Thursday, March 23, 2017

Help Free a Human Rights Worker Imprisoned in Saudi Arabia

Please help free Issa al-Hamid who has been sentenced to 11 years in prison
for leading a human rights group in Saudi Arabia.

an urgent message from Amnesty International:

"The Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh has upheld Saudi Arabian human rights defender Issa al-Hamid’s 11-year prison sentence."

Call on the Saudi Arabian government to overturn Issa al-Hamid’s he has been sentenced solely for the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and association.

Ask Saudi Arabian leaders to stop arresting and imprisoning human rights defenders.

Contact these two officials by 17 April, 2017:
King and Prime Minister
His Majesty Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King
Royal Court, Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior)
+966 11 403 3125 (please keep trying)
Twitter: @KingSalman
Salutation: Your Majesty

Ambassador Abdullah bin Fisal
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Ave. NW
Washington DC 20037
Fax: 1 202 944 5983
Phone: 1 202 342 3800
Salutation: Dear Ambassador


It's tragic that more and more governments are violating human rights. Even worse, as difficult as it is to comprehend, more and more secularists in the United States and else where are claiming that human rights don't exist, aren't real!

For instance, the Israeli historian,
Yuval Noah Harari,
wrote "the only place where such universal principles exist is in the fertile imagination...
and in the myths they invent and tell one another.
These principles have no objectively validity...that all humans are equal is also a myth"!

He also proclaims that "liberty...exists only in their imagination."
According to Harri, the views of the Enlightenment founders and the opening preamble of the Declaration of Independence are all wrong.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
by Yuval Noah Harari, Harper Collins, 2015

Add that to the many religious leaders worldwide who oppose human rights, and the future looks mighty dim.

We Friends need to launch a new abolition movement worldwide to free not only the millions still enslaved in human trafficking, but to give new life to the transcendent truths of equality and human rights and objective ethics.

We don't look to the obvious, and the temporary,
but to the eternal and the truly ethical.

We need to remember Martin Luther King's powerful words:
"I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history.
I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him
morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him."
--Martin Luther King Jr

In the LIGHT,

Daniel Wilcox

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Part #2: From Baptist Warrior to Friendly Conscientious Objector

My Life Journey TimeLine--
Lifestance, Philosophies, and Spiritual Seeking

Age 17, 1964 Drastic Change #2

(For ages 4? to 17, see Part #1)

Gung-ho for Goldwater for president, promoting the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam, Christian warrior-to-be. God and Country.

BUT then the conservative Baptist edifice of ethical and political understanding came crashing down one Saturday evening at Youth for Christ when an avid Christian girl strongly disagreed with my militant support of the war including the bombing of Hai Phong, Vietnam.

I don’t think I had ever considered enemy civilians as real live people like you and me. They were all our communist enemies who needed to be destroyed for God, for Christ.

She demanded, politely, that I face what I was really saying.

She asked, Would Jesus gun down other humans? Would Jesus push the button that dropped napalm and other heavy bombs?

(In Vietnam War, the U.S. would drop more bombs than all of WWII!! At least 1,450,000 (maybe 2 million) civilians would die in the war, and millions more would be wounded. About 1,250,000 Vietnamese soldiers would die, and over 58,000 American soldiers. Also, remember many people died in Laos and Cambodia, too.)

Stunned, I kept dialoguing with her, while she emphasized for me to go back and study the Sermon on the Mount more thoroughly.

Up to age 17, it had been my understanding that in the Matthew text, Jesus was talking about personal enemies, such as a grumpy relative or the malicious next-door neighbor.

But I soon discovered, that on the contrary, Jesus was saying we ought to love the Roman soldiers (or any other enemy soldiers) who’ve invaded our country, abused us, oppressed us, killed us!

Whew! NO one else, not a single other Christian was saying ethical stuff like this. I studied the Sermon on the Mount intensely. Read various opposing views.

And I struggled immensely for months. I had already invited the Navy, Army, and Air Force recruiters out months previously to decide which military branch to join after high school; probably, the Navy like my dad and 2 of my uncles, but wanted to make a wise choice.

Now all of that was shot-to-heaven;-) by the Sermon on the Mount.

Finally at 18, contrary to everyone I knew except this one Christian family, and one former missionary (who seemed to view war similar to Desmond Doss),
I registered for the Draft as a Conscientious Objector.

I was going against my parents, my relatives, our Baptist church, nearly everyone I knew. And I lost my best friend because of my anti-war stance.
Yet, I really did think this was the way of Jesus.

Then I had to go before my draft board and answer their difficult questions about my commitment to Jesus’ ethics, etc.

Before C-O service, I worked one summer as a mission volunteer on the Cheyenne Reservation in southern Montana, near the Little Bighorn Battlefield (Custer's Last Stand).

I did youth work for Mennonite Missions and talked with a new friend, a Friend, one of a Quaker family doing reconciliation work on the reservation.

The town hall, Brent Barksdale Community Center in Lame Deer, had been built years earlier by a young adult Quaker Work-Team.

After I was drafted in the spring of 1967, I got assigned to serve at mental hospital if I continued to refuse military service.

