Roger W. Gardner
My Personal Beliefs
I believe in a Higher Power whom, for lack of a better name, I call God. My belief in God is both intuitive and pragmatic. Intuitive in the sense of its feeling right and proper, like a beautiful equation, while the alternative option seems to me awkward and incomplete.
I believe in a God engaged in human affairs. I do not believe God helps me find a parking space. However, I believe that the only convincing explanation for certain epiphanies in my life have come from this higher source.
My belief in God is also pragmatic; I believe in the logic of a Prime Mover, and in the efficacy of prayer. I believe that prayer -- that is, the act of praying itself, humbling oneself before a superior power and asking for help, is beneficial both intellectually and spiritually. It is a sharing of the burden of mortality, and offers us a vestige of hope.
The Historiocity of Jesus Christ
I believe that Jesus of Nazereth, called the Christ, existed. I believe this fact has been adequately confirmed by historical triangulation from the writings of Josephus, Tacitus and Dio Cassius -- special weight being given to Tacitus' offhand references, given their derisive and demeaning tone.
I believe in the essential factual elements of the Gospel of the New Testament, from the approximate date (though off by 4 to 6 years) of Christ's birth, through his last 2 or 3 years, up to and including his crucification.
I do not believe in the Immaculate Conception, the miracle of the loaves, walking on water, etc, or, most importantly, in the Ressurection; all of which I consider to be later constructs in an elaborate process of deification.
However, despite heavy censorship which most assuredy took place in the 4th and 5th centuries, I believe that in general the extant records of Jesus' teachings and sayings are essentially accurate, and certainly worthy of the founding of a great religion. It is in this sense that I consider myself to be a Christian.
There were, it must be remembered, many purported Messiahs during this period of Judaic history. This Jewish longing for a strong Messiah Warrior King (such as King David) came as a natural response to their having been conquered and subjugated, in turn, by the Babylonians, the Persians, the Egyptians, and now the Romans. In this respect, Jesus the Nazarene proved to be a disappointment to many Jews -- in particular to Judas Iscariot. Rather than being given a Messiah Warrior King, who would lead them to victory in battle against their hated Roman foe, they were presented with a man of tolerance and peace. A gentle man, who believed himself to be the Son of God -- not the jealous, vengeful God of the Old Testament, but a kind and loving God.
Five centuries after Jesus' death the Arab world would get their own Messiah Warrior King, and we are still dealing with the unhappy consequences of that fateful event.
Unlike the fire and brimstone prophets of the Old Testament, Jesus only sparingly deals with sin, never the dark concept of Original Sin; but rather he openly embraces the prostitute, the Roman Centurian, even the onerous tax-collector.
I believe that Jesus, called the Christ, believed himself to be the Son of God, and that those surrounding him believed the same. I believe the actual degree of Christ's divinity is unknowable, whereas his effect on mankind is vast and quantifiable.
If faith is belief without proof, then my faith in the historiosity of the New Testament is qualified. The character of Jesus is, to me, the most intriguing and mysterious in history. His life and his teachings have forever changed the course of the Western World.
Although Jesus most assuredly represented an existential threat to the conservative Jewish religious establishment of Jerusalem, most particularly the Elders of the Sanhedrin, it appears the Romans had the final say in his execution for sedition. It was therefore a civil/political decision, well within the bounds of Roman jurisdiction, and thus, despite centuries of traditional anti-semitic rantings, does not constitute a "Blood Libel" on the Jews.
The Importance of Saint Paul
Although obviously centered on the figure of Jesus Christ, in fact it seems that the entire foundation of the Universal Catholic Church rests squarely on the solid shoulders of the inimitable Saul of Tarsus (Saint Paul). Indeed, it can be said with some degree of certainty that without the efforts of Saint Paul, Christianity would most likely have eventually dwindled away, becoming just another strange Middle Eastern cult. Regardless of the significant contributions of Saint Jerome, Saint Augustine, et al, it was Saint Paul who was primarily responsible for the birth of the Christian Church, An indefatiguigable proselytizer and a profoundly original theologian -- he was not, however, above bending the rules (e.g. that all Christians must be converted Jews), if this would bring in new Christians from the vast untapped resources of the gentile Graeco-Roman world. It was the formidable brain of Paul that first formulated the whole concept of Redemption -- that Christ had died on the cross not as a common criminal, but in order to redeem our sins, thus turning his inglorious end by crucifiction into a divine act of monumental martyrdom. The importance of Saint Paul to the course of Western/Christian history cannot be overstated. It was Saint Paul who organized the foundations of the Universal Church, created its dogma and its heirachy. By the time of Paul's death, in 64 AD, the nascent Catholic Church was already becoming a viable, well-structured corporation, subject to the personal and political aspirtions of it leaders.
