Monday, January 3, 2011

I was included in this FB note -

What makes you doubt the existence of God?

Any person of faith who is honest with herself is going to acknowledge that she is also a person of doubt. For some it's suffering: their own, somebody else's, or just in general; for others, it's the lack of any physical evidence of the supernatural; and for others, it's the inconsistencies, real or imagined, in the holy texts. Reasons are going to vary from person to person.

In 100 words or so, share yours. What makes you disinclined to believe in God, even if -- especially if -- you generally count yourself as a believer, then tag other religious folks. Being honest about our doubts makes us more honest about our faith.


So here it goes with no hope of limiting my response to 100 words or less -

Problems with Christianity separated by levels:

Moral -

  • Punishment (eternal suffering for a finite error)
  • Inhumanity (crucifiction - period)
  • Sacrifice (you can't take away my sins! they are mine)
  • Cruelty (Old Testament (OT) deity is insufferable)
  • Impersonal (New Testament (NT) deity is indefinable)
  • Humility (worshipped, abused and manipulated)
  • Common (Kindness/morality/ideals/caring not unique to any one group, person, or even species)

Individual -

  • Sin (My sins are my experiences to learn from, not some shame to be wiped clean)
  • Forgiveness (there is nothing to forgive! We do the best we can.)
  • Arrogance (My personal choices are meaningful to a being who has seen every tyrant, every saint, every single atom everywhere)
  • Atheism (everyone disbelieves in most deities)
  • Faith (self deception as a virtue)
  • Grace (does not from god - it is the human psyche)

Church -

  • Limitation (believe the right name use right words in the right way or else)
  • Mythology (compare it to any other religon started 3000+ years ago)
  • Self-absorbed (Our way is the only way - and we charge)
  • Saints (a hoax - many repealed by the church)
  • Sex Obsessed (Keep out of my pants - period)
  • The word (the bible is a compilation of hundreds of writings, judged by men of a previous age based on their ideals and goals)
  • Cruelty (every age of the church is marked by scandal & cruelty)
  • Prestige (how many base their superiority on their position in the church)
  • Doubt (accepted and expected and ignored)
  • Hubris (Don't live by their word/ideals/teachings but expect others to)
  • Fraudulant
  • Indulgences
  • Corrupt
  • Genocidal

Societal -

  • Commonality (egyptian mythos, et al.)
  • Sexist (speaks for itself)
  • Racist (OT)
  • Xenophobic (OT)
  • Free Will (god created us with free will & then expects us to use it as he defines acceptable)

World -

  • Exclusivity (how few knew)
  • Timeliness (A savior comes 98,000+ years (minimum) after man does)
  • Accuracy (many scientific facts are incorrect)
  • Humanocentric (god created all beings to serve us!)
  • Inaccuracy (OT events cannot be proven and could not have happened (e.g. Noah's Ark))
  • Science (Eveything we discover further obscures a creator deity)
  • Endless other religions

Comsic -

  • Evolution (how can a perfect being's message evolve?)
  • Perfection (there is no perfection - if there was we wouldn't be here)
  • Wastefulness (we are infintessimal compared to all of creation - a star is born and dies every second - it was created for us?)
  • Mystery (obscurantism/obfuscation)

Jesus -

  • Miracles (Not that miraculous)
  • Charlatan (deeds are rumors & common tricks - feed 5000 with x loaves of bread and fish)
  • Messiah (poorly defined - varies by religion)
  • Common (
  • Existence (Even this is questionable)


  • Love (god is not loving - it is whimful, vengeful and cruel)
  • Omnipotence (right)
  • Omniscience (see Omnipotence)
  • Triunal nature
  • Prying (CAN SEE EVERYTHING, uses no discretion)
  • Judgmental (sends those he loves to hell for minor infractions)
  • Definition (God is redefined and interpreted constantly)


Here is all I believe:

Learning -
I learn from perceiving my successes and mistakes

Emotion -
I grow by observing and recognizing my feelings

Needs -
I become complete by recognizing my needs and inviting others to help me work to meet those needs

Interdependence -
I see that others are as vital to me as I am to them, and seek to help them however I am able and allowed

Future -
Whatever is coming I cannot avoid or hide from, I can only do my best and accept that I am incredibly fortunate to have survived long enough to perceive the world in the way that I do, look forward to the ways in which my understanding will progress, and give back to those that have made this life possible.

