An empty chair in Bali.
Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
When I went to Bali a few years ago, I didn’t go, like most tourists, for the beaches or, like Elizabeth Gilbert, for love. I went for the religion. I wanted to learn something about the unique brand of Hinduism practiced there.
Balinese Hinduism differs from Indian Hinduism in many ways. For example, in Balinese temples there are often no images of God. But for me the most arresting religious image I encountered was the empty chair.
I saw this chair, typically crafted of stone, everywhere in Bali—on streetcorners and mountaintops, and in households and rice fields. It is a shrine to Ida Sanghyang Widhi, the High God to Balinese Hindus. And it symbolizes, among other things, the indescribability of the divine.
Historians say this icon was brought to Bali in the sixteenth century from Java. Religious Studies scholars see some Buddhist influence here, which would not be surprising since Buddhism thrives throughout the Indonesian archipelago that encompasses Bali.
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I saw the empty chair as an invitation—an invitation to reckon with God on your own terms and in your own way. I also saw it as an elegant refusal—a refusal to reduce God to simplistic terms we can understand.
Clint Eastwood has now turned “the empty chair” into a meme of a very different sort. In his speech on Thursday at the Republican National Convention, he argued with an invisible Barack Obama in an empty chair, drawing applause from the audience but upstaging Mitt Romney in the process.
What struck me as I saw this performance was how different Eastwood’s use of the empty chair was from how people use it in Bali.
In Bali, to stand in front of the empty chair is to reckon with your limits, and particularly with what you don’t know. But Eastwood and those who applauded him were driven by hubris, not humility. They claimed to know what Obama would say if he were in fact sitting in that chair, and of course the words they put in his mouth (including profanities) were words of their choosing, not his.
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My point is not that Obama is a God and should be treated with the reverence of one. Far from it. Obama is a human being, and like every human being he has made mistakes.
My point is that, even as religion has moved to the center of American political life, humility has moved to the periphery.
One of the functions of religion has traditionally been to remind us of our limits: we are sinners, and only God is God; we see through a glass darkly, and only God sees face to face. But we have turned that function off.
Today’s political religion puts human beings above God. It turns God into a pawn in our political chess games, brazenly enlisting God's support for our particular policies on tax rates or abortion or the war in Afghanistan.
Once you have accustomed yourself to putting words in the mouth of God, it is pretty easy to start putting words in the mouths of your political opponents. You run not against the real Obama, his words and his actions, but against your own made up “invisible Obama.”
Instead of taking their cues from a Hollywood director, Republicans should follow the example of a great Republican, and perhaps the greatest American, Abraham Lincoln. In the face of a culture war that turned into the Civil War, Lincoln pleaded for a civil politics in both North and South. “We are not enemies, but friends,” he said in his First Inaugural Address. “We must not be enemies.”
In his Second Inaugural, Lincoln humbly confessed his confusion over what God was doing in allowing the Civil War to drag on and take so many lives, only to conclude that “the Almighty has His own purposes.”
Lincoln’s political piety was a faith of the Balinese empty chair—a humble faith that knew its own limits and confessed its own confusion. I’ll take that over Eastwood’s variety any day.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.
Always has been empty.......................
Free speech helps educate the masses................POLITICIANS too !
Where do morals come from?
By Kelly Murray, CNN
Gravity is not up for debate !
BY the way ...................Splat goes a fairy in the sky !...............bye bye tinker bell !
Einstein's Gravity Theory Passes Toughest Test Yet..............................E = mc2..........(U–Pb).................two math formulas.
Apr. 25, 2013 — A strange stellar pair nearly 7,000 light-years from Earth has provided physicists with a unique cosmic laboratory for studying the nature of gravity. The extremely strong gravity of a massive neutron star in orbit with a companion white dwarf star puts competing theories of gravity to a test more stringent than any available before
Hey James Madison................religion has none it looks like.............with the comments on this blog.
The Big question is ETHICS ! does religion have any ?
The Ethics of Resurrecting Extinct Species
Apr. 8, 2013 — At some point, scientists may be able to bring back extinct animals, and perhaps early humans, raising questions of ethics and environmental disruption.
April 30, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
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Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young
And NO ANGELS the pope KICKED them OFF the TEAM last year !
From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life
the wrong path is Adam and Eve !
Human Y Chromosome Much Older Than Previously Thought
Mar. 4, 2013 — The discovery and analysis of an extremely rare African American Y chromosome pushes back the time of the most recent common ancestor for the Y chromosome lineage tree to 338,000 years ago. This time predates the age of the oldest known anatomically modern human fossils.
No god(s) needed or required to graduate from public schools in the US
Remember : Adam had to POKE himself hard with his OWN BONE to create Eve.
No god(s) needed................... Old. DNA works..................also catches crooks !
Ancient DNA Reveals Europe's Dynamic Genetic History
Apr. 23, 2013 — Ancient DNA recovered from a series of skeletons in central Germany up to 7,500 years old has been used to reconstruct the first detailed genetic history of modern Europe.
Ca-nabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®) – National Cancer Insti-tute
Mar 21, 2013 – [1,2] These plant-derived compounds may be referred to as phytocannabinoids. ... have a protective effect against the development of certain types of tumors. ... In lung cancer cell lines, CBD upregulated ICAM-1, leading to ...
Good stuff !
The fact...............the earth is to old for this nonsemse ! Time to EVOLVE !
Ancient Earth Crust Stored in Deep Mantle
Apr. 24, 2013 — Scientists have long believed that lava erupted from certain oceanic volcanoes contains materials from the early Earth's crust. But decisive evidence for this phenomenon has proven elusive. New research from a team including Carnegie's Erik Hauri demonstrates that oceanic volcanic rocks contain samples of recycled crust dating back to the Archean era 2.5 billion years ago. Their work is published in Nature.
