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Radical Incline

Each tends to attack the weak points of the other and dismiss the baby with the bathwater.

That religion is incorrect about scientific origins is as regrettable as that scientists presume to apply material knowledge to the realm of values. Science is adept at quantifying but it cannot determine quality. Religion is a combination of many elements, and to attack the false ones and dismiss the rest without investigation would be tantamount to looking at science prior to the enlightenment, in its alchemical days, or looking at some of science's more blundering goofs, and finding these paths false dismiss the rest of science as hocus-pocus.

So there is bad science, actually bad scientists, folks who cling to their pet theory in the face of all contrary evidence, folks who slant their testing results to get what they wanted, and folks who are just plain wrong in their application of the scientific method.

And there is bad religion, actually bad religionists, folks who cling to their pet superstitions in the face of all contrary evidence, folks who will acknowledge only the data which supports their beliefs, and folks who are just plain stubborn and dogmatic.

Science, however, being a materially-oriented and rational subject, is self-testing to remove the bad science — peer-review journals and standards of testing by which errors are eliminated and data confirmed or falsified, theories tested and fine-tuned or altered as needed. It's a slow process, sometimes. Good scientists never believe they have the final answers or "facts" at any time, but are always willing to be corrected, shown new and better understandings, and progress.

Religion, on the other hand, being values-oriented and subjective, is self-testing in different ways. There is peer review and there are standards of testing, but they are more complex and qualitative because there is no material standard for human values. Over time, we have tried and tested theories of religion, from the ghost-spirit superstitions to the tribal gods, to the polytheistic pantheons, to the monotheistic but still largely irrational king-God to a single personal parent of eternal salvation. Human values, evolving over time, reflect in our ideas of what a Deity would be like. In an age when slavery was acceptable, the highest teaching was that one should treat one's slaves well; in a more advanced age, we know that a God of love and mercy would not want us to enslave our fellow sentient. It's an excrutiatingly slow process. Good religionists never believe they have the final answers or "truth" at any time, either, but are always willing to be corrected, shown new and better understandings, and progress.

You may wonder why there are so many more good scientists than good religionists, then. Many reasons. We're in the scientific age, and I praise God that we are. Science learned how to be scientific a few centuries back, and that intelligence has gradually been taught to the world. Material reality, like a hot stove, provides a rapid feedback mechanism, and so science, once it was freed from the shackles of superstitious religious tyranny of the ages, took off like the space rockets it helped inspire. The feedback mechanisms of society's evolution of values is not as clean or quick as material feedback. Hard to put "treat each other fairly" under a microscope and show your neighbor the "proof" that it's better than "rip each other off."

Creationism, as an outgrowth of Biblical Fundamentalism attempting to reinforce its peculiar literalist interpretations of ancient creation myths, is a pitiful example of the worst of religion trying to do science. Unfortunately, some of those who respond to Creationism (and similar aberrances) go beyond making their good points about scientific realities, and stumble into the realm of theology, declaring there is no God. Note this well: Science cannot prove or disprove anything supermaterial. Never can, never will. Science is absolutely silent on the supermaterial because science deals exclusively with matter. If a religion says, the universe began in this way, and science indicates otherwise, that only proves that the particular myth was inaccurate, but it hardly obviates faith in a Creator to realize one's myth was inadequate. These scientists who stumble into theology generally know their science very well but tend to attack the "easiest targets," the most primitive and superstitious aspects of religion, and thus show they may know science but know next to nothing about advanced modern theology. That disproving Creationism disproves God would come as quite a surprise to the millions of faithful who acknowledge both evolutionary theory and the theories of the origins of the cosmos without any religious conflict.

Whatever we discover in matter, wherever we may venture in the realm of mind, however we experience values in our lives as we interact with our fellow personalities, faith simply says, this is God's creation. Faithful living is simple but not simplistic. If God has permitted "evil" in the world, we recognize what seems "evil" is simply the shifting of matter, the partiality of perpetual evolutionary transition, the residue nature of our animal ancestry, and the selfish choices of the unenlightened.

