Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Storied Mask





The Storied Mask


The vast kaleidoscoped cosmos
On black velvet background
Galactic star swirls,
One great masked Chagall

We turn our stained-glass faces…

Above us in infinite light years,
Visioning vivid rose and royal blue,
So covered the costumed earth,
Weeping colors of bowed rain,

We turn our stained-glass faces…


In this troubled world's lastness,
From the very beforeness,
Out from the mummering
Great cosmic Blast,

We turn our stained-glass faces…

A hooded violet trope
That hurtled us across time
Into the endless question
Before the troubled asking;

We turn our stained-glass faces…

Our distraught disguises
Cascading down,
Away from the pierced harshness
Of wintered survival rage
To stare at the flaming sun,

We turn our stained-glass faces…

Gleaming through, unmerry
Makers, not mindfully blind
But behind metaphor's
Vivid translucent veil,

We turn our stained-glass faces…

Seeing the One True Face,
Stained with the sorrow
Of ever-becoming visually real,
Ruby, emerald, and sapphire,

Yes, we turn our stained-glass faces

To one finally white endless strobe,
Encompassing all despaired weeping
In the brightness of transcendent becoming,
Unlimited strophe of the cosmic Masque
Of all Dancing.













by Daniel Wilcox


First published in different form in Mad Swirl;
later in the poetry collection, selah river

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Who, When, Why--10 Times the Bible Says Torture is OK by Valerie Tarico

This is a guest article by psychologist Valerie Tarico. A very troubling article. It could be considered part 2 of Unholy Night, my last blog post. Originally, I scheduled to finish the year with a hopeful message bringing in the New Year. After all the blog title is "Infinite Ocean of Light..."!

So why the drastic change?

Because again this week another Christian leader has written a news article defending the use of torture, based on the Bible! Don't forget many Christian leaders are declaring that the Jewish Holocaust and all manner of evil are God's will and that such horrendous events happen for God's glory and pleasure! Whew...
Even some Jewish leaders are claiming God created evil!


But then we shouldn't be surprised if we only remember that many, if not most, Christian leaders also have defended the killing of over half a million unarmed civilians in the last 70 years:-( "So it goes." (Vonnegut)

So it seems very important to repost this new article, a powerful, lucid explanation by Valerie Tarico. (I strongly disagree with a few of her points, but many of her key insights show why so many Christians now--and in the past--have supported horrendously evil actions such as torture.)

Please read Tarico's article carefully and respond at her site (or in the comment section below).
--

Who, When, Why –10 Times the Bible Says Torture is OK

by Valerie Tarico

"When conservative Christians claim that the Bible God condones torture, they’re not making it up. A close look at the good book reveals why so many Christians past and present have adopted an Iron Age attitude toward brutality.


The first half of December 2014 was painful to many moderate American Christians who see their God as a God of love: A Senate inquiry revealed that the CIA tortured men, some innocent, to the point of unconsciousness and even death; evidence suggested that this torture extracted no lifesaving information. A majority of Americans responded by giving torture the thumbs up, with the strongest approval coming from Christians, both Catholic and Protestant. Faced with moral outrage, including from within their own ranks, Christian torture apologists took to the airwaves and internet, weaving righteous justifications for the practice of inflicting pain on incapacitated enemies.

As morally repugnant as this may be, anyone familiar with either past survey data or Christian history shouldn’t find it surprising. One of the CIA’s favored leave-no-marks torture techniques, waterboarding, was refined by Inquisition authorities during the interrogation of heathens and heretics.

There’s a reason that devout Christians past and present can turn to torture when it suits their ends and then blithely maintain that they are on the side of God and goodness. The Bible itself—Old Testament and New—endorses torture regularly, through stories, laws, prophesies and sermons; including from the mouth of Jesus himself.

Don’t take it from me. The following passages are a sample of those available, but I encourage you to pick up the Bible yourself, starting at the book of Genesis. Here, so you know what to look for, is Wikipedia’s definition of torture:

The act of deliberately inflicting severe physical or psychological pain and possibly injury on a person (or animal), usually one who is physically restrained or otherwise under the torturer’s control or custody and unable to defend against what is being done to them.

I include in this category the act of deliberately inflicting prolonged and intense suffering in the process of killing a person or animal, when the killer has the option to end the life quickly and painlessly. Merriam-Webster adds that the torturer’s goal is “to punish, coerce, or afford sadistic pleasure.”


Torture as Punishment: Eve’s Curse –Intense and prolonged pain meted out as punishment appears almost immediately in the pages of the Bible, inflicted by God himself, who curses Eve because she has eaten from the Tree of Knowledge. “To the woman He said, ‘I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth. In pain you shall bring forth children; yet your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you’” (Genesis 2:16).

As understood by the ancient Hebrews, physical pain would have been just part of Eve’s curse. In generations past, an estimated 1 in 10 women eventually died of childbearing, as they do today in places like rural Afghanistan where modern contraceptives and medicines are unavailable and men “rule over” women. The psychological element of the curse was repeated cycles of fear and uncertainty for a woman who might labor, give birth and then bleed out; or who (in the absence of caesarean section) might labor for days, unable to deliver, until her body gave up and she died. Leading church fathers saw maternal suffering and death as right and proper, because of Eve’s sin and the role God had prescribed for women.

Torture as a Test of Loyalty: Job –In the book of Job, torture isn’t a punishment but rather a test of loyalty. Job, a righteous man becomes the subject of a divine wager between God and Satan, who claims that Job is faithful only because he is blessed with health and wealth. Bets are laid, and over time Job is subjected to first psychological and then physical anguish. His crops fail. A house collapses, crushing all of his children during a family gathering. He is rejected by neighbors and ends up a beggar, covered in painful boils.

After Job passes the test, God restores his health and wealth, and replaces his dead children. Christians to this day frequently perceive inexplicable and unmerited suffering as a “test of faith.”


Torture for Self-Gratification and Gain: The Midianite Virgins—torture - sex slaveIn wars, victors often rape conquered females as a means of further humiliating male enemies. In the story of the Midianite virgins, though, the motivation is more instrumental. God’s command, (“Kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves.” Numbers 31: 17-18) The girls are taken as booty of war, tallied along with livestock and gold, and the purpose of their sexual slavery is to provide pleasure and progeny for the men who have slaughtered their families.

While this story may not count as sadist torture in the classic psycho-sexual sense, it does illustrate the Bible God’s approval of inflicting intense and repeated suffering on a helpless victim for the purposes of sexual gratification and/or personal gain.

Torture as a Show of Strength: The Egyptians. The story of Moses leading his people out of Egypt is a cornerstone of Jewish identity, the basis for the Passover holiday. It is also a cat and mouse story, the tale of a supernatural being toying with mortals because he can, inflicting round after round of terror and suffering with the self-admitted goal of displaying his power.

Yahweh speaks to Moses from a burning bush, telling him to go to Pharaoh and demand freedom for Israelite slaves. He promises that the Israelites will be free. But instead of making things easy, Yahweh does the opposite: “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 7:3).


He then methodically terrorizes the Egyptian populace. He turns their drinking water to blood, then fouls the land with a plague of frogs, then sends clouds of gnats to torment man and beast, then fills fields and homes with locusts, then kills their livestock, then infects them with boils and sores, then rains down hail to destroy their remaining crops . . . . The torments go on for pages. After each round, Yahweh again “hardens Pharaoh’s heart.” The awfulness crescendos until we reach the climax—the death of each firstborn male, no matter how young or helpless, including the firstborn of the cattle.

This story endorses not only torture, but vicarious torture. Suffering is inflicted on children and animals to maximize the distress of their adult guardians and owners, producing abject learned helplessness in the face of Yahweh’s overwhelming power.

