Monthly Archives: December 2014
Well Linus does and he will tell Charlie Brown and you too!
Luke2: 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field , keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo , the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid . 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold , I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes , lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying , 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
We continue with the the article explanations of Dennis Prager‘s series on the Ten Commandments. The videos for each Commandment have already been posted here and to view them one needs only to scroll down the list of articles. Today’s commentary by Prager is on the 3rd Commandment.
The Ten Commandments is the most morally influential piece of legislation ever written. For a good idea of how relevant each of the Ten is, take the Third Commandment, one of the two most misunderstood commandments (the other is “Do Not Murder,” which I explained previously).
Is there such a thing as “the worst sin” — one sin that is worse than all others?
In fact, there is.
I am aware that some people differ. They maintain that we can’t declare any sin worse than any other. “To God, a sin is a sin” is how it’s often expressed. In this view, a person who steals a stapler from the office is committing as grievous a sin in God’s eyes as a murderer.
But most people intuitively, as well as Biblically, understand that some sins are clearly worse than others. We are confident that God has at least as much common sense as we do. The God of Judaism and Christianity does not equate stealing an office item with murder.
So, then, what is the worst sin?
The worst sin is committing evil in God’s name.
How do we know?
From the Third of the Ten Commandments. This is the only one of the Ten that states that God will not forgive a person who violates the commandment.
What does this Commandment say?
It is most commonly translated as, “Do not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. For the Lord will not hold guiltless” — meaning “will not forgive” — whoever takes His name in vain.”
Because of this translation, most people understandably think that the commandment forbids saying God’s name for no good reason. So, something like, “God, did I have a rough day at work today!” violates the Third Commandment.
But that interpretation presents a real problem. It would mean that whereas God could forgive the violation of any of the other commandments — dishonoring one’s parents, stealing, adultery, or even committing murder — He would never forgive someone who said, “God, did I have a rough day at work today!”
As it happens, however, the commandment is not the problem. The problem is the translation. The Hebrew original doesn’t say “Do not take”; it says “Do not carry.” The Hebrew literally reads, “Do not carry the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
This is reflected in one of the most widely used new translations of the Bible, the New International Version, or NIV, which uses the word “misuse” rather than the word “take:”
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.”
This is much closer to the original’s intent.
What does it mean to “carry” or to “misuse” God’s name? It means committing evil in God’s name.
And that God will not forgive.
When an irreligious person commits evil, it doesn’t bring God and religion into disrepute. But when a religious person commits evil in God’s name he destroys the greatest hope for goodness on earth — belief in a God who demands goodness, and who morally judges people.
The Nazis and Communists were horrifically cruel mass murderers. But their evils only sullied their own names, not the name of God. But when religious people commit evil, especially in God’s name, they are not only committing evil, they are doing terrible damage to the name of God.
In our time, there are, unfortunately, many examples of this. The evils committed by Islamists who torture, bomb, cut throats, and mass murder — all in the name of their God — do terrible damage to the name of God.
It is not coincidental that what is called the New Atheism — the immense eruption of atheist activism — followed the 9/11 attack on America by Islamist terrorists. In fact, the most frequent argument against God and religion concerns evil committed in God’s name, whether it is done in the name of Allah today or was done in the past in the name of Christ.
People who murder in the name of God not only kill their victims, they kill God, too.
That’s why the greatest sin is religious evil.
That’s what the Third Commandment is there to teach: Don’t carry God’s name in vain. If you do, God won’t forgive you.
You can see this commentary, animated with text and graphics, at www.prageruniversity.com. It was released, along with the other nine commandments, this month.
I wish my readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy Chanukah. And remember, just as evil in God’s name is atheism’s best friend, goodness in God’s name is theism’s best friend.
There Is a ‘Worst Sin’: Evil in God’s Name
Violating the Third Commandment is unforgivable.
In our last of a three part series on the nature of reality we explore where this all leads us. Where do we come out in the end?
For too long there has been this fake tug of war between science and religion. In this unreality, science is supposed to be the enemy of religion, scoffing at the existence of a higher Being, a Deity. But the real war has been between those, who in the name of science, proclaim an objective reality – a materialistic world uninfluenced by the thoughts or will of humankind – and those that see humankind as having a say and influence over the world they live in all overseen by a Creator and Sustainer.
Having looked at the evidence of science we have seen that our world is pixelated; everything we see can be reproduced by lines of code in a computer. But this pixelated basis is just a choice of potential possibilities that only assumes definite form when it is observed. But who is the programmer and where and who is the computer?
