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Richard Rodriguez On Modern Spiritual Identity

Mexican-American essayist and big thinker Richard Rodriguez joins us on identity, immigration and the human spirit.

Immigration reform protesters gather outside the fence for the lighting of the 2013 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, an 88-foot Engelmann spruce, from the Colville National Forest, in northeast Washington State, during an event on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. (AP)

Immigration reform protesters gather outside the fence for the lighting of the 2013 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, an 88-foot Engelmann spruce, from the Colville National Forest, in northeast Washington State, during an event on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. (AP)

Richard Rodriguez has become a rare sort.  In the age of rampant blogs and social media, everybody has a voice.  But few are singular.  Rodriguez is singular.  The rare mind and eye that sees and communicates on its own deeply humane terms.  He’s gay, he’s Catholic, he’s Hispanic, he’s a serious man.  And he is wide open to the world, all of it.  Thinking deeply about faith, people, place.  Deserts and visions.  Men and women and their roles.  Women especially, and their challenge to patriarchy.  He’s been called the most empathetic essayist in America.  This hour On Point:  reading Richard Rodriguez.

– Tom Ashbrook


Richard Rodriguez, essayist, journalist and author of “Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography.” Also author of “Brown: The Last Discovery of America,” “Days of Obligation: An Argument With My Mexican Father” and “Hunger Of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez.”

Rudy Lopez, community activist and senior organizer with F.I.R.M., the Fair Immigration Reform Movement.

From Tom’s Reading List

PBS: Writer Richard Rodriguez introduces readers to ‘seasons of belief and doubt’ — “My religious tradition has always accepted doubt as part of the procedure of believing in God. And I think that becomes a kind of a protection against extremism. But religion is under assault right now from various places. There’s something called a new atheism in the air that is coming into the country. And it has a dogmatism to it that doesn’t quite understand that religion itself has within it disbelief, that there isn’t a religious life of, what shall I say, seasons of belief and doubt.”

New America Media: When Love Prevails – Latino Families at the Center of Immigrant and LGBT Rights — “The political act of coming out has also propelled support for comprehensive immigration reform. Dreamers and other immigrants have inspired a movement by coming out as undocumented. Their courage has inspired others to fight deportations of family, friends, and entire communities.”

Boston Globe: ‘Darling’ by Richard Rodriguez – “Despite its opening epiphany, this is not a political work — Rodriguez proposes no solutions (though he takes stern swipes at atheism, including that of fellow public intellectuals like the late Christopher Hitchens). Rather, he offers an efflorescence of subtle questions that may be more useful than the blunt ones that dominate today’s media and public conversation.”

Read An Excerpt From “Darling” By Richard Rodriguez

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  • FrankensteinDragon

    I have always been a proponent of immigration. I despise a world of borders and checkpoints. I don’t like the idea that governments control the free movement of people–that someone can say you cant go there, you cant come here, you cant travel there–its is my planet just as much as it is anyone else’s. Borders are political boundaries, quite arbitrary boundaries, and the ground beneath them is saturated with blood. Many borders in the world were created by Anglos. Forged in the killing machine of empire.

    I like people. I like culture. I don’t care what color you are, race, ethnicity, creed or gender (sometimes I am bothered by religion, but only if you make it who you are). Diversity is wonderful and is what makes America wonderful.

    However, the church of free trade (WTO, Nafta, Cafta–and now the TPP) seeks slave-labor (human life for 3 pennies), and it is the priests, disciples, and minions of free trade that love immigration more than anyone else–so I find myself conflicted.

    Under free trade policies–and doctrine–billionaires export jobs to poorer countries–undereducated countries–to exploit slave labor and dirty cheap labor–dominating foreign markets and polluting without any regulations, or socially aware victims–often in tyrannical or lawless/criminal/thuggish societies–something they love. By doing so, they take away jobs from Americans or Canadians, or English or Europeans, jobs created by those people, innovations created by those people–and the wealth is sucked out of the middle classes and the poor–vacuumed up by the vampire rich.

    On top of of the vanishing jobs, and industries, the church of free trade encourages immigration, because those poor people from those developing countries where all our businesses have gone–flee to America for multiple reasons—farmers pushed off their land By Monsanto or Cargill or Nestle or Coke or some other behemoth exploiting their resources, contaminating the lands of poor people–never the rich–environmental racism–and so all these people come to America and work for slave-wages–pushing Americans out of jobs in their (‘the’) homeland–what jobs they have left. So now all the jobs are leaving and what is left–the low-wage, slave wage menial fast food Walmat bag boy jobs (even tho ones who have a masters or a phd)–and those jobs are given to the immigrants who will work for nothing. Free traders love this–its their wet dream.

    The ultimate goal–reduce the whole world to cheap labor–NO MIDDLE CLASS. FEUDAL. Insulated, isolated, atomized, abused Peasants, and international overlords. The flattening of the world. They manufacture and maintain divisions among the people–among race and culture and colonize the mind–enslave the mind–instilling fear and hatred and racism– so that we remain at each others throats, and they run off with the spoils.

    The last thing ‘the church’ of free trade economics wants is brotherhood and a united people. The last thing they want is alliances between black and brown or white and asian, First Nation, and the usurpers.

    Divide and conquer. Christianity has traditionally been used to colonize the mind and conquer a people and its lands. It is not spiritual or enlightening–its a deliberate technique with enormous money behind it–to enslave the free will of the other.

    I dont want to see more immigration, because Americans–people of Spring Dale and South Park and Bedford Falls and Harlem and the south side –need jobs, and deserve the quality of life they were promised in the American dream. Not BMWs or SUVs, not four bedroom cookie cut Stepford houses, not waterskis and Lures fishing boats–just a decent living with a cat and dog in the garden–(not yard)–and DIGNITY.

    We need a radical transformation. I do not want the world of Beaver and Mayberry. We need local green economies–the people here now–need empowerment and radical pure democracy–local business, local jobs, local markets, CSAs, organic food–GARDENS–not sprawling lawns sprayed with chemicals–every one of those wasteful yards can be transformed into beautiful lush gardens. We don’t need corporate farms and Monsanto–every suburban neighborhood has enough land to feed the world–at least the local hood. And every single rooftop should be a garden. There is no need for large-scale farming–just local community/family farms and co-operative farms of 50 acres or less.

    this model should be encouraged all over the world with a strong confederacy of FAIR-trade UNited Nations.

