History of World Religions
The World’s major religions, in terms of numbers of followers, divide into two primary belief systems:
- the Abrahamic Religions
- and Hinduism / Buddhism.
Religions that owe their origins to Abraham are called Abrahamic faiths. Abraham lived in the Middle East about 4000 years ago. Approximately 3.75 Billion of the world population of 7.5 Billion people are Abrahamic. There are three such faiths.
* Judaism 14 Million
* Christianity 2.25 Billion (1.15 Billion of these are Catholic)
* Islam 1.5 Billion
All three use the Old Testament with varying interpretations as their founding belief system and knowledge about God i.e. they owe their faith allegiance to the God of Abraham.
After the destruction of the world by the flood over 6000 years ago, Noah and his descendants re-populated the earth. Many generations later the people, once again, turned away from God and started to build the Tower of Babel, which in their pride they declared would allow them to reach heaven.
God scattered them to the four corners of the world all speaking in different languages. God later made a covenant with Abraham that, in return for his faithfulness to God, he would make his descendants as numerous as the stars of the sky. 3.75 Billion - over half the population of the world, is a lot of people!
The Split between Judaism and Islam:
Abraham’s wife Sarai was barren into their very late years even though God had promised Abraham his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Abraham became impatient and had a son with an Egyptian slave girl called Hagar, they called him Ishmael. Some years later Sarai bore him a son, as God had promised. They called him Isaac. Tension arose between Sarah and Hagar over inheritance rights, so Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away into the desert.
Isaac became the father of the Jewish nation and Ishmael became the father of the Arab nations.
The beginning of Christianity
Jesus was a descendant of the great King David, who was a descendant of Isaac, who was Abraham’s son. King David ruled the Jewish nation 1000 years before the birth of Jesus, so Jesus was a Jew. The Judaic belief system and practice of Torah (Old Testament) was that of a God of Laws with an absolute focus on the letter of the law as opposed to the spirit.
Jesus came teaching an interpretation and practice that focused on the spirit of the law as opposed to the letter. Love of God and Love of Neighbour being the supreme commandments.
This teaching was bitterly opposed by the leaders of the Jewish communities, the Scribes and the Pharisees who saw it as a direct challenge to their authority as teachers and minders of the Law. This conflict eventually led to the execution of Jesus by the Jewish / Roman authorities. This rejection of Jesus as the Messiah by the Jewish nation led to the founding of Christianity by his Apostles and disciples.
An Exploration of the Background to the New Testament:
We are not the audience for which the New Testament was written initially. Therefore in order to appreciate, the environment into which Jesus came, to deliver his message of salvation. It is important to seek to understand, the religious, political and cultural background, of Judaism and the Greco/Roman influences, prior to and in the times of Jesus. A good place to start is to review the context of the New Testament.
The Bible: The New Testament is the second part of the Christian bible, which along with the Old Testament is considered by Christians, to be the sacred canon of Scripture. The Old Testament is comprised of thirty nine books recognised by the Christian and Jewish faiths (Catholic Church includes an additional seven books in its canon). These cover the period from Genesis up to about one century after the death of Jesus, when the canon of the Old Testament was defined. They detail interactions and writings through the prophets and other Jewish historical figures, such as Abraham, Elijah, , Isaiah, Moses, David, and Solomon down to the time of Jesus. They describe important events in the covenant relationship Israel has with God. In summary, creation, destruction of the world through flood, exodus from Egypt, destruction of the temple and Babalyoninan captivity, conquest of Palestine by Alexander and subsequent re -conquest by the Romans 64 years before the birth of Jesus. For Christians the Old Testament anticipates the coming of Christ. This idea is regularly developed in the New Testament.
THE NEW TESTAMENT:
‘The New Testament contains twenty seven books. The first four books the Gospels; written in Greek, between thirty five and seventy years after the death of Jesus. Tell the story of his birth, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection. ... Next the Acts, portray the spread of Christianity through the work of his Apostles. ... Followed by the “epistles” or letters written by Christian leaders (primarily Paul) to various communities, provide doctrinal teaching and moral guidance. It concludes with the Book of Revelation, written by a prophet called John, which represents a vision of the end of history providing a glimpse of heaven and the New Jerusalem’.
