Manual The Rabbi Who Believes in Zeus: Popular Myths About Religion, Faith, and God

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Breeding large numbers of new cult child members as a method of sustaining and spreading the meme, is also a feature — regardless of the poverty which can be produced as a result of large families where resources are limited! Logic is a process of deduction and induction — usually starting with physical evidence , NOT a badge to be stuck on to asserted preconceptions about conjured-up magical creations. The evolution of the Earth following its formation, is explained by the Giant impact hypothesis , as most astronomers and educated people know.

This is an evidence based logical understanding of accretion events which are still observable and on-going in the Solar System! If he refuses to, that is grounds for divorce and the converse applies as well. As for poverty, those who opt in to Orthodox Judaism know that birth control is allowed, depending on circumstance. Poverty is absolutely a circumstance that comes into play when deciding whether birth control is allowed.

The comment is about a number of religions such as Catholicism , which discourage birth control! A religion is not a race — and religious conflicts may or may not be between groups of the same of different races! The Jewish view on birth control currently varies between the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform branches of Judaism.

Among Orthodox Judaism, use of birth control has been considered only acceptable for use in limited circumstances. A you saying your lives are not dominated by reporting your sex lives to rabbis, following particular dress codes, and carrying out strange behaviours or abstaining from various activities during the Sabbath?

Observations of religion related behaviours on this website, are not confined to any one religion or sect of it! This attempt to imply general criticism as anti-semitism is a poor show and needs to stop. It is not. Love to hear your advise to the woman Avi. Mmm — The accounts from witnesses — particularly female witnesses, seem to differ from those of salesmen! All fairy tales leave out the trail of destruction the white night has left behind.

Olgan, to which woman? The one in the link at 48 Avi. As I stated — a religion is not a race! The two are not interchangeable! Race is the classification of humans into groups based on physical traits, ancestry, genetics, or social relations , or the relations between them. The term was often used in a general biological taxonomic sense,[6] starting from the 19th century, to denote genetically differentiated human populations defined by phenotype.

Perhaps you could explain which one it is? As far as I am aware people with black skins believe in a wide range of religions, and hold a diversity of views on contraception, just as the diverse religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, are followed by the the Semitic races of the Middle East! It is quite common for those isolated in fundamentalist beliefs, to be unaware of the wider range of viewpoints held by the peoples of the world outside of their own limited religious circle!

Perhaps this will explain it, but it does cover a spectrum of religions, rather than just some sects of Judaism. Fundamentalists often assert the primacy of their own idiosyncratic interpretation of religious texts over centuries of acquired knowledge and practice. This puts them at odds not only with the secular world and members of other religions, but also with their less zealous brethren.

Olgun asked you what advice you would offer to her. Two classes of people breed unsustainably, the very poorest who need kids to help them survive better through illness and old age and the fundamentalist religious breeders, Catholics, Quiver-Full folk, and yourselves.

Most other Christians and Muslims with high total fertility rates are simply dirt poor. Children believe anything but as an adult you have the freedom and obligation to pull forth all of these ideas and filter them through the framework that ethics provides. Is there harm? Based on the ethical obligations I will present them if you would like that.

This is what I mean by modern ethics. This is training for the mind. Yes there are a few old ideas that I have kept. There are aspects of traditional lifestyles that I retain but this is only after I have given them years of consideration and observation of their consequences. But the bulk of the bad old ideas that were meme dumped into my brain by people around me when I was a child and the hours every week that I was forced to spend at the Methodist church were judged by me to be either useless or harmful.

In fact, it took me years to review those stupid memes and dispose of them with better replacements. I lost too much time. This leaves me very bitter. I will refer you to a book by Lawrence Krauss on this subject or any other qualified person. My field of study at University was experimental psych and I added a couple semesters after that with classes in the bio department, anthropology, etc. These classes were necessary for me to have some basic understanding of the discussions that take place here on this site.

There are still many mysteries to be solved. The beauty is in the quest. By invective, do you mean the general tone of my comment or is there an ad hom in there somewhere? You must realize which website you have wandered onto, right? I mean, you can write any vile ideas in gorgeous prose but if the ideas are rotten to the core then what I will offer you is the truth of my opinion. The ideas that you defend are ones that are disgusting to anyone who is not completely brainwashed in your ancient ideology. For women who are trapped in fundamentalist communities I hope they can find happiness somehow somewhere.

They rarely have the means to do so and I would never ask them to leave their children behind. You seem very confident that your little world is happy and stable. When women suffer from oppression here or there or across the globe, I feel that. All women feel that and yes indeed, we are judging you. As a member of a community that has been persecuted relentlessly, surely you can identify with this.

Thank you for providing an example of how we take ideas and churn them through some skeptical analysis. It adds nothing. I think familiarity breeds a little ennui here and there. A little taking the other for granted. Just a little evo-bio-psych joke there. Come on Avi, lighten up a little, will you please? That was wicked funny. I know you can do it. Now Ari, this is purely lack of imagination. A little advice, book yourself and the Mrs into a cute little seaside resort in the South of France for as much time as you can afford.

This will have wonderful effect that a dreary religious rite could never compete with. Now get that charge card out and take action instead of droning on about your tired rituals. What are you waiting for. ALL ideas are fair game! I understand that your first impulse is to lash out with insults but please try not to do that right away. Think it through. I do know how difficult this process is. We all get our backs up over assertive challenges to what we hold dear. I do give you every credit for having the guts to venture forth here even if we never agree on a single thing when you must have known that there are readers who disagree with you.

Also, I do believe that chucking around accusations of anti-semitism is a lazy and predictable tactic. Alan, from the responses I have been getting, it seems that you folks, not we, are the intolerant ones. You cannot stand the fact that someone holds different beliefs than you although, lacking any moral barometer, I am uncertain how you have any beliefs at all. Au contraire, our sex lives are private!

Unlike your world, where everything goes and there are no moral restraints, we believe that a sense of modesty has value! Yes, we believe that on the Sabbath, we are restricted from certain activities. Thank God, I do not have seven days in my week. I have six days plus one entirely different day.

I am thrilled every time the Sabbath commences and I am saddened when it ends. What a beautiful thing to be able to take one day off from the rigors, physical and mental, of the week! I recommend you try it. But yes, some things we do may seem strange to you. You have no concept of Judaism. You have no experiential evidence upon which to rely. You examine everything by your narrow-minded, anything goes barometer. That is truly sad. I am kind of surprised well, not really that an organization claiming to support open-mindedness is so closed-minded to others! If you use that term with us, then yes, it is anti-Semitic.

I have maintained an even, reasoned tone. Others perhaps not specifically you have been much more ad hom; a sign, I believe, that they have no argument! I have addressed most of your points, but let me assure you, Laurie, one can faithfully observe our rituals and still check into a romantic resort, with whirlpool for two, and thoroughly enjoy themselves. What are you selling. Your wonderful life full of whirlpools and sex or the religion? If it is the latter then it clearly is not working for all and in particular women. Do you care or are you going to carry on ignoring people like that woman in the link.

Bit much telling others their world is narrow when when you ignore whats going on around you. Please stop the victim stuff. Ive lost count. You are killing the conversation. You cannot stand the fact that someone holds different beliefs than you.

The Rabbi Who Believes in Zeus : Popular Myths About Religion, Faith, and God.

On the contrary! I have studied many different beliefs and world views, and have evaluated them in terms of their long and short term effects on people, and the capability of people to cope with the problems of life. There are, and have been, literally thousands of religions and cultures in addition to yours. I collect evidence based ideas which have been tested and shown to work, and then up-date them when valid new information becomes available.

I thought this discussion was about women regularly consulting rabbis about sexual discharges! Did you miss that point? In the secular world they consult doctors if they think there is a problem. You clearly have no concept of secular morality or codes of conduct which involve empathy, reciprocal altruism, and consideration of other people. Humanism is about respecting humans, not gods. The taboos come in many forms. There are also quite a few secular Jews who participate in discussions on this site, although they usually base their comments on their associations with Jewish family members and evidence, rather than just making wild assumptions about the knowledge of others in discussions.

