Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Religions and Faith-based Beliefs

Thinking humans seems to need explanations and stories with some rationality that suits them. The choice is made by upbringing and background  – most people are born and brought up in a religion. At adulthood, the choices are just that – choices that are comfortable for the thinker (or non-thinker). 

Thinking individuals have to make the choice between Agnosticism (unknowable), Atheism (belief that there is no God) and Theism (belief in God). Most proofs are acknowledged as not rationally provable but “faith-based”.

Priests recognized the human need and give explanations that give them power over the “believers”.  Many religions have an aggressive “I’m right, you’re wrong” attitude, though some don’t seem reasonable to me. Especially when it’s “if you don’t agree, I must kill you”. 

Let us consider the world’s major religions (1). Here’s the ranking:

      Christianity:                 33%     2.1 billion
       Islam:                          21%    1.6 billion
       Agnostic, Atheist:       15 %    1.1 billion
      Hinduism:                   14%     1 billion 
      Buddhism:                  6%       400 million
       Sikhism:                     < 1%    23 million
       Judaism:                     <1%    14 million
Other religions each represent less than 1% of the world population.


I was born and brought up as a Catholic, so many of my constructs are Christian. My eldest brother (89) is a Catholic theologian and I have 3 sisters who are nuns. I am now a non-religious “theist”. 

Christians believe in the teachings of Jesus, who was born 2,100 years ago in what is now Israel. He was Jewish and spoke only Aramaic. At the age of 30, he preached and taught principles that were quite opposed to the current Jewish thinking. He gained a following, but after just 3 years he was tortured and crucified; Christians believe it was to save them.  He left no writings; but many people wrote about him. Just four of the “gospels” were authorized by the hierarchy and considered the “word of God”.  Today, there are more than 2 billion Christians, 1.2 billion Catholic and also other blends of Jesus’ followers. (2)


This religion originated in the Middle East about 600 years after Jesus. Muslims worships the same God as Christians do, though they don’t consider Jesus as more than just a good man. Their teaching comes from Mohammed, who claimed to have been inspired by God to write the Koran, which Muslims consider the Holy Scripture. Today there are about 1.5 billion Muslims, split into 2 major (Sunni and Shi’a) and several minor sects. (3)


 This is the oldest religion, dating back some 5-6,000 years, with no single originating text. There are about 900,000 Hindus, mostly in India. Hinduism is very “inclusive” – considering all beliefs to be a version of the truth. (4)

Here’s a simplified summary of the Hindu view. The Hindus consider that Brahma was the Creator. They don’t “worship" him – they consider that after the act of creation he just left it to others. Then the other Hindu Gods came into the story: Vishnu the builder and organizer, and Shiva the inventor and destroyer (destruction must occur before rebirth). Each of these two has several “faces” - not other “gods” - just aspects of the same two.

Many scholars consider that the stories are allegorical – like the stories of Greek and Roman gods. It’s especially interesting when you realize that these stories were developed not by one person, but by traditions over thousands of years. 


Gautama, an Indian Prince, started Buddhism about 600 years before Jesus.  Gautama was initially protected by his father from seeing suffering and decay, but witnessed reality when he was about 20 years old.  He is reported to have wandered around and finally ended up under a Bodhi tree when he came up with his teachings and was called the Buddha. There are now some 400 million Buddhists worldwide, in China and Japan, and only a small fraction in India because Buddha’s teachings were quickly subsumed into broader Hinduism. (5)

Buddhists consider everything as God. You and I and everything else are simply different aspects of the same God – an interesting and comforting view.

Atheism & Agnosticism

The difference between atheism and agnosticism is the difference between belief and knowledge. Atheists believe that god does not exist because it cannot be proved – a “negative” proof. Agnostics neither believe nor disbelieve – they assert that it’s impossible to know. It seems to me that agnosticism and atheism are not mutually exclusive; they are just different views. (6) (7)

My own view

I have settled into my own view of creation. I don’t dwell on how and why life came into being. I marvel at the beauty, intricacy and interdependence, and just “worship” the universe as the result at this point in time – our very small fraction of Time and Space. 