We have now come to the final conclusion, that our world is a virtual reality. It is a simulation. But the question remains who is the simulator?
The answer is that the universe is a simulation in a mind. And this all powerful, all knowing super mind, this ultimate simulator, is God. And that we have postulated this consclusion using science not faith. Looking at the latest advancements in Quantum Theory we have been able to demonstrate that it is basically a case of mind over matter – in reality matter that does not really exist outside of the observer. That would be you.
It is your world, then. Make of it what you would like to see.
Realty is a product of consciousness and observation creates reality. Therefore for reality to exist there must be an observer.
Science has not buried God it has revealed him and with it buried materialism
The physical world, including our bodies, is a response of the observer. We create our bodies as we create the experience of our world.
“A fundamental conclusion of the new physics also acknowledges that the observer creates the reality. As observers, we are personally involved with the creation of our own reality. Physicists are being forced to admit that the universe is a “mental” construction. Pioneering physicist Sir James Jeans wrote: “The stream of knowledge is heading toward a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter, we ought rather hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter. Get over it, and accept the inarguable conclusion. The universe is immaterial-mental and spiritual.” – R.C. Henry, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University , “The Mental Universe” ; Nature 436:29,2005)
“We are what we think, all that we are arises with our thoughts, with our thoughts we make the world.” – Gautama Buddha
What’s also important about teachings from new physics is that, if factors of consciousness are associated with the creation of our reality, that means change starts within. It starts with the way in which we are observing the outer world from our inner world. This touches on the earlier point of how we perceive our reality. Our perception of the external world might very well be a reflection of our inner world, our inner state of being. So ask yourself, are you happy? Are you observing, perceiving and acting from a place of love? From a place of hate or anger? From a place of peace? All of these factors are associated with our consciousness, with our observation, the one (or the many) who are doing the “observing” might play a large role in what type of physical world the human race manifests for itself – “Consciousness Creates Reality” – Physicists Admit The Universe Is Immaterial, Mental & Spiritual
This has led some scientists to speculate that without consciousness, the universe would exist indeterminately as a sea of quantum potentiality. In other words, physical reality cannot first exist without subjectivity. Without consciousness, there is no physical matter. This is known as the Participatory Anthropic Principle, and was first proposed by physicist Dr. John Wheeler. Essentially, any possible universe that we can imagine that does not have conscious observers in it can be ruled out immediately. Consciousness is therefore the ground of being and must have existed prior to the physical universe. Consciousness literally creates the physical world.
These findings provide huge implications regarding how we can understand our interconnectedness with the external world. “We create our reality” is used to refer to the fact that our thoughts create the perspective we have of the world, but we now have a more concrete and literal understanding of this phrase. We actually give rise to the physical universe with our subjectivity.
“I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.” – Max Planck, Nobel Prize winning originator of quantum theory, as quoted in The Observer (25 January 1931). – Proof That Consciousness Creates Reality: Welcome To The Matrix
Spirit Science and Metaphysics – http://www.spiritscienceandmetaphysics.com/proof-that-consciousness-creates-reality/
So let’s go to the age old question – “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
Of course it does, is the initial reaction.
But what Quantum Theory says is that existence is a product of your consciousness. So not only does the tree not make a sound, it doesn’t even fall unless you visualize it in your mind’s eye.
This has far reaching implications. To oversimplify it, you make your own reality. You create your own world. In essence you are a Creator and how you live, and how happily you live is all up to you.
So if you don’t like what you see in the world, change how you see it. Paint a different picture and it will come true.
If you think the world is hurtful, greedy and hateful, then that is the kind of world you will live in. But if you think the world is beautiful, kind and loving, then you will live in that world. To paraphrase another old saying, You make your own heaven and hell!
The creators of this video put it this way:
We (YouAreCreators) created this channel to share one of the greatest secrets of the universe, and the secret is, we literally create our reality! (Quantum Physics now proves this) We are all governed by a set of Universal Laws, and these laws were created by GOD, to aid us in creating the life we desire. One of these laws is known as the “Law Of Attraction”, or the law of “Reaping and Sowing”. This law simply states, whatever you give out in Thought, Word, Feeling, and Action is returned to you. Whether the return is negative, or positive, failure or success, is all up to what you give out. Many authors and celebrities such as, Wayne Dyer, Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Jim Carrey, Steve Harvey, Rhonda Byrne, and many others has testified to this amazing Law Of Attraction. Its time you learn this wonderful secret…http://youarecreators.org/
We continue with the the article explanations of Dennis Prager‘s series on the Ten Commandments. The videos for each Commandment have already been posted here and to view them one needs only to scroll down the list of articles. Today’s commentary by Prager is on the 2nd Commandment.