It is sad that you do not know how to seek out real information about other viewpoints, but are left looking at a blank when others say they do not accept all of your personal beliefs. I think this psychological projection of your own lack of an open minded view of the world outside of your own belief bubble. You exhibit a lack of awareness, and seem to be struggling to even discuss other viewpoints. Unlike fundamentalists, those who embrace critical rational thinking and science, are very open minded, but examine ideas for evidenced support and validity before accepting them.

Lack of acceptance does not imply a lack of knowledge or understanding. They are not open to having any old long refuted garbage poured into their heads. Folk taking more than their fair share need a good reason like being dirt poor and in need of help. That is of course once again an irrelevant strawman diversion from the original issue of religious discouragement of contraception for the purpose of creating large families of believers. Arguing a false equivalence is a fallacy! Gratuitous allegations of anti-Semitism, are just a mentally lazy way of dodging answering valid criticisms — usually criticisms of:- damaging or repressive religious beliefs, the government of Israel, or Zionist literalist claims to be entitled to steal land from the previous owners whose families have lived on it for decades or centuries!

My take is as long as both consent and what manifests is strength and love, have at it.. I applaud you for finding such harmony and adopting practices that again, due to your words seem to heighten and deepen your love for each other. My questions. Would you speak harshly to her. How about your brothers children?

Would there be gossip? If your grandson wanted to be baptized christian, would you disown him? If any of your family members identified as atheist, would it be a crisis? See, pressure to conform is not always overt and obvious. It is not always actually verbalized. Sometimes menace can simply be shadowy and amorphous. So, tell me, are you inadvertently I am sure pressuring your family members into conformity?

I eagerly await your answers. Do you realize that you have lobbed a few insults at the regulars here? This is what the negative reactions are about. I am not trying to convince you or any other critic here. Judaism does not need excusing. We have a tradition, coming from God, that is thousands of years old. Our tradition has withstood the test of time.

But you are certainly guilty of engaging in ad hominem attacks, rather than addressing the issues at hand. How unfortunate. Laurie, I have not lobbed insults at anyone. If you took any of my words in that fashion, I apologize. I did not say an atheist cannot be moral, but even if I did, that would not be an ad hominem, it would be an observation based on an assessment of atheism as a philosophy. Here is what I mean, and of course i welcome a reasoned response: When one believes in God, especially in an all-encompassing religious construct such as Judaism has, at least one has a basis for their moral views.

For example, I believe that murder is wrong I am referring to a classic case of, say, John murdering Steve because John decides he wishes to kill someone. The reason I believe John would be wrong is that I believe God commanded us not to murder. It is fair not an ad hominem to ask you, as an avowed atheist, whether you believe John is being immoral in murdering Steve, and if yes, why do you believe this. I think, Laurie, that this is a fair place to start, and I look forward to your response. Avi Report abuse. Crookedshoes, sorry for the delay in responding. Thanks for your input, and indeed these are good and serious questions.

The penalty for having relations with a niddah is the same as for eating on Yom Kippur! But if, God forbid, I had a child who became not religious, I would be very saddened. However, gossip is not permitted in Jewish law, except in very limited circumstances. Simply to talk about someone is forbidden. If a child of mine were to become Christian, that would be another story. This is considered absolutely horrible. If my daughter or son chose to become gay, that too would be terrible, but i would not break off my connection with them, at the same time not welcoming a same-sex partner into my home.

I doubt you will like these answers, but i think they are an accurate depiction of how most Orthodox Jews would react. What would you do without your religion? But you come to an atheist site expecting a hallelujah and a praise the lord for every one of your posts. If not then…. I have no reason to attack you, though you tried rile me by deliberately misspelling my name in an attempt to divert attention from my question. That part actually showed me how far my internet savvy has grown as these sort of attacks were and are still being used by trolls on the net.

Starts with a nursery school name calling followed by diversion and then, this-. Others perhaps not specifically you have been much more ad hom; a sign, I believe, that they have no argument. You are behaving exactly like a troll even if you are not or realise you are doing it. It is evasive and adds not a jot to the conversation. I am genuinely happy that you are happy within the structure of your choice but not to acknowledge those that are not is immoral. What does your religion say about those less fortunate than yourself? Ignore them? Feel anger at them because they dare speak up? Now, again, what advise will you offer this woman , who is of your own faith, based on what you know your religion requires of you in these circumstances.

If you are following religious lines in ignoring her suffering then do you have a moral opinion outside of it, like the rest of us here. Logic is a description of arguments. Statements of fact about the structure of arguments, are not insults! Being wrong is not being insulted! Are you suggesting that your religious group is not a denomination, sect, or cult of Judaism?

That would be a position which is rather hard to support! Atheists hold a diversity of philosophies as do the followers of various religions. Killing is quite often approved by states when they want soldiers or rebel groups to do their dirty work. The texts are full of applause for killing people from other religions or other tribes.

Most atheists would comply with state laws to respect their fellow man, but there could be exceptions in militaristic repressive states, where state elites abuse the general population or particular minorities. The fundamental difference between secular states and theocracies or political ideological states, is that secular states generally seek equality before the law for all, whereas theocracies seek privileged positions for the followers of particular religions or ideologies.

That is why there are mass killings in religious wars between theocracies based on different religions! That is the problem with the mind-slavery of sects and cults. There is no respect for rational debate or toleration of other viewpoints. That is why the antiquated ignorance-based on bronze-age preconceptions of dogmas resist up-dating in the light of new evidence-based information. If my daughter or son chose to become gay, that too would be terrible, but i would not break off my connection with them,.

This is simply an assertion of bigoted ignorance! This is a medical condition derived from their embryological development in the womb. As biologists know, the dichotomy of male and female is not absolute — neither in humans nor in other organisms. Some species of fish for example, often change sex at some stage in their lives. If you had a disabled child who was a wheelchair user, would you also refuse their fellow wheelchair using partner admission?

According to the United Nations, the condition affects up to 1. These are the sorts of issues where atheists challenge the bigoted ignorance-based bronze-age pseudo-morality of religious dogmas which go in for abusive victim blaming! My post 74 should have been for 70! The origins and evolution of this god from the polytheistic Canaanite pantheon, are being progressively researched by archaeologists and anthropologists. However thousands of other religions can make similar claims, and have, or have had, followers making similar claims to yours! Do you have some evidence that your claims have any more substance than theirs?

The highest court ruled that current laws preventing members of the same sex from marrying violated their right to equality and were unconstitutional. But strayed we have. Rather than respond to some of the more silly asides, I will focus on two issues: the morality of murder and the issue of homosexuality. I am asking a simple question. As an atheist, do you believe John can kill Steve for no reason, and if not, why not? Oops, I clicked Send too early! One can feel something and not act upon it. I may be born with an innate sense that I need to steal things.

That is part of the challenge of life. However — a study of biology and embryology clearly identifies a range of intersex conditions! You see I am a biologist who reads medical text books and biological studies, rather than bronze age-guesswork wearing a god-badge! Could I recommend some study of the actual subject at a top international medical reference site! Ambiguous genitalia is a birth defect where the outer genitals do not have the typical appearance of either a boy or a girl. The male and female reproductive organs and genitals both come from the same tissue in the fetus.

This makes it difficult to easily identify the infant as male or female. The extent of the ambiguity varies. In very rare instances, the physical appearance may be fully developed as the opposite of the genetic sex. For example, a genetic male may have developed the appearance of a normal female. Alan 75 — If you had a disabled child who was a wheelchair user, would you also refuse their fellow wheelchair using partner admission? I will focus on two issues: the morality of murder and the issue of homosexuality.

