Saturday, May 30, 2015

Death & Eternal Life: Important if true

I have long wanted to do a review of a book I found on Amazon a couple of years ago. It's by John Hick who was a Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Research in the Humanities at the University of Birmingham in England and Danforth Professor of the Philosophy of Religion, Emeritus at the Clarmont Graduate School in California. The book is out of print but can still be bought through the Amazon page. It goes for anywhere from $2 to $35. I think I paid around $11. It was recommended by a facebook friend that I met online who is now a Professor and I really think it is a good, strong book although it is dense and I can't say I agree with everything in it. But it's a really good overview of Christian, humanistic and Eastern thought on the  subject of life after death.

It was published in 1994 and comes in at around 490 plus pages. I slogged through it slowly over a period of weeks while drinking coffee or taking a break. I can't really do the job I would like to do in this review without reading it again and making notes. To be honest I'm not going to do that. But, I will look back and try to do the best I can since it did make an impression on me.

As I age the question of life after death becomes even more important. I can honestly say that I have pondered that one from a young age. But, it just isn't as far away and out there as it used to be.

I don't look for guru's and I don't endorse everything this writer thinks or his conclusions. But, it was a very good overview and I really got much food for thought from it. So, here goes:

The writer appears to be well versed and maybe even a little biased toward the Christian view although not in a conservative or absolute way. He discusses the Christian view of resurrection. for instance there is the gospel view where Jesus rose bodily from the tomb and bore the scars of the cross. There is the view from Paul in Corinthians where the resurrection body comes not from the animated corpse but from a seed that falls to the ground. He also discussed the Greek view that later came into the church that saw the body, mind and spirit as parts of the same whole.

Catholic view:  He discusses purgatory and how that makes sense to some because of the goal of growing into union with God. For instance a young child who dies would still be able to grow into union with God as a goal.

He also discusses humanism which sees life after death as a myth showing us how we should live our present lives. He doesn't spend to great a time on atheism since in all honesty it's a negative (no matter what your own thought on it might be) and this is a book on the possible and the hope of an afterlife. Still, you have to discuss the negative to understand how the hope is shaped and the argument is framed.

He also discusses Buddhism. I personally have an interest in this because I love the meditation practices of Buddhism. However, I find the worldview and the nothingness of the Tibetan view to be bleak and not really worth pursuing. But, that's me and I really can't help putting my own thoughts in here from time to time. I do have much respect for Buddhism.

He discusses reincarnation and he doesn't really land on the side of it but does give it serious thought and provides good discussion. I personally lean toward reincarnation since it does make more sense "to me" than a seed and an egg magically producing an eternal soul. More sense to me than a bunch of brain chemicals magically producing a whole universe of reality and personal being. But, again we all have our worldview and I just insert things from time to time. Like just then.

The author also talks genetics and makes some really good points along the way. For instance we know that our genes and (if I can say it without sounding two faced concerning my above statement) our brain chemistry along with our family, physical defects and even nutrition contributes to how we act and live. Then it would seem very illogical for God to eternally judge and place us in eternal bliss or torment based on one short life and (my words here) how we did in the sperm lottery. This alone is worth the read.

The author also talks about forgiveness and the burden of putting the stress on the victim that some religious people seem eager to do. For instance if a being murders a loved one then the loved one is not obligated to forgive that act. In eternity that murderer may see the error of his/her ways and repent and become a shining spiritual being. That's wonderful. But, at that moment in time the victim or the loved one is not obligated to forgive the crime. They can one day accept the person who committed it and in eternity there can be healing. Anyway, it's quite a conversation and I really can't do it justice here.

The author also talks at length about other philosophers and thinkers. One that I really thought had some relevant thoughts was the late HH Price a Welsh Philosopher. Price thought that upon death a person will find themselves in a dreamworld of memories from life. For instance this from Wikipedia:
According to Price after death the self will find itself in a dream world of memories and mental images from their life. Price wrote that the hypothetical "next world would be realms of real mental images." Price however believed that the self may be able to draw upon its memories of previous physical existence to create an environment of totally new images. According to Price, the dream world will not follow the laws of physics just as ordinary dreams do not. In addition, he wrote that each person will experience a world of their own, though he also wrote that the dream world doesn't necessarily have to be solipsistic as different selves may be able to communicate with each other by dream telepathy.

The writer does a really good job of looking at the history of ancient people and how they seemed to view death. From prehistoric evidence that points to a belief in some sort of afterlife all the way through the various cultures both east and west ancient and modern. I really do recommend this particular book if this sort of thing is of interest to you.

Now, since I have no desire to be a fanboy of anybody these days. I will close out this review with a disclaimer. I have my own thoughts of God, Spiritual reality and my own hard earned worldview. My worldview is still evolving. Although, I have a steady foundation as to the things I give credence.

So, there ya have it. A Saturday Morning Book Review.



Saturday, May 2, 2015

Rants and Dreams!

  This internet thing is really interesting. I find so many different worldviews and ways of looking at the world. Interact with people that I could never know or be around in person. Still, I also notice so much one sided yelling going on. I was wondering about that. I thought: Has anybody, anywhere, ever changed somebody else and their core belief by yelling at them? Calling them an inbred right winger, Godless left wing communist, pervert, screaming "Scripture says, Science says, reality says." blah, blah, blah. I don't like polemics (that means a one sided long winded non original rant that knocks down strawmen instead of dealing with the many facets of human experience.)

1. No, I do not believe the president is a Muslim. But, even if he were I am still not sorry I voted for him.

 2. No I don't believe atheism is more intelligent than a belief in a higher purpose and I also don't believe it makes you more scientific.

3. There is no single "entity" that answers to the name of Science.

4. No, I don't believe the bible was handed down with no error as one single entity by the Lord God Almighty and that we have to leave our brains at the door when we discuss it.