Torture as Correction: The Law and Proverbs. When it comes time for the Israelite people to devise their own government, torture—as punishment and crime deterrence—gets built into legal codes. A man can beat his male or female slave bloody as long as the slave doesn't die within 2 days of the beating (Exodus 21:20-21). A judge can condemn a criminal to receive a similar beating after forcing him to lie down (Deuteronomy 25:2). Adulterers are to be stoned—a slow painful death that adds the extra humiliation of broad public participation (Deuteronomy 17:2-7).


The same approach is recommended for parenting. Parents are exhorted to beat their children, who otherwise will grow up foolish, and to ignore their crying (Proverbs 13:24; Proverbs 19:18; Proverbs 22:15). If you don’t think these constitute torture, I would suggest that you read some of the accounts of children who have lived for years in terror and pain because earnest Christian parents decided that godly parenting required breaking their will.

Torture as Vengeance: Elisha’s Curse. torture - Some Bible references to righteous torture appear to simply satisfy the human drive for vengeance. For example, the Law of Moses contains this bizarre prescription: “If an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox shall surely be stoned” (Exodus 21:28). Consider: The Iron Age Israelites were herdsmen and hunters. They knew how to kill animals swiftly, with minimal pain and tissue damage. In fact, rules for ritual slaughter demanded that they do so. Stoning a large, dumb, horned animal to death, by contrast, was a mob process that might take hours.

In the book of 2 Kings, an equally awful, protracted death befalls 42 youth who taunt God’s prophet, Elisha. He curses them and God sends two bears, who kill the boys by tearing them apart. Remember, if you will, that this is a God who can swiftly and silently strike people dead and sometimes does. Remember too, if you’re willing, the audio recording that the subject of the movie Grizzly Man unwittingly made of his own slow death—the interminable grinding and moaning that followed the bear attack. The moral of the Elisha story isn't just that those who disrespect God’s messengers will die; it is that they may die gruesome, excruciating deaths.


Threats of Torture as Persuasion: In the New Testament, threats of torture appear regularly as tools of persuasion—the stick half of a carrot and stick approach used by writers who warn repeatedly of torments that will befall those who don’t repent or convert.

The book of Matthew puts these words into the mouth of Jesus: “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell” (Matthew 18:8-9).

Later, Jesus tells the story of an unforgiving servant to illustrate how God will treat unforgiving people:

Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart (Matthew 18:32-33).

Grudge holders and bankers beware.

Torture as Redemption: Jesus. The crucifixion story elevates torment to a whole new level, giving torture-unto-death the power to redeem a broken world.

The notion that sacrificial killings can please or appease gods long predates the Bible, and it evolved over the centuries in which the Bible texts were written: from residual human sacrifice in the early Hebrew religion, to animal sacrifice during the temple era, to (in Christianity) the final sacrifice of the perfect lamb without blemish, Jesus himself.

Without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin. It’s an old concept, but in the Jesus story, the Hebrew concept of sacrifice morphs into death-by-torture. Perhaps a three-day death follow by glorious resurrection struck early Christians as cheap grace. Perhaps the followers of one Yeshua ben Yosef needed some way to explain the horrible death of their movement founder at the hands of Rome. Perhaps weary people in need of hope found a template for a suffering messiah in an ancient text. Whatever the reason, mythological or historical, torture became a defining feature of the orthodox Christian salvation narrative.

In this version of the story, Jesus doesn't merely die for our sins, side slit or heart stopped.torture - Mel-Gibson-Jim-Caviezel He is also tortured for our sins, as centuries of bloody iconography, passion plays, imitative self-flagellation, sermons, alter calls, and now movies like Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ attest.


Modern preachers sometimes wax eloquent on this point, elaborating the tortures in graphic Hollywood detail, but the notion of redemptive suffering goes back to a time before Jesus worship: “Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live to righteousness: by whose stripes you were healed,” says the author of 1 Peter. His words repurpose a passage from the Hebrew Song of the Suffering Servant: “He was wounded for our transgressions . . . By his stripes we are healed.”

To this day, Catholic ethicists propose that ill people who are suffering unto death, for example because of terminal cancer, should be offered not aid in dying but rather a Christian understanding of the value of redemptive suffering. Mother Teresa exhorted one terminal patient to think of his pain as “the kiss of Jesus.”

Torture as the Shape of Eternity: The torture most taught by modern Evangelicals is neither redemptive nor terminal; it is infinite. Perdition, hades, Gehenna, the lake of fire, outer darkness, eternal torment—hell represents the most intense and most prolonged torture the Iron Age mind could conceive and the Medieval mind could elaborate.

The concept of eternal torture crystalized between the time the Hebrew Bible and New Testament were written, and early Christian writers elaborated this concept in their efforts to woo converts.

In some of these texts, torture is the fate of fallen angels. Have you come to torture us before the appointed time?, demons ask Jesus when he casts them out of men and into a herd of swine. (Matthew 8:28-31)

It is the fate of the wicked and the wealthy:

The rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. Luke 16:22-24

It is the fate of those who serve the Beast (aka the Roman Empire) when apocalypse arrives:torture - hell

And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them. (Revelation 9:5-6)

And lest we think that days or weeks or months or years of torture are excessive, we are assured that God himself disagrees:

The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever. (Revelation 14:10-11)

By some accounts, witnessing the much-deserved torments of the damned will be one of the perks of heaven.

——————

Good is what God does. “Be ye holy for I am holy” God says in the book of Leviticus. The author of 1 Peter echoes him: “Be ye perfect as your father in heaven is perfect.” For many American Christians, as recent polls show, this model of perfection includes torture, as long as it is committed by and for God’s chosen people.

Religious believers often claim that without a god everything is permissible. I tend to think that the opposite is true. Without gods we are guided, however imperfectly, by empathy, fairness, and truth seeking—impulses that are built into us by our evolution as social information specialists. These impulses are enforced by moral emotions like shame and guilt and by moral reasoning capabilities that emerge during childhood. Humanity’s shared moral core can be glimpsed in every one of our wisdom traditions, religious or secular. It is the reason that our wisdom traditions tend to converge on the Golden Rule. Do unto others doesn’t offer a neat answer in every situation, but it does offer a coherent objective.

By contrast, religious morality, dictated from on high, can be as contradictory or cruel as the god doing the dictation, or the culture that created that god. When god is the supernatural version of an Iron Age warlord, that’s when everything becomes possible—including torture. And God said, let there be torture. And there was torture. And it was good.

———

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org. Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel.
Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.
http://valerietarico.com/2014/12/30/who-when-why-10-times-the-bible-says-torture-is-ok/

Friday, December 19, 2014

Oh Unholy Night versus the Truth

When one observes the tragic events dominating the news and the way humans constantly argue, distort, violate...it does seem one long unholy night...an ocean of darkness.

But there is another way--

Three Sons Fight

Disking the rock strewn
Objected earth near Bet Shean,
Underneath the Middle Eastern sky
Rows of mean earth riven by the blades,
We cut away our anger, hate, and pride,
Stopping to drink, not from the liquor
Of fanatic corruption but from
The precious water welling up,
Our oasis of Jacob'd sharing,
In this Hanukkah season
Of Christ's mass after
Ramadan.

Allah

We three sons of Abraham,
Muslim, Jew, and Christian,
Fight the true battle
Not each other but
To be found worthy
In compassion
Giving,
And purity--
The true
Submission
To God
Over
All.

Selah



First published in
outwardlink.net,
Knot Middle Eastern Magazine,
and the poetry collection of
selah river


In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What is This Crime of Illegal Immigration?

Before we exclude the "others," let's consider this powerful quote from a long editorial by Orson Scott Card, the famous science fiction author and conservative commentator:

"What Is This "Crime," Really?

By Orson Scott Card

"A fifteen-year-old boy -- let's call him David -- has been yearning for his driver's license for a long time.

