Sunday, August 30, 2015

Tempest in a Quaker's Thumb, While the World Burns

Disclaimer: The issues dividing North Carolina Meeting and Northwest Yearly Meeting are serious, heartbreaking, and tragic. What I am about to say doesn’t deny that. Concerned people do need to reflect, reason, and discuss controversial issues in order that they may come together to bring hope and change and healing to those in need.


Meanwhile the world burns.

The United Nations refugee agency: "Nearly 60 million people have been driven from their homes by war and persecution, an unprecedented global exodus that has burdened fragile countries with waves of newcomers, and littered deserts and seas with the bodies of those who died trying to reach safety."

"The new figures paint a staggering picture of a world where new conflicts are erupting and old ones are refusing to subside, driving up the total number of displaced people to a record 59.5 million by the end of 2014, the most recent year tallied. Half of the displaced are children." (New York Times, June 18)

Of undocumented children detained in Australia for more than one year, 100 percent suffer from some form of mental illness because of their detention.

Think of all the excessive time and energy that is being spent on whether or not meetings can or can’t be part of two regional Friends Yearly Meetings, and how much valuable time and resources were wasted in Indiana Yearly Meeting for several years when it split.

What if instead of focusing on bureaucratic procedures from Faith and Practice, Friends INSTEAD took all that time, energy, and resources to start helping those 60 million people?! And got involved with the millions of other outreach needs--malnourished people, injustices, needed reconciliations, and the giving of hope.

Like so many religions, Quaker history has been rife with hairspitting;-). Shall I list all the controversies and splits?

How much did those thumb studies do to change the world, to rescue the perishing, care for the sick, minister to the suffering?

And what if instead of religious wrangling--spiritual gunslingers--Friends had heeded the call for empathy, compassion, and justice in 1688 when a few Friends protested slavery in 1688 in Germantown, Pennsylvania?

Instead, Friends put off that issue for almost 85 years! How much sorrow, injustice, and tragedy happened while Friends twiddled. And, then again in the 1800's when a few Friends rescued escaped slaves, meetings generally didn't want to get involved.

No, instead the petition against slavery by Francis Daniel Pastorius and three other Friends got lost in the meetings’ monthly, quarterly, and yearly meetings. Religious bureaucracy.

No action was taken!

How much different and better might American history have turned out?

Don’t we learn anything from our past?

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Concerning the Petition by World Vision and Others to Rebuild Gaza

Check out this video recently released by HAMAS.
Does it look like HAMAS is dedicated to peace?

In one new video a HAMAS terrorist slaughters an Israeli even though the Jewish person is down and not a threat, while in the background worship of Allah plays.

Really sick…

HAMAS Terrorists Attacking Into Israel from Tunnels

Then there is this new appeal by Aid organizations such as MCC and World Vision, who urge the nations to rebuild Gaza, and stop the suffering of many thousands.


Would the Allied Commanders at the end of World War II let the Nazis remain in power, and continue to rearm and commit terrorist attacks, while we rebuilt German cities?!

"A majority of Palestinians say that suicide bombing is often or sometimes justified “in order to defend Islam from its enemies,” according to a new Pew Research survey.

“Support for suicide bombing and other violence aimed at civilian targets is most widespread in the Palestinian territories, with 62% of Muslims saying that such attacks are often or sometimes justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies,” the report said."
--By Jessica Chasmar - The Washington Times

"A leading Palestinian Authority said in an interview broadcast earlier this month that he supported violence against Israel, including a nuclear attack.

“I swear that if we had a nuke, we’d have used it this very morning,” said Jibril Rajoub, the deputy secretary of the Fatah Central Committee and the chairman of the PA Olympic Committee..." He made the comments during a television interview with the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen television channel, which was then posted on his personal Facebook page.

Two more leading PA officials also touted support for the killer of Evyatar Borovsky, an Israeli who was stabbed to death while waiting at a station for his bus...

“We salute the heroic fighter, the self-sacrificing Salam Al-Zaghal,” said Abu Al-Einstein, a former minister to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas...

And the other PA official, also on the suspected Palestinian killer: “Blessings to the breast that nursed Salam Al-Zaghal..."
By Cheryl K. Chumley - The Washington Times

That is why I don’t support MCC and World Vision’s “Lift the Gaza Blockade."

Should the Nazis have been allowed to remain in power, and continue to murder innocent civilians, while the nations rebuilt Germany?

No way!

To rebuild Gaza while HAMAS spends millions on terrorism and the rebuilding of terror tunnels is insanity!

And it will only end with more innocent Gazans dying when the next war between Israel and Gaza happens, probably within 3 years.

Look at what is happening right now in the Sinai, where terrorist groups related to HAMAS have been killing Egyptian police and others.

"World Leaders: Lift the Gaza Blockade





To: UN Special Coordinator Mladenov, Sheikh Emir Al Thani, President Obama, President Hollande, Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Cameron, Prime Minister Solberg, EU Vice President Mogherini, and all other world leaders:
One year on from the devastating conflict in Gaza, we are calling on you to press Israel to end the blockade and to immediately remove wood, steel bars, cement, aggregates, and other essential construction materials from the list of items restricted from entering the Gaza Strip. Not one of the 19,000 homes destroyed in Gaza has been fully rebuilt in the last year. World leaders have pledged $3.5 billion to rebuild Gaza, but Israeli government restrictions on the entry of building material are costing reconstruction efforts severe delays. As concerned citizens, we urge you to take action to press for an end to these restrictions now, so that families are lifted out of the rubble and homes, schools, and hospitals can be built.

555,783 have signed. Let's get to 600,000
For a whole year the Israeli government has restricted basic and essential construction materials from entering Gaza. Not one of the 19,000 homes that were bombed and destroyed has been fully rebuilt.

One year on, around 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza are still homeless, hospitals and schools still lie in ruins, and whole neighbourhoods have no access to running water.

But on the anniversary of the ceasefire -- we can help ensure homes and hope are rebuilt.

Our governments have already pledged to rebuild Gaza, and called on the government of Israel to lift the blockade. If we now show them that people everywhere want urgent action to stop this injustice, they are more likely to insist the Israeli government stop hindering reconstruction, and families will be able to build homes and children will finally get their schools back.

