Thursday, August 28, 2008

Freemasonry and the American Revolution

The History Channel showed an interesting segment concerning the role Freemasonry played in the birth of the United States. From as early as the Boston Tea Party, Masons played a large role in the growth and establishment of the United States during the Revolution.

Interestingly, Freemasonry in the US fueled the Revolution through one of it's great ideals:

Free Thought based on Reason.

While God is acknowledged – reason – not faith – is the virtue of the Freemasons of the Revolution. This is why Muslims, Jews, and Christians all come together under a unified order. The lines of religion are blurred – making reason and action the choice stance against the challenges of life.

This mentality rejected the religious tyranny prevalent in Europe at the time of the Revolution.

Many of the founding fathers were Masons. Masonic connections spanned across nations and this came in handy for keeping the US Revolution alive. Ben Franklin used his masonic connections to get desperately needed aid from France so that their lodge brother General Washington would not cave in during the war.

With Freemasonry so intertwined with the birth of our republic and with Freemasonry being so non-embracing and non-endorsing of any specific religion – how can we say the US is a Christian nation?

Freemasonry encouraged reason and open mindedness – the very ideals of freedom. Fundamentalist religions so often enforce closed mindedness because free thinking is quite incompatible with Fundamentalist theology.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Always Right, Even When It's Wrong

I recently read a comment on-line where someone gave a rebuttal to the argument that the Biblical text had inconsistencies and contradictions within it. It went something like:

Even with the alleged contradictions of the Bible text, the events to which the text points still could have happened. Mis-representation of an event doesn't mean the event did not still happen. For example -- if a person finds and confirms a bona fide contradiction between the Gospel accounts about the Resurrection, the Resurrection still remains possible and has not been dis-proven. The contradiction only means that writers were slightly incorrect about their accounts. Perhaps this even proves the accounts because the variation in story is natural when multiple views are given of the same account by witnesses.

(this is only a paraphrase, by the way)

Maybe I shouldn't have – but I conceded to this idea upon my first reading of this. If something truly happened in the past, a poor account or embellishment of the event doesn't prove the event as false nor does this bad information rub it out from history. That sounded logical and fair.

But after that thought, I began to sweat. A good skeptic learns to become skeptical of everything – even of himself and his beliefs. So, I became skeptical of the causes of my skepticism!

Was it time to retract my disbeliefs and erase everything I've posted?!

After long thought, I finally asked myself two questions:

What must be true if the Bible is true?

What must be true if the Bible is only a myth?

If the Bible is true, it must be reliable concerning the accounts recorded within its own pages. After all, this is the Word of God. God's Word is to be wholesome, complete, holy, and true. Right?

Holy men acted as God's mouthpiece. But aren't all men subject to error? Even so, the overall presentation of the Bible must be true and reliable. The historical account within the Bible needs to match any other reliable, extra-biblical account of history. The divine writers of God's word can be given some room for error, I suppose – even including some minor contradictions. But overall the basic account given by the Bible about the past must be true and verifiable so that we can also trust the theological message.

And what if the Bible is myth?

We should then find reliable evidence in history that clashes with the Biblical account. The Bible and history will contradict and we will find detrimental lapses and mistakes within the Biblical text when compared against other reliable sources.

Otherwise, the Bible will be right even if found to be wrong. And, the Bible could be labeled as wrong even when found to be right and true.

Therefore, if the Bible is accurate, it should coincide with other reliable, extra biblical sources and accounts of history along with sound scientific and archaeological discoveries.

History must be reconstructed from what we find and observe to be true based on the evidence we discover around us. No other means should be used. History mustn't be reconstructed off of the reputation of an ancient text alone. Other sources and archaeological data must also help prove our rebuilding of the past.

Any source that sharply contradicts sound evidence should be held with suspicion and skepticism until better information comes along. Until then, such sources shouldn't be regarded as totally reliable.

Archeology examines the physical evidence of history just as forensics examines a crime scene. Both are concerned with the same goal – to reconstruct the past by using the evidence or artifacts left behind.

As I've already mentioned, the Bible can only be relied upon to the degree the text is shown to be historically accurate. Regardless of any contradiction found or imagined within the Biblical text, we must acknowledge when archeology and science upholds the Biblical account.

So then . . . if sound archaeological data contradicts the Bible in important ways, the scriptures (as beautiful as they might be) will only yield us beautiful mythology.

Science has proven that the earth is round. But, closer examination of the Biblical text suggests that the writers of the text believed the world was flat with a dome or partition of “sky” upholding waters above or within the heavens. The book of Genesis describes God creating this kind of world when the writer gives an account of God making a firmament to divide the waters from the waters. The firmament was called by God “heaven” or “sky” and the sun, moon, and stars were placed into this heaven to govern the days, nights, and seasons. So, the sun was built into earth's atmospheric dome and God dwelt up above after the fall of Eden. This is why it was so dangerous for the architects of the tower of Babel to continue their attempt at greatness. They might actually reach heaven! Heaven was only at the top of the world's dome.