I did the C-O service at Eastern State School and Hospital in Pennsylvania, just a hop and jump of history from Washington’s infamous crossing, escaping from the British.

And also living for weeks in Haight-Asbury as a spiritual hippie who didn’t do drugs, had never tasted alcohol--but will skip all of that--
this is a philosophical timeline, not an autobiography:-)

Age 20, 1967 Here come the Quakers

Working at a mental hospital with schizophrenic, autistic, and sociopathic children and teens, (after driving my van—the Mystical Hippopotamus—across the nation to near Philadelphia).

When I visited a Baptist church there, it was shocking, and disconcerting to hear the minister claim that the King James Bible was the only Bible, etc.!

Having already long ago—when I was about 13—ceased to believe in inerrancy, and knowing that the KJB wasn’t even the most accurate Bible in translation from the Greek and Hebrew, I left early, may have even skipped out before the sermon finished. Delusionary.

Also, most Baptists were very pro-Vietnam War, and Mennonites while against the war, tended to be as literalistic as Baptists when it came to the Bible.
Where could I find liberal theists?

About then, I remembered the Quaker option, the Society of Friends came into view, me remembering the good times I had spent dialoguing with the Quakers on the Cheyenne Reservation a year earlier.

And from my first introduction to Quakerism back in 1960, at about 13, when I saw them on the TV news opposing nuclear weapons. Who were they?
They mystified me, that some Christians weren’t in favor of the atom bomb. But why? How idealistic.

Now I had the opportunity to find out more, maybe become a Friend.

One Sunday, I visited the local Friends Meetinghouse in Newtown, PA. This first experience was incredibly disappointing.

In a huge plain church, there was almost nobody there, maybe a several oldsters, and only one other young adult. I got acquainted with her by walking her part way home (coming back for my van later).

The Baptist church had been packed. Why so few Quakers?

Later I took the L-train into downtown Philly to Backbench Friends Meeting, a young adult gathering (on some of my weekends off; at the mental hospital, we worked a 10-days-on-4 days off schedule).

Then I was kicked out of my apartment because of the anti-war poster on the back window of my van, so I lived during the summer in it on a small island in a campground near Newtown, fording over
the concrete ramp, through the shallow stream morning and evening.

To be continued

Monday, March 13, 2017

Quaker Speak's Engaging Interviews

Kudos to Jon Watt, Quaker Speak, and Friends Journal for putting out these engaging, inspirational videos.

"QuakerSpeak is a project of Friends Journal, in collaboration with New England Yearly Meeting, Quaker House, the American Friends Service Committee, and Friends World Committee for Consultation, Section of the Americas. The project is directed by Jon Watts."

With all the fragmenting, disagreements, even conflicts going on amongst Quakers, in contrast, these spiritually enriching interviews with individual Friends are very encouraging.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Outside the Limit: a meditation

Outside the Limit

Working through the Thursday graveyard shift
At 7-11, I stock cold shelves of ‘cours’
Then write a college essay on dreiser’s
Claim, ‘life is thin surface, all negation;’

But alert in that night, I muse in the stillness
While beyond store glass, the parking lot lies
Vacant, lit by neon signs and street lights–
When so unexpected my mind transports.

I rise outside of self, see far beyondness,
Perceive myself sitting between store rows,
Observe my little ego, skin, and skull
My bodied self--finite with staid cans and jars.

Suddenly drowned in awe, awash in fire here
Luminous presence, aware beyond words, vivid bliss
Blessed all-encompassing exalted surpassing
Great transcendent limitless awareness.

--Daniel Wilcox
First pub. In different form in
Flutter Poetry Journal,
then The Mindful Word,
and second published poetry
collection, Psalms, Yawps, and Howls

PLEASE HELP! Yemen Crisis and South Sudan

Read about the crises:

"...more than 20 million people faced the threat of starvation and famine in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria."
--UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien

"Unicef has already warned 1.4m children could starve to death this year."

"Mr O'Brien said $4.4bn (£3.6bn) was needed by July to avert disaster."

"We stand at a critical point in history," Mr O'Brien told the Security Council on Friday. "Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations."

"It is thought a child dies every 10 minutes in Yemen from a preventable disease, while half-a-million children under five are suffering from severe acute malnutrition."

"The UN estimates some 19 million people - or two thirds of Yemen's population - is in need of some sort of humanitarian help following two years of war between Houthi insurgents and the government, which is backed by a Saudi-led coalition."

Please stand up by sending help via World Vision, Mennonite Central Committee, Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, American Friends Service Committee, etc.

Continue to witness against the current wars and inequalities and injustices which are the primary cause of these crises.

In this heartbreaking disaster, please open your heart.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Scientific Name-Dropping: Why a Quaker?

Albert Einstein stated in the last year of his life:
"If I were not a Jew I would be a Quaker."*


The question is why did he identify with the Friends?

It is difficult to answer. There has been a lot written about Einstein’s views on ultimate reality.

Much of it contradictory. Some thinkers claim he was an atheist, others that he wasn't.