Sign the petition and tell everyone -- let's get 1.8 million voices for urgent action, one for each person living in Gaza.

Just 5 percent of the 6,700,000 tons of steel bars, cement and aggregates needed to rebuild what was destroyed since the end of the war has been permitted to enter Gaza. At this rate, it could take 17 years before Gaza is rebuilt.

Palestinian political parties have failed to reconcile and prioritise reconstruction, and Egypt's closure of its border has further limited supplies entering Gaza. The principal obstacle to reconstruction is Israel’s blockade. While Israel justifies the restrictions on security grounds, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross have told Israel this blockade is a violation of international law.

By placing restrictions on the movement of people and goods, the blockade is punishing innocent civilians for acts for which they bear no responsibility. There can never be a justification for leaving families without a home and the sick without a hospital.

The media's eyes are on Gaza right now, and that’ll make politicians more likely to act. Sign the urgent petition on the right -- let’s demand our government's move beyond statements, and ramp up diplomacy.

For further questions check out the Q&A page.



Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)
Medico International
Norwegian Church Aid (NCA)


Pax Christi Flanders
Pax Christi International
Physicians for Human Rights – Israel

Secours Islamique France
Terre des Hommes Italy
The Lutheran World Federation
The Palestine Solidarity Association of Sweden

World Vision International



Again, think about it...would the Allies have allowed the Nazis to remain in power and continue to murder the innocent, while we rebuilt Germany?

First HAMAS, Islamic Jihad, etc. must be banned, or at least defanged, then the suffering people of Gaza can be helped.

But the civilians of Gaza, also, must reject totally all suicide bombing, instead of most of them supporting terrorism like they do now.

Then peace will stand a chance.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Quake Laughs and Signs of the Times

Hay, ready to husk some Pennsylvania Quaker Oats? Or corn?

The literature professor came out to his Honda Civic, but had to wait for the old Quaker
walking by with his dog.

As the old man passed, the professor asked “Why do you walk that old mangy mutt? What’s it for?

The old Quaker paused in silence, weighing his thoughts; finally he opened his eyes and said
to the young professor,
“Yes, good question; what is a ‘mutt-afor’? ;-)

Soon after dawn when the modern Quaker farmer came in from his first chores,
his wife showed him her Nexus Tablet. "Look, the stock market took another drop."

"Yeah, I saw the status, and it ain't much to quo about."

Why is South Korea so interested in both Quakerism and Cajun food?

South Korea’s got Seoul.


A Quaker got disowned from the meeting for operating a still in the late 1800's.

He wondered what business he could go into.

His Friend said, "What about selling tea? Be a teetotaler!"

"Nah," said the former beer maker, "I don't like tea."

"Well," said his Friend, "You could start selling these new sodas; they're not alcoholic."
Just then the Quaker's dog barked. "Like Ed Barq down in New Orleans, selling his new root beer soda.
And the man in Philly who Hires
lots of workers."

"YES! But where would be the best place for me to start such a business, another really good state
with many drinkers of soda?"

"Hmm..., probably Minnesota."


"Some of the Old Testament commands supporting slavery just make me heartsick."

"Yes, not Yahweh, but the Friendly Enlightened Way."


Before worship at a Quaker meeting, two visitors chatting--

Visitor #2:This is my second time visiting here."

Visitor #1: "Oh, like that famous California actor who used to say, "I'll be bach."

V #2: (Laughing) "Yeah, the one who got terminated. These Quakers
probably wouldn't say that, however another famous actor, was a Quaker who
also became governor, though he got terminated, too. Had to face the music,
so to speak. By the way,
don't expect music this hour."

V 1: "Why not?"

V 2: Well, some Conservative Quakers seldom sing, except spontaneously.
It would probably take an organ transplant to get them to change.
But I don't have the heart. Needed to get that off my chest. Besides,
they think too much modern music
is filled with saks and violins."

V 1: "I understand."

V 2: "Also, anybody can talk during their meetings, even say
disturbing things, but remember even if you strongly
disagree with something a person says, don't talk bach."

V 1: (Standing) "Hmm..., if there's no music, and you can't disagree
in a conversation, maybe I'll visit the Methodist Church instead; there,
if you want to hear some good music, all you have to do is leave notes
in the Johann Suggestion Bachs.

Johann Sebastian Bach

And Methodists never agree on anything. They love to talk and argue, though sometimes they don't make sense. Think about their signs and symbols.


Don’t go to church any more, couldn’t take the pew.


Patience is heavy wait.


Remember, dear Friend, the giant 3,500 year old oak was once a little nut that stood its ground.


A stranger came into a Friends meeting. It was quiet for about 20 minutes, so he leaned
over to the person next to him and asked,
“When does the service begin?”

“After worship, when we go out to help others in need.”


That old Quaker couple is like two old mutts.


He sits up and begs, but she rolls over and plays dead.

Oh, like some meetings I've been to. No spiritual life, petrified.
Though an old man snores,
until another Friend nudges him.


A marriage license is a learning permit. And lots of hard work to get where you are going.


A modern Quaker couple looked up at the night stars. As the guy worked up courage for that first kiss,
he nervously blurted out, "Do you like astronomy?"

Disappointed, the girl said, "George, Do you only have a 'one trek mind'?"


Speaking of romance and love and marriage, and commitment for as long as we both shall live...
also we want to be involved in mission work:


As a West Point graduate who earned no demerits in his 4 years there, Robert E. Lee was the most likely to secede.

"I may be from North Carolina, but why are you telling me that?"

If you don't succeed at first, try and try again.


Another Oregon rest area SIGN confronting travelers--25 BANNED ACTIVITIES
--as they pull their crowded vehicle in looking for open space,
walking, welcome,
relaxation, and


Now, I realize that many, if not all of those No-No’s, the forever “Don’t” list, are mostly common sense and common courtesy, so I’m not disagreeing with the prohibitions themselves per se.

And having had to get very legal at times with students and our own children when they tried to find technical loopholes to skirt the obvious--“She got in the way of my foot”--and other tall tales, I figure this eye-sore sign/billboard/HALT was originally only a short list that kept getting added to by traveler stupidities and passer-by self-centered myopia.