But today all thoughts of waiting for his license are out the window, because his little sister cut herself and he can't stop the bleeding...So David puts his sister in the car and, holding a towel on the wound to apply pressure, he drives...heading for the nearest medical emergency center.

...a state trooper sees him driving too fast and pulls him over. David tries to explain that he's only driving illegally in order to save his sister's life, but the trooper doesn't listen.

He drags David out of the car and handcuffs him and yells at him that he has no business driving a car without a license...


I'm sick at heart about the number of Americans, including friends of mine who should know better, who are proud of being exactly like that state trooper, when it comes to the question of illegal immigrants.

"They have no right to be here in the first place. If we give these people amnesty and let them stay and apply for citizenship, we only encourage more illegal immigration in the future. Besides, they use up our welfare and add to our school costs without paying taxes!"

In vain do the immigrants try to explain that their families were desperately poor...
Why can't we look at what these people are actually doing? Why can't we see the bleeding child in the passenger seat, and realize that most of these illegal immigrants are doing precisely what you or I would do in the same circumstances?
...
So what is this vile crime of "illegal immigration"...It consists of crossing over an arbitrary line that somebody drew in the dirt a century and a half ago. On one side of the line, poverty, hopelessness...
On the other side of the line, plenty of jobs that...would save your family's lives, give you hope for your children...

Wouldn't you take any risk to get across that line?..."

By Orson Scott Card
Read the rest of this heartfelt article and another one on immigration at
http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/
--

There are, of course, complications in this difficult issue. About twenty percent of illegal immigrants are criminals. They need to be arrested and deported.

And we need to have Congress and the President figure out a humane way for hard-working, law-abiding illegal immigrants to pay a fine for their breaking the law and then help them become citizens if they wish to do so. Also, our immigration policy needs to favor the poor and wretched of the earth as it once did!

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
On the Statue of Liberty
Emma Lazarus


And at the same time, we all need to remember that most of the American Southwest was stolen by American crooks about 170 years ago!

A biblical passage comes to mind on all of this: “He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens...
Hebrew Bible, Deuteronomy 10:18-19

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Finding Hope in the Midst of Tragedy and Evil













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.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Far and the Near of Quakerism

“The Far and the Near” is a powerful short story by Thomas Wolfe, the lyrical American writer.

In the brief story, the narrator tells of how he often passes by a pleasing-looking house and family in the distance. That place and that family seem to epitomize all that is good and hopeful in the world.


Then, finally, one day the narrator decides to visit the far place. He drives to the distant location, with high hope and deep intensity, expecting to find this warm family and beautiful place, this shining star of joy always, only seen from afar.

But when he arrives, the observer is faced, instead with brute, ugly facts so unlike his hopeful expectations.

“Why had...the very entrance to this place he loved turned unfamiliar as the landscape of some ugly dream? Why did he now feel this sense of confusion, doubt and hopelessness?...with a sense of bitter loss and grief, he was sorry he had come...

All the brave freedom, the warmth and the affection had...vanished...But he faltered on, fighting stubbornly against the horror of regret, confusion, disbelief that surged up in his spirit, drowning all his former joy…”
--

When I was viewing and longing for the Society of Friends from afar, it looked like the true deal in a world awash with destructive and delusionary religion. It seemed an Ideal, Christianity truly lived—weekly real encounter with the Divine, communal communion living within worship and then active peacemaking, etc.

I would often drive long distances in order to participate in Quaker worship. And I did experience a deep sense of God’s presence sometimes, despite the usual quieting of my busy-body mind within.


But when I finally came near—actually lived near a Friends meeting and became an active member, and taught a Quaker class on Friends history and witness, I discovered a significant number of Quakers in the U.S. and England don't even think the Divine exists!

They are nontheists who go to weekly worship to not worship!

And, strangely, it turned out there are many Quakers who actively support war. What?!

California Yearly Meeting (of which my wife and I were devoted members) strongly refused to oppose nuclear weapons at its yearly conference!

Instead, members and leaders got up and defended not only regular war, but the possession and threat of atomic bombs!

I went home very troubled and disillusioned. How Far Quakerism in Southern California was from the Near of the Ideal.

There was an intentional willingness for killing in some “liberal” meetings, too!

Once I so wanted to be “near” that my wife and I drove over 2 hours to a liberal Friends meeting only to have members there speak up in the meeting in support of killing! Later, the AFSC in some cases even supported war.

My wife, who wasn't diligently a Friend but more a ride-along:-), wondered why we had bothered.

Then later after we joined a Friends Meeting, finally really got regularly “Near,” our local meeting hired an active fighter pilot as its leader…
Then it got even worse.

“Something is happening here, and we don’t know what it is, do we Mr. Fox?” (to misquote Dylan, Bob not Thomas).

Where was the beautiful spiritual home and family I had pined for so long?

Not that I wasn't also most of the problem...

But I was seeking help and spiritual communion for my own suffering life, not another secular gathering, that denied the Transcendent, or one which would be as gung-ho for war as most religions.

However, I said to myself--and many others--despite all these tragic developments, true Quakerism isn't like this.

What we need to do is get back to the real and true early movement of the Friends. That true Quakerism of Far in the past, the 1640’s.


But then I came face to face with textural evidence that early Quakers weren't like the Ideal either.

Oh, the far and the near...

For instance,
Quaker historian, David Boulton, proved my view of early Friends wrong.

Contrary to popular understanding, and Quaker histories, the original Friends weren't active peacemakers, actively opposed to war.

Boulton shows in “Militant Seedbeds of Early Quakerism" that, originally, Quakers strongly supported war, and war of the worst kind ("unkind").

George Fox even called on the Puritan warlord Oliver Cromwell to extend the English Civil War into continental Europe!

From “Militant Seedbeds of Early Quakerism:
“Consider this message to Cromwell, signed “George Fox” and dated January 1658, where the Protector is lambasted for not carrying his military conquests into Europe and on to Rome itself—even to the Turkish empire:

“Oliver, hadst thou been faithful and thundered down the deceit, the Hollander had been thy subject and tributary, Germany had given up to have done thy will, and the Spaniard had quivered like a dry leaf wanting the virtue of God, the King of France should have bowed his neck under thee,
the Pope should have withered as in winter,
the Turk in all his fatness should have smoked,
thou shouldst not have stood trifling about small things, but minded the work of the Lord
as He began with thee at first...Let thy soldiers go forth...
that thou may rock nations as a cradle.”
George Fox

For, not, heaven’s sakes, even Quakerism’s Margaret Fell said
that the English Puritan army was “the Battle-axe in the hand of the Lord.”
http://universalistfriends.org/library/militant-seedbeds-of-early-quakerism

Does anyone want to say, “Amen”?

The Far is no way Near, or rather is so like the Near.

I wonder why all religions at some point are given to violating others,
to carnage, even those who claim they are for peace.

Maybe, it’s not just religion, but that war and violence are inherent in the natural order
as scientists from Charles Darwin to Richard Dawkins have emphasized.

Natural selection, not Divine encounter.

Strangely, peacemaking and nonviolence are contrary to how most religious people actually behave,
including that Far country of the Society of Friends.
Peacemaking and nonviolence aren't easy to follow.

So that’s the Far and the Near.

And it’s an experience of disillusionment which leads if not overcome, to living with despair or illusion.

However having said all that, I see, despite my severe disillusionment with the Near and the Far of Quakerism that I still come out as a Quaker on Belief.net's Survey, 100% Liberal Quaker in fact.

This surely is the time to take a little encouragement from Howard Zinn, an American historian, who points out that despite the horrors of actual history and the way most people live,
“ TO BE HOPEFUL in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness."

"What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives...If we remember those times and places...where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction."