“Here is the video commentary on the second commandment as enumerated in the oldest, that is, the Jewish, tradition. In Christian tradition, it is the first commandment.’ – Dennis Prager
The most common translation begins: “You shall have no other gods before me.”
The commandment then goes on to prohibit both making idols and worshiping idols.
Most people, when they think of this commandment, understandably think that it only prohibits the worship of idols and the worship of gods such as the ancient pagan gods of rain, of fertility, all the other nature gods, and chief gods such as the Roman Jupiter and the Greek Zeus.
However, there is a major problem with this understanding of the commandment. Since no one today worships these gods, let alone worships idols made of metal, wood or stone, most people think that this commandment is irrelevant to modern life.
The irony, however, is that this commandment is not only relevant to modern life, but also it is in many ways the mother of all the other commandments.
Why is it relevant today? Because today we have as many false gods as the ancients did. And why is it the mother of all the other commandments? Because if we identify false gods and avoid worshipping them, we will eliminate one of the greatest barriers to a good world.
So, let’s begin by defining a false god. The point of biblical monotheism is that there is only one god and that only this God, the Creator of the universe who demands that we keep these Ten Commandments, is to be worshiped.
Why? First, because one God means one human race. Only if we all have the same Creator, or Father, as it were, are we are all brothers and sisters. Second, having the same parent also means that no person is intrinsically more valuable than any other. And third, one God means one moral standard for all people. If God declares murder wrong, it is wrong for everyone, and you can’t go to another god for another moral standard.
When anything else is worshipped, bad things result. Not only things that can obviously lead to evil such as the worship of power, or race, or money, or flag. But also things that are almost always seen as quite beautiful — such as art, or education or even love. Yes, any of these often wonderful things, when worshipped, can lead to terrible results.
Take art. Many of the cruelest humans in history loved beautiful music and art. But, as a music lover, I learned early in life the sad fact that great music can be used to inspire people to follow evil just as much as it can be used to inspire people to do good. The great Hollywood director Stanley Kubrick vividly made this point in his classic 1971 film, “A Clockwork Orange,” based on the Stanley Burgess novel. In it, men rape and murder while classical music plays in the background.
The Nazis had prisoner orchestras play classical music while Jews were led to gas chambers.
Take education. We all recognize how important education can be — from preparing people to join the modern workforce to understanding the world. But education in and of itself, divorced from the higher ends of God and goodness, can, and often has, led to great evil. Many of the best-educated people in Germany supported Hitler and the Nazis. Professor Peter Merkl of the University of California at Santa Barbara studied 581 Nazis and found that Germans with a high school education “or even university study” were more likely to be antisemitic than those with less education (“Political Violence under the Swastika,” Princeton University Press).
And almost all of the Western world’s supporters of the genocidal regimes of Stalin in the Soviet Union and Mao in China were highly educated. Education is morally useful when it is a means to the higher ends of God and goodness.
The same holds true even of love. Love, of course, is so often beautiful. But it, too, can lead to evil. In the 20th century people who put love of country or love of ideology — of an unattainable dream for humanity — above love of God and goodness often committed terrible evil.
And here’s a test for you: Imagine that the pet you love and a stranger — a person you don’t know and therefore could not possibly love — are drowning. Do you first try to save your pet or the stranger? Well, if love is an end in itself, you save your pet. But if you hold human life as a higher value than love, you won’t follow love.
This commandment made the ethical revolution of the Bible and of the Ten Commandments — what is known as ethical monotheism — possible. Worship the God of the Ten Commandments and you will make a good world. Worship a false god — no matter how noble sounding — and you will end up with evil.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “Keep Christ in Christmas,” either on a church sign, or a Facebook wall. You might have even heard it this month. The idea is always the same: let’s not rub out the religious roots of this holiday by saying “Xmas,” instead of Christmas.
This might seem like a strange battle to wage, but there are people who really, earnestly believe this is deeply important. For instance, Franklin Graham, son of Billy, put it like this:
For us as Christians, [Christmas] is one of the most holy of the holidays, the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. And for people to take Christ out of Christmas. They’re happy to say merry Xmas. Let’s just take Jesus out. And really, I think, a war against the name of Jesus Christ.
This is of a piece with those who fret that saying “happy holidays” is somehow scrubbing the season’s religious ties away. But those who make this argument are barking up the wrong tree, because, you see, the X in “Xmas” literally means Jesus. Allow us to explain.
How can the letter “X” stand for “Christ”?