  • Ed75

    It’s wonderful that Mr. Ashbrook is doing shows on spirituality and the search for God!

    • brettearle

      I agree.

      But it ought to cover all sorts of religions and faiths.

      • Leonard Bast

        Or the search for gods (plural), since many spiritual people in the world are polytheistic.

        • brettearle


      • X-Christian

        Including atheism and life without the nonsense of ‘faiths’.

        • brettearle

          I would agree.

          But there are billions of people who feel that Faith is far from nonsense.

          I doubt that you could possibly speak for them.

          You have absolutely no proof, whatsoever, that such people are misguided.

          YOU may be the one who is misguided.

          Or maybe no one is Misguided.

          Or maybe everyone is Misguided.

          • X-Christian

            I make no claims. If god exists, that is fine with me.

            But the reason why Faith persists is there is too much allowance and respect for the snow jobs and scams when what people really need is education.

            Patting people on the back for their faith is a gross disservice to critical thinking.

            Please don’t try to tell me that suspension of reality is good for the world.

          • brettearle

            It is your assumption that Faith is not reality.

            It is ONLY your assumption.

            It is ONLY your assumption that there is too much allowance and respect for snow jobs and scams–when it comes to Faith.

            It is ONLY your assumption.

            Please don’t try to tell me that Faith, as part of actual Reality, is bad for the World.

          • X-Christian

            “Faith” is believing in something without any evidence that it is true.

            You insist that I respect Faith –
            while denying that too many people respect it ?!

            Faith is foolish. It leads to every danger known to man: Jihad, Zionism, Crusades – mediaeval nonsense.

          • brettearle

            Technology has a dark side, too.

            Everything does.

            The MISuse of science and faith is THE problem, not science and faith, themselves.

            For every Jihad there’s a potential nuclear disaster, first conceived by Einstein.

            For every member of a Crusade there’s an automobile that contributes to COPD, lung cancer, and Global Warming….first conceived by Henry Ford….

          • X-Christian


            And how can the complete suspension of Critical Thinking (“Faith”) do any good in this world when faced with Technological challenges such as those you point to?

            Would you rather have a religious person at the nuclear button or someone who uses REASON!?

            Answer: REASONABLE people are always what we need.

            Faith is the most primitive, medieval mumbo jumbo. People need to be educated away from such nonsense not toward it.

          • brettearle

            I don’t believe Truman was an Atheist.

          • X-Christian


            If he was an atheist he might have done the humanitarian thing and dropped those bombs into the ocean to show Japan what could happen to them.

            Instead he bombed two cities and killed countless thousands.

            With God on one’s side there is no end to the evil one can do.

            You only make my points clearer every time.

          • brettearle

            Ah, but I laid a trap for those who believe like you.

            The demonstration shot is often a so-called convincing argument.

            But who did it convince?

            To stage a demonstration shot–at the time a prodigious undertaking for all its ramifications–would not have broken the resolve of Japan.

            That was the prevailing behind-closed-doors opinion.

            Even Oppenheimer was ambivalent about it.

            And contrary to popular history, we had already alerted our willingness to have Japan keep the Emperor in place.

            The only way to save hundreds of thousands of our men, was to target a well-populated urban center in Japan.

            Everyone knew that. Sadly, it was the only way.

            It was an ugly decision, to be sure.

            But the point is that the Atheists among us wouldn’t have wrestled as deeply and with such anguish–as Truman did.

            The conscience and the ethics and the moral ambiguity often rests with piety.

            Piety sprouts deep thought. Lack of Faith encourages impulse and a closeness to greater destruction.

            The Crusades were not full of men with Faith; they were full of men with Blood.

            The point is not which God is yours or mine.

            The point is whether we use the excuse of our beliefs to further destructive and self-destructive impulses.

            But I guess, you can’t see that, can you?

            Hail and fare……well……

          • X-Christian


            You have shown no evidence for a god. And like all theists, you quit the debate in a burst of windbaggery.

          • brettearle

            If I had continued, then the Hot Air, coming from you, would have contributed much too much to Global Warming.

            Besides which…..you needed to cling to primitive ego/ victory–primitive ego/defeat….according to your last petty comment above.


            Because you could not effectively refute my claims on WWII, Truman and the Bomb….

            ……and whether the Curtis LeMays of the Military–the true Destroyers, enabled by Technology–would have gone in there, half-cocked and decimated everything in sight, much sooner and with greater destruction….instead of a theist, who at least contemplates, with moral consequence, any decision that directly affects hundreds of thousands of lives…..whether it be Friend or Foe…..

            Sorry to have seen you missed the subtlety–because of your need to be right….and, too, if you can stand facing up to it, your need to….

            …..nourish your hopelessly entrenched holier-than-thou attitude (apologies, to you, ahead, of time for using, ironically, theological jargon to describe the defects in your thinking).

            But that’s understandable–considering your bluster and flawed arrogance, based on unyielding intolerance…..

          • X-Christian

            “instead of a theist, who at least contemplates”…?

            No. Theists are precisely against contemplation. They refer their troubles upward to a fossilized philosophy where invisible Gods make their decisions for them.

            Wisdom begins when one realizes the world is Godless and a man’s responsibility for himself and his community falls rightly on his own shoulders.

            You have still have no evidence for gods. Technology is a straw man you have decided is more important.

          • X-Christian

            You love your ‘End Times’ don’t you?

            Yes, I would much rather have an atheist in charge of the nuclear button than a religious person.

            Only the religious people of the world are huddling in anxious anticipation of Armageddon. They can’t wait for the whole world to blow up!

            Faith is poison!
            You defend the indefensible!

          • brettearle

            You don’t know what you’re talking about.

            I think Hal Lindsey is a charlatan.

            I’m neither a Fundamentalist nor Christian.

            I have no Religion. I simply believe God exists.

            I don’t even worship God

            Your assumptions and your preconceived notions are a reflection of adolescent, knee-jerk ignorance.

            Enjoy your Bizarro world…..

