make “course corrections” at https://biotheorist.wordpress.com/?s=books (Just drop down to the RELIGION/SPIRTUALITY section)

With all this said, there are interesting bits of thinking, speculation & “future think” that point to the fulfillment of specific prophecies in the books of Daniel, Ezekiel and others (including portions of the early Jesus Movement spawned “book of Revelations”) during the next 56 years. I’ve pieced these together and laid the more salient ones out below in the form of a simple chart of sorts.

And yes, anything done in the realm of eschatology is sure to be controversial and contested on everything from secular to religious-historical grounds to a blend of both. If what I’ve outlined below turns out to be very wrong so be it. To be honest, considering the horrific nature of various prophecies in the Tanakh and in early Christian writings I would much prefer being wrong than right.

 

Yom Kippur War 1967 ⇨ Regional Middle Eastern War (Exact timing unknown) ⇨ Fall 2063 (Gog-Magog War – Ezekiel 38-39) ⇨ 2070

 Ezekiel 35 war —> Fall 2015 = http://www.prophecydepotministries.net/2012/ezekiel-35-the-arab-israeli-war-before-ezekiel-38/

Gog-Magog war (Ezekiel 38-39) –> Fall 2063    

http://www.pray4zion.org/TheComingBloodMoons.html

Founding of Israel 1948 ⇨ 2070

116 years – 58 two year terms of office for Israel PMs [1 Enoch 90:5 -as interpreted by some biblical commentators & analysts as referring to prime ministers (shepherds) whose specific rule over Israel begins after its restoration which happened in 1948]

Click to access the Book of Enoch

From the destruction of the 2nd Temple – 70 CE ———–> 2070 = Davidic Messiah reigns/messianic age   

1,000 years

This bit of speculation on my SCRIBD webpage:

https://www.scribd.com/doc/208409502/2015-2070-Red-moons-ancient-prophecies-and-more

Neither a “Roman at the games” nor a supporter of those who play at this be

ROMAN HELMET - FREE MSWhere you have competition, you have losers and those who seem to revel in their loss. Pretty much everyone reading this knows how the Romans flocked to the Amphitheatrum Flavium better known as the Coliseum (starting around 80 CE) and were thrilled to see gladiatorial contest losers being dispatched and were reportedly especially happy when enemies of the state were served up to the Angel of Death in the goriest way possible. Today this competitive impulse is vented and satisfied in sports stadiums and contests of every description. And….on TV and in movies, in science and medicine, in academia, and in pretty much every endeavor or undertaking you can name. It is almost as if the road up is paved with the wounded, fallen, and discarded.

I personally think we all get more mileage out of cooperation than competition, which is actually a cardinal expression of our social nature. But we still compete. In academia, the term “publish or perish” wasn’t coined as a joke but as a reflection of the cutthroat competition that researchers, scholars and professors keenly feel. Today it is almost commonplace to read about retracted papers whose underlying studies include fraudulent or plagiarized data or information, which I suspect arises when researchers and others feel the only way to “stay afloat” is to take “shortcuts to glory” (Something that when exposed oftentimes sinks the very careers the perpetrators hoped to sustain and grow). The website “Retraction Watch” is actually devoted to airing these kinds of failings from the world of published research.

What concerns me isn’t that people make bad choices, we all do at one time or another after all, but rather that some folks seem to revel in seeing the “perpetrators” thrust into the spotlight and made to endure a seeming unending barrage of shame and denunciation. Some even anticipate bad times for not only people who wonder off the straight & narrow, but for those who are unconventional or are doing things that could be perceived or interpreted as crossing some real or imagined legal or regulatory line by the powers-that-be. Some seem to salivate at the very prospect that an ill wind will blast those they disagree with or oppose into obscurity…or worse.

Those who take this particular low road are IMO the modern day equivalent of those Romans who clamored for the destruction of those who had violated Imperial law.

So why do people, especially cultured, educated souls, seem to thrill in what amounts to an exercise in cruelty? Has their sense of competitiveness and the need to be right taken on a pathological dimension? Do they find that the only way they can feel better is by stepping on and then over the careers and lives of those they feel duty bound to hurl stones at? Do they have little or no empathy, at least for those they disagree with or oppose? Is it intolerance or ignorance at work…or both? Maybe it is all of this and more, at least in some instances. Let me share what I think motivates at least some of these “professional stone throwers”.

It is my contention that the mechanism (if you will) at work in those who either predict doom for their real or perceived nemeses (“worthy targets”) or who work towards this end, is the same one that animates the cruel actions of terrorists who behead their helpless victims. In 2005 I touched on this in an analytic article I titled “Terrorist beheadings and other forms of inflicted, violent death: Are victims aware of what is happening around them after their heart and lungs have stopped working?” (which you can access at http://bit.ly/142hi4Y)

 It will take only a few salient lines to spell out my spin on this: 

…there is an element of “enlightened self interest” in our curiosity and even fascination with dying and death. When we ask “What did that poor soul experience?”, we are in some way seeking in the death of others some idea of what we might sense or think or visualize as we go through our own final, irreversible “systems failure”.

So there you have it. As I see it some, perhaps many “stone hurlers” – I refer specifically to those who engage in ad hominem attacks on people or classes or groups of people instead of challenging faulty or flawed ideas, or who make suppositions with regard to what underlies poor or bad choices as though they are privy to seeing into their being (quite a feat when you consider most mental processes beneath consciousness and are not accessible to us) – do so (in part) to both existentially anticipate and experience the suffering they predict or facilitate for those they oppose. Of course, if their target winds up in hot water, rehab, prison or the cemetery, there is the ego-gratification of being able to say (either bluntly or ever so diplomatically) “See, I told you so”. By virtue of this they feel justified in the rightness of their particular stone hurling activities and encouraged to continue doing so. Society is not better for it, for successful cruelty has a way of attracting imitators and supporters and then of being further reinforced until it becomes “a self-evident truth”.

How should we deal with stone hurling and other forms of depersonalizing cruelty? The faulty thinking, choices and ideas that underlie such actions should be brought to light, dissected and challenged. But under no circumstance should this include attacks on the character or worth of people who have “played a Roman at the games” or supported those who do so. And, last but not least, we should strive mightily to meet and supplant heartless, cynical or even cruel actions on the part of others with exceeding kindness, cooperation, forgiveness and mercy whenever possible.   

Choctaw Doc

© 2013 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

 

Recommended Supplemental Reading

The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty by Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen

The Self Beyond Itself: An Alternative History of Ethics, the New Brain Sciences, and the Myth of Free Will by Heidi M. Ravven, Ph.D.

The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity by Bruce Hood, Ph.D.

The Illusion of Conscious Will by Dr. Daniel M. Wegner  

  

Abortion: Is there a point at which it becomes a moral or ethical “misstep”?

QUESTION - FREE MICROSOFTIf you belong to a faith tradition or religious perspective that views the fusion of sperm and egg as marking the advent of a human life, you are probably very unlikely to modify your stance. As one who grew up in the Bible belt among Protestant fundamentalists and evangelicals (upwards of 90% of my family), I know where you are coming from. There is black & white, with grey being a species of unacceptable compromise that is akin to bedding down with evil incarnate.

If you happen to belong to the “B & W’ contingent, perhaps you buttress your antiabortion convictions like many aspects of your most cherished religious beliefs with borrowings from the world of science and medicine, however tenuous some of these may be. As you may know or at least have heard, many religious beliefs are not testable and thus lie outside the purview of science. For example, the religious concept that every human has a soul or spirit imputed by the Almighty at conception or thereafter is not something that can be tested and verified or refuted using the tools of science. There is no laboratory assay that will disclose or measure something that is held to have no material substance as we know it and which is not physically manifest in cells or tissues or such.

For religionists who hold that ensoulment (i.e., spirit is imputed) occurs at conception, and (who) refuse to consider even slightly modifying this perspective in light of contrary biblical reasoning, there exists an impasse that cannot be readily breeched (If at all). When enough people embrace such a spin on what constitutes viable human life, their collective influence on the direction state and even federal legislation takes is felt (Some would argue disproportionately so). Of course, the courts have weighed in to keep even majority sentiment from what they conclude impinges on or overrides the Constitutional rights of the minority.

Many scientists regard the convictions of those who hold that viable human life begins at conception or during the very early stages of development as both presumptuous and naive. Many religionists and theologians agree. Among those who happen to hold fast to a belief that a fertilized egg is entitled to full status as a viable human, the use of blastocytes or very early stage embryos constitutes a species of murder. Some even go so far as to decry those who take exception to their faith-based beliefs as being immoral or amoral.

Does the truth lie somewhere between the strictly secular and the sacred? Most of us probably harbor a feeling that somewhere in all this – lurking in the facts of biology and the world of polemics and logic, ethics and religion – there is an answer that will win the day. If this is the case, it is quite obviously going to take time for such a truth to fully emerge.

Many have asked me, “What is your spin on what constitutes viable human life?” Being as I have a foot in both worlds – which is to say religious belief and science – it seems logical to suppose that I would be able to offer up a “faith and science-friendly” opinion as to when viable human life begins. Well, yes, I do have something to offer up for consideration though the only thing I can be 100% certain of is that my opinion will be contested by people on both sides of the “great divide”. With this in mind, here is my spin – informed by biology, of course.

The heart begins beating at three weeks of gestation and the first neural reflex is manifest at eight weeks (and consists of hand withdrawal in response to stimulation of the fetal lip region). During weeks 9-13 the first brain waves appear and are discernible using special medical instrumentation.

Given that death is defined (in part) as a cessation of both heart and brain wave activity, one could argue conversely that to be alive in any meaningful sense beyond mere biological existence (A petri dish bearing a cell culture has biological existence, after all)  begins when both heart and brain are operational – week 9 onwards.

Interestingly, in my own faith tradition which is informed by lines of moral & ethical reasoning in Rabbinic Judaism, the fetus generally becomes a viable human life after day 40 of gestation. In the ancient Jewish context, the fetus is deemed to be little more than water until “quickening” occurs, about 40 days after insemination. “What Do Orthodox Jews Think About Abortion and Why? By Judith Shulevitz – Orthodox Jews on Abortion. If we take week 9 as our bench mark — the heart and brain being recognizably functional – then the fetus would be deemed viable from about day 63 onward.

 Applying this definition of when human life becomes viable, it follows that embryos from conception to week 9 or so are “pre-viable” or “proto-viable.”

Now is this to say that embryos prior to week 9 are “fair game”? Say, that we can create embryos strictly for the purposes of harvesting their tissue and/or stem cells for medical research or other applications? These embryos aren’t viable, so why not? Well this brings us full circle to religious and ethical concerns. Rather than belabor that in this op-ed piece, I would direct readers to an excellent treatment of this subject in this posted article: Jewish Virtual Library – Abortion

OK, so we don’t create embryos to harvest, how about using intentionally aborted fetuses as a source of tissues or embryonic stem cells for research or medical application? As one fellow actually said to me, “Hey, Doc, they are going to die anyway, so why not get some good out of them for sick and ailing people”. To my mind, this comes uncomfortably close to the arguments advanced by physicians and scientists who performed hideous experiments on human subjects in Nazi concentration camps. This very line of reasoning was, in fact, used as a defense by some of the physicians being tried for war crimes in the 1946 “Doctor’s Trail” in Germany). Granted, there is a world of difference between elective abortion and the intentional dispatch of life at the hands of doctors (such as the late Nazi “Angel of Death” Dr. Josef Mengele and his ilk) who abandoned universally acknowledged medical ethics in the service of the state. But even so, harvesting aborted fetuses from any source does strike many folks in America as constituting a form of callous utilitarianism that can’t help but bring to mind some of the most egregious polities and activities in the Nazi bio-state – or perhaps the fear that our country is headed in the direction of making prophecy of the classic sci-fi film “Soylent Green” – or both. And even if the intentional abortion of a fetus before week 9 were universally embraced as morally and ethically acceptable – in no way offensive to humankind or the Almighty – there remains something hauntingly “predatory” about utilizing material from intentionally terminated “pre-viable” human material.

All things considered, it seems unlikely that access to abortion will prove a genie that can be returned to the proverbial bottle (This side of the US becoming an authoritarian or police state run by pro-life factions at all levels, that is – something the majority of Americans would vehemently oppose). And while restrictions on the direction embryonic stem cell research and use takes will likely continue to be a legislative and ethical tug-of-war between various factions, a return to an outright ban on government provided/sanctioned embryonic stem cell lines seems unlikely. This leaves what is being played out now at the political level:  That is, the fact many state legislatures such as my own native state of Texas in 2013 are leaning towards placing considerable restrictions on access to abortion services. This gambit may succeed especially in states dominated by a traditionally conservative majority although I predict any such this legislation will be eventually overturned by the Supreme Court as being unconstitutional.

Perhaps my life-at-9-weeks-on criteria should be thrown into the abortion access deliberations mix. Let’s revisit it:

Given that death is defined (in part) as a cessation of both heart and brain wave activity, one could argue conversely that to be alive in any meaningful sense beyond mere biological existence (A petri dish bearing a cell culture has biological existence, after all)  begins when both heart and brain are operational – week 9 onwards

Of course, I am not actually advocating that my definition (above) be transformed into new legislation or such that is imposed on all women across the land. But for women who come out of conservative faith traditions what I have laid out might help them in deciding at what point-in-time during a fetuses’ development abortion constitutes an ethical or moral misstep. For those who find my approach reasonable, use of a “morning after” pill constitutions no sin nor does an abortion prior to week ten (10) post-conception.

In the final analysis, the whole matter comes down to personal choice informed by the unique constellation of social and life factors & players that characterize each woman’s life.

________________________________________________________

© 2013 by Dr. Anthony “Choctaw Doc” Payne. All rights reserved.

More spiritual than religious? Perhaps a messianic God-fearer?

PATH UP - MORGUEFILEAccording to various polls a great many Americans consider themselves more spiritual than religious, and more than a few are disenchanted with organized religion and do not hold clerics in especially high esteem. If you belong to this fraternity you have landed on the right doorstep. CLICK TO READ MORE

EXTENDED BEING (Hubpages article)

FROM DR. PAYNE’S ARTICLE “EXTENDED BEING” on Examiner.com

“The quiet punctuated by the flow of water in that aqueduct made it possible to experience not just quiet and relaxation but more so (for me anyway) a unique situation in which conscious thoughts and awareness dipped and other things came to light. One of these was a dynamic running “mental clip” (representation) of Kaoru that was interacting with me at a very subtle level. There was a spoken and unspoken dialog going on. I realized that part of her was alive within me but not solely as memories and warm associations; there was a dynamic sort of circuit at play which was influencing not only my thoughts and mood but also some elements of my personality, i.e., I was being influenced by specific personality traits she exhibited that I found appealing and was even internalizing some of them (And while mirroring and mimicry mechanisms were undoubtedly involved in this process, there was seemingly more to it than this). She had become part of the “we” that is “me”!”

