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Category Archives: RELIGION

The people who talked to God

“If you look only at Genesis as an allegory, you have a major problem, because if it’s an allegory, then tell me who our ancestor was? If Abraham was real, then from Abraham if Adam isn’t real, if it’s just an allegory, it’s just a story, then what’s the real Adam who really fell in a garden and really sinned? Where did we come from?” KEN HAM

By Alex P. Vidal

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The first people introduced in the Book of Genesis are Adam and Eve.
They live on our Earth and eventually have children.
We tend to think of Adam and Eve as people like ourselves, and as a family with children.
“Is this a valid assumption?” asked Dr. Erwin Ginsburgh in First Man. Then Adam! “Were they really people like us? How might they have differed? What were they? Let us look at the available information.”
The Legends of the Bible, a compilation of material made by Rabbi Louis Ginzberg and used by Ginsburgh as reference, claim that Adam either visited or passed six other worlds before he reached the Earth.
This is the story narrated by Ginsburg, a physicist, in the book, which he also described as “a scientific interpretation of the Book of Genesis”:
In the Book of Genesis we find Adam and Eve living in a Garden of Eden.
This garden provided anything necessary to support life for two people.
Their food came from their plant kingdom. But there were two trees which were taboo: the so-called Tree of Knowledge and the so-called Tree of Life.
The Book of Genesis (3:22) says that the fruits of the latter tree could provide immortality.
Eve breaks the taboo relating to the Tree of Knowledge. She and Adam ate the forbidden fruit from this tree (Genesis 3:6).
Because of this, and to keep them from eating of the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:23), both she and Adam are forced to leave the garden where everything was provided, and must support themselves in our world.
They have at least three male off-spring who have difficulty living with each other, and the problem reaches a climax when Cain kills Abel (Genesis 4:8).

SONS

When their two remaining sons, Cain and Seth, marry we are never told where their wives came from.
Among later descendants, the biblical record shows that there is a tendency for intermarriage within the group.
Adam and his immediate descendants, are very long-lived. Many of the first descendants have life spans greater than 900 years.
Noah is famous for having survived the biblical flood.
After Noah, the lifespan of his son, Shem, falls dramatically to about 600 years.
Then there is a second fall in life span to 438 years for Shem’s son Arpachshad.
The life span stabilizes for three generations, and then a third fall to about 200 years occurs at the time of Peleg.
By the 20th generation, Abraham, the lifespan is down to 175 years.
Ultimately, man’s life expectancy falls to approximately present day lengths.
No lifespan can be listed for Enoch, the father of Methuselah, because the Bible does not record his death.
Significantly, there is explicit mention of the death of all the others, but not Enoch.
Genesis says (5:23 & 24), “In his 365th year Enoch walked with God and was not of the Earth, for God took him.”
The Legends discuss this further in the section called the “Translation of Enoch.”
The last paragraph of this section is especially interesting to a 20th century reader: “To the right of him sparkled flames of fire, to the left of him burnt torches of fire, and on all sides he was engirdled by storm and whirlwind, hurricane and thundering.”
Noah was 500 years old when his son, Shem, was born; none of Adam’s descendants had an heir so late in life.
Shem’s birth occurred at a time when Enoch would have been 900 years old if he were alive.

COINCIDENCE

Was it coincidence that Noah waited until he thought Enoch had lived out his normal lifespan of some 900 years?
Abraham lived about 2,000 years after Adam’s birth.
The Legends discuss in detail the fact that the bodies of the first and second generation did not decay at death.
Specific mention is made that Abel’s body did not decay.
Since the second generation is directly descended from Adam and Eve, we can expect this generation to have inherited, and the bodies of the third generation decay after death.
Something must have changed between the second and third generations. In fact, very specific instructions are given for preparing the bodies of the first two generations before they are “buried” in the cave of Machpelah near Hebron.
According to the Book of Genesis some of the members of Adam’s family were the originators of metallurgy, music and domestication of animals.
Genesis (4:20-22) relates: “Jabal was the father of such as dwell in tents and have cattle. His brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and pipe. And…Tubal-Cain, the forger of every cutting instrument of brass and iron.”
Why should the Bible identify the start of some of the major facets of high civilization?
In addition, the Book of Genesis says that members of Adam’s family talked to God.
It is not clear whether all the late generations were able to talk to God, but certainly Noah, the 10th generation, and Abraham, the 20th, do have this ability.
For God told Noah to build a ship to survive the flood (Genesis 6:14) and also God entered into a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:18).
The ability to talk to God seems to decrease from this time onward, although Moses is still able to do so much later.
There appear to be some final vestiges of this power later in the Bible when the prophets received visions and warnings from God.
Today, is extra sensory perception a remaining fragment of this ability to communicate with God?
Adam apparently had some technically advanced and highly sophisticated devices.
In addition to the well-known Thee of Knowledge and the immortality-giving Tree of Life, there was a set of God-made clothes that made the wearer invincible and irresistible.
The Legends claim that Nimrod (Noah’s great-grandson) is supposed to have worn them.

