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How Davos found God
January 28th, 2011
09:39 AM ET

How Davos found God

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

In addition to the corporate and political bigwigs leading talks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week is one not-so-usual suspect: an evangelical minister.

"There is some real soul searching going on here," said the Rev. Jim Wallis, an American Christian activist who is moderating sessions at this year's summit. "The question is how do you embed values in the culture of companies in a way that would change behaviors?"

The World Economic Forum's organizers appear to agree.

Since the banking crisis shook global markets more than two years ago and contributed to a worldwide economic slump, the annual Davos summit has invited dozens of religious and spiritual leaders to hash out issues like business ethics and the morality of markets in the company of presidents and corporate titans.

Besides headline grabbers like United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, attendees at this year's summit include the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, the Anglican Bishop of London and the founder of a Zen Buddhist center in New Mexico.

Wallis, for his part, moderated sessions this week on "Defining Shared Norms" and "A Values Framework for New Realities." Another session, led by a Harvard Business School professor, offered instruction in "Mindful Leadership" and included a 40-minute guided meditation that leaned heavily on Buddhism.

Somewhat to the surprise of religious leaders attending this year's summit, many in the high-powered crowd appear to be genuinely interested in such topics.

"I've been pleasantly surprised by how full the faith and values sessions are, and with business leaders asking really searching questions," says Eboo Patel, a Muslim American youth leader attending Davos for the first time. "I think they get it."

The surge in discussions around faith and morality at Davos reflects a broader resurgence in interest in business ethics since the housing and banking crises of the late 2000s, which many experts blamed largely on greed and deceptive business practices.

"In the post-crisis environment, there's a general recognition that we all need to take time to reflect on what our values are," said Pierre Gentin, the global head of litigation for Credit Suisse, who has participated in the so-called faith sessions at Davos.

"How do we implement those values in our professional and personal lives?" he continued. "The status quo was shaken up in a very significant way, and we have an opportunity to focus on values to avoid a repeat of recent years."

In 2009, the World Economic Forum launched a Global Agenda Council on Faith and Values to wrestle with those kinds of issues.

"It was about how to correct the gap between our stated values and our actions," says Saadia Zahidi, head of special constituents for the World Economic Forum, who helps coordinate the council.

"We felt the voices of religious leaders could be important in issues like decision making and the economy," she said.

Wallis' recent book, "Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street," grew out of the council's early sessions.

As the chair of the group, now called the Global Agenda Council on Values, Wallis has spent a lot of time at recent Davos summits chiding titans of industry for operating in what he considers to be a values-free zone.

"You all thought you don't need to bring virtues or values to bear on economic decisions, that the invisible hand of the market will take care of itself," he said, recalling one of his presentations at last year's summit. "But what do you do when the invisible hand lets go of the common good? You could here gasps in the room."

As anti-corporate as that message may sound, Credit Suisse's Gentin says that there's been a fair amount of receptivity among Davos participants.

"It's important that people realize that businesspeople are part of a larger community and that there's a great deal of good will and effort into trying to do the right thing," he said.

Founded in 1971, the World Economic Forum first took serious interest in religion after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Davos conferences in the years that followed featured sessions on bridging the gap between the West and the Islamic world.

Among the participants in those discussions was Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who attracted immense media attention last year after his plan for an Islamic center near New York's ground zero triggered a national controversy.

"The people who were there were from the business or political world," Rauf says of his first years attending the Davos summits. "Religion was not something they were equipped to tackle. In Europe, religion is considered something that's private. You keep it in the attic or the basement but you don't bring it to the dining room."

The post-September 11 sessions changed that somewhat, but Rauf stopped attending Davos summits in the late 2000s because he said the sessions didn't lead to actual initiatives that could translate discussions into action.

"In the beginning there was a lot of excitement around doing things, like an Islamic film project, but taking something from idea state to development stage takes a lot of effort," Rauf says. "Ideas were discussed, but there wasn't much in terms of projects."

Wallis echoed some of that frustration. He says the Global Agenda Council on Values has begun work on creating actual tools for business leaders, companies and even nations to perform what he calls "values assessments."

