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THEOLOGY

Click Here to buy Sheila's Book  Sins of Faith


INTELLECTUALS ARE STILL NEGLECTED SHEEP

American Christianity's lack of intellectual heft results from a strategic seduction of the masses to mute deep thought. This "dumbing down of faith" eclipses underlying metaphysical truths.  Intellectuals need a more sophisticated conceptual framework - like quantum physics.  Full Text

TEILHARD DE CHARDIN'S THEOLOGY OF EVOLUTION
French Jesuit paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin, censored and silenced by the Vatican, became the 20th century's leading Catholic intellectual.  His life's work was to bridge science and religion by presenting purposeful evolution toward perfected humanity.  Full Text

DEMYTHOLOGIZING RELIGION WITH JOSEPH CAMPBELL
Applying Joseph Campbell's eclectic wealth of knowledge from the world's mythic database, one can "deconstruct" cultural legends and biblical myths, such as the creation story, virgin birth, sibling murder, the serpent and Moses.  Full Text

GOD USES BEAUTY AS DANTE USED BEATRICE
According to Plato, beauty is primary among the Transcendentals of Being.  Two poems reflect a view of God's use of beauty in woman as a lure to the transcendent.  "The Eternal Feminine" by Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin and "The Divine Comedy" by Dante Alighieri.  Full Text

ABSOLUTE NOTHINGNESS AND THE ABSENCE OF MEANING
This personal evolution from belief to disbelief is a coming-out party of consciousness -- an atheist's spin on 1 Cor 13:11-12.  A full-belly Buddha laugh bursts through the sheltering metaphors of faith's ambiguity through insights from quantum physics and chaos theory.  Full Text
 

ISLAM


AN APPRECIATION OF CLASSICAL ISLAM
Islam's purely abstract monotheism countered the trinitarian God of the Christians and the nationalistic faith of tje Jews and yet combined the unconditional monotheism of Judaism with the universalism of Christianity.  For this, the fastest-growing world religion deserves some respect. Full Text

ISLAM'S BRILLIANT ERA WAS OUR DARK AGES
The West's classical heritage is due to Muslim scholars who translated the corpus of Greek philosophy, science, and mathematics into Arabic.  Baghdad's 8th century House of Wisdom was an immense library and translation center.  The Renaissance owes its flourishing to Islam's once ascendancy.  Full Text

HOW MESOPOTAMIA BECAME IRAQ
The Allied Powers drew the Middle East's boundaries in the peace settlement of World War I that brought "a just and lasting war."  With the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, British and French imperialists disposed of Arab and Turkish territories to suit themselves.  Full Text

HOW ZOROASTRIAN PERSIA BECAME SHIITE IRAN
Ancient Persia was the world's first religiously tolerant empire under Kings Cyrus and Darius.  Its religion of Zoroastrianism had the greatest influence on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  British, Russian, and American interests have since manipulated this land's strategic resources.  Full Text

SUNNIS AND SHIITES:  THE ORIGIN OF ISLAM'S SCHISM 
A conflict of succession amidst tribal rivalry centered on whether to base leadership on merit (Sunnis) or on heredity (Shiites) -- both are true Muslim.  Islam, like Judaism, is a religion of orthopraxy that requires certain practices, unlike the orthodoxy of Christianity that proscribes certain beliefs. Full Text

FUNDAMENTALISM IS THE PROBLEM:  CHRISTIAN AND MUSLIM
The Most dangerous aspect of fundamentalism is its claim on absolute truth, which seduces the young, uneducated, poor, and dispossessed.  Fundamentalism is a planetary phenomenon that rebels against modernity and tends to emerge in disorganized times and places.  Full Text

 

SCRIPTURE


DECONSTRUCTING BIBLICAL LITERALISM:  IN BRIEF
What biblical scholars call "higher textual criticism" arrived 300 years ago, but ministers still haven't clued in their congregations.  They need courage to say that "certain positions are nonsense."  Scholars use forensic evidence from linguistics and archeology to find meaning.  Full Text

ARGUMENTS AGAINST OLD TESTAMENT LITERALISM:  IN FULL
The "documentary source hypothesis" is the most accepted theory to explain repetition, contradictions, and anachronisms within Hebrew Scripture.  Multiple editors drew from multiple sources among Babylonian, Assyrian, Canaanite, and Egyptian material to weave a covenant theology.  Full Text

ARGUMENTS AGAINST NEW TESTAMENT LITERALISM:  IN FULL
The midrash style of Jewish sacred storytelling was used by gospel writers to advocate for Jesus as the expected Messiah:  a motive in service to faith, not history.  No original gospel manuscripts exist, only copies of copies into which crept scribal errors, biased commentary, and competing ideologies. Full Text