"And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
― Howard Zinn

So, for us, so what if the “near” of Quakerism isn't what it appears at the “far,” and even the “far” wasn't nearly as wonderful or divine as we like to historically remember?

Let’s live for the Good, the True, and the Just and the Merciful and the Kind in the present.

Become what Quakerism should have been, should be now.

To misquote George Fox, “I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but that light and love could flow over the ocean of darkness...”

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Take Time to Weep, Take Time to Grieve for the Loss of the Innocent

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/what-they-didnt-tell-you-ab…/



What They Don't Tell You About Dahlia

By Sherri Mandell

"....the reporter tells you about the terrorist [Maher al-Hashlamun of Islamic Jihad] who is from Hebron, how he was in an Israeli jail for five years for a firebombing. The reporter quotes his Facebook page: 'I’ll be a thorn in the gullet of the Zionist project to Judaize Jerusalem.'

We learn nothing about 26 year old Dahlia, who was just getting started in life after finishing college, studying occupational therapy so that she could have a job where she could help people who were sick or infirm or disabled to live in a fuller way.

...And they don’t tell you how she had to hitchhike to get to her job working with children in Kiryat Gat or that she was the main volunteer at Yad Sarah in Tekoa which lends medical equipment like wheelchairs to those who are sick or injured. They don’t tell you how she liked to help brides look beautiful by doing their makeup for them before their weddings.

They don’t care that Dahlia’s father Nachum drives the ambulance in Tekoa. Day and night he is called on to make the drive to Jerusalem, and that Dahlia’s mother cares tenderly for the elderly."
--


Instead, Palestinian drivers who intentionally crash into civilians to kill them,
are acclaimed heroes by Palestinian leaders.

The driver ran over Dahlia, then got out of his car and stabbed her to death!

Where is the outrage among Palestinians for such despicable murders?!

Take time to weep, take time to grieve for the loss of the innocent.

Weep for the family of the little infant intentionally murdered by a Palestinian militant.

Weep and grieve for Dahlia, an innocent civilian standing at a bus stop.

Weep for nearly 1,000 civilians killed by Israel's bombing of Gaza.

Weep for the 100 year old conflict in Palestine-Israel where evil rules the day.

Weep and demand a stop to this evil.


In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox





Sunday, November 9, 2014

On a Lighter Note, as in 'of the Light'...

On a lighter note, here's a Maine lighthouse and my lighthouse keeper:-)



















And the lighthouse keeper's Israeli-Palestinian boy friend;-)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

How the Bible Is Like ISIS and HAMAS or Vice Versa

In the Middle East, the tragic news keeps getting worse and more of the same (Is that insane?!).

Consider how so many of the current horrific stories are very similar to stories in the Hebrew Bible of thousands of years ago!

This morning's reading was Genesis 34. Check especially verses 25 to 31, the story of Simon's and Levi's slaughter of a whole town of male civilians, then their theft of all the town 'loot'--including flocks, cattle, donkeys,children, women, etc.

Sound familiar?



And the central reason for the slaughter by the 2 sons of Jacob has to do with honor versus dishonor and sexuality (a rape by one individual).

Sound familiar?

Oh, there are a few differences between then and now:
while the Genesis narrative was an oral tradition which finally got written down after hundreds of years about 700-500 BCE, all the gory daily news at present is posted immediately on Twitter, the Internet, YouTube, and so forth.

Of course, I suppose all of this really is old hat if we remember as kids hearing many sermons about the suicide-bomber, Samson, who slaughtered a whole temple of civilians--men and women.

Still that was at least 1100 BCE. A long time ago. Why is HAMAS still killing civilians--such as driving cars into innocent Jewish civilians, murdering Jewish hitchhikers and then celebrating their killers as martyrs?!

The Israelis, also, are doing their part with lying, stealing, and slaughter. But at least they didn't glorify the Jewish individual who murdered the Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem several months ago.


Etymology from Latin: "in-turned position"

Vice in Latin means "a change..."

No change from thousands of years ago that I can see.

Or in the modern word: vice
"moral fault, wickedness," c.1300, from Old French vice "fault, failing, defect, irregularity, misdemeanor" (12c.), from Latin vitium "defect, offense, blemish, imperfection," in both physical and moral senses (in Medieval Latin also vicium; source also of Italian vezzo "usage, entertainment"), from PIE *wi-tio-, from root *wei- (3) "vice, fault, guilt."
Online Etymology Dictionary

What happened to the new millennium?

Why are we drowning in an Ocean of Darkness?


Daniel Wilcox

Thursday, November 6, 2014

They Glory in Their Shame

We very seldom watch TV, because we’re so busy, and are given to more in depth creative endeavors. Besides television shows in the past used to almost always leave me unsatisfied; too superficial. Even the news stations (with the exception of PBS) are given to quick sound bites, sensationalism, and not reflective understanding or historical perspective.

But I realize some people unwind after their own busy days by relaxing in front of the tube. No thinking required. Sort of like my reading a relaxing novel.

However, last night my wife and I decided we would catch the Country Music Awards, looking forward to hearing some of the ballads and rockers we had heard on our Maine vacation last month.

So I turned on the TV, but was turned off immediately. A show was finishing up talking with enthusiasm about strippers. Then Country Music Awards came on. Instead of starting with a stirring ballad or country rockabilly, the opening comedy routine of Brad Paisley narrowly focused on sex—not that that topic would be wrong if it were romantic or, I guess even steamy, in a good passionate sort of way. When has music ever been prudish?!


But what was disconcerting is that the MC dialog focused mostly—and blatantly--on the raunchy, the lurid, and the vulgar (including the term "full frontal").

Well, I thought, this is TV. It will pass.

NOT! (to rendition the old joke zinger of 20 years back)

In over 3 hours of viewing, the central focus of the awards seemed to be on the profane, the vulgar, the titillating/lewd/salacious…Millions of dollars to paint the sty, the hovel.

Well wait a minute, one award winner actually did sincerely “Thank God” for his win, Luke Bryant.

Yes, I know that country music has always had a vulgar underbelly—crass and coarse references, booze and partying…

But usually, there was also the upside.

When we turned off the TV, a verse came to me from out of the past, from back when I was a Christian and read my Bible regularly:
“Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame…”
Philippians 3:19

Rather tragic.


In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hanging a Woman Because She Spoke Against Islam

Islam is very confusing to me though I'm reading through the Qur'an in translation a second time, have lived in Palestine/Israel for seven months, have dialogged with Muslims for many years...

Consider the contradiction between the following noteworthy, positive witness against the ISLAMIC STATE by many Islamic scholars which ends: "In conclusion, God has described Himself as the ‘Most Merciful of the merciful’. He
created man from His mercy. God
says in the Qur'an: ‘The Compassionate One has taught the
Qur'an. God forgives all sins. Truly He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.”’ (Al-Zumar, 39:53).And God knows best.
24th Dhul-Qi’da 1435 AH / 19th September 2014 CE"

http://lettertobaghdadi.com/new-en2.php#

CONTRASTED TO THIS WEEK'S NEWS:


A Pakistani Christian woman has been sentenced to hang after she was accused of making 'blasphemous' comments about the prophet Mohammed during an argument.

While working as a berry picker in 2009, 46-year-old Asia Bibi got into a dispute with a group of Muslim women who objected to her drinking their water because as a Christian she was considered 'unclean'.

Hours after the incident one of the women reported mother-of-five Ms Bibi to a local cleric, claiming she had made disparaging remarks about the prophet Mohammed during the row.

As a result of the allegations, a furious mob arrived at Ms Bibi's home and savagely beat her and members of her family.
She was later arrested, charged with blasphemy and eventually sentenced to death - with her entire family forced to go into hiding after receiving threats on their lives.