INGENIOUS

There is also a very ingenious engraving device, the “Shamir,” which reputedly was used to cut stones for Solomon’s Temple, but which has since disappeared.
The Sword of Methuselah was reportedly used by Abraham when he and his small band defeated the armies of the five kings.
Even as amazing as these people were, they still had problems living with each other.
Ultimately, immortality and evil living led to the destruction of all of Adam’s descendants except Noah and his family (Genesis 6:17).
In an attempt to improve morality, as Noachide code of seven rules was drawn up to provide guidance so the remaining people could live with each other.
In the 20th generation, a very formal relationship was established between God and Abraham; specifically, a covenant was drawn up.
Apparently, there was no earlier need for such a formal arrangement.
As the lifespan of Adam’s descendants was falling and approaching that which we today consider as normal, and as it became increasingly difficult to distinguish, Abraham’s heirs from the rest of mankind, all the males descended from Abraham were circumcised.
Before this covenant, Abraham was known by the name “Abram.” As part of God’s covenant, his name was changed to “Abraham.”
The Legends also relate that Abraham was the first of Adam’s descendants who aged as he grew older.
In addition, Jacob was the first man who declined physically before death.
Before his time, death occurred quite rapidly.

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Posted by on December 8, 2017 in HISTORY, RELIGION

 

Did Fr. Boy Celis err?

“If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”

–Saint Augustine

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By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — Was the move of Fr. Espiridion “Boy” Celis Jr., parish priest of Saint Anne’s Parish in Molo, Iloilo City in the Philippines, of calling for a press conference to voice out his rancor with Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, correct?
The press conference at the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) on November 28, 2017 came days after Bishop Lagdameo supposedly rejected Fr. Celis’ appeal to postpone his transfer to Saint Anthony’s Parish in Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo effective December 3, 2017.
Fr. Celis lamented that his appeal during their private meeting “fell on deaf ears.”
Since the issue Fr. Celis raised against Bishop Lagdameo was intra-congregation, we suspect the move to call for a press conference was not only incorrect, but also a bad move.
We suspect Fr. Celis erred when he decided to bring the matter to the media instead of waiting for the result of his petition before the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome, Italy.
We respect though Fr. Celis’ right to seek redress of his grievances in the “proper forum.”

-o0o-

Still, media can’t coax Bishop Lagdameo to change his heart. The glitzy publicity can’t swivel the bishop’s mind.
The public can’t help either. After monitoring the press conference, it can’t hold a “people power” to compel the bishop to favor Fr. Celis.
Any press conference of that nature, in fact, could produce a surfeit of belligerence, thus it would only exacerbate Fr. Celis’ enmity with the Jaro archbishop instead of appeasing the church bigwig.
The issue was about an edict for reshuffling of priests, which falls under the Roman Catholic Church authority.
In the church’s hierarchy and in its chain of command, Bishop Lagdameo is mandated to dispense the clergy’s reassignment.
Shall a professional police officer denounce his superior officer and get sympathy from the press for transferring him from one police precinct to another? If the police officer can’t stand the heat, he can always run to the kitchen’s nearest exit.

