Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Founding Fathers on Religion

The Founding Fathers of our country were primarily made up of Deists and Unitarians who believed in unalienable Rights being endowed by a Creator. They also believed in freedom, including Freedom of Religion, based on tolerance and freedom of individual conscience.

Deism is a religious philosophy, also called a natural religion, based entirely on reasoning, which rejects all forms of revelation. A Deist believes in God as an explanatory mechanism, but disavows all claims of divine authority, including Jesus Christ. Deists adhere to the ethical teachings of Jesus and other religious prophets. However, they denounce all religious dogma and are strong believers in religious freedom.

Unitarianism is a non-authoritative formula of religious belief, opposed to a traditional religion of rules or vows. It's committed to the principles of science, reason, tolerance and freedom of thought. With a philosophy of naturalistic humanism, it welcomes all people of good will, believers and nonbelievers.

The Declaration of Independence explicitly states that government derives its power and authority from the consent of the people -- not from God or the Bible.

The U.S. Constitution, Article 6, prohibits any religious test as a qualification for holding public office and allows appointees to affirm rather than swear an oath -- this is the only mention of religion in the Constitution, which contains no references to God or the Christian religion. In addition, the presidential oath of office, Article 2, does not include the phrase "So help me God."

The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights prevents Congress from establishing a religion or interfering with the religious practices of citizens. This freedom of religion Amendment is the only reference to religion in the Bill of Rights.

Thus, the Founding Fathers of America established a new nation of freedom, committed to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Benjamin Franklin
(1706 - 1790)

Franklin was a Deist -- He was called "the First American" because of his tireless campaign for colonial unity. He rejected all doctrines of Christianity, including the divinity of Jesus, although he approved of the ethical teachings. He opposed religious tests and oaths for public office and considered morality to be independent of religion. In 1776, he was appointed to the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence.

"We must, indeed, all hang together or most assuredly we shall all hang separately." Benjamin Franklin (after signing the Declaration of Independence)

"How are we to interpret the Bible? Although they place such importance on it, the fundamentalists, in my experience, strangely misuse the Bible." Benjamin Franklin

"The divine gift of reason begins to expand itself in the mind and calls man to reflection... The little and paltry, often obscene tales of the Bible sink into wretchedness... The Deist needs none of those tricks and shows called miracles to confirm his faith." Benjamin Franklin

George Washington
(1732 - 1799)

The first President of the United States was a Deist -- He belonged to the Anglican Church, primarily because you had to belong to the dominant church if you intended to have an influence on society in colonial America. However, he did not conceal his disbelief in Christianity. He denounced the doctrine of original sin, seldom attended church and was accused of being an agnostic or an atheist.

"The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion." George Washington

"A just government protects all in their religious rights." George Washington

“All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.' George Washington

John Adams
(1735 - 1826)

The second President of the United States was a Unitarian -- He studied for the ministry at Harvard, but doubts about Christianity led him to shift his studies to the law. Although he rejected orthodox Christian dogma, he wrote favorably about Jesus and Christianity throughout his life.

“The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." John Adams

"The doctrine of the divinity of Jesus has made a convenient cover for absurdity." John Adams

Thomas Jefferson
(1743 - 1826)

The third President of the United States was a Deist -- As the author of the Declaration of Independence, he coined the phrase "the wall of separation of church and state." He did not consider the Bible to be God's word and denied the deity of Jesus. However, he did admire the moral teachings of Jesus and even collected them into a booklet that would be called Jefferson's Bible.

"Christianity has become the most perverted system that ever shone on man." Thomas Jefferson

"I have examined all the known superstitions of the world and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature." Thomas Jefferson

James Madison
(1751 -- 1836)

The fourth President of the United States was a Deist -- Known as the father of the U.S. Constitution, he believed one of the basic rights of citizenship was in freedom of conscience. He opposed any form of government support for religion, including opposition of the appointment of a chaplain for the U.S. Congress, because he felt that established churches tended to produce "superstition, bigotry and persecution."

"The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries." James Madison

“Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind, and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded prospect... During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in laity..." James Madison

James Monroe
(1767 - 1848)

The fifth President of the United States was a Deist -- He attended an Episcopal church, but never talked about religion because he considered religion to be a private matter and a matter of liberty of one's own conscience.