Key Events in the History of Israel: (All dates BCE).
‘As far as present knowledge goes, human civilization started in the Bible lands encompassing Palestine, Turkey and modern day Iran. ... This started somewhere around 5000 with the move from a nomadic to an agricultural life style.... Old Testament history begins after this starting with the Patriarchal and Judges periods.... The Philistines are first recorded in the land of Palestine in 1200(which was later named after them) about the same time as Israel began its conquest’.
‘The Monarchy in Israel started with Saul around 1000. David was Saul’s successor, he is credited with bringing Israel to the state of an empire and his reign represents the “glory days “of Israel’. ‘Solomon succeeds David and builds the temple in Jerusalem in the 900s. The temple is destroyed in 587 by Nebuchadnezzar, when all Jewish educated and leadership figures are held in captivity in Babylon. Palestine is re conquered by Alexander in 332. The Maccabees re-establish Israelite autonomy and re-concentrate the temple in 164. Roman rule of Palestine begins with Pompey’s entry into Jerusalem in 64’. Herod the great was appointed king of the Jews in 40. Herod’s son Antipas was appointed ruler of Galilee in 4.
Judaic Culture and Political Background, The primary political and cultural background into which Jesus was born and lived his life was Judaic. He was born to Jewish parents and raised in a Jewish culture. The most significant influence in the Judaic way of life revolved around their covenant relationship with God. The major points of influence were the Law, the Temple and the Land. The Old Testament outlined the recommended way of living for Jews in great detail, from business dealings, living with ones neighbours through dietary guidance to spiritual rituals, prayers etc. The land was held to be sacred having being gifted from God. The boundaries of the land were defined as from Dan to Beersheba with the river Jordan seen as the vital spine. The temple in Jerusalem was the most holy place for all Jews.
‘It was during the rule of the Hasmoneans (150.-50 B.C.E.) that various Jewish sects emerged. The three primary sects were the Pharisees, Sadducees and the Essenes While small in overall numbers averaging 5000 per sect. Each in their own way exerted a significant influence on the culture and politics of the time. The Pharisees emerged as a sect during the Macabean period as a group of devout Jews intent above all else on keeping the entire will of God. Rather than accepting the culture and religion of the Greeks. During the time of Jesus the Sadducees were the real power players in Palestine. They were by and large members of the Jewish aristocracy in Jerusalem who were closely connected with the Jewish priesthood in charge of the Temple cult. They were conciliatory and cooperative with the Roman governor. The local Jewish council commonly called the Sanhedrin, which came together to decide local affairs, was made up principally of Sadducees. The Essenes are not mentioned in the New Testament but we are well informed of their culture and beliefs from the famous Dead Sea Scrolls. They lived in the wilderness area near the Western shore of the Dead Sea. Believing that the Jews in Jerusalem had gone astray they decided to start their own community in which they could keep the Mosaic Law rigorously. They did so believing the apocalypse of the end time to be imminent’.
Western Influences, outside of these sects. ‘Jews in Judea in the time of Jesus were in the grip of a cultural conflict. Some as the New Testament shows ,were scrupulous in the observance of their religion. But many were westernized in their thinking, since they belonged to what was perhaps the tenth generation of Jews influenced by Hellenism’.
Greco – Roman Culture and Political Background:
‘The term Greco- Roman is used to describe the lands surrounding the Mediterranean, from the time of Alexander the Great 356B.C.E. through the first three centuries of the Roman Empire.... Alexander was determined to impress a type of cultural and political unity based on Greek culture on the conquered lands. The Roman Empire arose in the context of the Hellenistic world and took full advantage of its unity. Palestine was conquered by Roman General Pompey in 63B.C.E. The language of the empire was Greek and Latin. All religions in the Greco –Roman world outside Judaism were Polytheistic ’.
The Jews now under Roman rule were feverishly anticipating a Messiah, based on an image of the “glory days” of King David’s reign. With a prophet similar to Elijah expected as his forerunner.