Let me now try further to describe my own view: There is a Transcendent God (the spirit of all space and Time) and an Immanent God – something which is here and now, in me writing this and you thinking about what I’m saying and responding. If you don’t wish to use the word “god”, that’s OK with me. I have no need for the word. In fact, it confuses the issue, because too many people have too many meanings for that word.

I remember a guru (teacher) in India who gave me this thought:  
People think Hindus have thousands and millions of Gods and describe him differently (several arms because he does many things at the same time, several legs if he is agile, a blur if he moves very fast, etc.) Each of us has his own picture to draw. Here is mine: and then he simply marked a dot. 

So, you draw your picture or mark your dot for yourself. I’ll draw my own dot.


  1. Major Religions of the world:
  2. General Statistics and Facts of Christianity:
  3. Similarities and differences in different sects of Islam:
  4. Introduction to Hinduism:
  5. What is Buddhism?
  6. 'No Religion' Is World's Third-Largest Religious Group:
  7. Difference Between Atheism & Agnosticism:

Jim Pinto
1 October 2014


  1. Deep and clear, Jim. A mini religious education course in a few minutes. How I wish religious leaders could accept viewpoints not of their own religion or sect. Jane and I've been Unitarian-Universalists since about 1969.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Jack!
      I have friends who are Unitarian-Universalists. It allows any belief and is VERY appealing.

  2. People have varying needs to believe in something. This is practically biological. Religion provides a framework for that belief system. The problem is that classic religions often continue to perpetuate some very biased and ugly behaviors, such as Leviticus 18:22.

    The scary thing about atheism is that if one does not believe in a deity (which generally represents the society of the land) then the human tendency to believe in SOMETHING takes hold.

    Such people end up believing in something else, equally unscientific. For example, many environmentalists believe in some balance of nature. Actually nature is not balanced. it changes with resistance and inertia. But these people believe there is a natural balance to be found in everything, so they worship mother earth figuring that natural everything is always best.

    Some believe in political systems, such as Marxism, Capitalism, or left/right causes. These people, because of their beliefs, do not question anything about their point of view. They seek like-minded people and commune with them alone.

    Some believe in NOTHING. These people are practically sociopaths. At its most fundamental, most belief systems are designed to build a society of charity, good deeds, and respect for institutions. Those who believe in nothing don't even trust their neighbors to do the right things because they don't trust themselves. They will lie, cheat and steal --and see nothing wrong with this. Note that such people often masquerade as religious leaders.

    As for me, I live by the creed of doing for others as they would do for me. It is a basic trust of my society. I care about the people I live with and the land I live in.

    That doesn't exactly make me an atheist or even an agnostic.

    And with that, I believe I'll have another beer. :-)

    1. Old eNews friend, Jake:

      How nice to have your migrate your regular wit, wisdom and intelligent commentary to the JimPintoblog! I hope we can have your insights on more of the blogs as I continue to publish. Frankly, it's people like you who motivate me to keep doing more!

      I embrace your creed, the golden rule, "Do for others as you wish them to do for you."

      And now, I'll join you in an eBeer!

  3. Hi Jim,

    Thanks for this blog entry and for the invitation to share here.

    Although there are just a few major religions, I suspect that each individual (who bothers to think about it) really has her or his own variation. For those who are aware of a spiritual aspect to our lives, it seems that there are a few key things that we share:
    - We all desire safety, health, and mental well-being;
    - We see a connection between ourselves and others;
    - We feel that there is something bigger than our own self.

    Religions give us a way to practice living these fundamentals – to subordinate our base desires in the quest for universals that we share. It seems all religions can be (and have been) corrupted and misused – religious atrocities seem to dwarf other types.

    A metaphor that resonates for me is that of climbing a mountain – each of us finds a path that seems to suit us on this journey. We only switch from one path to another when there is something about the path we are on that is not working for us. To make such a switch, we must be investigating closely to see that we are missing something on the current path, and that another path offers us a more suitable alternative.

