Gospel & Universe

Contents

1. The Sum of All Space  -  2. Religion - 3. Agnosticism

4. Saint Francis - 5. Almost Existential

1: THE SUM OF ALL SPACE contrasts our limited human perspective with the grand claims some make about universal Truth. 

— Location Cubed

❧ Third Spinning Rock from the Sun locates our spinning planet in astronomical space. — as opposed to theological space. - Jet Lag 1 - Copernicus: Location x Location x Location - Moses: The Moving Sky  

❧ Competing Explanations looks at the shift from geocentric to heliocentric models of the universe. - At 23.5 Degrees - Ptolemy - Gospel and Universe - The New Almagest  

❧ Cities of God points to the Church's persecution of Galileo and suggests that religious dogma obscures the beauties of intellectual and aesthetic freedom. - Geocentrism - Khayyam  

❧ Dogma and the Stars explores the difficulty faced by Modernists who respect science yet desire a greater Meaning. It also suggests that meaning lies in the act of living and in the continual search for understanding. - Dogma - A Convenient Narrative - Jet Lag 2 - Notes and Scales

— The Paradox of Infinity

❧ The Chinese Sky looks at Li Bai's poetic conception of the universe in light of Daoism and Chinese astronomy. It also notes that while Zhuangzi's Daoism suggests the existential possibility of infinite space, his philosophy remains idealistic. - Li Bai's Milky Way - Digits - Tang Astronomy - May Be

❧ The Outer Reaches 1 suggests thinking of infinite space in terms of astronomical clusters. - All of Space - Orders of Magnitude - Universes - Universe Clusters

❧ The Outer Reaches 2 uses the concept of Hubble Volumes to think about infinite three-dimensional space. - Hubble Volumes - Infinite Space

— Two Poems

❧ If Only 1: Bruno & Yeats focuses on shifting beliefs following Hubble's discovery of other galaxies in the 1920s. It also touches on the high price Giordano Bruno paid in 1600 for challenging the Church's views on astronomy. - Hubble & Yeats - Giordano Bruno  

❧ If Only 2: San Francesco d'Assisi starts in Rome and ends in Assisi. It suggests that Heaven remains a wonderful ideal, a glorious if only. - Rome: Campo de' Fiori - Assisi: The Tomb of Saint Francis - The Lower Basilica - The Upper Basilica - Pound: If Only

2. RELIGION explores the development and diversity of religion, monotheism, and Christianity.

In the Beginning

❧ Myth and Religion looks at early religions and at the shift from polytheistic uncertainty to monotheistic certainty. - Sun Gods - Mesopotamia - India & China -  Zeus & YHWH

East & West 1 notes how the foundations of Eastern religions stayed intact while the Western religions shifted radically from polytheism to monotheism. - An Eastern Flow - The Classical Break

 East & West 2 argues that because ‘the Eastern religions’ don't define God specifically, they’re easier to reconcile with doubt, science, agnosticism, and the Modern World.  - Monotheism - Definitions & Anti-definitions - Que Scais-je?

The Currents of Sumer 1: The Whore briefly explores the animosity of Jews and Christians to the Mesopotamians and their religion

The Currents of Sumer 2: The Flood looks briefly at Mesopotamian influences on Judaism and Christianity. — basic civilizational elements, language, law, and stories such as 'The Flood and the Ark.’ - Borrowings - Arks

Systems of Dread notes the grimness of the Mesopotamian afterlife. - The Dreadful Truth

Systems of Hope suggests that the Classical Age shift from a dismal to a positive afterlife seems to have been influenced by Egypt and Persia. - From Dread to Hope - Western Isles

Abraham's Vice argues that it's absurd for a certain group of people to believe that they alone understand the Truth about a universal God; it's equally absurd for a second group of people to claim the same exclusive Truth about the same God. - The New Chosen People - Singular Peoples

— Christianity

 Agora Phobia laments the narrowing of Christian doctrine, both before and after it became the dominant religion in the West. - Do Not Inquire About Their Gods - The One & Only - Alexandria, 415 AD

Currents of Christianity summarizes proven and speculative influences on Christianity, as well as the major schisms and challenges of the last millennium. - Influences - Greeks and Romans - The Multiplication of Truth

