A Moral Analysis

By Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

Also posted at –


John Adams, the composer, is an American genius. Among his truly remarkable achievements are the operas, Nixon in China (1977 and Doctor Atomic (2005). His orchestral works include The Transmigration of Souls (2002), commissioned by the New York Philharmonic as a memorial to the 9-11-2001 attacks on the USA. That work received the Pulitzer Prize.

His opera, Death of Klinghoffer (1991), was picketed in New York recently, in a revival performance at the Met. The problem was not with Adams’ music but with the libretto. In key passages singers emphasize with the Palestinian cause, and romanticize the murderers of the wheelchair-bound Jew, Dr. Klinghoffer.

The protesters’ charges are not unreasonable, although other works – thinking of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, have been given a pass.

I choose not to go farther with the libretto, except to say that the Met chose the worst possible time for this performance. The opera struck a particularly offensive note in the context of the recent eruptions of rampant anti-Semitism in Europe, and even here in the USA.



Old fashioned liberalism had a strong moral compass rooted in traditional American values. Harry Truman, who was the first to support Israel at its inception, is a perfect example of a morally-centered old fashioned liberal.

Our culture’s problem is postmodern liberalism. The litmus test is the failure of the postmodern ethos to recognize of evil as a relevant, central moral category.  Hitler and bloodthirsty child killers, mass murderers and those ruthless jihadists who single out infidels for beheading, belong to a special category of evil, one not amenable to medical treatment, one not worth an ounce of our precious empathy – and, yes, empathy is a limited resource.

I have written several important essays on evil, among them  (  and and  ).

My fiction writing (see the thriller, Gabriel’s Stand*) is rooted in a moral system that recognizes the existential and moral danger of evil (narrowly defined, but terrible to behold) and the concomitant moral duty of all civilized persons to resolutely oppose.

Dr. Klinghoffer’s murder (and any murder is more than a death) was the outcome of an evil force, perhaps less well understood and recognized in 1991 than now), but true evil nonetheless.


Copyright © 2014 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

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As posted on The Policy Think Site –


Opinion by Jay B Gaskill


Most of us by now have read the account of a decent man, a good Samaritan who helped carry a sick pregnant woman to an African hospital, became infected with her Ebola, then traveled from Liberia to the USA, and in that trip he has potentially exposed hundreds of people to the deadly virus.  Now he lies in a quarantined section of a Dallas hospital, in critical condition, close to death.

Texas authorities are reportedly mulling over the question whether to prosecute him.

At the same time, the trained medical personnel who examined this man and then sent him home; and the travel authorities who may or may not have been culpably careless; and the federal authorities who have yet to address the travel issues that a potential pandemic presents – all these players seemingly get a pass from accountability.

When the horse has left the barn, it is time to see to the other horses.  Recriminations can wait.

Deadly disasters have a way of illuminating the dull, the slow and the careless for all to see.  Think of a battery of searchlights suddenly lighting up to reveal railroad tracks filled with cavorting children, just as the charging locomotive has already wreaked deadly havoc a quarter mile away.

Former Vice President Cheney caught a lot of flak for being too vigilant about threats to our security. In his famous 1% doctrine, he was quoted as follows: “If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It’s not about our analysis … It’s about our response.”

Let me restate the 1% doctrine in terms of the grave health threat posed by the Ebola virus:  If there is a one percent chance that someone or some set of circumstances will constitute a contagious vector for spreading Ebola  to the USA – or otherwise mutate it from epidemic to a pandemic, then we must treat that chance as if it were 50%.

Allow me to hazard two predictions:

[A] Ebola will prove to be more contagious than we have been led to expect.

[B] Commercial travel bans to and from Ebola hotbed destinations will only belatedly be imposed, if at all, with the result first world medical establishments, even in the USA, will overwhelmed. 

I do NOT want to be right.