          • X-Christian

            You defend the indefensible.

            Faith is belief without reason.
            It is by definition “unreasonable”.

            The enemy of humanity is faith – the absence of thinking.

            You defended the suspension of critical faculties repeatedly.

            Here you go again!
            You believe in a God? Whatsoever for?
            Again, no evidence, no thought – ‘just because’.


          • Isernia

            “People need to be abducted away from such nonsense (faith) not toward it.”
            If Faith in any religion translates to love, charity, compassion, caring, respect for the natural world, mercy, helping others, well-being of individual and community, judging a person by their merits not their associations/background/race/ethnicity/ life-style, rejection of materialism and greed, a world-view of humanity, tolerance, compromise, denying oneself
            those pleasures which might harm others, etc. etc….then I say BRING FAITH and RELIGION on if it encourages these personal and group characteristics.
            When the opposite attributes are evidence by those who declare their actions as favorable to their god, then I say
            EDUCATE…all your discussion about critical thinking, science are just talking points. (Education is for zealots of any religion who use their god as motivation for war and conflict.) Atheists, ala X-CHRISTIAN, as contrasted with agnostics and secular humanists, should reflect on the reasons behind their anti-religious bias (i.e. personal experiences with the accesses of religion) before continuing the anti-faith crusade.

          • X-Christian

            Faith is poison. It is time to abandon it.

            The Good Samaritan had no religion yet he was the perfection of civility and humanity. What a beautiful philosophy! Today, Doctors Without Borders follow this philosophy without any ‘faiths’.

            Why follow the rape-commanding, enslaving, petty, genocidal desert gods of ancient history? They demand human sacrifices and slavish obedience and conformity. Jesus was no different toward his ‘flock’.

            Why self-subject oneself to
            be the slave of a woman-hating, totalitarian imaginary dictator who
            tells you that you “know nothing” and that “you are unworthy.”

            and there is NO EVIDENCE that

            He exists at all.

            Faith is poison. It is uncivilized.
            Faith is the absence of thought. It leads to suicide bombers and other horrors.

          • brettearle

            Faith is NOT religion.

            Faith is NOT twisting the mind to become messianic.

            Faith is everywhere where people practice support and kindness–regardless of religion; regardless of men and women who are MDs–and who are parts of doctors without borders missions throughout the World.

            God is with men and women–MDs and others who sacrifice to save refugees–regardless of whether they are theists, agnostics, or Atheists.

            You’re missing the whole point.

            You’re missing the whole point because somewhere along the line, your anger–as the result of being personally burnt or as the result of your personal outrage over the way you think the world works–was redirected toward the ignorance of religion.

            I am NOT TALKING ABOUT RELIGION. I am talking about GOD.

            Wake up.

            I’m angry at Religion, as well. Quite angry.

            What’s more I am sometimes angry with God!

            That’s why I don’t worship him.

            But whether you like it or not–and you can scream all you want–he does EXIST.

          • X-Christian

            So every time a suicide bomber blows up a bunch of innocent people at the direction of Allah – you respond by saying what?

            You think it is a good thing he had ‘faith’?
            Faith in what? A God? Why?
            What good does faith do?
            Why have it?

            Faith is just pretending. There is no evidence for any god? How can you defend this?

          • brettearle

            I am not talking about people who are deranged or who are misguided or misdirected.

            Those people never had real Faith or lost it a long time ago.

            God knows who has real faith.

            An MD atheist, who works for Doctors without Borders in Senegal has Faith and has God’s blessing.

            Real genuine Faith is different from the bogus kind. One can know the difference.

            But I think that while God exists, he is far from perfect.

          • X-Christian

            So compassion is the Lord at work – but death and injury is NOT?

            Which God fits that description?

            Not Yahweh, the killer god of Abraham. By extension, not his ‘son’ Jesus who does the killer’s bidding.

            To assert that “God is imperfect” – is to admit that God is man made. That no god exists.

          • X-Christian

            “God is with men and women” even “atheists”?

            Excuse me? That is quite a claim!
            Where is your evidence? Because I see absolutely NO reason to believe that claim at all.

            Atheists do not believe in God, presumably if God had any power at all he would certainly withhold such ‘graces’ from an atheist! How condescending and arrogant of you to say god works through atheists – especially when you have no evidence for it at all.

            Why not claim magic Leprechauns?

            Don’t you understand that you have shown NO evidence for your claim?

          • brettearle


            I told you, you were clueless.

            You do good work, God is with you–regardless of whether you believe in Him or not.

          • X-Christian

            You say, “God is with you – regardless of whether you believe in him or not”

            You just make statements. No evidence. No reasons.

            When the suicide bombers and witch hunters do their nasty deeds you can be sure that their ‘logic’ works on the same empty assertions and claims.

          • brettearle

            It’s a waste of time with this guy.

            He thrives on arrogant negativity–for its own sake.

            He is so far gone, on his dysfunctional obsessions, that he can’t exchange ideas without going off the deep end.

            Give it up, with him.

            He thrives on attention.

            And in so thriving on this attention, he’s too narrow-minded and mean-spirited to warrant our acknowledgement..

            Just read his pernicious and/or inane outbursts.

    • X-Christian

      The search for god is a dead end.
      Mr. Ashbrook needs more scientists…Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss and others.

      • brettearle

        How would you know it’s a Dead End?

        You mean because it was a Dead End for you, that you can speak for others–and have the Hubris to claim that it is true for Mankind?

        That’s what I call the epitome of Respect and Self-Respect.

        Yes, sir….

        • X-Christian

          What evidence exists for a god?

          I’m ready.

          Until then, Mythology is all it is. An interesting topic to a point – but who can really care about the world of “organized pretending” that is religion?

          What a silly subject.

          • brettearle

            There may be Evidence that you don’t, or wouldn’t, believe in.

            Scientists can still speculate about certain aspects of reality–even without specific evidence.

            Happens all the time, with Cosmologists, who write numerous books, these days–who have theoretical physics backgrounds, that are as credible, or almost as credible, as those with advance degrees from Cal Tech.

            Faith: What a critical and important subject….

          • X-Christian

            Yes. So what? There MAY be evidence of all sorts of things.