"The next step is moving to what change will this make," he says. "None of us are content to have values seminars to just feel better about ourselves. This has to change behavior."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Economy • Leaders

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  4. gerald

    "The way to determine fact is not by spouting dogmatic, rote replies (be they religious or scientific) but by doing your own examination and drawing your own conclusions."

    So all who draw their own conclusions come up with facts?

    " Science is intrinsically skeptical and invites anyone to refute any given finding.
    Religious councils dictate – scientists propose."

    Is that a fact? Facts are dogmatic in nature are they not? 2+2 = 4. That is a fact. You can say it is a proposal all you want but if someone puts 2+2=6 on a test the teacher will dogmatically mark it wrong. In science class in college I did not perform all of the experiments that were scored on tests. Was i wronged in having what I thought the results might be marked wrong? Should I have challenged the teacher? I suspect he would have dogmatically refused to change my score.

    February 2, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  5. Something

    I wrote here a couple of weeks ago about my local church's begging letter - and the more I think about it the more disgusted I become.

    Recap: Church I have not attended for 20 years sent me a personalized (Mr. & Mrs.) letter asking for a written promise that I would donate $108 per month for 5 years for their building fund (and the letter was followed up with a phone call). This is in addition to a 'regular monthly contribution'. That $108 is not some nice round figure. They calculated it from somewhere - where?

    They even tracked down my current address, which is different than when I was a member. Odd that they knew this, and the letter even called me by my nickname, but they were unaware that the Mr. and I were divorced in 1999 and he died in 2007!

    I was simply curt during the follow-up phone call - I kind of wish that I had given them an earful, but I knew that it was just some poor schmoe on a scrounge committee who was calling.

    So, don't tell me that the Church is not a serious business enterprise.

    February 1, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • gerald

      If they need a new building who should pay for it? Buildings don't fall out of the sky. Granted you may not be able to afford to increase your giving and it should be fine with them if you say no. No need to get nasty about it. Someone paid for that Church you sit in every Sunday. Again it didn't fall out of the sky.

      Gerald

      February 1, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  6. In Christ Through the Holy Spirit

    The gentleman in the article wanted to know the connection. God gives the power and strength that produces eternal rewards. Try a relationship with God? It will be rewarding! Projects with him through him will produce eternal tangible results! God promises this!

    January 31, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • NL

      Rewarding but, like business, often at a cost to others, yes? In the economy of salvation some must suffer in order for others to make it. For, like in business, how can you measure your success if there aren't others whose failures you can judge it by? Pity too few Christians imagine a possibility where all can be saved, and others cannot imagine what value heaven could possibly have if it were freely given, without expectation of paying God's 'worship' fee.

      January 31, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      @NL "Pity too few Christians imagine a possibility where all can be saved, and others cannot imagine what value heaven could possibly have if it were freely given, without expectation of paying God's 'worship' fee".
      ---------
      NL,

      1. All can be saved! It is just that folks don't want to adhere to or apply the principles God laid out for salvation! ONLY through Christ! He is THE way (singular), THE truth (singular), and THE life (singular). Remember, to get to GOD's heaven, we have to get there GOD's way! I know there are other beliefs! I know (no need to go down that road)!

      2. There is NO worship fee! Salvation has been paid for! All anyone has to do is reach out and accept that gift (again, through faith in Christ! Can't get any easier and simplier than that

      January 31, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @NL
      There are indeed worship feess – ti.thes are an example of literal ones.
      In America, churches cannot legally force you to donate 10% of your income, but they can certainly use the old religious motivators of shame and guilt to coerce people (ref: televangelists, collection plates, the mormon church etc)
      But the true fee is subservience. Any religion that demands absolute obedience to dogma is charging your capacity for critical thinking as the entry fee to heaven.

      January 31, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      Doc,

      Not true! From 2 Corinthians 9:7-8

      7 You should each give, then, as you have decided, not with regret or out of a sense of duty; for God loves the one who gives gladly.

      8 And God is able to give you more than you need, so that you will always have all you need for yourselves and more than enough for every good cause.

      In short, give what you determine to give! No threats, no ridicule, no prying out of someone's hands! I said this to my Sunday School class: God gives us the ability to give. The willingness and desire and amount is OUR decision! That is what Paul taught the church! Now in order to be balanced, I will say this. Paul also said, if you sow sparringly, you will reap sparringly. The reaping is NOT exclusive to money! Many tele-preachers are not balanced when it comes the idea of giving! I hope that makes some sense! Don't ask me why others teach what they teach. I cannot be responsible for that !