    The problems with religion arise when we think that our path is the only path up the mountain. Through fear or some other reason, we see it as black and white – my path (and there for I) am right, all others are wrong. In this state, we have blinders to the similarities of each of our paths – to our common struggles, quandaries, joys and loves.

    When we are aware that we are all on the same mountain, we have the opportunity to learn from each other and to help each other, regardless of the path. I can see the beauty of your path, and perhaps throw you a rope to help you navigate the terrain. You in turn can offer me some tools or insights that make my journey and path easier.

    What strikes me the most, however, is how similar all paths become as they move towards the mountain top. The mystics of all the great religions and spiritual traditions sing the same song with different voices. It is as if each path at some point moves above the treeline, and we can then see how we are on the same mountain and approaching the same destination. From such a vantage point, we celebrate all paths, all spirituality.

    My own path has been the Baha’i Faith with a great deal of Buddhism mixed in. These days I am less inclined to put any label on my path, but to celebrate whatever life offers to me as I journey up the mountain. My perspective at this point in my life was offered so beautifully by the Persian poet Hafiz, who lived in the 12th century BCE:

    I have learned
    So much from God
    That I can no longer call myself

    A Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim
    A Buddhist, a Jew.

    The Truth has shared so much of Itself with me
    That I can no longer call myself
    A man, a woman, and angel
    Or even pure Soul.

    Love has
    Befriended Hafiz so completely
    It has turned to ash
    And freed me
    Of every concept and image
    My mind has ever known.

    With kind regards,

    1. John C:

      What wonderful comments! I'm honored that my blog now includes your wisdom. Thanks for sharing!

      That poem by the 12th century BCE Persian poet Hafiz is beautiful!
      It helps to free me from any kind of narrow pride and selfishness. It allows me to see the greater good in all my fellow-humans!

  4. Great post, Jim. As you know I've been through the same journey you have, and consider myself an unspecific pagan. I am much more like your guru with his dot than I am with any other description. I quote Robert Heinlein: "I don't know who is cranking; I am pleased he, she, it or they don't stop." and I tell them so at every opportunity.

    1. Thanks, Walt!
      And, thanks for publicizing this blog on your tweets and blogs!

  5. Sing with me to the tune of Awesome God by Rich Mullins: My God is a limbic God.
    Excellent article on this subject:

    1. Liked your link to "Neurophilosophical Inquiries". Thanks!

  6. I say that I am agnostic but that is simply because I don't care if there is a god or not does not seem to be seriously covered in a specific viewpoint. For me the most beautiful answer to what is the meaning of life and existence is that there is no meaning at all. But this does not mean I do not believe, or that I dismiss others and their beliefs. And this is because I do believe absolutely- i believe that in any need I would have in life or death then I always have my family and my friends, I am incredibly lucky but I never felt I needed a reason for a religion when I am surrounded by everyday gods everyday. I feel sorry for people that they must have such great troubles that they don't find an absolute faith in reality rather than religion.

    1. BigMangoDave:

      I share your feeling about being very fortunate - I feel blessed by my life, my family, friends; my city and state and country; and all the good people in the world.

      I "feel" that there are more and more good people everyday.

