Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Green Prince--Two Rights Make Many Horrific Wrongs

If you would like to get past the confusing news bites and sensational to understand more deeply the Palestine/Israel Conflict, then take a look at The Green Prince, a new documentary concerning Mosab Hassan Yousef, the oldest son of a leader of HAMAS.

This new film is riveting--Palestinian versus Israeli, Muslim versus Jew, HAMAS versus Shin Bet.

Tragically there in that land, two Rights make many horrific wrongs.

"Set against the chaotic backdrop of recent events in the Middle East, Nadav Schirman’s THE GREEN PRINCE retraces the details of a highly unprecedented partnership that developed between sworn enemies. In the style of a tense psychological thriller, this extraordinary documentary recounts the true story of the son of a Hamas leader who emerged as one of Israel’s prized informants, and the Shin Bet agent who risked his career to protect him."
Music Box Films

Don't miss The Green Prince.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Saturday, May 23, 2015

In Defense of Cherry Picking the Bible

A guest article by Valerie Tarico, a fine writer and thinker:

The KEY point:
"Our ancestors were flawed and human, as we are today. And they lacked many of the advantages we have from our privileged vantage in the 21st Century. They were constrained by their own time and place and individual failings, but even so, they took their received traditions and wrestled with them, offering a new understanding of what was right and real, drawing on the past but facing the future.

And in doing so, they offered us genuinely timeless and transcendent metrics by which we might do the same.

When we cherry pick their words in accordance with their highest and most enduring ideals, we honor and further their quest."

Start of Article:
"People accuse each other of cherry picking sacred texts, as if the term was an insult. But for those seeking to honor the spiritual quest of our ancestors, including the Bible writers, that is precisely the right approach.

No parent with a backyard cherry tree would pick every piece of fruit on the tree and feed it to her children. No matter how excellent a tree, some of the fruit is wormy. Some of it is bird pecked and moldy. Some wasn’t pollinated properly and has been hard and shriveled from the beginning. A loving parent culls through, discarding the bad fruit and feeding her children the cherries that are juicy and nourishing.

But when it comes to handed down ideas about religion—about what is real and what is good and how we should then live—many people don’t apply the same prudent care. They take the Bible or related traditions and pass them on without sifting or sorting.

Bad cherries in the bowl will give a child a stomach ache at worst, but bad religious ideas can leave a person needlessly guilt ridden for life or unable to enjoy sex, or deeply fearful of death, or full of judgment and alienation toward outsiders, or even suffering what some call religious trauma syndrome.

Handing down un-culled religious beliefs from one generation to the next not only passes on psychologically harmful ideas, it is tearing apart our world. Today some of the worst ideas plaguing society are ideas that claim support from the pages of the Torah or Christian Bible or Quran, for example the idea that children are born bad and must be beaten, or that female sexuality is dirty and dangerous, or that homosexuality is abominable, or that religious outsiders lack morals, or that war can be holy, or that the Earth is ours to consume as we please and that God will simply replace it.

These ideas reflect the mentality of our ancestors, but there is every reason to think that they would be far less common today were it not for the fact that they are endorsed in the pages of books now called Holy by hundreds of millions of believers.

To understand how humanity ended up in this dilemma and how we might get past it, we need to understand something fundamental about the Abrahamic religions.

People of the Book

When the Prophet Mohammed embraced Jews and Christians as fellow “People of the Book,” he wasn’t simply acknowledging the shared roots of all three religions in the ancient Hebrew narrative of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He was also correctly observing that these two religious traditions were centered around written texts akin to the one he was in the process of creating.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam emerged during the time when writing was coming into its own as humanity’s most powerful cultural technology, one that wouldn’t be rivaled until the 20th Century. To a degree unlike any prior religion (or any religion that is likely to emerge in the future), the Abrahamic religions are structured around a specific communication technology—the written word.

It is no coincidence that some of the world’s largest religions spread across continents not only in the minds of individual believers but in bundles of papyrus, parchment, scrolls, illuminated manuscripts, and finally mass produced books.

In Christianity, the advent of the printing press, which brought the written word to the masses, directly fueled the Protestant Reformation. Over time, across vast swaths of Christendom the authority of the papacy and Catholic hierarchy were replaced by the authority of the Bible, the Reformation’s “sola scriptura.” (The irony, of course, is that it was the Catholic hierarchy itself that had assembled the collection of texts and declared them, on papal authority, to be God’s best and most complete revelation to humankind. But I digress.)