Far from destroying faith, evolution enlightens us to God's purposes in this life! Rather than explaining pain and suffering in this life by concocting stories of Pandora's Box or the Eve-bitten Apple (which metaphors are useful for teaching but hardly scientific), instead of seeing God as a capricious ruler, we can now appreciate the cosmos-spanning Master Artisan of Time and Space. If God wanted to create perfect beings, a perfect universe, eternal and existential, then God would. And did. However, certain elements are not possible in such a heaven: evolution, growth, conflict, all that which comes from partiality and imperfection and the striving toward greater unity, toward light, toward increasingly better use of energy. In order to have those elements, yes, we have to have some pain and suffering. And a universe full of time-space sentients — including you and me my sibling — are made possible only because God created the Void, the hole in Godself where something as un-Godlike-seeming as us could happen.

Science and religion are far from antithetical. Each can, and in more enlightened ages and peoples, does illuminate the other. Superstitions and dogmatism stood against science, but good religion stands against superstition and dogmatism. Materialism and skepticism stand against religiion, but good science eschews such philosophies as materialism and skepticism. There is a hierarchy: values are more important than meaning, meaning more important than fact. In biological evolution, the fact of life is succeeded by the meaning-discerning mind, and ultimately self-reflective and value-recognizing personality appears. Gods.

"Have I not said, you are gods?" — Jesus of Nazareth. Read Genesis, not again but anew, this time shucking off the foggy glasses of Fundamentalist interpretations, and see the words written in flame: And God said, let us make man in our image. This is not God's-like-us homocentrism. This is truth. We are made in the image of God. We have bodies. God's body is all that is (this is the body and the blood). We have meaning-discerning and reason-capable minds. God's mind is beyond, but also encompassing of, all the mindedness of all levels of reality: time-space, eternal-infinite, and all the transcendental levels. (Whoops... am I losing you? Hang on.) God's values — ah, you see, that's what we're discovering, uncovering, having unfold in us. Thus, when we discover material facts, we are discovering the body of God. When we discern meanings and abstract understandings, we are exploring and unfolding the potentials of the mind of God in time and space. When we interact with our universe as unique personalities, and interact with our fellows, we employ value-systems which are the crude reflection of the spiritual goodness which God wishes us to ultimately become for all future eternity, and that is true for each person individually and for each world.

Evolution can be either adaptive or progressive. Science cannot evaluate "progress," but it can measure efficiency and energy, and as I said before, there is increasing efficiency of energy utilization evident in the progression from unicellular to multicellular to higher organisms with specialized systems to central neural networks to the central processing brain units, from plant to animal, from stationary to mobile, from the murky and limited sea to the sunlit and variegated land environments, from simple mentation to highly adaptive behaviors to complex social organizations (obviously, I'm Reader's Digesting the progress of mind evolution) to the explosively varied and complex human civilization... and now we verge on the age when we must encompass one another completely — worldwide fellowship. Fortunately, science has been right along with us in this task, bestowing upon us in the wild and value-free evolution of its own (encouraged by warring tribes) the technological incentive of the potential for various types of planetary humanicide.

Adaptation is simply adaptation, but progress is real. Society's progression is just an extention of the patterns and processes by which unicellular became multicellular. Sciences, both material and social combined, may not say anything about God, but the trends they chart point toward a more progressive and fellowshipping civilization. Some have suggested that there is an ultimate social unity, a kind of "unified field theory" which could ultimately evolve, and they say "that's God" — someday in the eternal future, so to speak. A more encompassing theology acknowledges this but recognizes that the "final product" of time and space is also the same as the "original" of eternity — that God is source and destiny not only of the individual soul but of the entire universe.

Here's what we've got. A universe that's beautiful in its scientific perfection, minds which seem to have incredible potential for appreciation of this universe, and a sense of the divine — by which I mean we evaluate ourselves, our circumstances, and one another in our lives. Beauty, truth, and goodness are the ideals of the realms of science, philosophy, and religion. Fact, meaning, and value are the respective arenas of matter, mind, and spirit. We live on a threshhold, using our minds (the up-and-running software) to appreciate the world we receive through our material senses and brain (the hard... or in this case technically wet-ware) "beneath" us, and to appreciate the insight we receive through our superhuman senses from "above" us — "the still, small voice within."