            But the time to believe in something is when the evidence emerges. Not before.

            Do you just believe everything everybody tells you- is that your method??
            Do you just nod approvingly when someone says they just saw Sasquatch in your backyard?

            Please don’t be ridiculous.

          • brettearle

            It’s all-or-nothing extremes with you, designed to fuse mythic beasts with a timeless and universal experience for billions of people–to wit, faith and belief in God.

            Think of how pathetic it is, simply to pass off the beliefs of billions.

            Don’t be fool-hardy–`cuz that’s what you fully are….

          • X-Christian

            Millions of people believed in Osiris once. And that is much older than Jesus.

            Doesn’t mean Osiris is real. In fact, you – i’d guess – would say they were probably ‘incorrect’ to believe that Osiris would give them the ability to hover over the pyramids for eternity.

            Why bother believing if there is absolutely no evidence to show which of any of these Gods is the real one?

            Why should I waste any time praying to Zeus or Thor or Horus unless I can be certain that one of them is actually the true god?

            And how can you expect anyone to respect someone who would believe it without evidence? Or worse, TEACH A CHILD this nonsense?

            The evidence we do have says very clearly that these ancient beliefs are delusions. Seems pretty clear to me.

          • brettearle

            It’s not my fault that your belief in Evidence is narrowed by its own definition.

            There is no way that we can say that Egyptology was destructive for every single Egyptian.

          • X-Christian

            The question is not what is destructive. We already know that suspension of critical faculties is destructive.

            The issue is ‘what is true’.

            Leprechauns, unicorns and fairies are apparently not real. Who knows for sure? Who cares?

            If there is no evidence – OF ANY KIND – you must dump it. I don’t think it is so much to ask that people be honest about things.

          • brettearle

            Again, it’s all or nothing with you.

            Frankly, underneath it all, I think you’re scared of the unknown.

            That’s why you have such contempt for it.

            Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

            You will likely deny your fear, for as long as you live.

          • X-Christian

            I see the unknown and I say:

            “Wow, I wonder what that is. Let’s go find out!”

            But you see the unknown and you say:
            “Wow, It MUST be fairies!”

            Honestly. This is ridiculous.
            Science is about exploration and wonder.
            “Faith” is about certainty, ignorance and stupidity.

            It is clear which one of us hates the unknown – it is you.

          • brettearle

            Nope. You’re jumping to the wrong conclusions.

            I don’t necessarily believe in fairies….

            I must have gotten you riled, th`ar, a bit….

            Who said anything about hatred?

          • X-Christian

            Contempt = hatred.
            You brought it up.

          • X-Christian

            You confront big questions and say “wow, God did it.” And you are done.

            Me? I think and keep asking more questions because that is where the fun is,
            that is how knowledge grows and that is what moves us to the next set of incredibly
            exciting mysteries.

            God stops all the questions. God is way too boring for me.

            If people stopped asking questions and did as the priests demanded many
            centuries ago, we never would have learned anything about reality.

            We’d still
            be burning frankenscence over epileptics hoping for revelations! Good riddance
            to all that.

  • Ed75

    Of course, apparitions have to be approved by the Church before they can be declared to be real, this one of course wasn’t.

    • brettearle

      No Church, Synagogue, Mosque, or Ashram has the authority to declare WHAT is an apparition and WHAT is not.

      Where is it written–within the History of Mankind–that such judgment is peculiar to the Church and nowhere else?

      Where? It is written ONLY in the Church, by its adherents, that the Church is the sole authority.

      Which covers, of course, a minority of the history of the population of Humanity and Mankind.

      • Ed75

        This goes back to the authority of the Church. The Jewish people were adopted as God’s people, and their prophets told of God’s purpose to send a Messiah. Christians idetnify this Messiah as the historical person Jesus Christ. (If you are looking for evidence, I would suggest studying this historical person.)
        Jesus established a Church, founded on Peter, and promised that he would protect it from error, and would send the Holy Spirit to guide it with himself. He even said to Peter ‘He who hears you, hears me’, telling us that the teaching of the Church is reliable and true.
        The Marian Appartian they are investigating right now is Medjugorge, very exciting. I’m sure it’s real, let’s see what their judgement is.
        There are other religions: the pre-Catholic ones were intended to prepare societies for the reception of the Gospel. The post-Catholic ones (Islam and Protestantism) are breaks from the fullness of the truth, though they contain a lot of truth in them, and God also uses them to bring people to salvation.

    • X-Christian

      What is the criteria for an approved ‘apparition’?
      How does this not a violation of critical thinking?

      • Ed75

        It would, indeed, if all we have is reason. But that is a denial of revelation. If God has indeed revealed the truth to us, and in addition given us a vehicle that we can go to for the truth (‘The pillar and bullwark of the truth’, as Paul says, is ‘the Church’), then we can turn to the Church for decisions.

        • X-Christian

          You have built a tautology – a fallacy.

          You said, “If God indeed revealed the truth.” Okay, but don’t go any further!
          Explain “Which God?”

          Allah? Zeus? Aphrodite? Yahweh?

          So you need to show supporting evidence that:
          a. Something was in FACT revealed.
          b. Show its connection to that particular God.
          c. Be convincing enough for a non-believer to understand it.

          Otherwise you cannot proceed to declare anything ‘additional’.

          • Ed75

            For a Catholic, and claiming to be objectively true, there are three things that cannot be explained by natural causes (among others): the Jewish faith, the historical person Jesus Christ, and the existence and persistence of the Catholic Church. These things one can see.
            The Catholic Church also claims that the Gospels, which are very specific and concrete, are historically true, eye-witness reports.
            When Jesus walked the earth, he performed miracles, or ‘signs’, one reason was to bring his disciples to ‘come to believe in Him’, as it says. His enemies didn’t deny that he performed miracles, they claimed He did them by the power of evil. (And their difficulty is understandable.)
            So something was in fact revealed: Moses saw the burning bush; the Egyptians did come out of Egypt; the apostles spoke with, saw, touched Jesus Christ.
            When John the Baptist asked if Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus replied with the prophecy of Isaiah: the deaf hear, the lame walk, and good news is preached to the poor….’, this can also be seen today in the work the Church does across the world.
            But perhaps the thing to look for is the saints – to see what they do, and knowing they could not do this without God. Watch how Pope Francis acts and speaks. Sorry for being so long!