This week, despite international outrage and hundreds of thousands of people signing a petition for her release, Ms Bibi lost an appeal to have her sentence overturned, meaning she now faces death by hanging.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2796178/pakistani-christian-woman-sentenced-death-blasphemy-making-derogatory-remarks-muslim-neighbours-loses-appeal.html#ixzz3HYc7EDta

Human Rights Watch described the court's decision as a "disgrace to Pakistan's judiciary."
"Asia Bibi's case is an example of how Pakistan's vaguely worded blasphemy law has led to discrimination, persecution and murder since its imposition almost three decades ago," spokesman Phelim Kine told CNN.

Bibi's attorney, Naeem Shakir, told CNN on Monday that he would file an appeal once he had received a detailed copy of the judgment.
"I have a very strong case, I am sure the Supreme Court will provide us with relief. There is no concrete evidence against Asia Bibi, and the courts are only relying on the statement on those two women," Shakir said.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fish, Water, and Whatever...

First, a few quotes from David Foster Wallace’s fish story of water:

“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?”

And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”


“…learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.”

[Without awareness within, your only freedom will be] “The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation…”

“in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.”

“The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing is gonna come in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don't make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I'm gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to shop. Because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me. About MY hungriness and MY fatigue and MY desire to just get home, and it's going to seem for all the world like everybody else is just in my way. And who are all these people in my way?”

“But most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently… [maybe the] lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line…been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department…”
Quotes from the 2005 Kenyon University Commencement Address by David Foster Wallace

Unfortunately, tragically, Wallace couldn't or wouldn't take his own advice in the end. For 20 years, he had been taking medicine for chronic depression. When there was a medical difficulty, he stopped taking the medication, and shortly thereafter, he hanged himself. Only 3 years after delivering this powerful speech on how one needs to be present and aware and giving, not controlled by inner or outer forces. Tragic.

The question is:
Am I (are you) living aware and seeking to understand others in the midst of daily irritants and serious trials, even tragic events?

Or are we like the two young fish?

Wallace’s wise words remind me of a passage in Scripture:

“…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

Otherwise,

there’s the other fish story…

Two fish are swimming along not thinkingly aware (When do fish ever think aware, or humans for that matter? Read a little biology and a little human history).

Suddenly, the first fish crashes into an immovable object—and gills, “Dam!”

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Wizard of Awes: Part #2

My last post’s title was “Ah, Yosemite Falling Again.”

Ah—as in pleasant surprise, relief, regret, amazement…

But, of course, the main side-traveler is the pun, ah and awe, and an allusion to The Wizard of Oz, the famous children’s book and award-winning movie.

And the matter which so many thinkers have brought up--astrophysicist Adam Frank most recently this week on a NPR blog--where does the human emotion of awe come from?

Is awe only a movement of brain chemistry?

Is awe only a religious illusion?

Frank’s answer on awe is “about attention not attribution.” Don’t worry about attributing the experience, but focus on the validity of the moment.

But I’m an onion peeler. How can we find value in “awe” if it’s only an illusion of brain chemistry?

Is awe no more than an evolutionary adaption, a “misfiring” of natural selection, no more than neurons, etc?

Keep in mind what I am worry-warting here is neuroscientist Sam Harris’s infamous statement that even our sense of “I” is an illusion.

According to some scientists such as Sam Harris, we conscious primates and everything in existence from the Big Bang to me typing this sentence—all of it is determined. If so, if the “I” who is clicking my keyboard doesn't exist, but is only an illusion, then, of course, a transcendent emotional experience of mine when standing below Yosemite Falls is even of less significance, of no significance.

In that case, like in the children’s book and movie, there is no wizard of awes.

The transcendent feeling we humans sometimes experience when encountering the gigantic depths of the Grand Canyon, the intense and vast expanse of the Milky Way Galaxy while on a camping trip far from light-dense cities, or standing entranced on the walking bridge drenched in the spray from Yosemite Falls which plunges down into the gorge of Yosemite Valley thousands of feet below...

It’s all just atoms functioning.

No god wizard of religion, but no ultimate reality of philosophers and some scientists either.

I’m somewhat sympathetic to the skeptical view of religion. At present, after battling against some of the horrific delusions of various religions for 52 years, I've become skeptical of the usual supernatural wizards who are trotted out as the source of our awe when we encounter scenes that take our breath away.

But I find most atheists, not only sharp at showing the false pretentions of religion, but too often dissing the wonder of awe as well, too often claiming to know far more about the cosmos and absolute reality than even the most erudite cosmologist, and so often insistent it's all meaningless and purposeless.


No doubt this is why Einstein emphasized that he wasn't an atheist; he said wonder was the real basis for all science: "The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed..."

"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...I am satisfied with the mystery of life's eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence -- as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature."
From The World As I See It by Albert Einstein

My own view is that the sense of awe we experience when encountering incredible natural vistas is inherent in us the same way that reason, creativity, free will, human rights, and ethical standards such as honesty and compassion are.

In this dramatic vista that has overwhelmed us, we finite primates encounter a touch of the beautiful, the wondrous, the infinite.

In the LIGHT,

Daniel Wilcox

Friday, September 19, 2014

Ah, Yosemite Falling Again

First, a reflection from NPR:
"Earlier in the day, looking down the rim of a canyon [New York's Letchworth State Park] cut over thousands of years by the Genesee River, I felt a profound sense of awe that cut me to the quick."

"But in that sense of awe, was I communing with anything extending beyond just a particular state of my neurons? My joke about the gods aside, was there anything religious about the feeling I, an atheist, felt looking across that vast expanse of river, stone and still blue air?"

"It's about attention not attribution."
From "Is Atheist Awe a Religious Experience?"
by Adam Frank, Assistant Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Rochester, New York
http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2014/09/16/348949146/is-atheist-awe-a-religious-experience

Professor Frank's nature/human reflection is a refreshing experience. (Read the rest at NPR). His emphasis on wonder takes us in a different direction than the cold, dry comments by many other nontheists in recent years such as scientist Francis Crick's infamous statement: "You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” The Astonishing Hypothesis, 1994

Gee, thanks. No doubt Francis Crick would say a similar thing about the falls of Yosemite--'nothing more than atoms...'

I remember my own awe-filled experience half a dozen years back in Yosemite National Park. Usually, wonder doesn't lead to humor but in this case it did.



Yosemite Falling Again

Gallivanting through the Valley
Visually assaulted by
Avalanching froth,

The white water rush,
Plunging,
Paradising
Cataract heaven
For the natural user;

Millions of gallons
Cascading from sheer gasping
Cliffs above
Gushing, Muirwonder-rushing Falls
Plummeting
Down,
Billions of liquid liters--
An awe-inspiring
Gusher;

God, what a jolt!
You forget to shut
Off the sky’s
Water Spigot?



Previously published in selah river,
a third collection of my poetry

In the Light-splashed,

Daniel Wilcox

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Determinism of Jerry Coyne, PhD.

One of the most incisive and informative science websites on the Internet is Jerry Coyne’s http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com. The nature photos he posts are worth daily visits alone, and Dr. Coyne’s articles are personal, intriguing, and reflective. He is Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago and has a PhD. from Harvard University.


But sometimes his views, such as his hard determinism, leave me scratching my brain. Of course, it seems Dr. Coyne would argue that my confusion, too, was determined by the points he was determined to make.

Consider this one by him about Oscar Pistorius, the Olympic star who murdered his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp;
Dr. Coyne states: “As someone who doesn’t think that Pistorius, or any other criminal, had any choice about their actions, and that the nature of any punishment should take that determinism into account, I need to think about whether premeditation makes such a huge difference. As I see it (and I know others will disagree), the laws of physics had already determined that Pistorius was going to murder his girlfriend that night. Would his plotting to kill her in advance be much worse than his having decided to do so on the spot?”

Huh?

If everything and everyone is determined, no one has any alternative choice, then even Dr. Coyne’s question and the answers from various posters were already determined.

