Adonis Diaries

Archive for March 22nd, 2015


Presbyterian Minister Who Doesn’t Believe in God. Why should you be that surprised?

“How can you call yourself a Christian, let alone a minister?!”

I get asked that question frequently and the questioner is hostile more often than not.

Still, I like to answer it if I believe the questioner is sincere.

Though I self-identify as a Christian and I am an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I raised eyebrows a few years ago when I posted an article on my website about how my personal beliefs don’t align with those of most Presbyterians.

For example, I believe that:

  • Religion is a human construct
  • The symbols of faith are products of human cultural evolution
  • Jesus may have been an historical figure, but most of what we know about him is in the form of legend
  • God is a symbol of myth-making and not credible as a supernatural being or force
  • The Bible is a human product as opposed to special revelation from a divine being
  • Human consciousness is the result of natural selection, so there’s no afterlife

In short, I regard the symbols of Christianity from a non-supernatural point of view.

And yet, even though I hold those beliefs, I am still a proud minister.

But I don’t appreciate being told that I’m not truly a Christian.

Why is that so many people think my affirmations are antithetical to Christianity?

I think it is because Christianity has placed all of its eggs in the belief basket.

We all have been trained to think that Christianity is about believing things. Its symbols and artifacts (God, Bible, Jesus, Heaven, etc) must be accepted in a certain way. And when times change and these beliefs are no longer credible, the choices we are left with are either rejection or fundamentalism.

I think of Christianity as a culture.

It has produced 2,000 years of artifacts: literature, music, art, ethics, architecture, and (yes) beliefs.

But cultures evolve and Christianity will have to adapt in order to survive in the modern era.

Many of those paths will be dead ends.

As Daniel Dennett once said, the dinosaurs really have not died out because modern birds carry on many of their traits.

Similarly, as religions evolve, they may look similar in some respects and quite different in others. You may not even call some of them religions anymore, depending on how you define the word.

I believe one of the newer religious paths could be a “belief-less” Christianity.

In this “sect,” one is not required to believe things. One learns and draws upon practices and products of our cultural tradition to create meaning in the present.

The last two congregations I have served have huge commitments to equality for LGTBQ people and eco-justice, among other things. They draw from the well of our Christian cultural tradition (and other religious traditions) for encouragement in these efforts.

I think a belief-less Christianity can be a positive good for society.

Belief-less Christianity is thriving right now, even as other forms of the faith are falling away rapidly.

Many liberal or progressive Christians have already let go or de-emphasized belief in Heaven, that the Bible is literally true, that Jesus is supernatural, and that Christianity is the only way. Yet they still practice what they call Christianity.

Instead of traditional beliefs, they emphasize social justice, personal integrity and resilience, and building community. The cultural artifacts serve as resources.

But what about belief in God?

Can a belief-less Christianity really survive if God isn’t in the picture? Can you even call that Christianity anymore?

In theory, yes. In practice, it is a challenge because “belief in God” seems to be so intractable.

However, once people start questioning it and realize that they’re not alone, it becomes much more commonplace.

Since posting my article — and in response to my ministry in general — many have opened up to me that they didn’t believe in God but they liked coming to my church. One young woman, after going through my confirmation class, joined the church.

She read her faith statement in front of the congregation. It was a powerful articulation of her social justice commitments in which she added that she didn’t believe in God. The congregation enthusiastically welcomed her, of course.

Personally, even though I don’t believe in God as a supernatural agent or force, many still do. I utilize the symbol “God” in worship.

This may be viewed as cheating but since our cultural tradition is filled with images of God, it is near impossible to avoid.

As a symbol, I’m not yet ready to let go of God. It is a product of myth-making — I know that — but the symbol incorporates many of our human aspirations.

I find that “God” for me is shorthand for all the things for which I long: beauty, truth, healing, and justice. They’re all expressed by this symbol and the stories about it.

Someone quipped that my congregation is BYOG: Bring Your Own God. I use that and invite people to “bring their own God” — or none at all.

While the symbol “God” is part of our cultural tradition, you can take it or leave it or redefine it to your liking. That permission to be theological do-it-yourselfers is at the heart of belief-less Christianity.

I understand some Christians may react with hostility and panic to this idea — they already have — but it deserves an honest discussion.

Patsy Z sent this link on FB

VERY interesting, coming from a priest! Surprisingly open-minded and logical! Makes sense from a community perspective.

The question is: does this thinking work at all in the religious frame?

Or better call this community something else and frame it differently?

I get asked that question frequently and the questioner is hostile more often than not.
Note: Aren’t we all living within sets of cultural constructs?



Main Difference between ISIS and monarchist family of Al Saud

ISIS or Daesh adopted the Wahhabi Islamic sect that the tribe of Saud in the Najd province,  in the Arabic Peninsula, adopted in the 18th century.

This was a religious sect that was the most extreme in denying the worship of prophets, shrines, pictures, music on any form of pleasure.

The Saudi monarchy is a branch of a Bedouin tribe that affiliated with the theocratic extremist religion of Wahhab.

It is the difference between an abstract religious dogma with a set of daily prescriptions and a real living tribe with customs and traditions.

It is like the difference between the Jewish religion, the religious Jews  and the State of Israel.