          • X-Christian

            If John the Baptist was truly so impressed with Jesus (remember the gospels are fan fiction in my opinion) Why did John the Baptist reject Jesus? Why did he refuse to be a disciple? Why did his people follow him and not Jesus?

            Regarding Pope Francis:
            He is just a man. A person who has decided, on his own, that compassion and love for fellow humans is the real message of Jesus (though other Popes knew well that it isn’t)

            The Good Samaritan was not a Christian since it is Jesus who tells the story. Nor is the Samaritan a religious person of any kind. We can rule out Pope Francis’ compassion as something specific to Christianity.

            Second, The Good Samaritan did unto his neighbor exactly as he would want done to himself in the same situation.

            The ‘law of reciprocity’ (or the golden rule) has been with humanity in every culture since the dawn of civilization.

            This is not evidence for a God but it is evidence that Humans know what is good for them. The law of reciprocity is a good, practical philosophy.

            Compassion and empathy require no gods nor are they evidence of a God.

          • Ed75

            Why do you think John rejected Jesus? At one point, since he had been in jail and hadn’t seen Jesus’ Ministry, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the one they were waiting for, and Jesus assured him that he was by quoting Isaiah. John did have disciples – it’s thought that John the Apostle and James, and maybe others, were John’s disciples who followed Jesus after he said ‘Behold the Lamb of God’, they followed him. Jesus wasn’t in competition with John, John’s ministry was to prepare people to meet Jesus, but he was soon in jail.

          • X-Christian

            Thanks for engaging me on the question of John the Baptist.
            It has been proposed by most Biblical scholars that Jesus was a disciple of John the Baptist and this would explain why he was baptized by John at the beginning of his ministry.
            Theologically, it is challenging because the purpose of baptism was supposedly about purification of the spirit and if Jesus needed baptism that implies he was impure.
            John the Baptist’s absolute allegiance to Jesus was apparently not convincing enough to many of his own followers since his own apocalyptic church continued for centuries after Jesus.
            If you have ever read any fan fiction, the story of Jesus seems embellished in the same way as certain characters give lip service to Jesus’ ministry but their ambivalent behavior gets a special exposition or explanation later on.

          • Ed75

            One thing is that Jesus made it clear that he did not need baptism – John proteseted ‘It is not me that should baptize you, but you should baptize me’ and ‘I am unfit to tie the strap of his sandal’, but Jesus allowed it ‘That all righteousness will be fulfilled’. The Baptism of Jesus is the second most important event in his public life. John’s followers were meant to become Christians – ‘Behold the Lamb of God’ said John, which they probably did after John’s death.

          • X-Christian

            There are many sects which branched out from John the Baptist. Most of these groups appear to have rejected Jesus as divine – as in the case of the Mandaeists which number about 70,000 members today.

            I no longer understand anything about baptism, and I especially do not understand why Jesus had to be baptized or why it is of the slightest importance. To me it only renders the ritual that much more meaningless.

          • Ed75

            The good Samaritan was indeed not a Christian, or, to be precise, a follower of Jesus. More importantly, he was not even a Jew, even not accepted by the Jews. How could such a man be the one do the good act? Jesus is telling us that there are laws writteh on the heart of every person, and that his call is to everyone. (A more profound interpretation of the parable is that Jesus is descibing Himself and his act of healing mankind, pictured as the injured traveller.) So compassion isn’t specifically Christian, indeed.

          • X-Christian

            Again, thanks for the thoughtful reply.
            I do believe that a ‘sense of fairness’ is written on the human heart because the evidence has shown this to be true. It is indeed part of the package of being a mammal on this earth.
            It is the result of evolution.
            It has been shown that many mammals show the same ‘sense of fairness’ elsewhere in the animal kingdom and it is not surprising that humans have the trait as well. It is not a sign of ‘God’ (to me) but that evolution has seen to it that we have this survival skill – and in that way it was ‘written this on our hearts’ in the same way that love of parents and children is ‘written on our hearts.’

            You could argue that it is God if you wish to. I cannot prove you are wrong.

            But we can show other creatures on the earth share these traits just as profoundly. The Golden Rule and love of offspring are not limited to humans.

          • Ed75

            That’s an interesting idea, that we are all born with compassion and the Church perhaps dampens our inclinations to kindness, and finally we have a pope who is in line with our inborn tendencies.
            These discussion sound simple but involve a good amount of theological reasoning, I hope I get it mostly right.
            On the one hand, you are right. We are made good (Genesis ‘And God saw that it was very good’), and after Original Sin we lost original justice and other gifts of grace, and our intellect became darkened and our will weakened, and we now had an inclination to sin, but we were not wholly depraved as in some Protestant thought, but were still good, but injured. So it’s true that we still have a natural feeling for empathy.
            On the other hand, though, it’s not correct. As Jesus said, ‘If you who are evil can know how to give good things to your children, imagine how much the Father will give to those who ask him’, and ‘Without me you can do nothing’.
            Our task is to worship God and to grow in sanctification, but part of that is doing good. To do that the Church tells us that we need God’s grace, most get it through the Sacraments. This grace
            enlightens our intellect and strengthens our will to do good, specifically to do what he wants us to do.
            How can one show man’s acts are more than just what is there by nature? The Council of Trent tells us that anyone who persists in the practice of virtue for any amount of time does so with the help of God’s grace and not by himself. (This was to answer the Pelagians who argued that we could will ourselves into holiness and goodness, and to answer some Protestants who said that grace and holiness weren’t available to man in this life.) So in the Church’s view, the Church doesn’t dampen empathy, but makes it stronger, among the other things it does, mostly throught the Sacraments.

          • X-Christian

            Thanks for your thoughts. You tie things into the church doctrine in unexpected ways.

            I may fumble on how to express this….

            “Doing Good” when it comes to Christianity is often terribly harmful. There are no checks and balances on invisible deity or supernatural notions.

            It is not helpful for example to “pray the gay away” as some churches try to do.

            Nor is it helpful to forgive the psychopath who is threatening to kill someone.

