Jesus: Separating the Man from the Myths

In the annals of history Jesus is undoubtedly the most revered and well-known man. In spite of having four biographies written about him in the form of the first four Gospels of the New Testament, he remains an enigma. The cause of this consternation is that the four Gospels do not form a seamless whole. For the pious these inconsistencies must be overlooked but in this blog I will produce a reality check on the facts and list what could be myth. Were the Gospels in fact the gospel truth about the life and times of Jesus?

Main picture: The Dead Scrolls provided an evocative insight into one the sects contemporaneous with Jesus’ life. Whether as Barbara Thiering contends Jesus was an Essene is a moot point. Nevertheless these scrolls do throw a new light on the times when Jesus was alive.

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What is the Status of Immorality Today?

Imagine an unmarried mother even half a century ago. Her lot was wretched. Judged within the narrow conservative confines of morality of that epoch, they were castigated, vilified and ostracised. According to the prevailing prudish norms they were no better than sluts or prostitutes. Since then a seminal shift in attitudes has transpired in this regard. Within the past two decades even homosexuality has been legalised. What remaining elements of immorality have yet to be challenged and vanquished?

Main picture: Martin L. Lambert married conjoined twin Violet Hilton but not her sister Daisy
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In the Name of God

The past week or two has witnessed a number of revolting episodes which belie the various religions’ credentials as loving humane institutions. Instead they erode confidence in religion’s ethics and cast further doubt on the role of religion as a moral ethical institution. What lamentable actions have again brought religions in disrepute?

The incident that first raised my ire occurred in Dubai last week when the father of a 20-year-old daughter watched as she drowned to death at a beach in Dubai.

What he did was to prevent the rescuers from doing their job to save his daughter’s life. When they attempted to go against his wishes, he became violent and restrained them physically. His actions kept them from getting to the young woman in time.

Main picture: (1). Rescue boats retrieving the body of drown 20 year old female in Dubai after father prevented rescuers from saving her. (2) Ahmed Burqibah, the Deputy Director of Dubai Police’s Search and Rescue Department

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Living one’s Life as a Lie

The essence of mankind is sex and sexuality. When one’s physical sex is at odds with one’s mental gender, the person suffers mental anguish. Usually at a young age, they become aware that they are different from their peers. Their desires range from the relatively benign such as cross-dressing to the more overt form where the desire for one’s own sex is overwhelming. To make matters worse, there are implacable societal pressures to conform to accepted gender and sexual roles. What does it mean to these people so conflicted and what should society do to alleviate this burden?

In a bygone era and even amongst modern religious people and conservative societies, non-heterosexual sex is regarded as a taboo, an abomination to be exorcised from society. This exorcism takes many forms from “aversion training” to the other extreme of the death penalty. Such extreme “treatment” is still considered necessary by many to rid society of a vile polluting influence.

Main picture: Bruce Jenner transitioning from male to female

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God: Losing my Religion

Coming from a pretty religious family, Dad must have been a disappointment. My great, great grandfather, Rev Francis McCleland, was the first Rector of the St Mary’s Church. Our family actually owns a square foot of the historical parsonage house at 7 Castle Hill, P.E.

Main picture: As dad was an atheist and mom was religious, the church which we were supposed to attend as children was the Newton Park Methodist Church

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Do Religions Deserve Kid Glove Treatment in the Contest of Ideas?

How is the religion which is appropriate for one determined? Certainly not by being exposed to the doctrine of each and making an informed choice. Like all other ideas and aspects of one’s life, why cannot there be robust debate and contestation of ideas?

Has one ever considered approaching all the main religions to obtain an insight into their doctrine and way of life before making such a momentous decision regarding what faith one should adopt? In the movie The Life of Pi – and I admit that it was only a movie – in which the main character, Pi Patel, obtained first-hand experience of a number of religions before making his final choice, is precisely what I have in mind.

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Religious Intolerance: A 21st Century Version of Censorship

This concept theoretically is the antithesis of what most religions espouse yet why is this unworthy attribute so in evidence of late?

This concept should be vigorously opposed by all right-thinking people otherwise we too will be condemned like the Germans in the early 1930’s who through inaction & supine behaviour, forsook their rights and allowed the dictator, Adolf Hitler, to usurp power.

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Social Media: Is there Life after Death?

A Personal View – April 2014

Last Sunday’s 21km Race run in the Kromdraai  / Muldersdrift Area  was appropriately called The Cradle of Mankind. It is an amazing run; out of the hustle & bustle of Joburg with game farms dotted about. It is also a haven for cyclists as there are wide shoulders to accommodate two abreast.

The course is very undulating but not very steep apart from the start at Kloofzicht, a cosy lodge and spa with dams and streams. Being decidedly slower nowadays and a backmarker to boot – I refuse to be called tail-end Charlie in case somebody confuses it with a sexual activity – I was forced to admire the scenery as I did not have any of my usual running mates such as Myer to accompany me on the journey.

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Moral values: Immutable, Transient or Relative?

A number of issues arising over the past week have made me reflect on this subject. [Mid April 2014]. These made me contemplate whether values were truly immutable as in a Biblical sense. Perhaps Biblical Values merely represent the outward manifestation of values rather than the core value. Maybe values are not immutable but are indeed transient and conceivably even relative. Anchored in another epoch, perhaps Biblical values reflect the norms and values of a bygone age rather than truth.

Let me commence with the issue in the Saturday Star which firmly set the ball rolling and that issue was sex on the Big Brother Show. We are not talking about movies or TV Shows where the actors are play acting sex scenes. This was the Real McCoy down & dirty or close & personal whatever one’s preferred idiom or metaphor is. It was raw unadulterated passion & sex.

What issues did the Reporter take issue with? Maybe it should have been the sex scene itself albeit blurry through the frosty glass or perhaps the fact that the guy was cheating on his girlfriend or even the fact that they were not married?

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Heaven & Hell: The Evolution of God & Satan over the past two Centuries

What would happen if I were to discuss the concept of God and Satan with one of my ancestors at the turn of the seventeenth century? Would there be any commonality in our thinking in any form or would it merely be like two ships passing in the night? In this blog I have selected one of my forefathers by the name of Reverend Francis McCleland with whom I will engage in this hypothetical discussion.

Main picture: Would we even agree on such aspects whether God was a divine being with a human appearance or even whether it is a loving caring God and not as Leviticus implies, a vindictive God?

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