So what’s the point? (It was determined that I would ask that.)

This reflection, Dr. Coyne's article, the punishment of Pistorius are all being determined by the laws of physics as is everything else, on and on and on to the end of time. To misquote a famous bard, “A tale told by idiotic nature….”

That was also determined.

If so why does Dr. Coyne get so upset at religious thinkers, who he claims are irrational and dangerous?
Doesn't Dr. Coyne remember that he thinks no one has a choice?

So of course, not only do all crooks not have a choice, neither do religious individuals. Millions of them were determined by the laws of physics to be irrational and dangerous.

And Dr. Coyne was determined to oppose religious thinkers....

None of this computes in my mind, but then according to him, nature is doing this to me. It’s not my choice to think humans have choice.

Confused...

Daniel Wilcox

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Are We Stardust?

Yes and no.

Often when various leaders say this, that we humans are “stardust,” it is meant in a sense of “how amazing!” A highly romanticized phrase giving validation to us as Homo sapiens.

Even the very informative science book on cosmology, The View from the Center of the Universe, speaks of how we humans are stardust. The physicist Joel R. Primack and co-writer Nancy Ellen Abrams explain:
“Stardust is thus part of our genealogy. Our bodies literally hold the entire history of the universe, witnessed and enacted by our atoms.”

Sounds impressive, especially since the claim is coming from a physicist, and the co-writers are professors at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

But wait, notice the personification in the sentence, “witnessed and enacted by our atoms.”

Think about it, atoms can’t “witness” anything. Only conscious, aware finite life can witness.

It’s true, if not for the cosmic creation and explosions of stars after the Big Bang, we wouldn't be here. The elements from which life—including us-- came were formed billions of years ago.

“The nitrogen in our DNA…the iron in our blood, the calcium in our teeth, the carbon in our genes were produced billions of years ago in the interior of a red giant star. We are made of star-stuff.
Carl Sagan, “The Cosmic Connection” and Cosmos

And…

“the elements themselves (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, etc.) were synthesized, cooked up as it were, in the nuclear furnaces that are the deep interior of stars. These elements are then released at the end of a star's lifetime when it explodes, and subsequently incorporated into a new generation of stars -- and into the planets that form around the stars, and the life forms that originate on the planets.”
Michael Loewenstein and Amy Fredericks for "Ask an Astrophysicist"

Even classic rock singers wrote and sang of this: “We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon…” written and sung by Joni Mitchell, “Woodstock;” also crooned by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

But we aren't ‘stardust’ in the sense of consciousness, self-aware, reasoning, computing, creating, ethically choosing primates.

So saying we are stardust is like saying we are composed of atoms.

In a basic microscopic sense, yes.

It’s like saying the sentences of this article are squiggles of ink on a page, pixels on a computer screen…well, yes…but that’s a superficial observation, a basic surface statement of the means whereby we consciously communicate complex ideas, scientific observations, abstract reasonings, creative writing through a series of lines and dots.

Stardust made life possible on earth but that doesn't define what conscious life is. Except maybe for those who think our sense of “I,” our consciousness, is an illusionary quirk like the biologist Francis Crick states and the neuroscientist Sam Harris and other materialists claim.

If in contrast, we choose to think human beings are an aware, reasoning, mathematically computing, and an ethical-choosing species that has evolved into the image of Ultimate Reality, what then?

Do we think we know how consciousness exists within human beings?

Do we understand the nature of reality which "existed" before the "Big Bang," before time and space came into being?

I've no idea. I'm not a professional cosmologist. And, besides, the older I get the less I think I know;-)

But consciousness does seem to be inherent in existence, at least on this planet, not a cosmically accidental quirk. Not an absurdity in a meaningless, purposeless universe.

Probably, where ever life reaches a certain plateau of complexity, consciousness appears.

And that is the true wonder—our awareness and our ability to think, reason, question, mathematically compute, and create!

Not the interesting but basic fact that our unconscious bodies have chemical elements formed from exploding stars billions of years ago.

We are star-focused lovers of the universe...

Asking "How?" and "By what means?" and "Why?"

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Part #3: The Ocean of Darkness



So what of George Fox’s statement, from which I got the title of my blog, "but an infinite ocean of light and love flowed over..."?

(Check back to Part 1 "Between Our Ears" and 2 "Rethinking the Title," if you missed them.)

Is it true?

First consider this, Fox began his famous statement by saying,
“I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death…”

And he probably should have added “and damnation” since so many millions of Europeans at that time were theological determinists:-(, consigning multi-millions of others to eternal damnation from before the beginning of time.

During Fox’s young adult life, millions of people died because of the horrific wars—the English Civil War and the 30 Years War. In the English War almost a million died! And in the 30 Years War at least 3-4 million. Then there were the millions wounded, those shut up in prison, the impoverished, orphans, destruction of towns and country side. The hatreds between religions then were much, much worse than now, even with 9/11 and Islamic terrorism which includes Al Qaida, HAMAS, and the Islamic State.

So no wonder Fox speaks of “an ocean of darkness and death…”

At one point, he became so despairing that he lay in bed for days, having lost all hope.
BUT
then, Fox experienced the first of his spiritual “openings,” from which came hope--"When all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing upwardly to help me, nor could I tell what to do, then, oh, then, I heard a voice which said, There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition…
[and]
“an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness...”

For many years, starting with a dramatic conversion experience as a young person, I also had deep faith in Christ Jesus. Then later came moments of mystical awareness of God. I thought these confirmed what Christianity taught.
Even in the worst of times, I lived in hope and shared that hope and Good News with others.

That is until last year when the encroaching darkness became overwhelming. After being a Christian for 59 years, the "ocean of darkness" drowned me--like so many others--in a theological tsunami. Last August I finally realized Christianity can’t be true. This happened primarily because of the darkness, despair, and foreordained damnation that is drowning Evangelical and creedal Christianity. But the source of all of this poison goes all the way back to Augustine of Hippo (353-430 C.E.). So the horror is only a huge return to sender, not anything new. What is new is the vast number of churches and individual Christians who are declaring Augustinianism the truth.

Since I’ve posted before about theological determinism, I’ll only give the briefest explanation: Many Christian leaders now claim that billions of us were predestined/foreordained/"passed over" to eternal damnation by God before the beginning of time. Then God willed for humans to sin and disobey him so he could damn them for his "own glory" and "good pleasure."

None of us have a choice; all infants are essentially evil at conception. And God has foreordained only a limited number of humans to be saved, but even they have no choice either.

Furthermore, God planned all the tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters which have killed hundreds of thousands of people in the last 10 years, multi-millions in the last 1,000 years, and so forth.

Even worse God planned the gassing and execution of 10 million people including 6 million Jews in the Nazi Holocaust, and God planned every rape and murder that ever happens, and worst of all, God did all this for his glory
and pleasure. :-(

Not only that but God deceives humans, has a hidden will which is contrary to his revealed will. And it gets worse.:-(

Any relationship between this “Christianity” and the Good News I heard, accepted so many years ago, and shared at revival meetings, youth camps, Bible studies, etc.
is
nonexistent! Zero!

So I battled against this ocean of darkness--the Augustinian-Aquinasian-Calvinist-Lutheran false version of Christianity--for 51 years. But finally realized that if Jesus were real and alive, he would never allow his most devout followers to devour the world with such a despairing “Gospel.”

Tragically, I finally came to wish I had never been born.

So last August, after another battle against this poison, I came to the hopeless conclusion there is no “infinite ocean of light and love.”

Such a despairing conclusion.

But at least it isn’t as horrific as the God of Calvinism. One Baptist theologian has said that such a God is indistinguishable from the devil and is a moral monster.

And John Wesley wrote he would rather be an atheist than believe in such a God.