            Nor is it helpful to hand one’s wrongdoing to Jesus for absolution. To ‘be made fully clean’ again is to absolve oneself of responsibility.

            Doing good seems much cleaner and more helpful when we are focused on actually ‘doing good’ instead of measuring our behavior against the doctrine or the church.

            Slavery was thought to be correct for centuries. The Southern Baptists were founded on the idea that slavery was commanded by God and Jesus supported it – they thought they were ‘doing good’ by keeping the slaves happy – instead of by releasing them.

            Catholic Charities in Africa refused to hand out condoms to women whose husbands had AIDS because – they were doing ‘good’.
            They said, “Aids is bad, condoms are worse” and so 30 million people died.

            Doing good with religion worries me.

            Doctors without Borders saves millions of lives without religion. That is my idea of ‘doing good’.

            We need to flesh out what is meant by ‘doing good’. Holy orders are terrifying.

            Christians ‘doing good’ is an idea which often scares me to death.

          • Ed75

            The Church has obviously always taught compassion, but they have lots of other things to teach also. The Church teaches the beatitudes, and honors the saints, who live them But also the Catholic teaching that the Ten Commandments are written on the heart of every person. Pope Benedict and Pope and John Paul II, of course, funded more charitable instutitions than any other institution in the world, and kissed babies and spoke of mercy (John Paul was the mercy pope), but the media didn’t cover it as much.

          • X-Christian

            Regarding the 10 Commandments. You say they are ‘written on the hearts’ of every person and I disagree completely.

            Slavery is not written on my heart. And I am especially opposed to ‘thought crime’.

            These are especially insidious:

            (Deut. 5:21)
            “Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou cast an evil eye upon thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his male slave, or his female
            slave, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbor’s.”

            (Deut. 5:14)
            “But the seventh day is the Sabbath of Yahweh thy god: in it thou shalt not do
            any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy male slave, nor thy
            female slave, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy
            stranger that is within thy gates; that thy male slave and thy female slave may
            rest as well as thou.”

            I say nix both of those ridiculous commandments with these superior ones:

            “Though shalt not own other humans as property.”
            “Thou shalt not rape.”

            Too bad God didn’t consider them.

          • Ed75

            I don’t see slavery or thought crime as being commanded in the ten commandments. I don’t see a problem with the 9th or the 3rd commandments above. The commandments contain areas of sin which contain many specific sins, for example rape would be oulawed by the 9th commandment – another woman is either someone else’s wife now, or will be (or could be) in the future, so seeking relations with her would break the 9th commandment. About owning human beings, that would fall under the fifth commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’, where killing includes denying part of the humanity of another person. (But at times it was an entrenched social arrangement which was closer to bonded servitude than what we think of as slavery.)

          • X-Christian

            I appreciate your engagement on this issue. It has been my experience that very few Christians can bear to look past the surface of their religion.

            Slavery is without a doubt among the commands of God if not a direct commandment.

            I would remind you that what we call the 10 commandments was never explicitly limited to the decalogue by Jesus or other prophets but were always intended to include the other 2 sets of 10 commandments. The total list is 30 commandments which vary tremendously.

            Additionally, the first commandment after the initial decalogue includes these commands (in context):

            God’s Commandment to brand certain slaves

            The Lord said, “if the
            servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to
            go free,’ then his master must take him…to the door or the doorpost
            and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant FOR LIFE.” (EXODUS, 21:5)

            God’s commandment for selling your daughters as Slaves:

            “When a man sells his daughter
            as a slave, SHE WILL NOT BE FREED at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be
            bought back again.” (Exodus 21:7)

            God’s commands regarding slaves as permanent property from childhood are commandments which were meant to protect the Israelites from enslaving each other:

            “you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you…also the children..You may treat them as
            your property, passing them on to your children as a PERMANENT INHERITANCE…” (Leviticus 25:44-46)

            As you know, Exodus 20 involves the Commandments. Immediately following is Exodus 21 which involves the commandments regarding slavery.

            The 600 death by stoning laws throughout Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are not said to be “commandments” but are laws which are themselves enforced by other stoning laws. Since the penalty of disobeying the stoning laws was death – they are ‘commandments’ by another name.

            Many Christians argue that these laws were old and meant for Jews alone.

            But if God is perfect, his morality infallible and always good then why are these laws so revolting to us and unpalatable that nobody follows them today?

            You must admit, the whole thing is frightfully unresolved. Jesus is not the ‘fulfillment’ of these laws. It is incoherent.

          • X-Christian

            “Thou shalt not covet”
            This is simply a thought crime.
            There is no other volition.

            God does command slavery in several places such as-
            “As you approach a town to attack it…all the people inside shall serve
            you as slaves.” (Deut. 20:10)

          • Ed75

            The ninth commandment does indeed involve thought, it’s kind of a bridge to the internal commandments of the Beatitutes. Taking what belongs to someone else is so serious that God doesn’t even want us to think of it.
            The slavery question is involved. When Moses led the people out of Egypt, God wanted to make a covenant with the first-born of Israel. But they sinned by worshipping the Golden Calf (they had not left the gods of Egypt, the Egyptians worshipped cows, etc.). The tribe of the Levites alone stood up for the Lord, and slew 3,000 of the idol worshippers. God made a covenant with the tribe of the Levites, Leviticus, and from then on a priest had to come from the tribe of Levi.
            After 40 years in the desert, and the death of that generation, they were at Moab ready to enter the promised land. And this new generation committed a sin equally grevious, in Moab, they worshipped the Baal of Peor. God made a new covenant with them as a result, Deuteronomy.
            Both these covenants had a penitential and restrictive nature (see Scott Hahn’s books or Jeff Cavins ‘The Great Adventure’ series), kind of like a father who has to detail many more rules and restrictions if his son is rebellious and disobedient than if he is cooperative.
            All these disciplinary laws, different from the ten commandments, ended with Jesus, and are often the laws Paul is talking about as unnecessary at this time.

          • X-Christian

            Thanks again for continuing the conversation. I think I read Jeff Cavins work at some point.

            But getting back to your comments about being punished for thought crime…
            You said, “God doesn’t even want us to think of it.”