Re murder, rather than addressing my crystal clear question: Does an atheist believe John can kill Steve simply because John feels like it, and if not, why not,. First of all, people who are not psychopaths do not casually kill people anyway. Usually they need a strong motive! A secular humanist view, is that societies need to establish laws and manage their own moral codes of conduct, based on equality of rights, mutual co-operation, and altruism.

Perhaps you could explain the various accounts of acclaimed killings and genocides against rival states, rival tribes, and rival religions. Deuteronomy I tried to give a vague meaningless question some context. We are fundamentally different on this point, you and I. And, in my system of morals, you are extraordinarily morally corrupt on this point. More importantly, I also find your other answers deeply, deeply immoral. It makes me happy and I have a right to it.

And, that is precisely where your beliefs hurt others. And my sentiment of not judging others is clearly stated in your own Holy books and YOU choose to flout them…. Our sages ask, when are you allowed to judge another person? The answer: Never. The explanation given is as follows: Who says your blood is redder than his? Talmud — Sanhedrin 74a. You have a tradition that came purely from men inventing stuff to suit themselves and ascribing it to an imaginary god, and I mean men in the male sense because almost exclusively women had little say in the origins of the ancient religions which is why they are so discriminated against in them.

End of. You are just a product of your particular childhood brainwashing. However childhood brainwashing is very hard to overcome. We understand that and are saddened by it. Hi Avi. I am one of the secular Jews Alan mentioned and a semi regular contributor here. They have the patience of Job if that makes you more comfortable. You have also conducted yourself this way, just with a message we cannot rationally appreciate.

I use the word rationally on purpose. I will remind you again of where you are choosing to post. You need to understand that we are as incapable of believing in your sky god as you are in his absence. But let me be clear on this point: we are NOT incapable of considering it rationally however. That seems anathema to your dogma. We would never have evolved without an innate morality. This much is clear. I love that. And I shall steal that with attribution with your permission.

Love that. I remember Richard debating with some bat shit crazy blonde American woman years ago who spoke in the quietest calmest voice that nothing could upset but everything that came out of her mouth was pure poison. Also Ted Haggard raging against gays whilst paying male prostitutes for sex and calling the police against Richard because he discussed evolution he accused me of being a monkey.

It has nothing, however, to do with homosexual conduct! It was not my intent to seek out a secular site just to post! However, I will note that it seems you prefer insularity, that is, you prefer not to engage in discussion with those who disagree with you. I have no such issue, I am much more open-minded. We all agree that societies need to establish laws.

So we agree, we need laws. The laws against, say, murder, are meant so that society is not destroyed. But this has nothing to do with morality! What makes you think these are positive values? Indeed, what makes you think there are values at all? It is this issue that particularly interests me. By the way, this has nothing to do with the original posted article.

Obviously you would or should agree that a self-managing group such as Orthodox Jews can have its own rules, as long as it is not forcing others to keep those rules. I would fully agree with that notion. I await your response. I would say that I am absolutely prohibited from within! And as I have never been religions and come from a family of non-religious people and have had very little contact with orthodox Jews and no very little about Judaism. I can only assume that that feeling of murder and rape and stealing, and hurting people being wrong does not, cannot come from any God.

God to me and to many compassionate and humane agnostics and atheists is simply Nothing. This sense of prohibition does not come from the State either, i. It is not an easy thing to explain; these are complex questions, and they should be asked. Empathy, being civilized, caring about others… All those things have developed willy-nilly over the centuries, but not enough, as violence and hate and cruelty is still so prevalent, prevalent among religious Jews and Christians and Muslims and their non-believing counterparts as well. We have enough homicides in the world.

The prisons are filled with homicidal maniacs. So for all of our sakes, stay religious until you figure out how you as a man, an individual with your own set of values and sensibilities, feel about killing — and not a child or soldier taking orders from Big Daddy in the Sky. Yes, I am expressing some disdain. Many Holy Books do advocate killing. Did you read what someone had written above about all the different religions all saying different things? Religion cannot possibly last; no lie can live forever.

Regards, Report abuse. Actually it does, because the brain development governing sexual attraction, is similarly affected by hormonal effects on the embryo in the womb. I recall this earlier comment, but it appears when it comes to homosexuals and intersex people, you express an urge for friends and family to bring pressure to bear on then in exactly that way! So which is it? Just as the writer of the article did, one can choose not to follow the laws.

There seem to be conflicting claims and compartmentalised thinking in your comments. Perhaps there are some reasons here in threats to apostates, why you seem to have mental blocks making you unable to follow the reasoning which challenges some of your mistaken preconceptions. Well Avi I appear to have underestimated your smiling hate and condescension. And if I preferred insularity I would not have posted. What I disdain however is arguing with a dogmatic close minded person which you quite clearly are. This world is no less valid than yours. These are of course worked out by people making informed judgements on predicted outcomes and balancing the interests of various parties.

For example professions such as doctors have codes of conduct, which most follow voluntarily, but which include sanctions against rogue individuals. Now we are talking! However laws as I explained should be based on evidence and predicted outcomes, not ancient superstitions. Actually no! Most systems are less than perfect, and many are corrupt! That is where the objective evaluation of various political systems comes in.

The values are chosen by the people of the community. All laws and codes of conduct are the work of humans, including those which some try to enhance by sticking a god-badge on to them. Actually, it does because it looks at the sources of ideas and mental processes directing the behaviour patterns under discussion. I recognise god-beliefs as a mental delusion created by childhood indoctrination. Groups form their own rules, but it is perfectly reasonable to evaluate the effects of these on members, relations of member, friends of members, children of members and members who wish to leave the group.

As with politics in general applications of rules are open to abuses, so criticism and in extreme cases actions are justified.

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There are many examples where authority figures in religions sometimes in league with politicians , abuse their positions to the detriment of their members. Not only are many regular posters on this site well read, but many are ex-Christians, from Muslim families or are secular Jews. There is a wide ranging understanding of religions and their effects in societies.

Would that be okay with you? I think we are centering on the problem! My set of questions sure seems to have exposed the closed mind and smiling hate trademark pending. Avi would regard his son being homosexual as terrible. The cognitive dissonance and absolute lack of self awareness is staggering. Guy with his hair parted on the side, accountant, clean shaven, neat orderly???? Serial killer.

I can only assume…. And as I have never been religions and come from a family of non-religious people and have had very little contact with orthodox Jews and know very little about Judaism, I can only assume…. I would also add that as the atheist Dr. Jonathan Miller admitted, we do owe religion, the Christian religion in particular, a certain debt of gratitude; it helped to move the evolution of our moral idea of brotherly love along. But morality is not from God. No, that would not be okay with Alan or with any of us. It would be dreadful. But that is the world we live in and the struggle for humane laws and justice is continuous, and cruelty and injustice and bigotry, etc.

That is far, far more dangerous, far more insidious — and you know it. Yes you have centered on a fundamental problem. Dan responded: No, that would not be okay with Alan or with any of us. Dan, what I am asking is: Why would it not be okay with you? I am not seeing an answer to this question. I will note that I had the same discussion recently with my brother, a practicing, believing Orthodox Jew who maintains that one can devise a moral code without religion.

But my brother, along with all the posters on this site, has been unable to logically explain why this moral code would have any standing or any validity. What makes something right or wrong? To this, I have not heard an answer from the atheists on this site or from my believing brother, much as he wants to side with you. I am saying that as of yet, I have not heard a cogent rationale for it. I am open to suggestions! Avi — He also introduced other non-related issues e. Of course not — I explained secular values earlier.

There needs to be various bodies to hold those in authority accountable. When particular religions dominate the local legislatures national legislatures, police and the courts, actions of religious authorities are looked at through rosy spectacles, and we get the sorts of covered up abuses, such as Catholic priests raping children with impunity.