      January 31, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Know What

      Steve the real one,

      So, "God" placed 20 or 30 children in your class to hear a 'balanced' message, but placed untold numbers in other classes to hear other proclaimed-as-true messages?

      January 31, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      Know what,

      It seems as if you DON'T know what! Where did I say anything about children? I happen to teach Adults! Believe it or not, your call. I am letting NL know what 2 Corinthians 9:7-8 state!

      January 31, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Know What

      Steve,

      I'm sorry that I as.sumed that it was children. No matter, though, really. Just replace the word 'children' with 'people'... the same concept applies.

      January 31, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • NL

      Steve the real one-
      "1. All can be saved!"

      Any particular individual, maybe, but not the entire human population, right? Not all faiths can even lead to Jesus, the only way into heaven, and within Christianity there is a very narrow view of what makes a 'saved' Christian by evangelical standards. Not everyone on the planet even has an opportunity to be converted, mostly through no fault of their own, and yet they will suffer for this, yes?

      Besides, wouldn't the entire concept of heaven being a reward just go out the window if everyone was believed to be going? How could anything that free be a reward? Even the bible says that there will be 'goats' that must be separated from the sheep so, let's face it, no believer even entertains the notion that everyone could be saved, right?

      "2. There is NO worship fee! Salvation has been paid for! All anyone has to do is reach out and accept that gift (again, through faith in Christ! Can't get any easier and simplier than that"

      Well, I just can't say "Fine, I accept!" and never have to do anything different than I do now, right? In accepting this "free gift" there comes certain expectations and obligations. In short, salvation comes at a hidden price.

      So, stop calling it 'free' as if it were some gift basket left on a table for anyone to just take as they pass by. Call it what it would be in everyday human terms: Bait. Salvation and heaven are just bait dangled over believers in order to get them to do things, like believe in the supernatural, or to accept the unreasonable. A little sugar to make the rest of it go down a bit easier. Have you ever considered that?

      January 31, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • NL

      Doc Vestibule-
      "But the true fee is subservience. Any religion that demands absolute obedience to dogma is charging your capacity for critical thinking as the entry fee to heaven."

      Yes, exactly! This is why Pascal's Wager is a false premise. The promise of salvation isn't a 'safe bet', but a gamble that comes at a very high price.

      Steve, the real one argues that giving a tenth is not mandated, yet for so many to take this as the standard someone needs to be teaching that it is, right? I guess when you ask for tax receipts then you can't keep your donation amounts private, so people tend to give at what is considered an 'appropriate' amount. Basically an amount that will not get them gossiped about and their piety questioned. Completely understandable, but also against Paul's ideal. It seems that people cannot help but worry more how others view them than how their God does. Further evidence that church is more for addressing human social needs than building some kind of 'personal relationship with Christ.'

      February 1, 2011 at 12:13 am |
    • gerald

      NL, your post has no basis in reality of Christian experience. At least not mine as a Catholic. I've never experienced Gossip or shunning about my giving. Christianity is a walk in the spirit more than a bunch of set
      exact rules on giving and participating one must follow. Each has a different call and different means.

      Doc's comments also have no basis in the reality of Christian life. The bounds around which Christianity places in the Christian life do not restrict thinking. Oh no, it frees it! Ironic as this may seem it is true if you read the writings of the great Christian thinkers. Tell me, does a scientist make great progress in his experiments by going down dead ends and struggling or does he make great progress when he comes upon a truth? Pretty simple to answer I think. If a mathematician didn't already have the basic truths of addition and subtraction and the already discovered "truths" of Math, would he be able to delve in to the great depths of Mathematics? I think not. What you propose is that each individual should come up with his own truth. That is how one is freed... Error is confining, not truth and we are not each individually capable of coming up with the truth, as judged by the millions of opinions, religions and non-religions out there. The truth sets men free.