But the battery of searchlights shining on the American health care establishment has exposed a fragile system, slowed and dumbed down by embedded bureaucratic institutions, suffering from inadequate training at the intake level, and all too often characterized by a complacent mindset. This is a system (exceptions noted) that is ill-adapted to curb an epidemic like the one that now looms. On the whole, it is a still-broken  system whose front-line representatives are too accustomed to delays and far too burdened by common, but non-fatal health issues.

We often use the term, Rude Awakening.  This time, I fear it is to be a Brutal Awakening.




The Ebola crisis is a grave threat with implications for public policy that can’t be ignored.  The chilling political thriller by the author (Jay B Gaskill’s Gabriel’s Stand ) is an all too plausible exercise in speculative fiction that has suddenly become  disturbingly relevant to the issues surrounding  Ebola threat.  Readers are praising it as a satisfying a page turner, but also as an object lesson.

Gabriel’s Stand is now available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble as a trade paperback; and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook and i-Pad.






JBG head

By Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

This is the condensed version. For the full monty, go to –


Israel is a sovereign country established with the blessing of the United Nations and the USA, as a refuge state for fleeing Jews.  European leaders recognized that the virulent anti-Semitism that lived within their borders had spawned the holocaust. The Jews were still faced with a dangerous malignancy that would undoubtedly return. Clearly, Jews needed a refuge, their Israel. Where else could they go? I can well imagine that, had the Jews chosen to settle in Antarctica, its enemies would be talking about Penguin exploitation and oppression.

Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently reaffirmed that the only solution for the region is the destruction of Israel, and that the armed confrontation must expand beyond Gaza.

Israel and her people are in more danger of extinction than at any time since Israel’s improbable victory in the Six Day War of 1967.  Israel is tiny (it would fit inside LA County) with hard-to-defend borders; and one border is occupied by its deadly enemy, Hamas. The threat from Hamas, client of Iran, is but one the threats to Israel’s existence. And a nuclear Iran looms.

Iran’s ruling clique is too close to success to becoming the first Islamist nuclear power to turn back. Iran will not have to test a nuke in order to shift the balance of power.  Sanctions have allowed the time window of comparative safety to shrink from years to months.  The overwhelming majority of Israeli citizens no longer trust the American president to honor our long term commitment to come to Israel’s assistance in the crunch.

The nasty scenes of 2006 and 2010 are being replayed, with more missiles raining down on the last Jewish homeland. Thousands of additional missiles are well secured in the Gaza Strip territory on Israel’s border. Every 50 non-combatant Israeli casualties is the scale equivalent of 1,950 US dead.  How much would we passively put with, if we were attacked? Gaza has been ruled by Hamas since 2007, when the more peaceful Fatah faction was forcibly evicted from the Palestinian coalition government. Hamas, having infected the nascent Palestinian democracy, clings to a grim agenda: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it”.

This bloody-minded jihadist gang now controls enough missiles to inflict grave damage on the Israeli civilian population. When the scale is adjusted, the potential damage may be proportionately a thousand times worse than our 9-11-01 attack casualties. The missiles held in reserve by Hamas may overwhelm Israel’s Iron Dome missile shield, which already is letting 10% of the missiles get through.  The ground offensive by the IDF is an effort to locate and close all the tunnels, destroying as many missile launchers as possible. But there far more tunnels and deadly weapons than early intelligence predicted.

Imagine living within missile range of an adjacent territory governed by fanatics bent on your destruction.  Imagine waking up to find that hundreds of their missiles have detonated near schools and homes. Imagine that thousands more missiles are ready for the next barrage – that the next missile assault might overwhelm your country’s missile defense system. Imagine that your “friends” are pressing your government to agree to a cease fire that would leave those missiles ready to fire again.  When the intentions of the brutal fanatics of Hams are peeled back, only a graveyard peace is sought by Israel’s attackers: “Stop all your self-defense efforts. Don’t attack us because we need time to regroup and rearm. You must move out of your so-called country, or face your ultimate immolation. We will distract you while our friends in Iran perfect a nuclear bomb that can wipe the Jewish vermin.”

Even though a ground assault is essential to rooting out the threat, your “friends” do not approve. The UN Security Council has called for a cease fire in Gaza  – barring Israel’s forces stop the search and destroy mission to protect their civilian population from the Hamas bombing campaign, an attack that will resume the moment the cease fire ends.  The USA voted in favor.

…trouble is upon me, and no one to help me! Many bulls are encircling me, wild bulls of Bashan closing in on me. Lions ravening and roaring open their jaws at me. My strength is trickling away. From Psalm 22

We should pray for the swift success of the Israeli Defense Forces in this crisis, for the continued support of Israel by the US, and for the ultimate defeat of all the forces that have aligned themselves against the prospect of a peaceful, safe and thriving Israel.   Israel’s fate will be ours. There is no escape from moral responsibility.


 Copyright © 2014 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

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Jay Gaskill is the founder of the Policy Think Site and author of the new thriller, Gabriel’s Stand,


Book Release


The new novel by Jay B Gaskill

Ecological chaos and political instability open the way to a government takeover by environmental extremists. A political movement, having begun in Europe, seeks the assistance of radical American environmental lawyers. A stealth path to power is hatched, exploiting a backdoor in the US Constitution, the treaty clause of Article Six.  A ratified treaty can legally grant an international agency the authority to issue edicts that will govern American life as the “supreme law of the land.”  The “Earth Restoration Treaty” will empower a super-agency to license “dangerous” technologies – where licensing necessarily includes selective prohibition. The “dangerous” technologies are to include essential antibiotics. As the opportunity for a stealth coup d’état is at hand, the movement’s darkest agenda (radical human depopulation) is kept hidden from the useful fools in the “Earth Restoration” movement. The popular Native American Senator, Gabriel Standing Bear Lindstrom, will make a final stand, and then….





Apple on iTunes Books – Search “Jay B Gaskill”






NOAH 2.0 –

The Movie

APRIL 15, 2014

  • In Boston, the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013 are being remembered.
  • Pesach (Passover) is being observed (4-14 through 4-22) by Jewish families throughout the world.  
  • Holy Week is being celebrated (4-13 through 4-19 – followed on 4-20 by Easter) by Christian families. 


These are survivor stories; and the Grandfather of all the survivor stories is NOAH.

A Movie Unpacking Exercise

By Jay B Gaskill


It is possible, even likely, that the Noah story is an echo of what evolutionary scientists call a bottleneck event, something perhaps far earlier.[1] At several distinct moments in human prehistory a human population was reduced to the edge of extinction, leaving a dramatically reduced number of reproducing members, just large enough to survive inbreeding and eventually to rebound…or not.

Arguably the last great ice age was a bottleneck event for Homo sapiens.  Modern humans were adaptable, and made the cut.  Neanderthals failed to adapt, and did not make the cut.  Geologists agree that there was no world-wide flood 8 to 10 thousand years ago, but that has little to do with the possible inspiration for the Noah story, since any huge local catastrophic flooding would have seemed to the ancients of the day to herald “the end of the world.” Plato’s writings refer to a number of such events, at least one of which may actually have happened.[2]


THESE ARE MY PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON NOAH, the 2014 movie, by Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel & a creative team of CGI artists and actors. It is not a typical movie review.  It is written from the perspective of a Judeo-Christian (in which the two threads are about equal), a believer in the findings of science, but not an atheist or agnostic.  I am a Russell Crowe fan (and yes, he really did finally get a meeting with Pope Francis)[3]; and I find myself endlessly curious about the shaky relationship between modern Hollywood and religious communities. So this movie was a must see for me.  That the Noah movie takes liberties with the biblical account was to be expected, as was the inevitable flak from representatives of the various religious traditions.  The more interesting question is whether this movie took improper liberties.

Yes, the movie was marred by two important flaws: one was an error of inclusion; and one was an error of omission. But, as a respecter of the creative process, I tend to make generous allowances for artistic license. By the standards applicable to a 21st century movie intended for a typically secular audience, Noah was an honest effort, filled with some nice touches, and told the core story without too much damage.



