William Edelen Blog – The Contrary Minister

WILLIAM EDELEN: President’s Day


The Contrary Minister

I cannot tell you how much I look forward to this annual event. Once a year it gives me an opportunity to relieve the ignorance and illiteracy of the general public on our first six founding presidents… who were not even remotely Christian, but humanists and deists.

When I used to do this show out of KGO in San Francisco… the switchboard would light up like a Christmas tree, with callers saying, “I have never heard that in school: Why are teachers to afraid to teach those facts… that are in their actual quotes?” Our omission and censorship of these historical facts to school children, and with the media to adults, is insulting and an embarrassment to any historically educated adult who knows the truth.

I have one bust in my study. It is of Jefferson. On the base are these words of his: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” He uses the word “God” as a Deist, not as a Christian. A vast difference. He made this scathing statement aimed at the tyranny of the Christian Church. In a letter dated August 22, 1800, Dr. Benjamin Rush wrote Jefferson that “Republicanism should ally itself to the Christian religion in order to overturn all of the corrupted religions of the world.” Jefferson was appalled. He responded with his now famous “every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” including the tyranny of the Christian church.

Jefferson and John Adams, with James Madison, had almost a total contempt for Christian doctrine, dogma and superstitions.

William Edelen: James Madison on Christianity…


The Contrary Minister

“During almost 15 centuries, the legal establishment of Christianity has been on trial. What have been the fruits? These are the fruits, more or less, in all places: pride and indolence in the clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity and in both clergy and laity superstition, bigotry and persecution.”

James Madison, the father of the Constitution, presented this opinion on Christianity to the General Assembly of Virginia in 1785. Madison, our fourth president, continues: “What influence in fact have Christian ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In many instances they have been upholding the thrones of political tyranny. In no instance have they been seen as the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty have found in the clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate liberty, does not need the clergy.”

In Virginia, the Episcopal Church was established. In 1744 Christians of all other sects were being arrested and persecuted. Madison addressed that septic situation in these words: “That diabolical, hell conceived, principle of persecution rages, and to their eternal infamy, the clergy can furnish their quota of imps for such a business.”

WILLIAM EDELEN: The Truth of Nature


The Contrary Minister

“Men and books lie… only nature never lies.” Thomas Paine

“Nature is always TRUE. Only in nature can TRUTH be found.” Goethe

Over a hundred years ago Kierkegaard observed that maturity consists in the discovery that “there comes a critical moment where everything is reversed, after which the point becomes to understand more and more that there is something which cannot ever be understood.” The “critical moment” is to realize that so called “human wisdom” pales before the wisdom of nature.

In fact, Loren Eiseley, the distinguished Anthropologist and Chair of the Philosophy of Science Dept, the University of Pennsylvania writes that, “There is no such thing as wisdom.” The only “wisdom” can be found in nature where the spiritual and the material are ONE.

There is a belief held by many that I have always found to be especially pitiable. It is the idea that only man (Homo sapiens) is special, sacred and made in the image of God. Many want to differentiate between the supernatural and the natural, the sacred and the profane. But if the creation is the work of an omnipotent mystery

WILLIAM EDELEN: The Bible and Scholars



The Contrary Minister

Scholars with pre-eminent credentials all agree that the Old Testament is far, far removed from facts or history.

Dr. James Bennet Pritchard has been recognized internationally as one of the most distinguished biblical scholars and archaeologists in the world. He was Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, the curator of the Near Eastern section of the museum at the same university, biblical archaeological advisor to National Geographic magazine, as well as to the British Broadcasting System and Time-Life Books. Authentic biblical scholars of this caliber are rare indeed. In the professions of religious and biblical studies (I use the word loosely) are more phonies, quacks and charlatans than any other known to me.

I heard him speak several years ago when he was the President of the Archaeological Institute of America. I have copies of his lecture in my files so that I have no need to rely only on my memory.