Not really! The former view require a LOT more study! It is the same with making the effort of developing the ability to work out your own code of conduct, V copying a simplistic one which is spoon-fed to you. Science based decisions on abortions are determined by survivability without debilitating complications affecting the baby or the mother, and the later potential life quality of the infant. You are going to have to stick around and join in with discussions on how the brain works, evolution and animal behaviour, to name a few, and be as open minded as you are to suggestions, if you want an answer that you might be happy with.

Morality is not devised by atheist but by millions of years of evolution. I was wondering if Religious Jewish people would be happy being represented here by Avi and I googled a few things and found this;. Why would it not be okay to kill people in a given secular community? These ideas and arguments are debated and it is rare to find a society where there is universal agreement about what should be considered right and proper and what is considered wrong and improper.

With regards to the State, I would say that in a democracy, where people are allowed to worship as they wish and to speak their minds and be who they are, its citizens should be able to enjoy their natural right of freedom to exist assuming that they are able to obey reasonable laws , to live their lives, without fear of being arrested or persecuted or punished, without being criminalized. Dictators are always capricious and always impose their paltry will upon the freedom and the pursuit of happiness of others, trample on that right.

Democracy is a state of grace, easily lost; laws concerning justice are a delicate thing too, based often on consensus. But that is the nature of morality with regards to the State. Perhaps this basic uncertainty as to why one must not do this or that has given rise for the need on the part of many for some kind of ultimate authority on these matters. Democracy is a grace. Fascism goes back to our infancy and childhood, where we were always told how to live. We were told, Yes, you may do this; no, you may not do that.

So the secret of fascism is that it has this appeal to people whose later lives are not satisfactory. Murder as a way of life is not an isolated issue; it is bound up inextricably with such things as justice and truth. To condone murder is to deny justice and to affirm lies such as those based on prejudice or a false sense of moral superiority.

Why is it better not to kill? Because we as individuals have risen above the egotism of brutes, because we regard indifference to human life as depraved. Persecution and murder based on capricious laws or the need to control in order to maintain power is not only impractical, it is based on a system that is unsustainable as it is based on lies and on vice — and all lies and all vice eventually do harm and destroy those who engage in them in the end.

From a mere pragmatic point of view such a way of life where killing is considered lawful or acceptable would make life impossible. The question as to whether this is learned or not does not belong here; let us assume it is learned, for clearly it can be. The opposite of this is base egotism. It comes from no law although the laws are a practical necessary to keep selfish men from preying on others which is no basis for organizing a civilized society that aspires towards the cultural and aesthetic Good or that has any affinity with Beauty.

Thou Shalt Not Kill is a flimsy thing indeed designed, presumably, for criminal-types and accepted by malleable, pathetic, hoodwinked half-men and half-women who have no sense of their own personal dignity or the dignity of others, and would or might be inclined to kill or do harm without such messages of prohibition, sent by a man-made God. The strength of the prohibition is proportionate to the latent desire to commit the crime. Gods are made in the image of Man and his laws cannot be relied on. Gods and goddesses belong to the realm of mythology. When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad.

Not true, at least for Judaism. We believe that while God guides many things, we have the free will to do good or evil. We believe we can overcome our inadequacies. Surely you must admit that you may be wrong, because you have no experience to dictate otherwise. I, however, have the experience within Judaism to comfortably assert surety!

To make a block of text orange just add a right arrow directly in front of the first word. Try that and see if it works. Actually I quoted Olgun saying that and posted the the chapter in the book giving depth of explanations on the evolutionary genetics of altruistic interactions in populations. Actually, not far off from how Judaism thinks, although there is a wide spectrum Jewish law is very complicated, much more complicated than civil law, and different experts hold different views, all based on their incredible knowledge of the subjects at hand.

Science is a mostly objective discipline, it has no feelings and no moral contours. People make moral judgments, and I still await someone who will answer my core question: How does an atheist determine what is moral? Avi In your comment you are sure to run into trouble with this communication. The problem is that the science community has one thing in common and that is how we think and talk about probability. Anyone here who has a college degree in science or math processes certain statements and assertions in the same way due to the training and education that we have.

We entertain hypotheses and think about how to test them. We collect, organize and analyse data. We make conclusions based on those analyses and then consider the implications of those results.


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When in the company of my fellow science majors this is something I count on them knowing. To me, everything is a probability equation. Some things are more probable or less probable than other things. This is how we view the probability of the existence of a god or collection of gods or any other supernatural creature. The probability that there is an omniscient, omnipotent being that has created this universe and all of the life in it is in fact, so absolutely minuscule as to be for all intents and purposes — so close to the number zero that we will all now say — the probability that this entity exists is ZERO.

The end. We will no longer waste our time speculating as to its nature and properties and we will move on to more interesting hypotheses. We will end up talking past each other forever if these two very different ways of understanding reality are maintained.

What any science major will require and what anyone who relies on logic and rational thinking will require is for you to present a hypothesis — God exists, and then explain how you will collect data and move to a conclusion one way or another, that will satisfy us that this is truth or not truth. This cannot possibly be processed by us and it makes no sense whatsoever. It is only a feeling stated with emphasis. My field is psychology and I can tell you that emphatic statements that are based on nothing but feelings are very common and are often completely false. Too many of these curious statements in too short a time and your shrink will be reaching for his prescription meds pad, pen in hand.

Not good. When they do this they usually include a link to the evidence for their assertion. If they fail to do that you are within your rights to ask for their evidence. This is how science and rational thinking works. I hope you will try to talk to your brother again about his ideas on secular morality. Your religion, like all of them, include a little subroutine that kicks off a fierce defensive reaction.

Yes, they all have this feature. Can you suppress this reaction long enough to give his ideas and the ideas presented here a fair trial? Also, you are perfectly capable of reading some entry level science and material on ethics, humanism, etc. Even if it never changes your mind, there is some credit to you for making an honest attempt to try to understand how many other good people create a worldview that is moral and good with no reference at all to a supernatural all powerful being.

Or, you could double down on the substantial defense systems that are evident in all of your comments here. I can do much better than that! I can also point out the thousands of believers in other gods with conflicting properties which are followed by believers who are equally certain their their versions of gods are THE correct ones, — and finally I have the mounting evidence from psychologists and neuroscientists that god-delusions are a feature of believers brains which dominate their core beliefs.

Not at all! God delusions dominate the subjective thinking and blank out perceptions of reality, which might lead their host brains to apostasy! It is how the religious memes are preserved, copied, and passed on as comfortable certainties devoid of any supporting material evidence. However as all the various god-delusions see list of deities 77 , produce claims which are in conflict with each other, there is no reason to think any of them have any material basis beyond the illusions in the brain chemistry and circuitry of their believers. Jeeze Alan, we really need to take this show on the road!!!

That is correct. Science informs moral judgements which can then be made on the basis of reliable information and predicted outcomes. They do indeed, but if they use guesswork or dogma in place of science, their judgements will most probably be flawed due to a lack of proper evidence-based information. Other issues are dealt with in a similar manner on their merits. Btw, speaking of morality, I was just having a bite to eat on 84th and Third Avenue.

I noticed a crowd outside. A young man had collapsed and was foaming at the mouth. The ambulance came. My point; everyone was standing around, concerned, on their cell phones. Some people are cruel. But most of us have empathy to some degree, and that is just the way it is. It is possible to imagine a world without empathy.

HG Welles described such a world. Whether empathy is more natural or not is an open question, but we have it and all I can do is hope that we as a species never lose it. That would be contrary to my values and would not be a world that I would choose to be part of if I found myself transported to such a world and had the ability to decide my own fate. Life is what we make of it, our experience is what we interpret, our values are what we form and what we develop. We create all of it — and it varies.

Yes, yes, there might be a God. But the burden of proof is on you to prove that something does exist. Do you comprehend that? Thinking about God all the time is a wasted life. You are thinking about nothing. You only know what you feel, and that is not objective truth; No one can know nothing, and that is why you cannot describe him. Nothing to describe.