For what...................... ? Make sure to read what the pope said !
Learning is fun with facts.......................... and facts work when teaching children.
Atheist Prof. Peter Higgs: Stop calling Higgs boson the ‘God particle’
Professor Peter Higgs said recently that there is no God and so people should stop referring to the theoretical partial that
bears his name as the “God particle.”
Pope praises science, but insists God created world updated Thur October 28, 2010
Stephen Hawking is wrong, Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday – God did create the universe. The pope didn't actually mention the world-famous scientist, who argues in a book published last month that the laws of physics show there is no need for a supreme... \
Heaven is 'a fairy story,' scientist Stephen Hawking says updated Tue May 17, 2011
By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor The concept of heaven or any kind of afterlife is a "fairy story," famed British scientist Stephen Hawking said in a newspaper interview this week. "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when...
April 7th, 2012
08:32 PM ET
The Jesus debate: Man vs. myth
Make sure to read comments
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NASA: Three planets found are some of best candidates so far for habitable worlds outside our solar system.
NASA: Mars could have supported life
Star Dust we are
Holy Hallucinations 35
The ORIGIN story is bullsh-it...............so is the bible............... nasty !
Scientists have unearthed the first direct signs of cheesemaking, at a site in Poland that dates back 7,500 years.
BBC. Planet of the Apemen. Battle for Earth 1. Ho-mo Erectus
BACKFILL on E =mc2.....
Einstein letter, set for auction, shows scientist challenging idea of God, being 'chosen'
By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
Decades before atheist scientist and author Richard Dawkins called God a "delusion," one world-renowned physicist – Albert Einstein – was weighing in on faith matters with his own strong words.
“The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends,” Einstein wrote in German in a 1954 letter that will be auctioned on eBay later this month. "No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”
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Cheech & Chong's History of 420
Cheech & Chong's History of 420 from CheechAndChong
All cults...........creationists, ID believers and devil cults.................
The fact...............the earth is to old ...........time to EVOLVE !.
Dover Trial Transcripts............................................. FACTS.
Below are the complete transcripts from the Dover Trial. Thanks to our friends at the National Center for Science Education for helping us fill in the missing transcripts.
Education works for children
Earth From Space
Detailed satellite images reveal the web of connections that sustain life on Earth. Aired February 13, 2013 on PBS
"Earth From Space" is a groundbreaking two-hour special that reveals a spectacular new space-based vision of our planet. Produced in extensive consultation with NASA scientists, NOVA takes data from earth-observing satellites and transforms it into dazzling visual sequences, each one exposing the intricate and surprising web of forces that sustains life on earth. Viewers witness how dust blown from the Sahara fertilizes the Amazon; how a vast submarine "waterfall" off Antarctica helps drive ocean currents around the world; and how the sun's heating up of the southern Atlantic gives birth to a colossally powerful hurricane. From the microscopic world of water molecules vaporizing over the ocean to the magnetic field that is bigger than Earth itself, the show reveals the astonishing beauty and complexity of our dynamic planet.
February 16, 2013 at 7:18 am | Report abuse |
Some dad most likely are not a pal, then again a pal are normally a good dad.
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Quite right! It is good thought. I call for active discussion.
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It would be helpful to the American Voter if CNN would report on ALL the News on Democrats as well as Republicans.If they would have reported on all the Socialist that Obama hung out with when he was running four years ago and told us more information about who we were hiring for President. That would have been very helpful and maybe saved our Country from in hind sight a huge mistake.Ted Turner owns CNN and He was married to Jane Fonda who has been blamed for being an Anti American....Hmmmm
MR. ROMNEY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
LET MY PEOPLE GO SENETOR HILLIARY CLINTON
AND PRESIDENT OBAMA. LET JONATHAN POLLARD GO NOW
LET JONATHAN POLLARD GO NOW. ORK NOW
THANK YOU IN ADVANCE
Rabbi Chaim Richman answers President Obama's Cairo
WORLD VS ISRAEL. HILLARY CLINTON-THIS IS A MESSAGE
FOR YOU – LET MY PEOPLE GO. FREE JONATHAN POLLARD
NOW. LET MY PEOPLE GO BARRAK HUSSEIN OBAMA – NOW!
The Land of Israel is the Promised Land given to our
forefathers Abraham Isaac and Jacob and is given to
us, their seed, as an everlasting Inheritance.
MR. ROMNEY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Beautiful piece that mirrors my thoughts – religion has become a tool in this nation for far too many. A tool to get rich, a garb to wear proudly their fears and prejudices and a weapon to beat others over the head with when they dare to be different.
There is no love or compassion to be found. No pondering of mystery, no brotherhood, save that to be found in a gang perhaps. It's really pathetic. I know this is found in a minority of religious associations but why do they only get the attention and to define the faith?
Give me a reason you are not better off today than 4 years ago? In the past 4 years you couldn't find a job? It's true our income has shrunken, but cannot find a job? More and more luxurious cars on the roads, and the restaurants are packed on Fri day night and weekends. At least I don't know anyone unemployed for the past year, unlike 4 years ago.
I do not know where you live. I live in CA. Our restaurants are not packed-a lot going out of business after many years. Been unemployed for almost 3 years. Trying to get by on a part time job. Cost of living here has increased greatly. There are not more luxurious cars on the road here than there were 4 years ago. I know lots of people who became unemployed this year–from 3 of my neighbors (one on either side of me and one 2 doors down) to a friend who is a State worker to several teachers.
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.