This focus on the written word is both the greatest strength and greatest flaw of the Abrahamic religions. It has allowed Christianity and Islam to become more powerful than any religion in history. Today over 3.7 billion people identify with one or the other of these traditions. But it has also allowed both traditions to become stagnant and cruel, profoundly corrupted by a phenomenon that might best be described as “book worship” or “bibliolatry.”

Book as Golden Calf

Today many Christians assert that the Bible is the literally perfect Word of God, timeless and complete—exempt from addition, deletion, or revision. Many Muslims make the same claim for the Quran, according it such high status that either defacing a copy of the book or denying its divine provenance is a crime worthy of death. In other words, they attribute to the Bible and Quran the qualities of divinity, and they treat offenses against the book as if they were offenses against a god.

They behave toward the Bible and Quran precisely like their ancestors did toward the wood and stone carvings that represented the divine for pre-literate people.

In an age of widespread literacy, what better golden calf than a ‘golden’ book?

Bibliolatry Violates Both Book and Writer

Ironically, the idea that our sacred texts are perfect and complete, in final form, is diametrically opposed to the stance of the men who wrote those texts. Each of these men took the tradition and teachings he received, processed them, and then offered what he believed to be a better, deeper understanding of reality and goodness. Had this not been the case, the authors would have been copyists, not writers.

Ironically, too, writers of both the Bible and Quran understood the dangers of idolatry, and within the constraints of their own cultural blinders did what they could to warn against it. They recognized that pre-literate people had sought to convey their understanding of the divine through works of art: sculptures, paintings, friezes, and more. They recognized that these objects became idols, treated as if the icons themselves were as holy as the truths they sought to convey. And they recognized that idol worship bound people to harmful ideas and practices, and to inadequate conceptions of divinity.

They felt so strongly about this that they encouraged the destruction of religious symbols and icons. In the intervening centuries, both Christianity and Islam have been plagued with bouts of iconoclasm, purges like the one that currently drives members of the Taliban and ISIS to destroy the last vestiges of ancient pre-Muslim culture and religion, as they are able.

The authors of the Bible and Quran had no way to foresee that their words would eventually cause the greatest developmental arrest in the history of humankind. In their Iron Age context, the advent and spread of writing was an innovation on par with the arrival of computing. It allowed so much more depth, nuance and complexity that earlier symbolic systems that the possibilities must have seemed infinite.

It must have been impossible to imagine that inked texts would ultimately fail to keep up with the growth of human knowledge, and that they would eventually be replace by mass printing, then living documents (like wikis) and other media. It must have been impossible to grasp the limits of the written word–that texts, however sacred, can only, ever, convey a finite set of spiritual understandings, static and frozen in time, small and bound by human psychology, utterly inadequate to encompass the power behind the DNA code or the laws of physics.

The High Price of High Fidelity: Static Books, Static Knowledge, Static Priorities

The spread of writing allowed previously unimaginable advances, but like any new technology it created a new set of problems. Before the advent of the sacred text, religious beliefs and practices were handed down via oral tradition and were represented by symbols, icons and rituals. Religion was necessarily more heterogeneous, more place based, and more grounded in practice, or “praxis,” rather than belief. It was also more free to evolve as culture and moral consciousness themselves evolved in response to changing environmental conditions, population densities, and technologies.

By contrast with oral tradition, a book allows an extraordinary degree of fidelity in transmitting a set of ideas across time and space and between strangers with many degrees of separation. That is the strength, but also the weakness of the written word. This fidelity means that any printed text is frozen in time, a snapshot of a single mind embedded in a specific cultural and historical context.

And since the knowledge or insight imbedded in the text is static, when people or institutions bind themselves to a text, asserting that it is final and complete–the definitive authority on whatever matter it addresses–they become stagnant too. An institution or person that declares allegiance to an immutable text becomes developmentally arrested, unable to do what the author himself did, which was to take his received tradition and iterate on it, offering new ideas and insights about the subject at hand.

The Fruit of the Spirit

My friend Eckhart inherited two old cherry trees when he bought his current home. The trees were past their prime and the cherries are prone to be buggy. But with selective pruning and care he has gotten a bounty of sweet, wholesome fruit for his family.

Eckhart’s story isn’t surprising to anyone who understands agriculture. But why do we so often fail to apply simple lessons from other parts of life to our spiritual endeavor?

Rather than being used as an epithet, perhaps cherry picker should be a compliment, an acknowledgment of discernment, wisdom, judgment, and responsibility. In actual fact, all religious believers (and nonbelievers) cherry pick their sacred texts or cultural traditions, even fundamentalists, even those who deny doing so. A book like the Bible or Quran contains passages that contradict each other, or that demand a level of perfection (or cruelty) that is simply unattainable for most believers.