Myths are those long standing, well embedded narratives that carry important insights, embodying deeply memorable literature, and holding compelling stories.  They may or may not also capture echoes of historical (or pre-historical) events, but they always capture our durable cultural memories of something very important.  Several pre-modern figures are strongly associated with myths – thinking especially of Moses, the Buddha and Jesus of Nazareth, each of whom lived among us as a transformative and transcendent figure whose life and teachings became part of the human condition.

To describe the account of the Flood and Noah as myth is by no means a dismissal or marginalization – nor is it necessarily inconsistent with the notion of the Ark Story as originating in a real cataclysmic event.

Noah, as a Movie

In the opening scenes, we were shown graphic depictions of the earth being blotted with industrial cities on every continent – growing black spots, looking like metastatic cancerous lesions.

The movie’s depictions of the cruelty and depravity of the desperate people surrounding Noah and his little family gave us glimpses of a brutal, degraded culture.  It was just short of caricature – a cinematic blend of the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max (without the battered cars), and a carnivorous tribe of neo-Nazi survivalists (without the guns).  I assume that Noah’s creative team was going for something that members of our postmodern, sex and drug-use tolerant, culture could still recognize as depraved.  I imagine that the film’s producers and script writers had calculated that, after 8,000 years, few in the typical 21st century audience would still think that mere sexual debauchery could be seen as worthy of condemnation as the crime of spoiling the environment.

The audience saw images from the Garden of Eden story, the snake (weird and menacing) and the forbidden fruit (a pulsing, faintly repulsive organ), coupled with a graphic silhouette of the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. These images were repeated in sequence presumably to remind everyone of humanity’s tendency to stray to the dark side. The reminders were doubtless intended to show that the desperate, angry throngs of people turned away from the Ark somehow had earned their fate. Of course, nothing can quite dispel the sense of injustice when everyone, wicked and not wicked, is to be wiped out, for a fresh start for a select remainder. Or is that always true? Consider the epidemic disease model where the contagious sick are quarantined and the uninfected flown out of harm’s way.

The moral force of the Noah account in a movie or play requires depiction of sufficient evil to anger the ancient (vision of) God commonly held in the early biblical period.  But to add urban blight, anachronistic abuses by industry 8,000 years ago, was more like an embarrassing appeal to the gods of political correctness. The theme rang as false as if, in a retelling of Moby Dick, the producers insisted on adding an attack by Greenpeace and a lawsuit by PETA. Moreover, the industrial decay theme was not even true to itself, especially since the surviving population that swarmed the Ark was more like a mob scene from an early Tarzan movie than an invasion of the post-collapse urbanites in escape from LA.

Using abuses from ancient industry as a reason to wipe out an ancient population could have completely undermined the movie’s credibility, but the story’s moral seriousness was redeemed by the movie’s depiction of authentic evil in the form of cruelty and depravity by that same population.

For all that – Noah the movie was engaging, even moving. The acting, especially by Russell Crowe, who was sturdily convincing as Noah, combined with the blockbuster production values, astute pacing, keen direction, and the excellent supporting cast, to rescue this movie from its silly excesses.

A SIDE NOTE ABOUT THE ROCK ANGELS: I admit that, at first, I was dismayed by what seemed to be yet one more gratuitous (and distracting) Hollywood add-on:  The intrusion of a set of fallen angels, depicted as rock beings (created with CGI, software probably licensed from the first Hobbit movie’s rock monsters).  In the Noah movie, these clumsy rock beings were the “Watchers,” angels that were required to remain behind after the Fall-of-Humanity. Their rocky exteriors trapped glowing angelic beings.  In the movie, these angels perished one-by-one while defending the Ark from the mobs of desperate people. As each angel “died”, a pillar of fire ascended heavenward. The rock creatures may have been a typically Hollywood idea, but I found the final effect of their fiery liberation touching.

Then I reread the biblical story and discovered that there are references to “divine beings” and “giants” at the very beginning of the Noah narrative: “…the divine beings saw how beautiful the human women were, so they took themselves wives,” (Gen 6:2), and “The giants were on earth in those days, and afterwards as well, when the divine beings came in to the human women and they bore them (children) – they were heroes who were of former ages, the mean of name.”