Amen to that.

Daniel Wilcox

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Why Did Israel Deport "the Palestinian Gandhi"? And Inherit the Gazan Whirlwind of Death?






Why in the past did Israel deport a Palestinian leader dedicated to nonviolence, yet now negotiates with HAMAS leaders who are guilty of murder and allows them to live there!?

It makes NO sense.

Not only is HAMAS dedicated to lethal violence and the destruction of the state of Israel, but it admits it killed the 3 Israeli students on July. That despicable murder is called a "heroic operation" by HAMAS Spokesperson Saleh Arouri.

In contrast the Palestinian Mubarak Awad said that Palestinians should engage in peaceful protest, carry no gun, and plant olive trees on land, etc.

But he was deported though he was born in Jerusalem!

It makes no sense.

But then does anything in Palestine/Israel?

Only a few days after signing a truce with HAMAS leaders, "the Israeli government announced Sunday that it would appropriate almost 1,000 acres of land in the West Bank that could be used to build homes for Jewish settlers." The Washington Post, August 31, 2014

So Israel will steal land from Palestinians to give to Jewish people moving from other parts of the world. But deny Palestinians who were born there their own land!

Recently, the Israeli military bulldozed the orchard of the Palestinian Nassar family south of Bethlehem. The Nassar family are committed to nonviolence and promote reconciliation at their farm, Tent of Nations.

Tragic.

Please read this short article by Jeff Stein in Newsweek Magazine about Mubarak Awad,known as the "Palestinian Gandhi or Martin Luther King."

http://www.newsweek.com/where-palestinian-gandhi-263653

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Rethinking the Title of My Blog: Part #2




In the volatile, destructive 17th century, during the English Civil War when neighbor slaughtered neighbor, visionary social leveler George Fox wrote in 1646,
“I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death,
but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness…”

Do these words—“infinite ocean of light and love”--describe any aspect of existence?

Is there an “infinity of light and love” in the visible or invisible universe?

Probably not (but more on what Fox’s quote might mean further down in the reflection).

It seems fairly probable and scientifically observable that the biological world isn’t based in infinite love at all. Though many religionists from Young Earth Creationists to Intelligent Design Scientists, of course, claim otherwise. John Haught, a brilliant Roman Catholic thinker, who even accepts Darwinian evolution as fact has a different perspective yet.

According to Haught, God demonstrates his vulnerable self-emptying love toward all things and all beings because God doesn’t micromanage everything, doesn’t directly create and control life but instead lets evolution via natural selection proceed through various pathways over billions of years!

“The God of evolution humbly invites creatures to participate in the ongoing creation of the universe. This gracious invitation to share in the creation of the universe is consistent with the fundamental Christian belief that the ultimate ground of the universe and our own lives is the loving, vulnerable, defenseless, and self-emptying generosity of God.” John Haught, God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens

To many this sounds absurd.

The natural order shows Reality to be "Vulnerable? Defenseless? Self-emptying? Gracious? Generous? Loving?" Hardly!

Let’s consider again the actual facts of daily life among all sentient creatures, of the nature of biological evolution, natural selection! Face all of the pain and suffering that has gone on for at least 200 million years.
“Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw”
Alfred Tennyson

“…killer whales pluck newborn seals off the beach and viciously thrash them about…For more than 550 million years, trillions of animals — perhaps many more — have been preyed upon and parasitized, have had their offspring torn to shreds, and been abused and tortured by rapacious predators…"

"Evolution, a natural force of mutation and selection that is a powerful creative agent of design, is blind to any sense of right or wrong. Evolution is amoral. It is apathetic to a species’ quality of life, and callous towards the suffering of the life forms that it moulds…lionesses are ripping off the limbs of screaming gazelles out on the savannahs…wolves are…eating their prey alive or leaving them disembowelled to die.
Steven Hussey, PhD in genetics, University of Pretoria, South Africa

“What a book a Devil's chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low & horridly cruel works of nature!”
Charles Darwin, Francis Darwin, ed., More Letters of Charles Darwin

And that doesn’t even begin to deal with the wreckage, savagery, intolerance and slaughter by humans since they came on the scene. Or the millions slaughtered in the wars of the last 500 years by Roman Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Hindus, etc.

On the other hand, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Roman Catholic philosopher, was a famous paleontologist and geologist who wrote that all of cosmic history is moving toward a loving Omega Point at the end of Time. No doubt as a scientist he had reflected many times on the savage face of nature, and yet he held that ultimately nature will be glorified in love.

Were his scientifically and philosophically grounded observations and speculations, just—deluded specks, abstract delusions that have no actual identity in real time/space?

Yes, says millions of other scientists, especially atheistic ones such as Richard Dawkins, Jacques Monad, Daniel C. Dennett, and Sam Harris. According to Dennett, Darwinian evolutionary science is like an acid which eats through every view of humans contrary to materialism.

So, again, like so many difficult studies, it’s very hard to say; after all basic evolutionary biology, (let alone paleontology), is an incredibly complex study. But common sense would seem to rule out the Fox’s and de Chardin’s and Haught’s view that nature is infused and surrounded by God’s cosmic love.

Who knows in an objective sense?

Way beyond my pay grade.

Then there’s the science of cosmology--the study of the origin, nature, and end of the universe, a highly abstract scientific enterprise dealing with billions of light years, billions of galaxies, trillions of planets…and quantum mechanics at the opposite end of size, delving down into the microcosm…

Way beyond my pay grade, too.

I don’t “know.”

But here are the measured thoughts of one physicist and Nobel laureate, Arno Penzias:
“…maybe God always reveals Himself? Again I think as Psalm 19, ‘the heavens proclaim the glory of God,’ that is, God reveals Himself in all there is. All reality, to a greater or lesser extent, reveals the purpose of God. There is some connection to the purpose and order of the world in all aspects of human experience.”
Quoted in the book The God I Believe In, Joshua Haberman, editor

That sounds almost like George Fox
.
I wish I could ask a few hard questions of Penzias and Haught, and for that matter the contrary thinkers Hussey and Dennett.

So what of George Fox’s statement, the title of my blog?

Is it true?

Or completely fallacious, delusionary, and absurd?

To be continued…

Part #3 Next time:-)

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Cosmos Between Our Ears:-)



Photo by Craig Goodwin



“See, most Christians are taught that they are a part of a sweeping, cosmic drama with a story arc that spans all eternity.”
Neil Carter

When Roman Catholics and Protestants, Muslims, and Jews see this “sweeping, cosmic drama”
through the lens of literalism and fundamentalism, their view is delusional.

They adamantly reject most of modern science, especially physics and biology,
in order to hold onto a 6 24-hour-day creation, and that the universe is
only 6,000 years old, and that the Sun miraculously stood still for Joshua, etc.

Thinker Neil Carter is right to have abandoned such an unscientific,
untrue view of existence.

But in a different way, many modern scientists, including non-religious ones, do think
humankind is “part of a sweeping, cosmic drama with a story arc that spans all eternity.”

In the scientific cosmology book The View from the Center of the Universe,
physicist Joel R. Primack presents such a view of existence, of reality.

Joel R. Primack is a professor of physics and astrophysics at the University of California—Santa Cruz. His area of research includes relativistic quantum field theory, cosmology, and particle astrophysics.

And in How It Began, a book of the history of the universe back to the Big Bang,
the author Chris Impey, an astronomer and professor of the University
of Arizona, Tucson writes, “If the universe contained nothing
more than forces operating on inanimate matter,
it would not be very interesting."


"The presence of sentient life-forms like us (and perhaps unlike us) is the zest, or the special ingredient, that gives cosmic history dramatic tension. We’re made of tiny subatomic particles
and are part of a vast space-time arena,
yet
we hold both extremes in our heads.”