Whether we are Christian or Muslim or post-Abrahamic freethinkers or practitioners of some other spiritual tradition, the question isn’t whether we cherry pick, it is whether we do so wisely and well, based on some higher principle that tells us which passages are spiritually nourishing and which should be discarded.

Humanity’s shared moral core provides guidance in this regard. Religion scholar Huston Smith says that the world’s great wisdom traditions converge on three values that he calls veracity, humility, and charity, each of which both constrains and enhances the others. Veracity means truth telling and truth seeking, including honest self-appraisal. Humility means recognizing that each of us is just one among many and that the yearnings and insights of others matter. Charity, in the King James sense, is not merely generosity but love, the kind that seeks to value the pleasure and pain of others on par with our own.

The Golden Rule, which can be thought of as a shorthand for these values appears in some form in virtually every religious or secular moral philosophy, and likely is encoded into our genes in ways that scientists are just beginning to understand. As Christian author Rachel Held Evans has said eloquently, in Christianity, this ethic is woven into what Jesus calls the greatest of the commandment, to love God and to love your neighbor, the latter being the tangible manifestation of the former. This, he says, sum up all the writings of the Law and Prophets. In the book of Matthew, he warns against false prophets, saying, “You will know them by their fruit.”

The Apostle Paul lists the fruit of the spirit as love, joy, peace, longsuffering, goodness, meekness, temperance and faith. “Against such, there is no law,” he adds, recognizing that these virtues are respected not only within but also outside the nascent Christian community.

These are the measures that let us know what fruit is worth keeping, and what is not. Cherry picking a sacred text doesn’t leave a person without a moral core, lost in a world where anything goes, as some fundamentalists fear. Rather, it anchors that moral core to something clearer, deeper, and more durable than the bindings of a golden book.

Our ancestors were flawed and human, as we are today. And they lacked many of the advantages we have from our privileged vantage in the 21st Century. They were constrained by their own time and place and individual failings, but even so, they took their received traditions and wrestled with them, offering a new understanding of what was right and real, drawing on the past but facing the future. And in doing so, they offered us genuinely timeless and transcendent metrics by which we might do the same.

When we cherry pick their words in accordance with their highest and most enduring ideals, we honor and further their quest. We also show our selves worthy of the privilege we have been given to live at this point in history. What stories might have been told, and what insights might have been attained by an Isaiah or Jesus or Paul or Mohammed who had the advantage of living in the 21st Century?"

"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 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"

On some points, Valerie Tarico and I have different views of the world, but we come together on the importance of balance, reason, respect, courtesy, empathy, compassion, and all the other great values which define humanity at its best.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Monday, May 18, 2015

EMERGENCY: Save Susiya! Stop the Expulsion.

“Last Friday B’Tselem [] organized a visit to the Palestinian village of Khirbet Susiya in the South Hebron Hills. Dozens of Israelis joined us to express solidarity with Susiya’s residents who are facing the threat of imminent expulsion from their land.”

In the past, one Susya resident Nasr Nawajeh wrote, “They call my village an illegal Palestinian outpost. But these have been our lands since before the establishment of the State of Israel. My father is older than your state and I am not legal on my own land? I ask you: where is the justice in that?”

One and a half years ago, "Israeli settlers from the illegal settlement of Sussia attacked Saturday residents of the nearby Palestinian village of Sussiya, south of Hebron, injuring two people and killing livestock, a local official said. Jihad Nawajeh, head of the Sussiya village council, told WAFA that 13 settlers attacked the villagers throwing rocks and empty bottles at them and assaulted women and children as well as attacked livestock which the village residents raise for their living. He said a woman, Samiha Nawajeh, 40, and Nasr Nawajeh, 33, were injured in the attack and several sheep died.

The settlers also attempted to prevent village residents from picking their olive crops."

“At any moment the Israeli Civil Administration (CA) might demolish all homes and structures in Khirbet Susiya leaving the villagers with no shelter in the harsh desert conditions. The threat of demolition looms large following a decision by Israel’s High Court of Justice to deny the residents’ request for an interim injunction on demolition by the CA. For more on the risk of demolition faced by Khirbet Susiya, see B’Tselem’s website page.

The demolition would effectively mean banishing the residents from their land and their village. Based on past experience, if the residents are forced to leave their land, settlers will take it over with the support of the state – as they have already done with 300 hectares of village land.

