An Honest question about religion from “The Evolution Of God”

As I mentioned previously I have picked up a book that I started once before,The Evolution Of God, and intend to finish it this summer while I am off from school.

I have to admit that the first section of the book was quite dry, albeit necessary in demonstrating the premise of the book, but dry enough that I put the book down for a while. Having just resumed my reading, I have succeeded in entering the second section of the book, “The emergence of Abrahamic monotheism.” Because I’ve spent a good portion of my life studying the Christian Bible and the ages of antiquity from which it stems, all that makes this section of the book much more interesting to me.

However before I share my thoughts about the development of middle eastern monotheism, I want to pose a question that gets at what I believe Wright is asserting. The question is, what in our world has or does come into existence outside of a cascade or evolution of causes and conditions?  That is to say, what exists that hasn’t come to be through a process of different causes and conditions?  For some, steeped in their Christian faith and unable (or unwilling) to step back from what they’ve always been taught and consequently have always believed, there is a simple answer: God. This answer is far from convenient, it is necessary for faith. The convenient part comes in the assertion that the object of faith is unseen and the evidence of those things is faith itself (Hebrews 11). In other words faith is self reinforcing and as long as one stays in this convenient and safe circle, the answer to the above question is an easy one.

Interestingly enough, having left that circle, I find that my answer to that question is different but equally as easy. My answer is “Nothing.” That is, I don’t believe that anything just comes into existence, that any entity, belief, culture or perspective comes into existence ex nihilo (i.e. “out of nothing).” Even before reading Wright’s book, I had come to the conclusion that, for instance, the development and change of God’s character in the Bible reflected more a change in human perspectives and culture than it did divine characteristics. The exegetical gymnastics that take place in biblical scholarship so as to interpret one voice or a continuous central theme from the varied texts that make up the bible, are, in my experience, merely to reinforce the circular. Plants grow, humans are conceived, born and develop, human civilizations have developed and become more systematic over the centuries, knowledge has grown; nothing in our (or at least my) experience exists because it simply appears fully formed. I believe that especially holds true of something so intimately intertwined with culture as religion or theology.

Wright’s book does a good job of demonstrating that as human existence became more and more structured, religious thought followed the same trajectory. As cultural groups grew larger and more hierarchal, religious thought was, interestingly enough, on that same trajectory. One might even assert that religious thought is more reflective of human development than of anything divine (I think I already said that but maybe its worth repeating). I am enjoying and appreciating Wright’s scholarship and the continuity of his argument. I wholeheartedly recommend this read. I will write more on what I find in Wright’s book, but this question is central to what I understand him to be saying, so I thought I would begin here too.

shameful and deplorable

http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/05/11/11664597-report-online-vendor-sold-trayvon-martin-gun-range-targets?lite

I find the fact that someone would even think to make a gun range target with any likeness whatsoever to Trayvon Martin to be a  shameful, disgusting and deplorable reality. But then to hear that the vendor sold out of the targets blows my mind. It speaks of a disconcerting reality in our country, a violent tendency that should make us all stop and wonder where we are going and what kind of culture we are becoming.

The whole gun culture in our country that places weapons in the hands of people who would even consider shooting at a target like this needs to be reigned back quite a bit. DISGUSTING!

Gay Marriage

I applaud President Obama and others in his administration for going out on a political limb to affirm what is fair and appropriate. Our country is built off of freedom and equity for all. For the religious definition of marriage to be imposed upon those who do not subscribe to that system of belief goes against the American way and the freedom and equity apportioned by our constitution. It is about time this issue is resolved and freedom granted to those among us who don’t fit the religious model of love and marriage.

Is hope a distraction?

I enjoy watching the “Last Airbender” cartoons with my children. I enjoy the series because they do a good and reasonably accurate job of presenting principles related to mindfulness and interdependence. I was watching one episode with my kids this last weekend, where Ang, the young monk avatar, made a statement that has been bouncing around in my head and thoughts ever since. Ang said that the monks (by whom he was raised and trained) used to say that “hope is a distraction.”

That statement caused me to ponder. Hope is such an important concept in so many cultures and religions, as well as in the practical living of one’s life. As I have bounced the idea around in my head I have come to see the truth that hope can be a distraction, depending upon what it is that is the focus of one’s hope. If one is hoping (i.e. desiring) for present circumstances to be different than they are, well then I would have to agree: “hope is a distraction from what actually is.” As a person who practices elements buddhism/taoism, my goal is to increasingly be mindful and aware of what is, to let go of the things to which I cling or seek to avoid, to
be balanced, compassionate and loving to all sentient beings in the present. Anything that leads me to focus on other than what is, would be a distraction.

On the other hand, my practice of meditation, by which I hope to train my mind to be increasingly more mindful and aware, is something that I practice with “hope” that it will lead toward greater understanding and enlightenment, make possible a balanced life with happiness, and peace. That hope, I believe, is not a distraction.

<So I guess the question is in what is one hoping and does that hope distract from living mindfully in the present.