            Yet, shouldn’t God know the human mind better than we do? After all, coveting is part of Jesus’ parables. One must covet a larger return on an investment in order to satisfy the Parable of the Talents or to satisfy the nobleman in the Parable of the Minas. So there is a contradiction in these preachments.

            Also, not ‘coveting’ would stifle creativity. If your neighbor has a better tool, or warmer jacket on account of a new material or sewing pattern, the process of coveting will initiate your own purchase of that tool or your making of a similar jacket for your spouse or your children to keep them warmer.

            Coveting need not result in ‘taking’ or ‘stealing’ which are already wrong.
            Coveting is usually completely innocent and almost always natural.

            Coveting a neighbor’s wife (lust) is trickier and cannot be avoided (if you want to be honest). Though ACTING on lust can be easily avoided.

            Atheists – who wouldn’t necessarily look for wisdom in the commandments – follow the golden rule of reciprocity instead, which is just as good – and likely better than the commandments.

            I would suggest it might be possible that “thought crimes” such as coveting or lust would be a problem in ancient times if the person in question were what we would call today a psychopath.

            Psychopaths must have been quite mysterious to the ancient world – they feel no pain and act on any impulse. Psychopaths have never made much good use of the commandments. I suspect such individuals (though small in number) were the reason such thought crimes were created. It was a primitive effort to control psychotic behavior. My speculation only.

            In any case, there are already commandments against adultery and stealing.

            “Thou shalt not covet” remains, to me, a thought crime and a serious problem because it teaches children at a very early age that God knows the privacy of their thoughts and will punish accordingly.

            I would submit, That is not healthy for anyone.

          • X-Christian

            Happy New Year!


            You said, “All these disciplinary laws, different from the ten commandments, ended with Jesus…”

            I don’t think so.
            Jesus commands directly from Leviticus.

            “…Follow the commands, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, DEFRAUD NOT…” (Mark 10:19)

            Yet, the 10 commandments do not include DEFRAUDING. Only in Leviticus do we find this law.

            “Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbor,” (Lev. 19:13)

            So Jesus is not limiting the Commands to the 10 Commandments, but directly goes to a broader list involving Leviticus and perhaps other laws, the end points of which are not known.

          • Ed75

            On the other hand, there is another theme. One might point to King Saul: he was commanded by God through a prophet (Samuel?) to conquer a people, a very sinful people, and he was told to destroy all the people and all their goods because they were very sinful and wicked. He destroyed them, but he kept some of their desirable goods because they were useful. But this people were so wicked that God didn’t even want their goods among his people. Because of his disobedience the kingship was taken away from Saul and given to David. The point is that God ordered the destruction of all this people, not even to take them as slaves. It is severe to kill or take slaves, though it was the practice, but it shows us how much God hates sin. In the New Covenant (Testament) this is our attitude toward sin and the evil angels, it was prefigured by the actions of the Israelites toward the nations that opposed them. (Also the Israelites had laws on how to deal with their slaves – like jubilee years – which meant that they had less harsh treatment than otherwise, and the commendments about not working on the
            Sabbath include the slaves and servants.)

          • X-Christian

            You said,
            “But this people were so wicked that God didn’t even want their goods among his people.”

            Please define ‘so wicked’.

            God destroyed humanity with genocide according to the story of Noah. Wasn’t that ‘wicked’?

            And if killing millions repeatedly fails to fully eliminate ‘wickedness’ why does God continually use genocide if it is so ineffective?

            Wicked is as wicked does. No?

          • X-Christian

            One of the reasons Pope Francis is polling better than some other Popes is his compassion.

            Compassion is the trump card sales pitch. It is infallible (pun intended).

            Nobody can resist compassion because a ‘sense of fairness’ is truly part of the human sensibility. The vast majority of people are born with this sense of fairness and we all respond very positively to it. Every time.

            Now, remember. We are BORN with compassion and fairness in the package of being human. Just as we are born with fingers and toes. It is part of evolution’s gift to us – and, like the sex drive, the need for sleep, the need for food… it is fully explained with science.

            I am thankful that there is a figure on the world stage who is speaking about compassion and fairness.

            In contrast, my complaint about the Pope may sound petty – but it isn’t.
            The Church takes credit for fingers and toes when we were born with them anyway. That adds up to a misinformation campaign.

          • Ed75

            The law of reciprocity, the golden rule, is indeed good practical policy, and people can get to it on the basis of reason. Faith and reason don’t contradit each other, but faith gives a broader context and reason for following the golden rule. The Jewish people extended this rule to ‘Love God with all your heart, all your soul, and with all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself’, Jesus reiterated these, and added further ‘Love your neighbor as I have loved you’, a step further, the final step.

          • X-Christian

            Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

            I think we both agree that compassion and empathy are crucial to living healthy, well-adjusted lives – life would be worthless without such caring.

            For me, the Golden Rule is something which is attainable: Caring for others as you would want others to care for you. There is a healthy dose of sanity to this rule.

            But the insidious – and immoral – twist which Jesus brings to this rule is the absolutist injunction “to love” others as a presumed ‘God’ would love. This is impossible – a deeply unfair demand – humans will only come up short. Failure is baked into the cake.

            And what does this do to Love itself?

            It cheapens it. What is the value of love when it is handed out so cheaply and on the command of a ‘higher authority’?

            It rips against our deepest integrity.

            Suppose your boss told you that not only would you have to work with all 150 people in your department, but you MUST also love them. What then is the love you feel for your daughter or son or wife back at home? Is that a special love – a different love? According to Jesus it isn’t supposed to be. And the greatest love is reserved only for God. The price of disobedience on this point is very high.

            Jesus tells a parable of disobedience and it contains a fearful warning:

            “But those mine enemies,
            which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and execute them in
            front of me. ‘ (Luke 19:27)

            Jesus sounds good on the surface – After all, who could argue with love?
            But it doesn’t survive closer examination.

  • Ed75

    People who believe in God are always asked ‘Did you ever doubt?’ (Do we ask atheists, ‘Were you ever tempted to seek God?’) But doubt is misunderstood: a perplexity, as in ‘Why did God allow this event?’ is a perplexity, not a doubt. A doubt is an act of the will, a choice to consider disbelief. So most people of faith will say that they tested their beliefs against all available evidence, and they have things they don’t understand (of course, it’s a big world), but that no, they never chose to doubt (since it was unreasonable).