CLICK TO ACCESS MY HUBPAGES ARTICLE: http://anthonypayne.hubpages.com/hub/Extended-Being-The-You-That-is-Many

EXTENDED BEING WEBSITE: http://extendbeing.weebly.com/

EXTENDED BEING: Connective-dynamic circuits twixt thou and emotionally significant others

FROM DR. PAYNE’S “EXTENDED BEING” on Examiner.com

“The quiet punctuated by the flow of water in that aqueduct made it possible to experience not just quiet and relaxation but more so (for me anyway) a unique situation in which conscious thoughts and awareness dipped and other things came to light. One of these was a dynamic running “mental clip” (representation) of Kaoru that was interacting with me at a very subtle level. There was a spoken and unspoken dialog going on. I realized that part of her was alive within me but not solely as memories and warm associations; there was a dynamic sort of circuit at play which was influencing not only my thoughts and mood but also some elements of my personality, i.e., I was being influenced by specific personality traits she exhibited that I found appealing and was even internalizing some of them (And while mirroring and mimicry mechanisms were undoubtedly involved in this process, there was seemingly more to it than this). She had become part of the “we” that is “me”!”

CLICK TO ACCESS EXAMINER ARTICLE: http://www.examiner.com/article/extended-being-1 

EXCERPT FROM DR. PAYNE’S MORE DETAILED INTRODUCTION TO “EXTENDED BEING”:

“Extended being involves the creation of dynamic, largely affective neuro-subroutines that are, in effect, a form of dynamic connectedness or connective circuit between individuals; circuits that incorporate the other, their image (sighted people), mannerisms, attitudes and other significant aspects of their person and conduct; circuits that are fed by as well as facilitate and enhance certain aspects of socialization, behavior and self-awareness as well as distinctly human consciousness; circuits that predominately operate in our pre/unconscious and influence judgments and choices and etc. made there, as well as conscious thought flow and content, mood, and actions.  But circuits, too, that mean that part of our being is operating external to our bodies (It is not that this circuit exists in the sense it can be detected and measured outside us but, rather, that our emergent sense of being, the “we” that us, includes the other and experiences him or her as both an internal reality and an external, connected one. This circuit is reinforced and additional content added while in the other’s presence and may be diminished during their absence, but is unlikely to be extinguished entirely even when the emotionally meaningful other ceases to be a part of our life for whatever reason).” 

Click this link to read “Extended Being” in its entirety: https://biotheorist.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/extended-being-by-dr-anthony-g-payne.pdf 

EXTENDED BEING WEBSITE: http://extendbeing.weebly.com/

From “Native American Spirituality: A Walk In The Woods” by Rainbow Eagle

Spoken by Ogala Lakota leader Crazy Horse to Chief Sitting Bull (September 1877) – four days before Crazy Horse was murdered.

“Upon suffering beyond suffering, the Red Nation shall rise again and be a blessing for a sick world. A world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separation. A world longing for the light again. I see a time, long after the skies have grown dark and ugly and the water has become bad smelling. I see a time of seven generations when all the colors of mankind at that place will gather under the sacred tree of life and the whole earth will become one circle again”

“In that day, there will be those among the Lakota who will carry the knowledge and understanding of unity among all living things and the young white ones will come to those of my people and ask for this wisdom.”

“I salute the light within your eyes, where the whole universe dwells. For when you are at that center within you and I am at that place within me, we shall be one”   

Pg 76, “Native American Spirituality: A Walk In The Woods” by (Choctaw Nation Member) Rainbow Eagle   

ALSO CHECK OUT: http://summerclouds.weebly.com/ 

How one man turned adversity into opportunity

Jim Haverlock has seen more peaks & valleys than most of us. Athlete in HS and now scooter-bound due to multiple sclerosis. Millionaire owner of a furniture chain who went broke, worked out of his car for a time,  and now runs his own virtual business and provides web building & optimization services too. Abandoned by his wife after he was misdiagnosed as having ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) — but now (in his seventies) sharing love & life with his “African Queen.”  Dreamed of being a missionary as a young man — tabled this — and fulfilled this calling more than five (5) decades later by founding a nonprofit charitable organization called Compassion Care! If this has you wanting to know more about “The Life & Times of Missionary Jim” — just click this link:  

https://biotheorist.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/jims-story-heart-of-a-missionary-edited-spin-july-15-20113.pdf

 

Mind expansion: Recommended Reading

Books - free MS photoPurity of HeartALL THE BOOKS LISTED BELOW ARE ONES READ & RECOMMENDED BY CHOCTAW DOC

CRITICAL THINKING

 

You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself  by David McRaney 

Fads & Fallacies in the Name of Science by Martin Gardner

The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan, Ph.D.

Snake Oil Science by R. Barker Bausell, Ph.D.

The Scientist As Rebel by Freeman Dyson

Any and All Books by James Randi

Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine  by Richard P. Sloan, Ph.D.

Ignorance (How It Drives Science) by Dr. Stuart Firestein

Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks by Ben Goldacre, M.D.

A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind: What NeuroscienceCan and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves by Robert A. Burton, M.D.

 DEEP ECOLOGY

Deep Ecology: Living As If Nature Mattered by Bill Devall & George Sessions

Deep Ecology for the Twenty-First Century by Bill Sessions

Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism and the Unmaking of Civilization by Christopher Manes

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

FICTION (with a powerful message)

House of Earth by Woodie Guthrie

HEALTH & MEDICINE (including stem cell medicine)

Click this link to access Dr. Christopher Centeno’s new 52 page e-book titled “The Stem Cells They Don’t Want You To Have” (FREE download): http://bit.ly/NPlVmZ

Snake Oil Science by R. Barker Bausell, Ph.D.

The Anatomy of Hope: How People Prevail in the Face of Illness by Jerome Groopman, MD

How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman, MD

Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine  by Richard P. Sloan, Ph.D.

 HISTORY/POLITICS

1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed (Turning Points in Ancient History) by Eric H. Cline

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Mataxas

Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower

Xenophon’s Cyrus the Great (The Arts of Leadership & War) edited by Larry Hedrick

Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers by Filip Muller

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Dr. Stephen Greenblatt

The Un-Civil War: Shattering the Historical Myths by Leonard M. Scruggs

Slavery Remembered: A Record of Twentieth-Century Slave Narratives by Paul D. Escott

Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity by Dr. Daniel J. Goldhagen

Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto by Vine Deloria, Jr.

The Face of Imperialism by Michael Parenti, Ph.D.

The Rich And The Rest Of Us: A Poverty Manifesto by Travis Smiley & Dr. Cornel West

The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution by Bernard Bailyn

Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee by David Crockett

HUMAN NATURE & PSYCHOLOGY

Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives — How Your Friends’ Friends’ Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do by Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, James H. Fowler, PhD

You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself  by David McRaney     

The Self Beyond Itself: An Alternative History of Ethics, the New Brain Sciences, and the Myth of Free Will by Heidi M. Ravven, Ph.D.

The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity by Bruce Hood, Ph.D.

The Illusion of Conscious Will by Dr. Daniel M. Wegner

What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire by Daniel Bergner

A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind: What NeuroscienceCan and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves by Robert A. Burton, M.D.

The Archaeology of Mind: Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human Emotions by Drs. Jaak Panksepp & Lucy Biven

The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths by Michael Shermer, Ph.D.

50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True by Guy P. Harrison

Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind by Robert Kurzban, Ph.D.

Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose by Deirdre Barrett, Ph.D.

The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty by Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen

Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower

Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families by Pamela Paul

Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality by Dr. Gail Dines

Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto by Anneli Rufus

The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D.

The Biology of Belief by Dr. Joseph Giovannoli

Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning by Viktor Frankl, M.D., Ph.D.

Faces in the Clouds by Stewart Guthrie, Ph.D.

 RELIGION/SPIRITUALITY

Purity of Heart by Rev. Bert M. Farias [In “Purity of Heart” Rev. Farias eloquently states things which, I daresay, most mainstream and even many Charismatic and neopentecostal congregations either gloss over, tiptoe around or mangle (oftentimes resulting in their landing in the thorn patch of profound legalism). Two thumbs up and kudos to Rev. Farias, whose ministry website is http://holy-fire.org/]

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Mataxas

Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Finding Sanctuary (Monastic Steps for Everyday Life) by Abbot Christopher Jamison

Breakthrough Faith: Living a Life Where Anything is Possible by Larry Sparks

PSALM 83, The Missing Prophecy Revealed – How Israel Becomes the Next Mideast Superpower by Bill Salus

Sooner Than You Think: A Prophetic Guide to the End Times by Sid Roth

The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection by Benedicta Ward

Jesus’ Words Only (Free in its entirety on-line) by Douglas J. Del Tondo, Esq.

My spiritual watering hole website: http://summerclouds.weebly.com/

The Jesus Dynasty: The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity by Dr. James D. Tabor

Blood Kin of Jesus (James and the Lost Jewish Church) by Kenneth Hanson, Ph.D.

Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity  by Dr. James D. Tabor

The Brother of Jesus and the Lost Teachings of Christianity by Rev. Jeffrey J. Bϋtz

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan, Ph.D.

How Jesus Became Christian by Barrie Wilson, Ph.D.

Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus by Dr. Robin R. Meyers

The Bible Against Itself: Why the Bible Seems to Contradict Itself  by Dr. Randel McCraw Helms

Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are by Bart D. Ehrman, Ph.D.

The Ancient Roots of Christianity: A Native American’s Look Through Christianity by my fellow Choctaw Nation Tribal member, Rainbow Eagle

God and His Demons by Michael Parenti, Ph.D.

The Real Kosher Jesus: Revealing the mysteries of the Hidden Messiah by Michael L. Brown, Ph.D.

The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? by David James

The Rainbow Covenant: Torah and the Seven Universal Laws by Michael Ellias Dallen, Esq.

Faces in the Clouds by Stewart Guthrie, Ph.D.

Rats in the Cosmic Laboratory: Is God A Scientist? by Dr. A. G. Payne

Hitler and HaShem (The Almighty) by Dr. Anthony G. Payne

Heart of a Missionary by Dr. A.G. Payne

The Spiritual Aspect of Holistic Medicine by Dr. A. G. Payne

Religion is not about God by Prof. Loyal Rue

The Secret Origins of the Bible by Tim Callahan

Spiritual Evolution: A Scientific Defense of Faith  by George E. Vaillant, M.D.

The Undercover Philosopher by Michael Philips

Why We Believe What We Believe by Andrew Newberg, MD and Mark Robert Waldman

 “WALKING AROUND THINKING ABOUT STUFF”

Extended Being (Examiner article) by Choctaw Doc

EXTENDED BEING WEBSITE: http://extendbeing.weebly.com/

Alienation: Pervasive and insidious  (Examiner article) by Choctaw Doc

Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine  by Richard P. Sloan, Ph.D.

“Living Longer, Yes! But, Living Well?” by Choctaw Doc

Fascination with Dying and Death as Participation by Choctaw Doc

Is an attachment style problem complicating or undermining your life? (Examiner article) by ChoctawDoc

Dark times and the allure of evil  (Examiner article) by Choctaw Doc

The Spiritual Aspect of Holistic Medicine

The foundation of holism or holistic medicine rests on a triumvirate — body, mind and spirit. Actually, as the mind is an expression of the various regions of the brain — a species of the physical — we are really dealing with body/brain and spirit. The former, of course, has been probed and explored using the tools of medicine and science. No one questions their reality. Spirit, on the other hand, by most definitions is non-material, and thus lies beyond the purview of science; that is, one cannot demonstrate spirit using a gas chromatograph, scanning electron microscope, or any other tool in the armamentarium of science.

But what of the effects of spirit? If it exists, should we not be able to detect its effects on the physical realm? This is a question which now occupies many philosophers, some scientists and physicians, and many laypeople.

One very often cited manifestation of spirit lies in the realm of answered prayer. Numerous studies have been carried out in which patients with a given affliction were divided into two groups: One received prayer (experimental group) and the other (control group) didn’t. The prayers were offered off-site and no one involved in the study knew who was being prayed for and who wasn’t (double-blind).

The bottom line of many of these studies is that prayer appears to have made a significant difference in the relief or cure of the malady or affliction in the experimental group, while those in the control group had no appreciable change in their condition. The rigor of these studies has been found wanting by countless impartial investigators. That is, flaws in study design, methodology and/or execution have basically invalidated the findings of these clinical trials.

What of the healings connected with religious shrines, such as Lourdes? There have been approximately 69 healings connected with Lourdes which have met the Catholic church’s criteria for a bona fide miracle — 69 out of the hundreds of thousands of petitions for healing. This is not statistically significant. In short, the numbers do not support the notion that the rate of recovery/healing at Lourdes is greater than would be expected to occur as a result of normal processes. (One can expect a certain percentage of even incurable illnesses to suddenly and inexplicably go into remission. These recoveries happen to non-believer and believer alike — and hence appear contingent on natural and not supernatural mechanisms.)

I know what many of you are thinking — “Leave it to a skeptical, non-believing blankety-blank science guy to trash our sacred beliefs.” If you are nodding your head in agreement — you are dead wrong. First of all, I am a believer. I also believe that God hears and answers prayer — and even heals people. Well, wait a minute, isn’t this contradictory or hypocritical, given what I wrote above? No, indeed, for I do not allege that my beliefs are based on hard science nor the manifestations of spirit, or God so physically evident as to permit measurement or quantification. In fact, those who believe that spirit, God, or any aspect of the supernatural can be demonstrated in a controlled study or lab experiment invite upon themselves the unenviable task of proving their claims. (It is always incumbent on those who propose the existence of something which can be physically detected and, thus measured, to do just that.) And I, for one, do not believe that they will ever garner any substantive proof. Why?

Consider this: In virtually every religious tradition God requires that humankind both apprehend His existence and relate to him via faith — a conviction based not on the physical and demonstrable, but on sheer belief. If God were to reveal Himself in the lab or clinical trial setting — say, by answering the prayers for healing in an experimental group at rates which exceed chance — the need for faith would be dispensed with. We could base our confidence, our belief in the spiritual and a First Cause (God) on the hard data provided by the study in question.

This, of course, would make God the author of a serious contradiction and would obligate most major religions to toss out many of their principle doctrines concerning the nature of the deity, the need for faith as a requisite for apprehending the divine, et cetera. It would also raise serious questions as to the reliability of revealed truths about God (oral and written traditions).

Since I do not believe God would ask one thing (faith) and then reveal Himself in a concrete, scientifically demonstrable fashion, I am not surprised or dismayed that laboratory experiments and clinical trials do not turn upon any credible data which stands up to scrutiny. I also realize, however, that there are some who believe that faith isn’t the only requisite to apprehending God or the supernatural and will continue to carry out studies aimed at catching a glimpse of the divine in action.

In my opinion they are wasting both time and money, but should they one day prove to be right — if they do incontrovertibly demonstrate the efficacy of prayerful supplication (to God) in healing a given malady — skeptic and believer alike will be making some rather profound changes to their distinct perspectives. This isn’t beyond the pale of possibility. I think, however, that such definitive proof will in some ways weigh more heavily on the religionist then the agnostic or skeptic.

While the debate rages and the studies plod along, what role then should the spiritual play in healing/medicine? I think most physicians — even diehard atheists — at the very least accommodate a narrow species of “spirituality,” in the sense of encouraging hope and making use of patient expectation to afford relief, if not cure.