-o0o-
Fr. Celis was quoted in the report as saying that “I presented the case as plainly, as lovingly, as quietly as possible, and it was just explaining to him (Lagdameo) why it was important to let me stay with my parishioners (in Molo) for a while. But, unfortunately, (his) ears were closed.”
Fr. Celis added that he was prompted to bring the matter to the church’s higher authorities in Rome after he was allegedly “dared” by the archbishop to do it.
He also compared his predicament to the historical Jesus Christ, maltreated by his fellow Jews despite his goodness, according to report.
From the way Fr. Celis expressed his sentiments, it appeared he was already exasperated. After being spurned by Bishop Lagdameo in what could have been his last-ditch effort to save his present post, he probably became distraught and must’ve thought that, by bringing the matter to the media, it would, at least, mollify his pain and frustration.
Our heart goes out for the good priest who is arguably one of the most respected and highly admired church authorities in Western Visayas today.
Ignosce mihi, pater, quia peccavi or forgive me Father for I have sinned.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2017 in RELIGION

 

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No terrorist will commit a hara-kiri in Dinagyang

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

— George Bernard Shaw

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By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — I grew up in Iloilo City in the Philippines and witnessed how Dinagyang Festival started as a ramshackle religious and cultural activity until it blossomed into a behemoth international attraction.
Since the actual street dancing Dinagyang festivities romped off in the 70’s, the real problem was peace and order–drunken revelries, ill-behaved drug addicts and gangs composed of skinny but tattooed teenagers.
No invasion of the third kind. No rebellion. No earth-shaking tumult.
There were incidents of mugging, snatching, vandalism, acts of lasciviousness, street rumble, stabbing, among other street-level crimes. The police handled the situation and nipped the troublemakers in the bud.
It’s the proliferation of illegal drugs, especially shabu, and the sales of liquor in the streets that should be regulated if not stopped during the week-long festival in the month of January.
Not the “jamming” of cellular phone signals.

JEOPARDIZE

When communication lines are shut down during important events, we jeopardize the comfort and safety of visiting tourists and the residents who update their relatives abroad on what’s going on in their locality.
Drug addicts and drunken dolts don’t use high-tech communication gadgets to create trouble. Police deployed in performance areas can manually overpower any amok in the crowd.
No real terrorists from other regions–or even outside the country– will commit a hara-kiri or kamikaze attack by sneaking inside the well-guarded Iloilo City, surrounded by treacherous rivers, just to sabotage the Dinagyang.
If they intend to extort, bringing an explosive device in Iloilo City is like holding a microphone in public and announcing that they would pee at Plazoleta Gay.
If they intend to send a political message, they will not only be barking at the wrong tree, they will be in the wrong place of the planet. Malacanang and Imperial Manila are several islands and regions away.
Good that the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) is reportedly not keen on recommending the jamming of mobile signals in the metropolis during the two-day Dinagyang highlights on January 21-22, 2017.

NECESSARY

Signal jamming or shutting down cellular phone signals is necessary and effective in events where the visiting VIPs in the country are considered as “security risks.”
Especially when the occasion attracts a large number of crowd like the recent Black Nazarene procession, which drew 1.5 million devotees in the streets.
Like when Pope Francis visited the Philippines on January 15-19, 2015. And when state leaders gathered for the APEC Meeting.
Or even during the 2017 Miss Universe coronation night where foreign dignitaries and high government and military officials would be in attendance.
Mobile phone signals may also be jammed if there are special police operations like the raids conducted in the shabu-infested National Bilibid Prison.
The purpose is to prevent terrorists and criminals from sabotaging the events or operations by knocking out their communication.

 
 

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If we can’t hurt a fly we can’t kill a human being

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”― Voltaire

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By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — Let’s approach the problem from the spiritual point of view. I learned from my 70-year-old Indian-American chess rival in Queens that in order for the EJK or extra-judicial killings in the Philippines to end, Filipinos may embrace the religion of Janism.
“Master Sam” said followers of this ancient religion wouldn’t even hurt a fly–literally.
He was saddened by reports that more than 2,000 suspected Filipino drug addicts and traffickers of illegal substance “have been murdered like animals” in the streets and in their houses in raids since the Duterte administration launched a “no-non sense” battle against illegal drugs in the Philippines.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) boss, Chief Supt. Ronald “Bato” De la Rosa, handpicked by President Duterte to “cleanse the country with criminal elements,” denied the PNP had initiated the mass killings saying “they adhere to the due process and respect the human rights of the suspects.”
Janism is one of India’s three ancient religions, along with Buddhism and Hinduism.