The Jewish Christians
Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, the so-called "original Jewish-Christians", under the leadership of Jesus' brother, James the Just, continued on in stubborn isolation for a few decades before disappearing from the pages of history.
It is worth noting that these newly converted Christians sought to get along with the Roman authorities, and were eager to distance themselves from their troublesome Jewish cousins. As Christianity grew, this split between the Jewish-Christians, the gentile Christians, and the Jews became ever wider. This in part expains why the writers of the Gospels were reluctant to put the blame for Jesus' execution on the Romans, placing it intead on the Jews.
East vs. West
One of the most pivotal events in Western history must surely have been the now rather obscure Iconoclastic Controversy of the mid-8th century. For it was over this theological rift that the the Eastern [Orthodox] Church, centered in Constantinople began its inevitable split from the Western Catholic Church, centered on the Pope in Rome. The major bone of contention was over the interpretation of the use of "graven images", that is whether or not realistic portraiture depicting indentifiable characters -- most especially, God, Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary -- constituted a heresy. Constantinople declared all such artwork to be heretical and banned its production, and the later Islamic World followed suit. On the other hand, the Church of Rome decided the contrary position, not only accepting naturalistic art as being non-heretical, but warmly embracing it, eventually becoming its primary benefactor.
The Middle Eastern and the Graeco-Roman Western world had gone their separate ways. In the West the arts and sciences flourished, and the spirit of discovery -- when not threatening the foundation of the church itself -- was nurtured and encouraged. Thus the successful growth of an open, liberal, progressive culture denoted the character of the West, while the Middle Eastern, later Islamic world, would focus their arts, however beautiful, exclusively on rigid, formulaic, mostly geometric motifs. Restricted by religious law, discovery and innovation were discouraged, in favor of strict adherence to tradition. While the West prospered and grew, albeit somewhat sporadically, the Middle East tended to stagnate and fall behind. As the West moved on, continually expanding its intellectual and artistic frontiers, culminating in the glories of the Rennaisance and, later, in the Age of Enlightenment, the Arab/Islamic world languished, virtually unchanged from the 7th century. No Rennaisance. No Reformation. No Age of Enlightenment -- the closest thing to a Reformation in Islam being, arguably, the 18th century Wahabbi Movement, which only succeeded in turning in on itself, further alienating Islam from the constantly evolving West, where innovation was not only encouraged, but generously rewarded.
Church and State
Perhaps the next most determinate events in Western Christian History were the beginnings in the 11h century of the ongoing battles between church and state, between the Pope in Rome and various emperors and kings. Although the results of these contests were never entirely conclusive, the end product would be a stalemate, and a tentative agreement on their separate spheres of authority, spiritual and temporal. This imperfect balance between church and state has generally served Western Civilization quite well.
However, problems develop when a religion, such as Islam, is overtly and aggressively politically motivated, but protected from objective scrutiny by its religious shield. Thus Islam can spread its evil tentacles into our Western society, its sanctity assured by our own Constitution. Unless and until we find a way around this self-imposed barrier and begin treating Islamism as just one more "ism", such as Communism of Fascism, we will continue losing ground in this veritable Clash of Civilizations.
In contrast to the militant hubris of the confirmed atheist, or the condescending self-righteous fervor of the born-again-Christian, I humbly accept the fact that many of my carefully considered conclusions, put forth in this small essay, could be completely mistaken. However, they represent an honest expression of my thoughts at this time.
Finally, I beleive that faith in a kind and loving God is a gift. The degree to which one accepts the literal narrative of the New Testament, whether one embraces minimalism or maximalism, is of course a matter of personal choice.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The U.S. Delegation to the UNHRC uttered and published a statement on a human rights report. That statement exposes the Obama administration's treason to scrutiny; I can not resist. I have therefore selected excerpts for dissection. [Emphasis added.]
Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
The Human Rights Council – 12th session
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Sarah Cleveland
Geneva, 30 September 2009
While we do not support the concept of “defamation of religions” for reasons well known to this Council, my government is strongly committed to religious freedom and has condemned the use of negative and derogatory stereotypes and discrimination and/or discriminatory policies. We recognize that such stereotyping and discrimination affects individuals of all faiths and races, and express our strong condemnation of the types of such intolerance provided in the report.