“It is no longer possible,” he said, “to read the bible as our parents and grandparents did. Far too many discoveries have been made, using dating methods that are the most sophisticated known. Six discoveries are crucial.” It would take ten full columns to document why they know each to be true. They are:

WILLIAM EDELEN: Cults and Real Religion



The Contrary Minister

Psycho-ceramic (crack pot) ideas sometimes spew out of politicians so fast it is almost impossible to keep up with them. The “faith-based” circus that totally destroys the line between church and state must be one of the most insane. Some of the TV evangelists have screamed “You can’t give money to cults… but only to real religion… like us…”

Many have asked me the question: “What is a cult… and how can you tell the difference between a cult and a real religion?” Hey… easy question.

A Cult: Believes in heavenly signs such as comets and gateways to heaven and other mentally deranged ideas.

A Real Religion: Believes in heavenly signs such as stars in the East at their leaders birth and the “Sun standing still” for an entire day. (Joshua 10:12) and other mentally deranged ideas.

A Cult: Believes they have found the truth while all others are deceived.

A Real Religion: Believes they have found the truth while all others are deceived. “Salvation is only through Jesus.”

A Cult: The leader says, “Believe me and you will go to heaven.”

A Real Religion: The leader says, “Believe me and you will go to heaven. Don’t believe me and you will go to someplace called hell.”

A Cult: Has leaders, mostly men, often wearing fancy robes and promising you salvation and heaven if you will give them your money and property.

A Real Religion: Has leaders, mostly men, often wearing fancy robes and promising you salvation and heaven if you will give them your money and property.

WILLIAM EDELEN: The Torpid Endless Mass


Pilgrims crowd Copacabana beach as Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass of World Youth Day July 28 in Rio de Janeiro. During the service the pope commissioned an estimated 3 million people in attendance to become missionaries without borders. (CNS photo/Paulo Whitaker, Reuters) (July 28, 2013) See WYD-MASS July 28, 2013.

The Contrary Minister

The question for today is at the heart of the problem we face as a nation… It is Carl Jung’s question: “Why are so many millions willing and eager to turn their lives over to outside authorities?”

Why are so many today, without thinking, willing to turn their mind/brain… soul/spirit… over to outside individuals, institutions, authorities and ideologies? Whether it be to Osma bin Laden or whether it be to Christian, Muslim and Jewish authorities of dogma, or whether it be to Republican or Democratic dogma… or whatever the outside authority or institution might be that is telling you what to think, what to believe and how to live your life?

Carl Jung put it this way in his essays: “It is a delusion when the Christian churches try to rope the individual into some sort of social organization and reduce him or her to a condition of diminished responsibility, instead of raising him or her out of the torpid endless mass and making it clear that he, or she, is the one important factor. Resistance to the organized mass can be effected only by the man or woman who is as well organized in his/her individuality as the mass itself.”

William Edelen: Joseph Campbell — Metaphor and Religious Mystery



The Contrary Minister

Bill Moyers had two interviews with Joseph Campbell for his national television program, Bill Moyers Journal. In his introduction Moyers said “Joseph Campbell is one of the world’s foremost scholars of mythology.” Anyone having an interest in becoming religiously educated and enlightened will be helped by insights from these interviews.

Campbell brings out, of course, that mythological themes or motifs such as flood, virgin birth, resurrected hero, “heaven” concepts, a sacred meal (or ritualistic cannibalism) have a world-wide distribution and are everywhere. They are organized and ritualized according to local needs. In the Moyers’ interviews, Campbell said, “When people try to interpret a spiritual symbol (in mythology) as though it referred to a concrete fact, you have lost the message.”

Moyers: “Give me an example.”

Campbell: “Well, the image of the virgin birth is perfect for an example. This is a motif that occurs in all the mythologies of the world. There are virgin births all over the place in all religions. ‘Virgin birth’ is symbolic of the birth of the spiritual life, and so with resurrection themes or motifs. Misunderstanding consists in reading spiritual mythological symbols as though they were references to historical, factual events.”