  7. Jim, I enjoyed reading your overview of religion, and agree with much you have said. I also liked the reality rather than religion theme of the responses.
    I do think your definition of theism could be a little different. One can believe in a God or deity and not be theistic. A theist is a particular type of god. One that you have a personal relationship with. A god that talks with you and cares about you. Some gods are not theistic, thought the Christian god certainly is. You can be religious and not be theistic, but I am not sure I fully understand what you mean saying you are a non religious theist. You don’t even need the word god, so to my way of thinking, I see you as spiritual and agree you are not religious, as you don’t seem to be following any of the dogma that forms the basis of a religion. If you believe in something other than god are you religious?
    I think spirituality and religion can be different things. I also consider myself spiritual, but not religious. I tend to think as spirituality as individual in nature, but religion as a group practice.
    I start with the observation, that things are better when you think for yourself, rather than following the dictates of those that claim religious authority.
    I believe science, logic, reason, compassion and imagination, will guide us much better than supernatural beliefs from the bronze age. Certainly science will show us how much we don’t know, which can be quite humbling, and motivational at the same time. I find this spiritual.
    I think any person or belief system claiming to have all the answers should not be trusted, as we know that is not possible. Society only improves by questioning, and usually changing what has been done in the past. When you are taught not to question, you are taught not to think, when most of us should take more time to think and question, if we want this planet to be a better place.
    When you set aside the authoritarian god part of religion, and the mandated beliefs, you actually can find something very good and spiritual underneath. Imagine a community, with people working together, helping each other, with modern moral values, and no religious dogma. It really is OK to practice birth control, marry somebody from a different background, treat women as true equals, and do stem cell research for the benefit of all.
    When I read that the majority of Americans do not accept the science of evolution, because it conflicts with their religious teachings, I shudder with the thought of the negative impact on society.
    I believe spirituality is a strong force for good, but religion is often not. Look around and see the violence being done in the name of religion. Good people can do some very bad things in the name of religion.
    I am happy to hear you don’t consider yourself religious.
    I liked the layout and color combination of your blog. Relaxing and easy to read.

    1. Kevin M: Thanks for the insightful and well-considered comments!

      When I labeled myself as a "theist" I did not mean the technical definition (look up in Wikipedia) - but rather, as one who believes in something beyond my limited understanding.

      Indeed, I am spiritual, but not religious. I'm bothered that narrow-thinking, aggressive religions have caused too many persecutions, wars and damage.

      Yes, there is something "good and spiritual underneath" which is not related to any "religion". The essence of the human spirit is, I believe, sincere and good.

      I share your view that many do not accept Evolution. That is like the church persecuting Galileo for refuting the earth-centric universe, and then finally accepting the scientific truth. I cannot ridicule the "creationists" - they are free to believe what they believe. But, I don't expect them to ridicule me for my beliefs.

      Yes, spirituality is a strong force for good!

  8. In becoming the top predator, human specialty was not speed or size or stealth, we slowly developed intelligence… our ability to imagine and create and use tools. We were wildly successful.

    The downside of our increasing intelligence was the understanding and anticipation of our own death. Fortunately there was a fix to this morbid problem. Since we had developed the ability to imagine things, we quickly imagined that we humans would defeat death and live forever. At some point in our evolutionary history, we began burying tools and provisions with our loved ones to help them in the afterlife.

    The belief in an afterlife is nearly universal. Religions codify and structure the belief, and if they and all memory of them were to disappear, we would invent new religions tomorrow.

    As agriculture was mastered, large civilizations were not only possible, but they were more successful than tribal or clan society. In most parts of the world, civilization quickly became the norm and it usually adopted uniform religious beliefs. The most aggressive of these beliefs were pyramid schemes. Humans would enjoy the afterlife if they converted others to their religion. The beliefs spread and they compete and form the basis for many of our squabbles today.

    We humans are perched at the top of the food chain. All of this planet and parts of the heavens are ours. The enjoyment of our world and its abundance is hindered not so much by our anticipation of death, but by the various problems that death’s denial create. It’s the human paradox… the human condition.

    1. My friend, Merle Borg, wrote this significant response to the blog. It stimulated this thought from me: essentially what Merle says is: God did not create Man - Man created God!

      Merle has re-written and re-submitted his comments, which I am including here:

      In becoming the Earth’s top predator, the human advantage was not speed or size or stealth. Our species slowly developed intelligence… the ability to imagine and create tools. We were wildly successful.

      The downside of our increasing intelligence was the understanding and morbid anticipation of our own death. Fortunately there was a fix. Since we had developed the ability to imagine things, we simply imagined that in one form or another we would live forever. Long ago we began burying tools and provisions with our loved ones to help them in the “afterlife”.