"The emigrants, although of different parties and different religious sects, all flew from religious persecution in pursuit of liberty." James Monroe

"While we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to them whose minds have not yielded to the evidence which has convinced us." James Monroe

* * *

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were the last two surviving members of the original American revolutionaries who had stood up against the British Empire and created a new political system in the former British Colonies, based on freedom and liberty for all.

John Adams died on July 4, 1826, at age 90 -- his last words were "Thomas Jefferson still survives."

But he was mistaken -- Thomas Jefferson had died, at age 82, some five hours earlier on the same day.

Ironically, James Monroe, fifth president of the United States, died on July 4, 1831, at age 73.

Thus, 3 of the first 5 Presidents of the United States died on July 4 -- the birthday of the Independence of America.

Contrary of the misconception of many, the United States of America was not established as a Christian nation but rather as a shining beacon of freedom. Too much blood has been spilled in this world based on religious differences. The Founding Fathers introduced Freedom of Religion as the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights, not because they were seeking a Christian Nation, but because they believed in the sacredness of individual conscious thought.

The quest of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is an eternal battle for a freedom that requires tolerance of others and freedom of individual conscience.

Perhaps, the struggle for freedom remains eternal and the Great Mystery of our existence is always meant to be a mystery.

May the Force be with you.

Quote for the Day -- "Freedom is another word for nothing left to lose." Kris Kristofferson

Bret Burquest is the author of 11 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and where freedom is never free.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Jesus -- The Missing Years

In 1894, Nicolas Notovich, a Russian aristocrat, published a book in French titled The Unknown Life of Jesus, which claims that during his unknown younger years, Jesus left Galilee for India where he studied with Hindus and Buddhists before returning to Galilee.

Nikolai Aleksandrovich Notovich, also known as Nicolas Notovich (1858 - 1916), was a Jewish journalist and adventurer from Crimea. He also wrote books on the role of Russia in war.

Sometime after the Ottoman-Russian War (1877 - 1879), Notovich set out on a journey to explore the Middle East and Far East. In 1887, he reached India, Nepal and Tibet. During his time in Tibet, Notovich learned there were several sets of scrolls of the Life of Jesus in India during his teenage years.

During his journey through northern India, Notovich broke his leg and was recovering from the injury at the Hemis monastery, a few miles outside of the city of Leh in the Ladakh region of northern India. The monastery is in a location some 11,000 feet above sea level.

While there, Notovich was shown a copy of an ancient Buddhist manuscript that described the life of Jesus, from his teenage years to the age of 26, describing his life in Tibet and India during this period. The chief lama at the Hemis Monastery told Notovich of the manuscript, which was then read to him, through an interpreter.

The manuscript (Life of Saint Issa, Best of the Sons of Men) referred to Jesus as "Issa" which resembles the Arabic name "Isa" written in the Koran that is the name of Jesus in Arabic (the language of Jesus) to refer to Jesus -- in Sanskrit, "Isa" means "The Lord."

The Tibetan version of the Life of Issa had been translated from the Pali, the native language of the Indian subcontinent, also the language of early Buddhism, into the Tibetan language. It consisted of detached verses -- Notovich wrote his account of the early years of Jesus in 24 chapters, consisting of 244 short paragraphs.

The Life of Issa, written 3 to 4 years after the death of Jesus, based on the accounts of wandering merchants who witnessed the Crucifixion and reports of Tibetans with local knowledge of Jesus in the area, contains the following scenario:

  • The deliverance of the people in Egypt by Moses

  • The conquest of Palestine by the Romans:

  • The birth of Jesus

  • At age 13, rather than take a wife, Jesus leaves home to travel with a caravan of merchants to the Sindh region of western India where he spends 6 years living among the Buddhists, learning the Pali language and mastering their religious texts.

  • Jesus spends 6 years studying and teaching at Jaganath and other holy cities. His actions create a conflict with the priests (Brahmins) and the warriors (Kshatriyas) for teaching the Vedas (holy scriptures, composed in Vedic Sanskrit) to the lower classes of laborers and farmers (Sudras and Vaisvas) who were only allowed to hear the Vedas during festivals and judicial processes. The Brahmins (priests) objected to allowing Jesus to teach the holy scriptures to the lower classes, compelling Jesus to preach against the Brahmins and Kshatriyas, who then plot the death of Jesus. Warned by the Sudras, Jesus leaves Jganath and travels to the birthplace of the Buddha at foothills of the Himalayan Mountains in southern Nepal.