That's the theory. Believing in this or any other theology is simply acknowledging that there are levels of understanding beyond us — God — which we seek to comprehend, and they don't yield to scientific testing. You have to wash feet, cook food, carry water, raise children, love and suffer and sweat and wonder and joy — all the while knowing that God is with you — even at death. That's how you test, not religion, but faith. The tenets of religions are usually nothing more than social trappings, dogmatic doctrine, tribal rituals and superstitious creeds, organizational chains, and poor social and scientific policies, and have nothing much spiritual or saving about them. Some truths stand eternal, though, and you'll find them on a side shelf in the closet of most religions: love God, love one another, strive toward perfection, find wisdom. These are truths, simply stated, but to understand them is hardly going to happen by just saying those few simple words.

How would someone who simply feels no use for God get to know God? Now, that's a funny one. Aren't there perfectly moral, surpassingly good people out there who don't seem to have any faith, even declare themselves atheist? I only conjecture that a worthy God would not give such an atheist any different treatment than any other of God's children, wouldn't you agree? That is to say, the consequences of one's behavior are the same, whether you have faith or no faith. "God causes the rain to fall upon the just and the unjust alike." Survival into whatever next life awaits should not be judged on something as arbitrary as belief but upon whether one has developed any human qualities of survival value.

In heart, we may be faithful, but in mind we must reason as agnostics. Let's be reasonable. If God is, then would you or I accept anything less than an ideal God? That is, God must be reasonable, too, and therefore just, and let's make God loving, too. Is that a more acceptable ideal than capricious, contrary, or fickle? Let us work with that ideal, then, as our theoretical basis. A just God would not condemn anyone simply for not believing in a God that has been presented badly in one's life. A reasonable Creator will present opportunities for creature correction for whatever we failed to get right in this life, and grant us understanding to satisfy our intellects if not recompense as balm for our souls for what we endure here. A loving Parent will provide mechanisms for our continuance beyond material death and for eternal life. If this theology is not satisfactory, what have you got that's better?

I also reason that if there is such an ideal God, and if this personable Parent truly shares my life almost as one with me, then there's just a chance, an outside chance, that God may have some clue and just might be worth getting to know, even if I don't yet understand why. That would just seem sorta reasonable to me.

God creates the Universe

How would you get to know God? Like anyone else, you get down on your knees (or sit in lotus position in your closet or — my favorite — take a walk in some private natural setting) and you say, all right, God, I'm here, and someone told me you are here, and I don't accept anything anybody says about you, but I'm willing to get to know you if you're real. Then you wait for an answer. If you hear voices, be very worried, and consider competent psychological help, because not for nothing is it called "the still, small voice within." Just keep alert. It's not that God is going to Come Calling Today. God's always been here. You're not "going to Heaven" ("Imagine there's no heaven... it's easy if you try...") or anyway this is all you get of heaven — the presence of God — right here and now. That breeze (is it from the woods or the factory)? It's the breath of God. That chorus of voices (is it the babble of children playing or a screaming mob at war?) is the voice of God. That face before you, that's God's face. That thought you had just now, that help you wanted to give someone the other day, those are God's thoughts, God's kindness. This life is what God is giving each of us as your commandment of the moment.

Volumes could be written about living faith as opposed to the mere mechanisms of belief systems. Volumes have, in fact, and I could suggest a few if you're interested. But volumes could be written just as easily in opposition, and all the volumes in the world don't make up for one moment of faithful service.

It was the last meal before they arrested and killed Jesus. A private spread had been laid out, and the servants were called off. While Jesus lagged, his twelve main men headed upstairs for the feast. When they walk in the dining room, there's the foot-laving supplies, but no servants. The servants are downstairs hanging out with Jesus! Well, who's going to wash our feet? They all look at each other. Then they look at the table, with its Chief Seat and the Seats of Honor. Judas, already intoxicated with his plans of betrayal for that evening, boldly takes the Right Hand Man slot. Peter decides to be Humble and takes the low seat, expecting he'll be called up. The rest grab positions. They're in a fine mood and still grousing when the big dude walks in and instantly scopes out the situation. Without a word, he doffs his toga, puts on the servant's wrap, and goes up to Peter. Peter can't believe his eyes. Here's the Son of God, about to play the meanest of servants. No way, says Pete a/k/a Rocky. Jesus looks up at him standing there and says, Rocky, if you don't let me do this then we might have to cancel your reservation on the halleluia express. Whoa! says Rocky, then Master, I'll let you wash me all over. (They were very close, but not like that, you know. Rocky was just babbling.) And Jesus proceeds to go around the table, washing the feet of every single one of those rascals. Look it up, and what he said.

