Thoughts by Richard Bleil
A friend of mine and I were having a conversation the other day about the nature of God. I was raised Christian, specifically Methodist, although my mother was raised as a Catholic. I personally consider myself to be spiritual, but not religious. I have also been very interested in reading the philosophical works of other cultures and religions. The concept of evolution versus creationism came up in a meandering conversation that touched on a variety of additional topics.
My friend is a proper Christian, meaning she actually goes to services (or did before the pandemic) on a more or less weekly basis. She has friends from church visit on occasion, and I have no doubt that she takes her faith seriously. I wasn’t worried about the conversation, frankly, because I know her well enough that there is no doubt we both respect each other even if we disagree. What did surprise me, however, is how close our thoughts really are.
For example, we discussed evolution versus creationism. Creationists seem to see it as a miracle if God created the Earth and existence in six days, and yet find it to be anything but a miracle if God created everything at the big bang fourteen billion years ago and set the laws of science in motion such that you are here, today, right now, reading this post. Of course, at the heart of this argument is whether or not the Bible is to be taken literally or as a series of parables. Personally, I can’t see the Bible being taken as intended to be literal for a couple of reasons. If we ignore the glaring errors (like the passage that defines pi to be exactly equal to three), I’m still bothered by the fact that the Bible was trimmed, and modified, at the council of Nicaea. At this council, the members debated what should be in the Bible, what should be left, out, and a plethora of topics right down to whether Christ was human or divine in nature. This means that the Bible was edited and overseen by people, as opposed to the original authors, which in and of itself raises doubt in my mind.
What’s more, if you think about the culture in the days when the Bible was written, bards would travel from town to town telling stories. When they arrived, the town would throw parties, sporting event, and feasts all for the visitor before even asking their name. The traveler would then tell the stories of the world, and it was common to embellish the story with each telling to ingratiate themselves to their hosts for the next time they passed through. My friend pointed out that many of the books of the Bible were reprints of letters, and not stories told by bards. But even at that, in a time that the tradition was to embellish stories, who is to say that the letters were not equally so?
Our conversation meandered to various faiths. She was much better versed at the stories of those involved, but it’s astounding to me that so many faiths all spring from the same roots. See, the conversation was about how the fighting in Israel is so disrespectful and angry when Israel is the home of so many prophets. See, as I understand it, the Koran and the Torah are based on the same people, and the same events. As I read the Koran, I was shocked that it was so familiar to me, but the reason is that they are the same stories. Different names, but very similar. Judaism followed the teachings of Moses, while Muslim followed Muhammad (as I understand it; my apologies if I’m making errors or oversimplifying it and offending anybody). The Torah became what Christians call the “Old Testament”, so we’ve all studied the same books.
Christ came from Judaism, and Buddha came from the Muslim faith. As such, four major religions in the region all stem from the same soil. She and I discussed this quite a bit as she told me of the two brothers (a story I had not heard).
Today, President Biden announced plans to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan, a war that began in 2001. Unfortunately, too many people, including within our own nation, has seen this as a type of holy crusade, Christians versus Muslims. This is why, as a nation, our Constitution has separated church and state. A faith-based government, as so many American are calling for today (even as fewer than half of us belong to a church today for the first time in history), is all too vulnerable to extremists and their interpretation of the faith in power.