  • At age 29, Jesus returns to his own country and continues preaching for 3 years. He visits Jerusalem, where he falls in disfavor of the Jewish leaders and incurs the wrath of Pontius Pilate. Jesus is arrested for blasphemy by claiming to be the son of God and crucified on the cross.

Notovich's story of his journey and the text of "The Unknown Life of Jesus" was published in French is 1894 and later translated into English, Italian, Spanish and German.

Soon thereafter, as often happens when someone publishes new information about Jesus Christ or any other religious dogma, controversy ensued.  Historians and religious figures assumed that either Notovich was a fraud or a liar or was duped by Buddhist monks as a victim of their jokes.

Historian Max Muller wrote a letter to the head lama at the Hemis Monastery, inquiring about Notovich's story and the manuscript about the missing years of Jesus. The head lama replied that there had been no Western visitor at the monastery in the past 15 years in which the lama had been there and that there were no documents relating to Notovich's story.

In 1922, Swami Abhedananda visited the Hemis Monastery to investigate the Notovich claims which he had learned of the previous year in the USA.

The lamas indeed confirmed that Notovich had been brought to the monastery with a broken leg and was nursed there for a month and a half. The lamas also confirmed that the manuscript about Jesus was shown to Notovich and the contents were interpreted so he would be able to translate the text into Russian.

Swami Abhedananda also learned that the original manuscript was in the Pali language at the monastery at Marbour, near Lhasa. The manuscript preserved at the Hemis Monastery was in the Tibetan language and translated for Notovich. Swami Abhedananda was shown the manuscript, which had 14 chapters, containing 223 slokas (Hindu prayers or couplets) and he included some of the verses in his travelogue.

Upon his return to Bengal, Swami Abhedananda asked his assistant to prepare a manuscript of the travelogue, based on the extensive notes he had taken during his journey. The manuscript was published in a monthly series in a publication of the Ramakrishna Vedanta Samiti and subsequently published in book form in Bengali.

The fifth edition of the book in English was published in 1987, which includes an Appendix containing the English version, translated from French, of Notovich's Life of Saint Issa.

In 1951, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, William O. Douglas, travelled to Hemis and wrote of his experience, substantiating Notovich's claims.

Edward F. Noack, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London and author of Amidst Ice and Nomads of High Asia, has made 18 expeditions into the Tibetan, Bhutan, Ladakh region since 1958 whereby he was told by a lama at the Hemis Monastery that a manuscript relating to the story of Jesus on a pilgrimage to the region was locked in the storeroom.

In 1975, Dr. Roberrt S. Ravicz, professor of anthrpology at California State University, was told by an eminent Ladakhi physician and friend that there were documents at the Hemis Monastery confirming that Jesus had been at the monastery.

There are 112 parallels between the teachings of Buddha and the teachings of Jesus. Plus, the major parables attributed to Jesus are all also found in the teachings of Buddha.

Thus, there seems to be validity in the existence of the manuscript.

A spiritual life, which is all around us at all times, leads us deeper into it.

Religion is belief in someone else's experience -- Spirituality is having your own experience.

Religion is for those afraid of going to hell -- Spirituality is for those who have already been there.

May the Force be with you.

Quote for the Day -- “Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble.”  Joseph Campbell

Bret Burquest is the author of 11 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and where the Promised Land is everywhere.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Amusing Church Bulletin Notices

The following actual church bulletin notices are selected and compiled from various sources.

  • The choir invites any member of the congregation who enjoys sinning to join the choir.

·         The peacemaking meeting scheduled for tomorrow has been canceled due to a conflict.

  • On a church bulletin during the minister’s illness -- GOD IS GOOD; Dr. Peterson is better.

  • Let us join George and Louise in the celebration of their wedding and bring their happiness to a conclusion.

  • Miss Holly Detmer sang “I will not pass this way again” giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.

·         On a church postcard -- I have received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I would like a personal call.

  • Low Self-Esteem Support Group will meet Tuesday at 7 to 8:30p.m. Please use the back door.