Past demolition of a residential tent and a shack in Susiya. Photo: Nasser Nawaj'ah, B'Tselem, 24 Nov. 2011.

Demolishing all structures in the village would be both cruel and illegal. International occupation law prohibits both the demolition of homes in such circumstances and the forcible transfer of an occupied population.

The story of Khirbet Susiya is the story of many other Palestinian communities in Area C. Most Palestinians in Area C live in villages that Israeli authorities refuse to plan or to connect to the power and water grids. Residents are left no choice but to build without permits, and consequently face the constant threat of demolition and expulsion.

Khirbet Susiya’s residents need your help and support.

How can you help?

You can help their cause by sharing their story and spreading their appeal through social media using #SaveSusiya.
You can send this email to 5 friends, encouraging them to subscribe to B'Tselem's newsletter and stay updated on Susiya and other human rights issues in the occupied Palestinian Territories.
You can donate to B'Tselem and help us keep on promoting human rights.”

Reach out. Let justice, peace, and mercy flow down like a mighty stream.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Throwing Stones from the Glass House of Christianity

On the anti-Islamic site, the Religion of Peace, a Christian named Bill Warner states: "The political violence of the Koran is eternal and universal. The political violence of the Bible was for that particular historical time and place. This is the vast difference between Islam and other ideologies. The violence remains a constant threat to all non-Islamic cultures, now and into the future."

Then the unnamed author of R.of P.'s essay adds,
“In an article entitled, ‘Throwing Stones at the Quran from a Glass House,’ The American Muslim claims that the verses of violence and war in the Bible can be misread in ‘exactly the same way as some verses in the Qur’an’…In other words, the on-line magazine alleges that, like the Quran, there are Biblical verses with open-ended commands to violence that are not bound by historical context within the passage itself.

The R.of P. concludes, “Our first clue that this probably isn't true is the scarcity of Christian terrorist groups.”


The 30 Years War where Christians were responsible for between 7 to 11 million dead.

Forget about what Bill Warner asserts; it’s not true.

How could the Christians even dare to claim that?

Christian armies have been slaughtering and terrorizing others for 2,000 years! A tragic book not to be missed on this topic is Jesus Wars by Phillip Jenkins.

Christians intentionally killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in the 20th century.

Of course, sometimes Christians and Muslims don't have a large army. So they fight individually.
As William Blum so poignantly emphasized, “A terrorist is someone who has a bomb, but doesn't have an air force.”

But usually the terrorists do have an air force and they bomb cities killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians (as the U.S. and other ‘civilized countries’ have done, in which case they claim they are conducting a ‘defensive just war’).

The Christian leader if he strikes first, and uses smart bombs, still isn't considered to be a terrorist but is called a Christian warrior like Joshua and David and Samson of old. Wait a minute! Those Old Testament leaders were terrorists! Think about Samson. He committed suicide so he could slaughter a whole temple full of human beings. Doesn't that sound like a suicide bomber of ISIS or HAMAS or the Taliban?

Then, however, the author at The Religion of Peace website writes, “Not too many people are losing their heads to fanatics screaming praises to Jesus…”

Evidently, he didn't grow up in the 1960’s. Christian leaders told us that we should go and kill Vietnamese. Everyone--EVERYONE--I knew said I should go and fight and kill for Christ! I still remember so vividly our Christian youth leader telling me personally that it was God's will that
I go and kill.:-(

There was only one exception; another teen at Youth for Christ told me they were wrong, that we should follow Jesus' way in the Sermon on the Mount. She was a lightwave in the Christian pro-war ‘ocean of darkness.’

The author of R.of P. and Bill Warner need to consider other examples from Christian history.

For instance,

48: 10“Cursed is he who does the work of the LORD with slackness, and cursed is he who keeps back his sword from bloodshed.”

This verse was quoted by Christians at the start of the Second Crusade to motivate Christians to make annihilation war in the Holy Land! When Christians reached Jerusalem—let’s not deal with the thousands of civilians they slaughtered on the way there in a number of Crusades, including many Jewish persons and other Christians—when they reached Jerusalem, they murdered thousands.

Then the author of R.of P. claims, “The reason is that no other religion regularly kills members of every other faith explicitly in the name its god.”

WHAT? Hasn’t the author heard of the religious wars of France where the Roman Catholics and Reformed slaughtered each other?

Or the invasion of Christian soldiers to the Americas?

Or the Great War?

Or what many millions of Christians say even today?

Why would a sensitive Christian leader in the 1980’s claim that God’s gift to America was the atom bomb?!

