An introduction to my new blog.
There are several questions you may have: What is this blog is about? What kinds of posts will you do? Why the name ‘The Beagle and the Courtesan’? Before I get into all that, I want to tell you what happened to me and my old blog. I will get to those questions, just bear with me.
According to WordPress I haven’t written a blog post for the purpose outside a class for university since August. I am not sure how to explain it other than the loss of my long time muse – my pet beagle Gabriel – affected me more than anticipated. You wouldn’t think the loss of a pet would affect me so much but it did. In particular I never realized how much that dog really calmed me down and put me in the right frame to write. It was so unconscious, I never noticed. I…
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Just want to let you know that my computer’s hard drive finally gave it up. That means I might be out for few day getting it fixed or getting a whole new computer. In any case, this may be the only post for a while.
Blessings and Cheers!!!
Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind has turned into an interesting read so far. The various sketches of some of the ministers interviewed have been very informative and enlightening. We now hit the last sketch before we get into the real meat of the study. The next guy is Joe the Mormon Bishop. It should be noted that the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Saints (The Mormons) does not have a professional clergy. Instead it has respected men fill church leadership positions in addition to their normal occupations. Joe is currently forty and filling a five year term as a bishop in the Mormon church.
Joe directly contributes his fall from faith to the internet. It was his internet browsing that caused him to start questioning his faith on various levels. One big thing was that he had been taught that Joseph Smith had translated the book of Mormon with the help of s scribe but the reality is that Joseph Smith didn’t even reference the plates but used a seer stone and a hat he would look into to get his revelations right from God. It started to make him wonder why the golden plates were even mentioned at all seeing that even the Mormon records do not reference an actual translation process. The Mormon church makes no reference to him looking in a hat but the records are there. It simply was not something people talked about.
Joe tried to keep his faith by looking at things symbolically, but the problem is everything in Mormonism is based on the testimony “I know” not “I believe”. A symbolic interpretation allows you to say you believe but not you know. Spiritual experience does not help you either, because all religions claim spiritual experiences. it has gotten to the point that he knows the claims of the Mormon church are bogus and so he does not believe in them but is a hopeful agnostic when it comes to believing in God.
It has been rough for Joe and his family. There whole life as a family is rooted in the Latter Day Saints. It is part of who their family has been for several generations. The influence of the Church for him has been positive not negative and gives his wife and other family members significance. It is just he views it as so completely wrong. he finds himself in the very difficult position of being one of the people trying to bring people back into the fold, but is a lost sheep himself. he wishes the Church would lighten up a little and give Mormon’s more breathing room but he also admits that that is not likely to happen. He is just glad his five year term is half over.
Honestly, I have to say that I looked at Mormon belief and wondered why anyone believes it at all. Joseph Smith kept a journal and when I read parts of it is clear he was a person of great intelligence and imagination and used that to create a religion by making crap up while he looked in a hat. There is some debate as to whether he was imaginative as one guy says Smith took his fictional story and made it into the book of Mormon. Honestly, if he hadn’t been ‘martyred’ and a very able and firm handed Brigham Young hadn’t taken over, I doubt the Mormons would have amounted to much. Honestly, Joseph Smith to me was an intelligent, imaginative young man who used his charisma to build a following. One of the perks of that was polygamy which also indicates he was a horny young man who wanted to legitimatize having sex with more than one woman in a society at the time that frowned on that.
That said the one thing I have noted from talking to a few former Mormons is that all this was kept from them as they were discipled into the faith. It wasn’t till the internet era that this stuff has been hard to keep a lid on. The South Park episode on Mormons and the subsequent Broadway Musical highlight the difficulty of keeping people from the information that calls Mormonism into question. Not to mention that cults made up of offshoots of Mormonism don’t seem to help either.
Now this guy does not fall into the pattern of the other five. He is exactly what the author’s theorize about the New Transparency of the internet and its affect on faith based ideas and religions. He is different in that he is not professional clergy and not seminary trained. He is simply a guy who found his faith challenged by the free flow of contrary opinion on the information superhighway. This is actually happening a lot and it causes me to wonder how many people, let alone clergy are in the same boat. Upholding their faith publically, but going home and having none when they turn off the lights for bed.
I would comment deeper but this guy kind of is different enough form the other four that the only real observation I can make is that when counter opinions to faith were presented by either internet or seminary, all of these guys began to question what they believed. It is an interesting phenomena that does indeed merit further discussion, which is the subject of the next part of the book.
As we continue through the book Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind we get to the third sketch of someone who entered the ministry but somewhere along the line they lost their faith. In this case the person lost their faith early. Brian is a thirty something years old seminary dropout. He dodged the bullet in his terms. He now considers himself to be a naturalist and materialist philosophically. He is a government contractor and thankful; that he didn’t go into the ministry and get stuck.
Brian grew up in an environment where he was allowed to question his faith, but not too much. If you had doubts, you still needed to move forward. Growing up his decision to initially try the ministry was based of he seemed to fit the vocation – good speaker, compassionate and good with the Bible. He attended Lutheran high school, and went to a Lutheran College. It was there, that he ran into a basic problem of how to maintain divine inspiration when the Bible was a complied work by people. He wrestled with the fact that politics might have had a significant factors in which books got included in the canon of Scripture. His contention is that while it may masquerade as an intellectual exercise that people engage these things and still keep their faith, it really is more of an academic pursuit with no clear answers. Ultimately he found out that faith is not rock solid in its base.