      As agriculture was mastered, large civilizations were not only possible, but they were more successful than tribal or clan society. For several thousand years, civilization has been the norm.

      In addressing the needs for eternity, each civilization adopted elaborate religious beliefs. Many of these early beliefs remain. They codify and structure our longings, and if our religions and all memories of them were to disappear, we would create new ones tomorrow.

      The most successful of our religions are pyramid schemes. Humans will enjoy the afterlife if they procreate profusely and work to convert others. The beliefs compete and are at the root of much of our poverty and much of our butchery.

      Safely at the top of the food chain, you might think we would work to preserve our paradise and it’s abundance. We now realize of course that this world is just temporary and we foul it with little regard for tomorrow, or for the tomorrows of any living thing.

      Among Earth’s creatures, we humans are blessed with relatively long lives. You might expect that we would appreciate and be grateful for our time. Instead our first priority is the building of temples. Here we look up and cry out what translates universally to: “It’s not enough”.

      Once the concept of eternity is accepted, decency and rationality and happiness are forgotten. As the Gods watch the comic human tragedy unfold they must question the wisdom of introducing a species that could imagine forever… and was just clever enough to believe in it.

      Merle Borg

  9. I don't like lumping agnostics in with atheists; as an agnostic, I believe that it is just as irrational to believe in no god or gods as it is to believe in a god or gods. More importantly, there is a big difference in the way one relates to others and their beliefs. I would liken agnosticism to being a universal blood donor; we can get along with everyone, and further, listen with interest to how (thinking) people come to their faith. Atheists are not compatible with anyone, and further, actively try to convince others that they are wrong in their beliefs. Like other devout believers, these people are less likely to evolve their belief system, thinking "they've already got it."

    1. From my standpoint, I don't see the difference between Atheists and Agnostics. You might like the chart I included in that section. The Atheists I know are not really aggressive about their beliefs. They simply accept "negative proof".

    2. I agree with Anonymous in not lumping agnostics with atheists. Atheists flat-out deny the existence of god and allow themselves no possibility of religious experiences. On the other hand, Agnostics, unable to opine with certainty about the existence of god, tend to fluctuate among three states of mind: 1) Don't know and leave it at that 2) Have religious experiences from time to time but then 3) Have doubts about their validity leading them back to 1. The idea of Gnostic Atheism seems to me a contradiction in terms.

  10. Fine article thanks. Christians believe Jesus was fathered by God thru the Virgin Mary, a Jew. In that place and at that time the nationality of a child, especially a male child, was considered to be that of the father, which in this case was God. I know of no writings proposing to establish the nationality of God. Following this line of thought Jesus was not a Jew but of no known nationality. Rationally correct but of no great consequence.

    1. I think it was Paul (who never ever met Jesus, but saw him in a vision) who took Jesus' teachings beyond just the Jews. I suppose, at this stage, Jesus' nationality is, as you say, "no great consequence".

  11. Fascination Jim, You say that Jesus spoke only Aramaic. In fact he must have been able to read aloud in Hebrew and he probably spoke Greek as well as that was the "English" of the period in that part of the world.

    It is quite fascinating this business of belief. As a poor follower of him I am always amazed that I have never felt the need to "disbelieve" though I often do not act in accordance with his teachings.

    True Christianity is an unique religion in that fundamentally it is a relationship rather than a set of tenets. I have (or wish to have) a relationship with Jesus therefore I obey his commandments. "If you love me you will keep my commandments!" And the commandments are simple (!?) - Love God as a Father and love your neighbour as yourself.

    I remember somebody explaining the difference between Jesus and other great teachers.
    Confuscious said "I know the way!"
    Buddha said, "This is the way!"
    Jesus said, "I am the way!"

    There are many things masquerading as Christianity these days. These are those who lay down laws like the pharasees in the Bible.

