Quran Read-A-Long: The Cow 211-216 Speaks of Familiar Things and a Single Community

When verse 213 says that “men belonged to a single community,” is it saying that at one point we were all the same and only later separated or is it just referring to a single community? I’m not clear because of what follows it: God sent them messengers and the Book. If Book is a reference to originally sending the Bible, then it wasn’t to everyone, it was to the Israelites. Similarly, if Book refers to the Quran then there wasn’t one community at the time. So what is this reference to a single community? Is it a state of nature kind of thing?

I also find verse 216 particularly interesting. Bad things (e.g. fighting) is good for us and things that please us aren’t good for us. Only God knows. I find this particularly interesting because people often insist that certain things are or aren’t good for us – marijuana, sex, skiing, television, fat, etc. – and though we seek to find out and solve these riddles, many of our actual conclusions come down to moral or cultural judgments. E.g. Fat is ugly and bad (it’s not); marijuana is bad for you and should be illegal (worse things are legal); sex is wrong before marriage (for much of human history the convention didn’t exist – was the procreation wrong?), etc. Only God knows what’s really good and bad for us, so why do we keep trying to push our views on others?

Thanks for being a part of Quran Read-A-Long and leaving your thoughts with us, answering some of my questions and elaborating on other parts of these verses that I missed.

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The Cow 211-216

211. Ask the children of Israel how many a clear sign We had given them. But if one changes the favor of God after having received it, then remember, God is severe in revenge. 212. Enamored are the unbelievers in the life of this world, and scoff at the faithful. But those who keep from evil and follow the straight path will have a higher place than they on the Day of Reckoning; for God gives in measure without number whomsoever He will. 213. Men belonged to a single community, and God sent them messengers to give them happy tidings and warnings, and sent the Book with them containing the truth to judge between them in matters of dispute; but only those who received it differed after receiving clear proofs, on account of waywardness (and jealousies) among them. Then God by His dispensation showed those who believed the way to the truth about which they were differing; for God shows whom He please the path that is straight. 214. Do you think you will find your way to Paradise even though you have not known what the others before you have gone through? They had suffered affliction and loss, and were shaken and tossed about so that even the Apostle had to cry out with his followers: “When will the help of God arrive?” Remember, the help of God is ever at hand. 215. They ask you of what they should give in charity. Tell them: “What you can spare of your wealth as should benefit the parents, the relatives, the orphans, the needy, the wayfarers, for God is not unaware of the good deeds that you do.” 216. Enjoined on you is fighting, and this you abhor. You may dislike a thing yet it may be good for you; or a thing may haply please you but may be bad for you. Only God has knowledge, and you do not know.

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Fun with the Bible: The Harmony of God’s Creation in Genesis 1

Common Misconceptions about the Creation Story

When you ask most people what God created on each of the six days of creation (remember, the seventh day was for chillin’ like a villain), they will generally answer incorrectly. Test this out. Don’t ask your local biblical scholar, of course, just someone who is aware of his or her religion, goes to church or synagogue occasionally and might have something to say. Day by day, his/her answer may go a little something like this:

1. The universe

2. Land and water

3. Sun and Moon

4. Plants

5. Animals

6. Adam and Eve

Now, that wouldn’t be a terrible guess, mind you. In some fashion or another those things were created, the order is not terrible, and they managed to fill six days. Of course, my made up answer might be a little biased since I know what really happened. They may skip one or two, wind up with Adam and Eve on day 4 and then have to backtrack and think about what happened in those last few days. “Uh, pot and beer, dude? Hehehe.”

The Beautiful Symmetry of Creation

In any case, I’d like to take a moment to show you what God created on which days (not that you couldn’t read it for yourself), just so that you can see the inherent harmony in the plan and in the mind of the author of Genesis 1.

1. Night and Day                          4. Sun, Moon and Stars

2. Sky and Water                          5. Birds and Fish

3. Dry land and Vegetation           6. Animals and Humankind

Now isn’t that special? Do you notice anything?

The way I laid it out should give away the beautiful symmetry of creation, how everything created in the first three days is complemented by what is designed for it specifically in the latter three days. The Sun, Moon and Stars make Night and Day a reality. The birds and fish populate the sky and water and then animals and mankind (or mammals, if you will) populate the dry land and utilize the vegetation. Beautiful!

One thing you might notice is that there’s no Adam and Eve. That’s right, in Genesis 1, the creation of humankind is the simultaneous existence of man and woman and what’s more, they look like God because they were created “in His image.” That means what it says. Notice also how humanity is the culmination of creation.