Monday, January 21, 2008


The topic in church interested me the other day. As some of you know, I have involved myself in my wife’s denomination, the episcopalians, so that Aliyah can have a “christian” upbringing. The topic was on changing the vocabulary of the church to be more inclusive and welcoming to both genders and was moving from a patriarchal church to a less-chauvinist perspective. I sat and listened for a while to the speaker list the reasons behind these changes, and found myself thinking ho-hum this is such a drag…of course all this should be done…can’t we talk about something more interesting, more meaningful.

Well, wait just a second here…for those of you who don’t really know me, I’m a bastion of liberalism, despite being a member of the republican party (best place to effect a change is from the inside I always say). I have always stood, sometimes quite by myself on the side of inclusiveness and unity. I whole-heartedly believe that women have gotten the nasty side of the stick for the last several thousand years and have made a point to take a stand against it, actively supporting planned parenthood, feminism, and gay rights, among several other political initiatives. As a young child I could never fully embrace “all men …” as being a fair thing to women. I received no end of rationales from everyone around me, that men/man/guys/etc. meant everybody, and too bad if I thought otherwise. But the problem is/was I believe that prejudice of any nature is a sad, backwards misuse of our brains ability to generalize in working towards a conclusion. It’s wrong, we are sahped by what we say and how we say it. We must all recognize it, and we need to rise above it! So why was I, of everyone in the church blowing off the fruition of one of my deeply held beliefs?

I gave it some introspection amidst the various prayers and religious rituals that still make me wince, and came to the conclusion that I had given in to the status-quo. Somewhere along settling down, I gave in, just a little bit, a little but enough to be uncomfortable with making changes to prayers I had said (when I was saying them) since I was a little child; and this opened my eyes a bit more. I felt bad for the long standing members of the congregation, in a way that I never had before. I felt compassion for their discomfort with change, even though they were the origin of it in themselves.

Look I’m not a traditionalist; I don’t do things by rote. The fact is I’m lucky if I do things in an even remotely similar manner each time I do them. I like to try different things in different manners – just because they are different. I drive every conceivable route to and from work – why not, I’ve found some really neat back routes to places that I would never have found if I just settled for the most direct. I’ve been a practitioner of a variety of religions, and still am, because I could be (and if I’m going to hell because of it, god better grow up and get a sense of humor – I mean he made me and put me in this world with this personality, so what could she possibly expect of me…you might as well ask a dog to eat at the table with kitchen utensils in its front paws.) Anyway, somehow I had fallen asleep, forgotten about the things that needed to be challenged, and was only roused when I started reading the lord prayer. Because, when the lord’s prayer didn’t sound much like the lord’s prayer at all, I suddenly started to feel very uncomfortable, thinking, “look I know I believe this but do we have to make this change now?” – AND– “well I can understand the need for this but it’s going to put off a lot of ‘other’ people” – AND – “yawn, why are we wasting our time with this?” (I like the last one the best, it is just so tricky and self-deceitful - a redirection that implies agreement.)

I attended the adult forum afterwards, to hear what others were saying, and they were pretty much all saying the same tired jargon, in several variations, but it came down to this – “I’m comfortable doing things the old way. I don’t want to CHANGE.” (I’m tempted to make an easy joke here about change being inevitable, and so much heavier than cash, but I’ll spare you (psych…:).) And I think that’s it. Even when we like the idea, change is frightening, it isn’t comfortable, you have to think, you have to pay attention, you can’t do things automatically, and sometimes you have to admit you were wrong.

So I went in and just listened and tried to just hear out other people coping with the challenge ahead of them, let them know that I understood. I also let them know, once they felt heard, that I thought that this change was long overdue, and that we all agreed with the idea of including our fellows. I also resisted the temptation to tell everyone laity and church-goer alike that it wasn’t enough. God made us all in his/her/its image across species boundaries as well. Every damn, cat, goldfish, invertebrate, everything is in the form of god because god is boundless - all inclusive. I resisted because I knew they had feathers and tar somewhere, and probably wouldn’t be afraid to use it.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Universe is Effulgently Replete with Forgiveness

I spoke with my mother over the phone this evening. She asked me how I was, and I shouted to her elatedly, “Mom, the universe is effulgently replete with forgiveness!”

“Uhm, what?” she blanched back.

“The universe - it is filled to overflowing with the ability to forgive us for our actions. It is joyfully willing to let us change our selves at any moment and rejoices in our ability to transform.”

“Of course,” I finished, “it is just as happy to let us swing back and forth on the rope we’ve hung ourselves with.”

“Anthony, what have you been reading?” my mother asked with a calmness that suggested she was worried about the state of my mental health.

