Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


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What Are We Really Fighting About?

Doug B. over at Groping the Elephant inspired this post by positing some very thought provoking ideas.  Namely that our religious convictions cause us to do evil things to each other.  We try to enforce our religious ideas on others. He’s not wrong.  But underneath all that I wonder, is that what we’re really fighting about? Religion?

Here’s the quote from his post that really made me think about this:

The idea of dividing the family of humans into various religious sects is not a good one, and has only brought wars and strife from the beginning. If we must satisfy a need to convert or turn over a new leaf, I would like to see more of a commitment to basic humanism, the placing of human considerations above those of an invisible deity.

Again, I agree with his sentiment.  Religion is divisive.  It makes us against them.  But is it really the religion which is divisive or is it underlying ideals?  You see, when I back up from scripture and from religion – all religion- I’m wondering if there’s something more to this.  If we could remove religion completely, as if it never existed, would we not be divided about something else? Would we not still be, tribally, us against them?

I look in our own country, the US, and I see division.  Not so much on religious issues, but on principals.  Capitalism vs. Socialism.  Republicans vs. Democrats vs. Libertarians vs. Independents.  These are not all religious issues.  I look to the Middle East and I see division over a line in the dirt between nations.  I see conflict over liquid gold, crude oil, and I see dollar signs that equal greed.  I see oppressive governments and protests by citizens who are tired of being oppressed.  I look to the past and see the Crusades and believe that the underlying issue was political.

Am I endorsing religion?  Not on your life!  I see it as a means to an end.  Just as in the stories of Moses, the leaders needed conveyed authority from a deity to impose rule over the people, so it has been through the ages.  The issue is this:  people who are in authority have a tendency to abuse that authority.  As Doug B. so aptly points out, people are willing to follow authority.  The problem is, and I’m as guilty as anyone, people don’t think critically about where their loyalties lie.  People in authority have no qualms about foisting their ideals on the people and using a deity to undergird their position. 

It is abuse of power.  Which came first?  Did God create man or did man create God with an agenda in mind?  What better way to manipulate to achieve your agenda than to have a following believe that the particular agenda is God ordained?  “God said this is my dirt”.  “God said I should have what I want”.  Man starts with a personal desire and then manipulates things in his own mind such that some magical sky god endorses and convinces others of the same. 

Look at Hitler.  He tried to extinguish the Jews.  He also used religion as a means to do so.  Who believes that was what it was really about?  Now the Christians don’t want to claim him because of his atrocities, and who can blame them?  But what came first?  His racist tendencies or a belief that a god of some sort was telling him to extinguish those of another race?

What are we really fighting about?  Are we really fighting over religion and trying to force others into that religion?  Or are we really fighting over control and authority?


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What’s In a Word?

I’ve seen raging debates all across the internet and even in my facebook newsfeed about which version of the Bible is the correct one.  Which translation meets the criteria for being categorized as divinely inspired and which ones don’t.  These debates are usually surrounding the Authorized King James Bible of 1611.

Proponents of the King James Bible of 1611 usually hold that it is the only divinely inspired translation. Though there are multiple translations into the English language that have come after, most of which claim to be closer to the original Greek.  Just one tiny problem.  We don’t have the original manuscripts.  In order to maintain divine inspiration we’re told it doesn’t matter that we don’t have the originals.  There were many copies, all close enough in edit, that we can know what the originals said.  Any discrepancies are likely copyist error.

But did you know that the original King James Bible of 1611 was full of marginal notes?  Marginal notes that indicated there could be several meanings of a word translated into English from Greek?  Somewhere along the way someone decided that those marginal notes were unnecessary.  They picked the most likely meaning and went with it.  Because much prayer and thoughtfulness went into the original KJV of 1611 that the translators didn’t want to mislead, they thought it prudent to include those side notes. Huh.  How about that.  They didn’t think they were the purveyors of all truth and wisdom.

And what about these other translations?  There’s the NIV, NLT, ESV, NAS, GWT, KJV, AKJV, ASV, BBE, DBY, DRB, WEB, and the YTL.  I’m sure I’ve missed a few. That’s eleven, count ’em, eleven translations.  Apparently there’s a lot in a word.  Apparently we don’t know what the words are.  Because, if we did, we wouldn’t need eleven plus translations to convey them.  Then there are individuals who have Bibles.  There’s the Scofield Study Bible, The MacArthur Study Bible, and The Ryrie Study Bible.  That’s just to name a few.  Because apparently these folks have it all figured out.

You and I are supposed to be convinced that God somehow preserved his word over thousands of years?  Which one?  Proponents of various translations think theirs is the best, just like their particular brand of Christianity.  The original Hebrew was translated into Greek and Aramaic. Not a chance something went wrong there. ::sarcasm::  Then all of this was translated into Latin.  Nope, no way there could be an error. ::more sarcasm::  Then this was all translated into English and various other languages.  I don’t see how anything could possibly go awry. ::dripping sarcasm::  None of this even accounts for the fact that, as far as the English language goes, there are nuances to the original terms that we can’t possibly even express.  Still, I can’t get away from that tiny little problem of not even having the originals.

And what of copyist errors?  And what of forgeries and interpolations?  We’re told to believe that minor copyist errors don’t change the original meaning of the text.  Don’t we all know that even changing one little letter in one single word in a sentence can change the entire meaning? Here’s an old joke that’s been around for ages:

A man sends a letter back to his wife while he’s on a business trip in a tropical locale saying, “The weather’s nice and I’m having a great time.  Wish you were her.”

What’s in a word?  You tell me.