In holistic medicine, on the other hand, the spiritual element more often takes on a different character and importance. The holistic medical community plays host to wide range of spiritual beliefs, including American Indian, New Age, Buddhist, Christian. As long as this spirituality is not called “scientific” or “hard science-based,” or makes claims which can be tested using the tools and methods of science, its place in the patient care repertoire of holistic health care practitioners remains a matter of personal prerogative. And doesn’t faith and personal prerogative lie at the core of human spirituality?

In the final analysis, I think we will find that the substantiation of faith begins and ends on one’s knees — and in one’s heart — and not in the laboratory.

Copyright 2011 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

Rats in the Cosmic Laboratory: Is God A Scientist?

http://anthonypayne.hubpages.com/hub/Feeling-Alienated-You-have-a-lot-of-company

Lego Ergo Sum (I read therefore I am)

Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind by Robert Kurzban, Ph.D.

The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D.

The Natural Superiority of Women by Asheley Montagu, Ph.D.

Religion is not about God by Prof. Loyal Rue

http://www.healingcare4u.org/recommended-books.html 

EXTENDED BEING WEBSITE: http://extendbeing.weebly.com/

Are you an atheist, religionist, deist, fideist or ????

From my “Rocking the Boat” Blog site http://rockingtheboat.weebly.com/

Picture

Apparently we Americas spend a great deal of time thinking about and change our religious and spiritual beliefs and practices. One telltale example: Many theists are embracing deism. Here is what Wikipedia had to say about this:“The 2001American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) survey, which involved 50,000 participants, reported that the number of participants in the survey identifying themselves as deists grew at the rate of 717% between 1990 and 2001. If this were generalized to the US population as a whole, it would make deism the fastest-growing religious classification in the US for that period, with the reported total of 49,000 self-identified adherents representing about 0.02% of the US population at the time.[15][16]”Along the same line, during a “For Good Reasonpodcast on “The Search for Quantum Consciousness,” physicist Victor Stenger touched on a Baylor University survey that revealed that 40% of people who identify themselves as Christians basically do not believe in a God who plays an active role in the universe (13m:47s into the podcast). Dr. Stenger makes the point that these folks sound like deists.The rise of deism and the Christian identification with it in principle if not in name, tells me a lot of believing folks have taken the time to ruminate on whether or not there is sufficiently compelling evidence to believe God is actively playing a role in their lives – like answering prayers, performing miracles and such. 4 of 10 Christians in the Baylor survey appear to have concluded that God is on holiday. This is one way to for religionists to reconcile what goes on in the world and is attested to by scientific findings with one’s particular brand of faith (Of course, one can jettison faith altogether, which is what Dr. Stenger has done and advocates in his books “God: The Failed Hypothesis” and “Quantum Gods: Creation, Chaos, and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness”.)

Now, while believers may be increasingly leaning toward a deist stance on God, it is unlikely the great majority will decide the Almighty simply doesn’t exist and never did. Of course, what believers have to be careful of is making claims concerning God’s actions or motives that can be tested using the tools of science or refuted using demonstrable or deducible facts informed by logic. For instance, religionists who insist there was a worldwide flood that a man named Noah and his clan rode out in an ark run into monumental problems such as a lack of evidence for a global deluge in the geologic record, not to mention the fact the energy released by what is described in scriptures would have resulted in oceans so hot as to constitute a de facto lobster pot in which everything living including those in the ark would have boiled to death, et cetera (There is, however evidence of a local flood in Mesopotamia about the time the incidents described in Genesis were supposed to have occurred.) And if an evangelist declares a dying cancer patient healed, this is testable insofar as doctors can put the healing to the test using modern day scanners (One doctor who did track down 23 people who were declared healed of terminal diseases during services conducted in 1967 by evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman  found no evidence to support this.)

Putting aside biblical and extrabiblical claims of the miraculous – which can be examined and either confirmed or found wanting — there is a host of very dark chapters in history such as the reign of Hitlerism-Nazism in Germany (1933-1945) and its “wicked fruit” (especially the Holocaust) that have profound implications for God’s role in human affairs, suggesting to many believers that either God is or was on holiday or just isn’t around at all. As a boy I mulled this over and came to the tentative conclusion that God was not necessarily absent from human affairs, but had simply assumed a more subtle role in lock-step with our ever increasing ability to run our own show.  Of course, as our control over nature and each other increased and our tools and weapons became more sophisticated and powerful – the greater our potential became for doing both great good or great evil. The choice ultimately rests with us, of course, though we are told (in the Tanakh, Christian New Testament and Qur’an) that humankind will not be allowed to fully extinguish its own flame.

To my delight my boyhood spin on theodicy was independently arrived at by many others, including scholar David Birnbaum who fleshed it out (1989) on a scholarly level in a delightfully insightful book titled “God and Evil: A Unified Theodicy/Theology/Philosophy” 

Obviously matters of faith lacking testable claims – amounting to convictions and beliefs in the absence of evidence — cannot genuinely be settled either decisively or conclusively. Often, one man’s truth is another one’s heresy. And treatises on theodicy like the one I came up with as a boy could as easily be accommodated by some forms of deism as it could conventional or orthodox religions.

Even belief in God amounts to a commitment in the absence of evidence. Atheists and agnostics can and have trumped Judeo-Christian apologetics using a body of powerful evidence and logic. I would urge my fellow religionists to face up to this and consider embracing polymath Martin Gardner’s fideist spin on God (which could also be applied to many aspects of faith including certain dogmas, doctrines and such.) This is ably captured in a comment made by famed illusionist and champion of skeptical thinking, James Randi, on Gardner’s passing at age ninety-five (95):

“……Yes, Martin was a fideist, and he defended that belief in his usual calm, direct fashion. When I questioned him on the subject he told me that he had no really good evidence to support his belief, but that it simply made him feel better to adopt it. He said that I — and other curmudgeons — had far better evidence for our convictions, but that he just felt more secure in his acceptance. He admitted — easily — that he could not convincingly argue his case… That was Martin, and I love him for being Martin…..”

Mr. Randi’s comment in its entirety can be found by clicking this link

I am not here to dictate what people believe or not. I’m here to rock boats that could use some rocking. Religion is one of these. But rocking this boat doesn’t mean telling folks what to believe or how to express their faith. Rather, I relish sharing ideas, information and lines of thought that at least some believers might find useful in terms of helping better reconcile their convictions and beliefs with what science and history has revealed about our origins and nature.  And this, my friend, brings me to the purpose of this particular blog entry: Namely, to pass along something which I believe will serve this purpose for at least a few believers reading this thought stream —

THE SACRED EMERGENCE OF NATURE by Ursula Goodenough and Terrence W. Deacon (The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science) 

Happy belated “Religious Liberty Day”! Keep rocking boats that need rocking! I sure will.

The Jim Haverlock Story: How losing it all made him a winner

Jim Haverlock shares how he found it all by losing it all. A great antidote to the Gospel of Unbridled Consumerism that dominates the thinking and actions of so many folks: http://14ushop.com/haverlock/articles/1-giving%20it%20all%20up%20for%20freedom.pdf

Rocking the Boat Blog Site Debuts

Sex: We feed the bulldog, but can we tame it?

http://www.examiner.com/holistic-health-in-santa-ana/sex-we-feed-the-bulldog-but-can-we-tame-it

Also check out:

Alienation: Pervasive and insidious  (Examiner article) by Choctaw Doc

OSTEOPOROSIS IN WOMEN: SEMINAL FLUID COMPOUNDS ABSORBED THROUGH MUCOSAL TISSUES HELP PROTECT AGAINST & REMEDIATE BONE LOSS   (Idea/hypothesis) by Choctaw Doc

Is an Attachment-Style Problem Complicating or Undermining Your Life?

http://www.examiner.com/holistic-health-in-santa-ana/is-an-attachment-style-problem-complicating-or-undermining-your-life

See also: Alienation: Pervasive and insidious  (Examiner article) by Choctaw Doc

Stepping Outside the Religion Box: A new book by Jim Haverlock

 

The Supreme Trap Box by Jim Haverlock
The Supreme Trap Box

Looking for God?
Do Religions follow the Teachings of Christ?
Are churches “infallable”?
Do you have your own questions about God?

What you will read in this book:

*Preface
Chapters:
1. Embroidery of Life
2. Everyman’s way is right, in his eyes
3. 21st Century – vs – early B.C.
4. Religions – Rules/Regulations / Sins
5. Wisdom Literature
6. Genesis-Purity-Compassion-
Chocolates Because so many of us “lay people” question this topic, it may just be time for a lay persons view point and expressions, that may open new doors, or provide more questions for each of us to ponder.

7. Infallibility
8. Hypocrisy
9. Just for Fun
10. Communication with God
10a. Angels, Guides, Spirits
11. Trap Box – Supreme
12. Closing Notes
*About the Cover
*Foot notes / references
*Suggested Readings

Want a sneak preview? <—Click this link

The Spiritual Aspects of “Holistic” Medicine

The foundation of holism or holistic medicine rests on a triumvirate — body, mind and spirit. Actually, as the mind is an expression of the various regions of the brain — a species of the physical — we are really dealing with body/brain and spirit. The former, of course, has been probed and explored using the tools of medicine and science. No one questions their reality. Spirit, on the other hand, by most definitions is non-material, and thus lies beyond the purview of science; that is, one cannot demonstrate spirit using a gas chromatograph, scanning electron microscope, or any other tool in the armamentarium of science.

But what of the effects of spirit? If it exists, should we not be able to detect its effects on the physical realm? This is a question which now occupies many philosophers, some scientists and physicians, and many laypeople.

One very often cited manifestation of spirit lies in the realm of answered prayer. Numerous studies have been carried out in which patients with a given affliction were divided into two groups: One received prayer (experimental group) and the other (control group) didn’t. The prayers were offered off-site and no one involved in the study knew who was being prayed for and who wasn’t (double-blind).

The bottom line of many of these studies is that prayer appears to have made a significant difference in the relief or cure of the malady or affliction in the experimental group, while those in the control group had no appreciable change in their condition. The rigor of these studies has been found wanting by countless impartial investigators. That is, flaws in study design, methodology and/or execution have basically invalidated the findings of these clinical trials.

What of the healings connected with religious shrines, such as Lourdes? There have been approximately 69 healings connected with Lourdes which have met the Catholic church’s criteria for a bona fide miracle — 69 out of the hundreds of thousands of petitions for healing. This is not statistically significant. In short, the numbers do not support the notion that the rate of recovery/healing at Lourdes is greater than would be expected to occur as a result of normal processes. (One can expect a certain percentage of even incurable illnesses to suddenly and inexplicably go into remission. These recoveries happen to non-believer and believer alike — and hence appear contingent on natural and not supernatural mechanisms.)

I know what many of you are thinking — “Leave it to a skeptical, non-believing blankety-blank scientist to trash our sacred beliefs.” If you are nodding your head in agreement — you are dead wrong. First of all, I am a theist. I also believe that God hears and answers prayer — and even heals people through various means including the ministrations of physicians. Well, wait a minute, isn’t this contradictory or hypocritical, given what I wrote above? No, indeed, for I do not allege that my beliefs are based on hard science nor the manifestations of spirit, or God so physically evident as to permit measurement or quantification. In fact, those who believe that spirit, God, or any aspect of the supernatural can be demonstrated in a controlled study or lab experiment invite upon themselves the unenviable task of proving their claims. (It is always incumbent on those who propose the existence of something which can be physically detected and, thus measured, to do just that.) And I, for one, do not believe that they will ever garner any substantive proof. Why?

Consider this: In virtually every religious tradition God requires that humankind both apprehend His existence and relate to him via faith — a conviction based not on the physical and demonstrable, but on sheer belief. If God were to reveal Himself in the lab or clinical trial setting — say, by answering the prayers for healing in an experimental group at rates which exceed chance — the need for faith would be dispensed with. We could base our confidence, our belief in the spiritual and a First Cause (God) on the hard data provided by the study in question.

This, of course, would make God the author of a serious contradiction and would obligate most major religions to toss out many of their principle doctrines concerning the nature of the deity, the need for faith as a requisite for apprehending the divine, et cetera. It would also raise serious questions as to the reliability of revealed truths about God (oral and written traditions).

Since I do not believe God would ask one thing (faith) and then reveal Himself in a concrete, scientifically demonstrable fashion, I am not surprised or dismayed that laboratory experiments and clinical trials do not turn upon any credible data which stands up to scrutiny. I also realize, however, that there are some who believe that faith isn’t the only requisite to apprehending God or the supernatural and will continue to carry out studies aimed at catching a glimpse of the divine in action.

In my opinion they are wasting both time and money, but should they one day prove to be right — if they do incontrovertibly demonstrate the efficacy of prayerful supplication (to God) in healing a given malady — skeptic and believer alike will be making some rather profound changes to their distinct perspectives. This isn’t beyond the pale of possibility. I think, however, that such definitive proof will in some ways weigh more heavily on the religionist then the agnostic or skeptic.

While the debate rages and the studies plod along, what role then should the spiritual play in healing/medicine? I think most physicians — even diehard atheists — at the very least accommodate a narrow species of “spirituality,” in the sense of encouraging hope and making use of patient expectation to afford relief, if not cure.

In holistic medicine, on the other hand, the spiritual element more often takes on a different character and importance. The holistic medical community plays host to wide range of spiritual beliefs, including American Indian, New Age, Buddhist, Christian. As long as this spirituality is not called “scientific” or “hard science-based,” or makes claims which can be tested using the tools and methods of science, its place in the patient care repertoire of holistic health care practitioners remains a matter of personal prerogative. And doesn’t faith and personal prerogative lie at the core of human spirituality?

In the final analysis, I think we will find that the substantiation of faith begins and ends on one’s knees — and in one’s heart — and not in the laboratory. 

© 2009 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved

Many Voices, One Song

At the heart of each of us are 3 primal drives that give rise to and inform most, if not all of the human behavior (Individually and collectively).  Click here to read http://14ushop.com/wizard/3PrimalDrivesEssay.html. In science and many other fields, reductionism of this sort helps us see what is fundamental to many aspects of reality. However, while “unified field theories” in physics, psychology, or what-have-you make explicable what was previously inexplicable, unveiling a beauty and simplicity beneath the surface that is awe-inspiring and even fruitful at many levels, it isn’t always possible to take mechanism (however meaningful or purposeful) and forge tools or methods from it that advance human culture. We can take physical elements and build skyscrapers on the one hand, and thermonuclear bombs on the other. And with words we can fashion social orders that champion freedom, fairness and tolerance on the one hand, “empire and death camps on the other, “and many permutations in between.

However, knowing the underlying or fundamental mechanisms or laws from which our world proceeds can favorably influence the social, political and economic tapestry we weave.  Consider the 3 primal drives: All of us want to acquire certain basic things crucial to survival (and more), preserve what we manage to gather about us, and perpetuate it so as to benefit our progeny and the community that nurtures and protects them. We can do this using rational and moral means so that fairness and mutual benefit are emphasized, or we can opt for something else entirely. 

However, they all deal with meeting or satisfying some aspect of the human condition, and this most often through the allocation and judicious use of material and/or human resources.

In a way, all these various local entities and networks of entities (state, national or transnational) are functional algorithms of a sort– means of solving problems and/or meeting needs and/or helping folks cope — through semi-invariant procedures.  Some merely point the way to viable solutions and are thus more heuristic in nature.  And some combine elements of both (Known as a “heuristic algorithm” or of being “algorithmic” in scientific parlance).