Selective Grace suggests that while the Christian system of Grace is very hopeful, it's hard to apply universally. - Universal Judgment - Dante's Difficult Grace

❧ Aquinas & Dante argues that the claims of religion are neither supported nor swept away by reason, yet the Medieval religious universe evoked so poetically in Dante's epic holds within it the seeds of its own demise. - Summa Theologica - The Divine Comedy

❧ Primum Mobile consists of a long poem set in Vicenza in the evening. The poem flirts with the beauty of Dante's universe, but opts for realism instead. - Cherubs & Nitrogen - Beatrice Portinari - Walt Whitman - Our Primum Mobile

❧ Don't Forget the Miller explores the more realistic side of Medieval thinking — the down-to-earth worlds of Chaucer and Boccaccio (rather than the theological realms of Aquinas and Dante). - Chaucer & Dante - The Miller's Tale - Boethius

❧ Summa Post Theologica outlines some of the scientific advances in fact and methodology that eventually provided a realistic (rather than mythic or theoretical) explanation for human life. - The Accumulation of Facts - The Possibility of an Explanation

3: AGNOSTICISM argues that the open doubt formulated by Thomas Henry Huxley can help us to avoid dogma, both in religion and science.

❧ The Problem with Explanations argues that while science has made great advances in explaining our existence, agnostics don't conclude that science will ever explain everything. Rather, they follow the agnostic notions of doubt and questioning proposed by Henry Huxley over a hundred years ago. - Zhuangzi's Butterfly - Thomas Henry Huxley - The Sum

❧ Two Sides of the Fence situates Huxley's agnosticism in a poetic context, insinuating that there's philosophic value — but also disturbing uncertainty — in sitting on the fence. - Bee Lines - Life on the Fence: 1. Belief; 2. Disbelief

❧ Secrets and Mysteries stresses agnostic doubt — not just in the face of religion, but also in the face of those who deny it. - Huxley - The Learned Astronomer - The Secret  

❧ Agnostic Geometry suggests several ways of defining agnosticism, all of which are very compatible with science, liberal humanism, and secularism. - Triangles - The Doors - Circles - More Circles - Pascal’s Sphere

❧ The Crystal Ball of Science argues that agnosticism is closer than positivism to the open spirit of science. It also uses a personal case of intuition to explore the distinction between experience and doubt. - Scientific Philosophers - All Things Large and Small - Man's Best Friend

Veils locates agnosticism between belief and disbelief, and suggests that any unmovable philosophic position is a veil of sorts. - Theists, Atheists, & Agnostics - Proving the Unprovable - Spectra - Veils

❧ Gods & Souls notes that agnostics would rather be wrong in their skepticism, that the weight of evidence suggests that they're not, and that religion has much to offer whether or not it's true in an ontological sense. - If Only the Atheists Were Wrong - The Force of Chance - Oh, Well

❧ Versions of Deity touches on the Hindu notion of Supreme Unifying Beings and on reasons why atheists aren't necessarily right about the general concept of God. - Hindu Substitutes - Why Not?

Mere Religion? urges skepticism about religious dogma as well as respect for religious concepts of hope and justice. - Religion as Hope - Laws on Earth as They Might Be in Heaven

Churches of Thought argues that agnosticism is a form of critical thinking, and that this mode of thinking is stronger in the Church of Scholarship than in the Church of Religion (although these churches are often alike). - Critical Thought - The Metaphor of Churches - Core & Secondary Messages

4. SAINT FRANCIS contrasts positive and negative sides of Christianity.   

❧ San Francisco questions whether it's really that easy to separate dogma from altruism. - The Beach of the Dead - Do Unto Others  

❧ The Baby and the Bathwater suggests how tricky it could be to throw out the dogmatic and irrational things in religion without also throwing out the religious pressure to act charitably. - The Bath Water - Intentions

❧ Keeping Baby argues that the ideals of charity and love transcend dogma, and that we ought to see Christianity as a watery current flowing into other currents. - Deeper than Dogma - 3 X 4 - Water Spirits - Baby and the Floating Rubber Duck