So then, we can feel confident that Genesis gives a mythological account of the creation. But – perhaps we cannot say in fairness that God never created the earth.

But now we know that we cannot find complete truth within the Biblical text. We now know that mythological versions of possible past events are contained therein and should not be taken so literally.

But what happens when archeology gives strong evidence that the Israelites emerged from the Canaanites rather than conquering them? That would mean no Exodus – and no Passover. The Israelites could never be placed in the wilderness to receive the law of Moses.

Huge chunks of the Bible become instant mythology and so much of the theology can no longer be taken literally.

This problem ripples even into the New Testament scriptures; the life of Jesus would also become instant myth! The New Testament is founded upon the account of Judaism. Judaism must be true for Christianity to be true because Christianity is the fulfillment of Judaism. Judaism is the bud, Christianity is the bloom. Judaism is the child, Christianity is the adult – but of the same person, so to speak. If that bud or child never existed, the same will be true of it's mature self.

If that much of the Bible becomes myth, can we then still defend the important events in the Bible as though they truly happened – just not exactly as the text claims?

What if civilization faded away as we know it and several millennia later someone was excavating the artifacts we left behind? What if fragmented copies of The Deer and the Cauldron were discovered across the world (it was an international best seller – why not?) in various translations? They would find that the places listed were largely accurate and true. Archaeological data would prove that the places and even several of the characters in The Deer and the Cauldron actually lived and shaped history during their lives. Some of the accomplishments of the people listed would even have historical accuracy. This data would even span into the history of other countries. But the main character – was he real? Did he really exist? Did he really do all that was recorded?

What would happen if the main character made claims to be god and that he would one day return to judge us all?

Ooooh, and those miraculous, legendary feats of kung fu! Did they really happen? Could they have happened?

And if those accounts were found to be embellishments, are we still obligated to say that the main character actually existed? Do we just learn to overlook the fact that certain events were probably too fantastic to have actually happened and defend the notion that the whole text should be taken literally anyhow?

Remember – we know that The Deer and the Cauldron is a work of fiction, despite any historical accuracy it may have.

And most people feel the very same way about religious text – minus their own religion, of course.

According to The Bible Unearthed, many places would never have been discovered if the Bible had not mentioned them and gave hints to their locations. This aspect of the Biblical text does contain an important level of accuracy and truth. Yet, as the Bible helped uncover some of these places, the text also unwittingly lead to the discoveries which discredited the very heart of Biblical theology. Many archaeologists and scholars believed the Bible was historically accurate out of habit and out of respect for the Biblical religions. They weren't giving the text much scrutiny before the 1970s. But once you discover that the sunlight hitting our atmosphere from outer-space makes the sky look blue and not the mythical water kept over the dome of the earth – you can no longer defend the creation account of Genesis as being historical.

But you still want to insist that God created everything, right?

Go right ahead . . . but it didn't happen the way the Bible says.

But, it gets worse.

God is found building the earth as a snow glob of sorts not only in Genesis. This concept is sprinkled through the whole Bible. As I mentioned earlier – remember the tower of Babel? And even worse, archaeological evidence does show us that the Israelites evolved from the Canaanites around 1000 BCE and became established in the hill sides – living among the Canaanites all along. Archeology also gives strong evidence that Yahweh evolved from El and Baal. The Israelites evolved and their god evolved, too, because they were basically Canaanites that budded off into their own group of clans over the centuries after populating the hill sides.

So, even when the Bible is wrong about creation, wrong about the Exodus, and wrong about the alleged conquering of Canaan, we are still supposed admit that these events happened – but only not exactly like the Bible says?

We say this for the Resurrection of Christ, too, I suppose.

Can the Resurrection be historical fact if the Passover is no more than a tradition built off of mythological events?

For me, defending this notion by saying “yes” is basically saying that the Bible is always right – even when it's wrong.

I would be admitting that the sky does have a vast ocean of blue water above our heads. You can build a tower into the heavens. The Exodus did happen – damn the evidence that says otherwise! Same with Joshua conquering the Canaanites, too. They just walked right in and took the land flowing with milk and honey. (ooh so sweet!) And regardless of any contradiction you think you read in the Biblical text . . . you're imagining things! And if you aren't . . . so what? These things still happened simply because the Bible said so.

God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.

You know by now that I'm being sarcastic, right?

Now, I no longer puzzle over the various alleged contradictions within the Biblical text; never mind actual or alleged contradictions found in the Gospel concerning the Resurrection – or for any other topics of similar nature.

Reality itself seems to contradict the very heart of the Biblical narrative.

How much more proof of contradiction do you need to realize the Bible is mythology?