Yes, yes…
BUT who wants to pull into a ‘rest area’ looking for comfort and relaxation from a long haul, or even only a stressful travel day,
to this humongous, almost legal code, sign spitting you in the eye?

Not a friendly welcome sign, with a huge cartoonish grin, like some states have on their borders.

No instead, endless regulations STOP you,
even before you can rush your kids into the restrooms.

And the sign is ALWAYS blocking good scenery picture sites.

Big Politician doesn’t want YOU to miss it. You can’t, and though a law-abiding citizen, you have secret wishes that some local would back his tow truck into it, or for a teenager to get original with punny graffiti.

It’s the same on Oregon beaches. When we spotted a beautiful pullout along Oregon’s coastal highway, we slowed down and stopped for a walk on the beach and hopefully some great photo shots.

Instead, when I tried to take a picture of the rocks looming out in the waves like gigantic humpbacked whales, and framed by beautiful evergreens, I couldn’t avoid a very large, glaring in-your-face go-away PROHIBITED sign.

Yes, other states have signs which protect snowy plovers, “Don’t walk on the protected feathers!” And, “Danger Riptides,” and so forth.

But no place wins the award for Inhospitality like Oregon tourist signs: "Shut up! Stay out! Get your rear back on the road. Go away!"
None quite like Oregon beaches and rest areas.


In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Monday, August 24, 2015

Bring Hope to One Child at a Time

Have you ever considered sponsoring a child in an impoverished area of the globe? But not got around to it yet.
Reminds me of a joke card I once got which had a plastic circular coin with the words
"A Round TOIT.:-) Now you've got one, Daniel."

Yes, I, too, often put off the truly important to take care of the major, minor, and even the trivial. Why do we humans do that?
I guess it is one of those irrational quirks that psychologists say we humans often display.

Anyway, now that you have your own "round TOIT" (just cut it out of the screen;-), consider finding at least one child
of the millions suffering in poverty.
Choose a worthy, financially accountable aid organization such as World Vision.
My wife and I've sponsored children since the 1970's in countries
as diverse as Palestine, Indonesia, and India.

One small 5-year-old girl we sponsored back in 1995 had almost no choice, and no future.
Only a harsh existence, living in deep poverty. And she was often without her mother and father most of the time.
But with a small amount of donation monthly, she was able go get good food, schooling, improvements of their community,
and so much more.

NOW 20 years later, that girl has grown up and recently finished nurse's college
and has many career opportunities--the world at her door!
What a difference!

“…poverty doesn't come from a series of choices, but rather a lack of choices.
Meet these two brave mothers who find themselves in difficult times … and make your own choice.”
World Vision, Nate Pyle

"It's not a handout,
It's a hand up!

We come alongside children, families,
and communities to provide tools, training, and hope
so they can become

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Sunday, August 23, 2015

3 Sons Still Kill

Given that the Israeli government has killed thousands of Palestinian civilians in the last year, and now this week is destroying more ancient olive trees (800,000 trees in the last years), and confiscated more Palestinian land...

And that Jewish settlers again attacked, not only vandalizing mosques and churches, but burning a Palestinian family, killing the father and baby son in their home...

And that Palestinian Muslims continue to attack and murder innocent civilians, and get praised by Fatah, the Palestine Authority and HAMAS!

And...check the daily bad news.

Let's stop this slaughter and bring back some hope:

Three Sons Change

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


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


In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

First published in

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Through this time so sorrowfully past
We dropped countless explosions, flesh-blossomed,
So clever pushing the brainly-designed pods
And now comes far more tomorrowed smart bombs.

Oh, this endless scientific avarice,
To discover again our ghoulish genius,
We who launched a million ships
Since golden Ilium burned with Greek fire
Through the time so sorrowfully past
And dropped countless explosions, flesh-blossomed
Lightning the sky like Zeus in a righteous rage.

Shrewd cunning slithers through our high-tech success,
Swallowed until our gorged stomachs implode
Through the time so sorrowfully past
Like the golden apple thrown to the Three
And dropped countless explosions, flesh-blossomed,
Slashing the moral sky like Gorgoned hubris,

Leaving Sophia cut up like the Levite's concubine
Through the time so sorrowfully past
In this vast historical ever forgetting,
Thundering the sky like fallen messengers
Where we squander mind blossoms in this
Moral smart-aleck Hell of tomorrow.

by Daniel Wilcox
First pub. in The Medulla Review;
also in Unlikely Stories 2.0

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

True Confessions

Sometimes the negative genie just won't stay in one's psyche, but finally explodes out in fury.

That happened to me today--for many different reasons--while I was trying to finish up a good article on science versus religion. (That post will go partially incomplete for a while.)

This afternoon, I read another excellent and honest article on life and loss of faith.

Here's what I posted to Neil Carter's website in answer to his questions on loss of faith:

Neil Carter: "What did you once have that you lost upon leaving your faith?"

Daniel: All of the items you pointed out except not "belief that everything happens for a reason." I was strongly opposed to that idea.
When a young child dies of leukemia like happened here recently or the tsunami killed hundreds of thousands of people in Indonesia several years back, I never thought that such tragedies were part of a divine plan, never thought they were somehow necessary.

The main quality I lost 3 years ago when I came to the conclusion that Christianity can't be true, is the loss of hope. True, I had been losing hope as I gradually lost faith in religion over a period of years, but 3 years ago, it was like the nail in the coffin, right into the bleeding heart liberal...

Now, I continue to work for human rights, for justice and equality, and won't quit, but I really wonder if humans will ever overcome war, inequality, hate, prejudice, dishonesty, religious delusion, horrific beliefs, etc. One of my favorite aphorisms was from Martin Luther King Jr.:

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."

Now, at present, I wonder if that is really true. I don't have as much hope in such thoughts as I once did.

Neil Carter: "And more importantly for moving forward, how have you learned to cope with the loss of it?"

Daniel: I don't think I have learned to cope. Some days are better than others. Some much worse.

Talking about such issues online has helped. And continuing to work for groups I am a member of such as Amnesty International also helps encourage me.

So far I've been unable to find a group in my city on the central coast of California that has a passion for human rights and justice, but I am still looking. Our city tends to be very fundamentalistic in religion and politics.

