Allan's Perspective is not recommended for the politically correct, or the overly religious! Some people have opinions, and some have convictions ..., what we offer is Perspective!

(Sometimes I feel like I'm just a bobble-head on the highway of life!)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

If I ruled the World #7: How to fix the problem with Islam!



 From my book: "An Exploration of Religion and the Meaning of Life!"

When looking at Islam, we have a community that has at its heart and core, a most precious and distinct possession: “A Book.”

This is a scripture that sets forth the teachings and legislation for the community and the essential themes for the faith. This is the material that the followers of Muhammad could gather from various sources after his death and has come down to us as the Koran. It is the fundamental document for the religion of Islam and is regarded by the faithful as the holy, revealed, eternal Word of God.

Muhammad called his new religion “Islam,” a word that means submission to the will of Allah.  One who accepts Islam and makes such submission is a Muslim and termed a mu’min. (Believer) One who does not accept Islam is kafir. (Unbeliever) Islam means devotion to God, and is regarded as a newer version of the religion of Abraham.  

(This original religion declined, and was then renewed by Moses.  After Moses things were renewed once more by Jesus, and then again by Muhammad.  Jews, Christians and Muslims are all “People of the Book,” but according to Islam, Muhammad is the “last of the prophets!”)

Islam is a very structured religion!  To live in submission to Allah and in obedience to the teachings of the Prophet, a Muslim must follow certain rules formulated for him.  

There is a certain hierarchy of rules that are to be followed.
 
         In the first instance, these rules are provided in the Sharia, which is the Koran.

         In the second instance comes the Hadith, or “The Traditions”  

If something was not addressed in the Koran, guidance was sought in the “Traditions.”  (What the Prophet had said and done.)

This vast accumulation of traditions was digested into the collections of the Hadith, six of which are considered the canonical collections.

(It is well known that much of the Hadith material was spurious, but for the study of Islam even those traditions, which the community invented and attributed to Muhammad, have their value!  Often as much value as those that may actually have come down from him.)

         The third instance is “Ijma,” which is the consensus of community standards.

         The fourth instance relies on Giyas, which is the application of analogical reasoning to the other three sources for the deduction of new rules.

This combination of rules, starting with the Sharia, combines to form a religion that is structured in such a way as to give adherents a strict set of guidelines on the method of proper conduct.

There is great comfort in the structured environment of Islam. It places importance in the observance of daily routine and ritual.

This, combined with the strong family and social ties (tribal) that are encouraged, makes for a religion that is both vital and dynamic in its zealousness, while at the same time fostering a strong inertia and resistance to change from outside sources.

Therefore, the main obstacle to growth and development in Islam is the overwhelming sense that there is absolutely no need for change. 
 
In fact, by its very nature, Islam preaches that it is complete and fully developed as the personal word of God.

(This has also been the case in the Christian church, which means we have religions that are stuck in the nineteenth century in the case of Christianity, and the twelfth century in the case of Islam.  Where we have a conflict with most Christian and Muslim fundamentalists is that the answer to these criticisms will always be met with the question; “Well, what’s the matter with that?”)

One of the greatest drawbacks to Islam is that it operates on the surface as being infallible, much as Christianity does. Among Muslims however, it is acknowledged that the Prophet Muhammad left no actual interpretation of the Koran, but rather said it should be read and taken literally as the word of God. 

(This way, anything that goes wrong is obviously “God’s Will.” It is also one of the main reasons that a Muslims will end every second sentence with the phrase “Insh-Allah” - or –“God willing!”  Being as pragmatic as they are, this puts the onus back on God for whatever happens, and absolves them of being in “Shirk.”)

This interpretation by various individuals depends on everyone’s personal understanding and experience, as well as their social, political, and economic environment. 
(In fact, this happened almost exactly the same way among the early Christians.)

This means we have a divine text that is adding to the confusion by being interpreted differently from scholar to scholar, and person to person.  Naturally, the clergy interprets and decides which part of the Koran they want the general population to use.
They are also the ones that give guidance to; “what it really means.” (This is also the reason that Radical Islam can justify almost anything to conform to their toxic message.)

The sad truth of the matter is that in Islam, as in every other religion in the world, there are no shortages of people who try to put themselves in positions of influence and power.

All this for the purpose of spreading their own version of reality amongst the masses.

Traditional authorities, beginning in the time shortly after Muhammad, viewed holy law as the revealed will of God and subordinated politics to holy decree.

Historically however, it was politics (tribal or otherwise) that invariable shaped Islamic law and led to a complex discourse on a subject that was contentious on the surface, but at its base rather simple.

The religious precepts are pretty straightforward, but the task of explaining them and choosing a method for their application is left in human hands.

This means they are automatically constrained by human limitations!

