Thursday, April 14, 2011

What Are the Untruths in Your Religion? Part 1


You might not think the timing of this question is good. Even though Muslims have no major holy days until August, persons of Jewish faith will begin Passover observance at sundown on Monday, April 18, and many Christians will observe their highest holy day on April 24. Maybe we should wait for “a more convenient season” to ask such hard questions. Or maybe, when the devout are focused on their rich traditions, when the less devout who don’t attend services any other time swell the congregations in this season, and when even the secular press seems to give a pass to religious traditions, just maybe it is the right time to ask some hard questions about religious faiths.

Interfaith dialogue wasn’t convenient after 9/11 but some thought it essential. In Seattle, a Jewish rabbi reached out to a Sufi Muslim, and together they reached out to a Christian minister. After the November 5, 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood, Laurie Goodstein told the story of “Three Clergymen, Three Faiths, One Friendship.”
They call themselves the “interfaith amigos.” And while they do sometimes seem more like a stand-up comedy team than a trio of clergymen, they know they have a serious burden in making a case for interfaith understanding in a country reeling after a Muslim Army officer at Fort Hood, Tex., was charged with opening fire on his fellow soldiers, killing 13.
“It arouses once again fear, distrust and doubt,” Sheik Rahman said, “and I know that when that happens, even the best of people cannot think clearly.”
They say they became close by honestly facing their conflicts, not by avoiding them.
They put everything on the table: the verses they found offensive in one another’s holy books, anti-Semitism, violence in the name of religion, claims by each faith to have the exclusive hold on truth, and, of course, Israel.

“One of the problems in the past with interfaith dialogue is we’ve been too unwilling to upset each other,” Rabbi Falcon told the crowd at the Second Presbyterian Church here. “We try to honor the truth. This is the truth for you, and this is the truth for me. It may not be reconcilable, but it is important to refuse to make the other the enemy.”
Goldstein reported that interfaith dialogues were occurring in many ways and many places all over the country. There had been interfaith dialogues for years, but after 9/11 many groups felt it urgent to include Muslims, and Muslims were eager because they didn’t want their faith defined by terrorism. Now there are interfaith Thanksgiving, interfaith college clubs, interfaith women’s groups, and interfaith teams building affordable housing. And for these efforts, I am grateful.
The “amigos” have gone beyond most of the interfaith dialogues with which I am familiar. They make presentations around the country with what they call “the spirituality of interfaith relations.” Goldstein attended one of their presentations:
At the church in Nashville, the three clergymen, dressed in dark blazers, stood up one by one and declared what they most valued as the core teachings of their tradition The minister said “unconditional love.” The sheik said “compassion.” And the rabbi said “oneness.”
But then, Goldstein said, the room then grew quiet as each one stood and said what he regarded as the “untruths” in his own faith.
The minister said that one “untruth” for him was that “Christianity is the only way to God.” The rabbi said for him it was the notion of Jews as “the chosen people.” And the sheik said for him it was the “sword verses” in the Koran, like “kill the unbeliever.”
That’s what really got my attention. Can an adherent of one faith admit that there are “untruths” about that faith? We are usually quick to cite “untruths” in the faiths of others, but in our own…?

In the audience that day in Nashville was Mark Wingate, a computer programmer, who said,
“Talking about the untruths of each tradition is very courageous. It gets it out of the platitude category and into dialogue.”

Mr. Wingate’s wife, Sally, added: “They had to work really hard to get to that point. Most of us are not willing to work that hard.”
Dialogue on the untruths of each tradition is not only needed at an interfaith level, but also within faiths.

I propose that we have a little intra-faith and interfaith dialogue right here; and that we share what we think are untruths in our own faiths. I have two that I want to share, and I plan to do so in parts 2 and 3 of this series over the next couple of days. Part 4 will be made up of your responses about untruths in your faith. If we need more parts to accommodate the responses, we add them.

I hope to hear from you.
- Milo

9 comments:

dan said...

Milo, that part of the NYT story is what caught my attention too, when I first read it, re, where you wrote, above:

''That’s what really got my attention. Can an adherent of one faith admit that there are “untruths” about that faith? We are usually quick to cite “untruths” in the faiths of others, but in our own…?''

For followers of major faiths to admit in public that their belief systems have major untruths was unheard of, until I saw this NYT story about their brave religious leaders. Bravo to all three!

If only our religious beliefs were rational philosophical inquiries into the meaning of life and social justice and compassion, rather than based on ancient superstitions and myths from the Dark Ages of humankind! We need a new Christianity, and it can still be called Christianity! And we need a new Judaism, and it can still be called Judaism! And we need a new Islam, and it can still be called Islam! Yes.

But how to get to this new land? I do not have a compass but my gut instinct tells me where are headed there, pilgrims all of us on a piligrammage of deep devotion.

And when we get there, what will it be like? I remain hopeful!

Danny, 1962 bar mitzvah boy, Springfield, Mass., still "devoted"
after all these years.....

Milo Thornberry said...

Thanks, Dan! You're the one who put me onto the article about the "Interfaith Amigos."

I also hope you will offer some untruth in your faith for Part 4.

dan said...

David Lapakko poses good Q here too

re

108 billion people at the whim of the Lord?

This month's National Geographic poses a question I have often asked myself: how many humans have lived at some time or another on the planet Earth?

The answer, it turns out, going back to the dawn of human history, is somewhere in the vicinity of 108 billion. Of those 108 billion, something like 6 or 7 percent are living today. That means that billions of people are part of past generations, and those past generations go way back--centuries and millennia before Jesus Christ, including Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Alexander the Great, etc. etc. So the question becomes, if the acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior is an indispensable pre-condition for the afterlife, whatever became of the ancients, who, quite bluntly, didn't know Jesus from a hole in the wall?