He registered to go to seminary but dropped out during orientation. He just refused to be intellectually dishonest and mislead people about his faith. His faith was pretty much in turmoil at the time. It violated his conscience that he would be in the ministry with doubts. He explained this to his family by saying he wasn’t called but truth is he lost his faith a little after that. He married and entered a different field and is very thankful he didn’t end up in the ministry – it would have made him miserable to lie about his faith all the time.
Brian is a familiar story to me. I saw this at Asbury a couple of times and the struggle was basically down to what you were taught as a child in Sunday School was very different from what was in higher education. Now I am definitely glad he bowed out of the ministry. This is basic honesty to me and I have a real problem with people who stay in the ministry but have no faith. No matter how you try to justify this, it is being dishonest at minimum with yourself if not everyone else.
The issue I have a problem with is that the last three people in these sketches have one thing I find disturbing. They never bother to be skeptical of the things they were being taught and they never thought of how the bible could have been inspired even though there is obvious human involvement in the process of brining forth the canon of Scripture. For whatever reason they can’t seem to get their head around the fact that human beings were involved with the process of God’s Word and yet it still might be inspired. Is the notion that we have to have a Bible without human influence at all? It would be nice if we saw someone actually explore the idea that the professors and higher criticism might not be all they are cracked up to be or maybe were in error, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone that wrestled through that possibility and still lost their faith. Guess we will have to wait and see.
Next: The Catholic Priest
The Bill of Rights has always been a sore topic in American politics. My own personal feelings about them are that they are one of the better declarations of human rights that there are in the world. However, I also recognize that in reality ‘rights’ are something that must be upheld by something. The debate as to what this something might be is always out there and what is proposed is everything from God to nature. This series is something I have been debating for a long time. I started something similar once on an old blog but it got swallowed up with other things. The idea was to look at the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution in detail and give my opinion on how they should be applied. I will start that today with the first amendment but it might take a few weeks to just get through this one. The first amendment has a lot in it.
Before I begin I must state that my opinion about a right is based on my philosophy that a right is something that tells the government what it can not do to the individual. A right prohibits the government from acting against an individual’s freedoms. It is never about giving the government permission to do something, it is about prohibiting government from acting in certain ways. That said let us look at the first amendment on religion.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…
Now you can see exactly what I was talking about right away with the phrase “Congress shall make no law”. The idea is presented right up front that the design if this amendment is to prevent the government from make laws. It is not about telling Congress what they can do, but what they can’t do.
The second phrase “respecting the establishment of religion” was deliberately aimed against the idea of creating a state religion but in its broader context it means the government cannot mandate any religious creed or practice. I have to freely admit that the opponents of prayer in school might have a point if there is a mandate for a teacher to lead a certain prayer from a certain creed. Even a moment of silence has religious implications to some although some have come to terms with the idea that it is just a good pause to think for atheists. The point is that you can’t force a creed or religious practice down someone’s throat. I hardily agree even as a theist and Christian. The problem though is that then certain groups think they are not religious in their outlook and so then think this gives them right to teach without the other ideas being present. However it is the second part that undermines this idea
The third phrase is “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof“. This means government cannot stop people from believing what they want or exercising those beliefs freely. This gets to be a double-edged sword for some that they don’t like. As an example, I would say that a public school that has the policy of a school led prayer as not allowed might be upholding the first amendment, if their policy extends to the individual student having a prayer at their desk or sharing what they believe in class is a violation of the third phrase. You cannot make a rule that prohibits the free exercise of a person’s individual religious beliefs in a public place. Private industries are a different matter but in the area of public schools you cannot stop the individual from freely exercising their religion. If a student wants to read their Bible, if they want to pray before a test or if they are asked a question and give an answer based on their faith, you can’t stop them with the law. That is but one example but there are many on which this could be applied. The idea is that the government cannot stop you from freely exercising your religious belief.
The is part of the first amendment is designed to prevent the state from establishing a state church and forcing a certain religious persuasion but it also prohibits the state from stopping people who are freely exercising their beliefs in a public setting. Now, there is far more to go through in this amendment when it comes the free exchange of ideas so I will leave that discussion till later. The real difficulty is that some issues are not as black and white. For instance should religious organizations be allowed to put up displays on public property? Given this part of the first amendment, the public property should either allow anyone to put their religious display up regardless of religion or belief; or they should not allow anyone to put up a religious display. I think the second is easier to enforce and to be honest probably more to the spirit of this part of the first amendment. The idea is a wall that works both ways.
There is much more that I could say at this point but I think some of the subjects will have to wait until the whole amendment is covered. See you next week.
Next: Speech and Press
I normally don’t reblog. It is not that I don’t think their are some great sites out there with great writing, I just made a commitment that my blog would truly be my work or another “Raby’s” like my son who has posted a guest blog. This, however, is a great compliment and it is quoting me so it qualifies as ‘Rabyd’. Thanks guys