And I belong to a book club where another individual, like me once was involved with SDS in the late 60's and still is concerned with justice and equality for all. That's important.


For those who would like to think further on this issue, consider reading Neil Carter’s vivid article at

I disagree with some points that Neil espouses—such as his view of “Godless,”—but he is a real humanist, compassionate, reasonable, and is an excellent essayist, lucid and well-organized in his prose.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Are Science and Religion Best Friends, Sworn Enemies, Unknown Strangers?

Do science and religion conflict?

If so, how much--partially, or completely?

Are many scientists who are also theists, (about 51% according to Pew), being dishonest as atheist thinkers claim?

Why do such scientists say they think religion as well as science is true?

Or do science and religion coexist as friends, not always getting along, but complementing each other, even existing in "harmony"?

Or are science and religion completely separate ways of understanding within human thinking?

Let's start with antagonism:

(of Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, and other contemporary atheists):

TIME MAGAZINE: "Professor Dawkins, if one truly understands science, is God then a delusion, as your book title suggests?"

RICHARD DAWKINS: "The question of whether there exists a supernatural creator, a God, is one of the most important that we have to answer. I think that it is a scientific question. My answer is no."

"I think that's the mother and father of all cop-outs. It's an honest scientific quest to discover where this apparent improbability comes from. Now Dr. Collins says, 'Well, God did it. And God needs no explanation because God is outside all this."

"Well, what an incredible evasion of the responsibility to explain. Scientists don't do that. Scientists say, 'We're working on it. We're struggling to understand.'
You're shooting yourself in the foot by postulating something just as improbable, magicking into existence the word God."

"People who believe in God conclude there must have been a divine knob twiddler who twiddled the knobs of these half-dozen constants to get them exactly right. The problem is that this says, because something is vastly improbable, we need a God to explain it. But that God himself would be even more improbable."

TIME: "Dr. Collins, do you believe that science is compatible with Christian faith?"

FRANCIS COLLINS: "Yes. God's existence is either true or not. But calling it a scientific question implies that the tools of science can provide the answer. From my perspective, God cannot be completely contained within nature, and therefore God's existence is outside of science's ability to really weigh in."
Time International, 2006

"...had there been no Christianity, if after the fall of Rome atheism had pervaded the Western world, science would have developed earlier and be far more advanced than it is now."

"The different methods that science and religion use to ascertain their “truths” couldn’t be clearer. Science comprises an exquisitely refined set of tools designed to find out what is real and to prevent confirmation bias."

"Science prizes doubt and iconoclasm, rejects absolute authority, and relies on testing one’s ideas with experiments and observations of nature. Its sine qua non is evidence — evidence that can be inspected and adjudicated by any trained and rational observer. And it depends largely on falsification."

"Religion begins with beliefs based not on observation, but on revelation, authority (often that of scripture), and dogma. Most people acquire their faith when young via indoctrination by parents, teachers, or peers, so that religious 'truths' depend heavily on who spawned you and where you grew up."

"Beliefs instilled in this way are then undergirded with defenses that make them resistant to falsification. While some religious people do struggle with their beliefs, doubt is not an inherent part of belief, not is it especially prized. No honors accrue to the Southern Baptist who points out that while there is plenty of evidence for evolution, there is none for the creation story of Genesis."

"Some religious claims are untestable because they involve knowing about the irrevocable past. There is almost no way to show, for instance, that Jesus was the son of God, that Allah dictated the Quran to Muhammad, or that the souls of Buddhists are reincarnated in other humans or animals."

"(There could, however be at least some evidence for such claims, such as concordant eyewitness accounts of the miracles that supposedly accompanied Jesus’s Crucifixion, including the darkness at noon, the rending of the Temple’s curtain, the earthquakes, and the rising of saints from their graves. Unfortunately, the many historians of the time have failed to report these phenomena.)"

"What science can do is point out the absence of evidence for such claims, taking them off the table until some hint of evidence what it is until we have hard evidence. That is precisely the opposite of how the faithful approach their own claims of truth."

"In the end, religious investigations of “truth,” unlike those of science, are deeply dependent on confirmation bias."

Faith Vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible
by Jerry Coyne,
Viking, 2015

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, SIMON WORRALL: "You are now an evolutionary genticist. How does your day job inform your views on religion?"

"If you teach evolution, you’re teaching the one form of science that hits Abrahamic religions in the solar plexus. There’s no evidence that there’s any qualitatively different feature about humans from other species...We’re not special products of God’s creation."

"Religion doesn’t have a methodology to weed out what’s false. In fact, it’s a way of fooling yourself."

NAT. GEO. SIMON W.: "You call religion "the most widespread and harmful form of superstition.” Make your case.

COYNE: "Since I see all religious belief as unfounded and irrational, I consider religion to be superstition. It’s certainly the most widespread form of superstition because the vast majority of people on Earth are believers."

NAT.GEO.: "How have new developments in science like neurobiology or cosmology affected our understanding of the universe and our place in it?"

COYNE: "They support what Steven Weinberg, Nobel laureate in physics said, 'The more we learn about the universe, the more we realize how pointless it is.' We're learning a lot about the unierse and what we are seeing is that it's all a naturalistic process."

NAT.GEO.: "Are all religious as bad as each other?"

COYNE: "Oh, no. I think anybody that says that is on some tendentious gambit to discredit religion. Clearly, religions differ in how harmful they are and that’s proportional to how much they proselytize and how perfidious their beliefs are.

"There are religions that I would consider either harmless or maybe even beneficial. Quakers barely believe in God at all and are dedicated to social justice."

MY RESPONSE: LOL. While it is true, some modern Quakers are non-theists, it is incorrect to state that "Quakers barely believe in God at all."
Actually, most Quakers now, and in the past, are devout theists.

And "they are dedicated to social justice," (Coyne's statement) because of their deep faith in God, not contrary to it.
Examples include John Woolman, William Penn, Elizabeth Fry, Levi Coffin, etc.

from Wikipedia:
"The first anti-slavery statement was written by Dutch and German Quakers, who met at Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1688. English Quakers began to express their official disapproval of the slave trade in 1727 and promote reforms."

"From the 1750s, a number of Quakers in Britain's American colonies also began to oppose slavery, and called on English Quakers to take action with parliament. They encouraged their fellow citizens, including Quaker slave owners, to improve conditions for slaves, educate their slaves in Christianity, reading and writing, and gradually emancipate (free) them."