      February 1, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Gerald
      "we are not each individually capable of coming up with the truth"
      But neither can committees make truth (a la Nicene Council).
      To quote Prof. Greg Graffin: 'Facts are sterile – not vulgar nor sublime. And they're not religion, they're for everyone...'
      The way to determine fact is not by spouting dogmatic, rote replies (be they religious or scientific) but by doing your own examination and drawing your own conclusions.
      The best way to do this is the scientific method. Hypothesize, test, observe, refine hypothesis based on results – repeat.
      Scientists meticulously docu.ment the details of each step in the process so that everyone else can replicate what they found. Science is intrinsically skeptical and invites anyone to refute any given finding.
      Religious councils dictate – scientists propose.

      February 2, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • Steve the real one

      NL,

      You said: So, stop calling it 'free' as if it were some gift basket left on a table for anyone to just take as they pass by. Call it what it would be in everyday human terms: Bait. Salvation and heaven are just bait dangled over believers in order to get them to do things, like believe in the supernatural, or to accept the unreasonable. A little sugar to make the rest of it go down a bit easier. Have you ever considered that?
      -------–
      That is something to consider! HOWEVER, Romans 6:23 KJV
      For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
      SO:
      1. Man's rebellion EARNS death (the wage) and God's work (salvation) provides life! Notice it is called a gift. A TRUE gift cannot be earned as a wage is earned.
      2. A TRUE gift is NOT free to the one providing it (It cost Christ His life)
      3. A TRUE gift is free to the reciever (Christians)
      4. You asked me to stop calling it free. Cannot /will not do that NL! Why might you ask? Because I am the reciever of that GIFT, it has been previously paid for!
      5. Salvation is the most costly gift, yet it is free!
      6. I said ALL could be saved, I did NOT say all WILL be saved! All will not come to Christ!

      February 2, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • gerald

      Versatile,

      No knock on the scientific method but it only gets us as far as what we can wrap our minds around. And even with it there is a committee like quality toward us not individually being able to go out and test everything ourselves and therefore relying on other people who have. Particularly in the area of evolution science is not as solid as you claim it to be. The miller experiment for years was taken as evidence that life began in a primordial soup. Today few accept that. Last year there was a big cry of joy that the missing link had been discovered in some lemur's fossil. Lot's of hand waving on that. Don't get me wrong. I am not trying to disprove macro evolution as I consider it a good theory. But it is the basis for alot of people saying there is no need for religion.

      You may not like the truths that Nicea came up with. That does not make them wrong. Again, your reality about religion seems to be skewed. I do not feel at all restrained in my thinking as a Catholic by dogma. It in fact frees me because I don't waste so much time going down the rabbit trails of error.

      February 2, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • gerald

      Versatile,

      I should also add that the purpose of Councils is to define what Catholicism is. Not ALL Religion. The purpose of councils is to determine historic Catholicism. In this way they have a "scientific" method of looking at scripture and Church writings throughout history and make statements based on this study of what is authentic Catholicism. We who are Catholics use this study to determine what we as Catholics WANT to believe. We are not forced to believe it as you like to suggest. I don't know many Catholics who feel forced and imposed upon to believe Catholic teaching. We do want to know what is authentic Catholic teaching. If you are not Catholic why are you so bothered by it? You are certainly free to go down your rabbit trails and search for truth as you like.

      February 2, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • gerald

      versatile,

      Do you also demand that the Masons, Mormons, Lions, Parent/Teachers Association and other groups not come together and makes rules, policies, ethics guidelines, belief statements, and codes of conduct for their organizations?

      February 2, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • NL

      Steve the real one-
      Sorry, the bible may say it's free, but if there is an expectation of having to believe certain illogical things in return for receiving salvation then I still maintain that it isn't actually a 'free gift.' 'Free' means no strings attached, right?

      February 2, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • NL

      gerald-
      Are you arguing that amongst the nearly 2 billion Christians worldwide none of them ever gossips about, or shuns anybody else about their giving?

      February 2, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Gerald
      I'm not saying that group leaders shouldn't come together to establish rules of conduct for themselves.
      The Council of Nicea was convened in 325 to establish Christian dogma.
      It was there that Christ's divinity was made 'Truth' – before that many revered him as a prophet and the figurative son of God (like others mentioned in the Bible), but not literally God.
      The concept of the Trinity is not a suggestion – it is the central tenet to your faith! A mind boggling rationalization for a purportedly monotheistic religion, announced ex cathedra by a committee of men who took it upon themselves to proclaim 'Eternal Truth'.