Other observations by Campbell in the interviews include the following: “The ‘hero’ in mythology is always the founder of something, a new religion, a new age, a new way of life. The ‘hero’ founders of all religions usually go on their vision quest. The Buddha went into solitude and sat beneath the tree of Immortal Knowledge; Jesus goes off into the desert for 40 days; Zoroaster goes off into the desert, and so it goes.

WILLIAM EDELEN: Homo Storialus


isis and horus

The Contrary Minister

Biologists may classify us as Homo sapiens, “The Wise One,” but I would call us Homo storialus, the animal who tells stories. We tell them through folklore, legend and myth. We then act them out in ritual. It is safe to say that stories plus ritual equal religion. Stories are the threads by which we weave the tapestry of our culture, our religions and traditions.

The literalistic skeptic says: “I don’t want legends. I want facts.” He does not understand the observation made by D. H. Lawrence that there are two kinds of truth, a truth of truth and a truth of facts. A truth of facts has to do with dates, names and places and so forth. But a truth of truth is revealed through legend, myth, folklore and fairytales and has to do with the inner world of the imagination and emotions. They reveal the inner shape and contour of our minds, our longings and needs, our spirits.

We are now entering a beautiful, lovely period of folklore, legend, fantasy and myth.

“We Three Kings of Orient Are” is a perfect example. A beautiful carol, but no one has any idea how many wise men there were. There could have been two or fifty. And they were not Kings and they did not come from as far away as the Orient. They were magicians and came from no further away than Persia. The magicians were not Hebrew and would have been considered pagans. At any rate, through folklore, they and their three camels are with us every Christmas.

WILLIAM EDELEN: The Horror of Biblical “Gods”



The Contrary Minister

From time to time, as all writers do, I receive anonymous letters. In a number of such letters I have been asked: “Why don’t you quote God, instead of men?”

That always reminds me of a great cartoon in The New Yorker magazine a number of years ago. A minister is standing, robed, in his pulpit with waving arms and he is saying “and now, reading from the Bible, God says… and I quote of course.”

To deal with this question, I thought that a little multiple choice survey might help.

WILLIAM EDELEN: Mornings with Heraclitus



The Contrary Minister

I have a regular morning ritual that starts my days with great Joy… it is a habit that I cherish. Sitting in front of my wood burning fire, with my pre dawn coffee, I read pages of Heraclitus, or other great literatuare. It starts my day on a noble plane. I would not wilt the freshest part of the day with the littleness and banalities of morning television and news.

The wood in my fireplace is REAL wood, not the gas fed artificial wood, real wood from a stack in my backyard where a friend brings in several a day and puts them by my living room fireplace. Growing up in West Texas, with real wood, for real fires, there could be no other kind for me.

In front of the fireplace is a hooked rug of Indian design with a sun burst. My two four legged soul mates adore curling up on it, two Shih-Tzu’s, and with me in my chair experience this magic time of the day. I live alone and this is a very precious time where silence and peace, tranquility and vision become present and clear.

WILLIAM EDELEN: No Violence… No Dualism… No Absolutes…



The Contrary Minister (2002)

When asked “What am I?” I always answer by saying I think of myself as being within the historical stream of Mysticism where there is no violence, no dualism and no absolutes.

No Violence: The vast majority of all the religious violence of the last 2,000 years has come from the “believers” of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam… the people of the “book,” the bible. Carl Sagan called the burning of the library in Alexandria by Christians in 391 one of the most obscene atrocities in the history of our species, Homo sapiens. Had there been a world view and philosophy of mysticism there would have been no burning of the library, but a celebration of the wealth of knowledge stored there… nor would there have been the Crusades… the Inquisition… the witch slaughtering… nor would there be a Northern Ireland nightmare… nor would there be a West Bank or Gaza strip killing field… Such violence would be unthinkable and obscene to anyone living within the world view of mysticism.