It is true. The universe is filled to bursting with forgiveness. In its minutest moment it is brimming with the opportunity to change, to become something other than we are. What’s more the universe invites us at every second of every day to take part in its delirious feast. But that is not the half of it.

Let me personalize this a bit first. I have always despised the concept of my being forgiven for my sins, especially through someone else’s sacrifice; I am offended especially at a horrible, bloody, excruciating sacrifice - one that I never asked for. The very thought of being born indebted to something/someone else for something I don’t remember having anything to do with, had more to do with my choosing to turn my back on Christianity than almost anything else – my ego could not bear that kind of debt.

So the ego is my first clue. I can see that my ego is an untamed creature that demands to be sated and roar its glorious satiety through evening without taking responsibility for its untoward actions. My attachment to ideas of innocence and earned redemption lead me to reject the idea that I was born guilty of things I am not comfortable with, let alone remember. My need to be the victorious deserving good guy, forces me to close my eyes to a less glorious, uncharitable being that I share my “self” with. My ego demands that it will not be rescued; if I’m going to be forgiven it will be earned through my own actions, or I will reign in hell. No one is going to save me, except me, roar!!!

The fact is this is where my confused disgruntlement begins. Forgiveness is a gift, but the ego warps that gift into an obligation and a game of one-upmanship. If you can forgive me, you must be better than me, you have given me your gift of forgiveness. If I give you forgiveness, look at me! I am forgiving! I am really enlightened. I am great! I am better than you. To see forgiveness as something bestowed is to miss the point. If I take this approach, I find that instead of freeing myself from things and tendencies, and habits I regret, I give then a nice dark, humid place to grow in, a dark hidden place in myself that I collect trophies of my ignominy, all because I want to be the good guy, the winner.

But Jesus died for your sins! You are saved, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You didn’t do it (in fact, from one perspective, it has nothing to do with you). Forgiveness has already happened before you were born, and will continue long after this shell of a self passes. You can’t earn god’s forgiveness.

From the Buddhist perspective, to indulge in anger and resentment is to do harm to you. By placing the needs and desires of the self between you and the rest of the world, you harden yourself against the "one-ness" of things; you separate yourself against the victim of your ill-will. Of course it is the one holding the grudge who is harmed most. Not only is their anger self-perpetuating, it crystallizes them in the role of victim, and prevents further growth, until the hurt and the anger and the victimhood is released. To release your anger, frees you from that source of suffering and delusion.

If I take part in the act of forgiveness, without indulging in thoughts of ownership, if I let myself see us as we are, little flowers struggling towards nourishment, I can only benefit. By “forgiving you,” I am invited to the feast of forgiveness; I take one step closer to being in rhythm with the universe. Best of all, when I realize that it is not “I” that forgives you, but the universe itself, in that moment I am truly free.


Friday, January 11, 2008

Non-violent communication 0

I am the guy on the train, probably in your very car, who is intently reading a book, Non-Violent Communication, by Marshall Rosenberg. You may not even notice me; I certainly don't notice you. I have just uncovered the secret that I have been searching for almost forty years, without even knowing that I'd been looking for it. Can you imagine the glory I feel? Can you imagine the excitement? I can barely contain it - I am trying to not show the tears of joy, running down my face.

It’s going to be hard, but I can do this! I really can! Because it is so clear, and it is everything that I have sought after; sought for all of these years. All I need to know I have found, and now it is time to merely practice it...right?

Did you know, that knowing something is about as useful as suspecting it? I didn't. Behavior is apparently unattached to intellect. All I know has little to do with who I am. I can not take shelter in my knowledge. Years ago, I would have been defeated by this truth.

When I was younger, I really believed in a united wholeness of being. I thought if you understood something was real, you would somehow be changed by it, and in being changed you were somehow renewed, different. I didn't understand that you can know smoking is stupid, deadly, and unpleasant for everyone, and still be addicted to cigarettes. It took me something like five years to figure that out, and another five to truly stop smoking permanently (which means at all).

But I'm older now and maybe a little wiser (I certainly found that non-violent communication answer...). And I know that even if I have all of the answers, if they are not my answers, if I haven't put in the work to own those answers, if every letter doesn't contain a bit of my effort, my sweat, my blood, I don't have anything. I have nothing, except perhaps a hint of the direction I must travel to get where I want to go. I don't really have how far I have to go , how long it will take me, what I will gain and loose on the way. I don't even know that they'll be open when I get there, or they'll have what I’m looking for in stock and in my size. What I know is that there is a path, and it might, just might lead me where I want to go.