    • brettearle

      Congratulations Ed!

      What for?, you may ask!

      Well, that question is easily answered!:

      For not mentioning the word, “Abortion”, in one of your comments.

      Keep up the good work!

    • HonestDebate1

      My view is not doubt or faith. I believe it is impossible to know the ultimate truth but I don’t doubt it exist. I remember Pope John Paul’s last days and his struggle. I thought about how comforting it must have been to have such strong faith at that time. I think religion provides that comfort to many not only near the end of life but throughout it. I remain open to God’s enlightenment but so far I have not been touch by his hand.

      • brettearle

        I support this statement.

        And I do not, for the life of me, understand why this statement received a “thumbs down”.

        Bad form, indeed–regardless of whether one agrees with the statement or not: For the statement was not, in the least, mean-spirited.

        If someone didn’t agree with the statement, then don’t add a thumbs down–lest you become a secret jerk.


        Because if someone is an Atheist (Agnostic) and is a political Liberal, there is no need to go after someone’s view of Faith–simply because you disagree with his political views. .

        Which is what, I believe, has happened in this case. [Although I suppose I may have misinterpreted.]

        And no, HD, I am not saying this because I seek to curry favor with you.

        My statement comes out of a contempt for ignorant bias.

        • HonestDebate1

          I guess I appreciate that but maybe just lighten up a little. It seems to me you are over thinking things a bit. Some things have nothing to do with politics but if you look hard enough one can probably find something. I receive many down votes simply because it’s me. I am convinced that many times its unrelated to what I write. And I don’t make any assumptions about your motivations. It’s impossible to curry favor with me through honest debate which is blind to favors of any kind.

      • Ed75

        It’s interesting that you see John Paul’s faith and how it comforted him. But at the same time you say that you doubt if absolute truth exists. In that case he believed a deception in order to gain comfort – terrible!
        His faith is his experience with absolute truth, not only does it exist, but it’s accessible to man. These are two large philosophical questions: existence of truth and its accessibility.
        Philosophical truth, by reason alone, is uncertain – Socrates said that he know nothing, indicating that reason can not bring us to certainty by itself. It needs principles to start with.
        For the Catholic, we believe that God is not a deceiver, so the reality we see is what actually exists. But more than that, we hold that truth exists and is accessible to man – not from man’s efforts – but that it has been revealed by God to man. This revelation is found in the Jewish Scriptures, and then in the New Testament, in the Church’s teaching of them, and finally and most importantly in the person of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, who said ‘I am the truth’, that truth in the fullest sense is a Person, this Person. This is the faith that you saw in John Paul.

        • HonestDebate1

          I wrote that I don’t doubt it exists.

    • X-Christian

      When did you choose to not believe in Leprechauns?
      Could it be you have seen no evidence for Leprechauns?

      Why believe in a god?
      There is no evidence there either.

      • http://www.mindmagic123.com Hypnosis Los Angeles

        There is certainly no evidence that humans created themselves, or the Cosmos either for that matter. This does not mean that the more Religious conceptions of the Creative force are valid, mostly they appear childish, which is why they invite ridicule from “critical thinkers.”

        • X-Christian

          But humans do create themselves. It is called sex.

          Religious people insist on making ridiculously simple things insanely complicated.

  • Bminder

    am wondering what mr rodriguez thinks of the Mexican Zapatistas and Subcommandante Marcos, the so-called masked prophet; and what he thinks of Evo Morales and his initiative for the Rights of Mother Earth. These in particular seem to be two very bold, thoughtful, active critiques of the dominant personality of World Culture as of now; but I speak from a glance and wonder if he might have longer thoughts in this vein to share.

  • J__o__h__n

    When did On Point become Oprah’s book club?

  • J__o__h__n

    Isn’t the student’s essay that abortion was not traumatic for her enough. Why should she have to address the hysteria about it?

  • M S

    I wish he would speak to the downside of young men being raised without fathers or men in their lives.

    • J__o__h__n

      It helps them embrace their Abrahamic desert spirit goddess.

      • M S

        It does a really bad job of learning conflict resolution.

  • J__o__h__n

    This is mostly blather with delusions of profoundness. Men don’t need a word like Ms. A non-gender specific alternative for husband or wife is “spouse.” Then he claims that he might not want that. He didn’t define what he wants to label and then complains that there isn’t one. I’m sure once an all encompassing label is created, he’ll complain about not wanting to be labeled.

  • J__o__h__n

    I don’t think the hunger strike is going to change any Republican minds. They don’t even support food stamps so preventing starving isn’t a priority for them.

  • M S

    Tom is in the bag for the pro-immigration crowd. Where is the other side? Oh, no time for them.

    • J__o__h__n

      They were at lunch.

      • M S

        Eating, like normal people.

    • hennorama

      M S — feel free to make the anti-immigration and anti-immigrant case.

      • HonestDebate1

        I’ve never heard that augment. Do you want to talk about illegal aliens?

      • M S

        I meant on the show.

        • hennorama

          M S — thank you for your response.

          • M S

            You are very welcome.

  • Zenplatypus

    Rodriguez’s “Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father” is a fantastic read, thought-provoking and original. Interestingly, I’ve heard him speak on a few occasions, and his delivery echoes his prose, with all kinds of delightful asides and tangents. I hope to find time to read his new book.

  • hennorama

    Nelson Mandela is dead. May he rest in peace.

  • X-Christian

    Let’s stop assuming that everybody believes in some sort of God or spiritual nonsense. Okay?

    A huge number of us don’t care a rat’s carbuncle for this ridiculous mumbo jumbo. Next time you hear someone say “spiritual” or ‘God’ just think
    “Mermaid” or “Leprechaun”.

    That is what it sounds like to a large minority of us.

    • Hard truths

      Actually, a very small minority:

      “2.4% of American adults say they are atheists when asked about their religious identity”


      Just sayin’…

      • X-Christian

        When asked if they had any religious affiliation 20% of Americans say “NONE.”

        That is 60 Million people.
        That is a bigger number than many religions put together.

        Religion, thankfully, is dying fast.

        Just saying.

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