It is good to read that the Obama administration does not support the concept of defamation of Islam, but it would be better if they would emphatically condemn it. The term "negative and derogatory stereotypes" raises a red flag. Its implication: 'all Muslims are evil' its reality: Islam is evil. It is a veiled reference to Geert Wilders' video Fitna and the infamous Danish Cartoons. Once that overly broad term is enshrined in law, it will be used to criminalize all criticism of Islam.
As noted in our response to the High Commissioner on the issue of defamation of religion, the United States believes the best way for governments to address the issues underlying intolerance is to develop effective legal regimes to address acts of discrimination and bias-inspired crime; to condemn hateful speech and proactively reach out to all religious communities, especially minority groups. We strive to do this while vigorously defending the freedom of religion and freedom of expression.
Crime is crime, regardless of the identity of the victim. Rape or robbery, assault or murder, the effect is the same whether the victims is straight or queer, Atheist or Muslim and ought to carry equal penalty dependent on the offense, not the victim.
Condemning hateful speech raises the issue of definition. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared Fitna and the Danish Cartoons to be hate speech, following the lead of the OIC. From their viewpoint, any truthful criticism of Islam is hateful speech. Their tactical objective is to criminalize all criticism of Islam so that we will be completely disarmed in the war of ideas. The Obama administration is siding with the enemy, against the First Amendment right of free expression.
The advocacy of proactively reaching out to all religious communities ... especially minority groups points out significant hypocrisy.
- condemned the use of negative and derogatory stereotypes and discrimination
- proactively reach out to all religious communities, especially minority groups
- condemn hateful speech
- while vigorously defending ... freedom of expression
Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance are serious challenges facing the international community and the United States believes they must be examined methodically and deliberately. The United States submits that this process of self-examination and action by the international community begin with greater opportunities to exchange views and address empirical data and practice on matters related to racial, ethnic, and religious diversity, discrimination, and intolerance – notably through discussions in the Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards – so as to broaden our common understanding of these important issues and provide a solid foundation for a broad-based consensus for further actions and initiatives.
You think that racism refers to irrational hatred of people whose skin color is different. That is not what the word means to the OIC and UN. To them, it means criticism of and enmity to Islam.
4. Emphasizes the urgent need to address the scourges of anti-Semitism, Christianophobia, and Islamophobia as contemporary forms of racism as well as racial and violent movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas directed at African, Arab, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other communities;
Since the publication of the Durban II Preliminary Document, when you read racism in a UN document, you can translate it as Islamophobia. No word is safe in the Orwellian UN. Related intolerance is a code phrase for the same concept. Islamophobia implies irrational fear and loathing. What is irrational about fear and loathing of a war cult which has murdered 270*106 people in the last 1386 years?
The Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards has an abstract name which contains no hint of its purpose. The committee is a subset of the UNHRC. Its purpose is to write a legally binding protocol to ICERD. The protocol will make criticism of Islam a criminal offense in international law. The Obama administration just endorsed that damnable program of action which directly contravenes the First Amendment. The details are contained in a series of blog posts.
- Ad Hoc Cmte: Non-Paper 08/04/09 The cmte. President's outline of the program of censorship. This document is crucial to comprehending the related posts which follow in this list.
- Ad Hoc Committee: African Submission 08/03/09 Detailed analysis of the Africa group's proposal to censor critics of Islam.
- Ad Hoc Cmte USA Submission 08/03/09 This nation is governed by irrational idiots & traitors. Read it and weep.
- Ad Hoc Cmte: Pakistani Submission 08/03/09 Detailed analysis of the OIC's proposal to censor critics of Islam.
- Ad Hoc Committee: Iranian Submission 08/03/09 Detailed analysis of Iran's proposal to censor critics of Islam.
- Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards 08/01/09 They aim to add a protocol to ICERD to criminalize these blog posts.
objection against the absurd decision to award B. Obama Nobel Peace PrizeTarget:Nobel Peace Prize CommitteeSponsored by:
Lets express our objection against the absurd decision to award B. Obama Nobel Peace Prize. His activity had not yet abounded the unusual achievements. And although it can not be denied his potential, a decision the Nobel Committee is definitely premature, and in addition the political. Unfortunately, such a choice Stockholm committee is directed at existing laureates this prestigious Prize, who have spent years devoted themselves to working hard and consistently for their ideals.
Hat tip: jillosophy.blogspot.com
Imperfect as it is, the petition is far superior to anything I could produce in any language other than English, and it just scratches the surface of my sentiments. I endorsed it without hesitation and hope that you will, too. There are more than 1600 signatures and I hope it will garner one thousand times that number.
Awarding the peace prize to a terrorist appeasing traitor denigrates the prize as much as honoring Arafat & Carter did.