 A church, synagogue or mosque that provides money or food to the disadvantaged often adds a needed “human touch” missing from government offices.

 Somehow we hope that between local efforts and national ones, the resultant symphony will be a harmonious and beautiful.

Of course, in order to create a wondrous symphonic work, the members of the orchestra (people and the society they comprise) must agree on how the orchestra will be run, how the music will be written and revised, and who will set the pace for the ensemble (The orchestra leader).   In the United States, we advocate specific mechanisms for both preserving individually, maximizing creative freedom, and yet steering the whole towards a harmonious work as opposed to a raucous “noise fest”.  The American way, as it were, is built on democratic principles and capitalism. The Japanese way, on the other hand, embraces democracy and capitalism, but has a strong element of conformity to what “the group” (society) deems in the best interests of all.  Many countries in the EU favor a social democracy approach that offers varying degrees of “cradle to grave” care for its citizenry. Singapore is authoritarian in orientation.  Iran embraces an Islamic theocracy.  Cuba has a dictator. 

The American system appears poised to fulfill Karl Marx’s prediction that capitalism corrupts, implodes, and then collapses (This is not to argue that necessarily offered a better set of devices for meeting a peoples needs and potentialities. But his extrapolations – his predictions – do seem uncannily accurate).

The Japanese democratic experiment, on the other hand, has managed to create and sustain a middle class that encompasses 95% of her people, made comprehensive national health care available to most, and has forged a social order that has one of the lowest crime rates in the industrialized world.  There are signs that these devices are beginning to falter, but even so the Japanese willingness to adapt to contingency coupled with the group-driven ethic of their hardworking people may patch up and keep the Japanese sociopolitical engine running far into the future.

Most of us belong to a local band (Think back to the symphony analogy)  – a small collective or branch of a larger one whose devices we utilize or become a part of in order to achieve certain ends (Material and otherwise).  So long as these bands do not inflict harm or violate the laws the citizenry has agree to live by, such devices thrive and fulfill the purposes ordained by their constituency (They are “moral”).   Up to and including providing meaning in life or facilitating finding such meaning. They may be playing different tunes, yes, but as they compete in the “marketplace of ideas” most wisely choose not to play a tune that attracts rather than offends those outside the band (If not for the sake of tolerance, then to keep from scaring off prospective converts or members).

 The question arises, could all the bands (peoples) of the world tool together a musical piece that would be played by all – without sacrificing or compromising their individual, favored anthems and tunes?  Can the world community achieve a utopian harmony and maintain it?

 I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing

During 1971 Coca Cola launched a commercial that featured a musical group called “The New Seekers” singing a cheery, upbeat tune titled “I’d Like To Teach the World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony).”  The lyrics include ones that beautifully capture the appeal of a utopian kind of harmony: 

I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I’d like to hold it in my arms and keep it company
I’d like to see the world for once
All standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills “Ah, peace throughout the land”

Exactly what is involved in collectively writing (as it were) a global song of harmony?  Which is to say, transcending the many differences, xenophobic and ethnocentric tendencies, religious quarrels, and such within and between nations and groups, in order to achieve a peaceful, peace-loving and peace-preserving global community?

 Too,well,utopian?!   I’m sure the creation of an enduring democracy in a land of people boasting a multitude of languages, cultural traditions, and religions must have seemed just as unlikely back in the 18th century.   But the American experiment took root and flourished.   How did a nation of diverse nations succeed in forging a viable social and political order that basically (though gradually and haltingly) subsumed and bound together all its constituents, worked to transcend differences (though not without great pain), and maintain a species of harmony that (though often frayed) has yet to come unraveled?

Is the American system the end result of good geography, good ideas and good luck (As in seizing opportunities)?   In part, yes.   But from its birth there was laid a foundation without which the many strands would have been unlikely to be wound together to form the one strong rope it has become:  An express vision or template that all who call themselves Americans would embrace and defend. This vision or template included many elements such as the preeminence of basic articulated freedoms and rights for all; the rule of law; a democratically elected, representative government with constraints on the power exercised by its main branches; and so forth.

Now this is not to say that the success of the “American way” is a mandate for it to become the “Global Way”.   But there are principles and ideas that can be extracted from the American experience, as well as that of other successful nations and collectives, which could form the core of a global vision or template.

 If it is not a universal symphony,  “..it may well be a funeral dirge.

Submitted for your consideration on Memorial Day (USA) – a day for reflection and moving forward – by Dr. Anthony G. Payne  

Original copyright 2004 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne – All rights reserved.. This version copyright 2009 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

Fascination with Dying & Death: Death as Participation (Which is Generally Adaptive)

Background: As you likely are aware, there has been a lot of research written up in newspapers and science periodicals and web pages that focuses on the nature of consciousness and the brain mechanisms that give rise to it. I do not want to delve into so weighty a topic as consciousness, but instead just want to draw your attention to mirror neurons and cortical-limbic (higher mental processes-emotions) connections. It is these that facilitate identification with others including experiencing their emotions be it anger, terror, joy, etc. as though we ourselves were experiencing these feelings. This makes explicable, in part, our love affair with certain novels, movies, documentaries, and life experiences. It also provides at least a partial explanation for why we are generally fascinated with injury, death and dying (Don’t tell me you don’t rubberneck at accident scenes or find some aspects of death and dying curiously compelling.  I am not talking out morbid obsessions or pathological “enjoyment”, but rather natural curiosity informed by a sense of identification with the dying or soon-to-die soul).  It is these brain mechanisms which I’d like to posit as one of the main players in human fascination with death and dying; mechanisms which are also, I contend, adaptive in some respects.     

Humbly Submitted for Your Consideration:

The individuality and social belonging and cohesiveness engendered by the neural mechanisms cited above, influenced and shaped by one’s native home life and culture and such, lends us to be everything from loners to “the life of the party” (The boorish extrovert). This self-same set of neural modules – consciousness – also makes us aware of our own mortality and that of others. We find ourselves thus fearful of death – yet drawn to it. Sometimes the greater the fear experienced, the greater the curiosity about the process of dying and death. We want to both understand and by so doing disarm or at least lesson our fear and the resultant anxiety or unease it engenders in us. Or if nothing else desensitize ourselves to it, and by so doing surmount or transcend our fear or distress.

Given this, the historic and ongoing fascination people experience when it comes to death becomes explicable: It arises from a combination of curiosity and participation in the sufferings and death of others. We rehearse our own death, in short.  When this participation – -this empathetic tie – with the dying is one tempered by sympathy and concern, we experience death as pain. When the dying is the object of our revulsion or dislike or even hatred, there may be an element of pleasure associated with his or her passing.  These feelings also engage our sense of competitiveness – of wanting to survive – of being left standing while another or others have not been so fortunate. History shows that this is natural; that is, part of the human condition; a feature of our evolved brain.   

If most or all empathy is lacking and death is inflicted or observed as sexually exciting or pleasurable in another sense, then the normal mechanisms have become pathologic. This is the world of the sociopathic killer – single strike or serial or what-have-you.

 Of course, participating (neutrally, so-to-speak) in the dying process and death of a relative or historic personage can be adaptive and is so, I would argue. In short, it reduces death anxiety and by so doing frees us to better focus on living and thriving as we do so. Or if our circumstances are onerous, it can liberate us to carry on the good fight; to wage the good fight to hang on and survive to see a better day.

This little excursion into the “Shadowlands” is not comprehensive. I like to leave room for my readers to think and ‘cuss & discuss’ within themselves and others.

Here are some posted writings of mine that may inform your own cogitations on dying and death:

http://www.healingcare4u.org/inflicted-violent-death.html

http://www.healingcare4u.org/quick-bytes.htm#anchor3

  

 

 

© 2009 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.  Private communication use permitted.

Frankl & Custer: We are all headed to the Little Big Horn

MONTANA VALLEY TOO - Free MorguefileOne of the most beloved verses in the Hebrew Scriptures comes from the 23rd Psalms:

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: For you are with me”

In Japan, where I lived and taught for many years, a general sense of “gloom & doom” pessimism pervaded the lives of many folks. This was especially evident among my university students. Japan’s protracted economic woes had apparently sapped the vision and vitality out of many of these otherwise industrious, tenacious souls. A great many kids spoke of there being “no real future” for them. Needless to say, depression and despair reared its ugly head fairly often. 

Now reactive depression is a wholly expected and understandable response to intractable adversity or woe. We all have a tendency to get sorely vexed when our lives are turned upside down and held there by trials and tribulations. In such a situation, one tries to console and counsel the suffering as best one can. (A touch of satire and self-deprecating humor sometimes doesn’t hurt either). And this I ably extended to my angst-ridden student charges with varying degrees of success. But more was needed.

The “more”, I reasoned, had to lie in something that would get these kids to change their outlook or perspective on certain aspects of life. To do this I looked to a tried-and-true source for generating insight and encouraging change: history. Specifically, I had my students tackle and examine two notable chapters: Famed psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s account of his years of struggle in various Nazi concentration camps (as recounted in his timeless classic, “Man’s Search For Meaning”), and the saga of Gen. George Armstrong Custer.

Dr. Frankl and his imprisoned compatriots suffered cruelly at the hands of sadistic SS guards, all the while struggling with scarcity and living conditions so calculatingly appalling as to beggar the imagination. Mindful that he could not change his circumstances and that his Nazi tormenters could snuff out his life at any minute, Frankl nonetheless felt empowered by a single fact: They could take everything from him but his power to choose how he would react to their brutal actions! And it was this realization that essentially helped buoy up Dr. Frankl during his agonizing walk through the “valley of the shadow of death”!

Frankl emerged from Hitler’s reign of terror intact and went on to establish an influential school of psychotherapy called logotherapy (http://logotherapy.univie.ac.at/). He died in 1997 at the ripe old age of 92, having survived the Third Reich by 52 years.

While Dr. Viktor Frankl was the victim of totalitarian oppression and a state-sanctioned policy of malignant racism and genocide, Brevet Major Gen. George Armstrong Custer stood on the other side of the divide, so to speak. Custer played a somewhat pivotal role in the United State’s 19th century pursuit of lebensraum (“living space”) and its calculated program of conquering and containing indigenous peoples (American Indians). It was not Custer’s successes in the so-called Indian War that helped advance the narrow social and political agenda of his time, but rather his death along with that of over 200 of his soldiers at the Little Big Horn (June 26, 1876). The “massacre” of then Lt. Col. Custer and his troops elicited a massive military response that ultimately led to the total subjugation of American Indians during the early years of the 20th century.   

After my students had fully acquainted themselves with the lives and feats of Dr. Frankl and Lt. Col. Custer, I had them conduct an open comparative analysis of the two (men) for the purpose of extracting principles they felt to be especially insightful and personally meaningful.

Of course, these bright, eager young people came up with an illustrious roster of “goodies”. Among them: The power of choice; how evil seduces people by playing up to their basic desires and egos; the futility of life spent focused on narrow, self-serving and self-aggrandizing goals; the nobility of service to others informed by prior suffering; etc.

After we had reviewed their litany of ideas and comments, I asked them to sum up what we had learned from the lives of Frankl and Custer. The general consensus was that we must all have the power to make choices that will steer us through life; choices that may decide whether we end our days with a tally sheet that favors having achieved something worthwhile,…..or its opposite.

I had only one thing to add to what their conclusion, which was this:

“Each of us is headed into the valley…to our own “last stand”. Whether you get there as a young person or during middle-age or as a very old man or woman,….we all have to the enter the valley and depart this world. No one escapes this fate. But as you correctly surmised, it isn’t that final battle alone that determines the meaning and value of the life you have lived, but what you do in the days, weeks, and years leading up to it. And yes, the impact of your life and the ripples it sets in motion are determined by the choices and subsequent actions you take while en route to the valley.

“Now I have but one final point to make – an admonition, really – which is this:

“If Dr. Frankl could exercise choice in his dire circumstances and by so doing not only survive the fiendish horror that was Nazi Germany, but set in motion ideas that have transformed countless lives ever since,….then certainly you can lay hold of the promise that lies in the abundant choices and options you have in life.”

Of those students who have stayed in contact with me in the intervening years, most appear to have made prudent choices that have helped them forge personally meaningful, productive and fulfilling lives. 

How goes your journey to the valley? 

 http://www.examiner.com/article/frankl-custer

Acquisition, Preservation against loss, and Perpetuation: The Basic Drives Underlying Biology & Evolution As Expressed in Human Psychology & Culture

Are there certain primal (core), universal traits or drives which act as a kind of behavioral template for our species? Which give rise to and are expressed in terms of our basic individual and collective behavior? A biological version of the Holy Grail of Physics – Grand Unification? (In a word, a small number of natural drives or instincts that undergird and give rise to much of human behavior)

 In concert with Darwin, William James, E. O. Wilson, and innumerable others, I would respond with a resounding “yes”. And like them, I believe that the origins of the “psychobiological template” were forged in the crucible of evolution.

In June of 1998, the notion of fundamental or primal drives was big news. Researchers at Ohio State University conducted an extensive study and concluded that there are 15 desires which underlie most human behavior. “Nearly everything important a human being wants can be reduced to one or more of these 15 core desires, most of which have a genetic basis,” said Steven Reiss, co-author of the study and a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Ohio State University. “These desires are what guide our actions. In a sense, we are studying the meaning of life.”

 This body of research was published in the June 1998 issue of the Journal of Psychological Assessment.

 These are the 15 basic or fundamental human desires and values revealed by the Reiss et al study:

Curiosity – desire to learn

Food – desire to eat

Honor – (morality) desire to behave in accordance with code of conduct

Rejection – fear of social rejection       j

Sex – desire for sexual behavior and fantasies

Physical exercise – desire for physical activity

Order – desired amount of organization in daily life  .

Independence – desire to make own decisions

Vengeance – desire to retaliate when offended

Social Contact – desire to be in the company of others

Family – desire to spend time with own family

Social Prestige – desire for prestige and positive attention

Aversive Sensations – aversion to pain and anxiety

Citizenship – desire for public service and social justice

Power – desire to influence people

I, on the other hand, would argue that there are 3 basic or core drives which include and subsume Reiss’s fifteen. Briefly:

 Life at it’s most fundamental level involves acquisition of resources to insure survival, prevention of loss or compromise of resources vital to life, and the perpetuation of the genome (Reproduction). Those traits and behaviors which help an individual satisfy these life-sustaining and preserving “essentials” are selected for; that is, they get the job done – are adaptive – and thus lend those who possess them to leave behind viable offspring (This is known as differential reproduction in biological parlance).

Acquisition, prevention of loss (defense), and perpetuation lie at the heart of biology and it’s explosive success on this planet. As such one would expect to see them conserved throughout the course of biological evolution with discernible expression in the individual and collective behavior of “higher” animals. This does indeed appear to be the case.

  •           Acquisition

 The acquisition of adequate food, water, shelter and warmth to sustain life is obviously a fairly high priority. If not tended to, we die off. It is that simple. How we secure these necessities is the stuff of which everything from clans to tribal cultures to first world nation-states and economies are built on. In the long run it behooves a collection of social creatures (people) to cooperatively nail down the basics of life. If each person is left on their own – or selfishness or cheating is considered a virtue – human survival on the whole is adversely affected. In this sort of society a few survive and thrive at the expense of the less capable, but theirs is an existence which is given to conflict and xenophobia, if not downright paranoia. One-upmanship can be carried to the point of mutual extermination.

Humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow rather brilliantly and succinctly captured this in his various works on human conduct and psychology. The first order of acquisition is the physiological basics. Once these are met, we are individually and collectively more at liberty to explore other wants, desires and needs (Internet keyword phrase: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs).

 The man or woman who goes out to work in order to provide for self and family is satisfying the biologic imperative to acquire that which will help guarantee survival. It is universally recognized and in our culture elevated to the level of being a virtue (Protestant Work Ethic).

 In most cases, mature humans concurrently seek to satisfy the physiological basics and reproduce. Both are expressions of resource acquisition. Procreation is fundamental to the preservation of the species. It also furnishes the parents with both an investment and a resource; that is, an investment in the sense that the necessities of life, love, nurturing, etc., are directed at producing healthy, viable progeny who will not only carry the family germline into the future, but provide the parents with “dividends” (resources) in terms of psychological, (possibly) material support, comfort, grandchildren, etc.

But not every parent does a great job of child rearing and not every child comes out right. Acquisition is the drive, but its expression can be thwarted, perverted or nullified. Adaptive traits such as ambition, competitiveness, willingness to negotiate and compromise for mutual benefit, the quest for power over circumstances, etc., can become maladaptive if pushed to extremes, seriously thwarted or otherwise corrupted. The ambition/competitiveness which encourages a father and/or mother to secure employment and work hard can become unbridled and give way to negative manifestations of same: Workaholism, coworker envy, greed, etc. The flip side of emotional satisfaction and sexual gratification (Acquisition) can be obsession, sexual addiction, narcissism, and neurosis. If these defects do not destroy the family structure or sacrifice the ability of progeny to cope with the world and lead successful lives, the family unit limps on. If the degree of dysfunction is seriously pathological, the family unit disintegrates and the effects ripple through the ensuing generations. If transgenerational maladaptive behaviors are not altered and more healthy patterns established, the dysfunctional line may go extinct through various adverse means : Suicide, homicide, infertility, socioeconomic marginalization to the point of starvation, compromise of hygiene and health with resultant onset of acute and/or chronic disease, et cetera.

Maladaptive traits can, in a social context, bring about conditions and responses (both within and outside the family) which essentially select the dysfunctional family member or unit out of existence. Of course, a society can enact programs which blunt this selection or winnowing process. When looked at as an investment which may return dividends to a given society down the line, this species of altruism is probably a wise form of cultural, if not species ” insurance.”

As indicated (above) , acquisition is derived from and informed by biology. We can see this very readily in human mating patterns: Men and women exhibit courtship/mating preferences and post-marital patterns which reflect differential parental investment in offspring. Women, who invest more biological and personal resources into bringing children (gestation) into the world, would tend to seek out a mate who will produce genetically healthy children and help sustain them (Bring home at least part of the bacon). And since it is often women who invest the most in terms of time and energy in rearing progeny, they would naturally be inclined to select a mate who will be both emotionally faithful and actively involved in the support and protection of the family unit. Men, on the other hand, who invest little in the reproductive process (“sperm donors” is an apt term) and are apparently hormonally driven to maximize reproductive opportunities, would be more inclined to get progeny into the world and on their way through life, then seek out other mating opportunities. This is exactly what cross cultural statistics indicate. Most divorces occur during or following the fourth year of marriage, just after the first child or two has been born and reached a sufficient age to suggest that “smooth sailing” is ahead, i.e., the child(ren) are healthy and viable, and will most likely remain so. Of course, this isn’t fair from most religious and ethical perspectives. Indeed, our society has enacted legislation to penalize men who abandon their family and eschew material (and possibly some degree of emotional) support for the children they have sired. But it (divorce) is a fact which appears to reflect a pronounced biological tendency in males.

 Societies have various solutions to keeping men committed to the marriage and family. In over 85% of human cultures, polygamy is the order of the day. This is obviously one way in which a man can “have his cake and eat it to”, i.e., stay true to his first mate and offspring – while maximizing his reproductive opportunities. ( Of course, polygamous unions have their built in limits – namely, resources. If the resources necessary to sustain the family are seriously compromised, the intrafamily dynamic can be strained and even ruptured ). In some of the societies which have outlawed polygamy, women tolerate their men having mistresses and “one night stands”. This is not to say either approach is ethical in the classic Judeo-Christian sense, but it does bear testimony to what men and women will do to accommodate biological propensities. Again, this “battle of the sexes” (or battle for sex) reflects the basic acquisition drive (mates, progeny, security, protection, etc.) informed by biology.

Once women and men fully comprehend the desire to acquire through a biological/Darwinian lens, certain behavioral traits and tendencies become not only explicable, but potentially amenable to intervention and modification.

On a larger scale, acquisition finds expression in the activities of nation-states. Many of history’s most successful conquerors were expressly bent on expanding the economic and other resources available to the nation or confederation of nations they led. Other members of this fraternity apparently had in mind their own glorification, if not deification. However, the people who followed these megalomaniacs on wars of conquest did (and still do so) so for reasons more often practical or “down to Earth” then not: The major player being patriotism/nationalism, which boils down to protecting existing resources from real or perceived enemies and/or acquiring more resources (In the past, war and voyages of exploration/conquest and commercial gain brought a welcomed human resource to many nations : Namely, slaves). The justification for bloody conquest can be as straightforward as the desire for booty – xenophobic clashes born of differences in culture, language, etc. – or as esoteric as assumed racial or ethnic superiority packaged as a mandate to conquer and even exterminate the untermensch [The race(s) and/or ethnic group(s) deemed inferior]. The manifestations are many and varied, but the underlying drive is biological (Acquisition).

Consider the embrace of virulent racism and dictatorship by technologically advanced, seemingly “civilized” cultures in the early to middle part of this century:

The rise of fascism in Europe and the Far East in the 1920s and 1930s was the stepchild of economic depression and resultant privation (Loss and compromise of resources). Whether men such as Adolf Hitler truly cared for the people they led is both doubtful and irrelevant; that he possessed the insight to artfully exploit the human desire to protect resources and acquire new ones (to flourish) is born out by the slogans and propaganda he and his cronies employed to garner popular support for the Nazi Party (NSDAP). One example: Fur freiheit und brot! (For freedom and bread). The fact the Nazis passed out free bread to hungry, unemployed Germans – thus linking Nazism with the acquisition and distribution of resources – was not lost on the common people. The interplay of post-WWI political unrest, loss of resources and national pride, scapegoating fueled by long-standing xenophobia and prejudice, and a national tendency towards fervent militarism set the stage for the ascent of the Nazis. The almost idolatrous homage paid the Fuhrer (Hitler) by a nation-state grateful to have its glory (Resources) restored and expanded becomes perfectly explicable when viewed as a manifestation of human evolved nature. The Nazis, of course, took adaptive traits to unhealthy, maladaptive extremes. This flip side of acquisition – blatant evil – was proximally successfully, but ultimately catastrophic [And thus Nazi Germany decisively armed the history-based observation/axiom that oppressive dictatorships,  especially those predicated on elitism and calculated violence, actually exploits (in the name of liberation) and then stifles the basic human drive to acquire, retain and protect resources. What begins as a successful shortcut to gain for the masses and its leaders succumbs to the maladaptive extremes it was both born of and generates. e.g. sadism, conflict, perversion].

The democratic approach to generating opportunities for resource acquisition and distribution exemplified by the American sociopolitical and economic system would appear, despite all its pitfalls and failings, to offer the most benign and yet productive framework for expressing the basic human drive to acquire. That is, adaptive traits are actually accommodated if not nurtured by the law of the land, i.e., freedom is granted to the citizenry to pursue material gain, a mate of one’s choice, sire progeny, etc., while the law concomitantly penalizes those who attempt to usurp or monopolize resources, blatantly steal them or employ them in such a way as to bring greater harm than good. This is not to say there are not inequities, injustices, and the marginalization of many citizens. However, the sociopolitical means exist to redress these, up to and including completely voting in a new form of government. It is conceivable that one day Americans may elect to marry political democracy to economic democracy,  so as to more equitably distribute resources and thus insure that the existing poverty-stricken, marginalized underclass does not grow or become a permanent sociopolitical feature. Many European nations have been and are experimenting with various permutations of social democracy or democratic socialism to achieve this very end. Whether Americans will find wisdom in this trend and thus adapt some form of it as national policy remains to be seen. At any rate, the American political experiment would appear to both free and restrict the drive to acquire in such a way as to favor the common good.

  •           Protection from Loss

What we acquire (develop or inherit), e.g., good health, resources (tangible and intangible), progeny, esteem, etc., we naturally seek to protect from loss or compromise. This is a basic, fundamental human activity,  akin to if not derived from the survival instinct. What we as individuals and as social collectives (even nation-states) carve out we seek to insure against loss; to preserve, if not expand.

At the family unit level, men and women employ posturing, strength, the law or what-have-you to protect their mate, children, possessions, and possibly kin from inflicted loss or compromise (Whether on the part of others or nature). The rifle over the fireplace mantle and the insurance policy in the family strongbox are both tools for protecting the family against grievous loss. If one’s progeny, in particular, succumb to violent acts inflicted by others, the genetic imperative to produce and leave behind viable progeny is compromised (In essence one’s representation in the gene pool – the continuity of the family germline – is threatened).

In certain tribal communities this propensity to protect may take the form of ruling counsels and military chieftains. Field commanders essentially lead villagers to fend off attacks aimed at compromising the village’s integrity (Both it’s existence & established resource base). In larger collectives such as the nation-states, we have professional armies and navies whose sole task is to defend the populace against aggression from other nations bent on conquest (Acquisition of resources).

The adaptive role of protection is so self-evident, most peoples have written it into their religious and national codes of law. For example: If a man or woman kills an intruder who is perceived to threaten life or limb, that person is held blameless.

Of course, the basic drive to protect can be pushed to or assume maladaptive extremes. People can and do twist “protecting what’s mine” into a pretext for smothering possessiveness, greed, envy and even the pathological control of others. Fear of loss or a desire to limit the possibility of it occurring – say, a mate taking a lover or running off (Read: Resource compromise or loss) – can turn a protective stance into a “fortress mentality”. Authoritarian-prone leaders of nations sometimes fall prey to a similar mindset – played out on a grander scale. The end result of both is predictably bleak.

  •          Perpetuation

To seek to perpetuate one’s germline and resources (material gains/immaterial contributions & legacy) into the future is a natural partner and outgrowth of both acquisition and protection. One acquires resources, a mate, and has children, all the while engaged in trying to protect this accumulated treasure-trove in order to perpetuate biological (and personal) presence in the world of today and far beyond. In most other animals, the drive to acquire and protect biological and material resources is instinctive and perpetuation the reward for success. In humans, perpetuation is all this and more: It is distinguished by being simultaneously a natural drive and a conscious objective. This is, I contend, an outgrowth of our unique cognizance of our own mortality (Something no other extant animal species shares).

Consider: While religious faith comforts and reassures believers concerning a transcendent postmortem reality (Afterlife)* – which is adaptive in terms of reducing anxiety surrounding death, dissolution of self, etc. – it seldom totally liberates individuals from the deep-seated notion that the only certain immortality is found in progeny (and/or kin – especially for those sterile or not given to reproduce for whatever reason) and in acquiring those resources which nurture the familial germline and thus better insure it’s continuity. This unconscious element no doubt finds expression in conscious planning with regard to perpetuation of self in various guises: Offspring (being primary); ideas and memories passed down through kin, friends, and others; businesses or other enterprises which bear one’s name as both legacy and “physical presence” in the world that lies beyond our demise; et cetera. No doubt the modern cryogenic preservation of the dead in hopes of future reanimation reflects this very human drive to both perpetuate and be perpetual.

Given this human tendency rooted in biology, it should come as no surprise that “To die to self’ is no easier to achieve in our day than when first articulated by Ribbi Yehoshua (“Jesus of Nazareth”) nearly two thousand years ago. Yes, we do have many examples of people who die for strangers. St. Maximilian Kolbe took the place of a married man condemned to be starved to death at Auschwitz death camp during World War II. Newspapers routinely contain accounts of people of all ages sacrificing their own lives to spare others certain death. Are these acts consonant with our nature or do they transcend them? Perhaps both. Kolbe laid down his human life in order to acquire what he counted a greater reward: A place in God’s realm. He compromised the drive to “preserve” in order to “acquire” something of far greater value. Many who sacrifice themselves no doubt have internalized (and act out of) similar religious beliefs and convictions. While on the other hand, the sacrificial and heroic acts of at least some are born on the heels of a deep seated desire to gain more tangible rewards, such as recognition, honor, and material compensation. Some folks probably blend the two. At any rate, self-sacrifice would appear to both harmonize with and transcend the basic or primal drives.

As perpetuation is an adaptive trait, it follows that it has a dark side. We need look no further than individuals who build business empires and continue seeking to acquire more,  even when this actually uproots and destroys other business and their employees. The reasons given include “it is challenging”, “the quest for more is an end in itself*, “it benefits the economy and thus society at large” etc. Are these the underlying motivations or mere rationalizations offered for a much deeper desire? That is, are we not witnessing the conscious desire to perpetuate oneself turned full throttle? Is the flip side of perpetuation an insatiable appetite for a species of influence and malignant self-aggrandizement which “immortalizes”? Do we see in history’s supreme narcissist, Adolf Hitler, the quest to perpetuate pushed to a lethally pathological level?

The 15 basic Desires/Values of Dr. Reiss et al as Expressions of the 3 Primal Drives

 Acquisition

Curiosity

Food

Honor

Independence

 Preservation

Physical Exercise

Order

Vengeance

Social Prestige

Aversive Sensations

Perpetuation

Citizenship

Power

NOTE: Actually there is a great deal of overlap possible here. Power over others, for example, can help one acquire, preserve against loss, and perpetuate one’s legacy. The main point is: All 15 are expressions of the three fundamental or core drives.

  •           Concluding Polemic & Summation

Our brains were shaped over many millions of years in an environmental context few humans experience today (Gatherer-hunter). Our neurological wiring, so to speak, is a prosaic mesh of domain-specific adaptations which give rise to the complex faculties we call “mind”. Given the survival advantages conferred on life by acquisition, prevention against loss (defense), and perpetuation – it follows that primate behavior should to some reflect a brain “wired” with these core or primal (adaptive) drives. And indeed, various primatological, ethnological, and anthropological field studies tend to validate this prediction. Our evolutionary siblings, the Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), form communities whose members engage in the sort of social interaction, competition, aggression, peacemaking, food gathering activities, hunting, play, and so forth which would be expected to have arisen (at least in part) from the underlying primal principles or drives outlined in this essay. The same can be said of the Bonobo (Pan paniscus) chimpanzee “culture”, which is characterized by an incredible degree of egalitarianism (though favoring matriarchy), sexual activity that is somewhat casual, and the defusing of aggression via sexual overture. The nature and scope of acquisition, protection from loss, and perpetuation may be more subdued than is true of Pan troglodytes, but it is expressed nonetheless. That the primal drives are varied in terms of expression within and between primate communities (as well as human cultures) no doubt reflects biologic and environmental influences. Consider: Anger is a universal emotion in primates – an adaptive feature of our brains – which varies considerably in terms of expression. Biology and context both influence the degree of anger elicited and its discharge.

