A Romp Through The Garden Of Eden: And Other Religious Misconceptions

Pamela Beers

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People are so naïve. Who in their right mind can possibly believe that the earth began with two Hebrew speaking adults and a talking snake? Come on folks get real. And how about Adam who was standing next to a naked woman and was tempted by a piece of fruit. I've been around a long time and I don't know a single man, who given the choice, would choose an apple over a naked woman, unless he was gay. But that refutes the Christian movement's belief that homosexuality is evil.

When it comes to religious beliefs we have all been sold a bill of goods. Someone did a great marketing job as various religious organizations continue to rake in the dough. Their moneymaking schemes are all based on fear and mind control. The mass population has been manipulated into thinking they will go to hell if they don't go to church every Sunday and tithe at least 10% of their annual salary. Many of their fundamental beliefs are dogmatic and inflexible. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

What scares me is the fundamentalist's own fear and control issues as they judge other people. Rather than seeing the good in people, these insecure people prefer looking at a person's dark side. We are not perfect people because we live in an imperfect world. This is what makes us human beings. We work on our imperfections in the hope that some day we will aspire to something greater than the sum total of ourselves.

My pet peeve is people who judge others as evil because of differing religious beliefs. Whatever happened to the first amendment, which clearly states the right to religious choice? Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham, and Pat Robertson revealed their ignorance when they attacked Islam and declared Allah as a false God. They should have been content to proclaim the truth of their understanding of Christianity.

Allah is simply the Arabic word for God. Fifteen million Christians who live in the Middle East today pray to Allah; people who speak German pray to Gott. Claiming people who worship differently than you, are worshipping a false god is irresponsible. It reveals how woefully uninformed religious leaders can be and how easy it is to become misled and enslaved in inflexible truth claims about God. It is unconscionable for not only prominent leaders; but any self-proclaimed prophet to use the pulpit to fuel ignorance and bigotry.

Jews, Christians, and Muslims are talking about the Same Deity. Jesus is mentioned 93 times in the Qur'an (Arabic)…Koran as we know it. The book is composed of sacred writings and accepted by Muslims as revelations made to Mohammed by Allah through the angel Gabriel. Islam then, is the religious faith of Muslims including belief in Allah as the sole deity and in Mohammed as his prophet. I think it would be interesting if it turned out that Jesus and Mohammed were one and the same.

The sacred text of the Jewish faith is the Torah. The Torah consists of the five books of Moses constituting the Pentateuch. The Pentateuch consists of the first five books of Jewish and Christian scriptures. Christians use various forms of the Bible consisting of the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek. There are two dozen contemporary English translations thus pointing to the challenge of communicating the meaning and intent of the original text. If you think about the number of centuries and the amount of people involved in writing both The Old Testament and the New Testament in two different languages, both of which are open to various translations, you have to wonder if any of the decoding is accurate.

I see the abuse of sacred texts all the time. Shakespeare's poignant observation, “Even the devil can cite scripture for his purpose", further elucidates the manipulative exploitation of revered texts for financial gain and mind control in religious groups. The frightening part is that mind control can lead to violent zealotry.

Religions differ in many ways but they converge in teaching both an orientation toward God and transcendence toward compassionate constructive relationships with others in this world. Jesus captured the essence of this in response to a question about the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40)

Christians who take the Bible literally are either self-deluded or ignorant. Converting others is no one's responsibility, I am responsible for myself. The desire for clarity and guidance in an ever-changing world is what breeds fundamentalists. It is easier to know the truth than to seek it. We grow threw learning, unlearning, and change. The pursuit of religious truth is an ongoing process.

Authentic religion challenges the intellect as people wrestle with the mystery of living (why am I here; what am I supposed to do) and the challenges of living in an imperfect world. Conversely, blind obedience is a sure sign of corrupt religion. Authentic religion encourages questions and reflection at all levels. Doctrinal positions supporting otherwise unethical behavior must always be challenged. Intellectual freedom, personal integrity and common sense are indispensable in authentic religion as well.

Individual human beings are ultimately responsible for their own behavior. What one does during one's time on earth is connected to a larger understanding of existence. We need to be centered on principals of justice, honesty, compassion, and humility.

Copyright © 2006 by Pamela Beers. All rights reserved.

Pamela Beers is a freelance writer. You may visit her website for ideas on writing, marketing, and education. http://www.pamelabeers.com


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