No Dualism: We must rid ourselves of the dualism that infects so much of our orthodox religious views of the earth and the universe. Dualism constantly separates man and woman from the sacred… nature from man… and spirit from matter. Several  years ago the giant Zen Master, D. T. Suzuki, was lecturing at Stanford University. He opened his address by stepping up to the front of the stage, leaning toward the audience, and saying, “Man against God… God against Man… man against nature… nature against man… God against nature… nature against God… a very, very funny religion.”

Celebrate the Life of Bill Edelen…


WILLIAM EDELEN: To Live With Wonder

From WILLIAM EDELEN (1922 – 2015)
The Contrary Minister

If we are fortunate, at some point before we die, we can discover WONDER. For we who have become so preoccupied with gaining and spending, with winning and losing, have lost sight of the miracles around us. Wonder is the capacity of sustained joy and awe. Wonder is a sense of freshness and spontaneity. Every day is a surprise party. Life is a cafeteria of delights, a new flower, a hummingbird hovering, a cucumber cucumbering.

To sense the ultimate in the common and in the rush of the passing, stillness in the eternal is to live with wonder, with “Ah.”

The purpose of religion for thousands of years has been to put human life into direct contact with the life of the cosmos, mountain life, desert life, cloud life, sun life, moon life, water life, rain life, snow life, plant life, animal life, storm life, rock life, and so receive energy, joy, and transformation. That is why the seasons of Solstice and Equinox are so important in the celebrations of so many traditions.

Today, physicists are telling us that their understanding of “reality,” the nature and activity of the universe is bringing us closer and closer to the perspective of the ancient Eastern religions, especially Hinduism and classical Taoism.

We are a part of the cosmic dance, and all is one. Physicists assure us now that rocks and flowers dance with the dance of life. Trees dance to the wind. Salmon and trout and porpoise dance and leap with a ballet of grace and rhythm. Planets dance to beautifully intricate laws, even as do atoms. There is no line between the sacred and the profane, the supernatural and natural, the divine and the human. ALL is natural, ALL is sacred. ALL is divine. It is asked of us even as the carpenter asked in Alice in Wonderland: “Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the dance?” A recently translated Dead Sea Scroll records a disciple asking Jesus, “Master, how can we get into the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus answers, “Follow the birds, the beasts, the fish, and they will lead you in.”

Classical Taoism has been saying that for 3000 and more years. The Old Master of Taoism, Lao Tzu, born about 600 B.C. was immaculately conceived by a shooting star, according to legend. He did not preach or organize any doctrine or theology. He spoke only of our at-oneness with the universe and the harmony that exists between all things. The Tao (pronounced “Dow”) does not refer to a supernatural “god” out there, somewhere.

Do you want to see the Living Tao? Look into a wood burning fire and see the sun’s energy dancing, as captured by photosynthesis. Watch a bird in flight, soaring on the current and never stopping to analyze or explain the wind. Listen to the sound of rain, which needs no translation. Watch a salmon leap up the next set of rapids. Watch a bee gathering pollen. The Tao is the way of ultimate reality. It says, “Get yourself in tune and harmony with the natural rhythms of nature and the universe, and then let yourself flow without strain, tension and anxiety.” It is a perspective and view of life that can be used daily in the busiest office in downtown San Francisco or New York City. It changes the way you approach problems.

In our busy, rushed, calendar-filled world of appointments and meetings and conferences, it can save us from migraine headaches, high blood pressure and stress problems. Whether you are a Christian, Jew or Agnostic, the beautiful themes of Taoism can still become a part of your days and activities. It can enrich your view of the world and enlarge your understanding of reality.

The flow of life is like the flow of water. If you are thrashing and flailing around, you tire and exhaust yourself and drown. If you relax and float and flow with the tide, it carries you gently. So it is with life. It is as was said by a nomadic teacher named Jesus. “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They neither toil nor spin. Consider the birds of the air. They neither sow nor reap. Why be anxious?

Living in the flow helps you to re-discover WONDER. The wonder of being alive in a world surrounded by miracles.

Living in the flow, flexible, helps to rediscover wonder. The rigid pine breaks, The willow bends in the strong wind and returns to its original shape.