"An informal group of six Quakers pioneered the British abolitionist movement in 1783 when the London Society of Friends' yearly meeting presented its petition against the slave trade to Parliament, signed by over 300 Quakers. They were also influenced by publicity that year about the Zong massacre, as the ship owners were litigating a claim for insurance against losses due to more than 132 slaves having been killed on their ship."

"The Quakers decided to form a small, committed, non-denominational group so as to gain greater Anglican and Parliamentary support. The new, non-denominational committee formed in 1787 had nine Quaker members and three Anglicans. As Quakers were non-conformists and were debarred from standing for Parliament), having Anglican members strengthened the committee's likelihood of influencing Parliament."

"Nine of the twelve founding members of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade were Quakers:
John Barton (1755–1789);
William Dillwyn (1743–1824);
George Harrison (1747–1827);
Samuel Hoare Jr (1751–1825);
Joseph Hooper (1732–1789);
John Lloyd;
Joseph Woods Sr (1738–1812);
James Phillips (1745–1799);
and Richard Phillips."

"Five of the Quakers had been amongst the informal group of six Quakers who had pioneered the movement in 1783, when the first petition against the slave trade was presented to parliament."

"Three Anglicans were founding members:
Thomas Clarkson, campaigner and author of an influential essay against the slave trade;
Granville Sharp who, as a lawyer, had long been involved in the support and prosecution
of cases on behalf of enslaved Africans;
and Philip Sansom."

Despite such clear historical evidence, strangely, Coyne asserts, "The less a religion has to do with a tangible God, the less it hands out moral dictates and the better it is. Once you believe in an absolute authority that tells you what to do, you’re heading down the road to perdition, I think."

But that is the exact opposite of the Quakers' dedication to "social justice"!

In fact, Quaker abolitionists did give out very strong, absolute moral dictates against slavery, and for women's rights, human rights, etc.

And it didn't lead "down the road to perdition" as Coyne claims.

On the contrary, Quakers' belief in a God of social justice was part of the Enlightenment. According to some historians, Thomas Paine was influenced to so actively oppose slavery because of his Quaker parent.

NAT. GEO. SIMON WORRALL: "The evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould developed a theory known as NOMA...religion deals with the realm of meaning and moral values. Isn’t that a compromise you accept?"

COYNE: "Well, no! [Laughs] It’s not only a compromise I can’t accept...Philosophers have also rejected Gould’s idea that meaning, morals and values are the purview of religion. There’s a long tradition of secular humanism in philosophy beginning with the ancient Greeks and passing through Kant, John Stewart Mill and Hume to contemporary thinkers like Peter Singer."

MY VIEW: Hmm...Immanuel Kant was a theist, not an atheist.

Quite a bit of secular humanism, while rejecting the dogmas of religion, actually comes out of the philosophical views of theism.

Besides how can we humans get ethics from what "is" in nature, in natural selection?

How do we get from "is" to what "ought" to be?

Here, Coyne seems to be disagreeing with David Hume, which, of course, is his perfect right to do.

But his disagreement is unlikely to find any support in science.
How could science possibly tell us whether or not it is right or wrong to drop atomic bombs on enemy civilians?

Lastly, Coyne says human consciousness is "a neuronal illusion."

If human consciousness is "a nueronal illusion," then how is it possible for our consciousness to use reason, the scientific method, etc. to find out the complexities of the real universe?

Jerry Coyne was interviewed by Simon Worrall, National Geographic


These scientists don't reject "reason and science," aren't "being dishonest."

They use reason and science to figure out matter and energy issues, but
use philosophy and non-scientific thinking to figure out issues of "ought," and "meaning."

It would seem that the famous evolutionist Theodosius Dobzhansky holds to this view. Dobzhansky wrote that "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.

How does he reconcile being an Orthodox Christian with evolution?

He doesn't. No more than he tries to love his wife by cutting a tiny piece of her skin out to put under a microscope to figure out if she's his soul friend, and if he loves her and she loves him;-)

In compartmentalization, science and religion are opposed, not in harmony.

For how can Dobzhansky reconcile natural selection with benevolence to all of creation?

I don't think he can. Or how can he reconcile the regularities of the cosmos with the miraculous?

It seems that he can't.

But, my guess, also, is that he doesn't try.

Never the twain shall meet. Opposed from the get-go. But held instead as separate parts of his mind for different purposes.

However, notice that hard naturalists have this problem, too, assuming, of course, they agree with Hume's claim that humans can't get "ought" from what "is."

Various atheists try to explain altruism, and some do interestingly such as Richard Dawkins' idea that altruism is a "misfiring" of evolution. Intriguing.

that doesn't explain why humans "ought" to be altruistic.

Since by scientists' definition, evolution has no purpose and no meaning, then obviously, too, "altruism" isn't true, it's just another possibility along with other successful developments of evolution including ruthlessness, deception, slaughter, etc.

There are the 'negatives' of natural selection as well. Natural selection isn't concerned with what "ought" to be, but only with survival.

Think what a long active life--for hundreds of thousands of years--various evil actions have had including millions of cases of
deception, slaughter, rape, polygamy, theft, torture, persecution, inequality, etc.

Such immoral actions have dominated human history. They are very natural, but NOT right, not good, not true.

Even in the last 200 years, in most wars, both sides of humans regularly engage in most of those behaviors, and almost never in altruism.

Lastly, some atheists say, well, the reason for humans to be altruistic is (they argue)
it will somehow increase the chance that human social groups will survive.

But why "ought" homo sapiens to survive?

That is a philosophical question, not a scientific one.

In the end, as even some secular philosophers have emphasized, NOT everything can be solved by science.

Should I forgive a person who has harmed my family or my kin or my country?

A. Ought nations to create, store, even use atomic weapons, as did the United States to slaughter hundreds of thousands of civilians?

B. Should infants developing in the womb be executed as worthless tissue or be considered worthy of protection as tiny human beings?

c. Ought all humans to have rights and to be treated equally?

D. Should everyone be honest in their studies and reports?


None of those deep, in-your-face-daily questions which fill the media can be answered by science.