According General Jerry Boykin, Jesus said, “'Now that I am going to leave you and you're going to be here to build my Church now, I say to you if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.' That was not a metaphor. What Jesus was saying was not that you will build my Kingdom, but you will build my Church with the sword….”

Then later R.of P. says, “By contrast, Muhammad was a military leader who killed people in battle, executed captives and enslaved women and children.”

Somehow, R.of P. seems to have forgotten about Joshua and Elijah, etc. Or consider the beloved David: “And David smote the land, and left neither man nor woman alive, and took away the sheep, and the oxen, and the asses, and the camels, and the apparel, and returned, and came to Achish.” 1 Samuel 27: 8-11

Sounds exactly like Muslim terrorists does it not?

And that’s the horrific bad news, “the ocean of darkness.”

How about all humans stop killing each other. Don't kill for Christ or Muhammad, for Jehovah or Allah.

Take a vow of non-violence, justice, and peace, and live in compassion.

Daniel Wilcox

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Rescue Refugees and Migrants Stranded at Sea

from Amnesty International

MAY 15, 2015

"Thousands of refugees and migrants are at risk of death in seas around Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia after authorities have pushed back boats or refused to let them land.

1) Please write immediately in English, Bahasa, Malay, Thai or your language calling on these countries to:
Co-ordinate search and rescue operations to locate and assist boats in distress;

Photo by Michael P. Nash

Allow all boats carrying refugees and migrants to land safely in the nearest country and not push them back, threaten or otherwise intimidate them;
Provide for the immediate humanitarian needs of refugees and migrants including food, water, shelter and health care;

Ensure that people claiming asylum are able to access refugee status determination procedures;

Respect the principle of non-refoulement, by ensuring that people are not transferred to any place, including their country of origin, where their lives or freedoms are at risk;

Ensure that individuals are not criminalized, detained or otherwise punished solely for their method of arrival in the country.

2) For the full Urgent Action, including appeal addresses and further information, please click on the Word or PDF version below.

3) Please let us know if you took action so that we can track our impact!
EITHER send a short email to with "UA 108/15" in the subject line, and include in the body of the email the number of letters and/or emails you sent;
OR fill out our short online form to let us know how you took action.

Get updates on Amnesty's work to protect human rights worldwide."

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Abomination of Horrific Religion

I'm not a fan of any of these three controversial figures. And, to be honest, I never thought I would agree with the right-wing commentator Sean Hannity on anything!

But this time around, Hannity and Geller (despite all their many false views) shows Islam and Sharia Law up for the horror it is.

Just last month, I listened to a lecture by Naiyerah Kolkailah, the president of the Islamic Society of San Luis Obispo County speak on how Islam is a religion of "peace, not pieces."

Anjem Choudary and so many millions of other Muslims all over the world show her to be completely wrong.

Where are open-hearted Muslims?

How deeply troubling,

Daniel Wilcox

Monday, May 4, 2015

Is Muhammad Killing Free Speech?

As readers know from my past blogs, I am no friend of obscene speech ("Pure and Profane Speech" May 16, 2011).
Furthermore, it is important in theism and humanism to be respectful of other people's worldviews, religions, and beliefs (unless a particular belief calls for harm, abuse, or slaughter).

No, I am no friend of the gross cartoons against various religions drawn by Charlie Hebdo magazine or the recent racist image by a Palestinian cartoonist comparing Jewish people to vermin. Sick and repulsive.

But all forms--including reprehensible expressions--of free speech need to be defended from right-wing theocrats, politically correct leftists, and violent jihadists.

I am fairly well read in Islam and understand why the ban on images, Muhammad in particular, came about. Also, Islam is seeking to carry on the tradition of Judaism not to idolize.

However, #1 the ban has strangely turned into the very thing it was meant to prevent, the glorification of a human! #2 the ban now serves as a pretext, even a command, for Muslims to persecute, abuse, and slaughter others.

And #3, worst of all, the ban is contrary to free speech. Free speech is so important; free speech is the fundamental right of every human. Without free speech, it isn't possible to seek truth in philosophy, science, aesthetics, society and culture.

Whatever worldview a person holds he/she needs to understand his/her own perspective shouldn't be forced at gunpoint upon others. But tragically that is what millions of Muslims are doing around the world right now, and what Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, etc. have done in the past.

Sadly, this anti-free speech jihad of Muslims seems to go back to the founder. According to most historians, Muhammad himself ordered the murder of a woman poet because she wrote a satirical poem against him and his views!

When free speech is killed, the murder of actual humans is on the way.

Let us be free.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox