Faith Forum appears every Sunday in the Reno Gazette-Journal, important enough to take up two-thirds of a page. It is the only constantly intellectual item in the paper. RGJ opinion columns are woefully weak.
Moderator Rajan Zed poses a question to 12 panelists, each of whom represents a different religion. One recent Sunday he asked the panelists if they should study other religions before adopting the religion they practice.
Here is the answer of Kenneth Lacey, philosophy and religion professor at UNR: “It surely would be prudent to study the tenets of the religion or denomination.” (Lacey is the best panelist.)
Bradley Corbin, Bahai’I teacher, argued that as Bahai’s “we are encouraged to study all religions. Good libraries will have all holy works such as those from Hindu Upanishads, Islamic Qur’an, Buddhist Tipitaka, Zoroastrian Zend-Avesta and the Christian Bible. The more you read the more you will develop that great thirst for spirituality.”
ElizaBeth Webb Beyer, Temple Bethel Or rabbi:
“If you did not learn religion from your parents and have no connection to any spiritual path, studying various religions may be a viable path to making a decision. However, in Judaism children take a bar or bat mitzvah at 13. Therefore, a better approach would be to learn more deeply about your religion of birth to find the hidden jewels embedded in it.”
(The Faith Forum cannot avoid the word God. But the Jewish panelist refers to God as “G-d.” Ridiculous. God may be sacred but to distort the language is a sacrilege to this scrupulous writer.)
Stephen Bond, lead pastor of the Summit Church in Sparks:
“Learning what other religious denominations believe was an important part of my faith journey. While in college I became enamored of Marxist ideology. I dove into Marxism with zeal. But over time I became flummoxed by my atheistic professor’s repeated assertions that God did not exist. This led me to investigate the possibility of God’s existence and to explore the various world religions. Ultimately, I concluded that there was ample evidence for God’s existence.”
I believe the Faith Forum should include an atheist. But doubtless that would spoil the party. I think Lacey is a closet atheist. He’ll write things like: “If God exists, as traditionally conceived, then He did determine the Super Bowl winner.” (Feb. 19) If indeed.
‘NEW WORLDS FOR OLD’
One of the oldest books in my library was published in 1908. It is “New Worlds for Old” by Briton H.G. Wells. (Archibald Constable, London). It’s an argument for socialism, which Wells describes as “a moral and intellectual process.”
Wells called for municipal ownership of transit and lighting and ever-increasing expansion of public education, museums, libraries and research. He urged the “creation of a great service of public health” and “public feeding of school children and public baths, parks and playgrounds.” He demanded old-age pensions and a government minimum wage.
Call it socialism or communism, Wells was amazingly visionary.
The predecessors of Wells were people like Marx, Engels and Proudhon and in America, Fourier. During the 19th century “Appeal to Reason” was a flourishing radical weekly published in Kansas and socialistic communities like Brook Farm flourished in Massachusetts.
“Socialism is a growing social idea of the collective Good Will,” Wells concluded.
Lenin in 1917 carried out Wells’ foresight in the brief glory years of his Soviet Union.
VILLON’S ‘SNOWS OF YESTERYEAR”
My second oldest book is “Francois Villon” published in 1928, a documentary survey by Wyndham Lewis with a preface by Hilaire Belloc (The Literary Guild of Amerlca, New York).
It’s a lengthy discussion of “Ballade des Dames du Temps Jadis?” (“Ballade of the Ladies of Times Past”), a poem written by Villon about 1440. It celebrated famous women in history and mythology.
Its most famous line, “Where are the snows of yesteryear?”, is often quoted by novelists, short story-writers and poets. It often cited on television and in musicals
Some of the more famous ones noted by Wikipedia: “Nana’s Song” (Bertolt Brecht); “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” (D.H. Lawrence); “Blithe Spirit” (Noel Coward); “The Dharma Bums” (Jack Kerouac); and “The Name of the Rose” (Umberto Eco)
‘WHERE WAS GOD?’
Writers and witnesses of disasters often lament the absence of God. Examples:
• A U.S. reporter, witnessing the liberation of Buchenwald in 1945 was so devastated he uttered the classic line: “Where was God?”
• Tennessee Williams in his 1947 play, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” has a variation of the line: “Sometimes there’s God.”
• During the hurricane and flooding in Louisiana in 2016, 13 died and 40,00 00 were left homeless. It was called “a 1,000-year-rain in two days.” Many reporters and commentators asked: “Where was God?”
• Observers battered by East Coast hurricanes in previous years asked the same penetrating question.
MAD MONK’S LURE
Rasputin, Russia’s Mad Monk of the early 20th century, probably had the best come-on line in history: “Sleep with me, baby, and I will sanctify you.”
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor from the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org)