MAD

“Master Sam” said because of this religion, he could not even get mad at chess hustlers in the park who bilked him.
“I’m a peaceful person. When I beat you in a chess match once, I felt I humiliated you in front of your friends. When it was your turn to beat me (eight times in another meeting), I felt it was necessary to compliment you and tell people around that you are a better chess player,” enthused “Master Sam,” who once lost $1,500 to Filipino chess hustlers at Elmhurst Park in Queens.
Despite the fact that it has only a few million adherents and is confined almost entirely in Southern India, Janism’s philosophy of non-violence has spread throught the world, according to “Master Sam.”
To Janists, he said, the world is divided into the living (or the soul) and the non-living.
They believe that the soul is invaded by karmic matter, or negative passions, that can dominate people’s lives. These include violence, greed, anger, and self-indulgence.
This karma reportedly bonds to the soul and impedes the search for perfect understanding and peace.

STAGE

To reach the heavenly stage, “Master Sam” said Janists must stop the inflow of bad karma and shed the karmic matter that has already bonded to their souls.
Once this has been accomplished, he explained, they reach moksha or a level of pure understanding where the soul is liberated from all earthly matter.
Master Sam said achieving this heavenly stage is quite an ordeal. An individual must spend 12 years as a Janist monk and go through eight reincarnations in order to get there.
Along the way, each must also adhere to the Three Jewels of Right Faith, Right Knowledge, and Right Conduct. More extreme worshippers deny themselves even the most basic of life’s pleasures by fasting and wearing only the simplest clothing.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2016 in CULTURE AND HERITAGE, HISTORY, RELIGION

 

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Visions of the Virgin

“Only a Woman, divine, could know all that a woman can suffer.”
Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — Do you believe in miracle?
Pious Catholics hold a special place for Mary, the mother of Jesus, praying for her daily for favors and blessings.
Some say that the virgin has appeared to them right here on Earth.
Many of these claims are not verified–dismissed as products of overactive imaginations or as outright hoaxes–but two apparitions, which defy scientific explanation, have stood the test of time and remain highly cherished by Catholics around the world.
The Fascinating Book of History tells us that in February 1858, Bernadette Soubirous, a poor, sickly 14-year-old peasant girl, was gathering firewood near a stream when she suddenly had a vision of a beautiful lady dressed in white.
Overcome with fear, she rushed home to tell her mother, who told her to keep away from that place.
However, Bernadette returned and would repeatedly see the Virgin–18 times in all.

CHAPEL

One message stood out: A chapel must be built on the site where Bernadette had first seen Mary.
Bernadette’s parish priest was highly skeptical of the visions and dismissed the little girl and his childish fantasy.
In spite of ridicule, Bernadette stuck to her story. It was only after people began reporting that their ailments had been cured after washing in the stream where the visions occurred that the church decided to endorse the apparition.
A shrine was built on the site and, to this day, is visited annually by millions. These pilgrims flock to Lourdes, hoping to cure physical ailments by washing in its now famous waters.
Hundreds of miraculous healings have been reported, all of them verified by church and medical experts.
In May 1917, Lucia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco were tending their sheep in the town of Vila Nova de Ourem in the parish of Fatima, Portugal.

LIGHT

Suddenly, they saw a tremendous flash of light. Thinking it was lightning, the children rushed for cover, only to see the same flash again.
The children described seeing “a Lady more brilliant than the sun.” This was the first in a series of Marian apparitions reported by the children.
Mary impressed upon the children the importance of daily prayer (especially reciting the rosary) and penance. She also told the children that there would be a second war, much worse than the first.
When World War II began almost two decades later, many saw this as the fulfillment of the prophecy. The Virgin also gave the children a brief glimpse of hell and further revealed a mysterious secret, which church authorities kept under wraps until 2000. (The third secret was revealed to be a vision of the deaths of the pope and other individuals.)

MIRACLE

Word of the apparitions soon spread, and by October 13, 1917, a crowd of 70,000–believers and skeptics alike–flocked to Fatima on the hot rumor that a miracle was about to occur.
They were not disappointed. Newspaper reports of the day document how onlookers saw the sun burst through rain clouds and then begin dancing and spinning across the sky in a zigzag pattern, trailed by a brilliant ray of colors.
The so-called “Miracle of the Sun” solidified belief in the apparition, and a shrine was built on the site.
Each year, scores of pilgrims visit the site, hoping to get the graces of Mary first experienced by the three children.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2016 in HISTORY, RELIGION

 

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Prof. Copernicus thinks I am right (Part 1)

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” Thomas Jefferson

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — Around past three o’clock one afternoon inside the cold Central Park, Professor Jozef Copernicus told me he instantly recalled having visited Manila after the 1986 EDSA Revolution.
“It was my first and only visit in your country,” the professor mused. “I was a speaker in an international conference held in a hotel by the bay (Manila Hotel?)”
Professor Copernicus thought the Marcos family made the right decision to fly to Hawaii when the mob was already a cinch way from capturing Malacanang Palace evening of February 25, 1986.
The late former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the professor insisted, should also be credited “for aborting a bloodshed that would have tarnished the reputation of your country (as the only Catholic in Asia).”

