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How does religion impact our world? So far we have looked at atheism, animism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Next let’s head to the Middle East where there was once a Jewish theocracy.
Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans. Since that time the Jews have been scattered throughout the world – the Diaspora. They were persecuted by the Romans for not worshiping the emperor. Later they were persecuted by Christians in the Holy Roman Empire. Muslims and Nazis have tried to eliminate them. The Jews managed to survive and sometimes thrive.
The Muslims named the Jews “people of the book”, because their beliefs were based on written historical events, teachings, and laws. It is noteworthy that the Hebrew scriptures included the human failures of their most famous leaders. This would suggest that their history is accurate – not biased.
The first and key aspect of Judaism starts at the beginning. That is human equality. The Hebrew creation story is unique in that it presents all humans as coming from the same two parents.
This concept provides the basis for an end to a class system and slavery – the concept that “all men are created equal.” The Jews were themselves slaves in Egypt for 400 years. Once they established their own nation and laws, they had a form of slavery which was more like indentured servitude. This gave a debtor a chance to pay up. All slaves had to be freed in the year of Jubilee. Leviticus 25:10
The apostle Paul taught this equality concept when he preached to the Greeks at Athens saying, “God…hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.” Acts 17:26 It is important to note that he Greeks did not believe all people were kin. Indeed, they only allowed Greeks whose ancestors were from Greece for hundreds of years to vote. Our idea of human equality came from Israel, not Greece.
To be “created in the image of God” did not mean that humans became God, nor did they get absorbed into the universe, or become reincarnated. It does mean that humans have a sense of self. Each of us is a unique, one of a kind. We have intelligence, creativity, power, responsibility, and a longing for relationship. We love, we grieve, we get angry and long for justice.
Are you inside your head right now looking out? As I drove across Las Vegas today listened to the loud music of Neil Diamond screaming, “I AM…I SAID”! This is the classic line of the Hebrew God – the great I AM. This is where we humans get the sense that we are real.

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5 thoughts on “I AM…I SAID

  1. “It is noteworthy that the Hebrew scriptures included the human failures of their most famous leaders. This would suggest that their history is accurate – not biased.”

    Let’s apply this logic to the Greek gods. The incest and immorality of the gods in Homer was embarrassing to Plutarch and Plato. This suggests that their history is accurate, not biased.

    • The descriptions of evil in the Hebrew Scriptures were regarding humans, several of whom were the kings and leaders. These fallible humans were never reinvented to be gods. Anthony, Thank you for always taking time to think about my blogs. Sorry I am not always able to keep up with things.

      • Hi Paula. No need to apologize! Thank you for posting your thought-provoking comments.

        An entire society believed that those Greek gods existed. Their existence is no less plausible than the existence of the angels mentioned in the New Testament.

        There is very much in the Hebrew scriptures that is clearly false. For instance, Jos 10:12-14 claims that the sun and the moon stood still.

        And there are many passages in the Hebrew scriptures that contradict the claim that the concept of equality is based on Jewish scripture. There are so many examples of this that it’s hard to choose among them. Anyhow, here is just one example:

        [A]ccording to https://gotquestions.org/Israel-Philistines.html:

        “[I]t was during the time of the Exodus that the Lord promised that the land of Israel would include the territory of the Philistines (Exodus 23:31); this promise meant that some kind of conflict would have to take place for Israel to displace the Philistines.

        When Joshua was old, he mentioned the land of the Philistines as one of the areas that still remained to be defeated by Israel (Joshua 13:1–3). Because the Philistines were not completely removed, Israel faced them as perennial enemies.”

        Here is an account from 1 Samuel 7:10-13 of the men of Israel slaughtering Philistines who were retreating after a defeat in battle:

        While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the LORD thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 1Sa 7:10

        The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar. 1Sa 7:11

        Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, [Ebenezer means stone of help] saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” 1Sa 7:12

        So the Philistines were subdued and they stopped invading Israel’s territory. Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines. 1Sa 7:13 [Why would the hand of the Lord be against the Philistines after they had stopped “invading Israel’s territory”? (which could simply mean “trying to reclaim their own territory.”)]

        Paul was trying to convert Greeks to Christianity. Of course, when communicating with other Christians who shared his beliefs, he did not regard non-Christians as being equal in any way to Christians who accepted his theology. Nor did he regard Christians who had different theological beliefs from his own as being in any way equal to him or his followers. Notably, the trinitarian doctrine had not yet been formulated during Paul’s lifetime.

        Very sincerely,
        Anthony

  2. As Richard Carrier notes:

    The castration of Attis and his priests was widely regarded by the ancient literary elite as disgusting and shameful, and thus was a definite cause of embarrassment for the cult, yet the claim and the practice continued unabated. No one would now argue that the god Attis must therefore have actually been castrated. The humiliation of Inanna, Queen of the Gods, was similarly embarrassing (her story even seems deliberately crafted to be), yet no one would argue from this that Inanna really was stripped naked, killed by a death spell, and nailed up in hell. The mythical Romulus murdered his own brother, which was then among the most despicable of crimes, and still he remained a revered god of the Roman people—and yet no one believes that ever happened, either.

    We simply have no clue why these shocking stories were
    invented, much less became the objects of veneration and
    symbolic emulation. Religions frequently rally around apparently
    embarrassing yet entirely false myths, often in defiance of common
    sense. The Jews were no exception. Contrary to current
    assumption, the execution of their own messiah was believed to
    have been predicted by Daniel (Daniel 9:26; even more clearly in
    the Greek), yet he was widely recognized as an inspired prophet of God. And the Gospels clearly regarded Daniel as an
    authority: Mark’s apocalypse (in chapter 13) and Matthew’s
    nativity and empty tomb stories all incorporate overt allusions to the Book of Daniel. Hence it would not matter if the execution
    of their messiah was embarrassing, for it already had the full prior
    authority of God and his prophets. Which would be just as much a
    reason to invent the detail, for such an invention would overcome
    any and all embarrassment at the fact by virtue of having clear
    scriptural endorsement from God. If you could prove God had
    said it would happen centuries in advance, then you will get far
    more traction inventing a confirmation of that prophecy than you
    would suffer from the fact that what God had ordained was in any sense embarrassing. Whether that’s what happened or not (I make
    no case here either way), the conclusion remains: sometimes
    embarrassing details are invented for a reason.

  3. I am not writing about the God of Israel, but the humans. My point was that they described their own leaders repeatedly making horrific mistakes. This would suggest that these were not rewritten history books trying to make folks look good.

    I will discuss the huge issue of whether the Jewish God was a horrible killer in another post.

    As to miracles, I also do not think that the sun stood still, nor do I believe life on earth was created in six literal days. Again, a topic for another day.

    Logically, the idea that we are all descendants of a common mother means we are equal. Equality never means we are equally smart or kind. It means we have equal rights.The Greeks did not believe this. Only folks with Greek ancestors were allowed to vote. I heard a very famous Jewish, atheist journalist state this – not something I came up with.

    Paul spoke of this at Athens where hundreds of intellectuals loved to gather to debate. These were not Christians. Curiously, there is no indication that a church was ever started in Athens. Looks like the audience Paul had were quite skeptical.

    As to prophecy, that is not the issue in this essay, nor will it be part of the next one. My point is only to describe the effect of various religions on the culture, for better or worse.

    I may not be able to reply further for a few days, but will try to keep up with things. Again, thanks for your input.

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