A life lived in the flow of nature’s rhythms, calm, helps us to experience the beauty of the dance, of life… events… relationships. It is mandatory for living a life filled with the wonder of our days and existence. It is living with WONDER.

William Edelen: Hebrew Mysticism


The Contrary Minister

Dr. Stanley Dean, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Miami, and editor of the book Psychiatry and Mysticism writes: “The study of mysticism should be a part of the curriculum of medical schools.” He defines mysticism as “knowledge or awareness that reaches a persons consciousness through channels other than those known to us at present.”

One of the major movements in Judaism today is a return to Hebrew Mysticism. I have chosen the following examples to indicate the strength and direction of this movement. Rabbi David Teutsch, Executive Director of the Federation of Congregations, writes: “We are moving toward a new Judaism. It will have as classical a shape when viewed a thousand years from now as biblical Judaism has now. A new, revitalized Jewish spirituality will emerge.” Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb describes the movement as experiencing “a freedom to take religion and Judaism out of its conventional forms and bring it back to the heart and soul of the earth.” It is a desire to create a new spirituality and physical unity with this planet.

Traditional Jewish services have been turned around and pointed in a new direction. Instead of sitting in orderly pews, facing East toward Jerusalem and reading from standard prayer books, the participants sit in a circle. The rationale is that, since God is within each one of us, it is better to look at your friend when you pray than to imagine an ancient Holy Temple. Liturgy and ritual have been invented and revitalized.

WILLIAM EDELEN: Jews Without God


The Contrary Minister

Several years ago I lectured to a sold out auditorium at the University of Southern Colorado on the subject of “Redefining God.” It was about a movement today that is sweeping through Protestant churches all across this country. In this age of quantum physics and breath-taking discoveries in Astronomy, Archaeology and Biological evolution, intelligent and enlightened people are realizing that the archaic Gods of the bible are the most primitive superstitions. And nothing more.

My recent readings have been about a similar movement that is a fast growing phenomenon in Judaism. It is known as Humanistic Judaism.

Rabbi Sherwin Wine said he realized that he was “not being true to himself” in still talking about a biblical God that he no longer believed in. He started the Birmingham Temple outside of Detroit, the world’s first Humanistic congregation, which today has grown to a congregation of over 1000 members. There are now more than 40 Humanistic congregations across the United States with over 30,000 members. There are 12 such international organizations including one in the Jewish homeland of Israel.

Those involved say that humanistic Judaism is the only form that makes sense to rationalist Jews in this age of science and technology.

WILLIAM EDELEN: Congregations with Frontal Lobotomies


Christ Church Stellarton
The Contrary Minister

Recently I received a long distance telephone call from an embarrassed member of the hospice group of in a prominent community. The group had invited me to lead a two-day seminar comparing the world’s major religious traditions, emphasizing different views on death and dying, which is what the hospice program is all about. The seminar was to be held in one of the local churches.

An officer of that church decided he had better find out what I was going to say. I told him about the material that I would be presenting. He informed me that the congregation recently allowed a speaker to come in who talked about “astrology” and all of that “occult stuff” and they would not allow any kind of that thing in their church.

Then came the call from the hospice member to tell me that the church officers had decided they did not want a “controversial” speaker coming into their church to talk about all of those “foreign” religions and things. (Someone should inform them that Christianity is a “foreign” religion, and the only Native American religion is that of the North American Indians,)

What a church like that needs is obviously all of the fresh air that it can possibly let in. The fact is, you don’t know what you think until you hear someone who thinks differently. Any church that cuts itself off from such dialogue and from mental and spiritual stimulation becomes smug and stupid and completely incapable of defending its own beliefs, except by dogma.

William Edelen: The Ten Commandments — A Cultic Code of Taboos…

The Contrary Minister

No one has so put the Ten Commandments in perspective better than the famous actress Ruth Gordon, probably without even realizing it. she said to an audience: “There is one commandment I have never broken… I can assure you I have never coveted my neighbor’s wife.”