NO CASUALTY

“It was supposed to be a revolution, right? But why nobody was shot; why no one was killed?” Prof. Copernicus inquired like a classroom teacher doing a recitation test.
“Nobody was killed, yes. There was no bloodshed because President Marcos rejected the appeal of Armed Forces Chief, Gen. Fabian Ver, to shoot the rebel soldiers led by Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and (AFP Vice Chief of Staff) Gen. Fidel Ramos, who were being protected by the People Power,” I answered looking straight at both his eyes.
Prof. Copernicus: “And they were also being protected by nuns praying the rosary and holding the statues of Virgin Mary, right?”
APV: “That’s correct, Professor! The nuns also gave flowers to government soldiers manning the tanks.”

RELIGIOUS

Prof. Copernicus: “Filipinos are mostly Christians and deeply religious by nature?”
APV: “We were the only country in the world that has not experienced a bloody revolution; and basically we are mostly religious, having been Christianized by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 at the time when Martin Luther was starting to spread the protestant movement in Europe.”
Prof. Copernicus: “We are talking about the EDSA Revolution, which happened only more than 20 years ago, but you are jumping to the events that happened more than 500 years ago. You are mixing the dates.”
APV: “I’m sorry, professor. But they are related to the hypothesis on how we, Filipinos, became a Christian country.” (To be continued)

 

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Charlie Judeo

“God will never give you anything you can’t handle, so don’t stress.” Kelly Clarkson

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By Alex P. Vidal

HILLSBOROUGH, New Jersey — On the eve of the Paris-based Charlie Hebdo massacre first anniversary, Charlie Judeo crossed my mind.
Charlie Judeo is the gatekeeper, inspector, and elevator operator of a synagogue in Upper Manhattan, New York City I recently “housecleaned” for five hours.
The place was a Jewish congregation, a worship community equivalent to a chapel for the Christian faithful.
While waiting for the assembly to conclude at 10 o’clock in the morning, I sat outside the synagogue and the old man Charlie Judeo engaged me in a brief but thought-provoking conversation when he saw the cross pendant on my necklace:
CJ: “You’re a Christian, aren’t you?”
APV: “Yes sir, I am.”
CJ: “You believe in Jesus (Christ) as a Messiah?
APV (Digging from my Christian Living memory lane, I hesitantly replied): “We, Christians, believe Jesus Christ was a Prophet yes, a Messiah.”

SUPERNATURAL

CJ: “Man, Jesus could not be a Prophet or Messiah because he possessed supernatural qualities and was a product of a virgin birth.”
APV: “Please elaborate.”
CJ: “Jesus could not have possibly fulfilled the messianic requirement of being descended on his father’s side from King David. A Messiah is born of human parents and must possess physical attributes.”
Charlie Judeo is a dyed-in-the-wool Hebrew believer, thus I relinquished any attempt to engage him in a debate over faith, which I thought was unnecessary.
I came to operate a dust pan, a sweeper, a rag and a vacuum cleaner; wash the plates, glasses, cauldrons and other kitchen utensils and collect garbage, not to join the Holy Bible versus Torah slugfest.
The steely admonition and religious lecture had to be interrupted.
I needed to hit the ground running; the assembly was over and it’s past 10 o’clock.

CHECK

A good and pleasant person, Charlie Judeo entered the synagogue to check the progress of my work after two hours.
A garbage collector beat him to the draw by 15 minutes.
“Where is the garbage?” Charlie Judeo demanded.
“The collector had taken it away,” I retorted.
“OK,” Charlie Judeo snapped back, his moustache gyrating.
Three o’clock in the afternoon. Time to go.
Charlie Judeo was waiting outside the synagogue.
The old man escorted me to the building exit and bade goodbye, half-smiling.
“Thank you, Charlie Judeo. Hope to see you again soon,” I quipped, waving my right hand.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2016 in RELIGION