Human cultures vary too in terms of the influence and expression of the primal drives. In the Kung! San tribal culture (Kalahari), the community is essentially peaceful, there is a division of labor, e.g., men hunt, women gather plant foods, and disagreements are basically resolved via discussion. Families share possessions to a great degree with ownership per se being a “non-issue”. However, it should be noted that the Kung! have few material resources and live in a setting where natural resources are available, but do not readily facilitate the accumulation of “wealth” (They are also highly mobile – moving in order to more readily harvest seasonal plants and animals. As such, the Kung! peoples must literally pack up and carry their world about from one geographic locale to another. This discourages accumulating material goods not essential to survival). Historically, as various cultures situated in resource rich areas began to cultivate and exploit same, e.g., plant crops, create novel labor-saving implements, exploit minerals and gems to fashion tools, jewelry, etc., and thereby benefit in terms of material enrichment (intra- and extra-community trade), population growth, etc., conflicts were more likely to ensue. Thieves sought to steal food and goods. Armies sought to capture regions rich in material and human resources. Defensive strategies and technologies had to be created to protect people and assets. In short, acquisition, protection against loss, and perpetuation found more overt expression in step with resource growth (Material and human). This is true both of individuals, families, communities, and nation-states.

So there you have it. Acquisition (resource), protection from loss (defense), and perpetuation – the primal drives. A two edged sword, being both blessing and curse. It is what lends most of us to work, build, have families, buy fire alarm systems and insurance policies, serve in civic organizations and the armed forces, etc., and in so doing create a valuable and enduring legacy. And for some that which builds gives way to the opposite – workaholism which robs children of one or both parents, material greed, envy, strife, power plays, manipulation, conflict and a whole host of other evils.

In a world awash in sophisticated weaponry, ancient hostilities, xenophobia and intolerance, we must not only recognize the primal drives and their expression, but identify (and employ) the best means to resist veering too far into the dark side of our evolved nature.

*Matters such as an afterlife rest on faith – which lies outside the purview of science.

 Original copyright 1998, revised version copyright 2002 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

Rats in the Cosmic Laboratory: Is God A Scientist?

In one especially poignant scene in the movie “Shadowlands”,* famed English writer and Oxford University professor, C. S. Lewis (played by Sir Anthony Hopkins) has gone to a pub with his brother, Wally (Major Lewis). Having just lost his wife, Joy Gresham Lewis, to cancer, Mr. Lewis is met with expressions of sympathy offered up by friends and colleagues who are attempting to console him. An interesting exchange ensues between an Anglican vicar and Mr. Lewis:

Vicar: Only God knows why these things have to happen, Jack.

C. S. Lewis: God knows, but does He really care?

Vicar: Of course. We see so little here. We’re not the Creator.

C. S. Lewis: No, no. We’re the creatures, aren’t we? We’re the rats in the cosmic laboratory. I have no doubt that the experiment is for our own good, but that still makes God the vivisectionist, doesn’t it?

“Rats in the cosmic laboratory.” An apt analogy if the universe is an experiment in process. But is this the case? If God were running an experiment or cluster of experiments (some embedded in others), it would indicate that something is being tested — an hypothesis or many hypotheses — whose outcome is unknown. While some religious traditions might accept a God who is not all knowing, and hence might need to perform such experiments, this is conjecture. (Actually, God is conjecture, insofar as His/Her/It’s existence lies beyond the purview of science; which is to say, belief in God is not based on provable fact, but on faith) Bearing this in mind, what follows is pontification built on conjecture, albeit hopefully both informed and thought-provoking.

What we do know of the cosmic cauldron and the processes that gave rise to us can be succinctly summed up thusly: The universe we can measure and probe appears to be the expression of physical laws in operation. The Big Bang happened, stars and galaxies formed, planets formed, and on at least one world, this one, life arose and evolved to that state which we call “consciousness.”

For we who believe in God, the laws that set all this in motion and govern it are the handiwork or signature of the divine. This is not something scientifically provable, but like the concept of Providence, is based on faith.

And while some people might still cling to the idea that humankind is the center of the universe, the scale and grandeur of our universe would suggest otherwise. We are rather insignificant, at least in terms of our impact on the cosmos. We are, at best, perhaps big fish in a very, very small pond. And least we get puffed up about this exalted position, the dinosaurs held a similar role for about 170 million years before going belly up. Mass extinction, in fact, has occurred no less than five times during geologic history. We are but a massive comet or asteroid strike, nuclear war, or the like away from joining the dinosaurs. (A compelling enough reason to take out some “species insurance”, as in set up a human presence elsewhere in our solar system. Mars seems a likely prospect.)

We are the tentative king of a very, very small hill. And what natural processes produced and govern, God seeks to relate to. At least this is the basic message of most extant (as well as extinct) religious traditions. And within the constraints posed by our individual limitations, i.e., our genetic-based propensities as amplified by environmental and other situational factors, the ancient brain wiring or paleocircuits in our brains, etc., we go through life making choices and exercising that which we know as “free will”.

Is the universe thus an experiment and we it’s aim? While the universe may well an experiment, it seems doubtful that it designed specifically to produce conscious life forms like us. Which is to say, life forms capable to distinguishing “I” from “other”, and of contemplating its own mortality (It is unlikely that God can relate to a life form lacking these 2 cognitive features. Only a self-conscious creature that knows it will someday die would be capable of responding to anything God shared concerning an existence beyond the grave). Even if we accept the Weak Anthropic Principle, which asserts that the laws that govern our world would tend to give rise to life and something like us, it still seems unlikely that the “local phase” of the grand cosmic experiment was designed to produce us. Indeed, as the late paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould was fond of pointing out, if we were to go back and rerun the history of life, it is doubtful anything like us would emerge at all.

The experiment,..the universe,…did obviously tool us into existence. And God, it would seem, set about to interact with and relate to our bipedal twig on the primate branch of the evolutionary bush. Assuming that what we know and identify as “free will” is more real than illusion, the question naturally arises, “If God knows everything and is absolutely sovereign, how can humankind truly have and exercise free will?” And if God does not know in advance precisely what we will do or say, then He is less than omniscient and sovereign. If omniscient and absolutely sovereign, then while the universe may be a grand experiment in progress, we have been removed from it by God’s exercise of sovereignty. But if God is not omniscient and/or sovereign, or somehow attenuates or submerges either or both, then the give-and-take twixt God and humankind, the tests posed and our responses and God’s, do constitute a social experiment (of sorts) in progress. Logic and an abundance of scriptural support tend to argue for a divinity who works within and in response to contingency; who experiments and then blends our responses into the fabric of His grand designs . And this, I argue, makes God a scientist.

 God as scientist: Support from ancient writings

Support for this view can be readily found in the Tanakh (Hebrew scriptures), which contains numerous stories and accounts that suggest that God is posing a test or permitting same, watching for the results, and responding accordingly. Consider the account of Abraham and his son, Isaac. In chapter 22 of Genesis, God has instructed Abraham to take his son to the land of Moriah and “offer him as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you” (verse 2). Abraham, a man who trusts God implicitly, is facing perhaps the severest test of faith imaginable. But for whose benefit is this test for? Abraham, Isaac, or God? Maybe all three? In verse 12 we see that for sure God has benefited by way of gained insight: “And he said, ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy, or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not with held your son, your favored one, from me’ “(Gen. 22:12). “..now I know…”. Now. Before the test? The clear implication is that prior to the test,…this particular experiment,…..God did not absolutely know the outcome (albeit He probably had a good idea extrapolating from Abraham’s past acts of faith and obedience).

In the book of Ezekiel, we again see God conducting a test. In this instance, He goes looking for someone to divert judgment being executed:

“The people have practiced fraud and committed robbery; they have wronged the poor and needy, have defrauded the stranger without redress. And I sought for a man among them to repair the wall or to stand in the breach before me in behalf of this land, that I might not destroy it; but I found none. I have therefore poured out my indignation upon them;…(22: 29-31)

See also Exodus 15:25

If the future were closed, known and thus settled from God’s vantage point, He would learn nothing from these tests. But we are told repeatedly that God uncovers something unknown; that free will is being exercised and as such outcomes cannot be known until the person making a decision has made it.

The contingency element in human affairs is underscored by numerous biblical entries that imply conditionals such as “if/then”. One example is to be found in the account of God’s declaration to King Zedikiah in Jeremiah chapter 38 (Part of which is quoted herein):

“If you surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, your life will be spared and this city will not be burned down. You and your household will live. But if you do not surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, this city will be delivered into the hands of the Chaldeans, who will burn it down and you will not escape from them.” (verses 17-18. Emphasis mine)

We can also find supporting evidence of the (at least partial) tentativeness of history in the various accounts of God having changed his mind:

In the 32nd chapter of Exodus, God has told Moses of his intent to destroy Israel. Moses prays and we read “And the Lord renounced the punishment He had planned to bring upon His people.” (verse 14).

Among contemporary Christian theologians, the religious and philosophic notion that human-divine interaction is unfolding and not predetermined, is treated and perhaps best characterized in the writings of proponents of “open theism”. One very highly acclaimed introduction to this is a book by Dr. Gregory A. Boyd titled “God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God” (ISBN: 080106290X) Content description of this book, as well as many others that delve into various aspects of Open Theism, along with pro & con articles and posted point/counterpoint exchanges can be found on the “Open Theism Information Site” (www.opentheism.org/) . It is well worth the proverbial ‘look, see’.

Within Judaism, an “open view” type of perspective can be found among many rabbis and scholars. Many aspects of this line of thinking can no doubt be traced back to the Pharisees. According to the Jewish historian, Josephus, the Pharisees, mindful of the fact that predestination precludes free will, essentially concluded that humankind is predestined to a certain station in terms of the material aspects of life, but has absolute free will in areas that impact spiritual life.  

The Islamic faith also boasts a school of thought that leans towards contingency, and free will as a supreme player in human affairs and in God’s dealings with humankind. This perspective is supported by many passages in the Qu’ran, such as “Surely the Almighty changes not the condition of a people unless they change that which is in themselves.” (13:11), and “Whoever goes aright, for his own soul he goes aright; and whoever goes astray, to his own detriment he goes astray.” (39:41)

 God as scientist: Methodology

The actual nature and extend of the experimental work God engages in is, of course, unknown. Judging from accounts recorded by ancient biblical writers such as that of Abraham and Isaac (above), many tests seem geared to gauge such human qualities and attributes as faith/trust, capacity for obedience, the mechanics of decision making, and various aspects of judgment and reasoning. Some appear to involve only a within subject, single variable design. Others reflect a between subjects design, some being single variable experiments and others multiple variable.

While we cannot ascertain the exact mechanics of the divine research program, it would seem from the glimmers of methodology we see reflected in the ancient record that God would use approaches that are not entirely removed from those we ourselves have found reliable in terms of generating meaningful approximations of reality. One logical possibility is Bayesian inference, a powerful method of analysis that involves comparing hypotheses. The Bayes theorem, worked out by Rev. Thomas Bayes (1702-1761), assigns probabilities to all the possible outcomes of an experiment, combines this with relevant knowledge obtained or known prior to performing the actual experiment, and then calculates the probability of each hypothesis being true given the actual observation. In a nutshell, the Bayesian approach readily facilitates the modification of existing beliefs or views in the light of new evidence.

According to the Bible, on more than one occasion God expected Israel to change course (repent), but they did not do so (Isa. 5:2; Jer. 3:6-7, 19-20). God apparently modified certain aspects of the divine agenda accordingly, though undoubtedly without compromising crucial long-term objectives. This process could reflect His use of Bayesian reasoning.

To learn more: A very concise lay level introduction to Bayesian inference is “In praise of Bayes”, The Economist, Sept. 30th, 2000 http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~murphyk/Bayes/economist.html
 Concluding remarks

The many tests and conditional promissory statements found in ancient accounts of God-human interaction support the notion of free will as ascendant over predestination, and bespeak a future that is at least partially undetermined. They speak eloquently of God being an experimentalist who, after obtaining a result, weaves the new thread into the immense fabric that is His grand design.

It has been said that Albert Einstein had a plaque on his mantle that read, “God is a scientist, not a magician.”Whether or not this in any way reflected the great scientist’s sentiments, one can’t but marvel at how appropriate it was — and is.

 

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“The most important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality.”
                                                                                                                                                      Albert Einstein

 

 

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© 1993 Savoy Pictures, Inc. (distributed by HBO Home Video)

Scripture quotations from the Tanakh, 1985, Jewish Publication Society.

 

“Rats in the Cosmic Laboratory: Is God A Scienst?” Original © 2002 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. This Revised version © 2007 All rights reserved.

Life and beyond: Is the outcome one of futility for most?

Day in and day out I wage war on the Great Grendel; that perennial, merciless foe of life that in all its incarnations makes a mockery of that innate desire in all of us to thrive and perchance depart this world full of years and wisdom. I speak of helping folks in their personal battles with disease, injuries, malignancies and such; incipient death in all her myriad manifestations and machinations.

          In the midst of sharing a yoke with so many ailing people and their caregivers, I am sometimes struck by the element of futility to it all; futility insofar as the very best outcome is death deferred. When you think about it, we all wind up defeated as it were here in the physical realm. Even this world which most of us love so dearly and cling to ferociously  — as well the cosmos of which it is a part – are likewise destined to die and enter a perpetual night (Barring what at this point appears unlikely –  a “reverse course” and repeat big bang).

          This “resistance is futile” state-of-affairs is rather obvious, yes and though true begs the equally obvious: What other recourse is there? One of the earliest and no doubt strongest drives to evolve is that of self-preservation (3 Primal Drives, Essay), without which this world would be for the most part a vacant planetary lot.  So we strive to live and flourish, take a stab at leaving some kind of legacy — be it children or ideas or a body of work or some such monument — and hold death at bay until our strength is exhausted or we are otherwise left with little choice but to release our grip on this world.  There is continuity in all this, but we all realize somewhere deep down that family and achievement do not confer immortality; that everything will be consigned to a vast, universal graveyard. And besides, there would be very little gratification in any sort of immortality predicated on familial or other forms of physical continuity, unless (of course) we were to find a way to actually become physically immortal, ageless and free of infirmity or debility.

          Until we can confer immortality sans aging and debility — something that lies on the far side of tomorrow – we are left with but a single recourse: Resignation – with or without a belief in a postmortem spiritual life. This acknowledgement of inescapable inevitability can be a liberating, even positive thing for those who hold fast to a religious faith, as well as for those who do not. For example, the atheist who believes existence ends with one’s physical demise might tend to view death as freedom from infirmity, debility or such. Since he does not anticipate a postmortem life review and reckoning, there is little to fear other than the physical process of dying itself (If prolonged or painful). The “death as freedom from suffering” theme is a logical no doubt shared by most religionists, to which is tacked on the erstwhile conviction that there is a “life after life”  that has a pleasant outcome (At least for those who share a specific set of beliefs or who otherwise are deemed or made worthy of sharing the Almighty’s presence).