So I'm sitting here, knowing that I have a long way to go. I’m mot even sure who I’ll be when I get where I’m going. And yet, I am happy. Because I know that with enough work - and focus - and practice, and that with enough understanding from myself and those I love, I can one day set myself free.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"Practice is to not find fault with the present moment"

Listening to Roshi Joan Halifax, in today’s edition of the Dharma Podcast (DP 59 - Rohatsu Sesshin Day 5), I felt a resonance with a statement she made in her dharma talk, "Practice is not finding fault with the present moment." What a simple statement. What a broad and easily misinterpreted statement. "To not find fault with the present moment..." I think many are likely to polarize to some reaction when we consider this statement, "to not find fault ..." I assume if you are still reading you have not said, "rubbish, another bit of online dribble." (Of course, if you are saying that to yourself now, it’s too late now, you might as well finish reading.)

I have found myself delivered into a world that demands that I judge, draw a distinction between what is right and wrong, good and bad, alive and not alive, me and not me, Zen and not Zen. This is reinforced by those I have been blessed to appoint as my teachers, though they know not that I am learning nor what they are teaching. And I found that to judge is to separate myself; separate myself from that which is not me, from that which is judged - good, bad, neutral, inconsequential another list of many things that are not one. These things I can not truly connect with and am separate from.

But even all judgments are not "bad," it is necessary to judge safe from unsafe, recognizing the state of things is important. It is only when a value is attached or attributed to the state - one that casts that person object or action which is judged into a class from which it can not be redeemed or redressed. This is discrimination. We separate ourselves from the other and judge them as bad or good, and divided from us. "They" are bound to a behavior, a tendency, a response because that is how "they" are.

I ran in to a few difficulties employing this philosophy, and wanted to define those positions for further consideration. Initially, I found it hard to differentiate between value-laden discrimination and simple observation of state; I still do at times. But the difference is that observation doesn't respond unthinkingly. It supports deliberation. Observation, in essence, simply notes what is. It does not find fault in the observed state.

The effort to not find fault, has also lead me at times to reject fault, and fault-finding, and finding fault in fault-finding in myself and others. But the intention of the proposal "to not find fault..." means something more. It is not about denial. To deny something is, at its root, to find fault, and to hide that fault as well as you can. However, no matter how a weakness is pushed down, no matter how it is hidden, our most flaws express themselves. Sometimes its expression is subtle. It lies behind a comment that separates you from those around you. It hangs unspoken in a rejection that you barely recognize. Sometimes it is brazen and seems to have a life of its own. You find yourself uncomfortably feeding your "habit" without respect for the barriers you have built to contain it. You find yourself setting up situations that allow you to sate a desire you hide from yourself. Your hidden flaw strives to be accepted or at least confronted, and will continue to strive until it is recognized and integrated into the self.

"To not find fault with the present moment..." Ultimately, it is a challenge. One I find myself facing it every day. Every time I glower at someone driving less than optimally in my vicinity, every retort I wish to loose upon the person limiting my freedoms and entitlements, each moment in which I stifle an angry comment on the state of religion, politics, art, or whatever other thing I distract myself with, is another moment lost. I have lost that moment, its perfection, its opportunity for insight. And I am one moment poorer in this life.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Genius... is the capacity to see ten things where the ordinary man sees one. Wisdom is the capacity to see one thing where the genius sees ten.

So, other than the desire to please those I know (somewhat) and love (heartily), I sit here and wonder what I hope to achieve by starting a blog. I think I may be the billionth customer, so there is no mystery. I can't teach you anything that you don't already know, and I think I've muzzled my ego enough to not fool myself into believing my insights are much more than bubbles of nothingness in this life's champagne (however an occasional flourish can be satisfying:). So why waste our time in this self-indulgent dribble (no I came up with a rationale...I just need to put in the obligatory build up ... to the dramatic pause...)?

The reason (are you ready for my mission statement:) will simply be this, to share myself with those who are interested, to remind myself of things I know, and to perhaps use this to store ideas and and words and memories better not forgotten. I can't even suggest that everything here will be original or even remotely my own, hell, I stand by the postulate that immature poets imitate; mature poets steal. What I can promise you is that when I write, I will attempt to be nakedly honest, steal a quote (and cleverly work it into my prose), and be mildly amusing (the latter to cover my discomfort with my inherent humanity and imperfection).

In my beginning is my end, and to do so I'd like to leave you with the following koan:

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing to steal.

Ryokan returned and caught him. "You have come a long way to visit me," he told the prowler, "and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift."

The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.

Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon. "Poor fellow," he mused, "I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon."

-Anthony (mostly)