This policy of Hellenization combined with the advanced infrastructural systems of the Roman Empire, clashing head on with the very strong cultural and religious identity of Judaism. Had a very powerful range of impacts on the world into which Jesus started to preach his message. Some of these exerted very negative and some positive influences on the reception and spread of the message of Jesus:
Summary: Of These Influences on the Message of Jesus.
The negative influences were most manifest in the lack of reception of the message of Jesus by the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The Pharisees had become so ingrained in the minusee of observance of the law. They appeared unable to hear or understand the message of God, as firstly a God of love as preached by Jesus, eventually resulting in complete polarisation between them and Jesus. The Sadducees appeared to be so preoccupied in maintaining their priestly stature and to be seen to be providing a non rebellious leadership to the Roman overlords that again polarisation between them and Jesus became inevitable.
Adding to the factors contributing to this polarisation was the appearance that on occasions in matters relating to the’ Temple and the Torah Jesus seemed to upstage one and outflank the other’. Palestine was divided into three major regions Judea, Galilee and Samaria. ‘A preacher coming from and educated in the rural non cosmopolitan Galilee as Jesus was, would have little status or credibility amongst the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jerusalem’.
The positive influences which facilitated the relatively fast reception and universal spread of the message of Jesus were. The advanced infrastructure, education and legal systems of the Roman Empire. The Greek based Platonic philosophical system. The preaching of John the Baptist along the Jordan, proclaiming salvation and the coming of the Messiah. The genre of the New Testament writings, introduced by Mark in the Gospels and Paul in the Letters. Key was the example of, Our Blessed Mother, Peter, John, all of the apostles and early disciples.
‘And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it Amen’.
One Solitary Life:
He was born in a stable, in an obscure village,
the child of a peasant woman.
He worked in a carpenter’s shop until He was thirty.
From there He travelled less than 200 miles.
He never wrote a book. He never held an office.
He never had a family or owned a home.
He did none of the things one usually associates with greatness.
He became a nomadic preacher.
He was only thirty-three when the tide of popular opinion
turned against Him.
He was betrayed by a close friend, and His other friends ran away.
He was turned over to His enemies and went through the mockery of a trial.
He was unjustly condemned to death, crucified on a cross between two thieves
on a hill overlooking the town dump.
And, when he died, was laid in a borrowed grave,
through the pity of a friend.
Twenty centuries have come and gone,
all the armies that ever marched,
all the navies that ever sailed,
all the parliaments that ever sat
and all the kings that ever reigned,
have not affected the life of man on this earth
as that one solitary life.
An adaptation of a sermon by Dr James Allan Francis in “The Real Jesus and Other Sermons”
s in “The Real Jesus and Other Sermons”
Founding of Islam
600 years after the death of Jesus, Mohamad, as a descendant of Ishmael, claimed to have visions / messages from God proclaiming that the descendants of Ishmael in the nation of Islam were the true inheritors of God’s covenant with Abraham, not the Jewish nation, nor Christianity which they see as arising from Judaism.
Islam teaches that there is only one God (Allah), and that Muhammad is a messenger of God. It is the world's second-largest religion with over 1.9 billion followers or 24.4% of the world's population commonly known as Muslims. Muslims make up a majority of the population in 50 countries Islam teaches that God is merciful, all-powerful, and unique, and has guided mankind through prophets, revealed scriptures and natural signs[ The primary scriptures of Islam are the Quran, believed to be the verbatim word of God, and the teachings and normative examples called the sunnah, composed of accounts called hadith
Muslims believe that Islam is the complete and universal version of a primordial faith that was revealed many times before through prophets including Adam, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, and the Quran in its Arabic to be the unaltered and final revelation of God. Like other Abrahamic religions, Islam also teaches a final judgment with the righteous rewarded in paradise and unrighteous punished in hell. Religious concepts and practices include the Five Pillars of Islam, which are obligatory acts of worship, and following Islamic law (sharia), which touches on virtually every aspect of life and society, from banking and welfare to women and the environment. The cities of Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem are home to the three holiest sites in Islam
Aside from the theological narrative, Islam is historically believed to have originated in the early 7th century CE in Mecca, and by the 8th century the Umayyad Caliphate extended from Iberia in the west to the Indus River in the east. The Islamic Golden Age refers to the period traditionally dated from the 8th century to the 13th century, during the Abbasid Caliphate, when much of the historically was experiencing and cultural flourishing later followed by the Era of the Islamic Gunpowder’s, the economies of the particularly the Safavid Dynasty and the proto industrialised Mughal Empire.