God lives in a small mud-and-grass hut just outside the palace walls. The King leaves the palace one day and goes next door to the lowly hut to give God the deed to all the Kingdom. God receives the deed, smiles and says, thank you. Now you run it for me.

Newsgroup-appropriate closer: the realm of mind is affected by the substances we consume. Experience every aspect of your life as a prayer, a psalm of joy. Do what you do and dedicate it to God, says Krishna, and Jesus, and Radd Dadd, among many others. Make what you do holy. This gift of experience we share with God closer than a lover, as close as our own soul. Whether we are chopping wood and carrying water or tripping the astral plane, on earth or in a life to come, the commandment of love remains. Praise Jah, raise a mantra to Shiva and Krishna, thank the Almighty for the goods. Beware of poisoning the living temple of your spirit, the womb of your eternal soul, by self-destructive indulgence. Use and abuse are a fine line apart, as the priest drunk on the sacramental wine would tell you. As Ram Dass related, the object is to be high not to get high. Be joyous even if it's kinda hard to be sometimes during dry spells. Vaya con Dios, my siblings. Aloha and happy trails.

More Mindful Webworks regarding matters of faith
Best of Spirits


Spiritual truth cannot rely on external Authority


If this seems a bit rambling, I'm attempting to address your many questions without quoting everything back.

One big problem Truth has with people is our dependent reliance upon authority other than our own God-given spirit of Truth in discerning what has spiritual authority. In earthly things, we intelligently seek earthly substantiation, but for spiritual matters, we too often still try to seek earthly substantiation. As you read Jesus in the Gospels or in part 4 of the UB, you will discover that Jesus had the same problem: some of the authorities of his time — and their followers — refused to acknowledge the value of his teachings simply because he had no ecclesiastical standing. They said the same about the Baptist, before him. If you want to find Authority, look within to the Spirit of Truth, and ask yourself if this rings true.

I can understand concern about its trappings, though. When I first began studying the UB in 1974, I was enthused because from studying it I was finally getting answers where other religious teachings I'd persued had only managed to exaggerate the questions. (Good answers always generate new questions, of course, but at a higher level, and the UB definitely put my questions onto a new level.) I was enthused about what this UB had given me, so I was jealously guarded about its source — and what cult may surround and be using this. To make a long story short, a visit with a friend and fellow new reader to a Chicago gathering that year persuaded me that, yes, there was a small incipient cult growing around the book — an inevitability that the book itself acknowledges — but they were most emphatically forming around the book, rather than having created it or using it to some nefarious end; apparently none of these mostly sweet but simple folks were the geniuses who propounded it; above all, they were all about in the same position I was — a student of the book with no priesthood or hierarchy other than our relative comprehensions of the teachings. If they were trying to strike it rich, they sure weren't going about it right. Nobody's ever asked me to join or pay dues or anything. (I've bought several books for others....) And nobody has become rich off of this, that I've been able to detect. It's just a book, and not all that good a seller at that, so far.

Like asking about any possible cult background, to ask next where it came from is also entirely natural. Although its origin in time and space is documented, we cannot with surety know its actual source. We can never objectively verify its fantastic claims to superhuman authority (e.g. the paragraph at the end of Paper 1);^ for that, we have to judge it on the value of what it teaches. No matter what anyone tells you or what you may learn about its earthly or its celestial origins, the words will remain the same on paper, and you are still required to determine their value for yourself in your life. Take it all as a great big hoax or somebody's hallucination and I can still argue that it's the most powerful cosmological and theological teaching in the time and place of its appearance; as fiction I would find it more valuable than most "factual" religious so-called scriptures.

If one discovered or recognized values — even real spiritual values — in the Carlos Castanedaw books, or from Tolkien'sw mythic epic, or from an Uncle $croogew comic, does their dubious or fictional or secular origin diminish the values of what's been conveyed? Even one of the most powerful lessons of history — the Gospel accounts of Jesus' manner of laying down his life and dying on the cross — has essentially nothing of reliable independent historical substantiation and must be taken on face value for what this has to teach. If the Creator would be known, you must appreciate that his Truth is so powerful it will come out; some pundit said if Jesus hadn't lived we would have had to invent him; Jesus said, if you silenced the hosannas of the throng the rocks and stones themselves would start to sing. You can perceive and respond to God's Truth, whatever its source, just as you respond to your hand on a hot stove, because you have the Truth-sensing spirit.