      If a Masonic Council made a public statement proclaiming that rock and mortar are holy, blessed gifts from on high that must be revered, would you start worshipping bricks?

      February 3, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • gerald

      Doc,

      How can you claim to use any kind of method to determine truth, scientific or otherwise when you can't even read history. Read the writings of the Early Church Fathers. The divinity of Christ and the concept of the Trinity was widely believed by those who called themselves Catholic from the earliest of days. I'll bet you haven't even read the Church Fathers. I'll bet you don't even know who they were. Your analogy with regard to Mason's is ridiculous.

      February 3, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  7. In Christ Through the Holy Spirit

    Not in mans strength but in God's strength Isaiah 40: 29-31 "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strengh. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Only by approaching perfection in his strength and power.Reading the Bible is the only way to discern his strength and power. He it gives life from his truth, faith and believing, in a personal relationship with him.

    January 31, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • NL

      And it was not in a boy's strength, but in the Wizard Shazam's magic that Captain Marvel is able to call upon the aspects of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury to defeat the influence of the Seven Deadly Enemies of Man, as well as the evil Doctor Sivana! Reading comic books (and watching select TV cartoons) is the only way to discern the Captain's strength and power. Billy is an inspiration to all 12 year olds.

      January 31, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Michel

      275All good ideas turn little once large nurmebs of mediocre folk join. The problem with atheism today is that it is mostly pseudoscience. Their consistent claim that they are on the side of science actually makes science in turn look bad, and *this* now is an important problem in a technological world that wants to decide by democratic means.This is my take on how atheism has become little from a scientistic standpoint:21

      August 1, 2012 at 12:18 am |
  8. itisi

    God is for the weak, the strong can do just fine without him.

    January 31, 2011 at 7:21 am |
    • NL

      Maybe, in the great search for purpose in our lives that we all must find for ourselves, God is the easy answer for many. We all want to do something we love and are passionate about. Some have talents that can be called up to fulfill their lives, others have careers and other occupations that truly satisfy them, but for many there is a struggle to find meaning and joy in life.

      Religion offers the promise of a direction in life to those who are unable, or unwilling to build it for themselves. However, because it isn't a 'personal' direction, but a shared one, people often have to compromise some of their principles in joining the herd. Sometimes religion even preys upon people's insecurities and convinces people who are actually content with the direction that their lives have taken that they still need religion to make them happy even after death.

      January 31, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • hilltop

      itsi,
      You should stop swimming in the shallow and jump into the deep. Follow your line of reasoning to its logical end and you may discover something about your true condition.

      February 1, 2011 at 5:37 am |
    • gerald

      So easy to put others down to elevate yourself. But are you really elevated or just further down in the end?

      February 1, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • gerald

      Nope not claiming none do. I am Catholic and speaking as a Catholic I am only saying I have not experienced it AT ALL. Nor do I see any evidence that it is at all a significant problem in the Catholic Church.

      February 2, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
  9. Randy Grein

    Strange – the post was about evangelical christians providing business ethics guidance to corporate executives, and most people here spend time arguing about the existence of god. The real question is, how can this help 'reach out' to islamic fundamentalists or anyone else with a differing belief system?

    Despite the claims of fundamentalists ethical systems can and do exist without reliance on religion. Many of these are well suited to a cross-cultural environment; by adroitly avoiding religious arguments they can be widely applied without offense for all but the most fanatical theists. It would be far more productive to focus on the common visions and goals than this bald attempt to insert religion where it does not belong.

    Yes, I realize this is a religion blog; that does not excuse muddy thinking. I strongly support freedom of religion, but that is not the point. Providing a common framework for people of different beliefs is, and the closest to that is a secular humanist framework.

    January 30, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • NL

      The Christian fundamentalist ethical system is based upon doing what one must to avoid hell and gain great reward in heaven, right? All some of us are saying is that this is essentially a selfish aim for personal profit. In that light, perhaps fundamentalist Christian ethics are well suited to big business.

      January 30, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  10. Rick McDaniel

    That is really amusing. The CEO's of global corporations, are the worst citizens imaginable......and they are taking compensation that is totally outrageous.