❧ Believe It or Else argues against religious coercion and against seeing metaphors as equations. - Threats - Metaphor & Dogma  

❧ The Cosmic Casino argues that the logic of Pascal's wager is nearly as bad as the coercive threats made by fundamentalists, who turn liberating metaphors into stultifying equations. - Pascal's Trap 1 - Without - Pascal Revisited - Pascal's Trap 2

❧ "Open Your Heart" 1 argues that there are many good reasons to believe in religion, although these reasons are mostly practical or situation and aren't necessarily based in a quest for truth. - Reasons - Beach Scene 1: A Friend in High Places 

"Open Your Heart" 2 argues that reincarnation is just as likely (or unlikely) as Heaven or Hell, that believing in one or the other is largely a function of geography and history, and that agnostics remain open to either possibility. - Reasonable After Lives - An Open Door

❧ Caritas explores privilege and charity by contrasting a comfortable tourist in Cuba with a hard-working boy in a Lagos slum. - Caritas - Avenida de los Presidentes - The Hotel Nacional - Makoko - Guilt on an Oversized Sofa - Currents

Holy Dreamers argues that while dreams are a tempting metaphor for death, they are unreliable guides to religious experience or religious doctrine. - Reveries - Bit Torrent Dream - Dreams Without Belief - Dreams - The Sanctification of Dreams  

❧ From Kerry to Crete recounts two nightmares which made me think about the relation between psychological and spiritual battle. - Killarney - Xaniá - La Pace di Santa Maria

❧ Beyond Whose Bourne explores a bittersweet dream in which I saw the Christianity of my sister wave a friendly goodbye from the roof of a bus. - Wheels - Mudroom of the Psyche - Waving Goodbye - The Garden of Paradise

Canticle to the Stars contains two poems. The first uses the "Canticle of the Sun" by Saint Francis in a sort of agnostic prayer — directed at the mystery of the universe, and at the hopeful notion that this mystery is involved in the greater mystery of God. The second poem imagines God as the Maker of infinite worlds. - Sorella Luna - Quadrant by Quadrant

5: ALMOST EXISTENTIAL explores the precarious freedom of an agnostic perspective and the challenge of finding meaning in an existential world.   

Poor, Bare, Forked observes that our human state is thoroughly precarious and that the comfort of the Medieval vision only briefly interrupted the uncertainties of the Classical and Modern worlds. - Unaccommodated Man - Lear - Outing the Brief Candle - Uncertainties 

Doctors of Revolt contains an ironic poem about the evils of science, two sections on the existentialism of Sartre and Camus, and a short prose piece about living in a state of existential revolt. - Adam and Evil - Sartre: Existence Precedes Essence - Camus' Revolt

❧ The Status Quo traces the development of existential thinking, and suggests that in the Modern Age we've returned to the Ancient and Classical concepts of chaos and uncertainty. - Chaos, from Ages to Age - Existential Origins - Backwards in Time - Theodicy, 2008

❧ Hitler's Perfect World applies Voltaire's view of evil to a visit my wife and I made to Auschwitz and Berlin. - The Best of All Possible Worlds - Pilgrimage to Birkenau - Berlin Underground   

❧ Ontology Precedes Epistemology suggests that being is more crucial to the human condition than seeming or philosophizing. - I Know Not Seems - Jean-Paul Revisited - With Flu, at 100 Degrees - This Quintessence of Dust

The Permeable Self compares the revolts of the agnostic to those of Sartre, Camus, and the English Romantic poets. - Karma-Samsara and the Bug - Sartre, Camus, and Gnosticism - Petals - The Civic Architecture of Deities and Men - Romantic Revolt - Farther Than Haute Médoc - Relativity

❧ Starbucking contrasts secular mysticism to Sartre's existentialism and to theism; it explores the paradox of being grounded yet open to possibilities, of being down-to-earth, yet curious about the stars. - Moksha Latte - At Starbucks 

❧ The Readiness is All uses Shakespeare, Aurelius, Sartre, Hinduism, and Christianity to cast doubt on all versions of the afterlife, the insoluble problem that vexes too many. - Flight 666 - Solving the Problem That Can't Be Solved - That Undiscovered Country

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