And that is all God is: Nothing. And you have no answer to that, cannot say anything at all about this God of yours. This is madness and imbecility. You think Judaism is profound but are in denial; Judaism is based essentially on nothing. Go help someone. Quit thy childhood and wake up. Laurie, pssst, come here for a second. Started with my copy in my Dickens collection — the print is so tiny I almost went cross-eyed. Switched to the free Kindle edition.

Easier on the eyes. I feel a pall over my life because of him. If I plunge into a deep dark depression it will all be your fault. And there we have it finally, the arrogance of surety that always comes out in the end when believers talk about their non existent deities. We are not so arrogant as to claim surety in anything.

Only the delusional do that. We talk about probabilities and evidence. It is irrelevant what in in our gut or inside our own heads. Only reproducable evidence matters. Evidence that can be demonstrated to a third party with no axe to grind and which produces the same results every time. There is no evidence for the existence of any god that has ever been postulated or worshipped. In the absence of such evidence we simply decline to accept the postulation that such a god exists and leave the burden of proof back where it belongs — on the believer.

When we factor in the thousands of gods that humans have invented over the millenia and no proof for any of them, when we factor in the laws of physics which make omniscience and omnipotence impossible. When we factor in that we already have robust scientific explanations for most of the things that religion has turned out to have been wrong about such as the earth being the centre of the universe, how planets and solar systems form, the age of the earth and the universe, evolution rather than creation myths. Their faith is unshakeable despite zero evidence to support it.

It would not take incontrovertible evidence to inspire faith in me. Religion is based on faith, not reason. That is why people like Avi get under my skin; they are sure of something that one can not possibly be sure of; that is fanaticism, as defined by Kant.

You seem to be very sure what ought to be obvious to other people which is more of the arrogance I mentioned in my previous post. What if that self regulating group practices cannibalism, female genital mutilation, paedophilia?

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Hell no is the answer. The reason is that believing in, and worshipping, that which does not exist is delusional. Essentially a form of mental illness and that reflects poorly on all of humanity and any aspirations we might have to one day be able to call ourselves civilised. I have trouble making up my mind about all this. I take back what I said in comment I want evidence. Faith in God is faith in nothing too. Next week I might say something different.

But have yet to produce ANY evidence of this happening or any mechanism showing how gods are involved in this working of nature. As can all people, but that has nothing to do with gods, or the inadequacies of dogmas and doctrines. Actually, once theists stop making vague suggestions that some obscure god-thingy exists somewhere out of sight, and list the claimed properties and activities of their gods, these are easily and rapidly debunked by scientific and historical evidence. They are shown to be myths and folk-law from the imaginations of people in the past. Not only the Judeo-Christian witness, but comparative religion on the whole, concludes that the origin of religion is shrouded in the mystery of revelation.

The belief that religion has its origin in revelation presupposes the existence of two beings, the absolute being and the human being. Religion in its simplest form implies God and the human being. Their relationship is manifested through spiritual and moral activities. God commands and orders, while the human person obeys and executes God's commandments. Moreover, God reveals Himself to the human race gradually, making known His energies and attributes, which determine its progress in its religious and human experience in accordance with various mental, hereditary, sociological, and even climatic factors.

For these reasons, religion has expressed the essential but changeable spirit of human life in various ages and nations. The religion of a people is in many ways an expression of its character, mentality, intellectual cultivation, and spiritual development. Every religion has principles of truth revealed by God either indirectly or directly, in accordance with the needs and characteristics of its followers.

But these are not complete and self-sufficient religious truths. What does religion stand for? What is its end? From primitive times, religion has been conceived of as imparting spiritual goods. It offers an enhancement of courage, zeal, group unity, moral power, peace of soul and mind, and creative insight. But the inherent meaning of religion rests not in what it gives but in what it demands: belief, moral endeavor, worship, brotherhood, and spiritual aspiration.

Doctrine, ethics, and worship are interrelated and supply the bases of the religious life. All three are areas where religion makes demands upon life. Thus, one cannot say that one need not be concerned with morality. Neither can one say that, if one possesses morality and belief in God, one need not worship. The ultimate purpose of religion is the eternal salvation of the inner essence of the human being and the eternal preservation of the human spirit, which demands to be governed by ideal values. The human spirit is the most valuable entity in the universe, revealing the real nature of the creative power and the ultimate meaning of creation.

It seems that the human spirit is the only eternal element in a world of change because it is part of the cosmic spirit, of God, and lives in God as an independent and autonomous unit. While all religious creeds have made positive contributions to civilization, some represent fallacies and distortions of the human mind. For Christianity, that distortion led to the existence of a multitude of religious creeds and sects.

The multiplicity of religions came into existence when the human being disavowed true knowledge of the Creator. The apostle Paul provides an account of how human beings failed to retain the true knowledge and revelation of God:. According, then, to the Christian viewpoint, the old faiths retained but a partial revelation of the original truth: Hence, all were imperfect and liable to error, and religion became subject to a process of evolution and reinterpretation up to a certain time.

The widespread and deep-seated resemblances between different religions and faiths in such elements as love for one's enemy, prayer, regeneration, and expectation of judgment are due, not necessarily to mutual limitation, but to similar emotional reaction to the mystery of the world, the needs of human nature, and primarily to the fact that religions derive from the same source. In fact, the uniformities discernible in religious beliefs, rites, and customs indicate the unity of the religious consciousness of humankind.

It is conceivable that monotheism was the original form of religion. Theologians who regard belief in one God as innate in the human person are not alone. Many modern ethnologists have abandoned the old belief in the emergence of monotheism as part of a general intellectual and ethical evolution of the race.

Anthropologists too agree that monotheism was found and is still being found among primitive races. Some non-theological scholars even suggest that an innate knowledge of revelation is the origin of the idea of God and of immortality, and of the rites of prayer and sacrifice, that is, of religion in general.

For example, the British anthropologist Paul Radin writes that monotheism was developed by poets, philosophers, and other primitive savants or individuals with a developed quality of mind who observed the world as a unified whole. Radin stressed the universality of monotheistic conceptions among primitive wise men.

According to Wilhelm Schmidt, to whom we referred earlier, the "High God" of all primitive peoples is eternal, omniscient, beneficent, omnipotent, the creator of reality, the creator of man. But belief in one God was distorted into animism, polytheism, idolatry, cults of the dead, and other forms of religious beliefs, not only because of human sinfulness, but because of the fact that human societies became more complex. Schmidt concludes in his exhaustive work on the origin of the idea of God as follows:. Field studies made by more recent ethnologists give support to Schmidt's conception of an original monotheism in primitive religious experience.

Nevertheless, there are ethnographers who support other theories of the origin of religion, such as that it began in animism, totemism, or polytheism, or some combination of these. All these theories, however, remain conjectural; there is no one definitive scientific account of the nature of primitive religious experience. The principle, however, that ex nihilo nihil fit may be aptly applied in the sphere of religion: It must necessarily have a beginning, since nothing is produced from nothing, as the Latin axiom states.

Independent of experience and knowledge, the human person has a preconceived tendency toward religion. This inclination springs from the innate idea of God that the person holds. That is, it belongs to the very nature of the human being to believe in and to worship God. Therefore, religion is not an arbitrary or artificial device or invention, as Marxists would have us believe. Greek Orthodox theology views ancient Hebrew religion as one of God's instruments propaedeutic preparatory to Christianity.

To be sure, God, the Creator of the world, is not the exclusive possession or Lord of any one people, and there is no specific people that God favors or loves more than others. But it is neither unnatural nor illogical for the Creator to elect some persons such as Noah, Abraham, Ikhnaton, Moses, Amos, Sokrates, Plato, or others and use them as special instruments in history. In the language of the Old Testament, a covenant between God and a tribal leader was a covenant between God and the tribe.

