|Jul7-05, 07:13 AM||#18|
Why are there so many different beliefs/religions/philosophies?
Sorry to arrive so late, but I wanted to add something. There are many religions, but if you examine the words of their founders you will find that they all agreed with each other. Thus Jesus, Mohammed, the Buddha, the writers of the Upanishads, Lao-Tsu and the rest all say the same thing. It is only later, once their teachings have been sufficiently garbled, that distinct religions are created, generally by those who want to found institutions and take positions of power within them rather than seek the truth for themselves, as the founders of their religion invariably advised them to do.
|Jul7-05, 03:17 PM||#19|
P.S. I suggest that if the truth of the matter was plain and obvious, it would still be suppressed. People don't really want to know the answer to this question. What they really want to know is that they are the captains of their own destinies. Any other answer than that will be offensive and rejected.
|Jul11-05, 05:57 PM||#20|
|Jul11-05, 06:08 PM||#21|
interestingly enough, three of the top religions are actually the same one. Christianity=Judaism=Islam. they just have minor differences in details. christianity says the messiah has come while judaism and islam are still waitiing. islam has a prophet that the others don't. there are probably more differences, but at the core they are the same. they have all of the same prophets except islam has a few that only it has and christianity has a few that only it has.
a lot of stuff is taken from older religions as well. virgin bith=egyption mythology. flood=almost every religion ever.
|Jul11-05, 11:45 PM||#22|
Isn't that something like saying all speeches are the same because they have words, make a point, are given in public, have a speaker and an audience, are delivered by humans to humans, employ persuasion, have a start and an end, ...
Or, isn't an argument like the one you give -- which I credit for representing how many folks look at it -- of the same sort as saying man=dog because both men and dogs have symmetry of body, are carbon based, have mouths, eat, make noise, have blood, two ears and two eyes each, are air breathing with spines, even have cell structures that are alike...
That is, you argue from a perceived similarity to an equality: "Christianity=Judaism=Islam". But the devil is in the details, and that's where the equality gets ruined.
Let me probe along these lines a little more: Isn't it true that things can be similar in many respects, even as they remain fundamentally different? So much so, that one does not do justice to supposed similar things with reductionistic formulas? For example, you might not get a lot of Orthodox Jews saying that, at the end of the day, Judaism is really Islam and Christianity with different cloths. We could postulate that all the Orthodox Jews are wrong because they are too close to the religion to be objective (hey, what do they know about their own religion anyway), but that would be misplaced arrogance.
What's really funny about this, is that even within these three religions, there are serious religious debates. Consider the various interpretations of the Koran among the tribes in Iraq. There are some hard-core versions of that religion that have a difficult time identifying similarities among versions of Islam. So they war with one another while appealing to variations on the "same" religion.
Among Jews in Israel, an Orthodox Jew might not even identify with a Reformed Jew on many important issues: so much so that the two sects seem to have little in common (at least on big important things).
You are looking from the outside at three religions (unless you belong to all three), and you have picked what looks like to you to be similarities between them. But I suggest that even the things that appear similar to you may be wildly divergent after deep investigation. Another example: a Dispensational Arminian Christian Anabaptist may consider the Reformed Calvinistic Amillennial interpretation of the Messiah and his kingdom as heretical.
Here is how it would work in science: The untrained laity might look at the DNA of a gorilla and of a human and think the two species could mate. But a specialist in the field would see hundreds (no, thousands) of reasons why such simplistic analysis can't hold.
I suggest that your conclusions about these three religions might benefit from some tuning. Now, I don't think that your analysis is horrible or anything like that, but it may be knee-jerk, or even optimistic. But my own studies in multiple religions makes me think that the facts on the ground don't bear out your thesis.
|Jul12-05, 12:26 AM||#23|
Different religions reflect how men make truth in their own image and assign it to the heavenly realm. The heart of man is a factory for creating gods and images of gods that conform to their own ideas and ideals. For example, the gods of the philosophers became the unmoved thinking gods (which became the pattern for the West). The gods of the Greek heroes were the fighting gods. The gods of the Levantine farmers were fertility gods.