The UB is not simple, nor for the very simple-minded, that is true. (Although its essential teachings are spiritual truths a child can understand — as my children could testify.) It is complex, it is difficult (very difficult in places), and it is broad in scope both cosmologically and theologically. These are in-depth answers to key theological questions humanity has considered in complex ways. The absolute answer may be as simple as "God loves you," but our sub-absolute intellects can appreciate complex answers to the difficult challenges faithful living asserts. Any such work, of such length and complexity, is going to seem esoteric at first blush. Jesus' listeners didn't always appreciate his more difficult teachings, but he spoke true nonetheless. I and many people I know have been studying this work for decades, testing its teachings in daily living, too, and the "esotericness" of it has long since worn off. To express to someone who hasn't found faith what it's like to be living with God as a constant daily companion seems pretty far out there, really esoteric, even insane or impossible. But for the faithful, it's a daily fact of life.

Are you really trying to understand the answers to the questions you're asking? Are you engaging in "my book can beat up your book" brawling in place of comparative theology? Seriously, are you prepared to give this book a genuine chance? You've compared this strange, new teaching with your comfortable old one and found the newcomer disturbing by comparison. But there's really no comparing Bible and UB. They're both books of religion, and there's a lot of reference to the Jewish and Christian scriptures in The Urantia Book, but they're really apples and oranges, to say the least:

The Bible is historical, a collection of scriptures over hundreds of years and several generations (and at least two major religions); the UB purports to be a revelation, a single work, propounded entirely in the first half of this century. The Bible is a canon collected by some Christians in the hundreds A.D. (pardon me for not recalling or looking up the original dates); the UB was designed and intended to be a single, unified work. The books of the Bible, even Revelations, were humanly authored (most devout Fundamentalists don't actually claim that God was the author, only the inspiration for the human authors); the UB is attributed directly and entirely to superhuman authorship. Finally, although some do claim that the Bible speaks with a unified teaching — to prove the which I have seen great straining at gnats and swallowing of camels — I have to hold with the more moderate (IMO) Christian school which considers the Bible a collection of records of some of humanity's unfolding search for and finding of God, some books being better and some worse — and (again IMO) with Jesus' as the pinnacle of that evolution of understanding; the UB by contrast despite the several apparent voices of the alleged presenters of its papers, has no theological conflicts, and is indeed extraordinary among religious writings of my experience in its internal consistency despite enormous complexity.

Still with me after that long-winded paragraph? My point is, the Bible and the UB are not in conflict; they're not even on the same game board, in a sense. To contrast them as works is just not fair to either one. That's football-contest religion. To glean the teachings that may present themselves to us from each, and then to live that truth we find — that is our real task.

A certain intellectual capacity is requisite, of course, for this is a work of literature, and a very fine one at that. Not everybody should expect to get everything in it, but if a certain allowance is made for "I just don't get this part right now so I'm going to skip over it," just about anybody can read and appreciate it. I can find you passages which a newcomer to the book's jargon might find impenetrably dense (like, most of the Foreword), but 'most anyone can appreciate, say, the bulk of the Jesus papers. Also, like any course of study, the more you study it, the more penetrable the other aspects of the book become. What it takes is not so much a super mind as a sincere effort.

But I don't think the UB is for everybody, at least not in this day. The religion it teaches about is for everybody, any time, but you don't have to be a UB student to be of that religion which holds that we have one Creator-Parent, one spiritual family and upon this hang all the rules. The UB cannot improve upon Jesus' teachings, but it can clarify and emphasize them. I've found that a simple-minded illiterate can be more devout than the best-educated theologian, haven't you? So the intellectual content of the UB is not necessarily anyone's salvation in and of itself. You know that some people read the Bible and get nothing out of it of spiritual value. The UB nor Bible nor Koran nor Upanishad can reach those who don't or won't hear. The UB elevates human religion for those who are ready and if its teachings are worthy, then the students of that religion will let their light shine and enflame the hearts and inspire the minds of all fellows, of all levels of ability.

The UB acknowledges that it sips from many human sources; if you study its quotes carefully, though, you'll find that many, if not most, are paraphrases; the thoughts have been tweaked to fit the UB's perspective. The explanation for the use of human sourcing is given in the book; the purpose of the paraphrasing or "restatement" is also explained; no explanation for non-attribution is given. There has been some debate about the ethical nature of what some regard as plagiarism by alleged celestials. As one might expect, those who are critics of the UB tend to be more upset by this than those who admire the work.