Most Muslims are of one of two denominations; Sunni (75–90%) or Shia (10-20%). About 13% of Muslims live in Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority country in the world.;20% in the Middle East – North Africa region where it is the dominant religion in the region .15% live in in Sub-Saharan Africa. 31% in South Asia this being the largest population of Muslims in the world:. Sizeable Muslim communities are also found in the Americas, Caucasus, Central Asia, China, Europe, Mainland Southeast Asia, Philippines, and Russia.Islam is the fastest-growing major religion in the world
Hinduism is one of the world’s oldest religions, according to many scholars, with roots and customs dating back more than 4,000 years. Today, with about 900 million followers, Hinduism is the third-largest religion behind Christianity and Islam. Roughly 95% of the world’s Hindus live in India. Because the religion has no specific founder, it’s difficult to trace its origins and history.
900 Million Profess to Hinduism as their belief system.
ORIGINS OF HINDUISM
Most scholars believe Hinduism formally started somewhere between 2300 BC and 1500 BC in the Indus Valley, near modern-day Pakistan. But many Hindus argue that their faith is timeless and has always existed. Unlike other religions, Hinduism has no one founder but is instead a fusion of various beliefs.
Around 1500 BC, the Indo-Aryan people migrated to the Indus Valley, and their language and culture blended with that of the indigenous people living in the region. There’s some debate over who influenced who more during this time. The period when the Vedas were composed became known as the “Vedic Period” and lasted from about 1500 BC to 500 BC. Rituals, such as sacrifices and chanting, were common in the Vedic Period.
The Epic, Puranic and Classic Periods took place between 500 BC and 500 AD. Hindus began to emphasize the worship of deities, especially Vishnu, Shiva and Devi.
The concept of dharma was introduced in new texts, and other faiths, such as Buddhism and Jainism, spread rapidly.
Hindus value many sacred writings as opposed to one holy book. The primary texts, known as The Vedas, were composed around 1500 BC. This collection of sacred verses and hymns was written in Sanskrit and contains revelations received by ancient saints and sages.
MEDIEVAL AND MODERN HINDU HISTORY
The Medieval Period of Hinduism lasted from about 500 to 1500 AD. New texts emerged, and poet saints recorded their spiritual sentiments during this time. In the 7th century, Muslim Arabs began invading areas in India. During parts of the Muslim Period, which lasted from about 1200 to 1757, Hindus were restricted from worshipping their deities and some temples were destroyed.
Some basic Hindu concepts include:
* Hinduism embraces many religious ideas. For this reason, it’s sometimes referred to as a “way of life” or a “family of religions,” as opposed to a single, organized religion.
* Most forms of Hinduism are henotheistic, which means they worship a single deity, known as “Brahman,” but still recognize other gods and goddesses. Followers believe there are multiple paths to reaching their god.
* Hindus believe in the doctrines of samsara (the continuous cycle of life, death, and reincarnation) and karma (the universal law of cause and effect).
* One of the key thoughts of Hinduism is “atman,” or the belief in soul. This philosophy holds that living creatures have a soul, and they’re all part of the supreme soul. The goal is to achieve “moksha,” or salvation, which ends the cycle of rebirths to become part of the absolute soul.
* One fundamental principle of the religion is the idea that people’s actions and thoughts directly determine their current life and future lives.
* Hindus strive to achieve dharma, which is a code of living that emphasizes good conduct and morality.
* The Om and Swastika are symbols of Hinduism. The Swastika, which represents good luck, later became associated with evil when Germany’s Nazi Party made it their symbol in 1920.
* Hindus revere all living creatures and consider the cow a sacred animal.
* Food is an important part of life for Hindus. Most don’t eat beef or pork, and many are vegetarians.
* Hinduism is closely related to other Indian religions, including Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism.