Whatever one's highest ideal, that thing likely makes it into the metaphysical realm -- and a religion is made. It grows when a people of a region/area share similar ideals and adopt the most fit of the locally invented religions (for various reasons). Like tribes and people groups that come and go, so do their religions. Tribes that survive bring their religion with them. Nations and tribes that die, die with their religions. The Egyptian religion died after conquest. Ancient Middle Eastern religions died after conquests and perhaps after natural disasters (I can't think of an instance of this last one).
Ultimately, to indirectly quote one thinker, men cast their highest hopes and dreams into the metaphysical realm and call it god. Why? Because they love to create truth that conforms to their own circumstances and identities.
|Jul12-05, 12:33 AM||#24|
|Jul12-05, 03:58 AM||#25|
Sufis consider themselves the true followers of Mohammed, not the theists, just as the Christian mystics, the Essenes, Gnostics etc, see themselves as the true followers of Christ, and you'd have a job identifying any point of difference between these two groups. It's a shame that science developed in opposition to official institutional Christian theology in Europe because for many Christians, and many others, the official dogma of the institution of the Church bears little relation to Jesus's teachings, and it has left science with a naive view of Christianity, a straw man for an opponent.
This little Zen tale says it all I think.
When the spiritual teacher and his disciples began their evening meditation, the cat who lived in the monastery made such noise that it distracted them. So the teacher ordered that the cat be tied up during the evening practice. Years later, when the teacher died, the cat continued to be tied up during the meditation session. And when the cat eventually died, another cat was brought to the monastery and tied up. Centuries later, learned descendants of the spiritual teacher wrote scholarly treatises about the religious significance of tying up a cat for meditation practice.
|Jul12-05, 04:00 AM||#26|
|Jul12-05, 11:05 AM||#27|
Clement of Alexandria spends a great deal of time distinguishing the Christian religion from Greek and Roman religions.
Many early Christians writers did not see their religion as compatible with other religions. Not even their closest relative: Judaism. Read Marcian, for example. He had a profound impact on the early church, and he thought the deity of the Hebrews was a strange deity unworthy of worship.
At the core, belief in the divine, is different. Why does it matter? What does anyone gain by saying: oh, they are just the same? I don’t see how we have made any progress here by flattening all the religions this way. Especially when the facts on the ground don’t match our musings: Assyrian Christians in Mosel (the center of the Christian population in Iraq) are dying (because of their beliefs) at the hands of Iraqi religious followers. If the religions were the same, this would not be the case. Palestinians and Jews would not be killing each other if their religions were the same. If they were the same, they’d be the same, and there would be no way to decide who to kill or whose land to take!
If we go to the founding documents of Christianity, those which spread widely and were used earliest by the religion, we get a picture of Jesus not compatible with other religions. The claims of Jesus in the most numerous and the earliest accounts are exclusive claims.
Your Zen story has a lot of truth in it, but it is a warning about misapplied religions traditions. I am just not sure that it applies to deciding what are core beliefs between religions. Again, like I said in an earlier post, the devil is in the details.
|Jul12-05, 02:24 PM||#28|
Warning - this is ridiculously long post. Stop where you like.
For example: Jesus says "Bessed is he whose beginning is before he came into being" - (the banned and 'mystical' Gospel of Thomas). Mohammed says "Die before your death". These two remarks mean the same thing, and that they both appear paradoxical is not a coincidence. Related is Lao-Tsu's comment "Being is born of non-being."
Mary is considered by many to be the one refered to in early texts as as Jesus's favourite disciple, but her Gospel was deemed heretical and destroyed on sight after the official record was completed. (A fragment survives). Some conclude that it was for sexist reasons that she was demoted to being a prostitute with nothing to say, but others conclude it was because her Gospel agrees with the Gospel of Thomas, The Essene Gospels and so on.
Many scholars argue that Jesus was an Essene, a sect of which was the Nazirenes. This is partly because no place called Nazareth exists in the historical records, and partly on the basis of his teaching, which is consistent with Essenism, Taoism, Buddhism and the other 'mystical' religions. Modern Essenes know him as 'Jesus the Nazirene'.
Here are a few quotes that seem relevant.