For me, well, the Gospels inform me that Jesus didn't always cite chapter and verse nor was he always even precisely orthodox in his appropriation of scripture. I long ago realized the source-noting of the UB was up to us, much like Biblical scholarship, and I waited years to see such works as have now been produced which attempt to reference the sources of the UB's "quotes."^ Duane Faw's Paramony stands out for its extensive cross-referencing of the UB and the Bible. I tend to keep a UB, my dog-eared KJV, a Bible Concordance, Clyde Bedell's Concordex to the UB, and the Paramony all handy at my desk.

I understand the UB is taking off in cultures which are not Bible-based, and as one steeped in Christian culture, I find it hard to imagine that something isn't lost for students of the UB who aren't familiar with the historical scriptures that are so extensively referenced. But the same can be said for other cultures and works that the UB references — it's just as important to be familiar with Buddhist or Hindu cultures or other non-Levantine religions to fully appreciate the UB. But not required.

Nobody asks that the UB be accepted unexamined on faith in nothing more than its fantastic claims to authorship. The UB itself, to my reading, would not recommend such an approach to any religious teaching. But in the search for its authority, the book isn't going to tell you anything more than the words which are in it. Which is more important, what people say about the Bible or what the Bible says? The former illuminates the latter, but is certainly not always right. Whatever you want to know about the UB, you're still going to have to read and study it to find out what it has to teach, and then be able to decide for yourself.

If you want to study the book as a thing, its history and origins, and all that, there's little secret or vague. There are some mysteries about the particulars of the UB's origins, the actual method of transmission and the identity of the main person apparently associated with its transmission. The identity of the individual alleged "contact person" is pure supposition, because those in a position to know all went to the grave without revealing it, as they were sworn to do. About all we know about the "contact personality" associated with its origin is that one Dr. Sadler dealt with this patient, and noted that the content of the material was beyond the likely capacity of his patient; Sadler was in a position to know, having dealt with many cases of aberrant psychology. (An article about this yours for the asking.) It's my understanding the papers are presented in the book in just the order in which they were presented originally. Although there was reportedly some minor revision of the papers over the years prior to their publication, and involving some interactivity with mortal responses and questions, I've gathered that they are pretty much as they were originally dictated in toto, and in the order originally presented to the early Forum conducted by Dr. Sadler. If you have to have those missing bits of information "or else," then yes, you've got a problem with the UB. Consider it equivalent to those who can't believe Jesus was God because they aren't given the technical details of how a divine personage could incarnate as a mortal infant. Do you really need to know how he did that trick to appreciate what he taught and how he lived and died, who he was?

There are no mysteries about what the ink on paper has to say. If you have questions about its teachings or its origins, either one, there are answers, though, from those who have studied those things. You could start with my own introduction regarding the UB and follow links from that page to other sites. There's several papers online which will tell you all that's known about the origins of the book, and about the Urantia Foundation, the Fellowship nee Urantia Brotherhood, and other marvels of the book's history and its social repercussions. I even have a mini-comic book about its origins (sort of). For information about the origins of the UB in particular, see the Fellowship's site^ for information about the book^, and especially The Historicity of The Urantia Book by Dr. Meredith Sprunger^, who was as close to being in a position to know as anyone still alive.

The UB does not represent an attack on the Bible, on Christian spiritual truths, or on faith. It does challenge preconceptions and settled thinking. Its teachings draw from many truth sources but it does not comport entirely with any human doctrine, so it does require theological scrutiny and pondering. Bewilderment was the response of most of the readers I know, at first, myself included. When you've sincerely studied the book even a short while, the clouds begin to part. I hope you'll continue your study of it.

Meantime, I hope we can be united beyond any possible ecclesiastical or doctrinal differences, in faith and service to our Creator Parent and the family of that Parent's creation as we encounter each other here on Urantia.... or on earth, if you prefer [grin].

I don't often get a chance to correspond. Sorry if my keyboard ranneth over.

The Art of

Universal encouragment of confident pictographic self-expression

…so go ahead and doodle!

Sure, Bob
Anyone can
Don't you?

Radical Incline

Are U.S. Constitutional religious rights refused non-aligned religionists?

