Who Needs God Anyway?

I think most people would say that while numbers claim that many people are getting religious or converting from one religion to another, in most Western countries the trend seems to be inverted. More people seem to be leaving religions completely or being totally inactive within their specified branch. So it might surprise you to learn that 4.8billion people or roughly 70% of the world’s population belong to one of the top 3 world religions and only 16.3% are not religiously affiliated and the difference is made up of lesser religions, this according to Pew Research Center.

Additionally, I think most of us, religious or not, have questioned God, gods, or the existence of some divine creator or deity.

Either asking:

how could you not believe, or

how could this God or that God or any god allow evil to exist or bad things to happen, or

how do you know God exists,

how can you believe in God, or

where’s the proof of your God or any god.

All these questions and more have been asked by people since the beginning of any religious thought, to question is just part of life.

Sometimes we may think or it may seem like we are the only person asking these questions. We are not. Theologians, philosophers, scientists, the lost, the found, the convinced, the converted have all pondered such queries, especially when life throws a challenge or obstacle our way. I would counter with this; what is the value in life if everything is easy, pretty, and happy? If all that you have is easy, pretty, and happy with nothing hard or ugly or awful how do you know that things are easy and pretty and happy? You don’t. Easy, pretty, happy just like hard, ugly, and awful are comparative terms. You cannot have pretty without ugly. You cannot have easy without hard. You cannot have happy without awful.

Some experts and most followers of the major religions will say that everyone needs religion, religion is how you learn morals and virtues and how to lead a good and just life. However, the historic accounts of most religious beginnings are steeped in violence, from genocide to scorched earth to raiding, enslaving and thieving. Some morals. For the Abrahamic religions extreme punishment is included, for both the Old Testament and Quran seem to prefer some form of a death sentence for most infractions and some violence or maiming or other extreme punishment for lesser offenses.

Thus, if you are wondering how you can truly assess either your own religion or religion in general as a valid and necessary part of your life or something that should be history, then Timothy Chen thinks he has the answer for you in his new book The Religious Transaction. Chen was raised in a religious home and continued to practice while off attending college. However, in early adulthood, Chen faced some challenges that led to him questioning everything about his belief system, which was based on his religion.

This questioning about his own beliefs and struggles to reconcile his issues with his religious conflicts led him to author the aforementioned book probably both as therapy for himself and the genuine belief that it will help others. While Chen seems to really try to be unbiased about religion and honest about his personal issues, challenges, emotions there does seem to be an underlying passive nudge to encourage others to question to the point of abandoning their own religious paths. Whether this is an intended ploy by Chen or just a natural reaction to his personal struggles and journeys I cannot say, but regardless it is present.

His religion as a child was christian and his primary focuses on are Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, yet, he does include other religions scattered throughout the work. Personally, I have never been devout or zealous at all about religion, I believe that Organized Religion is a man made necessity in order to create a peaceful society for those in power. I also believe that while there are some truly devout and genuine believers, most religions and their sects have been usurped by individuals seeking power and glory and fortune.

The organization of the book is well thought out and flows. His approach to each aspect of religion is thoughtful and seemingly neutral. The neutrality is displayed in the pro-con discussion of each question with cited arguments supporting the pro or con respectively. And it is obvious that Chen has put thought and research into his writing. While it is difficult to research everything about a topic, I do feel like some of his research could have provided him with stronger arguments if he had dug just a little deeper. But all authors have to decide how much is too much or not enough and how much is “just right” or at least enough for the message. And I think that Chen did what he felt was just enough to support his arguments. That is not a critique if his purpose is more to get people to do their own research and questioning, but it is marginal if his purpose is to be the justification for changing religious paths.

In addition to arguments that are marginal to just enough, I believe that some of his points are more than over simplified. He admits to some over simplification, which can be excused considering the breath and depth of the topic if truly and fully investigated. One example is his argument that our similarity to some animals supports evolution over godly creations without any mention of the fact that the opposite is just as possible since religions with a “Creator God” believes that this god is responsible for the creation of the universe and EVERYTHING in it. So why wouldn’t such a god create similar living creatures, created or evolved they would both be from a collection of building blocks. He is also more willing to give benefits of doubt and early unearned credit to scientific discoveries but not to divine intelligent creation.

In short, it was an interesting read. I did hear some new arguments in the validity of religion debate, but I also felt the ball was drop and some arguments were skewed to the author’s current stances. However, he does make the effort to at least appear neutral and that effort is noteworthy.

*Copy Received For Review.

**Cover via Amazon.com

Who the US Government Really Supports In the Middle East

So as can be my normal state of thinking…..I was catching up on the news the other day and saw the Human Rights Report on Bahrain and the thought came to my mind…doesn’t a vast majority of the most extreme and radical and violent of Islamic Terror Groups seem to have a commonality that should make us take notice. What is that commonality? They are sub-sects of Sunni Islam.
The groups that I am including in the aforementioned group include, but are not limited to, the Taliban, Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, Barelvi, ISIM, Al-Nursa Front, Wahhabi, Deobandis, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and the list goes on and on. On its own this may not be an ah-ha moment, but when you look at the countries, whose populations are mostly Muslim, that are our allies in the Middle East and Central Asia you see that they are also ruled by royal families or ‘elected’ leaders that in majority are conscripts of, yes, Sunni Islam. Now you can have your ah-ha moment; however, if you still are missing the point let’s continue.
When the Taliban took control of Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal, they received diplomatic recognition from only three states; Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. All of which are our allies. Yes, that diplomatic recognition was revoked, but it still existed and the ruling families of Saudi Arabia and the UAE are still in power. Further more, this year the Taliban opened “offices” in Qatar, another of our allies, and this office is recognized internationally as it was to be the location for talks between the Taliban and the current government of Afghanistan.
The Saudi Royal Family are followers of a Sunni Islamic sect and have supported with money, arms and other resources the insurrection in Syria. On the other hand, the Syrian government, specifically, Al-Bashar and his family are not followers of any Sunni sect, but, are in fact, Alevites which ascribe more to the Shia Islamic traditions. The Saudi regime does not allow internal criticism of its policies or practices. As is the case with most Islamic States.
The Al Khalifa ruling family of Bahrain and its supporting tribes adhere to the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence, spread by the Uyunid dynasty and is of Sunni foundations. Returning to the origin of this article, Bahrain has been sited in the HR report as detaining and torturing children for participating in the protests in that country. The country has seen protests for months now, yet they are very heavily oppressed by the authorities and most foreign press that attempts to cover the story either receives no support from their main stream media employers or they are strictly limited in their movement within the country itself by the authorities, for of all things safety concerns.
Turkey’s ruling party is Sunni and their government has been criticized repeatedly for their handling of journalists that report negatively about government actions and affairs. In addition, the Turkish government was also very heavy handed in their handling of protesters this spring and summer. Protests that were rarely even mentioned, must less covered in our media outlets. Turkey has also quietly, to the outside world been invoking stricter laws moving the country from a secular state of example, to a more typical Islamic State of the area. Ironic, considering that most ethnic Turks, do not consider themselves Arab and therefore not in close alignment of those whom do.
There is a complete lack of understanding within American society to understand several very relevant factors; first, not all Muslims are the same, second, Islamic factions tend to be much more separate from each other than we are used to with christian denominations, third, religious ideology impacts more directly on political and social aspects of life. Why is it necessary to understand these differences? Cause the US government and her allies are using societal ignorance as a basis for imposing the wishes and desires of the same allies in the region. The result is that legitimate governments are being replaced by governments that are more in line with the goals and stances of the US and her Middle East allies. As a footnote, Iran and Hamas follow Shia’ Islam.
In addition to the fact that we are stepping in the internal affairs of other nations to effect regime change to suit our allies, we are also supporting governments that oppress their own people. And by doing so we are also supporting our own professed enemies to accommodate our hard line allies.
And we have the nerve to call those who speak against our actions, evil and oppressive. Sen. McCain not only supports stepping in in Syria, he met with Syrian rebels, was pictured with known terrorists and murders, yet calls Mr. Putin a hypocrite. Then candidate Obama criticized President Bush for being a war monger and running a hawkish, secretive government. However, as President, Obama has continued the war in Afghanistan, intervened in Libya, oppressed and prosecuted whistle-blowers, continued the Patriot Act and FISA even expanding their reach and drone attacks have substantially increased in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries where our “enemies” are located without regard for the loss of civilians on the ground. President Obama’s administration now with a heavy handedness has judged and convicted the Syrian government even before there was any independent support of attacks even happening and completely disregarding previous reports that would contradict their agenda of stepping in in Syria.

Benghazi Is A Phony Scandal, But

In the last few days the US government has closed twenty-one embassies and consulates in North Africa and the Middle East. This Ramadan has been the most violent in years in Iraq. So much for the Holy Month. The positive is that the Holy Month is coming to an end. Ramadan is the ninth month of the calendar and “The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Quran” thus making it holy. It would appear that what has been lost is that Ramadan by being the month of revelation is a time of new beginnings. It should be a time of reflection on life over the past year and contemplation of how to better live your life in the upcoming year.
It is ironic that during this Holy Month so many that profess to be devout followers of Islam, instead use this time to incite violence and commit violence. To do the opposite of what this month should represent. I am not a follower of Islam, but I do believe in my rightness of my opinion of Allah’s intention of how we should act during this time. It is NEVER the wish of any loving God, that violence should be committed in his name against the innocent, regardless of their own path. But I have detoured from my direct topic.
The closings of embassies and consulates in North Africa and Middle East is a result of a warning of a threat based on the intelligence community. It does seem ironic that warnings of “chatter” is more believed than the warnings of “experts” on the ground in the locations. It is interesting that people with authority tend to be sitting in offices thousands of miles away and due to ego or arrogance or power trips they seem to be more interested in their positions or in images or in bottom lines or other mundane details that they do not value the pricelessness of human life or the opinions of the individuals that are actually on the ground in the specific locations.
No, I am not saying that we should risk the lives of many just for the one. However, in the case of Benghazi, there was a lot that was done wrong before, during and after that could have probably changed the outcome of the events 11 months ago. It is callus of the Administration to say that the event is over and done with and should be forgotten and move on. We seem to have forgotten that it is better to be human than it is to pretend you are perfect. Humans care, humans make mistakes, humans say they are sorry, humans learn from their mistakes; perfection focuses on image, perfection touts rightness of itself, perfection claims no responsibilities. These conflicts of purpose create chaos that prevents improvement of our world.
It also, is ironic that suddenly we have “chatter” in a volume that has not been seen since 9/11. It seems that most embassies will be closed until Thursday, the end of Ramadan. Unfortunately, considering the recent challenges concerning the public image of the government and the intelligent community, there will be doubt about this well timed new threat. It is my wish that this new threat is not some hyped up show to justify the over zealous actions of government in the guise of National Security. The near future will be challenging to say the least. But I believe it is a challenge that we will survive and it is my hope that we rise above it and move forward in a brighter light than the dimming of our current lighting.