I’ve always considered myself a renaissance man, now quite happily living in the 21st century. As a kid, I was fascinated with the stars, planets and galaxies, assisted in that by my father who was an amateur astronomer. I had to wait until college to be fascinated with chemistry, physics and biology because my high school teachers were dullards. History as well. Religion, well, an overdose.
That intersection of science, history and religion is riveting, or, more precisely, painful. Especially so when a fourth ingredient is stirred into the immiscible pot. Painful in that science and religion have historically been at odds. More accurately, religion has historically denied science because it ‘conflicts’ with the dogma and writings of the church. Clearly, both Galileo and Copernicus understood that.
Here in the U.S., politics, equally immiscible, is the 4th ingredient that bubbles up like a clogged drain into the lives of The People. It’s the perfect storm, or the perfect storm sewer. I think of those oh-so [c]hristian candidates running in the GOP race who, for example, denigrate Gingrich for having sat down with Nancy Pelosi to discuss climate change. Are these politicians merely supporting their big oil contributors or do they really ‘believe’ that there is no climate change? Perhaps it is because of that biblical verse that follows the ‘great flood’ citing ‘God’s promise not to destroy the planet again by a flood.’ How does that play in Miami, New Orleans or Boston? I look out today at our green grass and 45 degree temperature with spring bulbs bursting through our soil. I note that the glaciers in Glacier National Park are disappearing and that Greenland is becoming green again. Duh.
NASA’s Kepler space telescope discovered two new planets which are the first Earth-sized worlds yet discovered, indicating that our size planet may be quite common in our own galaxy. Ironically, NASA announced this discovery on the winter solstice- four days before Christmas. The more astute readers get the connection. That discovery begs the question: what about life on those planets? Is life common in space? Is intelligent life? If so, did the rational creatures on these other planets ‘sin’ too, as the Bible says of us earthlings? And if so, did they need a savior to die sacrificially for their sins as well?
Retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong has written yet another book that I will add to my collection. I’ve already read, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture as well as The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love. Bishop Spong has received 16 death threats that were credible enough to report to authorities, threats from fundamentalist [c]hristians who do not like his take on the Bible. “They Will Know we are Christians by our Love” is one of my favorite hymns.
The reason that fundamentalists are so upset with him is because of some of Spong’s assertions such as : Moses did not write the Torah. The Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses. Miracles did not enter the Jesus story until the eighth decade. The virgin birth is a ninth-decade addition to the Gospels. “If the Bible is taught to laypeople the same way that it is taught in academic centers, with no attempt to protect the fairly juvenile Sunday school knowledge to which so many otherwise learned people still cling, there would be a significant response”, Spong said. “The people in the pews never hear a reasoned alternative to the belief that the Bible ‘dropped from heaven fully written, divided into chapters and verses and, if they are English-speaking people, in the King James Version.'”
In his newest book, Eternal Life: A New Vision: Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell, Spong asserts that the Heaven and the Hell that the Sunday school teachers teach is, as Newt Gingrich said recently, ‘pious bologna.’ “We do not live on after death as children who have been rewarded with heaven or punished with hell.” Rather, Spong says, “The discovery of the eternal can be found within each of us if we go deeply into ourselves, transcend our limits and become fully human. By seeking God within, by living each day to its fullest, we will come to understand how we live eternally.”
Actually, that idea is already in the New Testament: Luke 17:21, ‘For lo, the Kingdom of God is within you.’
So much for the rest of the Bible and the literalists who pimp it.
Those Renaissance men of the 15th century must have found it refreshing to be among others of enlightened minds. I enjoy being here on this blog discussing issues with other enlightened minds.
The Renaissance men are often referred to as polymaths, from the Greek polymathēs, “having learned much.”
Having learned much.