#3 For others, it's a case of differences in EDUCATIONAL LEARNING.

It isn't that science and religion disagree or are sworn enemies, rather, the difficulty is that one area of humans' lives hasn't caught up with the other area.

A person can be very well-informed about physics, but not really know much about philosophy, literature, aesthetics, personal relationships or culture.

Or in my case, one can grow up knowing a lot about literature and religion and plenty of "oughts." And learn a lot about philosophy--the great thinkers of history--in high school, (Lincoln Southeast in Nebraska being one of the few high schools which taught a subject not usually dealt with until university).

But he may not know much yet about scientific subjects such as evolutionary biology. I loved science, but knew only physics in high school.

Finally, I started to catch up in the technical field when I took complex science classes at university--geology and anthropology. And after graduation with a B.A. in Creative Writing, I read many popular biology books. Then my scientific understanding caught up with my literary and philosophical self.

#4 THE NOMA VIEW of Stephen Jay Gould:

TIME: "Stephen Jay Gould, a Harvard paleontologist, famously argued that religion and science can coexist, because they occupy separate, airtight boxes. You both seem to disagree."

FRANCIS COLLINS: "Gould sets up an artificial wall between the two worldviews that doesn't exist in my life. Because I do believe in God's creative power in having brought it all into being in the first place, I find that studying the natural world is an opportunity to observe the majesty, the elegance, the intricacy of God's creation."

Time International, 2006

STEPHEN JAY GOULD: "...creationism based on biblical literalism makes little sense in either Catholicism or Judaism for neither religion maintains any extensive tradition for reading the Bible as literal truth rather than illuminating literature, based partly on metaphor and allegory (essential components of all good writing) and demanding interpretation for proper understanding. Most Protestant groups, of course, take the same position—the fundamentalist fringe notwithstanding."

“The position that I have just outlined by personal stories and general statements represents the standard attitude of all major Western religions (and of Western science) today. (I cannot, through ignorance, speak of Eastern religions, although I suspect that the same position would prevail in most cases.)”

“The lack of conflict between science and religion arises from a lack of overlap between their respective domains of professional expertise—science in the empirical constitution of the universe, and religion in the search for proper ethical values and the spiritual meaning of our lives."

"The attainment of wisdom in a full life requires extensive attention to both domains—for a great book tells us that the truth can make us free and that we will live in optimal harmony with our fellows when we learn to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly."

"I believe, with all my heart, in a respectful, even loving concordat between our magisteria—the NOMA solution. NOMA represents a principled position on moral and intellectua] grounds, not a mere diplomatic stance. NOMA also cuts both ways."

"If religion can no longer dictate the nature of factual conclusions properly under the magisterium of science, then scientists cannot claim higher insight into moral truth from any superior knowledge of the world's empirical constitution. This mutual humility has important practical consequences in a world of such diverse passions."

"Here, I believe, lies the greatest strength and necessity of NOMA, the nonoverlapping magisteria of science and religion. NOMA permits—indeed enjoins—the prospect of respectful discourse, of constant input from both magisteria toward the common goal of wisdom. If human beings are anything special, we are the creatures that must ponder and talk."

From Stephen Jay Gould, "Nonoverlapping Magisteria," Natural History 106 (March 1997): 16-22; and Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms, New York: Harmony Books, 1998, pp. 269-283.

(instead of the narrow religious dogmatism to which Jerry Coyne refers):

Albert Einstein: "My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God."

From Einstein and Religion by Max Jammer, Princeton University Press:
"I'm not an atheist, and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written."

"The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations."

from The Quotable Einstein:
"I don't try to imagine a God; it suffices to stand in awe of the structure of the world, insofar as it allows our inadequate senses to appreciate it."

"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

"I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own - a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty."

"It is enough for me to contemplate the mystery of conscious life perpetuating itself through all eternity, to reflect upon the marvelous structure of the universe which we can dimly perceive and to try humbly to comprehend even an infinitesimal part of the intelligence manifested in Nature."

"The scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation. His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that , compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection."

"Where dull-witted clansmen of our tribe were praying aloud, their faces turned to the wall, their bodies swaying to and fro. A pathetic sight of men with a past but without a future." (Regarding his visit to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, February 3, 1923)

"Should we be unable to find a way to honest cooperation and honest pacts with the Arabs, then we have learned absolutely nothing during our 2,000 years of suffering and deserve all that will come to us."

"I appeal to all men and women, whether they be eminent or humble, to declare that they will refuse to give any further assistance to war or the preparation of war."

"It is my belief that the problem of bringing peace to the world on a supranational basis will be solved only by employing Gandhi's method on a larger scale."


"I'm not an atheist, and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written."

"The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations."

The above quote from Einstein gives credence to biographer Walter Isaacson who stated that Einstein "held to a deistic concept of God."
page 385, Einstein: His Life and Universe

Translated Transcript: Princeton, 3. 1. 1954

"Dear Mr Gutkind,

The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. ... For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstition."

"And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong ... have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything “chosen” about them."

"I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly,” he wrote in another letter in 1954. "If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."

"I believe in Spinoza's God, who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind."

What are other views of the relationship between science and religion?

Please add to the discussion.




To be continued--

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Chasm of the Divide

from Masalaha--

A Personal Reflection by one Palestinian:

“I had just had a hard time at the checkpoint; they hadn’t treated me well as a Palestinian. I was going to Ramallah with my friend and a colleague in the car, and one of the soldiers humiliated me.

He was rude, and made me get out of the car and asked “Who is that chick next to you?”

I was annoyed, as she was my colleague and he was not talking about her in a nice way.

Then he saw that I wasn’t happy with the way he talked to me, so he said ‘Read that number plate over there.”

I felt like he was insulting me. I argued with him, “Why do you want me to read it?”
I’m not a man who likes a fight, but he was being very rude to me.

My friend was telling me to just read it, but I didn’t want to. I started to read it very slowly, and then he dropped his pen.

He said, “Pick it up.”

example of checkpoint argument

And I thought, “I’ve had enough.”

When I refused, he put his gun against my head and said, “You will.”

I said, “Do whatever you want. I will not pick it up.”

After that, he didn’t make me pick it up, but we had to wait three hours at the checkpoint without our ID.