          I can appreciate both perspectives, but must confess that some species of religious belief concerning the afterlife is antithetical to assurance, hope or anything positive. For example, many fundamentalist Christians believe that most (if not all) non-Christian folks will wind up consigned to Hell or something like it forever. Now this is not too disturbing if you belong to the minority whose beliefs and practices guarantee one a privileged slot at the Divine banquet table. But – and here is where things get interesting if only from a psychological perspective – many of these true believers go through life uncertain as to whether they will actually merit a place in Heaven. I know, because during my nearly half century sojourn through life I have met or otherwise dealt with scores of devoutly religious people, mostly fundamentalist Christians, who are plagued by fears that they will somehow far short at Judgment and be consigned to Hell. So consider: We have a segment of religious believers – possibly a large one – who believe that despite their faith and pious efforts, they will probably fall “short of the mark” and be tossed into a house of horrors for eternity (For those who read this who are religious and believe otherwise concerning these matters, set aside theological or scriptural arguments to the contrary and focus instead on what this spin engenders in those who harbor it). Among the things I have noted in these often “quietly tortured souls”: A deep seated pessimism and sense of hopelessness, though not of the sort to send them running amok in the streets armed with an AK-47 – if only because this would surely turn the likelihood of going to Hell into a certainty. So what we have here is an incarnation of religious faith – faith being by its very nature a vehicle for instilling values, imparting hope, inspiring love and charity, promoting worship and social responsibility, and so forth – that is suffused with an undercurrent of agonizing uncertainty and fear, self-loathing, and a maddening sense that one would probably have been better off not being born at all.

          Interesting, most Christians I’ve interacted with down through the years hold to a “trust and obey and all will be well in the great by-and-by” expression of their faith, while often confessing that those who do not embrace this are probably going to Hell. Surprisingly, I have found few among them I would characterize as intolerant elitists who defend their faith in inappropriate ways. And while what they profess appears to infuse many in their ranks with abject uncertainty and fear for their own eternal fate — and portrays those outside their ranks as holding one-way tickets on the fire and brimstone express – these folks by-and-large do not seek to impose their beliefs on others or deny those outside their ranks the right to disagree with their views or reject them outright. This probably reflects the influence of America’s democratic values and traditions on religious folks, which is good all the way around. 

          And let me lay to rest the notion I am singling out fundamentalist Christians by widening the proverbial lens: To whit, various surveys taken down through the years here in America indicate that most people believe themselves to be essentially good and (among believers) bound for something upbeat after their mortal demise. Many of these no doubt feel that while this is true of themselves, it is not going to be the case for those who do not share their religious beliefs or spirituality. And this conviction is not exclusive to fundamentalist Christians by any means, for one can readily find abundant examples of the “I’m in, but you’re not” mentality among many Jewish and Muslim clerics and laypeople.

          Whatever reckoning and subsequent purgation or punishment there is that follows this life, I can’t help but marvel over these two primary, interwoven futilities: We wage relentless warfare with disease, age, decline and infirmity that sometimes buys us time but not a reprieve from walking life’s final “green mile”. And then following death for some – many – maybe most – depends on who you listen to — there is consignment to purgatory or Hell; a fate which surely constitutes the grandest futility conceivable – that of ever having lived at all. And if most folks do go to perdition, does this outcome not signal that the divine experiment is a failure? “Rats in the Cosmic Laboratory: Is God A Scientist?

It can be argued that the experiment was by design geared to winnow out the wheat from the chaff, and is a success by virtue of the fact it is achieving this end. But if this is the case, then it is a success that truly is eclipsed by its horrific cost. And even though the responsibility for this colossal failure lies in human missteps and bad choices and not with the Almighty, it begs the question: Once it became clear that more folks were going to Hell than to Heaven, why not bring everything to fruition quickly and end the experiment? To do otherwise – to leave such an apparatus running – surely constitutes both a wanton cruelty… and the penultimate futility…in anyone’s book (“Good Book” or otherwise).

Is there a perspective more consonant with logic and fairness? (Both are crucial attributes of the Divine according to most religions). There are many, chief among which in my opinion is reflected in this positional statement from the Judaism 101 website:

 

Although there are a few statements to the contrary in the Talmud, the predominant view of Judaism is that the righteous of all nations have a share in the Olam Ha-Ba. Statements to the contrary were not based on the notion that membership in Judaism was required to get into Olam Ha-Ba, but were grounded in the observation that non-Jews were not righteous people. If you consider the behavior of the surrounding peoples at the time that the Talmud was written, you can understand the rabbis’ attitudes. By the time of Rambam, the belief was firmly entrenched that the righteous of all nations have a share in the Olam Ha-Ba.

http://www.jewfaq.org/olamhaba.htm

                  

  1. Submitted for your thoughtful consideration by Dr. Anthony G. Payne       

           

 

© 2005 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

Hitler & HaShem (The Almighty)

Rabbis and Christian theologians down through the centuries have wrestled with biblical accounts of the Almighty in which He imposed punishments or sanctions, as well as direct military and civil action that flies in the face of what is deemed fair, just or decent in most cultures, past and present: http://www.angelfire.com/pa/greywlf/biblegod.html

 Of course, contemporary religious experts tend to agree that a great many of these stories are fables or myths borrowed from ancient societies that predate the authors of the various books of the Bible. They also recognize the anthropocentric and ethnocentric biases and cultural filters of the writers and scribes who committed these biblical tales to parchment (as it were). But even with all these allowances and concessions, there remains a disturbing pattern of supposedly divinely ordered brutality towards and outright wholesale slaughter of foreign tribes and entire nations. These biblical “cleansing actions” and fiats have underlying premises and logic that appear to have informed some of the darker chapters of history, including the ideology and policies of the penultimate incarnation of evil, Adolf Hitler. 

One writer who very adroitly goes into how Hitler’s beliefs and actions parallel and mirror Biblical morality and standards is Jim Walker whose writings are found on a website bearing the moniker “Hitler compared to God/Jesus/Christians” http://nobeliefs.com/hitlerchristian.htm. Here are but a few of Walker’s insightful notations (Excerpts pieced together):

Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have,

and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling,

 ox and sheep, camel and ass.

-I Samuel 15:3

Hitler attempted to utterly destroy the Jews and all that they had and had millions of men, women, and infants executed. As for animals, Hitler had far more compassion than the Biblical God; he felt kindness for animals.

 (Note: In no sense do I mean that Hitler fulfilled any prophesy, mind you, but rather that Hitler’s actions remained consistent with the actions of the alleged God described in the Bible.)

I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

-Isaiah 45:7

 Hitler created peace when it suited him and created death and destruction when it fit his needs, which by Christian standards means “evil.” Hitler did all these things in similar God-like actions reported in the Bible.

Not only did Hitler’s atrocities remain consistent with God and Jesus’ actions in the Bible, but his intransigent attitude parallels many of the fanatical beliefs of Right-wing conservatives of today. Hitler even used his faith in the same way as many mainstream American Christians. It appears clear from the history of Christianity that Hitler brought nothing new to Christianity, albeit he brought its violent nature to new heights.”

This is not to say Hitler didn’t distort and infuse such standards with perverse beliefs of his own, but this alone does not permit one to dismiss logical contradictions, conundrums and catch twenty-two’s between Nazi philosophy and the murderous campaign against “impurity” (Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, political dissenters, etc.) it gave rise to—- nor ancient Israelite beliefs and their wholesale slaughter of peoples that were designated as “defilers” of their culture & community. Slaughter attributed to HaShem.

If you look closely and resist facing what history and scriptures plainly disclose and declare, you will come to see more clearly than ever before the vast array of incredibly discomforting parallels between the reasoning of the ancients and the Nazis (and all other perpetrators of genocide). And while abundant apologetics exist that try to distance Biblical accounts and actions from the moral malignancy of the Nazis, the arguments given can be recast easily & readily to support the Nazis (And they were – by the Nazis — creating a movement with all the trappings of messianic fervor and religiosity).

http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/2000/4/004anti.html  http://www.nobeliefs.com/DarkBible/darkbible3.htm, http://freethoughtfirefighters.org/a_wager_on_old_testament_atrocit.htm, http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/atrocities.html, http://www.geocities.com/paulntobin/godbible.html, http://www.biblicalnonsense.com/chapter10.html

So moral reasoning and logic alone cannot (to my way of thinking) explain, defend or justify the many dark episodes and pronouncements in the Hebrew Scriptures.

 Scriptures, of course,  reflect the human element — ideas, interpretations, contradictions http://home.freeuk.net/jesusmyth/page5.htm  etc. – they serve human needs (Social coherence and personal wholeness, according to religion scholar Prof. Loyal Rue in his thought-provoking book, “Religion is Not About God”) – and reflect more about human nature than that of the Divine. It is said all scripture is Misnah – commentary – and not so much history and especially not science. I agree wholeheartedly with this. And, of course, regional values, myths and views intruded everywhere and suffused and informed what the various scribes and religionists believed and recorded. But be that as it may, there is a recurrent theme of almost cold-blooded malevolence in the Hebrew scriptures: God appears to invoke the very arguments for cleansing conquered lands and peoples, as well as punishing those who deviate from keeping the Law (Oral & written) that were used by pagan religions, kings and later genocidal dictators like Adolf Hitler to reinforce and perpetuate their ideologies (And some of these ideologies, like Nazism, had some aspects of their belief system and practices  Biblical beliefs, laws and such).

Of course, according to scriptures the Almighty’s agenda is one that will redeem and reconcile humankind (in whole or part depending on whose spin you agree with) while evil men tend to enact laws and take actions that lead to a life that is at odds with the program and objectives He sanctioned (And by so doing estrange people from Him). Yet while the ends are presumably different, the means to them seem disturbingly similar and in many instances are virtually identical. Indeed, the methods, language and some elements of reasoning attributed to the Divine and that voiced by various evil personalities such as Hitler differ little in kind or degree.

We must, of course, allow for the limitations imposed by human language itself, culture, as well as our neurobiology. We must also do our best to wrestle underlying truths and subtle messages from hyperbole, corrupted text, myth and legend in the scriptures.

That the scriptures are filled with borrowed, fallible, contradictory, and corrupted myths, legends and fables should not disturb us. Consider what the Almighty had to work with, as it were: A tribal people who were steeped in regional myths and superstitions. Some in the fundamentalist or Orthodox camp actually believe God dictated scripture pretty much like a boss might to a secretary or executive administrative assistance; at least with respect to the Torah (Pentateuch). This is nonsense, for had this been the case He would have given humanity a document or set of documents immune from flaws, and by so doing handed down proof of his own existence. In short, no faith would be needed to believe in the Almighty or his stated agenda. A set of flawless, infallible scriptures impregnated with scientific and historical truths centuries ahead of those He was inspiring or speaking to would remove all doubt as to origins and make it impossible for doubt to exist about the reality of the Divine. Indeed, “No faith needed” would have been axiomatic and there would be no legitimate grounds for agnosticism or atheism.

 A fallible set of scriptures is not so disturbing really. It makes us dig and work and argue to arrive at what God meant and how we should respond. What is disturbing is not the flawed image of the Almighty nor the presence of various distorted or mythic things attributed to Him, all having been rendered by flawed men and women, but the seeming reliance of God on violence, cruelty and outright “ethnic cleansing” to forge and maintain His hold on the hearts and minds of the Jewish people of antiquity. 

Was He so seemingly bloodthirsty and quick to punish because fallible, almost primitive men and women left Him little to work with in an ancient setting but this? Or was this just how these ancient people’s interpreted things and acted accordingly? Or could it be that the Almighty was both learning and growing with His people, and had His hands tied in terms of available means to preserve the Jewish people from corruption and conquest? (Limited in that He would not override human free will and also utilized human nature and social mechanisms rather then supercede them?)

To invoke a crude analogy: Picture a group of trainee mechanics standing before a car – hood up – a limited set of tools sitting before him – parts scattered everywhere — their goal is to create a harmoniously running engine. There are two instructors present – “good mechanic” and an “evil mechanic” — standing on either side of the trainees. The good instructor wants to help the students create a smoothly functioning automobile. The evil mechanic wants to thwart the good instructor by influencing as many of the trainees as he can to mess things up by doing things like putting useless or ill fitted parts into the engine. The evil instructor’s machinations quite naturally force the good mechanic to get those trainees who follow his lead to take and use some of the tools in the same fashion as the evil mechanic, doing violence as it were to extricate ill-fitting or even dangerous parts from the engine so that they can get the right and proper ones installed. This tug-of-war goes back and forth seemingly endlessly.

Scriptures depict God’s ultimate goal as being one of harmonizing and reconciling as many people to Himself and His sanctioned ways as possible. But in order to pull this off, He must rely on a limited set of tools and options,….as limited as we are. It is, in a very real sense of the word, a pitched struggle that is part of an experiment in-progress; an experiment with a goal, of course.

Indeed, the Cosmos and humankind in particular are, in my opinion, expressions of a divinely initiated experiment (Rats in the Cosmic Laboratory) whose ultimate goal is harmonization with HaShem and his being (“Holiness”) for as many as will “walk the walk”. As such, those impulses and elements and actions that lead to good or conversely evil ends would seem to represent the variables in the ongoing experiment — the “drugs” if you will — that by act-of-will (choice) leads to genuine harmonization between subject & experimenter (HaShem) — while the other appears to do so, but degenerates into greater disharmony and the ultimate chaos unleased by unbridled selfishness (Estrangement from HaShem and what this entails in this world and the next). This aspect of the Divine experiment constitutes a sorting mechanism of sorts; the one referred to by various biblical writers as “sorting the wheat from the chaff”. It tests both men and women, revealing to us individually and collectively our inner nature and the consequences of our choices along the way.     

Because the tools, methods and sometimes even the reasoning employed by good and evil people are virtually identical, discretion becomes paramount. This is where many religious and political systems fail utterly — trading that which reconciles people to each other and the Almighty for that which winds up accomplishing the opposite.

In the end, scriptures indicate the experiment will run its course and produce a final result: Harmony twixt humankind and HaShem for many. Many who die in sin/error/missteps get redeemed and participate in this harmonious world (material and incorporeal), while an unrepentantly evil, unredeemable few are separated from this redeemed plane of existence — presumably for eternity. Or until obliterated, which some Jewish sages considered their ultimate fate. This is certainly more merciful than what many Christian denominations fancy for the unredeemed/unredeemable — Hitler, Stalin, Caligula, etc. A mercy more characteristic of the Almighty that sages like Hillel knew and championed by virtue of their faith, teachings and deeds.

Pulvis et umbra sumus

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http://www.angelfire.com/pa/greywlf/biblegod.html

http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/2000/4/004anti.html

http://www.nobeliefs.com/DarkBible/darkbible3.htm

http://freethoughtfirefighters.org/a_wager_on_old_testament_atrocit.htm

http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/atrocities.html

http://www.geocities.com/paulntobin/godbible.html

http://www.biblicalnonsense.com/chapter10.html

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Hitler compared to God/Jesus/Christians

by Jim Walker

http://nobeliefs.com/hitlerchristian.htm

Our Incredible Shrinking Life & Influence: Staring into the Face of our own Mortality (Death & Dissolution)

In Heaven, the ancient sages tell us, neither deeds nor their doers are lost to time and its cruel machinations. But here in this world, most of us will fade from memory – and then history, be that history a professional accomplishment or award or merely an entry in the Social Security rolls. A few will endure far longer; those extraordinarily accomplished few, both good and evil. And even they will be diminished across time in most cases, starting out as a book and then gradually, inexorably being whittled down to a chapter, then a paragraph, and then an ever shrinking footnote.