    This is the great teaching we are getting from this new Pope.“Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” the interviewer asked. “I am a sinner,” the pope replied. “It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”

    How can a sinner accuse? As he said in another context, "Who am I to judge!"

    But of course there is a conflict between what is right and what is wrong. These are objective things. What I might consider right might not be what you consider right indeed we might both be wrong in our consideration. This is the consideration of what is truth of course but again Jesus makes a stupendous claim here. He says "I am the truth."

    In fact if we examine the Jesus of the Gospel there are only two conclusions or maybe three.
    1. He was a deluded fool.
    2. He was a charlatan who maliciously deluded his followers.
    3. He was who he said he was.

    In my opinion it is impossible that the man in the Gospels was a good and gentle man unless what he said was true.

    Now all I have to do is do what he asks! (sigh!)

    1. Eoin, I respect and honor your "faith-based belief".

    2. I think Eoin Ó Riain misses a 4th possibility, namely that Jesus was a smart, sensitive, faithful Jew, who in the tradition of the ancient Jewish prophets, "walked with God," and wisely sought to persuade his Jewish coreligionists to be submissive to the Roman occupation ("Turn the other cheek," "Love thine enemy") rather than oppose them with violence, as the Zealots advocated. He could do this without assuming the mantle of divinity, just as had the prophets before him. My recollection of scripture, admittedly not expert, is that Jesus either remained silent (before Pilate) or played coy (with John, the apostle) when the subject of his divinity came up. I'd be interested in learning of any New Testament passage in which Jesus overtly claims to be the only begotten Son of God (as others opined in the Nicene Creed and in 1 John 5:20)

      One might form the impression of Jesus asserting his divinity from the New Testament passages in which Jesus refers to "my Father's house." (Luke and John), but that would be inconclusive, inasmuch as Christianity also holds that we are all God's children (Romans and John), so Jesus could be referring to himself as such without necessarily claiming divinity.

  12. Wonderful post and comments. Thanks for sharing.

  13. 1.Through an understanding between myself and Mr Webster I conclude
    'Religion' is…an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods.
    and 'Religious 'as
    …showing or establishing logical or sufficient reason in the connection between the individual and God.(1)

    2.Most of us were brought up in a world where the task of (1) was delegated to another person,usually a pastor, priest, minister or clergyman, and depending on how deep the connection between the person and God was, and how deep our own connection with God was, so went our early experience of what I think is the singular connection we are, by design, to understand, in our present incarnation.

    At this point in time, after 3 score and 12 years my belief is that everyone ‘gets off’ eventually, we don’t have to worry about it. When I say ‘gets off’ I mean that we establish sufficient reason,which becomes faith , and the connection between ourselves and God becomes very real and the yearning for more connection drives us to know more… other words we individually become a feedback system that struggles and relaxes into a steady state,where our effort and understanding produces an output that becomes undeniable….to us.

    3.When our curiosity to know more about God will no longer tolerate a feeble result ,we begin to question our methodology for discovery. We have to. Our life up to this point has confirmed that we have to push on,to solve anything. Fortunately for us the answer is clear. If we want to know, we have to find out who are the people who know.
    Because we may have had an earlier experience that was less than uplifting does not mean we should abandon the quest. On this planet at this time we have more than 7 billion people…and each of us is at a certain place of understanding…only by our own individual efforts,and grace, can we change our place of understanding.
    There are many places of understanding,each of them directly proportional to the depth of our attunement with this ultimate reality.
    So the task is to search for and find one person who we feel has the most attunement with God. This then becomes our main task. Each time we find someone who we want to believe is ‘the man’ or the ‘woman’ we have to use our intuition and all means of discernment we possess….in other words we have to prove to ourselves beyond doubt that we have found a person who exemplifies our understanding of what a God realized being is. In doing this we do not have to settle for anything less than the real thing. It’s a matter of life !
    Once the person is found you commit to his/her teaching and this becomes the next part of your journey to understanding God.