I wasn’t feeling like going on a trip to meet Israelis would be good, but I’m a person who likes to face the situation. If I have fear, I want to face it. If I have a problem, I want to confront it because it will get out of control.

I thought to myself, “Okay, I will deal with the Israelis as foreigners as I am meeting them abroad in Jordan, not as soldiers in their uniforms.” On the first day it was okay, but in the evening it got hard. We had to get into pairs, each Palestinian with an Israeli,
and tell one another three things about each other.

I wasn’t lucky. The guy who I was with was an Israeli officer in the army.

I told him that I was from Bethlehem. And I told him my story. Then it was his turn. He looked like a tough man and he told me that he knew Bethlehem well as he had been there during the second intifada. He was in my city in a tank and I thought, “Now I am sitting with him!”

After that, I don’t remember anything else about what he talked about. I just saw black. I put him in the place of each soldier I had met that week. It was hard. I felt that I didn’t like him at all.

Late that same night, I told myself that I didn’t want to leave it like that with him. I wanted to talk to him. He is the one who gave me this feeling so I have to talk to him. So I went to him and asked to talk. He’s my age. I told him how he made me feel and that I found it hard that he was in the army.

He looked at me and said, “Zaire, listen. I’m sorry for what my people do. I am sorry for the things that have happened to you. But also understand that people like me, I have to do things that I don’t want to do. The army forces me to do things. So imagine how difficult it is in my heart.”

I felt his pain too. I realized that not all soldiers are bad; they are doing their jobs.

We prayed together, and on the last day, I shared my story. I was happy that I could influence people.

I’ve been away with Musalaha often since then. It has helped me so much as we learn the history of the other side, about their government and their political system, too. They don’t know about our system either, so it is really good. We learn to think and talk about the on-going situation.

Because of Musalaha, I don’t forget about reconciliation. However long the conflict continues, we need to carry on meeting with each other. We need to influence the next generation.

I now have Israeli friends who are very kind to me. We call each other up and see how we are both doing. It was very hard last summer as my Israeli friend was fighting in Gaza. We kept in contact though throughout the violence.

We need to be kind to each other. It takes time, but I believe in it. We are in one family. We believe in one God. It is important to sit together as one family. Musalaha brings us together. If I was to go on my own, I would be scared, but when there are more of us, it’s much easier.”

*Zaire’s name has been changed for confidentiality reasons.

From the Musalaha Website

Check out this Palestinian/Israeli organization dedicated to peace, reconciliation, and justice.

Start with their Bridge Building:

“Like all other departments in Musalaha, the Young Adults Department strives to bring Palestinians and Israelis closer towards reconciliation. The program track starts with a first encounter in a neutral location, away from associations of the conflict and away from the stresses of everyday life. In this environment, participants tend to express their feelings more freely, and more earnestly listen to and cooperate with each other…

Through Musalaha’s various reconciliation programs (e.g. trips, leadership opportunities, lectures) we empower these individuals with knowledge and understanding of issues concerning reconciliation and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, helping them become positive influences advocating peace and fellowship in their communities.”

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Plant Seeds of Peace and Wholeness and Plenty

MCC Photo/Kaitlin Heatwole

Farmer Friday Iraq: More than 100 gardens

"Najmadin’s kitchen garden in northern Iraq provides fresh produce and supplemental income. This is one of 105 gardens constructed in 2014 as part of a project of MCC in partnership with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and REACH. REACH, an Iraqi organization, seeks to improve food security in rural villages by providing water and agricultural resources necessary to improve the production of crops and increase income generation. Last name is not used for security reasons."
MCC Website

"Fourteen-year-old Yusuf Yahiat carries a food package distributed by MCC partner Zakho Small Villages Project at the Garmawa Camp for displaced people in northern Iraq. Like most people living in the camp, Yusuf and his family fled the city of Mosul after its takeover by the militant group that now calls itself Islamic State.
MCC Photo/Ryan Rodrick Beiler

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and its partner organizations continue to meet needs of families displaced by conflict in Iraq with a mid-July distribution of locally purchased food and personal hygiene items.

Supplies in Garmawa Camp in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq were running low when MCC and partner Zakho Small Villages Project arrived with food packages in two large trucks.

The packages of rice, lentils, oil and other cooking staples, plus basic personal hygiene items such as soap, were given to more than 230 families living in the camp. They had been driven from the city of Mosul by the militant group...Islamic State.

James Fine of MCC Iraq said, “People were particularly pleased that the packages included tea and sugar, essential in Iraqis’ estimation to a decent life, even if for now it has to be in a camp.”

Almost all the recipient families are members of the Turkoman and Shabak minority groups, said Fine, who has served with MCC in Iraq along with his spouse, Deborah Fine, for four years. They are from Bristol, Pa.

In June, MCC and another partner in Iraq, Al Amal, distributed food and other vital items to internally displaced persons (IDPs) living with family members and friends in a nearby province. Most IDPs in northern Iraq are with host families, but camps like Garmawa, which was established by the United Nations, are beginning to be set up.

Fine, who was present at the July 17 distribution with another MCC worker in the region, Ryan Rodrick Beiler of Washington, D.C., said the people in Garmawa Camp fled their homes with “either the clothes on their back or at best with what they could fit in the trunks of their cars.”

“Despite their misfortune, many were both cheerful and philosophic about their situation,” Fine said. “But more than anything else, they expressed a deep uncertainty about what the future might hold for them and for Iraq.”

MCC Website

Please take time to donate to

Or to another reliable outreach organization dedicated to helping those impoverished, mistreated, and persecuted work together to overcome all the wrongs they have suffered. Let there be Sharing, Peace, and Goodness.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

To Eat or Not to Eat: That Is the Question--Sounds Fishy

Is There a Moral Case for Eating Meat?

Is Vegetarianism a Virtue?

Do We Need to Give Animals a Life Worth Living?

Are Human Beings Meant to Eat Meat?

Why Are Only About 1% of Humans Vegans?

Here's the beginning of an intriguing, thought-provoking article from Vox and Grist:

"Is There a Moral Case for Eating Meat?"

by Nathanael Johnson

"Where are the philosophers arguing that eating meat is moral?