    To even think, that you can sway them through religion, is amusing.

    January 30, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      I believe we can count on the corporate leaders to learn from the religious charlatans. They will learn all the "tricks of the trade" to increase their company's profits and their own compensation.

      January 30, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  11. Tim

    It is interesting how Feisal Abdul Rauf recognized that the "sessions didn't lead to actual initiatives that could translate discussions into action", with the banking crisis of 2008 being caused largely by greed and deceptive business practices. And having interfaith mixtures of thought, has this been successful at stemming the tide of wrong and greedy thinking, of causing any businessman to feel as Job, who said of his conduct: "He will weigh me in accurate scales and God will get to know my integrity" ?(Job 31:6)

    In giving his set of laws to the nation of Israel after their exodus from Egypt in 1513 B.C.E., God told them: "You must not commit injustice in judging, in measuring, in weighing or in measuring liquids. You should prove to have accurate scales, accurate weights, an accurate e´phah and an accurate hin. Jehovah your God I am, who have brought you out of the land of Egypt. So you must keep all my statutes and all my judicial decisions, and you must do them. I am Jehovah."(Lev 19:35-37) Thus, the Israelties were to practice justice in their business dealings, using only "accurate weights, an accurate ephah (20 dry quarts) and accurate hin (7.75 pints)."

    Hence, has religions of the world been a force for peace, causing people to genuinely change their ways ? No. One reason for the economic crisis that came to a head in 2008 was because of the principle at Proverbs 14:14: "The one faithless at heart will be satisfied with the results of his own ways, but the good man with the results of his dealings." Because Bible principles have had little to no effect upon many business people, these have been "satisfied with the results of his own ways", not as a "good man with the results of his dealings." Money was the prime object, not genuine love.

    January 30, 2011 at 7:52 am |
    • Reality

      Tim,

      You noted: "In giving his set of laws to the nation of Israel after their exodus from Egypt in 1513 B.C.E., God told them: "You must not commit injustice in judging, in measuring, in weighing or in measuring liquids. You should prove to have accurate scales, accurate weights, an accurate e´phah and an accurate hin. Jehovah your God I am, who have brought you out of the land of Egypt. So you must keep all my statutes and all my judicial decisions, and you must do them. I am Jehovah."(Lev 19:35-37) Thus, the Israelties were to practice justice in their business dealings, using only "accurate weights, an accurate ephah (20 dry quarts) and accurate hin (7.75 pints)."

      Might want to rethink that based on the following:

      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482

      "New Torah For Modern Minds

      Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument. "

      January 30, 2011 at 8:15 am |
  12. Christfollower

    This is a bit off the topic of the article to which these comments refer, but not off the topic of most of the posts:

    God has already proven His existence by writing that knowledge in all of our hearts and throughout all His creation (Romans 1:19,20). There is no need for me to fumble at it when God Himself has already done it. The problem we have is, we live in a world where sin and evil exist. God did not create sin, but through His creation of Angels and Humans, sin is a possibility (and has become reality) since without free will there can be no choice to love God. God is love, therefore there must be free will so that we may love. And that very freewill means we can decide NOT to follow/love/believe in our Creator. Hence, sin, evil and unbelief.
    Atheists, your faith amazes me. I wish I had that much. Did you know that true science is God's best friend? All provable scientific law goes directly against the Big Bang theory, as well as Darwin's theory of the evolution of species. Man, am I going to get hate mail for that one. But think about it. Entropy and the laws of thermodynamics, the concept that something cannot come from nothing (where did all this stuff come from?). There are a great number of interesting-sounding theories that sound so smart from people who have PhD's at the end of their names (multiverse, dark matter as a theory to why atoms and universes don't spin apart, gravity causing something from nothing). But that is all they are: theories. I'm not saying that that proves the existence of God, but it proves you cannot be a true Atheist. There is always an element of faith, I argue a large element. You cannot KNOW there is no God.
    Occam's Razor. Glad someone brought that one up. The most simple solution to a given problem is usually the true one. If you see that the Universe must have had a beginning, what started it? There are many theories. But the most simple one is that it was created. If we see with today's technology that the most simple form of independent life- a living, reproducible cell- is about as complex as the city of Los Angeles, Occam tells us that something must have created it. When we see DNA and it's role in the cell, it is without question a form of language. When archeologists dig up a tablet with writing on it, or with chiseled characters on it, science says it was language and someone made it, not that some windstorm randomly blasted that rock in that shape. Occam again. It is not scientific to rule out the existence of the supernatural because it sounds unscientific to many. The burden of proof is on atheistic scientists to prove that the supernatural does not exist. Without it, it is not scientific to disbelieve it.
    Now, assuming there is a God, does it make sense in your heart that he wants you to know Him for who He is? This is not scientific, but it is real. We have a head and a heart, both. Why do we disregard information from one and not the other? I'm not trying to use these words to prove God is real, but I am trying to use them to point to that which has already proven He is real.
    David said in Psalm 27:8: "When You said, 'Seek My face,' my heart said to You, 'Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.'"