In Greek, the language of the New Testament, the word Christos (Christ) begins with the letter “X,” or chi. Here’s what it looks like:
So how did that word get abbreviated?
In the early fourth century, Constantine the Great, Roman Emperor from 306-337, popularized this shorthand for Christ. According to legend, on the eve of his great battle against Maxentius, Constantine had a vision that led him to create a military banner emblazoned with the first two letters of Christ on it: chi and rho.
These two letters, then, became a sort of shorthand for Jesus Christ.
When did the Greek letter start to be used in the word “Christmas?”
Most scholars agree that the first appearance of this abbreviation for Christmas dates to 1021, “when an Anglo-Saxon scribe saved himself space by writing XPmas,” reported First Things. Parchment paper was quite expensive, so any techniques for saving space were welcome. The abbreviation stuck and eventually was shortened to Xmas.
The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge used it in a letter, dated December 31, 1801, for instance: “On Xmas day I breakfasted with Davy.” The verb “xmassing” was also used in the magazine Punch in 1884, according to The Guardian.
Are there any other Christian examples of this?
There’s an ancient acronym many of us are familiar with, even if we don’t realize it. Have a look:
It’s pronounced Ich-thus, and it’s the Greek word for fish. You may know it better as the so-called “Jesus fish” of bumper sticker fame. Early Christians used it as an abbreviated form of one of their creeds: “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.”
These shorthands happen in seminaries all the time. As they do with Christ, seminarians write a similar shorthand for the Greek word God, which is θεός (theos). When abbreviating the word, they’ll just jot down the first letter, θ (theta).
So how did Xmas become so hated?
Good question. The answer may have something to do with the culture wars, the historical tension between the left and the Christian right.
Think about Franklin Graham’s quote above. For him, and to many who share his particular religious leanings, Xmas is symbolic of a bigger problem with our culture: not only are we crossing out Christ in the word, they say, but we’re tossing him out of the public square. Therefore, Xmas, as Graham said, “is a war against the name of Jesus Christ.”
Graham and those who think similarly (like actor Kirk Cameron and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin) believe the secularization of American culture is so all pervasive that even if they’re aware of the religious roots of Xmas, they still believe it is symbolic of a larger trend. Thus, it has to go.
Is there any good reason why Christians might hate “Xmas?”
Certainly, Christians have a right to feel however they wish, and if they think that Christianity is being driven from the public square, there’s really no arguing they’re wrong. In fact, polls show that organized religion in America has been declining.
Writing at First Things, Matthew Schmitz, who is well aware of the historical roots of Xmas, discusses another reason some Christians might be wary of the shorthand:
The cultural, religious, communal traditions we see as especially embodied by Christmas have been undermined by the rise of commerce and cult of efficiency. The desire to get from point A to B by the shortest possible route, irrespective of the charms of traditional byways, fuels our mania for abbreviation. The hatred for Xmas, then, may stem in part from an innate suspicion of the attempt to render all things ancient and beautiful modern, cheap, and sleek.
Why does this matter?
First, the US remains divided over several traditional culture war issues, most prominently abortion. The battle over Xmas, though it might seem trivial, only reinforces the “secular vs. Christian America” narrative that fuels those arguments.
Second, the fight over the word Xmas underscores some American Christians’ real fear of persecution. It might seem ridiculous that members of the nation’s dominant religion would feel persecuted, and it’s easy to laugh about those who claim the statement “happy holidays” means de facto persecution. But try looking at it from their point-of-view.
The United States has gone from a nation where the default religion was assumed to be Christianity, to one that increasingly tries to make room for people of all faiths and belief systems. That can seem like a gradual, inevitable evolution to those not embroiled in the culture wars, but it can feel like a massive sea change to those who are. These changes are fast, and they are real, and those concerned about them shouldn’t just be dismissed or mocked.
In fact, dismissing concerns about the changing religious landscape is bad for all of us in the long run, as Susan Brooks Thistelthwaite wrote for FaithStreet about religious pluralism in America. “A conflict that cannot be named cannot be mediated. In other words,” she continues,
the more religiously pluralistic we become, the more visible our struggle becomes with these issues. It is only when we take the risk of actually looking at our religious stresses and strains that we can begin to act to know them, engage them, and hopefully move them in a more positive direction.
While it might be funny to joke about overblown fears about the so-called War On Christmas, it’s probably more helpful to try to understand the roots of those concerns, then address those in a thoughtful manner. Harvard University’s Pluralism Project offers some great ideas about the shape these talks could take.
So what if somebody tells me we need to keep the Christ in Christmas?