Perhaps few other parts of the bible have been so misused, misinterpreted, misunderstood as have the Ten Commandments. They were a cultic taboo code written by Hebrew men for Hebrew men. Nothing more and nothing less.

Sir James Frazer in his classic The Golden Bough writes: “These commandments of Israel are taboos of a familiar type in primitive religions disguised as commands of the tribal god.” Dr. Ernest Colwell, former Dean of the Theological Seminary, Chicago University, writes: “These were prescriptions written only for the Hebrew cult. They acquired authority due to their association with the rites of the cult.”

All “thou shalt not kill” meant is that thou shall not kill another Hebrew. The giver of the commandment, Moses, quite obviously totally ignored it with everyone except the Hebrews. And all with the jealous tribal God’s blessing.

WILLIAM EDELEN: Is There a God Out There?



The Contrary Minister

In the play Suddenly Last Summer by Tennessee Williams, there is a character who says, “We are like children in a kindergarten trying to spell the name of God with all of the wrong blocks.” I don’t know of a better illustration. Practically every leading Christian denomination has done studies asking sixth graders and adults in their church schools how they think of God. The answers come out the same. “God is a wise man… God wins battles for us when we’re good… God makes miracles happen… God punishes us when we’re bad.”

We still use childish words that impede the intelligent quest for a mature spirituality and for the divine mystery. We must search for the right alphabet blocks to spell out the name of God. Ignorance, magic, superstition, hatred, anger, jealousy, vindictiveness, threats and fears must first be deleted from the alphabet of divinity.

Albert Einstein was not only a genius in physics but a spiritual genius as well. Most people have not heard of that part of the human being, Einstein.

His suggestion was that teachers of religion have the courage to let go of belief in the archaic doctrine of a personal God which has placed vast power in the hands of clergy and priests.

William Edelen: Many Who Say, “Lord, Lord,” Ignore Jesus’ Message of Love…


The Contrary Minister

What they have done in the past to the beautiful teacher of Galilee is almost beyond comprehension. And, worse, we still continue to this day violating and prostituting both him and his message; or we bury him in theological tombs and roll great stones before the door.

Constantine worshiped the official Christ saying, “Lord, Lord,” while murdering his own wife, his son and other assorted relatives. Martin Luther worshiped Christ saying, “Lord, Lord,” while telling the German aristocracy to cut the throats of the German peasants. He added, “Let there be no half measures. Transfix them. Leave no stone unturned! To kill a rebel is to destroy a mad dog. A prince can enter heaven by the shedding of blood more certainly than by means of prayer.”

John Calvin worshiped Christ saying “Lord, Lord” while burning Servetus at the stake. Ordained ministers worshiped Christ saying, “Lord, Lord,” while murdering thousands of so-called witches.

John Wesley worshiped Christ saying, “Lord, Lord,” while writing to his wife: “Be content to be insignificant. Of what loss would it be to God or man had you never been born?”

As Albert Schweitzer gave his life, in love, to the sick and the suffering in the heart of Africa, he wrote, “What has been passing for Christianity during these centuries is full of mistakes and horrors. It has not been a Christianity springing from the spirit of love. What Christianity needs is to become a living religion of love.

William Edelen: Thomas Paine




It was Theodore Roosevelt who called Thomas Paine “the filthy little atheist.”

What that stupid statement accomplished was only to prove the ignorance of Roosevelt. Thomas Paine, one of our giant founders, was not in any sense an atheist. He did have a total contempt for the bible, the church and the clergy, as did our major Founding Fathers. But having a contempt for the bible and the clergy does not, in any sense, make one an atheist.

Thomas Paine was a devout deist, who said and wrote time and again “I believe in one God…”

He also wrote “I would not dare to so dishonor my Creator God by attaching His name to that book (the bible). Men and books lie. Only nature does not lie.”

He explained what he meant in these words. The character if Moses is the most horrid tale that can be imagined. Moses was a wretch that committed the most horrible atrocities that can be found in the literature of any nation. For Moses said unto them (according to the bible) kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known a man by lying with him, but all the women that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.”


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