RB? THIS IS AN INVITATION TO HAVE A DIALOGUE
Rational Believer? (RB?). What an interesting moniker! Tell us the story as to why you use it. I am interested. I am also interested in the story of why you believe what you do believe. Those who are not interested, are free to do otherwise.
It is in the spirit of GOOD faith that I send to you, and to all of you, who read these words, GOOD WILL—the basic meaning, BTW, of the ancient Greek word, agape, which we translate ‘love’. The ancient Greek word for love, in the romantic sense is eros—OK in the right place.
SOME PERSONAL NOTES—i.e., some STORIES ABOUT MY FIRST CHILDHOOD—anyone who finds this boring, feel free to skip it. I assure you, I, WILL not to be offended, OK? Only IF you have time, let me KNOW, and why, OK?
Back to you, RB? You know, it was on January 14, 2010, that I became an octogenarian. WOW! I had a similar feeling when I turned the BIG 50, in 1980. How many here remember when you got to milestone 50? How many still have a few miles to go before 50, or 80? Of course, you have the right not to say anything.
MY SECOND CHILDHOOD?
BTW, at 80, I began thinking of myself as living in my second childhood. That being so, I decided to have a chat with Self. To Self I said: “Self, what are your plans for us, from here on in ... ?”
Which reminds me of the old joke by Woody Allen, the famous actor, director and hypochondriac, “I am not afraid of dying!” he said, “I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
BY THE WAY, MAY I ASK: IS IT OK TO SPEAK ABOUT BEING THERE?
IS IT OK TO SPEAK ABOUT THE REALITY OF DEATH AND DYING?
Be assured that I am fully aware that I am not the only one who has “been there”—witnessed death and dying—and who is thinking about what this means. I would be quite interested in reading the story of anyone. But only if they wish. We all have our stories.
With this in mind, I hope you will allow me to tell my story. I will try to be as brief as possible. If anyone objects to the following personal story-like comments—feel free to skip them. Or feel free to let me know and I will certainly agree that they be removed.
RB? Here is why I tell these stories:
I tell these stories to make clear what influenced my belief system. I figured out the Santa Claus myth, by the time I was six. One thing I noticed is as follows: Some of my childhood friends—that is, those who were from well-to-do families—e.g., the merchant-class and the professional-class families—always, no matter how many prayers we said, got more and bigger toys than my sister and I, and others in the lower ranks, got. Later, I remember wondering: Did God and his St. Nicholas pay more attention to the rich than he did to the poor?
THE GREAT DEPRESSION OF THE 1930’S—where I spent my first childhood
In those days many people, in resource-rich Newfoundland (today it is a well-off province), lived in what we today think of as third-world conditions. No, I am not exaggerating. For anyone interested, let me know. I will gladly direct you to a blog that I write in http://www.wondercafe.ca There I will give more details and responds to questions and comments.
Then I became suspicious about all such stories, including those in the Bible. I yearned to know the reasons behind such stories. At fourteen, in 1944, the year my father died—after a long and painful illness, miner’s lung—I was old enough to be under NO illusion that there is a ‘god’ up there who hears and answers all the prayers and petitions with a yes.
As I matured, I noticed even those prayers made by very good people—ones who went to church regularly, said their prayers, gave their regular tithes and offerings, obeyed the church clergy and the teachings about ‘god’—got silence, or NO, in response to their prayers. One of my childhood friends—he was the son of a devout Catholic family, which lived not far from us—was killed by a rock that fell from the cliff near where we lived. When I heard this sad new I wondered: What is going on here? Was ‘god’ asleep? Did his family forget to go to mass and say all those prayers? [Keep in mind, because I was a very curious child, I remember a lot of what happened as a child. ]
In 1942, my old—but young (20’s) in years—Sunday School teacher, was then a sailor with the Royal Navy. He lost his life, on his way home on leave from the war. I remember him as a great person, from a large and devout United Church family. He was one of the passengers on the ill-fated ferry boat, the SS Caribou, which then plied the waters between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
Here is the story the sinking: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_submarine_U-69_(1940)#The_Sinking_of_the_Caribou 137 men, women and children, out of 191, lost their lives in a few minutes. I feel that virtually all of the people on that boat said a prayer, in one form or another.
The history of the early Christian church is filled with numerous stories of suffering and pain for at least 300 years. Why did Jesus not return as it is said—even he said—he would? History records that large numbers of the early believers lost their lives as martyrs. Later descendants of those first Christians did their share of killing (murder) to the “Glory of God” in numerous crusades over the years—which, by the way, ultimately failed to establish the Christian version of the “Kingdom of God” on earth.
To this day, millions of Christians, who devoutly believe in the Second Coming of Christ are still praying and waiting for Jesus to return. They pray for him to come and start the Battle of Armageddon—the last battle before he brings in that fabled Kingdom of God, he “promised”. DO I BELIEVE IN THIS FABLE? NO! [much more to be said here, eh!]
GOD and DEATH, AT SHRINES
Over the years, I have heard many media stories about the hundreds of people getting killed going to, or attending, the shrine at Mecca. The same thing in true at the shrines of all the religions. Unless ‘god’ makes it clear that he requires human sacrifice, and why, this make little, or no, sense to me.
Neither do the words of Robert Browning, when he said; “God’s in his heaven; all’s right with the world.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pippa_Passes
What sense does this make: Some believe that there is a ‘god’ up there who loves and rewards all good people. but he punishes all sinners—people who consciously do evil and who choose not to believe in the will of ‘god’. The good will go to heaven and sinners will go to hell.
This “pie in the sky, by and by when you die” kind of faith is NOT the kind that makes sense, to me.
OTHER MEMORIES OF BEING THERE! THAT IS, CLOSE TO THE REALITY OF DEATH
Because TB was rampant in Newfoundland in the 1930’s, by the time I was five and my sister was near four, our family five boys and three girls, lost our oldest brother (25), our oldest sister (23), her husband, their two young children and our mother (1935). Other families also had losses.
By the way, Bell Island, about nine miles from St. John’s, was then the location of the largest iron ore mine in the British Empire. The population was then 10,000 people, including 2,100 miners. One accident, an explosion, took the lives of 20 miners.
Bell Island was part of the Battle of the Atlantic.There were two bold enemy submarine attacks—not far from our house—in the late summer of 1942. Four iron ore carriers were sunk, torpedoes hit one of the two loading piers, and 69 merchant seamen lost their lives. At 12, I saw many of the bodies, that were found, hauled ashore. For the story the link is http://www.bellisland.net
Shortly after our mother died, our then newly married and oldest brother, with the help of his wife, took over and helped raise me and my younger sister, who is now the last of the family.” That brother died in 2004. He was 92. He built his last fishing boat when he was 75.
Though my older siblings did not have a lot of formal education, that brother inspired my sister (1932) and me to stay in school—in a time when there was no compulsory education—to love knowledge, and hopefully gain some wisdom and a useful place in life. Which, I feel, we were both fortunate enough, by and large, to get. My sister was 80, in 2012. Her husband—a liberal Catholic—once a miner on Bell Island—is now 84. They have five children and several grandchildren. They live in a place of beauty, in Alberta, Canada, which we visit, often:
RB? BTW, a suggestion: To make it easier reading at least for me, and perhaps for others, paragraphing helps, OK?
MY BASIC BELIEFS? http://progressivechristianity.ca/prc/?page_id=6