When I started researching this piece, I’d already read a lot of arguments against meat, but I hadn’t seen a serious philosophical defense of carnivores. So I started asking around. I asked academics, meat industry representatives, and farmers: Who was the philosophical counterweight to Peter Singer?

In 1975, Singer wrote Animal Liberation, which launched the modern animal rights movement with its argument that causing animal suffering is immoral. There are plenty of other arguments against eating animals besides Singer’s, going back to the ancient Greeks and Hindus. There are even arguments that Christianity contains a mandate for vegetarianism. Matthew Scully’s Dominion argues against animal suffering; Scully rejects Singer’s utilitarian assertion that humans and animals are equal but says that, since God gave people “dominion over the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth,” so we have a responsibility to care for them and show them mercy.

The arguments against eating animals are pretty convincing. But surely, I thought, there were also intellectuals making convincing counterarguments. Right? Nope. Not really..."

As you probably remember from a past post, I am on a long journey toward vegetarianism. Currently, I am mostly a fishetarian (read crab, salmon, catfish, etc.) though occasionally I eat foul food;-) with my extended family and friends.

I resigned off pig many years ago. Easy for me to do since I don't like pork. Then left the cattle grazing on a thousand hills about 15 years or so ago. (Though, when my allergies let me, I still borrow cheese and milk.)

Back in the late 60's, my first vegetarian experiment came about because of the influence of a friend. Shortly before she went down to D.C. for King's March on Washington, she adopted vegetarianism. By the time I was in full swing, living on only vegetable, fruits, and nuts, she quit and resumed meat dishes. But me, I went nuts.

Yes, I followed the radical advice of health food fanatics including a 6-medal Olympic swimming star, Murray Rose. It worked for him and others.*

Bode Miller

One can't become an Olympic star easily. But my body couldn't handle a vegan only diet. I lost almost 50 pound, down to about 117, when I ought have weighed 175! Got malnurished. Looked like a stupid-sort of gandhi, without the wise side. More of a not-so-wise donkey.

I know that the official name of a fish-eater is pescatarian, but that not only sounds too academic, it sounds like being a pest;-)

Because, this time around, 40 years later, I'm taking vegetarianism slower and wiser, not evangelizing, don't have a knife to grind, just want to move toward a more spiritual and ethical level.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A 3-Way Paradox


"The past, the present, and the future walked into a bar...It was tense."

Humans seldom live in the present. We are either regretting or longing for the past, or hoping and reaching for the future. Filled with loathing and fearing, remorseful or nostalgic, dreaming and planning, anticipating and aspiring...

That’s even what is happening as I write this article, I am dwelling on the past and the future:-), not living present at this very moment—except right here, Now.

First, let’s look backward. Take a journey into the past. And see history in a new way. So we can change the future.

“We are all ruled by the past, although no one understands it. No one recognizes the power of the past…The individual is sitting on top of a mountain that is the past….That is why I say, the future belongs to the past.”

“Just think about it, the past has always been more important than the present. The present is like a coral island that sticks above the water, but is built upon millions of dead corals under the surface, that no one sees. In the same way, our everyday world is built upon millions and millions of events and decisions that occurred in the past…” 500 years ago and 1,000 years ago and 10,000 years ago.
Michael Crichton, Timeline

As far as our physical selves go, a breath-taking study of our past is The Ancestor’s Tale by Richard Dawkins, where in the illimitable study he takes us on an evolutionary journey back through history all the way to the beginning of life at least 3 ½ billion years ago!

And all of the future is also built on our present use of that past. We are moment by moment creating our future right now by how we use the past.

For instance, our whole species, racial and ethnic background, worldview, society, culture, and family outlook is based on the past. And at every moment we live out those past realities, adapt them, or change them, or create something new.

Of course, the further a person goes down in levels the more difficult changing is. There have been millions of creative individuals who have altered their family outlook, moved to a very different society and culture, or who have changed their worldview for a different perception, religion, or philosophy. And they may even have tried to alter their ethnic and racial background. When I was a teen I remember reading the short controversial book, Black Like Me, where a John Howard Griffin, a Caucasian journalist got his skin darkened medically and lived as a Negro in the South for 6 weeks.

No one can change their species, though I suppose there are mental patients who even imagine themselves doing that. Reminds me of a famous essay entitled, “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” by the American philosopher Thomas Nagel.

Or a cat? When our cat Fizzy has again acted oddly—from our perspective—I sometimes stare into those feline eyes with their intense kiwi-green color and slivered black pupils and wonder how she perceives, what her consciousness is like.

But here’s the paradox again. While most animals have consciousness, few if any other than homo sapiens have the ability to consciously plan out their future. So not only are we ruled by all the past, especially our being of a particular species, we very strongly affect our future by our new choices of our worldview, our goals, aspirations, and dreams—whether for good or bad.

Think how different the 20th Century would have been if Germans had chosen differently? Or of the 21st century if Muslims, and other determinists didn’t think that Allah/fate/cosmos, etc. has ordained every detail of the future?

Contrary to what some scientists such as determinist Sam Harris claim that nothing can be changed, that even if time replays a "trillion time" it will always come out the same, other thinkers disagree.

“What you commit yourself to be will change what you are and make you into a completely different person. Let me repeat that. Not the past but the future conditions you, because what you commit yourself to become determines what you are—more than anything that ever happened to you yesterday or the day before.’
Dr. Anthony Campolo

With enthusiastic rhetorical flourish, Campolo overstates the case, because he wants individuals to realize they can change. For we are limited or enlivened by our physical characteristics, our temperament, our background, our culture, our society, our worldview, etc.

But as Dr. Eric Berne, the famous psychologist and creator of Transactional Analysis emphasized in his books and practice, we don’t need to be stuck reliving the past like a helpless twig caught in a whirlpool, repeat, repeat, repeat. Nor do we need to spend countless hours doing endless mental archaeology, trying to figure out what happened to us back in our family’s past or our country's past which causes us or leads us to behave as we do now.

NO! We at this moment can decide to reject attitudes and behaviors of the past, and re-decide how we will live now and in the future.

It won’t be easy going; nothing worth doing ever is. Consider, it took Thomas Edison thousands of attempts to invent a light bulb. But he didn’t give up. He said,“I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

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