    4.If at this time you don’t have the inclination to follow this methodology,that’s fine.Where we each are in mental space is perfect for us individually. We do not have to feel there is anything negative about where we are. As time and circumstances change we will always rethink our strategy and by this we move on…always to more understanding.Let’s face it …with an infinitely loving God running the show how else could it be?

    5.This God,the creator of all that exists is the source of infinite love, this God loves each one of us equally, this God is omnipresent and omnipotent. Finding God in the highest sense is a return to our true home…finally ,our essence, our individual soul, is reunited with the source of all ”and he shall go no more out”
    The possibility and certainty of final outcome is mind blowing and magnificent, beyond everything we could possibly imagine and yet this is what our destiny is, for each and every one of us, It is up to us entirely,we should not be deterred,all we have to do is desire it beyond all other desires.
    This is our birthright…by design and gift of love.

  14. Good work Jim, very interesting discussion! One small correction, according to Bible chronology Jesus was born around the year 2 BCE. He was baptized in the year 29 CE when he was about 30 years old (Luke 3:21-23), at this time he became the Christ (Messiah or Anointed).
    During his 3.5 years’ ministry his main message was the Kingdom of God and he taught his followers the name of his father, which can be found almost 7,000 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. Unfortunately the main religions have hidden the name of God the Creator, making it difficult for people to get to know him. When you think about it, the first thing you learn about a person is his/her name. Shouldn’t this be the case with the True God? In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus said: “… let your name be sanctified. Let your Kingdom come…” and in John 17:26 he said “I have made your name known to them and will make it known...” So, what is the name of God? If anyone is interested to know, here is a link to Wikipedia:
    The fact is that mankind has always search for answers to the most profound questions: What is the meaning of life? Is God to blame for our suffering? What happens when you die? Religion is supposed to provide satisfying answers, but the truth of the matter is that the religious leaders of the world are “blind men leading the blind”. The teachings of Jesus as found in the Bible are simple and easy to understand if we are truly searching for answers. Living by one of his teachings, previously paraphrased: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them” would certainly make this world a much better place.

  15. Great blog, Dad! As you know, Robb and I are Unitarian Universalists.

  16. Yes, you introduced me to Unitarian Universalists and I'll be attending one of their services soon.

  17. Dear Jim, thank you so much for this excellent blog.
    Even in this modern times there are too less people talking clearly about this subject.
    I like your opinion or conviction.
    When I see how empty the churches here in mid Europe are - then I doubt the figures of the statistics. When I talk with people about their believes, then I hear mostly that they do not believe. Some are still member of any church (without believing) because of the environment (parents, neighbours or business. I do not know how this is in the States.
    I do not know what "I am" - I hate all "isms" - because they brougnt too much trouble to the world - and they are all man made and invented to promote and protect the influence of the "mighty".
    I was educated as protestant but studies between the age of 16 and 20 many kinds of religion. Then the experience of the reality during travels around the world fastend my recent conviction. (Also the tales from my father about the 2nd World War and what the different churches did in these times). Many religions have radical excrescences - see for example the Catholics in the mid age and the Muslims nowadays.
    Who does really need a religion? Those who are not free in their mind.
    I am free and happy so I do not have to play being religious for my environment (this because no one can see into the mind of people).
    Take it easy.

    1. Hans,
      The churches in the US are also in decline, many have been converted into condominiums. Many people such yourself have been turned away from religion for the valid reasons you pointed out; I was anti-religious for most of my youth because of the hypocrisy I had observed. You might find interesting that there was a small group that defied Hitler and suffer for it, but was not bent to participate in the atrocities that most so-called Christian religions perpetrated. Here is a link, if you are interested to learn about:

    2. Thank you for your comments, Hans.

      In many parts of Europe too, and the US too, church attendance has been declining steadily.

  18. Thanks Jumana, Yes this case in the link is just only one of many thousands.
    See my families case: grandfather born in France (Alsace), went as young chef to Holland and married my grandmother, a Dutch. My father was born 1922. So he was 18 when the Nazis came into Netherlands, looking for Jewish. The sayed, Alsace is German - so "you are German and you have to join the army". He didn't even speak German - so he was put into a punishment division of the "Waffen-SS".
    In Leningrad he by accident was the only surviving of the vanguard (all aliens) and put into soviet PoW. After the war he was released, walked from Ural via Donau river westward. In Nuremberg he was checked by the GIs. The Dutch sayed he may not go home to his mother, "because he was with the Germans"..:!
    That is the reason I was born in Nuremberg. My mother has Polish roots.
    So for me "nationality", "religions" and the "skin color" of people is no meaning at all for me - so I have many friends from all over the world.

  19. Jim,
    I was brought up Anglican. As a small child I can remember being exhorted in Sunday School to "love god" and being very frightened - but what do I actually DO!
    As you note, "god" is a dangerous word, as it means so many different things to different people. "Love" is an equally dangerous word, with multiple shades of meaning. Surely there must be a difference between "I love Cadbury's" and "I love God"?
    As a teenager, my father taught me a most important lesson.
    "If you start from the wrong assumption, the better the brain, the more certain you are to come to the wrong conclusion." True for both scientists and theologians.
    The two major religions on your list, along with Judaism, are monotheistic, asserting there is only one god (which logically must mean that the Jewish, Christian and Muslim gods are one and the same). But I do not recall being offered any evidence there is only one god.
    I refer you to a well known bible verse.
    Luke 17:21 "The kingdom of god is within you."
    (Some versions have it "the kingdom of heaven" but then I always understood heaven to be the kingdom of god. Sorry, my inner language pedant at work.) This is usually interpreted to mean that a small piece of the one god is in each one of us. But just add one word, remembering that this verse has been translated multiple times through multiple languages since it was first written down. We now get: -
    "The kingdom of your god is within you."
    The meaning suddenly changes, and it remains changed even when you take the extra word back out again.
    Science suggests that (as you and others above have suggested) that God is a construct of the human mind. See the 17th March 2012 issue of "New Scientist".
    This long suffering planet now has seven billions gods, and counting.

  20. Anonymous, following your statement there must be much much more gods: why do you only count human beings? In this philosophy any living being is a bit of "god" (one atom at least) - from any bacteria to the big whale. That also on any existing planet in the universe. This shows me, that this is another man made try for explanation.
    But the good thing is - there is no need to make much ado, shows, lies, and other bad things about that one atom! (or wasn't it only a Higgs-Boson?)
    For me there is no god because any one of them is a phantasy.

  21. Man is the only animal yet evolved that shows signs of cognitive curiosity about where he came from or where death takes him. This human curiosity leads inevitably to a conundrum of mysticism and deities which substitutes for rational logic in weaving some wispy explanation of life and its purpose. Present scientific knowledge is insufficient to answer all man’s curiosities so he resorts to fantasy in desperation. Man seems to think everything must be explained at all cost. He realizes from his real world experiences that there is much more to his existence than he can fathom. This conundrum provides fertile ground for soothsayers, witch doctors, charlatans, and of course religion. All of which readily forgo logical consistency in conjuring an explanation for the curiosities of life. Once one accepts the possibility of an omnipresent, all knowing, all powerful entity, deity or not, rational logic must be abandoned since the entity can change all physical and time relationships at his whim. When yesterday can become tomorrow all cause and effect logic ceases to exist. Tell me again the logic of your believing in an unrestrained deity?

  22. Rodger,
    I could not say it in your good English - but you are right - who can tell?
    And why should it be required to tell?

  23. I'm a proud Zoroastrian. The first religion to believe in one God, Zoroastrianism is based on three simple tenants: Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds.
    No matter what or who you believe in- wouldn't it be nice if we could all follow that triad?

  24. I learned these from my Parsi friends in India. What wonderful and simple rules to follow!

  25. Yes Anonymous, that would be very good. It would be better if one could behave so by own insight, not by the force of a (any) god - because this "god" allways was (is) man-made in my Thoughts.