On top of this, Muslims became politically divided early in their history with the division into the Shiite and Sunni sects, (see below) and that influenced their respective understandings of the law and its applications.


After Muhammad’s death, Islam also got off to a rocky start when warfare was used to spread the faith, and three of the first four Caliphs died by violence.

The fourth Caliph, Ali, was a cousin of Muhammad and his followers then tore the community in two by claiming that Ali should have been the first caliph by virtue of his blood ties to Muhammad.

These people came to be known as the Shiite sect, (Iran, Pakistan) while the great majority of the followers of Muhammad, who claim that succession does not rely on blood ties, are known today as the Sunni. (Everybody else, led by Saudi Arabia.)

A great many differences exist to this day between these two main sects of Islam, and the distinctions go far deeper than just who should have succeeded Muhammad.

In fact, it was in the interpretation of the Koran itself that there were already differences.

Because of this, we find different “creedal statements” circulating amongst the communities of both the Shiite and Sunni’s, as well as amongst the Sufi, who are a mystical branch of Islam.

These became the subject of discussion and commentary that in time grew into different Islamic theologies.  

This also led to a condition within the faith where almost anyone could at one time or another could consider a person of another sect to be a non-believer and heretic.

One result of this was that Islam developed divisions, and so part of the task was to distinguish orthodox belief and practice as opposed to various schools of heretical teaching.

(The similarity between this and the situation between the Catholics and Protestants is not mere coincidence, but the result of the schisms that can develop between different groups of similar beliefs!)

Perhaps what Islam needs is a “Reformation” along the same lines as the upheaval of the Catholic Church by Martin Luther.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

If I ruled the world #6: Let's set Christianity straight!

This is an excerpt from the book "An Exploration of Religion and the Meaning of Life!" by Allan W Janssen. You can purchase the book in PDF format at: https://www.amazon.ca/Exploration-Religion-Meaning-Life-ebook/dp/B01M0C07IE  
  
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It would be a fair bet to assume that Jesus was an actual historical figure who had great influence on his peers and times.  As for his teachings, they have to be looked at not only by what he said, but also by what his actions portrayed.  There is much truth to the saying "Actions speak louder than words!"

The truth probably lies somewhere between the scholarly belief in the unreliability of the gospels and the Christian belief in them as an infallible, literal portrait of Jesus.

At the end of the first century CE  The "Alexandrian School of Thought," of which Origin and Clement of Alexandria were part, taught that there were three possible approaches to be taken to the scriptures.  (That there were already discussions of this magnitude and significance tells us a lot of the early Christian movement.)

bulletThe first approach was the literal translation,
bulletThe second was symbolic, or allegorical, and
bulletThe third was spiritual.   

The first (the literal) was described as simplistic and solely for the uneducated.  The second (symbolic) was the use of parables to convey a deeper meaning, and third (spiritual) was to transcend the mortal plane and bring us closer to God.

Unfortunately at that time, as now, the unwashed masses cried out for a ready-made, simplistic, popular faith.  A faith that can best be described as closer to a romance novel than any serious attempt at theology, history and philosophy.

This is also the reason that the "Resurrection" was proclaimed as the basis for Christianity.

This version of the "Faith," when combined with the Roman gift of organization and brute force, led to the "Christianity" that has been handed down to us.  It seems to be the consensus among New Testament scholars that "Jesus" preached a message that teaches a way of behaving and living that applied to a first century reality.

However, the words of "Christ" are another matter. If the sayings and parables of "Christ" are examined closely with the purpose of separating those words that were actually uttered by "Jesus" from those that were later attributed to him, we see a vast difference in the context, meaning, and purpose between the two.

The sayings of "Christ" display a metaphorical and allegorical context that suggest someone slightly removed from the everyday world.

The biblical words of "Jesus," however, were indeed a direct reflection of their place and time. (Just as today, we are all products of our own time and age) The actual sayings of the historical "Jesus," which upon close examination shows only a handful of thoughts and parables, are so simple and basic, with such underlying truth, that they can be applied to the human condition of any age.

In his book "The Silence of Jesus," James Breech takes an in-depth and impartial view of the words that have been attributed to "Christ," and compared these with the words that composed the core material said by the historical "Jesus."

According to Breech, all the thoughts attributed to Jesus, a collection of eight sayings and twelve parables, can definitely be followed back to (The Gospel of Q) and do not have the taint of something said by "Christ."

Modern day scholars would agree that these sayings, at least, are authentic. They are remarkably free of the language and concepts of the early Christian movement, and show a purity of thought and concept, that upon close examination, reveals a simplicity and universal message not constrained by time or culture.

To truly understand the sayings that were uttered by the historical Jesus, we must keep an open mind and not make assumptions, or at least keep them to a minimum.  To do otherwise would be to fall into the same trap that ensnared the early "Christians." They created a body of work that first collected, then glossed over and distorted the sayings of Jesus to provide a basis for their own teachings.