Participation in the provisions of a covenant was never a matter of individual choice or a democratic procedure. Thus, the sin of Adam became the sin of his descendants, the blessings on Abraham were blessings on his tribe, a curse on a leader was a curse on his followers. According to the Genesis account, following the great flood which destroyed sinful mankind, the Creator made a covenant Chapters 8 and 9 with Noah, the only survivor, who became a new genearch of mankind. The agreement between God and Noah provided that God would not allow another destructive flood, that He would remain the God of Noah's descendants, and that all mankind would be placed under divine promise and law.

God guaranteed to preserve the natural order of things, and Noah's descendants, the ancestors of all nations, were to become subject to God's laws. But Noah's descendants walked after their own desires, and the result was a second alienation of the creation from the Creator. Throughout history, and in various ways, God "did not leave himself without witness [in Greek, amartyron ]" Acts However, at certain times, God made new covenants for His purposes.

Like Noah's, Abraham's covenant was of cosmic significance. According to the Genesis story , God said to Abraham:. Two principles stand out in this covenant: that God is Almighty and that the "multitude of nations" that will come after Abraham should follow Abraham's example and walk blamelessly before God. The lordship of Abraham's God was reiterated in still another covenant, that between God and Moses, the universal significance of which lies in the issue of the Ten Commandments.

In both covenants, God appears in anthropomorphic terms and as an educator, a personal being in dialogue with man, a pedagogue directing and advising. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews sums up the importance of all covenants between God and man before the Christian Era by emphasizing their preparatory nature. According to that author, Jesus Christ is not only superior to Abraham, Moses, and high priests of Old Testament times, such as Melchizedek, but he is also God's Son who brings to an end the stage of preparation and introduces the age of maturity, of freedom from the demands of the law whose purpose was pedagogical , and of religious fulfillment.

The Old Testament is the story of God's gradual self-disclosure, gathering momentum as history moves on, from a narrow sphere and a slow movement to a far-reaching, cosmic, all-inclusive revelation. It was the period of promises and expectation, the time of covenants and prophecies. To be sure, the Old Testament includes beautiful poetry and good legislation, but also much inhuman and ugly material that does not commend it as a religious or even as a humane book. In many passages in the Pentateuch and other books, the Israelites were ordered to exterminate the people of Canaan or other tribes in the belief that God had promised the land to the Hebrews for example, see Deut.

The evidence is overwhelming that the ancient Hebrew religion was just as intolerant as Christianity would be in the Western Middle Ages. The spirit of the religious crusade originates in the Old Testament, where next to liberal legislation one finds descriptions of orgies of slaughter, and savage rules to justify the extermination of established tribes. But the Old Testament is rather the evolutionary process of God's disclosure, and the self-understanding of the national consciousness of a people. It is a manifestation of God's involvement in history exemplified in the life of various peoples, ancient Israel in particular.

It tells both how God created and how He re-created mankind. The central idea that brings together the literature of the Old Testament is that God exists, that He is Almighty Pantokrator , and that He is also willing to intervene and to save. God's willingness to save was manifested when He intervened to free the small nation of ancient Israel from the bondage of mighty Egypt; when He intervened to set free the same people from the Babylonian captivity. Ancient Israel served as a paradigm of God's concern for mankind's salvation.

In the Old Testament, the existence of God is taken for granted. There is no groping and searching after God, no questioning, because God progressively reveals Himself. Only "the fool says Ludwig Kohler, a leading Old Testament scholar. But the Old Testament also relates the story of the development of monotheism, which might have been inherited from ancient Egypt.

For many centuries, the religion of ancient Israel was not monotheistic but monolatrous. It did not deny the existence of many gods, but it stressed the worship of the tribal god Yahweh. For centuries, there were numerous Israelites who believed in gods other than Yahweh. Even though many Jews in Jesus' day considered Moses the father of monotheism, the religion introduced by Moses did not prevail until many centuries later, and it went through several stages of development.

As late as the middle of the sixth century before Christ, there were numerous Israelites who worshiped Canaanite deities. The worship of other foreign gods was also common, as the chastisements by prophets such as Jeremiah, Second Isaiah, and Ezekiel indicate. It needs to be said that Old Testament religion did not begin by sweeping aside all former experiences, customs, regulations, practices, and rituals, replacing them with a complete new system of beliefs and values. Whether of Egyptian, Babylonian, or Hellenic origins, experiences and inheritances from the past were assimilated and many were even left undisturbed.

As is the case with other traditions, religions are conditioned by cultural circumstances, established practices, and customs. It was especially after the fifth century B. By the time of Jesus, the conception of Yahweh as the tribal god of Israel had given place to the conception of a universal god, an absolute and holy being.

However, during the period in which Palestine was under Hellenistic rule and influence, God was also known as Wisdom, as in the book of Proverbs, wisdom either as a personification or as an attribute of God. This conception is attributed to the influence of Greek thought, which had made its appearance in Palestine nearly one hundred years earlier than the writing of the book of Proverbs.

There were other major influences of Greek thought on post-exilic Judaism. For example, ancient Hebrew religion did not believe in eternal life, and the earliest teaching of life after death is found in the Book of Daniel , written during the Hellenistic period most probably in the second century.

Even at the time of Jesus, there were many among the Jews, such as the Sadducees, who did not believe in life after death. While for many centuries the influence of Hebrew religion on the outside world was minimal, if not totally absent, by the time of Christ it had come to exert a considerable influence, primarily through the Greek-speaking Jews of the diaspora. Emphasis on monotheism, expectation of divine intervention, a desire for liberation from physical as well as spiritual bondage were some of the contributions of Hebrew religion during the Hellenistic period.

Alexandrian, or Philonian, Judaism in particular, which had reconciled Jewish faith with such Greek philosophy and thought as that of Platonism, greatly determined the nature and evolution of early Christianity. For many centuries, Jewish exclusiveness, and the emphasis on its traditional and legalistic approach, had cut off the ancient Israelites from intellectual intercourse with the "Gentile" world.

Following the conquests of Alexander the Great and the wide dissemination of Hellenism its language, philosophy, outlook in the Near and the Middle East, there was an intensive interaction between religious beliefs, outlooks, and cultures. For nearly four hundred years, Judaism absorbed much from Hellenism, but at the same time, its ethical monotheism impressed many in the Mediterranean world.

Whether or not one accepts it as an act of providence, the fact is that in addition to Hebrew monotheism, a "new pagan religion Frederick C. Grant, an American patriarch of biblical studies and an authority on the Hellenistic world. Monotheism among the philosophers of ancient Greece began developing during the sixth century B.

Thus, Hebrew ethical monotheism and Greek philosophical monotheism supplemented each other and contributed to the cause of early Christianity. It has been demonstrated, either through epigraphic, archeological, or literary evidence, that Greek culture, including thought, had made influential inroads into Palestine long before the conquests of Alexander the Great. Greek pottery of the sixth century has been discovered in various sites of Palestine. Greek coins and their local Palestinian imitations and capitals of the Proto-Ionic and Proto-Aeolic periods have been discovered, belonging to the period between the sixth and the fourth centuries.

Archeology has brought to light overwhelming evidence according to which two-thirds of ossuary inscriptions are in Greek. Numerous Greek names were adopted by Jews not only in Alexandria and other major Greek cities but in Palestine proper. The study of various ossuary inscriptions has led two specialists Eric M. Meyers and James F. Strange to emphasize that. These inscriptions, written sometimes in literary and elegant Greek and sometimes in every day colloquial Greek, make it clear that Greek was the first language of many Jews in Hellenistic Palestine and the normal language of courts and other major legal transactions.


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  • Greek was also the language of the Roman administration of that region. During Roman rule, Greek penetrated the Aramaic speaking countryside to the extent that there were only. Greek was the language of several Deuterocanonical books, pseudepigrapha, historical and philosophical works of writers such as Josephus, Philo, and Justus of Tiberias.

    Even canonical Old Testament books were written in Greek, such as the additions to the books of Daniel and Esther. Eusebios of Caesarea and Clement of Alexandria indicate that from the third century before Christ to the end of the first century after Christ, Jewish authors composed many examples of literature in Greek.