Yes, the cosmos between our ears;-)

So no one needs join the naysayers and nihilists who claim that reality
is "meaningless" and "purposeless."

We don't need to start describing homo sapiens as "puppets,"
"meat robots," "tumors all the way down," "bags of chemicals,"
etc. like many atheist leaders do.
--

Astronmer Chris Impey goes on to ask, “Are we nothing more than
cosmic flotsam, contingent outcomes of evolution,
collections of atoms that got a little lucky?

Or are we built deeply into the architecture of the universe?

Scientists can’t answer these questions..."

However, of course, scientists do speak out, do speculate on the ultimate nature
of reality, of whether there is a mulit-verse, of whether or not there is anything beyond
or transcending matter and energy.

Astrophysics professor Joel R. Primack:
“The history of the universe is in every one of us. Every particle in our
bodies has a multibillion-year past, every cell and every bodily organ has
a multimillion-year past, and many of our ways of thinking have multi-thousand-year pasts."

"Each of us is a kind of nerve center where these various cosmic histories intersect.
Time is one key to appreciate what we are. Ancient creation stories
[such as the Genesis account of the Bible of Jews, Christians, and Muslims] reflected
the universe as people saw it with the naked eye through the lens of their cosmology.

"But humans have gone far beyond in discovering what exists, how it works,
and new ways to think about it. We can measure time not only by seasons and years
but by radioactive decay, by the life cycles of stars, and by the expansion of the universe."

Our theories, such as relativity, illuminate the whole cosmos conceptually,
letting us think productively on an awesome range of scales and phenomena.”
The View from the Center of the Universe
Physicist Joel R. Primack and co-writer Nancy Ellen Abrams,
professors at the University of California, Santa Cruz
--
Yes, our perspective has changed from a very tiny one of a 6 24-hour day creation
and a cosmos only about 6,000 years old to the almost impossible to imagine
but factually-proven cosmos of the Big Bang.

That blast into being and becoming started about 14 billion years ago
and now the universe covers trillions and trillions and trillions of miles out
every which way, and is continually expanding space and time far beyond
our intellectual understanding
and imagining.

But when we study and think and hold onto the accumulation
of all these facts and proven theories it can all reside, yes, between our ears!

How amazing our human consciousness, searching and reasoning abilities,
and yet so limited.

Within our finite mind, we conceptually understand a little of the distant
past and the infinite future, and we are here at midpoint—
an infinitesimal conscious primate given
the ability to conceive and to search out
and to try to understand
a teaspoon-full of the Milky Way.

A shot-glass of infinity!

No metaphor can't begin to hold
the breathless incredible expanse of it all.

To be continued—

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Friday, August 1, 2014

SAVE THE CHILDREN!

SAVE THE CHILDREN!


"...we must begin again by trying to imagine our enemies' children who, like our children, are in mortal danger because of enmity that they did not cause.

It is useless to try to adjudicate a long-standing animosity by asking who started it or who is the most wrong. The only sufficient answer is to give up the animosity and try forgiveness, to try to love our enemies and to talk to them and (if we pray) to pray for them."
Wendell Berry

Thursday, July 31, 2014

With apologies to Stephen Foster M.D., here's to Mountain Dew Live Wire, a parody

*With apologies to “Camptown Races” by Stephen Foster M.D.,
here’s a guzzle-drinking parody for Mountain Dew,
all flavors, especially Live Wire:




Drinktown Cases

By Stephen Foster, M.D.;-)

O the Mountain men sing this song,
Dew-da, Dew-da

The Drinktown caseback’s 5 miles long,
Oh Dew-da day

Goin’ to drink all right
Goin’ drink all day
I bet my money on a Live-Wired Dew
Somebody bet on hooray.

I went down tired with my hat caved in,
Dew-da, Dew-da
I come back Wired with a jacket-stuffed win
Oh Dew-da day

Goin' drink all right,
Goin' drink all day

I bet my money on a Live-Wired Dew
Somebody bet on hooray.


In the Light-hearted,

Daniel Wilcox

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Walls and Border Fences




Walls
“American didn’t bring democracy. It brought walls.” Yousif al-Timimi in National Geographic July 2011


There’s something in man, uh human
‘That loves a wall’…
Jerusalem
China
Istanbul
Hadrian
Mellah
Venice
Pale
Richmond…well,
An upside-down
Walled trench;

Speaking of
‘Somme’
Others…
Warsaw
Berlin
Panmunjom
Ben Hai…a river wall,
Selma
BelfastKashmir
Baghdad
Gaza
Yuma…ah finally a rime,

Aleppo,
El Pas--
‘Add’ nauseam
And
Two kinds of mortars
Bricks ‘unmortified’

Mortgaging tomorrow for yesterday;
Good ‘fencing’, uh yes, ‘know’…


In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

*First published in The New Verse News
in different form
*Robert Frost

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Deporting Illegal Children

Deporting Illegal Children in Texas and the Rich Man and Lazarus

From Roger Olson's blog, "Illegal Immigration of Children..."--

"The problem is often framed as “those bad Latin Americans who want to come and take what we have” rather than as “we rich Americans who show off our luxury and want to keep it all to ourselves.”

As a Christian, I ask my fellow Texans and others (many of who consider themselves Christians) to consider Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Who are we, America, in the parable? Who are the Central American children standing or sitting on one side of our border or the other?

Recently a Christian man in my town, very well known, a “pillar of the community,” purchased a partially built mansion on the edge of town with twenty-three thousand square feet of living space. He is finishing it. By all accounts he’s a very good man, a respected family man, church members and philanthropist. But twenty-three thousand square feet? When not far away is a camp now inhabited by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Central American children being held indefinitely because they crossed our border without permission looking for a tiny bit of that affluence—just enough to live a human life.

But the solution is not just individual charity; the only real, long-term solution can only be a massive rededication of our American ingenuity and productivity to solve Central America’s economic problems. Over the last century and a half we, the United States of America, have directly or indirectly invaded Central American countries numerous times (look it up using Google or any internet search engine!) to protect our economic interests.

What if we instead “invaded” them to enhance their economic interests? What if we cut back our extremely bloated “defense” budget and devoted the savings to creating a corps of young men and women to go to Central America for only one purpose—to build schools, housing, medical facilities, etc.?"

Monday, July 21, 2014

BAN HAMAS, and all other religious and political thugs...

BAN HAMAS, and all other religious and political thugs who treat humans as cannon fodder!


Gazing on Gaza

Like Samuel, Vonnegut gets called up from the grave

to say—
Judge for yourself,
No one’s got eyes
To see, no one with a Kingly, Martin sort of vision/dream;
Only strident martinets
Now heaving/hurling—ethically sick,
While UN diplomats ‘jawbone’ us to death
With nice resolutions; Samsonlite…

Where has their gaze gone
(I mean gaza)?
Samson’s at it again
Bringing the building down

Because he’s lost his gaze or gaza;
Only covered women (and children)
Walking wounded,
Or buried, burned, abandoned

Like the 4 youths (3 versus 1),
Or cowering from the rockets
In Tel Aviv and Gaza City

No Delilah here;
Just Philistine rage and Samson’s might,
And many less hairs,( er heirs)...


Judges 15-16
--


Side note:

As you can imagine, since I lived there, knowing both
Palestinians and Israelis, this tragedy gets to me and
brings out the sarcastic.


Brief Bio:

Daniel Wilcox's wandering lines have appeared in many magazines
including Word Riot, Write Room, Camel Saloon, Dead Snakes,
and Unlikely Stories IV. Three large collections of his published
poetry are in print.


Before that, he hiked through Nebraska, Cal State University Long Beach
(Creative Writing), Montana, Pennsylvania, Europe, Palestine/Israel,
Arizona...Now he resides with his wife on the central coast of California.

Posted by Daniel Wilcox at 1:30 PM