Between 1757 and 1848, the British controlled India. At first, the new rulers allowed Hindus to practice their religion without interference. But later, Christian missionaries sought to convert and westernize the people. Many reformers emerged during the British Period. The well-known politician and peace activist, Mahatma Gandhi, led a movement that pushed for India’s independence. The partition of India occurred in 1947, and Gandhi was assassinated in 1948. British India was split into what is now India and Pakistan, and Hinduism became the major religion of India.
Starting in the 1960s, many Hindus migrated to North America and Britain, spreading their faith and philosophies to the western world.
The caste system is a social hierarchy in India that divides Hindus based on their karma and dharma. Many scholars believe the system dates back more than 3,000 years.
The four main castes (in order of prominence) include:
1. Brahmin: the intellectual and spiritual leaders
2. Kshatriyas: the protectors and public servants of society
3. Vaisyas: the skilful producers
4. Shudras: the unskilled labourers
Many subcategories also exist within each caste. The “untouchables” are a class of citizens that are outside the caste system and considered to be in the lowest level of the societal hierarchy.
For centuries, the caste system determined every aspect of a person’s social, professional and religious status in India. When India became an independent nation, its constitution banned discrimination based on caste. Today, the caste system still exists in India but is loosely followed. Many of the old customs are overlooked, but some traditions, such as only marrying within a specific caste, are still embraced.
History of Hinduism, BBC
Hinduism Fast Facts, CNN
What are the Basic Beliefs of Hinduism, Smithsonian Institution
Hinduism: The World’s Third Largest Religion, www.religioustolerance.org
Samsara: Hinduism, Berkley Centre for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University
400 Million profess to Buddhism as their belief system.
What is Buddhism?
The founder of Buddhism was Buddha Shakyamuni who lived and taught in India some 2.500 years ago. Since then, millions of people around the world have followed the pure spiritual path he revealed. The Buddhist way of life of peace, loving kindness and wisdom is just as relevant today as it was in ancient India. Buddha explained that all our problems and suffering arise from confused and negative states of mind, and that all our happiness and good fortune arise from peaceful and positive states of mind. He taught methods for gradually overcoming our negative minds such as anger, jealousy and ignorance, and developing our positive minds such as love, compassion and wisdom. Through this we will come to experience lasting peace and happiness. These methods work for anyone, in any country, in any age. Once we have gained experience of them for ourselves we can pass them on to others so they too can enjoy the same benefits.
Meditation is at the heart of the Buddhist way of life. It is basically a method for understanding and working on our own mind. We first learn to identify our different negative mental states known as ‘delusions’, and learn how to develop peaceful and positive mental states or ‘virtuous minds’. Then in meditation we overcome our delusions by becoming familiar with virtuous minds.
Out of meditation we try to maintain the virtuous minds we have developed and use our wisdom to solve the problems of daily life. As our mind becomes more positive our actions become more constructive, and our experience of life becomes more satisfying and beneficial to others.
Anyone can learn basic meditation techniques and experience great benefits, but to progress beyond basic meditation requires faith in the Three Jewels – Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Usually people find this develops naturally as they experience the benefits of their meditation practice.
The Spiritual Path
The teachings of Buddha reveal a step by step path to lasting happiness. By following this path anyone can gradually transform his or her mind from its present confused and self-centred state into the blissful mind of a Buddha.
As Geshe Kelsang says in his popular book Eight Steps to Happiness:
“Every living being has the potential to become a Buddha, someone who has completely purified his or her mind of all faults and limitations and has brought all good qualities to perfection. Our mind is like a cloudy sky, in essence clear and pure but overcast by the clouds of delusions.
Just as the thickest clouds eventually disperse, so too even the heaviest delusions can be removed from our mind. Delusions such as hatred, greed, and ignorance are not an intrinsic part of the mind. If we apply the appropriate methods they can be completely eliminated, and we shall experience the supreme happiness of full enlightenment.”
Having attained enlightenment we shall have all the necessary qualities – universal love and compassion, omniscient wisdom and boundless spiritual power – to lead all living beings to the same exalted state. This is the ultimate aim of Mahayana Buddhism.
To find out more about basic Buddhism, read “Introduction to Buddhism” by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.