One of the most basic assumptions that Breech examines is the concept of Christian "love" that forms the basis of most of the teachings of Jesus. Let me explain: The foundation of Christian ideology revolves around "Love" for one and another.  To understand this we need to define exactly how the term or meaning of "Love" is used when compared to (the small) love!!

In the first instance, there is the true "Love," which means it is rooted in the power of the kingdom of God. This is the "Love" that the historical Jesus preached to his followers.

The second type of Christian "love" (small L) is defined solely as an ethical idea that was propagated by the spreading Christian faith in trying to define the words of Christ. Nietzsche probably best defined this form of Christian 'love' as a masked feeling of pity or charity. 

In other words, we feel sorry for others and from this superior moral ground, we lend a helping hand.

Nietzsche claims that Christian 'pity' (love) is a device used by those who are not themselves truly vital and alive to obtain a perverse elevation of their own position by undermining others.

SO, "I can make myself feel better by thinking you or someone else is worse-off and deserving of love."  We often confuse the feeling of Christian "love" for someone with:
  1. Pity for them.
  2. Humanitarianism-or a love of Mankind.
  3. Altruism, or self denial, and
  4. Sentimentalism, or wanting to be with others.
These concepts of "love" have been re-enforced over and over again through one story or another.  What Jesus actually said was something more basic and infinitely harder to achieve. The historical Jesus did not urge us to love humankind or to feel pity for someone else. 

He did not tell us to deny ourselves for someone else's sake, or flagellate ourselves, or even to enjoy another's company! What He did say was pure and simple and straight to the point, "Love one another!" This sort of Love is not the altruistic love of humanity, nor the possessive love for our mate, but rather something that requires hard work, tenacity, and sacrifice.

It is easy to love your wife or husband, child or parent, but to Love your neighbor (or stranger) is a task that is never ending and always requires effort.  It is a Love that seems to have no immediate benefit and is therefore not practiced by many people. However, in the end, this is what will make Humanity rise up to it is potential and approach what Jesus referred to as the "Kingdom of God (The Father)."

This is not something that is to be expected in the near, or far, future. Rather, it was a state of being that is present at this time, and only has to be observed and followed in order to achieve a state of Grace.
One of the core sayings of Jesus was:
 "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say 'Lo, here it is!' or 'There!'  For behold, that kingdom of God is in the midst of you."
Jesus tells us quite clearly that the "Kingdom of God" is not a coming kingdom, or a future kingdom, but rather something already in and amongst his disciples.  It is not a place, but rather a state of mind!
To quote James Breech once more:
"Your concept of the kingdom of God, whether it belongs to the future mythological conceived, in either eschatological or apocalyptic terms, misses the reality of the kingdom. The symbolism really refers to a power that is a basic factor in human experience!"
In the teachings attributed to Jesus, it is abundantly clear that he was an apocalyptic teacher who believed that the world would end within the lifetime of the people to which he was speaking.

The foundation of these teachings was that human beings could be saved by both believing his word and by modeling their lives on the higher moral law of God. That higher moral law was the foundation of Jewish law.

To this end, he believed that Pharisaical teaching were an appropriate guide to following this higher moral law: His criticism of the Pharisees was that they did not live by what they taught.

In line with this higher moral law, Jesus of Nazareth preached an ethics of selfless concern for the welfare of others, rejection of material wealth, and non-retribution, all of which were standard in Jewish ethics.  In his statements, Jesus of Nazareth explicitly rejects government and politics as a legitimate sphere of human action.

The religion that he taught was an intensely individual religion.

Righteousness, which means the performance of right actions, was not a quality of actions but rather a quality of the interior state of the individual.  This was not really a break with the Jewish tradition, but it was the core of the way in which Jesus defined the human relationship with the Divine.

There is also abundant evidence in the Gospels that Jesus considered his teachings to be for Jews only.  This is a curious tradition to maintain in the face of the massive spread of Christianity into the Gentile world. However, nowhere does Jesus of Nazareth construe his teachings or the religion he is espousing as anything other than for Jews and in one place explicitly says that his mission is only to the Jews.

Ultimately, the Jesus who emerges from the gospels is concerned with preparing the Jews for the last event in history.

It is someone who actively preaches that human beings can enter individually into a correct relationship with God.  They can do this through faith and trust in God and through an active, ethical concern with both the material well-being and the suffering of others.

The Christian religion was at first, obviously, a Jewish religion.  It was a movement amongst the population in the immediate area of the land Jesus lived in.  Its message aimed directly at a Jewish audience by Jews.

However, with the advent of the Prophet Paul the message changed and was geared towards a Gentile population that was eager for the "word" as well.