"’Religion’ is a European word, and it is a European convention which has led to its employment as a general term to embrace certain human interests all the world over. In latin it was usually spelt ‘rel(l)igio’, and from very early times scholars have been divided as to its basic meaning. Of Roman writers Cicero held that it came from a root ‘leg-’, meaning ‘to take up, gather, count, or observe’, i.e. ‘to observe the signs of a Divine communication or "to read the omens". Servius, on the other hand, held that it came from another root, ‘lig-’, ‘to bind’, so that ‘religio’ meant ‘a relationship’, i.e. ‘a communion between the human and the Super-Human’. Subsequently it seems to have carried both meanings. St. Augustine the Great uses it in both senses. It is, however, most likely that the earlier one (whether or not we dislike it) was the original, since it is the exact couterpart of a Greek word (parateresis) which means ‘the scrupulous observation of omens and the performance of ritual’. Most significantly the historical Jesus is reported as saying ‘the Kingdom of God cometh not with parateresis’, which may mean ‘not by looking for omens will you discern its approach’, or ‘not by ritual observance will you bring it nearer’. He adds ‘the Kingdom of God is entos humon’, which may be interpreted as ‘already realised in your midst’, or as ‘realised inwardly, and not by outward ceremonies’."
Penguin, London (1962) (p 11)
"Mysticism is a term which has come into common use from about the year 1900 onwards. It has since then become terribly overworked. The term itself is derived from a Greek word, mustes, which means a person who has been admitted to secret knowledge of the realities of life and death. It is only that those who have once attained to such a state should desire to prolong it or to reproduce it at intervals. It has been suggested that all mystics, whether Christian, Moslem, Hindu or Buddhist, are agreed on a few fundamentals: (1) that all division and separateness is unreal, and that the universe is a single indivisible unity; (2) that evil is illusory, and that the illusion arises through regarding a part of the universe as self-subsistent; (3) that time is unreal, and that reality is eternal, not in the sense of being everlasting, but in the sense of being out of time."
A. C. Bouquet
Penguin, London (1962) (p 288)
"Again, the mystics of many centuries, independently, yet in perfect harmony with each other (somewhat like the particles in an ideal gas) have described, each of them, the unique experience of his or her life in terms that can be condensed in the phrase: DEUS FACTUS SUM (I have become God).
'The I That Is God'
In Ken Wilbur
"DEUS FACTUS SUM." This is the truth at the core of religions. When Jesus says: "Die before your death", he means, in this other non-official interpretation, that underneath our mortal and transitory self is our true Self, and this is, putting it theistically, God.
When he says "The Kingdom of Heaven is within," he means, according to an Essene or a Buddhist, say, precisely the same thing, that within each of us is a state of consciousness that is fundamental, and which does not die. To know this requires exploring beyond ordinary mortal experience, thus Mohammed's "Die before your death". In other words, find out what it's like before it happens.
This is what lies behind the cat story, why Zen teachers warn against mistaking worship and ritual for experiential substance, and against tying up cats instead of meditating. Presumably for the same reason Mohammed warns "An hour's contemplation is worth a year's worship". This would be a strange thing for a theist to say. The trouble with worship is that it tends to involve the worshipper imagining that God is some objective entity apart from oneself, ("Seek not Lo here or Lo there" as Jesus puts it), which leads the worshipper in precisely the wrong direction.
Just for interest and comparison here are a few more. I hope this isn't too much. (I've got some time on my hands - and this is one of my area of interest - don't feel obliged to respond at length). They all say much the same thing. Btw I'm not trying to batter you into submission - honest - just thought it would be helpful to give a wide sample of views.
"This Kingdom is seated properly in the innermost recesses of the spirit. When the powers of the senses and the powers of the reason are gathered up into the very centre of the man’s being - the unseen depths of his spirit, wherein lies the image of God - and thus he flings himself into the divine abyss… where [everything] is still, full of mystery and empty. There is nothing there but the pure Godhead. Nothing alien, no creature, no image, no form ever penetrated there."
Johannes Tauler (14th century)
In Guy Claxton
Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind
"For some time I would seek Him yet would find my self. Now I seek my self and find Him."
