Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Somewhere around 610, an Arab merchant in the city of Mecca had an experience similar to those of hundreds of years before. And though the man had never had the opportunity to read the Bible, his visions were uncannily similar to Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. In his dream an angel told him to recite the words of God. When Mohammad refused the angel hugged the man so tightly that Mohammad could barely breathe. When the angel made the request again, Mohammad still refused to capitulate. It was after the third request that he found the first words of a new scripture which was to become The Holy Qur’an.
 Armstrong, Muhammad, 45-46[99
At this time Jews were extremely devout monotheists who expected the Messiah to be an ordinary man. Forty years after his death is when the first full account of the life of Jesus was written down by Mark. In it, he presented Jesus as a perfectly normal man from a family that included brothers and sisters. Angels did not sing over his crib and his infancy and adolescence was not remarkable in any way. It was not until he was baptized by John the Baptist that it was proclaimed he was the son of God.
“No sooner had he come out of the water than he saw the heavens torn
apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him. And a voice came
from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favor rests upon you.’”
It was not until after his death that his followers deemed Jesus divine. He spread “faith” and the promise of salvation. With forgiveness came strength that allowed them to see their frail, mortal lives transformed into something stronger and bigger. The powers of God were present and active in the world of the Messianic Kingdom. And this teaching was so powerful that his followers could not abandon it after his death.
It was Paul who traveled to Turkey and Greece. He believed it was his mission to convert the non-Jews into members of the New Israel. Ultimately this New Israel, inspired by the life, death and resurrection, would become a Gentile faith that would evolve its own distinctive conception of God, belief, and faith. By 235 it had become one of the most important religions of the Roman Empire; so important that Emperor Constantine himself converted in 312 and legalized the religion the following year. For the next 300 years it continued to grow and proper spreading across continents. Developments through the Synod in Nicaea under the rule of Constantine became doctrine. The Holy Trinity and the books of the Holy Bible were decided upon and devoutly followed as well as argued about for generations through today.
 Armstrong, The History of God, 1994, pg. 79
 Mark 1:18, 11
 Armstrong, The History of God, 1994, pg. 80
But with this new god came new rules and Yahweh was a very strict and vengeful, if not wrathful God. He demanded his followers comply with his wishes or burn in damnation and hellfire for eternity. This was usually following his wrath on earth which may have been plague, famine or flood. But, he also promised paradise, a heaven free of the ugliness that was known in society at that time. The only stipulation was to follow the rules set forth by Him.
And, it is believed, this new Yahweh of the Axial Age was not just a tribal deity who was biased toward one or another tribe. Instead, this new god was for his glory and could no longer be confined to the Promised Land but rather spread across the east. From southern Italy to China, this rapid alteration happened and was recorded in the writings of Confucius, Zoroaster Mahavira, the authors of Hindu, Pythagoras, Lao-Tzu, Buddah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel (Stark, 2007).
With the understanding of life’s cycles, the idols became less impactful whilst the gods grew more powerful. It was soon understood that a symbol of a corn cob was a very small piece of the puzzle that was agriculture; therefore there must be a god that looks after the whole rather than the piece. Though little is actually known of these people and it is more speculation from the findings than certainty, we do know that for thousands of years burial sites included these grave images. One conclusion is that these images are the discovery of gods in primitive societies (Stark, 2007).
The belief in these gods either began simultaneously or spread like fire throughout the kingdoms making that time period, named the Axial Age[i], the first age of enlightenment. Careful studies of the humans of this era have given rise to the fact that they needed to give divinity to common place things: e.g. fire in the hearth became Agni; thunder, lightning and rain was Mithra; the creator of the world was Dyas Piter; just to name a few (Armstrong, The Great Transformation , 2006). And these gods needed to be appeased or fed in order for prosperity to occur or be maintained.
[i] The Axial Age is a term developed by Carl Jaspers, a German philosopher, and pertains to the similar thinking that simultaneously spread through India, China and the Occident.
Rodney Stark, a professor of social sciences at Baylor University feels that Dawkins and his ilk (atheists) claim that religion and the belief in God are survival tactics. They feel that faith is ambiguous and obstructs man’s natural power to reason. Stark argues that it is the human’s capacity to reason that allows man to understand and appreciate more about the truth of God than was comprehended in earlier times (Stark, 2007). Harold E. Lurier and others cited the teachings of the German Philosopher, Rudolf Otto, in A History of the Religions of the World. Otto coined the term “Numinosum” in his book Das Heilige (The Idea of the Holy). This is loosely defined as the intense, ingrained feeling of knowing that there is something powerful that cannot be seen. And this “It” led to the varying beliefs in deities, the supernatural, the sacred, the holy, and the transcendent (Lurier, 2002).
 Dawkins, The God Delusion, 2006, pg 31
Saturday, May 23, 2009
With the acceptance of God as the creator of all things comes the trust, without viable proof, of His existence. To believe something does not necessarily take faith, but faith cannot be reached without belief. Faith is trusting in something. Belief is regarding something as truth. On these two concepts hang the very idea of God. The different religions centered upon His presence require both of faith and belief. But herein lays the grey area that differentiates one religion from another. Though the faith in God as the “all powerful” exists, the beliefs vary exponentially.
To grasp the nature of the different religions and to comprehend the varying ideas that abound in each, one must study how man’s need for God affects the beliefs in the different doctrines. But before one can assimilate these different beliefs, one must explore the intellectual growth of man and how it parallels with the changes in the idea of God. One must go back to the beginning when God created man, or man created God, and follow the chronological history of the both Man and God to truly grasp the understanding of what belief and faith entail.