Of course, we persevere because, well, there really is no choice but to move on in some fashion. And we hope, too that maybe somehow we will defy the odds and hang on longer and have a bigger impact than our deeds and feats so far suggest; that somehow we will have a more profound influence tomorrow than we did today. That maybe our existential misery and angst masks a genuinely “Wonderful Life” and, like George Bailey, some flesh and blood or other worldly version of Clarence Oddbody will pop into our lives and reveal how influential and thus important we truly have been… and are. Such are the fairy tales we carry into adulthood; the delusions and illusions we nurture because they keep us believing the improbable. And why not? These give us comfort, instill hope and make it possible to cope with a reality which spits in our face and mockingly dangles our insignificance before us; a reality that reminds us that with each passing day we are drawing ever closer to that day all hope of turning the tide will slip forever from our grasp, chased from this world by our last mortal breath.

Why do we rail so against insignificance and dissolution? Should we not embrace these, as opposed to denying them? Is denying them tantamount to saying we are both vital to the universe, maybe even its crowning achievement and centerpiece? But can we embrace the cold hard reality of our mortality and insignificance without sinking into a species of despair deeper and darker than any grave? Can we use such a conscious realization to some good end? But who, you ask, but the clinically depressed would want to embrace them until they have to, which for most of us is likely on our deathbed? Is not denial or disassociation in this instance good for us? Would not an open embrace of our mortal puniness lend us to pessimism and even cynicism? Is not optimistic hope healthful and its polar opposite detrimental to our best interests – body, mind and soul? Does not our survival instinct argue that we must press on – the future being a hoped for gap of sorts that runs ahead of us which we gladly fill in with “…I will do or be better….more dutiful, good, and thus significant….tomorrow”?! 

It seems so natural to resist and even oppose that which casts us in a poor light or threatens our person, as this can diminish or even extinguish our existence…our unique physical presence in this world and in the social scheme of things. Did not Dylan Thomas wisely implore us to “Rage against the dying of the light”?

 And here in America, endowed as we are by our Constitution with the “inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, and fueled by unbridled competitiveness from boardroom to bedroom, we seem especially unwilling to do or say or even think that somehow, someway, someday…we will beat the odds and buy or bargain or scientifically negotiate our way around or beyond our own mortality and petty ego (And it is an ego that will not let death have the final word even – as tombstones and obituaries bear ample witness to).  

But consider this hard, cold fact: Even for the few of us whose names will endure for as long as there are men and women to “tell the tale” ….both here on Earth and on any worlds we visit and eventually colonize…the physical Cosmos will one day wind down and die. Some envision our kind making an exodus into other universes or dimensions, …buying time and perpetuating ourselves over and over again as one universe dies and we escape to another….which is at present only informed speculation and wishful thinking.  But should this actually prove to be the case, you can count on the “immortals” of history shrinking in significance as new names crowd out the old.   

In light of this, what are we — stubborn, stupid or just plain foolish?  Perhaps we are none of these. Maybe we are just inveterate gamblers, like cigarette smokers who plainly see that the odds of escaping disease or impairment are stacked against them, but who blithely smoke on, smug in their conviction that they will somehow win the biological lottery.

In the final analysis, what is wrong with us? Why can’t we embrace reality and (Ahem) live with its message and implications? Are we incapable of doing so without sinking into a morass of hopelessness, from which the route of escape is drugs, booze, sex, superstition or pseudoscience – singly or in some combination?  Why is our mortality and ultimate insignificance so terrifying? Will having everything we are and have achieved wiped out when our world dies – when the universe dies (if we manage to colonize far flung worlds) — mean that the whole cosmic play (as it were) is a colossal, meaningless, unmourned tragedy?

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So why am I parading human mortality and our ever increasing insignificance with the passage of time before you? Surely only a curmudgeon or pathologically morbid soul would plunk himself and his readership down all in front of a mirror whose backdrop is, well…. basically a desert or cemetery!

It’s enough to make you, well…….run into the arms of your own…or someone else’s….faith tradition! But even we who believe in the Almighty have to wrestle with the issues of our mortality and insignificance – plus the added possibility that the tally of our words and deeds may leave us considerably diminished in stature compared to what we believe to be the case.  Heaven must surely have a hierarchy of sorts, its own pecking order based on individual merit; which is to say, status as reward for acts of faith, charity, love, sacrifice and such while a man or woman was alive. And as such, there surely will be a class of post-mortem dwellers in God’s realm who will be, well…less significant…less notable and respected and regarded… then most others (Insignificant, in short). 

Well, with all due respect to Milton, better to be insignificant in Heaven than significant in Hell, yes?! But even so, eternally existent but insignificant is an odd form of comfort for believers on this side of the veil.

So we theists, it would seem, must wrestle with pretty much the same mortal issues as the agnostic or atheist, only they are not concerned about what lies beyond the grave…while we are. In terms of this life, it would seem the nonbeliever has a lighter load of baggage than the believer.  Faith, it would seem, has its limitations and perchance cannot move every mountain – on this or the other side of life.

So where do we look for comfort or reassurance, if there is any to be had? Can we surmount or banish the specter of our own demise, and the fact the ripples we made on the human pond will likely diminish over time and then be lost for good? How do we get over the death of our oft trumpeted (but frankly overstated) individual and collective human uniqueness – as well as the distant demise awaiting our evolutionary womb (The Cosmos that birthed everything including us)?

The answer, as such, has always been there — plainly staring back at us.

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There are many things the ancient philosophers and prophets got right, and much they got terribly wrong.  In the Bible – the Hebrew Scriptures, that is – the Earth is depicted as a cube floating in water with a dome placed over it bearing holes through which the light of Heaven reaches people at night (Starlight). A global flood is suppose to have occurred ages ago, although there is no geologic evidence of it whatsoever and, had such a flood taken place in the timeframe and manner depicted, the thermal energy generated would have turned the entire body of water into a boiling cauldron that would have eradicated life both in and floating on it.

The litany of mistakes, contradictions and mythic elements in the Biblical scriptures is staggering and well documented. While fundamentalists do mental handsprings to reconcile that which cannot be reasonably reconciled, most believers realize that their Bible is not and never was meant to be a history or science book. It is primarily a means of communicating values and a code of conduct that in some respects is simply an endorsement of moral behavior and propensities longstanding in our species; a sense of what is right and wrong – the Torah within, if you will – that evolved in our primate ancestors, conferred survival advantages, and thus was preserved and elaborated in the hominid lines that lead to our branch of the primate evolutionary bush.  

But these ancient texts also contain stories — myths in the sense of The Epic of Gilgamesh  — that reveal profound insights into human nature. This isn’t too surprising, given that these peoples had to grapple with the same life and death issues that resonate throughout human existence. But what is surprising, is that some of the insights contained in their myths and stories were not seized on and fully developed as the text was being hobbled together. Later, yes, others came along and extracted the more poignant insights and messages woven into the ancient text, spinning interpretations that have waxed and waned in popularity down through history. Some both saw and wrote about what I will shortly share, but it never quite seemed to reach the status of widespread consensus among believers (Among Jewish Rabbis and informed congregants, yes, but less so rank-and-file Christians and such) . But like a book or letter or set of keys sitting plainly in front of our faces which simply does not register, that which is “obvious” can readily be missed.

The odd thing is that the insight we seek is contained in the very first book of the Hebrew Scriptures. It is as though the keys we are looking for, have been hanging in the lock of the main door of our house all along.      

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The old saying “begin at beginning” is an apt one when it comes to ancient Biblical insight into the origins of our all too human propensity to seek to elevate and perpetuate ourselves. The mythic story of Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden tells the tale:

Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which HaShem G-d had made. And he said unto the woman: ‘Yea, hath G-d said: Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?’

2 And the woman said unto the serpent: ‘Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat;

3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, G-d hath said: Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.’

4 And the serpent said unto the woman: ‘Ye shall not surely die;

5 for G-d doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as G-d, knowing good and evil.’

6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.

Source for quote: Bereshit – Genesis 3 – Hebrew Scriptures

Many Christian theologians looked at this morality tale and pegged it as an act of both capitulation to temptation and an act of rebellion against the Almighty; an evil that stained humankind with an “original sin” that has undermined human nature ever since and from which men require redemption or salvation. This is not how the learned descendents of the men who wrote the Hebrew Scriptures including Genesis see it.  And it is in their take on the Genesis story and the nature of humankind that points us to a proper perspective.

The Jewish Talmud is essentially a collection of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish ethics, laws (instruction/revelation), customs, and history. It has two components: the Mishnah, the first written compendium of Judaism’s Oral Law; and the Gemara, a discussion of the Mishnah and related Tannaitic writings that often ventures onto other subjects and expounds broadly on the Hebrew Scriptures (The Tanakh). The terms Talmud and Gemara are often used interchangeably.  (Adopted from the Wikipedia entry for the Talmud)  

In-a-word, the Talmud articulates a cogent view of our basic nature and relationship to God:

In Genesis 2:7, the Hebrew Scriptures Bible state that the Almighty formed (vayyitzer) humankind. The spelling of this word in Hebrew is unusual insofar as it uses two consecutive Yods instead of the one that is expected. Learned Rabbis and ages have inferred that these Yods stand for the word “yetzer,” which translates to “impulse,” with the existence of two Yods here indicating that humanity was formed with two impulses: A good impulse (the yetzer tov) and an “evil” impulse (the yetzer ra).

The yetzer tov is considered the moral conscience, the inner voice that reminds us what’s right (internalized and native values) when confronted with something that is that is unlawful (forbidden).

The yetzer ra is difficult to nail down, because there are diverse ideas concerning its nature. It is not a desire to do evil in the way we think of it in the West, but instead is widely considered to be our selfish nature, the desire to satisfy personal needs with little or no regard for the moral consequences of fulfilling those desires.

The yetzer ra is not a bad thing, as the Talmud notes that without it people would not build homes, marry, have children or even carry out business affairs. But the yetzer ra can lead to wrongdoing when it is not controlled or offset/counterbalanced by the yetzer tov. For example, there is nothing inherently wrong with being hungry, but it can lead some folks to shoplift food or just grab morsels and eat as they are shopping in a grocery or convenience store. There is nothing inherently wrong with our libido or sexual desire, but if it leads a person to commit rape, adultery, incest or such then the yetzer ra has won out.

The yetzer ra is generally viewed as internal to a person, as opposed to being an external force acting on a person. The “the devil made me do it” thesis is not in line with the majority of thought in Judaism. Although some say that Satan (Adversary to what is lawful) and the yetzer ra are one and the same, most rabbis view Satan as merely a personification of our own selfish desires, rather an external force or being that acts on us from without.

Of course, people have the ability to choose which impulse to follow: The yetzer tov or the yetzer ra. That is the essence of the Jewish understanding of free will. The Talmud notes that all people are descended from Adam (i.e., a mythic representation of early humans that evolved in Africa), so no one can blame his own wicked conduct on his ancestry. To the contrary, we all have the ability to make choices (unless profoundly impaired mentally-psychologically), and we will all are accountable for the choices we make.

The foregoing six paragraphs are adapted from Judaism 101: Human Nature

And now, with your indulgence (O’ Reader), I will expand on this:

Now, as indicated above the evil impulse is actually a good thing, so long as it doesn’t get out of hand. In a way, the evil impulse is our survival instinct; the ancient wiring that helps us avoid a premature death due to starvation, predation, attack or such,  while concomitantly compelling us to perpetuate ourselves (Both biologically and in terms of the words and deeds we leave behind).

 In Eastern religious – and we must realize that Judaism came out of a Near East milieu and thus shares some features in common with religious traditions that arose and spread throughout the ancient world – evil is not always considered the polar opposite of good. It is part of what makes the whole function properly. If you’ve seen the yin-yang symbol, then you have an inkling of this holistic dance as-it-were.

Evil then only becomes a problem when it overshadows the good impulse (yetzer tov) or throws things out of balance.  And what happens when the yetzer ra (“evil”) eclipses the yetzer tov (“good”)? Self takes center stage and begins trying to direct all the other players. This spirit of selfishness makes us….flee our mortality and resist insignificance.     

Keep in mind that selfishness does not make on evil, but does so when it takes us far beyond preservation or survival into the domination, usurpation, marginalization, suppression or even extirpation of anything (thoughts included) or anyone that we perceive as a threat to our inflated Self.

In some respects, this strategy works – the evil become immortal in history and perpetually significant (influential) – but equally hated and despised (A poor trade-off in the hearts and minds of sane and reasonable peoples).         

Psychology and not just the historic record also bears witness to what happens when one feeds the bulldog – which is to say, lets the yetzer ra dominate. Studies have shown that when a child is spoiled and his self-esteem is fed ad libitum, you’ll wind up with a spoiled brat, a criminal, a narcissist or worse.

So we have fingered that aspect of ourselves that makes it almost impossible for us to embrace our mortality and accept death and dissolution. So how do we get and keep yetzer ra & yetzer tov in balance such that fear of death& dissolution does not get the upper hand? Here are few approaches I’d like you to consider:

  • The Buddhists strive for Nirvana which the Wikipedia entry describes as “the perfect peace of the state of mind that is free from craving, anger and other afflictive states (kilesa). The subject is at peace with the world, has compassion for all and gives up obsessions and fixations.” While probably a difficult road for many Westerners, there is much in Buddhism one can “dose adapt” to achieve a healthier frame-of-mind and outlook, i.e., as in living in the moment (“Timelessness”) and putting your ego in the back as opposed to the front seat as you go about your daily affairs. Click to access an introduction to Buddhism    
  • Give yourself over to helping others less fortunate than you are. This is good for those you help and good for you in terms of shifting your focus from self to others and also letting your yetzer tov take the lead. You not only feel better about yourself, but for believers there is the prospect of post mortem recognition and acknowledgement (rewards) by the Almighty.  
  • There is a popular adage among many religionists which goes, “Let go and let God.” In real world terms, it means to do all you can about a given situation then release it to God’s keeping and have faith He will handle things in your best interest (albeit your best interests may involve pain, loss or such). Some might call this kind of surrender defeatist or fatalistic and it is in some extreme forms. However, when done with a heart that trusts, this release is adaptive and thus healthy.
  •  Stop seeing insignificance and dissolution as a negative. This seems to run contrary to our survival instinct and by no means I endorse embracing death or wishing for it, but rather putting it in perspective as a built-in feature of the natural order that paves the way for others (those who survive us) to hopefully experience at least some of the joys and growth-conductive experiences and challenges we have.  

There are many others, but I’ll leave it to you to explore and ascertain what’s “out there” and what works best for you. The main thing is that you recognize that while self-preservation and resistance to death is natural (A primal drive – 3 Primal Drives) – the yetzer ra – it is important to engage in practices and thought patterns that bolster the yatzer tov.

Mazel Tov (“Good fortune”) and l’chaim (“To life”)   

 

 

© 2009 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved. Private communication use permitted.

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