Khwajah 'Abdallah al-Ansari. In a short treatise in Persian titled "Discourses" (Maqulat)
"Because every thought enters the heart in the form of a mental image of some sensible object, the blessed light of the Divinity will illumine the heart only when the heart is completely free from all form. Indeed, this light reveals itself to the pure intellect in the measure to which the intellect is purged of all concepts".
St. Hesychios the Priest
On Watchfulness and Holiness
"… There is obviously only one alternative, namely the unification of minds or consciousnesses. Their multiplicity is only apparent, in truth, there is only one mind. This is the doctrine of the Upanishads. And not only the Upanishads. The mystically experienced union with God regularly entails this attitude unless it is opposed by strong existing prejudices;…"
The Oneness of Mind
In Ken Wilbur
Quantum Questions ( p 84)
"Spiritual seekers are lost children in a conceptual forest created by their own imagination".
The Ultimate Understanding
"OK. To begin at the beginning. The basic, most fundamental thing about Buddhism is the so-called enlightenment experience, which is our birthright, our true nature. It is utterly possible and accessible. It’s not just something Buddha experienced; many have realized enlightenment throughout the ages. That’s what all of this business is about, whether you call it Buddhism, the wisdom traditions, or the Perennial Philosophy. Enlightenment, spiritual awakening, illumination, self-realization, satori — these are all more or less synonyms. It means recognizing who and what we are. It means discovering or realizing our true nature. It is coming home; it is not finding something that we never had before. It is right here, always; we are usually elsewhere! It is here, even now."
Lama Surya Das
"The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the Kingdom of God is within you."
Gospel of Thomas
‘What shall I do to be answered?’
El Shah answered:
‘You shall avoid those who imagine themselves to be the People of Salvation. They think that they are saved, or that they have the means to save. In reality, they are all but lost.
‘These are the people, like today’s Magians, Jews and Christians, who recite dramatic tales, threaten and cajole many times in succession with the same admonitions, They cry out that you must become committed to their creed.
‘The result of this is an imitation, a sentimentalist. Anyone can be "given" this spurious type of belief, and can be made to feel that it is real faith.
‘But this is not the original Way of Zoroaster, of Moses, of Jesus. It is the method discovered by desperate men for the inclusion in their ranks of large numbers."
Hazrat Bahaudin Naqshband (revered Sufi master)
In Idries Shah
Caravan of Dreams
Finally a couple of general comment on religious differences from Sufism.
"You may follow one stream. Realize that it leads to the Ocean. Do not mistake the stream for the Ocean."
Sentences of the Khajagan
"There is one God and one truth, one religion and one mysticism. Call it Sufism or Christianity or Hinduism or Buddhism, whatever you wish. As God cannot be divided, so mysticism cannot be divided. It is an error when a person says, "My religion is different from yours." He does not know what religion means. Neither can there be many mysticisms, just as there cannot be many wisdoms; there is only one wisdom. It is an error of mankind to say, "This is eastern and that is western." This only shows lack of wisdom.
From The Message through Inayat Khan.
Adapted from talks given in the early 1900's.
|Jul13-05, 12:34 AM||#29|
Before I start, I apologize ahead of time for the technical nature of this post.
Thanks Canute for your last letter, it was well constructed and explained your position. I only have time to reply to one small point. But by concentrating on a point that is representative of our methodological differences, I hope that you will deduce the lines along which I would form an extended reply.
1) Clement of Rome in one of the earliest post-canonical texts (written AD 90 if I recall) quotes heavily from Matthew. I am using the Greek and English edition from Harvard's Loeb Library. Matthew is already available and being quoted before the second century. Thomas has no such claim.
2) The Gospel of Thomas is preserved in one single Coptic text from AD 340 (Coptic is the last known written stage of Egyptian). The GoT is a collection of 114 sayings. You are saying that the canonical Greek texts from the first century are based off of these texts that are known only in texts 300 years removed from the first century action. Are we to believe that a large collection of thousands of verses -- the Greek canon -- with all of its narratives, derives from a small set of sayings?