I have been busy with my education so I have not "blogged" in awhile. I also haven't painted but I will return to that shortly. I have, however, been writing. I am working on my final paper for my Advanced Writing course and I would appreciate critique and criticism, so as I write I will publish what I have done thus far here.
First is the outline of my writing project. It is following a template provided by my instructor and I hope to follow the path I've laid out as I write my paper.
My second post of the day are the introductory paragraphs and thesis. Please feel free to make suggestions. As always, Caroline
A. To ascertain the distinction between belief and faith
B. To explore the nature of religion and how it affects man’s need for God
C. Following the path of man’s intellectual growth, the parallel of who God is and what He represents has altered to fit the needs of man at the time.
II. The understanding of man’s need for a religious experience.
A. Seeing and trying to understand the reason for life and man’s existence in it, the concept of an all powerful being(s) grew (Dawkins, 2006).
B. The invention of transcendental beliefs to express the necessity of “It” (Lurier, 2002).
III. In the earliest civilizations, the path of man’s belief in magic led to the worship of many gods.
A. The history of religion was an orderly development in which all people passed from magic to religion through stages, each progression taking place when a proper intellectual level had been attained.
B. Though little is actually known of these people and it is more speculation from findings than certainty, we do know that for thousands of years burial sites have included grave images. One belief is that these images are the discovery of gods in primitive societies (Stark, 2007). From 1600 to 900 BCE the careful study of the Axial people has given rise to the fact that they needed to give divinity to common place things: e.g. fire in the hearth is Agni, thunder, lightning and rain is Mithra, creator of the world is Dyas Piter, etc. (Armstrong, The Great Transformation , 2006) and these gods needed to be appeased or fed in order for prosperity to occur or be maintained.
IV. Many gods eclipsed into the rebirth of monotheism which was born throughout the land at approximately the same time.
A. There was a rapid transition into a monotheistic society and that conversion quickly and simultaneously spread throughout the Near, Middle and Far East.
B. From southern Italy to China, this rapid alteration happened around the sixth Century BCE and has been recorded in the writings of Confucius, Zoroaster, Mahavira, the principle authors of Hindu, Pythagoras, Lao-Tzu, Buddha, and Jeremiah and Ezekiel (Stark, 2007).
V. With this rebirth of monotheism came the introduction of Yahweh and Judaism in ancient Israel.
A. Yahweh was borne out of the deities at the time.
B. Yahweh clearly came out of a world of the gods of the ancient Near East, so that kinship relations to these other deities are there from the beginning. The development and typology of convergence and differentiation is a major contribution to the possibility of a complex but coherent understanding of the origins of Yahweh and the place that deity had in the extended history of Israel up to the exile (Smith, 2002).
VI: As foretold in the Old Testament, the need for a savior as well as a kinder, gentler, forgiving God led to the birth of Christianity.
A. By 30BCE Jews were devout monotheists who did not expect the Messiah to be divine but rather an ordinary person.
B. At the same time as Philo was expounding his Platonized Judaism in Alexandria and Hillel and Shammai were arguing in Jerusalem, a charismatic faith healer began his own career in the north of Palestine (Armstrong, The History of God, 1994).
VII: Seeing other people who had not experienced Monotheism, God spoke to the Arabs and Islam was born.
A. Although Muhammad had definitely never read the Bible, he had a dream similar to those experienced in earlier years by prophets of the Old Testament.
B. In about the year 610, an Arab merchant of the thriving city of Mecca in the Hijaz, who had never read the Bible and probably never heard of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, had an experience that was uncannily similar to theirs. He had a vision of an angel telling him to recite the words of God but when Muhammad refuse the angel hugged him taking the air from his body. The angel requested he recite again and still Muhammad refused. This happened three times before Muhammad found the first words of a new scripture (Armstrong, The History of God, 1994).
VIII: Today, thanks to education in science and logic, many fundamental obstacles stand in the way of understanding and believing in God.
A. The inability to understand the true lessons of God prevents the three major religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam from accepting each other for the similarities and differences found in each teaching.
B. God has taken his three major religions of today and put them in the holiest place on earth to see if they have actually embraced his teachings. Unfortunately, man still places himself above God and they have yet to learn to live together. It is a test that we are failing.
Armstrong, K. (2006). The Great Transformation . New York: Alfred A Knopf.
Armstrong, K. (1994). The History of God. New York: Alfred A Knopf.
Dawkins, R. (2006). The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Lurier, H. (2002). A History of the Religions of the World. Westchester, NY, USA: Xlibris.
Smith, M. S. (2002). The Early History of God. Grand Rapids: William E Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Stark, R. (2007). Discovering God. New York: Harper Collins.
Monday, May 11, 2009
This photograph is following the final brush stroke. It was such a fun thing to do and I can't wait to begin my next project. My stepmother is sending me photos of landscapes that she holds dear so I am sure I will be busy for the next couple weeks. Hopefully I can give her one for Christmas. By the way, painting is truly addictive as well as soothing. I would suggest giving it a whirl.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Monday, May 4, 2009
Sunday, May 3, 2009
I felt as though my creative juices were turning to sand. I was still enjoying writing, but there were other things I wanted to do with my hands besides peck at a keyboard. I don't have a piano so I can't play; my guitar needs new string; I do not own a sewing machine. Where else to go? Then I discovered an old bag full of everything I need to have in order to learn watercolor.
The basics are completed above and I've begun doing details. This painting almost killed me and I couldn't see half of what I was doing (the light is not condusive to this kind of project), but I kept at it and my daughter was full of praise as I made my way across the canvas.
And here is the completed project. Two paintings down in a week and I am already moving on to my next canvas. I'm doing a portrait of my grandson. Flowers at a close range are one thing, people are something else entirely. I hope I still like to paint by the time I'm finished with him.