Onto this template, Paul of Tarsus would add a new emphasis - Jesus as a dead and risen God co-extensive with God.  This developed into two branches, which we could call a Jewish Christian and a Pauline (Gentile) Christian.

They not only lived side by side, but also competed for the same converts. It was not until the Romans suppressed an uprising by the Jews in 66 to 74 CE and again 132 to 135 CE that led to the destruction of Masada, that the Pauline Christians gradually won out.

They became the defenders of the faith while the Jewish Christians were left  by the wayside. (Actually in the ashes of Masada!)

Is Trump really that stupid? Maybe not!

Hot enough for ya?

Dear Friends: "Let's get things back into perspective!"

Still don't believe in climate change bunky? (Especially for all our conservative friends.)

Well get a load of this kids: The experts warn you about all the dangers of global warming: melting ice caps, rising sea levels, more destructive hurricanes.

All bad stuff!

What they don’t tell you is that when it gets to be around 120-degrees, the sidewalk gets so hot, it can fry a puppy paw instantly.


Can you imagine the horror these poor pups are facing?!

They’re not the only ones dealing with some undeniably extreme consequences of the historic heatwave tearing through the Southwest right now.

In Tucson, the forecast predicts that the Arizona town is about to experience the hottest seven-day stretch in its history, with highs soaring north of 110-degrees for an entire week.

According to the National Weather Service, Phoenix tied its high temperature record of 118-degree on Tuesday. Guess when the last time the city saw a temperature that high was?

One year ago, June 20, 2016. And when it’s this hot for long stretches of days, everybody suffers.

Also:

Mid afternoon flights out of Denver airport were cancelled again today because it was just too hot for planes to take off!

With temperatures in the 40+ degree range, the air wasn't dense enough to give these planes enough lift to take off ......, and air traffic controllers ended up with a pile of airplanes at the far end of the runway before they cancelled all flights until after supper when it would be a bit cooler outside!

Image result for pile of airplanes

It’s so hot, you can bake cookies and fry bacon inside a car

Because the old fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk trick isn’t that impressive in heat like this, a team of National Weather Service meteorologists baked cookies and fried bacon on a car’s dashboard.


They said the car’s interior temperature was about 200-degrees at the time, which you can barely see on the thermometer in the image above.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Had a hard day bunky?


If I ruled the World #5: Russia!



Dear Friends: "Let's get things back into perspective!"

I’d like to quote an old line from the movie “Cool Hand Luke” and it goes something like this: “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate!” (Strother Martin at his best.)

Image result for putin clipartThe same thing can be said about Russia with regard to the rest of the G7 countries because everyone seems to be talking past each other instead of holding a sincere dialogue about areas of common interest.

Russia was ripe for a re-set of its relations with the West after “Perestroika” and the fall of the U.S.S.R. but several factors intervened to make this all but unattainable.

First of all NATO’s expansion of its influence right up to the Russian border during the 1990’s set relations back quite a bit and gave impetus to Russia’s old pro Soviet guard who still dreamed of Russian power and influence on a global scale.
Image result for uncle sam clipart 
Add to this the fact that the United States rubbed their victory in the ‘Cold War’ in Russia’s face at every opportunity, and then rebuked offers of military aid against terrorists by Russia after the 9/11 attacks and you have the making of a steadily declining relationship here in the 21st century.  

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova evoked the Kremlin’s reaction to the 9/11 attacks in comments rejecting the U.S. stance on Russia’s Syria campaign. “I want to remind you … after the September 11th attacks, we shared the U.S. pain as if it were our own, understanding what terrorism is,” Ms. Zakharova told a news conference, Reuters reported.
“We supported the United States in everything, (including) in the U.N. Security Council. We helped them fight terrorism. We didn’t ask, ‘Are they good or bad terrorists?’ “

Things had not reached a crisis point until the fall in oil prices in 2008 – 2009 which caused Russia under Vladimir Putin to change the countries internal policies from “we will help you get rich,” to “you might not be rich, but we will protect you from our enemies!”

This shift in ideology brought Russia into direct conflict with the West and spurred the present situation of isolationism and hostility that is so evident today! Russia has taken the position that it will boost its power and influence around the world by disrupting and dividing the members of NATO and the E.U. as witnessed by the attacks on Europe and America’s electoral processes and institutions. (They took the position: "If you can't join them, beat them!")

SO, how to solve this dilemma?

First we have to realized that much of the blame for present relations falls on the West during the Nineties and early 21st century and then on Vladimir Putin for his policies of isolationism and confrontation with Europe and North America over the last ten+ years.

The solution?

It will mean waiting for Putin and his Kleptocracy to either fade from view or be removed from office before any more resets in relations can occur ………….,  and then both sides should try talking to each other rather than past each other!

The way I see it anyway!