21st Century Minds

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.




9 thoughts on “21st Century Minds

  1. Hello Muddy,
    I like your analogy of the Renaissance Man as many could still learn from them today instead of calling for their death or touting physical harm because they do not scribe to their NARCISSICTIC and NIHILISTIC Christian Conservative / Tea Party viewpoints.

    “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.” (As I Too find this site and those affiliated with it approaching logic from the “Age of Enlighten.”)

    Referring to “Bishop Spong having 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.” Humm? Much like the Fundamentalist Muslims calling for the death of Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses.” (Personally, I find no difference between the two groups of people as they are more alike than different.)

    Yes the Renaissance men are often referred to as polymaths, from the Greek polymathēs, “having learned much.” As I have said often, “Our time here on earth should be one of a self journey of enlightenment….and as we grow, educate, and seek illumination…..truths, facts, and logic will reveal themselves. No one needs to apologize for the corrections along the way.”

    There are too many that think they already “Know It All”……and their ignorance has infected MY Republican Party with their diseases.

    I invite all to read my latest posting on Engineerofknowledge which complements this.

  2. Perhaps the most striking example of non-polymathics are today found in the right-wing of today’s GOP. The fact that Jon Huntsman was criticized for knowing [fluent] Chinese bubbles up from that sewer. It looks as if many at that end of the political spectrum want a president who they can have a beer with at the corner bar while they tell racist jokes.

  3. I am reading the book, 1434 by Gavin Menzies which is fascinatingly relevant to your post because it demonstrates and proves that the European Renaissance could not have occurred with out direct contact with China. The book shows how a Chinese mission came to Europe through the Nile Canals to the Red Sea in 1434 and gave us so much of what jump started the technological revolution of the Renaissance.

    An amazing book that shows the real genius of Da Vinci, but in the context of how he was able to transcribe the knowledge that came to Europe almost 20 years before he was born. Again, what is original? Every great idea sprang from what came before. We cannot be great with out acknowledging and understanding where we came from.

  4. 1434; interesting hypothesis but there must have been some spark that lit up so many minds during that time period.

    I wonder and hope-for a 2012 ‘spark’ which would light up the minds of many in the world today.

    1. …the bishop who tells the truth, for a change. The bishop who strips all of the myth and magic from ‘the story’ and makes the Jesus story much more palatable. Of course, he does the same with the Old Testament, which enrages the literalists who love the Sunday school stories.

  5. M_R, you issued me a challenge concerning my comment on the
    Community Reinvestment Act to give a couple of examples showing
    the failure of the Act. The Act has been amended from the original a
    number of times.

    In 1992 a Democratic Congress passed an Amendment to CRA that
    required Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to devote a percentage of
    their lending to support affordable housing in the inner city. Moreover,
    Congress continued to lower the requirements for inner city people
    to obtain a loan.

    Then in 1999 the CRA becomes compromised in the Senate struggle
    over ending the Glass-Steagle Act. Two Democratic Senators, Dodd
    and Schumer, came up with the compromise which again “liberalized”
    lending practices for Democratic support to pass the Graham-Leach-
    Bliley Act, signed by Clinton, that effectively ended Glass-Steagle.
    Already in 1997 Bear, Stearns had issued the first publically availabe
    “securitization” of CRA loans in the amount of $384.6M. Who secured
    these loans? Yep, Freddie Mac! Then in 2000 Fannie Mae agreed to
    purchase and securitize $2B of CRA low income loans. In 2001 the
    $2B grew to $10B of CRA loans.

    While the original intent of the CRA to provide secure loans for residential
    and commercial ownership of people in the inner city is appropriate, the
    politicians got ahold of it, then the banks and investment houses, and then
    Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with negative results. I did not say that
    no one was helped by the CRA. Indeed, many people were helped with
    residential and business ownership. However, as in many cases of good
    intentions, this “law of unintended consequences” comes into operation.
    Finnally, the question is how much did CRA contribute to the 2008 financial
    crisis and the ensuing Great Recession. The evidence is that it did not
    play a “substantial” role in the collapse, but the authorities and Congressional
    hearings in 2009 place some blame on the CRA. The head of Fannie
    Mae testified to the House Committee that the CRA acted as a “catalyst”,
    his words, “encouraging bad behavior in regard to sub-prime” mortgages.

    I am no rightist! If we are to have a chance of recovering the American
    Dream, we have to look at issues with an open mind, and not with a closed
    mind of castigating any one who dares to say that there is another side
    of the story. I have always supported the uplifting of our citizens. In
    delivering educational services, I and my family lived with some of the
    worst poverty conditions in the United States, the Native American. Prior to that I served on a national poverty fact finding commission that LBJ
    initiated. I testified to Committees of the Montana Legislature concerning
    rural poverty and traveled to Washington, D.C. to personally meet with
    Senator Baucus about Native American and rural poverty. I was then
    taken by Baucus’ aide to Sec of HEW, as it was called then, Califano’s
    office for an interview. It was just a protocol meeting in which I left him
    a summary of poverty and educational disadvantages in the rural area.
    So I have been out there doing it. I have walked the walk, and talked the
    talk on support of United States citizens who are disadvantaged. You
    know, M_R, maybe this is why I can be more “revolutionary” and call for
    change in Members of Congress and criticize a President who held out
    so much promise and has squandered it. But, I am growing weary….

  6. M_R, you issued me a challenge concerning my comment on the
    Community Reinvestment Act to give a couple of examples showing
    the failure of the Act.

    I’m happy that you took the time to do some research, UptheFlag. When I create a new post, I often spend more than an hour doing research, often going to several sources to cull the information that I put in my post. It is a time-consuming venture, to be sure.

  7. Yes, it is! I think many of my comments are researched as well….I obviously couldn’t come up with the votes that Marcy Kaptur has given that enabled
    income inequality, or aiding the military-industrial comples, or impacting
    our personal freedoms. As you know, I have long championed term limits, and it was gratifying to hear Huntsman take a strong stand for that in the New
    Hampshire debates.

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