Intersection of Church & State[*]High Times, June 1996 issue, Peter Gorman reports that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has "unanimously ruled that Rastafarians have the right to use a freedom-of-religion defense in marijuana-possession cases. The ruling, based on the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration the first of its kind with regard to marijuana use." Details of the case are given, not relevant here, and then the article notes, "The ruling does not suggest that Rastafarians have a right to smoke or possess marijuana, only that they have a right to raise their use of the herb, which they consider a sacrament, as a defense against possession charges."

In case you're not familiar with the act, the article notes that "the Religious Freedom Restoration Act [guarantees] protection of religious practices unless there is a 'compelling government interest' at stake and if prohibiting them is the 'least restrictive means' of achieving that compelling interest."

Now here is the crux of the matter, my reason for posting this, again from the article: "the court went to great pains to note that Rastafarianism is a recognized religion with a long history of marijuana use and that 'It is not enough in order to enjoy the protections of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to claim the name of a religion as a protective cloak."

Now, this stands in line with past decisions on religious freedoms, as I understand them (I am not a lawyer). Federal schools require children to have had certain vaccinations, unless those children are members of a "recognized religion" which has objections to such programs, e.g. the Jehovah's Witnesses. It is not enough to have an ethical, moral, or personal material (scientific) belief in the inefficacy or dangers of vaccinations, you must be a member of a "recognized religion" which has a standing religious objection to vaccinations. Similar rulings, so I understand, regard military conscription (recalling the furor and accusations when Muhammad Ali invoked his Islam beliefs to refuse to take up arms against his fellow human being).

But what about the individual believer? Like many devout members of "organized" and "recognized" religions, one might have a religious belief against military service, against vaccination, or for marijuana or peyote, but as a "non-aligned" individual of faith, THE GOVERNMENT DOES NOT RECOGNIZE THAT RELIGION. In effect, individual religionists are penalized for their beliefs, their religious liberty denied. The government considers such individual believers to be "claiming the name of a religion as a protective cloak."

Such is my understanding. As an independent religionist, a cult of one (or at most a cult of my immediate family), with strong beliefs in the involvement of the Spirit at all levels of physical and mental activities, this is outrageous to me. If a Jehovah's Witness can claim religious objection to protect children against invasive government-ordained medical procedures, why cannot any religious individual who holds that the body is the temple of the spirit? If a Quaker can be exempted from military conscription, why cannot any religious individual who holds that individual conscientious choice dictates against forced military service? If a Rastafarian or a Peyote-using AmerInd is permitted to partake of their sacraments (and this is not, to my understanding, yet decided, due to the anti-"drug" hysteria which addles society's morality), then why cannot any individual believer rightfully partake of the bounty of God's spiritually-uplifting medicines?

In none of these cases, you will note, does an individual transgress against another. Thus, all such private individual behaviors or substance use abide by the Golden Rule of love of God and fellowship with one another upon which are supposed to hang all the laws, as Jesus taught. This is Principle, and religiously-held. But if you're not a Member of a State-recognized (and therefore State-sanctioned) organized religion, you're not "religious." The law, therefore, defines and establishes "religion," in violation of the First Amendment proscription on doing so. Even if religious defense were permitted, the burden of proof would not be upon the State to show that religion is only being invoked as a protective cloak, but upon the individual to prove that these are truly religious beliefs; without an "organized" religion with a "history" of beliefs in these regards, any such defense is likely to fail.

Until the individual religionist can rightfully claim to BE a religionist, and rightly point to such "unpopular" beliefs and find protection therefore, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, not to mention the First Amendment, are being violated.

Related Mindful Webworks:
Prohibition fuels gangsterism —It's not drugs but PROHIBITION which provides the fuel for the modern equivalent of rum-runner profits and Al Capones.
Repeal! / Repeal Heals — not only is the so-called war on drugs utterly unwinnable, it is in its very conception a perversion of the important purposes of good government. The way to personal or social health is positive.
The Golden Rule and Prohibition — Countering common erroneous arguments for prohibitionism and applying the Golden Rule
A run-in with Officer Green"WHAT'S THAT SMELL??" scowled Officer Green, and ordered me out of my car.
Head Shop — Cartoons, songs, and more regarding the appeal of indulgences and the consequences of desire.

Dad tries another lesson on sharing and giving with the toddlers.