    The exposure of Jewish theology to Greek language and thinking was influenced to the extent that rabbis modified their theology of resurrection and life after death in the light of Greek views. Thus, the theory that Jesus came from a Hellenized area and that the Hellenization of his message explained its universal appeal finds new support in modern biblical and archeological scholarship. Even before modern scholars, specialists like E. Goodenough had built a strong case for a Hellenized Judaism paving the way for an early Hellenization of Christianity. There is no doubt that by the first century, Judaism as a whole had been deeply influenced by the Greco-Roman world.

    The Pharisees as a class have been described, with much reason, "as the acute Hellenization of Judaism. It only confirms that Christianity was born within a Hellenized Judaism. Old Testament religion has been accepted as propaedeutic to Christian theology because it looks forward to a fulfillment, to the time when no longer through prophets and messengers but through God's own appearance would redemption be achieved.

    The New Testament literature clearly reveals that it starts from the point where the Old Testament ends. Jesus Christ is constantly seen as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and expectation. In the opening chapter of the Gospel According to Saint Mark, we read that "Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand'" Mk.

    In the incarnation, "the whole fullness of the deity" dwelled bodily in Christ, Col. Saint Paul writes that "when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law That Christ was received as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy is confirmed by many other passages of the New Testament. Christ's own testimony was that He did not come to destroy the old law but to fulfill it see Mt. The early Christian community had no hesitation in seeing the Old Testament events as signposts to the event of the incarnation of God.

    The Greek Orthodox Church has incorporated this view into its doctrine and liturgical life. In one of the hymns, the Church sings:. In the encounter between Hellenism and Judaism, it was Judaism that was destined to adopt the Greek language and thought, Greek manners and habits. It is on the evidence that the greatest part of later Judaism was Hellenized that scholars, such as J. Droysen and F. Altheim, defend the theory that Christianity was nearer to Hellenism than Judaism. At any rate, by the time that Jesus Christ was born, Judaism and Hellenism were forces that were not opposed in principle.

    Early Christianity as well as modern Greek Orthodox Christianity accepts the person of Jesus Christ as the point of convergence between Hebraic prophecy and Hellenic expectation. This is eloquently expressed in another Greek Orthodox Church hymn:. Thus, in addition to the religious phenomenon the evolution of civilization as a whole and the Hebraic religious heritage, the Greek Orthodox view ancient Greek or Hellenic philosophy and religious beliefs as a preparation propaideia for Christianity. The heritage of Hellenism is received both directly, from the Greek sources, and indirectly, through Hellenistic Judaism.

    Hebrew and Hellenic religious thought converged in Christianity. A brief illustration is in order. The expression "the only God" monotheo is thoroughly Hebrew; immortal and invisible, philanthropos and imperishable aftharto, aorato, philanthropo are Hellenic. At the time when Christ was born, the people of the Mediterranean world were under Roman rule.

    Rome had achieved what the Greeks had failed to achieve, namely political unity. But long before the establishment of Roman rule, the Greeks had achieved the cultural unity of the Mediterranean world and even of lands beyond it. The conquest of the Persian Empire including Syria, Palestine, Egypt and of all western Asia to the Indus River by Alexander the Great established in that part of the world a widespread knowledge of the Greek language and of Greek ideas, and a Greek outlook and orientation. Modern biblical scholars and historians of the Hellenistic and Roman worlds confirm that Greek influence was both widespread and profound.

    Grant, mentioned earlier, writes:. Even centuries before Alexander's conquests, the influence of Hellenism in the Near East had been widespread. In recent years, there have been excavations of Greek colonies of the middle of the seventh century and following. The remains of ancient Greco-Roman cities, with their Hellenistic architecture and sculpture, are found in both Syria and Egypt, and in Palestine as well; the inscriptions, the books produced there, the thousands of papyrus letters and other documents written in Greek, which have been found buried in the dry sands of Egypt, all this evidence proves how highly Hellenized that part of the world was, especially after the second century before Christ, to quote again from Grant's outstanding work Roman Hellenism and the New Testament.

    The penetration of the language, religion, philosophy, and other aspects of Greek life had been achieved much earlier in the Roman west. Rome itself had long been a bilingual city. Several Latin authors, including Pliny, Tacitus, Cicero, Juvenal, and Horace, attest to the heavy Hellenization of the Latin west, which can be traced back to the eighth century, if not earlier. Despite political unity, the bulk of society under Rome lived under difficult conditions, the result of civil wars, injustices in the social order, the large number of slaves, and the failure of the state to satisfy the religious and spiritual needs of the ordinary people.

    The overwhelming majority of the urban populations and the large numbers of serfs attached to great estates yearned for soteria redemption, security, salvation. What must I do to be saved? Christianity promised to offer what other systems had failed to provide. Christianity, of course, began as a movement within Palestinian Judaism, but within a few years, it was transformed from a Palestinian Jewish creed into a universal religion.

    What contributed to that transformation? There are two very important phenomena that reveal the process of transformation. As has already been indicated, Palestine, though a Roman province at the time of Christ, had been heavily Hellenized, and for more than three hundred and fifty years, the impact of Hellenism on Judaism was deep. The Hellenized Jews, not only those of the upper classes, but many ordinary folk, such as some of the disciples of Christ, spoke and wrote in Greek. Parts of their Holy Scriptures had been translated in Greek as early as the first quarter of the third century the complete Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek between and B.

    Some of the Old Testament books that made up a second canon known by the Orthodox as deuterocanonical were written directly in Greek. With very few exceptions, there was no complaint against Hellenism. In the words of Dr. Moses Hadas of Columbia University:. The Jews were enmeshed in the political, economic, social, and cultural implications of the Hellenic presence in Judaea.

    Peters of New York University has rightly observed that since Judaism met Hellenism, Jewish thought has never been the same. Other leading scholars of the period are equally convinced that the presence of Hellenism in Palestine was not only widespread but also profound. Victor Tcherikover, a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, writes that the thirty Greek cities, with Greek populations, in Jewish Palestine proper had great influence throughout all of Palestine.

    The Greek cities in Palestine and Syria, and elsewhere in the Near East, were like the cities the poleis of antiquity, "for a Greek city could neither be created nor strike root in the country unless Greeks came to it," in the words of Dr. The Greeks, of course, didn't confine themselves within their cities but communicated with the outside world through commerce and trade, agriculture, and the crafts.

    Their cities, like the poleis of the classical time, became centers of Greek learning and civilization. Martin Hengel, of the University of Tbingen, is the author of several important studies, including a monumental two-volume work on Judaism and Hellenism. He indicates that Hellenization was so widespread in Jewish Palestine that we should not speak of Palestinian Judaism but only of Hellenistic Judaism.

    To speak of Palestinian Judaism is to "pass too lightly over the fact that by the time of Jesus, Palestine had already been under Hellenistic rule and its resultant cultural influence for some years. Several other leading scholars of the period, such as Nigel Turner, J. Sevenster, Moshe Schwabe, and Baruch Lifshitz, have demonstrated that the Greek language and Hellenistic culture were not restricted to the upper classes in Palestine but had permeated all circles of Jewish society.

    On the basis of inscriptions alone, Schwabe and Lifshitz, both of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, conclude that:. As Judaism did not resist Hellenization, likewise Christianity did not reject the mind, the philosophy, the language, the style of life, or even the politics of Hellenism. In fact, Christianity did not seek to destroy but to consecrate it.

    Christianity and Greco-Roman culture were not two independent, antithetical entities, each with its own spiritual vision. Early Christianity and later medieval catholic Christianity never saw a sharp dichotomy between Christian faith and Greco-Roman culture. Early Christian authors such as Justin, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and many more slowly developed a deliberate synthesis of the two. Christianity appeared not as a reaction against Greek classical philosophy but as a new spiritual force, which united the Greek and Roman world with the religious impulse of the Semitic Near East, with the Jewish Scriptures in particular.