In the province of Najd in the Arabic peninsula, there exist wide differences among the tribes.

The differences are even wider between the tribes in Najd and the tribes of the northern provinces close to the Syrian and Jordanian borders.

An abyss separate the psychological characters between the sedentary and nomadic Arabic tribes.

The British Palgrave in the 19th century described the Wahhabis tribes in the Najd province:

They are less generous than the tribes in the North.

They quick in understanding difficult projects.

They are Not cheerful people and less candid than other tribes

They rarely express through words their secret feelings

They are firm in their plans

Are terrible in their vengeance

Are implacable enemies

They doubt whoever is Not their compatriot.

The expression of their features denote reserved, hard, and gloomy dispositions: They contrast with benevolent faces of the northern tribes

They have limited intelligence

They are strong and persevering will which makes them capable to powerfully organize their social system and become their neighbors tyrannical masters

Their ambitious dream to dominate the entire Arabic Peninsula will be realized earlier than one think

Their character is reflected in the slightest acts of domestic life.

One should watch his tongue and measure his gestures when dealing with them as he should with enemies.

Ibn Saud, backed by the British, managed to conquer all of the Peninsula and entered Mecca and chased out the Hashemite dynasty. The British offered the Hashemite  a kingdom in Jordan, in Damascus and in Baghdad.  Only the Jordanian dynasty survived the turmoil of the Syrian and Iraqi independence movements.

In order for the Saudi monarchy to survive, Ibn Saud ordered his descendants to follow his strategy in the Arab world:

1. Egypt is the head of the Arab World: decapitate Egypt

2. Syria is the heart of Arabism: Remove this heart

3. Never allow Syria to link up with Iraq under any condition: This would create the Oriental power house in the region.

The USA, Israel and the western colonial powers couldn’t agree better, and kept the Middle East States in constant destabilizing conditions and unable to unite.

Note 1: In 1818, Ibrahim Pasha, the elder son of Egypt Muhammad Ali, entered and erased the Wahhabi capital Deryeh. After Ibrahim left the Arabic peninsula, and two decades later, the Wahhabi tribes were back to their old habit of raiding the Syrian provinces by the border, thanks to the  sustained British aids in finance and military weapons.

Read my review:



Lebanese immigrants: Why did you leave?

Every year, over 30,000 Lebanese emigrate to “greener pastures”” and are replaced by 50,000 Syrian refugees.

Do you think this could be the proper form for gathering statistics?

Are there more interesting questions to ponder upon?

What could be the purpose for this questionnaire?

This could be a good form for every immigrant to use as starting points to develop and write his autobiography.


Indie, Mar 4, 2015

Here are the questions to Lebanese immigrants. Jo, feel free to make this into another thread if you think it would be better.

1 – How long have you lived abroad?

What country did you move to?

How easily did you adapt?

2 – What were your motivations for leaving?

Overall, did you get what you wanted or were you disappointed?

3 – What did you gain and what did you lose by moving away from Lebanon?

Did you gain things you had not considered or anticipated?

Did you lose things you had not considered or anticipated?

4 – When you left, did you think to yourself it was for good, or did you think you would move back to Lebanon eventually?

Do you still feel the same,

Have your plans changed since moving?

If your plans have changed, why is that?

5 – Do you feel torn between Lebanon and your new country (i.e. You see advantages and disadvantages to both).

Do you categorically prefer one to the other.

What do you like / dislike about Lebanon,

What do you like / dislike about your new country?

6 – If you’re happily abroad, what would it take for you to want to move back to Lebanon (if anything).
If you’re unhappy abroad, what would it take to reconcile you with the idea of not living in Lebanon anymore (if anything)?​
7 – If you’re someone who’s equally torn between Lebanon and your new country, how do you deal with it?
For example, maybe you love your job abroad, but still have family in Lebanon.
Or, maybe you want to move back to Lebanon but all your family has moved out and isn’t there anymore.
Maybe you love the climate in one place, and the lifestyle in the other.
Feel free to give examples of your own.​
8 – Do you ever feel confused about what you want: for example, craving the chaos of Lebanon when you’re abroad where many behaviors are too orderly, and craving order when you’re in Lebanon?
Feel free to give examples of your own.​

9 – Is Lebanon still your home (as much, less, or more than your country of adoption)?

Or is Lebanon just a place to visit?

How often do you visit Lebanon and for what reasons?

Would you prefer to visit more often or less often if your circumstances permitted?

10 – Do you ever feel like you don’t know where home really is?

Or, that you don’t feel 100% at home anywhere?

11 – Have you ever, or do you still suffer from nostalgia or homesickness?

12 – Idealistically, do you feel it’s a patriotic duty to stay and make Lebanon better (even if you don’t personally feel up to the task)?

Or, do you think that everyone should just think of their own well-being and that of their family?

13 – If you’re established abroad and never plan on moving back, how do you feel knowing that in a few generations, your kids / grandkids will probably not be Lebanese anymore?

Jeanine Fakhoury shared this link of The Orange Room on FB.

Questions to Lebanese Emigrants

Here are some questions to Lebanese emigrants.
We would really want to know more details about your emigration experience. Are you happy ?




March 2015

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