    January 29, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • NL

      Christfollower-
      There is just so much wrong with what you wrote, but here are some highlights.

      "God has already proven His existence by writing that knowledge in all of our hearts and throughout all His creation (Romans 1:19,20)."

      If that were true then there would be no atheists.

      "Atheists, your faith amazes me. I wish I had that much."

      Do you need faith not to believe in other gods, the tooth fairy, Santa, or any other similar figure? There are some things that you don't believe in, right?

      "Did you know that true science is God's best friend? All provable scientific law goes directly against the Big Bang theory, as well as Darwin's theory of the evolution of species."

      Do you have any proof of this?

      "You cannot KNOW there is no God."

      Neither can you KNOW that there is one, let alone that it would be your god, and that your actions and beliefs please it. Atheists are as certain that there isn't a god as you can be certain that there is. You believe that there is one, but you just can't be certain, right?Sure, I can't be absolutely certain that there isn't one, but I'm very confident that the evidence suggests that God is a mythical creation like all the other gods, like the other gods that you likely also believe were just myths. It's a very tiny possibility that God may exist, and certainly not a big enough one to base a life upon and trade reason for.

      "If you see that the Universe must have had a beginning, what started it?"

      Well, who started God? Convenient that believers just skip over that little detail all the time.

      "There are many theories. But the most simple one is that it was created."

      No, that's actually a very complicated one if you bothered to think of where God must have came from and how he could have created the universe. Those questions make the Big Bang theory seem like elementary school art compared to Picasso. A universe beginning through natural means is far simpler than a universe starting by a being that could create it out of nothing, always exist, be completely non-biological in origin, and the thousands of other incredible aspects of God. The God theory is far, far more complex than the natural one.

      "The burden of proof is on atheistic scientists to prove that the supernatural does not exist. Without it, it is not scientific to disbelieve it."

      Wrong! Believers claim that the supernatural exists, so it is up to them to prove it. When do we ever put the burden of proof on someone else? Someone accuses you of a crime, so they have to prove you did it, right? Someone claims to have found the cure for cancer, so it's up to them to prove it, right? Why should this be the one exception to the rule?

      Why don't you gather up all the experts that allow you to claim "Did you know that true science is God's best friend? All provable scientific law goes directly against the Big Bang theory, as well as Darwin's theory of the evolution of species." and put them to work on proving that God exists. It really ought to be easy if your statement is actually true, right?

      January 30, 2011 at 12:55 am |
    • Selfish Gene Simmons

      "He"? Is there genitalia involved here?

      If there was a some supernatural power that started or brought about the big bang, its still based at that point in the supernatural explanation unto which itself cannot be explained, proven or fully described based on the rules and basic elements of nature.

      Its a theocratical theory that can't explain itself.