You could suggest that the word “Christmas” is itself already a shorthand for “Christ’s mass.” Or, as discussed, point out what the X really stands for.
Or, you could be even cheekier about it, and talk about how the original war on Christmas was actually waged by conservative American Christians. Wary of the pagan roots of the festivities, the Puritans wanted to keep Christmas out of their no-nonsense Christianity.
Or, finally, you could take a page from the man whose name is in the holiday, by realizing this is, ultimately, a pretty big fight over a single letter. Sometimes, turning the other cheek is pretty painless.
The X in Xmas literally means Christ. Here’s the history behind it.
Not a traditional version of this hymn but a truly marvelous rendition.
Merry Christmas to all!
Last week PragerUniversity.com released 11 five-minute video courses: each of the Ten Commandments and an introduction. We received over one million views this first week.
The reason we made these videos is that we believe that everything needed to make a good world is contained in the Ten Commandments.
This month, my columns consist of transcripts of some the courses, each of which I present.
Whatever your faith, or if you have no faith, I invite you to watch the videos at http://www.prageru.com. They are cleverly animated with text and graphics.
Here is the text of commandment five. It explains why honoring fathers and mothers is one of the ten most important things humans need to do.
The fifth of the Ten Commandments reads: “Honor your father and your mother.”
This commandment is so important that it is one of the only commandments in the entire Bible that gives a reason for observing it:
“That your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”
Many people read that part of the fifth commandment as a reward. But while it may be regarded as a reward, the fact remains that it is a reason: If you build a society in which children honor their parents, your society will long survive.
And the corollary is: A society in which children do not honor their parents is doomed to self-destruction.
In our time, this connection between honoring parents and maintaining civilization is not widely recognized. On the contrary, many of the best-educated parents do not believe that their children need to show them honor, since “honoring” implies an authority figure, and that is a status many modern parents reject.
In addition, many parents seek to be loved, not honored, by their children. Yet, neither the Ten Commandments nor the Bible elsewhere commands us to love our parents. This is particularly striking given that the Bible commands us to love our neighbor, to love God and to love the stranger.
The Bible understands that there will always be individuals who, for whatever reason, do not love a parent. Therefore, it does not demand what may be psychologically or emotionally impossible. But it does demand that we show honor to our parents. And it makes this demand only with regard to parents. There is no one else whom the Bible commands us to honor.
Without a father and mother to honor, children lose out on having one of the most important things they can have — mothers and fathers exercising parental authority.
So, then, why is honoring parents so important? Why does the Ten Commandments believe that society could not survive if this commandment were widely violated?
One reason is that we, as children, need it. Parents may want to be honored — and they should want to be — but children need to honor parents. A father and a mother who are not honored are essentially adult peers of their children. They are not parents.
No generation knows better than ours the terrible consequences of growing up without a father. Fatherless boys are far more likely to grow up and commit violent crime, mistreat women and act out against society in every other way. Girls who do not have a father to honor — and, hopefully, to love as well — are more likely to seek the wrong men and to be promiscuous at an early age.
Second, honoring parents is how nearly all of us come to recognize that there is a moral authority above us to whom we are morally accountable. And without this, we cannot create or maintain a moral society.
Of course, for the Ten Commandments, the ultimate moral authority is God, who is therefore higher than even our parents. But it is very difficult to come to honor God without having had a parent, especially a father, to honor. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychiatry and an atheist, theorized that one’s attitude toward one’s father largely shaped one’s attitude toward God.
There is one more reason why honoring parents is fundamental to a good society. Honoring parents is the best antidote to totalitarianism. One of the first things totalitarian movements seek to do is to break the child-parent bond. The child’s allegiance is shifted from parents to the state. Even in democratic societies, the larger the state becomes, the more it usurps the parental role.
Finally, there are many ways to honor parents. The general rule is this: They get special treatment. Parents are unique; so they must be treated in a unique way. You don’t talk to them in quite the same way you do anyone else. For example, you might use expletives when speaking to a friend, but you don’t with a parent. You don’t call them by their first name. And when you leave their home and make your own, you maintain contact with them. Having no contact with parents is the opposite of honoring them.
And, yes, we all recognize that some parents have behaved so cruelly — and I mean cruelly, not annoyingly — that one finds it morally impossible to honor to them. There are such cases. But they are rare.
And remember this, if your children see you honor your parents, no matter how difficult it may sometimes be, the chances are far greater that they will honor you.
Tis the season… to be holy
The best is at the end when the three sing together, so stay with it!
Merry Christmas from Inagape