This may seem like an obvious question, but in my view, a rather important one. All of those billions of people who lived "Before the Common Era" were real human beings with thoughts and feelings and relationships and behaviors--but because they lived before the arrival of Jesus, what was their fate? Were they destined to go to hell? Given special dispensation and a free pass to heaven? Or did they simply "die" with nothing to show for it?

It seems to me that this question poses some very sticky problems for those who see God as infinitely wise and just--especially for those (possibly) poor souls who passed on just a day or two or a year or two before our Lord and Savior made his arrival. It is yet another reason why I struggle to make sense out of Christian dogma. There simply has to be a better way to explain and understand all this than to trot out the Bible and claim that it has all the answers. It flat-out just doesn't.

Posted by David Lapakko at 6:14 PM

dan said...

I also hope you will offer some untruth in your faith for Part 4.

and YES, Milo, i will offer some untruths from my inherited belief system for part 4......in Judaism, they misunderstood concept of the CHOSEN PEOPLE has to be done away with......the Jews are not any Chosen People......no, what that term really meant in the old sages chats was the that the Jews of old CHOSE to follow God, they CHOSE to follow one god, one monotheistic god belief system, and NOT that GOD chose them, but that THEY chose GOD, the correct translatiojn should be that the Jews were a CHOOSING PEOPLE WHO CHOSE TO FOLLOW GOD.....not the chosen people but the choosing people, the people who CHOSE GOD.....

and 2. i hate to say this, but truth be told, something must be done about the state of Israel. It does not represent ME. It is a nation like any other, except that it was created by the Imperial Powers in cahoots with the fanatical Zionists of yore, and it was placed in the WRONG PLACE. Israel should never have been placed smack down right in the middle of the Middle East, on land that belonged to Arabs and Palestianians for centures...it was wrong wrong wrong for the UN to put Israel there amd it is wrong for Israel to be there now...SIGH.....better to have created a Jewish homeland, if one was really needed in 1945-1949 in Argentina or Alaska, where there were plans for this, did you know? yes.

3. there is no God.

I rust my case.

danny the unbeliever yet deeply
Jewish dreamer who loves all people and hates prejudice in all its forms, especially Christian antisemitism. A curse on Christianity for writing those ugly antisemitiic Gospels that have caused so much suffering of the Jewish people for the last 2000 years.....Before the Gospels, there was not such thing as AntiSemitism. CHristianity must atone for this major major sin.

SIGH

Milo Thornberry said...

My apologies, David and Dan, for any delay in posting your excellent comments. Thank you both for adding to the discussion.

To David, I certainly agree with you, and so have many Christians down through the ages.

To Dan, in most every ancient culture there are ideas about the uniqueness of that particular people; they are stories that people tell to affirm their own identity. As long as they are seen for just that, I don't have a problem. It is when that uniqueness (chosenness)becomes the excuse to discriminate against others that it becomes a problem. The Chinese have their own identity issues with this. I love the Hebrew Prophets' critique of what it means to be a "chosen people" (to be a servant of others and to demonstrate God's justice by living it in their community).

I didn't know about plans for Argentina and Alaska. Tell me.

Thanks to both of you for your contributions!!!

dan said...

MILO NOTED ABOVE:

To Dan, in most every ancient culture there are ideas about the uniqueness of that particular people; they are stories that people tell to affirm their own identity. As long as they are seen for just that, I don't have a problem. ME TOO. I AGREE

HOWEVER....It is when that uniqueness (chosen-ness)becomes the excuse to discriminate against others that it becomes a problem. YES YES YES. AND THIS IS A MAJOR SIN OF THE JEWISH SAGES. MAY THEY REST IN PEACE

I love the Hebrew Prophets' critique of what it means to be a "chosen people" (to be a servant of others and to demonstrate God's justice by living it in their community). YES YES. THE CHOOSING PEOPLE IS BETTER THAN CHOSEN PEOPLE AS CHOSEN IS OFTEN USED BY JEWS TO DISCRIMINATE AGAINST OTHERS AND THIS IS PLAIN WRONG WRONG WRONG. SO CHOOSING PEOPLE is better. let's stop using that CHOSEN PEOPLE term.,.it is the wrong translation anyways....SMILE

I didn't know about plans for Argentina and Alaska. Tell me.

YES, will fill you in soon. The Zionists had alt plans, if Jersualem did not work out, to set up a Jewish homeland in Argentina plains pampas and antoher idea was to create it in Alaska....really!

dan said...

Zionist plans in ArgentinaLeon Pinsker, in his book Autoemancipation (1882) and Theodore Herzl, in his book The Jewish State (Der Judenstaat), evaluated Argentina as a potential destination for the oppressed Jews of Eastern Europe.

Some sources maintain that Herzl proposed that the Argentina project be given priority over settlement in Palestine.[4]

The Zionist records attest to the fact that Herzl did consider Argentina, as well as present-day Kenya, as alternatives to Palestine. Also, Israel Zangwill and his Jewish Territorialist Organization (ITO) split off from the main Zionist movement; the territorialists' aim was to establish a Jewish homeland wherever possible. The ITO never gained wide support and was dissolved in 1925, leaving Palestine as the sole focus of Zionist aspirations.

dan said...

Sitka, Alaska - a plan for Jews to settle the Sitka area in Alaska, the Slattery Report, was proposed by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt's Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes in 1939 but turned down.[17]

dan said...

http://blog.world-mysteries.com/science/how-many-people-have-ever-lived-on-earth/