HOW AN UNWED PREGNANT TEEN BECAME MOTHER OF GOD
Belief in the virgin birth of Jesus (virginal conception, more accurately) is rooted in mistranslation of Jewish prophecy and accommodation to Greco-Roman myths.  Matthew and Luke's gospels are the only sources -- and they contradict -- but Matthew hints at a sexual scandal.  Full Text

GNOSTICISM'S CHALLENGE TO ORTHODOXY
Second century scrolls found in clay jars in a cave in Egypt revealed a dualistic, transcendent nihilism characterized by alienation from the world and spiritual redemption through self-enlightenment.  Competing with the "master story" of the emerging institutional church, gnostics were denounced as heretics.  Full Text

 

HISTORY


FOURTH CENTURY HERESY AGAINST THE TRINITY
The doctrine of the trinity had its roots in first century Palestine, where Christianity was born amidst Jewish culture and Greek influence.  A historic debate orchestrated by Emperor Constantine shows linguistic hair-splitting as the most gymnastic of intellectual sports.  Full Text

HEAVEN AND HELL:  EVOLUTION OF A BELIEF
All higher mythologies and religions of the world divide the unity of the Absolute into antagonistic pairs.  These powerful metaphors indicate the seriousness of moral choices.  They are not literally anything but they are theologically potent.  Full Text

THE LADY, THE WITCH, AND THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
Three concurrent views on woman as lady, witch, and virgin reflect the medieval church's own distortions in an intriguing synchronicity of the courtly lady, the persecuted witch, and the sinless virgin mother.  Each unbalanced view spawned another in counterpoint.  Full Text

NOAH, GILGAMESH, AND THE BLACK SEA FLOOD
Neither a myth nor the revealed word of God, the flood story in Genesis -- and other flood legends around the world -- reflects a cultural memory of a catastrophic flood in the Middle Stone Age.  Two marine geologists document this theory from twenty years of deep-water archeology. Full Text

 

PROFILES


THE MUCH MALIGNED MARY MAGDALENE
Nowhere in the New Testament is Mary Magdalene a reformed prostitute.  Rather, she is the faithful apostle at the crucifixion, the burial, and the empty tomb.  She fell victim to the emerging institutional church's male prejudice -- even the Vatican admitted such in 1969.  Full Text

AN ASSESSMENT OF THE PONTIFICATE OF JOHN PAUL II
Biographical facts on the first nonItalian pope in half a millennium explain his authoritarian conservatism that eclipsed the tradition of episcopal collegiality.  Despite advocating for social justice and human rights, his pontificate failed the worst scandal in modern Catholicsm.  Full Text

THOMAS MERTON'S LAST TALK:  BANGKOK, 1968
American Trappist monk Thomas Merton broke his vows of silence and stability to attend an international conference on monasticism.  His talk got a poor reception.  It was the sixties; he was an Aquarian, quoting Marx and Marcuse.  More's the pity, as he died immediately after.  Full Text

ETHICS OF CITIZENSHIP FROM A NADER RAIDER
David and Goliath is the template for Ralph Nader's battles with corporate America.  As the country's foremost consumer advocate, his organization is called Public Citizen, because only citizen initiatives as "applied ethics" can successfully counter greed, fraud, and abuse.  Full Text

 

ETHICS


JUST-WAR PRINCIPLES OF AUGUSTINE
The roots of the just war tradition begin with Augustine, 4th century Bishop of Hippo, North Africa.  Augustine argued that only a just cause, legitimate authority, and right intention together could overrule the use of force for the sake of preserving peace.  Full Text

MYTHS OF CHURCH-STATE SEPARATION
The Establishment Clause of the Bill of Rights and the Free Exercise Clause of the U. S. Constitution protect freedom of religion in America.  Yet church membership has evolved into a belief in the value of belief, which encroaches on the neutrality of others.  Full Text 

SUPREME COURT ON DISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM
When religious fervor fuses with nationalism, civil liberty is endangered, escalating cases before the Supreme Court.  Indeed, vigilance is needed to protect separation of church and state as "disestablishment" is America's unique contribution among world governments.  Full Text

WHY NOT FEMALE PRIESTS?
Impediments against ordaining women derive from tradition, scripture, sacramental theology, and canon law--though not persuasively.  The reasoning is rooted in an archaic mindset used by a patriarchal power base to retain its prerogatives.  Full Text 

 
     
 
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