3) Ahh, but The Gospel of Thomas is not just in Coptic. It has three earlier Greek manuscripts from AD ~150 (all three found in Egypt). My point here is that this Gospel of Thomas is supposedly foundational to the other gospels, but in the Greek it only survives in three fragments (and those far removed in time from the first century, and only found in Egypt at Oxyrhynchus)? It's too much to accept that these form the real core, and the canonical gospels are the derivatives.
Let me put this third point into sharper perspective by including the actual fragments below, in their entirety -- translated from the Greek (where holes are in the three Greek manuscripts, you'll find "[...]" in the translations). I am giving the fragments in full! And from this small set (smaller than my own post) some postulate that the other canonical Gospels are derived? hmmm?!
Papyrus Oxyrhynchus #654:
These are the [...] sayings [...] the living Jesus [sp]oke a[...] is also Thomas [...] And he said, "[...]ion of the[se] sayings will not taste [...]." [...] "Let the one seek[...] not stop [...] he finds. And when he find[.. mar]veling he will reign, an[d ...] he will [....]” J[esus] said, "[...] those pulling you [...] the kingdom is in the sk[y,]' the birds of the sk[y ... t]hat it [is] beneath the ground, the fish of the se[a ... preced]ing you. And the king[dom ...] [i]s within you [...] knows [...] find this [...] know yourselves [...] you are [...] of the l[iving] father. [...] you will [...] know yourselves, [...] in [...] and you are the pov[erty.]" [...] "A per[son ...] will not hesitate to ask a ch[ild ...] old about his place in [...] he will [...] For many of the [...] will be [...] many of the last will be first and they [...]" Jesus said, "[... fr]ont of your face and [...] from you [...] revealed [...] is [...] hidden that [...] not [...] and [...] buried that [...] n[ot ...]" [... qu]estioned him [... s]aid, "How [...] fast [...] should we [...] and how [... a]nd what [...] observe?" Jesus said, "[...] you [...], do not do [... t]he tru[t]h. [...]" [bl]esse[d] is [ . . . ] [it] is [ . . . l]ight [ . . . w]orld [ . . . i]t is [ . . . ]
". . . and then you will see clearly to cast out the speck that is in your brother’s eye." Jesus said, "If you do not fast from the world, you will not find the kingdom of God. And if you do not keep the sabbath a sabbath, you will not see the father." Jesus said, "I s[t]ood in the midst of the world and in the flesh I appeared to them. I found everyone drunk and none thirsty among them. My soul worries about the children of humanity because they are blind in thei[r] hearts and [...] do [...] see." "[. . .he dwells in th]i[s] poverty." [... sa]id, "... there are [...] God. And [w]here there is only [...], I say, I am with hi[m]. Li[f]t the stone and there you will find me. Split the wood and I am there." Jesus said, "A prophet is not acceptable in h[i]s homeland. Nor does a physican perform healings for those who know him." Jesus said, "A city that has been built and established on the summit of a high [m]ountain can neither fa[l]l nor be hi[d]den." Jesus said, “What you hear [i]n your one ear . . ." [...]rom early u[ntil ...] from [... m]orning. Worry neither [... y]our [...] what [...] will eat, [...] for [...] what you will wear. [...] gr[ea]ter than the [...] wh[ich n]either ca[r]d nor [...]. When you have [...], what do [...]? Who can add to your time of life? [... w]ill give you your clothing."
His disciples said to him, "When will you be visible to us? And when will we see you?" He said, "When you undress and are not ashamed." [...] of [...] hi[d ...] go in, [...] they [...] trying to go [...] however, [...] a[... i]nnocen[t ... do]v[es.]"
|Jul13-05, 10:54 AM||#30|
let's not get into religious detail, and just stay on topic and answer the question in a general sense.
|Jul13-05, 11:07 AM||#31|
Oh dear, I see that I posted nonsense. Most of what I said about Thomas being a source Gopel is rubbish, as you point out. A thousand pardons. I'm an idiot. Much of what I wrote applied not to Thomas but to the Gospel of the Holy Twelve.
However, thanks for your interesting post. For all I know it's all true so I will assume that it is. Yes, I do see your line of argument. And it successfully demolishes my assertion that the Gospel of Thomas was a source text. I was talking nonsense.