    Greek thought served as a propaideia, a preparation for Christian doctrines. For example, the doctrine of God was formulated on the basis of centuries-old Greek intellectual tradition. The debate in the early Church about the nature of God, God as the "enclosing" not the "enclosed," traces back to pre-Socratic Philosophy, even though it derived much more from Aristotle's discussion of the infinite.

    When Christian intellectuals such as Hermas, Theophilos, Athenagoras, Irenaios, Gregory the Theologian, and Gregory of Nyssa spoke of God as the chor'n the one who contains all things and asserted that God alone is achretos uncontained , they used Greek philosophical categories proposed by Xenophanes, Plato, and Aristotle. Church Fathers used Greek philosophy not only to attack polytheism but also to explain Old Testament anthropomorphism.

    Many elements claimed by Christianity as uniquely Christian can be found in ancient Greek as well as in other religions. Divine revelation, for example, was not limited to ancient Israel, and it cannot be claimed as an element unique to the Christian religion. Natural revelation is a very important element in several religions. The ancient Greeks, for example, believed that man's knowledge derived from God. Protagoras, Xenophanes, and the tragedians spoke many religious truths. Xenophanes writes that:. This view, which assigns progress and evolution to man, was stated in similar and indeed in more concrete terms by Aeschylos and Sophokles.

    The religion of the ancient Greeks at a certain stage of its development was polytheistic, but under the influence of their great intellectuals, they conceived the idea of one God. At no time were the ancient Greeks uniform in their religious beliefs and practices. They were eclectic. There was no canon, no "Bible," no codified decree that forced them into religious uniformity. Not without justification, the Church Fathers observed centuries later that many heresies in the early church had originated in the free spirit of Hellenism many other heresies were of Jewish and Oriental origins.

    While some ancient Greeks were polytheists, others were monotheists. Some took the Olympian gods very seriously; others saw God everywhere and identified God with life. Nature was nothing but life, spirit, the divinity itself. Some worshiped statues, while others saw in statues only an image of the deity, not the deity itself. Creation as a whole, including human life, was sanctified by the presence of the divinity, which revealed itself in diverse ways, in nature as well as in human consciousness. It was for this reason that they erected altars, temples, and statues everywhere, reminding themselves of the divinity's omnipresence.

    There is little doubt that the deepest foundation of religious feeling in the ancient Greek world was the mysterious life of nature, a life infused with spirit, and also with divinity. Life in ancient Greece was all-encompassing, and it encompassed organic and inorganic nature. Dead nature did not exist. Meadows and forests, springs and rivers, lakes and seas, measureless space, and silent mountain ranges were equally divine.

    Ancient Greek literature poetry, drama, history reveals that the Greeks were not only devoutly religious but that they believed in the universality of religion. In Homer's Odyssey, we read that Nestor's son Pisistratos tells Telemachos at Pylos that "all men stand in need of gods. The Greeks reveal more than once their longing for God's love and protection from the evils of the world, from natural catastrophes, from pestilences and illnesses.

    Thus, in ancient Greek life, "all things are full of the gods," as Thales of Miletos and Plato taught. The historian Xenophon relates that Klearchos, in a conversation with the traitor Tissaphernes, states that "all things in all places are subject to the gods, and all alike the gods hold in their control.

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    The sixth-century philosopher Heraklitos writes that "mortals are immortals and immortals are mortals, living the immortals' death and dying the immortals' life. It is a well-known fact that Greek religion had a permanent influence on the beliefs, rituals, theology, and ethics of Christianity. When Greek religion and Christianity met, they were fused, and after their fusion, many of the older forms and beliefs reappeared under different forms. There are numerous chapels and altars in modern Greece, as in antiquity, in honor of Christ, His mother, His apostles, and His saints.

    As a statue did not become an object of worship before its consecration, an icon today does not become the object of veneration if it has not been consecrated. As the statue in antiquity was, for the educated and the enlightened, only the image of the deity, likewise today the icons of the Orthodox are images presented to make concrete and understandable abstract ideas, or persons whose physical appearance is invisible or remains unknown. As images and rites were the guides of religious feeling, likewise icons and rituals are the most potent medium of religious feeling among the Orthodox today.

    As we have already indicated, the ancient Greeks considered aspects of their religion as revealed. They had their nympholepts, that is, prophets who had received their divine gifts of prophecy and insight from the nymphs, the daughter of the Great Mother Earth. Sokrates viewed himself as a gift of God to the Athenians, as a gadfly to stir them to higher things. In his famous apology, which was recorded by Plato, Sokrates stressed that his mission was divine. Notwithstanding its diversity, Greek religious thought was both serious and profound.

    The nineteenth-century German classical scholar and philologist Erwin Rhode writes that "both the deepest and the boldest thoughts about divinity arose in ancient Greece. As early as the sixth century B. To quote again the philosopher Xenophanes, "one God there is, greatest of gods and men. Greek monotheism developed progressively after the sixth century. A treatise that has survived under the name of Aristotle states that:. The chief characteristic of the one God is that of providence and concern over the cosmos or the creation. In later Greek, non-Christian thought, Dio Chrysostom and Maximos Tyrios expressed belief in monotheism in more concrete terms.

    Maximos proclaimed, "There is one God, king and father of all. Though Greek thought after the sixth century before the Christian era emphasized man's ability to work creatively upon his environment and to assert himself over and against a hostile or indifferent cosmos, rationalistic views did not always obtain, and humanity was often seen as in the bondage of hamartia sin or subject to uncontrollable limitations. Knowledge, intelligence, power, and material wealth were not considered unambiguously good. It is primarily the realm of the divine that defines the boundaries of what the human being can know and do.

    Where the human realm ends, the divine begins. Human knowledge and human power and responsibilities are, of course, limited. To try and overstep the boundary line between the human and the divine brings on serious consequences. Thinkers like Sokrates and Sophokles made the distinction between the man-made and the natural, between the temporal and the eternally existent.

    They conceptualized the issues of divine versus human law, the individual versus the community, private versus public morality, religious versus secular values. The Greeks spoke of certain absolutes which "live always," and for the most part, they rejected autocratic rationalism and crushing materialism. The divine and the human, the physical and the metaphysical world, fused and remained interrelated through the Greek intellectual tradition.

    It is sinful hamartema to violate not only the divine, but also the relations between man and nature. Certainly the Greeks emphasized the greatness of the human being, but that greatness was measured against the subjugated natural world, not the divine law, which manifests itself in many ways both in the internal and in the external world of man. While both the world of man and the world of nature are not helpless, neither are they all-powerful and supreme. In general, the ancient Greeks struck a balance between the physical and the metaphysical. God or the gods punish only those who commit hybris against the divine or against fellow human beings, not those with eusebia reverence and humility autognosia.

    To violate divine law is sinful, and to devalue the human is not only an insult hybris to humanity but also a brutalization of human relationships with the divine. Several ancient Greek thinkers stressed that there are areas of existence that cannot or should not be subjected to the control, coercion, or authority of man.

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    While the human, the physical world, and the nonhuman, the metaphysical, are all inseparably linked, the human is subject to the metaphysical realm, which lies beyond man's control. In Greek thought, as in the Antigone and Oedipus at Kolomos of Sophokles, even death, that "heroic acceptance of the unknown," bears witness to man's dignity and to divine promises. To live humanly was to know fully the strengths and limitations of man's existence; to die was both an assertion of man's humanity and acceptance of God or the gods and their limitless, ageless, and unbending conditions.

    Knowledge of man's human qualities involved recognition of the unyielding factuality of the divine, the only "things that are. Man's progressive knowledge of things divine is also seen in Greek anthropological thought. On the whole, it stressed belief in the dignity and infinite worth of the human person, which personified the heavenly God upon earth. Man's energy was viewed as the embodiment of the vital energy of the gods.