5. No, I don't believe gay people are going to hell. I believe you are who you are. and if you try to be something else you will be miserable.

6. No, I don't need to watch a movie called "Dear White People" Black or white if you want me to know something about you then talk to me, not at me.

7. No, we don't fight the civil war in our minds all day in the south. Most of the reference to it I hear comes from people from the north.

 8. Yep, Alabama is indeed in need of better leadership. But, it is still a beautiful state and I hope we can wake up.

9. No, conservative middle and upper class white people "You" can't take back America because it doesn't just belong to you.

10. No, I don't think a plant that grows in the ground and is natural should be illegal while the drug lobby pumps our kids full of stuff to make them behave.

11. Please, don't say you love Jesus and then in the next breath call a young person who is killed (no matter your politics) a "justified" killing. Don't troll the internet calling people thugs and bowing to the police just because they are the police.

Also, don't degrade the very real need of a police force. I happen to know that the police are people who have a very complicated job. Putting on a badge doesn't automatically make you a hero but it does give you a special responsibility and it's awesome to see so many who take their responsibility seriously. God Bless them. I hope this isn't just a one sided long winded none original rant that knocks down straw-men instead of dealing with the many facets of human experience. Wouldn't want to be a hypocrite. :-)

I work in a field where we have lots, and lots and lots of oversight. Extremely aware that I have to be really careful with what I say or even what I post on the internet. In some way the internet thing is true of everybody these days. You get labeled and then you are in trouble. I have absolutely no problem with not revealing my everyday work or encounters with people. I like social work but at the same time I don't define who and what I do for a living with who or what I am inside. I work for an agency that although they are very Christian on some level it has never been a requirement for the job. Still, my core belief and the things I really feel would have some look at me weirdly or even try to "save" my soul. My soul is fine.

"Stevie, if you have accepted Jesus then you can never be lost no matter what"....Paternal Grandmother from way back in the day...Altoona, Alabama.

I always wondered about how people portray God. You have this being who loves you but on the other hand if you mess up you are out of the club. Anyway, that's not where I was wanting to go right now. Just popped into my head. :-)

I see so many polemics these days from people who are so self righteous and to be honest it turns me off. I know they mean well but really. Who is going to listen to somebody yelling at them unless it's the choir? Standing up in front of the so called Free Thinkers Society and slandering people as stupid for having the audacity to believe in God is not brave. Standing up in front of  the First Baptist Church on Sunday Morning and calling gay people sinners is not brave. Pulling scripture and beating people over the head. Yelling Science while all the time you are simply the same thing (religious fanatic) while screaming at people that they are nothing but brain farts does not make you intelligent.

 Id love to spit some beechnut in that dudes eyes
And shoot him with my old 45
Cause a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive...Hank Jr.

I hate Duck Commander....err excuse me "Duck Dynasty. :-) Maybe because I'm from the south and grew up with all the pseudo macho crap of the region. The Jesus loves you...but I will kick your ass crap. Truth is that saying something in a long drawl doesn't make you tough. It doesn't make you stupid either, for all the folks up north y'all need to understand that. But, I don't need some long bearded dude telling me how  to live my life or calling people "sinners and perverts" who you've never even met or walked in their skin for a day.

 I keep my visions to myself...Stevie Nicks

I have become a Jesus Follower in my later years.  It fits me better than the term Christian these days. Here is a link to a blog by Benjamin Corey that says it much better than I can.

But, here are some of the things that I feel and that I follow. I truly believe how you treat others is more important than all the other stuff and ritual and who you vote for and who you hang out with. Everybody you meet is important to somebody even, if it's only to God. I try to give everybody no matter if they are homeless or my boss at work or my friend or family or just somebody I pass on the street the dignity that a reflection of the "Divine" deserves. That's it. That's my religion.

I also believe that we are eternal. I don't think an eternal being is magically created when the egg and sperm meet. Not belittling the miracle of human or any other birth. It's just that I, because of certain life experiences and thoughts truly believe we are on an eternal journey.

“To be in any form, what is that? (Round and round we go, all of us, and ever come back thither,)” - See more at:
“To be in any form, what is that? (Round and round we go, all of us, and ever come back thither,)” - See more at:
"So as through a glass and darkly, the age long strife I see, Where I fought in many guises, many names, but always me." —General George S. Patton

I think getting older is something that I really didn't think would happen so fast. :-) I don't feel like I'm decrepit but I also can't run the hundred yard dash these days either. I find myself at night thinking "God, let that just be heartburn." "Oh, my goodness, I hope that's just a harmless mole." "Now where did that come from? I don't remember getting cut, scratched or bumping up against something." "Wow, I ate too much, again." ;-P

Still, as I look out of these eyes I am still very much "Me." I Am. Some people say 'I'm not the same person that I was." Well, I am very much still myself. I have learned some lessons. I hope I'm wiser about some things. I have more knowledge of some experiences. But, I'm not a different person. I just express myself differently due to time and experience. Also, because I really have been touched by grace and I am thankful that I have been allowed to peep just a little behind the curtain from time to time.

I remember a dream from my childhood. It has stayed with me through the years. It's one of the things that keeps me in times of confusion, stress, cynicism, and days when I really don't "believe" or feel that I do, in anything.

In the dream I see a staircase. I hear "walk up these stairs and every time you make a mark on the stairs you belong to God. ...I start to walk and every time I look down I see the impression of my foot on the stairs.....I get to the very top stair. I look down to see if I really do belong to God. Yes, there is the mark of my foot. I belong!

So, I'm not real into religion these days. I don't recite creeds or attend church or try to save the lost. Some days I don't even feel sure that this whole thing even means anything at all.

Except: I have this dream!