New Age Based Religions:
New Age is a term applied to a range of spiritual or religious beliefs and practices that developed in western nations during the 1970s. Precise scholarly definitions of the New Age differ in their emphasis, largely as a result of its highly eclectic structure. Although analytically often considered to be religious, those involved in it typically prefer the designation of spiritual or Mind, Body, Spirit and rarely use the term "New Age" themselves.
Many scholars of the subject refer to it as the New Age movement, although others contest this term and suggest that it is better seen as a milieu or zeitgeist.
As a form of Western esotericism, the New Age drew heavily upon a number of older esoteric traditions, in particular those that emerged from the occultist current that developed in the eighteenth century. Such prominent occult influences include the work of Emanuel Swedenborg and Franz Mesmer, as well as the ideas Spiritualism, New Thought, Theosophy, Bioscopy and the European Lebensre form movement. A number of mid-twentieth century influences, such as the UFO religions of the 1950s, the Counterculture of the 1960s, and the Human Potential Movement, also exerted a strong influence on the early development of the New Age. The exact origins of the phenomenon remain contested, but there is general agreement that it developed in the 1970s, at which time it was centred largely in the United Kingdom. It expanded and grew largely in the 1980s and 1990s, in particular within the United States. By the start of the 21st century, the term "New Age" was increasingly rejected within this milieu, with some scholars arguing that the New Age phenomenon had ended.
Despite its highly eclectic nature, a number of beliefs commonly found within the New Age have been identified. Theologically, the New Age typically adopts a belief in a holistic form of divinity that imbues the entire universe, including human beings themselves. There is thus a strong emphasis on the spiritual authority of the self. This is accompanied by a common belief in a wide variety of semi-divine non-human entities, such as angels and masters, with whom humans can communicate, particularly through the form of distinct ages, a common New Age belief is that whereas once humanity lived in an age of great technological advancement and spiritual wisdom, it has entered a period of spiritual degeneracy, which will be remedied through the establishment of a coming Age of Aquarius, from which the milieu gets its name. There is also a strong focus on healing, particularly using forms of alternative medicine, and an emphasis on a New Age approach to science that seeks to unite science and spirituality.
Centred primarily in Western countries, those involved in the New Age have been primarily from middle and upper-middle-class backgrounds. The degree to which New Agers are involved in the milieu varied considerably, from those who adopted a number of New Age ideas and practices to those who fully embraced and dedicated their lives to it. The New Age has generated criticism from established Christian organisations as well as modern Pagan and indigenous communities. From the 1990s onward, the New Age became the subject of research by academic scholars of religious studies.
Atheism: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist:
What does it mean to state with confidence that you know someone’s disposition at death, especially if he is an avowed and public atheist? This question occurs to me because I have recently read The Faith of Christopher Hitchens by Larry Alex Taunton, published in 2016. The title is slightly misleading – Hitchens was not a man of faith in any formal sense – but it is qualified by the subtitle: “The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist”. That Hitchens had a “restless soul” is not in doubt when one reads this slim memoir.
Taunton met Hitchens, who died of cancer in 2011, in 2008. He is an evangelical Christian from Alabama, director of Fixed Point Foundation, dedicated to the public defence of the Christian faith. Their friendship sounds unlikely, given Hitchens’ famed hostility to religious faith, but the reader has no reason to doubt the genuine respect and liking the two men felt for each other, related in this straightforward account of two road trips they took together after Hitchens’ diagnosis.
It is very tempting for a person much in the eye of the media to live and act according to their perceived public persona – in Hitchens’ case, as someone consistently at enmity with faith. Such a persona, abetted by resolutely secular friends, can hide the human being behind it. In unguarded private moments, so different from his public, guarded ones, Hitchens admitted to one of Taunton’s sons that he longed “for a higher love.” He was also very drawn to the language of the King James Bible that he had encountered at school; a man for whom the effective employment of words were his trade, he implicitly recognised its depth, its power and its richness.
Taunton also refers to Hitchens’ changed political position after 9/11. His Left-wing assumptions, common to his circle of friends and to western culture in general, were shaken. Unlike his Left-wing friends, he was too honest and perceptive to explain away the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre as the result of economic poverty or western colonial imperialism. He told Taunton “Man is unquestionably evil” – a conclusion, as Hitchens knew, that had theological implications.