      January 30, 2011 at 12:57 am |
  13. ladybear

    I am not a Christian, and do not believe in religion, as this is a man made set of rules. My own personal theory, suspecting that a 'Creator' may exist in some form ( my husband is native American) is that God/Allah/Creator or whatever name he/she/it is given, is actually Energy. How do I get to that theory?
    Believers in my husband's tradition say that the Creator is not some almighty being that dwells someplace 'out there', but is in Everything, in each person, animal, tree, rock, plant etc that exists. That finding the Creator means seeking within ourselves, and feeling what is around us, and the traditionalists believe that all must be treated with respect, or the Creator will cause another cleansing. Tales of a great flood are part of many indigenous cultures, not just those who read the Old Testament.
    My own personal theory is that God/Creator/Allah is Energy. Scientists tell us energy is in all things, is is what holds everything together, from smallest atom to greatest galaxy. Energy is in every living thing. They say energy is one thing that cannot be destroyed, its form may change, its direction may change but the energy carries on. So as each thing lives and dies, the Energy exists within, then passes on, carrying with it both good and bad as it makes its transit back into the atmosphere, or the next living thing it inhabits. Thnk of the creatures living now, with ancient knowledge that lets them fly from one end of the world to the other, every year, the salmon that find their way through oceans, back no only to their home river, but to the individual tributary from whence they came.
    May or may not be an accurate theory, but makes more sense to me that the literal translations of the first chapeter of Genesis, which a lot of people seem to belive.

    January 29, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @ladybear

      I can't argue with you there. Any creation story is no less valid or at least no less plausible, than Genesis.

      It is turtles, all the way down!

      Cheers!

      January 29, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • Selfish Gene Simmons

      Although I respect your beliefs they are still based on the supernatural which in turn can't be proven or explained.

      January 30, 2011 at 12:54 am |
    • NL

      Remember Woodstock? We ARE all Stardust! Perhaps Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young pretty much summed up your husband's beliefs, eh?

      January 30, 2011 at 1:00 am |
  14. everyone

    Hysterical. Just what the world needs; more people who crave an invisible man in the sky. Brilliant.

    January 29, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  15. JustPlainJoe

    Why would any group that disdains this life for an afterlife have even the least interest in money?
    Oh I forgot, the preachers and priest and shamans need gold faucets in their bathtubs.

    As for morality and ethics, these are a fine band for society to look up to. Greed, excess, pedophilia, and ritualistic abuses. Ahhh, but it is all for a higher cause.

    January 29, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  16. history

    Perhaps some of the people writing such derogatory comments about religion (especially the ones living in the West) should recognize that the origin of their capitalistic world–whose fruits they likely enjoy–is in Protestant Christianity. So to say that religion has nothing to do with business is a farce.

    January 29, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • Eric G.

      The origin of the western world was Greece. So, I guess that makes us all pagans?

      January 29, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • IceT

      Even if the capitalistic world was created by christianity that doesn't make christian beliefs true. Also, religion is one of the biggest industries the world has ever seen and still that doesn't make any of it true.

      January 29, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • goat

      So there was no form of business before christianity? So what were the greeks doing?

      January 29, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  17. bob

    i dont get it. How can you find someone who clearly doesnt exist?

    January 29, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  18. strong belief2

    Some people here should go onto google and type in Coptic Church, Zeitun Egypt, 1968. See the apparition of Mary on camera from 1968.

    January 29, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Joe

      Be very careful with worshipping Mary and her "appearances" around the world. Do you realize that worshipping Mary breaks the first and second commandments?

      Exodus 20 – The Ten Commandments

      1 Then God spoke all these words, saying,

      2 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

      3 You shall have no other gods before Me.

      4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.

      5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,

      6 but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

      January 29, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Out there

      Went there, interesting pics. But where you see Mary I see aliens, or at least a trick of lighting.
      My question to this would be, if there were so many witnesses why didn't anyone for 2 years go up to the apparition for close inspection/confirmation or at least contact?

      January 29, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      So blobs of light that resemble Casper The Friendly Ghost more than jc's mommy are now factual and convincing evidence for tribal myths and gods? Did *you* read the counter arguments?

      January 29, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Eric G.

      I see the image of Jason Voorhees. Which then begs the question.... WWJD? What Would Jason Do?

      January 29, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • IceT

      @ out there
      The reason no one went up to the image was because if they did they would have discovered the cause of the image and that would have eliminated the divinity theory ... thus, no tourism $'s or self fulfilling prophecy.

      January 29, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • a Christian guy from Lebanon

      The name of the city is Zeitun?
      To those who don't know, that means olive in Arabic.

      January 29, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  19. realistic

    ANYONE that belongs to organized religion, is a sheep and nothing more. It is just sad to see how many people actually believe in all the hype.

    Does God exist? I think he does and he is shaking his head at all the idiots that bought into this crap.

    January 29, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.