Some Differences in the Creation Story of Genesis 2

If you look at Genesis 2, which happens to be an entirely different creation story – that is, a competing story, not a complementary one – you will notice that initially some stuff is around and so is God and then God makes man and the rest of creation comes from man. All the animals and finally the woman (eventually Eve) come from man’s existence. Moreover, that story is “sloppier” in the sense that it does not provide us with the distance, majesty and order of the first creation story. In Genesis 2-3 God “forms” man and breathes life into his nostrils. Very physical and image oriented. In Genesis 1 how does God create everything? With his words: “God said.” Very different ideas of God who create different things for different reasons. Fascinating stuff.

Imagine the Cosmos

Also, what do the cosmos look like before God began creating in Genesis 1? Can you envision it? If you want to know what the cosmology of the author (or original teller of this tale) was, try to visual what’s happening in the first 10 verses.

First, there is basically nothing but water. God makes light and separates it from dark but how does he create where we end up? Starting with Genesis 1:6 imagine a snowglobe being inserted into the water – this is the “separation of the waters from the waters.” Why would ancient people think that water was above and only a dome kept us from it? Think about lying in an empty field at night: looks like a dome, huh? Plus, during the day the sky is blue and when it rains, water comes from it – like the water dome is leaking. This was the vision, and after the snowglobe separates the waters, God can make land in the bottom water for us to hang out on.

Summary

What do you think about all that I’ve just said? Is there anything else you’d like to point out for us? Does anything not make sense that you’d like to discuss further?

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An Open Letter to Sarah Palin about Her Fundamentalist Christian Beliefs

Before you is a letter from someone I know and respect whose work is all about helping fundamentalist Christians who have chosen to leave their abusive and delusional religions do so in a safe and psychologically sound way. As the author of this letter has written, “Marlene Winell is a Bay Area psychologist who specializes in recovery from fundamentalist religion. She is author of Leaving the Fold:  A guide for former fundamentalists and others leaving their religion. She is the daughter of Assemblies of God missionaries. A longer article about Sarah Palin’s religion is on Dr. Winell’s website:  http://www.marlenewinell.net.”

Please feel free to leave any comments at the bottom of this letter and reproduce the letter in its entirety elsewhere on the internet (so long as you provide Dr. Winell as the author). If you would like to read an interview that I once conducted with Dr. Winell, please click HERE.

An open letter to Sarah Palin, from Marlene Winell, Ph.D.

Dear Sarah,

As a former fundamentalist, I’d like to call you on what you are doing.

This is not about disrespecting your private beliefs.  But you have a huge conflict of interest here by running for office and you can’t have it both ways (see Jesus’ words in John 2:15).

You have not been honest about the most important thing about you:  the fact that you are a born-again, literal Bible-believing, fundamentalist Christian.   Voters need to know you are not merely a “Christian” – a follower of Christ’s teachings.

Most people who have never been entrenched in the subculture of fundamentalist Christianity may not understand what this really means, but I do. Like you, I was raised in the Assemblies of God and I was a zealous part of the Jesus Movement.  Like you, my life was consumed with seeking God’s will for my life and awaiting the imminent return of Jesus.  It’s clear to me that you want to do the Lord’s will; you’ve said and done things like a true believer would. You are on a mission from God. If that is not true, then I challenge you to deny it.

Former fundamentalists like me know that your worldview is so encompassing, authoritarian, and powerful that it defines who you think you are, the way you view the world, history, other people, the future, and your place in the world.  It defines you far more than hockey mom, wife, woman, hunter, governor, or VP candidate.

You believe that every bit of the Bible is God’s perfect word.  You have a supernatural view of reality where Satan is a real entity and where good and evil beings are engaged in “spiritual warfare” (Ephesians 6:12).   Like Queen Esther, you believe that God has “called” and “anointed” you to lead America.  This is why you have accepted blessing for office through the “laying on of hands” and prayer to protect you from witchcraft.

So what does this mean for governing?  What could Americans expect with you at the helm?

You cannot affirm basic human decency or capability, because according to your dogma, we are sinful, weak, and dependant on God. And so, your decisions would not be based on expert advice or even your own reasoning, but on your gut-level, intuitive interpretation of God’s will.

This would allow you to do anything and claim you were led by God.