Hitchens was also, unusually for someone with his public profile, pro-life. He abhorred the views of the Australian academic Peter Singer, who has advocated infanticide, remarking “There is something in me that is not prepared to equate a child with a piglet.”
On his road trips with Taunton, the two men read and debated chapters from St John’s Gospel: Hitchens sometimes ironical and challenging, but also listening, querying and pondering. Taunton characterises him as “a searcher”, able to admit that the Christian belief in life after death “is not without appeal to a dying man” – though the author is clear that Hitchens demonstrated no dramatic deathbed conversion.
What does this memoir tell us? That people are much more complex than the stances and soundbites that bring them celebrity; and that when they face a diagnosis such as Hitchens received, and are forced to contemplate “the undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveller returns”, they can no longer be easily claimed in order to bolster the comfortable assumptions of the living.
Richard Dawkins at the 35th American Atheists Convention.
In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins posits that "the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other." He goes on to propose a continuous "spectrum of probabilities" between two extremes of opposite certainty, which can be represented by seven "milestones". Dawkins suggests definitive statements to summarize one's place along the spectrum of theistic probability. These "milestones" are:
1. Strong theist. 100% probability of God. In the words of Carl Jung: "I do not believe, I know."
2. De facto theist. Very high probability but short of 100%. "I don't know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there."
3. Leaning towards theism. Higher than 50% but not very high. "I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God."
4. Completely impartial. Exactly 50%. "God's existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable."
5. Leaning towards atheism. Lower than 50% but not very low. "I do not know whether God exists but I'm inclined to be skeptical."
6. De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. "I don't know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there."
7. Strong atheist. "I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one."
Dawkins argues that while there appear to be plenty of individuals that would place themselves as "1" due to the strictness of religious doctrine against doubt, most atheists do not consider themselves "7" because atheism arises from a lack of evidence and evidence can always change a thinking person's mind. Dawkins self-identified as a "6",
ATHIEST DAWKINS SAYS ‘EUGENICS WOULD WORK’
“Facts ignore ideology”
Steve Watson | Infowars.com - FEBRUARY 17, 2020 0 Comments
.In a set of rather bizarre tweets on Sunday, notorious atheist Richard Dawkins argued that eugenics, the practice of selective breeding supported by the Nazis, would work perfectly well if applied to humans, because it works on animals.
“It’s one thing to deplore eugenics on ideological, political, moral grounds. It’s quite another to conclude that it wouldn’t work in practice,” Dawkins wrote.
“Of course it would. It works for cows, horses, pigs, dogs & roses. Why on earth wouldn’t it work for humans? Facts ignore ideology,” he added.
Dawkins has previously made his thoughts on eugenics clear, writing that he suspects “that the idea is too dangerous for comfortable discussion, and my conjecture is that Adolf Hitler is responsible for the change.”
“Nobody wants to be caught agreeing with that monster, even in a single particular.” Dawkins continued, adding “The spectre of Hitler has led some scientists to stray from “ought” to “is” and deny that breeding for human qualities is even possible.”
“But if you can breed cattle for milk yield, horses for running speed, and dogs for herding skill, why on Earth should it be impossible to breed humans for mathematical, musical or athletic ability? Objections such as ‘these are not one-dimensional abilities’ apply equally to cows, horses and dogs and never stopped anybody in practice.” Dawkins urged.
“In the 1920s and 1930s, scientists from both the political left and right would not have found the idea of designer babies particularly dangerous – though of course they would not have used that phrase.” Dawkins further asserted.
“I wonder whether, some 60 years after Hitler’s death, we might at least venture to ask what the moral difference is between breeding for musical ability and forcing a child to take music lessons. Or why it is acceptable to train fast runners and high jumpers but not to breed them. I can think of some answers, and they are good ones, which would probably end up persuading me. But hasn’t the time come when we should stop being frightened even to put the question?” the evolutionary biologist stated.
Dawkins’ latest considerations on eugenics quickly opened up a torrent of disbelief.
Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, was one of the first to respond: Categorically condemning Dawkins for exposing the true nature of the athiestic agenda.
The Catholic Church is the Longest Continuous Institution in Human History.
SCHOLAR: CHRISTIANITY NECESSARY FOR CIVILIZATION
by Paul Murano • ChurchMilitant.com
• May 27, 2020 18 Comments
No equality or liberty without the
influence of Christianity
An historian and author of numerous books has
penned a compelling new work in defense of Christianity, arguing the faith
is the difference between barbarism and civilization.
Oh, and he's an atheist.
British historian Tom Holland does not have the
supernatural gift of faith. Nor does he pretend to. Yet, Holland knows there
would be no United States or Western Civilization as we know it — no personal
freedom, human rights, or any semblance of equality or respect for human
dignity — without Christianity. In fact, he admits ironically, there would be
no liberal Left using the categories and moral language gained by Christianity
to condemn Christianity.The Selection of Children in Sparta
by Jean-Pierre Saint-Ours, 1785
As a lover of history, Holland was intrigued by the ancient pagan world, romanticizing its
power and grandeur. But he came to realize the ancients were cruel, and their
values utterly foreign to him. "When I came to start my writing
career," he said,
"I wrote books on what I was most interested in, which was the Greek and
the Roman world. But the experience of having to live in the minds of Greeks
and Romans for years at a time, made me come to realize that actually, they
were very alien and very terrifying."
The Spartans routinely murdered
"imperfect" children. The bodies of slaves were treated like objects
for the physical pleasure of those in power. Infanticide was common. The poor
and the weak were afforded no rights. And so the author wondered, "How did
we get here from there?" For Holland, it was a no-brainer: Christianity.
In his new book, Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World, Holland explores how Christianity transformed a
barbarous world of might-makes-right into a civilized one that attempts to
respect the dignity of all people. He found that Christianity particularly
revolutionized sex and marriage, demanding that men control themselves and
prohibiting all forms of rape.
I think the idea that those from the bottom of the
pile have a kind of moral stature that those at the top don't is again
part of the Christian air that we in the West breathe.Tweet
Holland observed that Christianity confined sexuality to
within monogamy and in turn saw how much it elevated women.
"Christianity gave women a dignity that no previous sexual dispensation
had offered," he said. It is ironic, he notes, that these are now the very
standards for which Christianity is derided today.
Holland uses the Nazis as an example of a
regression back to the mentality of pre-Christian thinking. Hitler and his
henchmen believed they were doing the right thing by ridding the world of what
they deemed "undesirables." "If you look at the course of
history," says Holland, "people instinctively feel most comfortable
with people who are like themselves."
"The great foundational texts of Christianity are opposed to this,"
continued Holland. "Paul says that there is no Jew or Greek, i.e., there
is no black or white. There is no Englishman or Indian. They're all kind of
essentially one. We're all created equally in the image of God, there is a set
core equality." This notion, that all human beings are equal in dignity,
is specifically Christian, he stresses.
"I think the idea that those from the bottom
of the pile have a kind of moral stature that those at the top don't is
again part of the Christian air that we in the West breathe," he explains.
"I think the idea that there is a brotherhood of man is not something that
comes naturally to people [but is distinctive to the Christian
world]... up until the Second World War, the great moral figure in the
West, even if you were an atheist, was Jesus," he said.
Our moral compass, our sense of 'good' comes
from Christianity whether we realize it or not.Tweet
Our moral compass, our sense of "good"
comes from Christianity whether we realize it or not, Holland insists. He fears, however, that we are losing that
basic sense that has permeated Western culture. Nonetheless, Holland notes that
popular culture still rises up with trends that point to the Christian
"oxygen" that remains in the air. "As I began the book, I was
thinking, well, essentially the whole Christian sexual morality in the West has
gone. But then while I was writing it, the Harvey Weinstein episode
"What was interesting about that and the whole
Me Too movement, which followed it, was that nobody said, well, what's wrong
with a very powerful man sexually abusing his social inferiors," he said.
"And the Me Too movement depended for its effectiveness not just on women
accepting its premises but men," explained Holland.
Though morals have regressed and followed another
path for the past half century, underneath it all, the Christian fabric that
keeps civilization from completely disintegrating is still prevalent in many