Sunday mornings are good times to answer questions that arose during the previous week. Some come in by email, other via social media and a few via phone.
One question this week sticks out: “I understand your are an atheist? Why?”
This inquiry came via email, so I answered it back.
“I’m sorry, but what you understand is wrong. Both my wife and I believe in God.”
“What church do you belong to?”
“None,” I responded. “We believe in God but we do not, at this point in our lives, believe in organized religion.”
Another response: “Why?”
“The church of my youth took a sharp right turn,” I responded. “It now takes positions that I cannot support. It preaches things that I believe are not shared by our God.”
She never answered back.
To Amy and I, faith is a deeply personal issue. She grew up in a Catholic family, mine were Presbyterians. A Presbyterian minister and close friend married us in his living room with his wife, children and pets as witnesses. When we lived in Illinois, I served as a deacon at First Presbyterian Church in Alton.
We do not accept the belief that gay marriage is a sin. We welcomed The Presbyterian Church USA’s decision to accept gay marriage in their churches. My first cousin in Florida is living out his last years with his longtime male partner. I do not believe his lifestyle choice is a sin. We embrace it, as we do the same-sex marriages of several of our friends. My daughter is agnostic. I accept her choice and it does not diminish my love for her.
We believe everyone has a right to live their lives on their own terms and choose any, or no, religion to guide them. I find more love and tolerance in the Quran (the Muslim “bible”) than in the St. James version of the Christian Bible. We’ve found much to agree with or at least consider in the writings of Buddhism, Judaism and other faiths.
The Bible attempts to define faith, written by those who accepted information based on the words and preachings of others. It talks of burning bushes, a sea parted by an individual, a whale that swallows a man (which is technically impossible, given actual size of a whales gullet. Was a woman turned into a pillar of salt because she looked back longingly as her former city of lust? Not likely, but it makes a good story.
Camels play a central role in Genesis and are mentioned as pack animals in the biblical stories of Abraham, Joseph and Jacob. But according to newly published research by Tel Aviv University based on radiocarbon dating and evidence unearthed in excavations, camels were not domesticated in the Land of Israel until the 10th century BC — several centuries after the time they appear in the Bible.
“In addition to challenging the Bible’s historicity, this anachronism is direct proof that the text was compiled well after the events it describes,” the university said in a statement.
Biblical scholars today widely agree that there was never any mass migration of the proportions described in the Bible. It is estimated the diaspora would have numbered some 2 million people out of an entire Egyptian population in 1250 BC of around 3 to 3.5 million.
Revered by the world’s three main monotheistic religions — Judaism, Islam and Christianity — Moses dominates as much as 15 percent of the entire Christian Bible, is a towering figure in the Hebrew Torah, and appears, by name, 136 times in the Koran — more than any other prophet.
He is the baby who escaped death in a purge of newborns by floating in a little basket of reeds on the Nile, the young man who, raised in the midst of Egypt’s royalty, took side with the Hebrew slaves. The leader who brought 2 million Hebrews out of bondage on the road to redemption and emancipation. The lawgiver who brought down, to a world filled with idols, the Ten Commandments and declared that God is one. The witness of extraordinary events: the devastating plagues, the burning bush, the parted sea, manna and dry rocks flowing with water. The intercessor between God and man, who died at the age of 120 never having entered the Promised Land.
Although Moses remains a universal symbol of liberation, leadership and law, immortalized by Michelangelo, archaeologists and biblical critics argue that there is no direct evidence for his existence.
Some details of his life, such as him as a baby floating on a basket in the Nile, appear to originate from earlier legends.
I find it disarming that some faiths preach co-existence with other religions while Christianity expressly declares itself the only “word of God” that is acceptable.
Such hypocrisy, we feel, is not embraced by the God that guides our lives.
Others feel differently. That is their choice.
We don’t condemn others for how they feel or conduct their lives but we also ask that they do not attempt to impose their beliefs on us.
Each of us should accept and others with different beliefs, different religion convictions or different lifestyles.
That could truly make “America great again.”