Your thinking necessarily is black or white.  People and policies are either good or bad.  After all, Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me” (Matt. 12:30).  Under your leadership, diplomacy and cultural nuance would be less important than not blinking.  In a spiritual war, you don’t negotiate with the devil.

Regarding social policy, as a believer in individual salvation, you would emphasize individual morality and responsibility, not a community approach with structural solutions.  You would be judgmental and controlling of personal choices regarding sex, reproduction, and library books instead of addressing global warming, torture, poverty, and war.  Your belief in eternal hell-fire, your deference to a literal Bible despite its cruelties and vengeful god, and your indoctrination to disbelieve your own compassionate instincts, are likely to leave you numb at your moral core.  You might recall the verse, “If a man will not work he shall not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10).  However, faith-based initiatives would be okay because they would use caring to evangelize.

How about science?  As it has in your governorship, your interpretation of the Bible would trump scientific scholarship and findings.  You would deny the human role in global warming because God is in control.  More importantly, you would not make the environment a priority because you do not expect the earth to last.

International affairs?  Since your subculture has identified the establishment of Israel in 1948 as the beginning of the end, you would see war, epidemics, climate change, and natural disasters, all as hopeful signs of Jesus’ return.  You would be a staunch supporter of Israel and deeply suspicious of countries like Russia identified with the antichrist in the end times literature.  (You have publicly said that you expect Jesus to return in your lifetime and that it guides you every day.)

The Christian fundamentalism that has shaped your thinking teaches that working for peace is unbiblical and wrong because peace is not humanly possible without the return of Jesus (1 Thess. 5:2,3).  Conflict, even outright war is inevitable, for Jesus came not to bring peace but a sword (Matt: 10:34-37).  Like millions of fundamentalist Christians, you may actually find joy in global crises because these things portend His return (Luke 21:28).

But all of this certainty and fantasy in today’s complex world is dangerous, Sarah.  There was a time when all of humanity thought the world was flat.  Today, the stakes for such massive error are much higher.

So we want to know, Sarah, Warrior Princess for God —  How dare you presume to take responsibility for our country and our planet when you, in your own mind, do not consider this home?   I mean home for the long haul, not just until your rescue arrives from space.  How dare you look forward to Christ’s return, leaving your public office empty like a scene from the movie, Left Behind?

What if you are completely wrong and you wreak havoc instead with your policies?  If you deny global warming, brand people and countries “evil,” support war, and neglect global issues, you can create the apocalypse you are expecting.  And as it gets worse and worse, and you look up for redemption, you just may not see it.  What then?  In that moment, you and all who have shared your delusion may have the most horrifying realization imaginable.   And it will be too late.  Too late to avoid destruction and too late to apologize to all the people who tried to turn the tide and needed you on board.

And you, John McCain, how dare you endanger all of us for the sake of your politics?  How dare you choose a partner who is all symbol and no substance, preying on the fears of millions of Americans?   Shame on both of you.

Leave this beautiful, fragile earth to us, the unbelievers in your fantasy.  It’s the only heaven we have and you have no right to make it a hell.

Sincerely,
Marlene

Marlene Winell, Ph.D.
October 21, 2008

Press Release – October 21, 2008
Contact:  mwinell@gmail.com

If you would like to read an interview that I once conducted with Dr. Winell, please click HERE.

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“The Biggest Douche in the Universe” Knocks John Edwards and Being a Phony

I really love this episode, primarily for its central message. A friend of mine once argued with me that this episode didn’t have very much to do with religion. Believing that it did, however, I was relentless about the connection between John Edwards and cult leadership.

Why? Because John Edwards acts like a charismatic cult leader. He fakes knowledge about unknowable truths, goes to great lengths to convince others of his powers and then tries to take money from them by selling them on his lies. Of course, many charismatic cult leaders do not know that they are telling lies and thoroughly believe what they are saying, but for Edwards, this isn’t the case. What’s more, Stan knows it and resolves to stop the biggest douche in the universe from destroying Kyle’s life and messing with others’.

Stan explains that by lying about things that no one can know – life’s ‘big’ questions – Edwards is literally slowing down the progress of humanity. His conversations with Edwards are delightful and poignant. Telling lies, even if it’s to give people hope, literally slows down the progress of humanity – and especially if it’s to make a quick buck – is despicable behavior. John Edwards is the biggest douche in the universe, as any trip to his real website will verify.

To read interviews with ex-cult members whose leaders were not charismatics but who truly did believe what they were saying, click HERE for Grace Lyerly and HERE for Tifany.

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