However, my view remains unchanged. I do not base this view on the scholarship of historians, archeologists and the like, or at least only slightly, but rather on the content of the texts. If I give an extreme analogy you'll see what I mean.
If you found a old and undated text with no provenance in which it was stated that f=ma, you would immediately know something about its author, the period in which it was written and so on. You would also know that the author knew what he was talking about. If you later discovered that it had been found in Cambridge and carbon dated to the early eighteenth century you wouldn't have much trouble identifying its author. And even if you were wrong about this f would still equal ma.
By contrast, if you found a text from the same place and period which stated that the sun orbited the earth and was signed Isaac Newton, you might suspect that something was amiss.
To partly correct my earlier idiocy here is a extract from a site devoted to discussion of the early Gospels. I would not argue that it is authoritative. I wouldn't know, not being an authority myself. It's certainly not disinterested. However in its implications for the New Testament and current Church doctrine I share the author's view entirely, leaving aside the preachy bits.
The Gospel of the Holy Twelve
This "Gospel of the Holy Twelve" (Evangelists) of the Christian Dispensation is one of the most ancient and complete of early Christian fragments, preserved in one of the Monasteries of the Buddhist monks in Tibet, where it was hidden by some of the Essene community for safety from the hands of corrupters and now for the first time translated from the Aramaic. The contents clearly show it to be an early Essenian writing. This ancient community of the Jewish Church called Yessenes, Iessenes, Nazarites, or Nazirs, strongly resembling the Therapeutae, and the Buddhists, who practised community of goods, daily ablutions, daily worship, and renounced flesh eating, and strong drink and the sacrifice of animals, and the doctrine of "atonement" for the sins of some by the vicarious and involuntary suffering of others, as held by the Pharisees and Sadducees, and by the heathen before them; thus preparing the way for those Orders and Communities of men and women which have since arisen throughout the East and West, like cities set on hill, to shew the more perfect way to Christians living. in the world, notably those of S. Basil in the East, and S. Benedict in the West, and, with them, the Carthusians and the Franciscans, and before them all, the Carmelites (who had their headquarters on Mount Carmel) to whom they are similar in their customs, and even their dress, if not altogether identical with them, tracing their origin to Elias, abstaining from all flesh meats and strong drinks, whose symbol was, it is said, an iron cross in a circle, and among the animals, the Lamb and the Dove their special emblems. See Philo (in Loco) or Kitto's Cyclopaedia (art, Essenes), also Arthur Lillie's "Christianity and Buddhism."
That the contents of this most ancient Gospel set forth a higher moral and religious teaching, as the basis of the Christian Church, than any other that has come down to us, requires but the reading of eyes divested of prejudice, and the perception of a regenerate heart, and intelligent mind, to receive and appreciate. The giving of the New Law on the Holy Mount is a scene that, once read, can never be forgotten, though it was not "with blackness and thunder and the sound of the trump."
lnasmuch as this Gospel touches on many questions of vital moment now discussed in this age, and little known in those times, it may well be termed par excellence the prophetic and ethical Gospel, and critics and scholars will remember that the writings of Justin Martyn, Papias and others, distinctly speak of, and quote from, the "Gospel of the Hebrews " known otherwise as "the Gospel of the Twelve Apostles " and the "Gospel of the Nazarites," used then, chiefly in the Church at Jerusalem, and the original of Matthew's Gospel in Hebrew which we have in Greek. This identifies it as the original Gospel from which the others were more or less closely copied, with numerous variations and important omissions by accident, or design, to suit the corrupt taste of the worldly.
As this Gospel was not addressed to the heathen, but chiefly to the true followers of Iesus, in the early days of the Church of Jerusalem, so now it is sent to modern Christians who have fallen into worse than heathen darkness, if perchance it may be received by a few men and women of "Peace and Goodwill" to whom "Peace on Earth" was originally announced. It is quite immaterial to the Editors whether it be or be not received, though to them who reject or ignore it, it may be otherwise.
|Jul13-05, 01:42 PM||#32|
|Jul13-05, 02:26 PM||#33|
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