Einstein emphasized that he wasn't an atheist,
that atheists had no sense of the "music of the sphere," that they lacked appreciation for the amazing order and beauty and awe of the cosmos. (Photo: A Friends Meetinghouse--by James Turrell, Skyspace Philadelphia)

Einstein said, “...the serious scientific workers are the only profoundly religious people.”

"...rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection."

“In the struggle for ethical good teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God, that is give up the source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vast powers in the hands of priests."

At times, Einstein identified as a pantheist, at other times as an agnostic.
"I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the harmony of all being, not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and actions of men."

"I’m not an atheist and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages...The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God."

"A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds—it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity; in this sense and in this sense alone, I am a deeply religious man."

But he explicitly rejected organized religion, especially, opposed orthodox Judaism and creedal Christianity, the anthropomorphism of a “personal god,” life after death, etc.

Sometimes Einstein spoke of ethics and meaning, at others insisted that everything--including humans--is determined.

Lastly, came his striking comment, “If I were not a Jew I would be a Quaker.”

Did he identify with Quakerism because of its strong sense of wonder?

He often said that he was "religious" in a noncreedal sense,
making statements such as:

"The religion of the future will be cosmic religion. It will transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology."

"...if I could ask God one question...I would want to know why he started the universe. For once I knew that answer, then I would know the purpose of my own life."

"“Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up."

"But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion."

"To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason."

"I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

“It would not be difficult to come to an agreement as to what we understand by science. Science is the century-old endeavor to bring together by means of systematic thought the perceptible phenomena of this world into as thoroughgoing an association as possible. To put it boldly, it is the attempt at the posterior reconstruction of existence by the process of conceptualization..."

"Accordingly, a religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance and loftiness of those superpersonal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation. They exist with the same necessity and matter-of-factness as he himself. In this sense religion is the age-old endeavor of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals and constantly to strengthen and extend their effect. If one conceives of religion and science according to these definitions then a conflict between them appears impossible."

"For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary. Religion, on the other hand, deals only with evaluations of human thought and action: it cannot justifiably speak of facts and relationships between facts. According to this interpretation the well-known conflicts between religion and science in the past must all be ascribed to a misapprehension of the situation which has been described."

"For example, a conflict arises when a religious community insists on the absolute truthfulness of all statements recorded in the Bible. This means an intervention on the part of religion into the sphere of science; this is where the struggle of the Church against the doctrines of Galileo and Darwin belongs."

"On the other hand, representatives of science have often made an attempt to arrive at fundamental judgments with respect to values and ends on the basis of scientific method, and in this way have set themselves in opposition to religion. These conflicts have all sprung from fatal errors."

"The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge. In this sense I believe that the priest must become a teacher if he wishes to do justice to his lofty educational mission."

...the "eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility."

Because Friends philosophy and theology are less anthropomorphic?

Because some Quaker leaders have been brilliant scientists?

Because of his admiration for Quaker work for peace,
reconciliation, civil rights, and justice?

For Einstein did state, "If one purges the Judaism of the Prophets and Christianity as Jesus Christ taught it of all subsequent additions, especially those of the priests, one is left with a teaching which is capable of curing all the social ills of humanity."

Also, why did he say he was a “Jew” since he strongly rejected Orthodox Judaism?

Since he wasn’t a believing orthodox Jew, but only one culturally,
was his Quaker statement more of a cultural outlook, too, that he liked the culture and social nature of the Friends?

What do you think?

Fairly recently, out here in California, we read 2 biographies on Einstein in our thinkers’ bookclub. I was, again, amazed by Einstein’s wonder, awe,
and appreciation of cosmic order and beauty,
what he called the "music of the spheres."

What appealed to Albert Einstein in Quakerism,
contrary to his very negative views of all other religions?

*Quotes are from various sources on the Internet, from books including
Einstein: The Life and Times by Ronald Clark
Einstein: His Life and His Universe by Walter Isaacson,
The World As I See it,
Albert Einstein: Ideas and Opinions
Einstein and Religion

*This isn’t an appeal to authority—except in a bit of questioning. Besides, what his philosophical views of reality aren’t necessarily more valid (and to be followed) just because he was a brilliant physicist. Views outside of one's profession aren't valid or invalid just because one has said them.

Questions in the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A Cosmic View

Don't miss this mind-expanding science documentary,
Journey to the Edge of the Universe.

Journey is a powerful documentary on the nature of the cosmos,
vividly rendered and narrated.

Despite having read a fair number of science, astronomy, and cosmology books in my brief time, including one I am still reading, The Elegant Universe by astronomer Brian Greene, I was still wowed by this excellent documentary.

The film is user-friendly, but not basic. It stretches the mind. And one feels awe and admiration, and a sense of infinity.

Thanks to National Geographic for creating the film, and for ever-rewarding Netflix making it available.

And the movie was a welcome vacation from the daily news. In the midst of so much wrong, sorrow, angst, despair, and human debacle, it was a very good time to step back and take a cosmic view through a science video.

Viewing and hearing about the limitless, intellectually beautiful structure of the universe, and it's cosmic journey creating time and space as it advances into an ever expanding reality, was exhilarating and helped me keep the current bad religious and political scene in perspective.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox