Saturday, July 12, 2008

Reflections On An On Faith Forum Piece

David Waters has a little column on the recent passing of John Templeton, a successful business man and founder of the Templeton Foundation, which seeks to bridge the gap between science and religious faith. The Templeton Foundation, according to its founder, uses the scientific method to investigate various human phenomena such as forgiveness and humility, the latter virtue exemplified by its founder in a quote Waters uses: "We should admit that no human being has ever known one percent of the infinity of God. We are terribly ignorant."

I found the article interesting not so much for the rather soft-spoken nature of its subject, or for the fact that we have here an example of a very wealthy individual interested in religious belief but quite honest about his and our ignorance of much of what we claim to think about the Divine; what interests me are some of the comments that show some people did not hear the message of humility, insisting they have all sorts of answers to questions human beings have struggled with, even fought and died for, over the centuries. In contrast to the subject, these folks might benefit from a dose of humility.

From commenter "Spiderman2":

John Templeton said "I want people to realize you shouldn't think you know it all."

The problem John Templeton has is he didn't realize Jesus Christ know it all.

If he knew that, he would NOT have been wasting much money to seek the Lord.

Jesus said "Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come." (John 7:34)

Many religions would NOT find him and that's the truth despite them claiming to have known Him.

"Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, AND FEW THERE BE THAT FIND IT." (Matthew 7:14)

Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, having billions of followers would fail by that criteria alone. You study their doctrines and you would know that Jesus was accurate when he said that.

"Meg" wrote:

All those different religions can't all be right.

There is no way any two of them can be right.

Is it likely that any one of them is right?

The likelyhood is that none of them are right.

They are all superstitions, and all equally wrong.

Ask a scientist. There are no gods.

"Andrew" wrote:

Here's John's smarter namesake, who was an evangelist and Billy Graham's partner, but up and quit one day on realizing the nonsense that religion is;

"Is it not foolish to close one's eyes to the reality that much of the Christian faith is simply impossible to accept as fact? And is it not a fundamental error to base one's life on theological concepts formulated centuries ago by relatively primitive men who believed that the world was flat, that Heaven was "up there" somewhere, and that the universe had been created and was controlled by a jingoistic and intemperate diety who would punish you forever if you did not behave exactly as instructed?

Is it not more likely thst had you been born in Cairo you would be a Muslim and, as a billion people do, would believe that 'there is no God but God and Muhammad is his prophet?

If you had been born in Calcutta would you not in all probability be a Hindu, and as a billion people do, accept the Vedas and the Upanishads as sacred scriptures and hope sometime to dwell in Nirvana?

Is it not probable that, had you been born in Jerusalem, you would be a Jew and, as some 15 million people do, believe that that Yahweh is God and that the Torah is God's word?

Is it not likely that had you been born in Peking, you would be one of the millions who accept the teachings of the Buddha or Confucious or Lao Tse and strive to follow their teachings and examples?

Is it not likely that you, the reader are a Christian (or Muslim etc) because your parents were before you?"

From "A Farewell to God" by Charles Templeton, as reprinted in "The Portable Atheist". page 285. Pub.DaCapo press

Finally, the best comment of all:
Paul :

John Templeton sounds like a real sleazebag.

These are the voices of people that need, not to be ignored so much as not heeded when subjects such as these arise. There is no thought here, no consideration for the wisdom of others, not even a glimmer of seriousness. Yet, these are the voices that dominate so much of our phony debates. We believe that these positions, extremes bordering on parody, actually reflect serious option, the only options, available. Yet, how is it possible? How can it be that such mutually exclusive positions exist within the realm of human possibility, without that phenomenon itself being something to be viewed in wonder?

So many people have so much invested in being "right", in having the "correct" way of thinking about the world without ever once realizing that what they see as "correct" might not be so for others, and that's OK. It's OK there are Muslims who believe there is one God, Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet. It's OK that there are those who believe in the transmigration of souls as we seek to rid ourselves of attachments to the physical and achieve enlightenment. It's OK there are people who believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, correct in all matters of fact, faith, and ethics. It's OK there are people who think all religions are a bunch of hokum dreamed up by the powerful and exploited by shysters to rob the common people of their power and their money. All of these are real human possibilities, and therefore, by their very existence, they are all right.

I realize the above sentence would seem to make no sense; that is so only if you are convinced there is only one right way of being human, only one right way of living a fully human life. I do not believe this is so. Rather, I believe that human beings are remarkable creatures, who have the capacity to use whatever tools are at hand to try and help them survive. Since all these possibilities (and so many more) have been and are being used right now, rather than demand the elimination of all those that don't fit "our" way of thinking, wouldn't it be far better, far wiser, to celebrate those differences, and recognize all of them as equally legitimate human responses to life and its travails? It seems to me John Templeton was doing exactly that.

Virtual Tin Cup

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