How Much Does The Torah Differ From The Old Testament A Romp Through The Garden Of Eden – And Other Religious Misconceptions

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A Romp Through The Garden Of Eden – And Other Religious Misconceptions

People are so naive. Who in their right mind can believe that the earth began with two Hebrew speaking adults and a talking snake? Come on people, get real. And what about Adam who was next to a naked woman and was tempted by a piece of fruit? I’ve been around a long time and I don’t know a single man who, given the choice, would pick an apple over a naked woman, unless he was gay. But this refutes the Christian movement’s belief that homosexuality is bad.

When it comes to religious beliefs, we’ve all been sold a bill of goods. Someone did a great marketing job as various religious organizations continue to receive the dough. Their money making schemes are based on fear and mind control. The mass population has been manipulated into thinking that they will go to hell if they don’t go to church every Sunday and leave at least 10% of their annual salary. Many of their core beliefs are dogmatic and inflexible. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

What scares me is the fear of fundamentalists and control issues when they judge others. Instead of seeing the good in people, these insecure people prefer to look at the dark side of a person. We are not perfect people because we live in an imperfect world. This is what makes us human beings. We work through our imperfections in the hope that one day we will aspire to something greater than the sum total of ourselves.

My pet peeve is people who judge others as bad because of different religious beliefs. What happened to the first amendment, which clearly states the right to religious choice? Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson revealed their ignorance when they attacked Islam and declared Allah a false God. They should have been happy to proclaim the truth their understanding of Christianity

Allah is simply the Arabic word for God. Fifteen million Christians living in the Middle East today pray to Allah; German speaking people pray to Gott. Claiming that people who worship differently than you are worshiping a false god is irresponsible. It reveals how woefully uninformed religious leaders can be and how easy it is to be deceived and enslaved to unyielding truth claims about God. It is unthinkable not only for prominent leaders; but any self-proclaimed prophet to use the pulpit to feed ignorance and fanaticism.

Jews, Christians and Muslims speak of the same deity. Jesus is mentioned 93 times in the Qur’an (Arabic)… the Qur’an as we know it. The book is composed of sacred writings and accepted by Muslims as revelations made to Muhammad by Allah through the angel Gabriel. Islam, then, is the religious faith of Muslims, including belief in Allah as the only deity and Muhammad as his prophet. I think it would be interesting if it turned out that Jesus and Muhammad were one and the same.

The sacred text of the Jewish faith is the Torah. The Torah consists of the five books of Moses that make up the Pentateuch. The Pentateuch consists of the first five books of the Jewish and Christian scriptures. Christians use several forms of the Bible consisting of the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek. There are two dozen contemporary English translations that thus point to the challenge of communicating the meaning and intent of the original text. If you think about the number of centuries and the number of people involved in writing both the Old Testament and the New Testament in two different languages, both of which are open to various translations, you have to wonder if any of the decodings are accurate

I see abuse of sacred texts all the time. Shakespeare’s poignant observation, “Even the devil can quote the scriptures to his purpose,” further elucidates the manipulative exploitation of revered texts for financial gain and mind control in religious groups. The scary part is that mind control can lead to a violent fanatic.

Religions differ in many ways, but they converge in teaching both an orientation toward God and transcendence toward constructive, compassionate relationships with others in this world. Jesus captured the essence of this in response to a question about the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:37-40).

Christians who take the Bible literally are either fooling themselves or ignorant. Converting others is no one’s responsibility, I am responsible for myself. The desire for clarity and direction in a constantly changing world is what breeds fundamentalists. It is easier to know the truth than to seek it. We grow with learning, unlearning and change. The search for religious truth is an ongoing process.

Authentic religion challenges the intellect as people wrestle with the mystery of living (why am I here; what am I supposed to do) and the challenges of living in an imperfect world. Conversely, blind obedience is a sure sign of corrupt religion. Authentic religion encourages questioning and reflection at all levels. Doctrinal positions that support otherwise unethical behavior should always be questioned. Intellectual freedom, personal integrity and common sense are also indispensable in true religion.

Individual human beings are ultimately responsible for their own behavior. What one does during one’s time on earth is connected to a larger understanding of existence. We must focus on principles of justice, honesty, compassion and humility.

Copyright © 2006 by Pamela Beers. All rights reserved.

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