  • Weight Watchers will meet Wednesday at 7 p.m. Please use large double door at the side entrance.

  • 17 members were present at the church meeting held at the home of Mrs. Mable Fields last evening. Mrs. Fields and Mrs. Simmons sang a duet, The Lord Knows Why.

  • Don’t miss this Saturday’s exhibit by Christian Martian Arts.

  • Doris Olson and Peter Henderson were married on May 21 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.

  • Bertha Belch, a missionary from Africa, will be speaking tonight at Calvary Methodist. Come hear Bertha Belch all the way from Africa.

  • Potluck supper -- prayer and medication to follow.

·         Ladies Bible Study will be held Tuesday morning at 10:30. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B.S. is done.

·         Evening massage - 6 p.m.

·         The Pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday morning.

·         For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery down stairs.

  • Next Sunday Mrs. Johnson will be soloist for the morning service. The pastor will then speak on “It’s a Terrible Experience.”

·         This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Lewis to come forward and lay an egg on the alter.

·         The church is glad to have with us today as our guest minister the Rev. Robert Brown, who has Mrs. Brown with him. After the service we request that all remain in the sanctuary for the Hanging of the Browns.

  • The Rev. Halsted spoke briefly, much to the delight of the audience.

  • The rosebud on the altar this morning is to announce the birth of James Weston Buelow, the sin of Reverend and Mrs. Andrea Buelow.

  • A song fest was hell at the Methodist church on Tuesday.

·         "Wise Up, O Men of God". Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say "hell" to someone who doesn't care much about you.

  • Romona and Fred request your presents at their wedding.

  • During the absence of our pastor, we enjoyed the rare privilege of hearing a good sermon when J.B. Karloff supplied our pulpit.

·         Pastor is on vacation. Massages can be given to church secretary.

·         Please welcome Pastor David, a caring individual who loves hurting people.

  • Patty remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Pastor Anderson’s sermons.

·         There will not be any Women Worth Watching this week.

  • The seventh-graders will be presenting Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the church basement on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.

  • Don’t let worry kill you off – let the church help.

  • The outreach committee has enlisted 25 visitors to make calls on people who are not afflicted with any church.

·         Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles, and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.

·         Glory of God to all and peas to his people on earth.

·         Janet will be leading a weight-management series Wednesday nights. She's used the program herself and has been growing like crazy!

  • The church will host an evening of fine dining, superb entertainment, and gracious hostility.

  • Wednesday at 5:00 PM there will be an ice cream social. All ladies giving milk will please come early.

·         The choir will meet at the Lawson house for fun and sinning.

·         The 'Over 60s Choir' will be disbanded for the summer with the thanks of the entire church.

  • The concert held in Fellowship Hall was a great success. Special thanks are due to the minister’s daughter, who labored the whole evening at the piano, which as usual fell upon her.

·         Men's Prayer Breakfast. No charge, but your damnation will be gratefully accepted.

  • Women’s Luncheon -- Each member bring a sandwich. Arlene Hanson will give the medication.

·         The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new tithing campaign slogan last Sunday: "I upped My Pledge----Up Yours."

·         Today... Christian Youth Fellowship Sexuality Course, 8 p.m. Please park in the rear parking lot for this activity.

·         Applications are now being accepted for 2 year-old nursery workers.

·         Brother Leonard has gone on to be the Lord. The pastor will light his candle from the altar candles. The ushers will light their candle from the pastor's candle. The ushers will turn and light each worshipper in the first pew.

·         The audience is asked to remain seated until the end of the recession.

·         A new loudspeaker system has been installed in the church. It was given by one of our members in honor of his wife.

·         Due to the Rector's illness, Wednesday's healing services will be discontinued until further notice.

·         Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It is a good chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.

  • Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community.

  • The third verse of Blessed Assurance will be sung without musical accomplishment.

·         Thursday the Ladies' Liturgy Group will meet. Mrs. Freeman will sing, "Put Me in My Little Bed" accompanied by the Pastor.

·         The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind. They can be seen in the church basement Saturday.

·         Attend and you will hear an excellent speaker and heave a healthy lunch.


Quote for the Day -- "May the Force be with you." Obi-Wan Kanobi

Bret Burquest is the author of 11 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and where treating others the way you want to be treated is sound advice