Scholars are in disagreement about the origin and meaning of these passages. To the credit of the movie, Aronofsky and Handel used this as an opening to add some theological meaning to these otherwise extraneous characters. Noah’s story does unfold in the aftermath of the Fall.  It makes narrative sense that the descendants of Adam and Eve might still be on probation, and that fallen angels would be left on duty as quasi-divine probation officers

This was a reminder that few of us moderns ever take the trouble to actually read the flood account in the Genesis book of the Pentateuch (the Torah, the 5 books of Moses).


Serious archaeologists have searched for and found several potential candidates for a massive prehistoric flood in the region, their searches having been driven by the fact that several ancient traditions also reference an apocalyptic flood event. The pre-Noah flood accounts (thinking of the Gilgamesh epic, for example) tend to attribute apocalyptic disasters to the gods, but not as a response to a breach in the moral relationship between deity and humanity, a penalty for breaking the divinely ordained Moral Law.  The notion of the Flood as the extreme moral penalty is unique to Noah.

For me, the most interesting scholarly commentary about Noah has focused where the streams of literary analysis and moral discernment run together.

We humans have been struggling to make sense of nature ever since we noticed that all is not as we want it to be in the world. When, over the eons of humanity’s struggles, sh*t inevitably happens, we will not be content with a raw narrative.

Because we are humans, because we have the capacity for moral intelligence, we invariably try to place our disasters in a meaning context.

In Noah, the meaning context is a morally shaped one.

The Noah legend reveals more about the changing human understandings of our relationship with the Ultimate Reality, a relationship that is painfully relevant whenever such apocalyptic events take place. Our various responses reveal less about the actual nature of Ultimate Being than about our expectations for moral authority. Our freedom to accept, ignore, misunderstand, reject or disregard moral authority remains a constant; the attendant consequences accepting, ignoring, misunderstanding, rejecting or disregarding moral authority tend to find their way into our deep traditions. The biography of a parent narrated from the shifting perspective of a child, tells us more about the child than the parent. The Noah story represents a major shift (I am tempted to say watershed) in our perspective and tradition, as I will explain at the end of this essay.

In the Noah account, God’s decision to flood the earth was prompted by of “humankind’s evildoing on earth and every form of their heart’s planning was only evil all the day”. God “was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it pained his heart,” and therefore decided to “blot out humankind whom I have created, from the face of the soil…”[4]

But “Noah was a righteous, wholehearted man in his generation. In accord with God, did Noah walk.” Even though “the earth had gone to ruin, for all flesh had ruined its way upon the earth,” Noah and his family and an Ark-load of creatures would be spared to start anew. (Gen. 6:5-22)

After the Deluge and the rescue, God promised: “I will never curse the soil again on humankind’s account, since what the human heart forms is evil from its youth; I will never again strike down all living things, as I have done.” God added two specific injunctions: “Whoever now sheds human blood, for that human shall his blood be shed, for in God’s image he made humankind. As for you – bear fruit and be many…” (Gen. 9:5-8)

I should note that throughout the movie, God communicates to Noah using imagery, often conveyed during dreams.  In my personal theology, this is an accurate account of the nature of these encounters[5].  …Which leaves our task one of discernment, verbalization and explanation – this is a vexing, often error-prone process.  But images-as-metaphors are wide bandwidth information carriers – they are capable of carrying more subtlety and depth of meaning than didactic pronouncements.

The process of interpretation and reinterpretation through reason and dialogue is well established in the rabbinic commentary tradition (pesher), and in the Christian critical tradition (exegesis). The risks of fervent literalism and authoritarian appropriation of single, simplistic interpretations of a subtle, deep message are well known.


In a compelling moment on the Ark, Noah retells the Genesis account of Creation by the light of a lantern. While he is talking we see images that amount to a vastly accelerated depiction of evolution from the formation of stars, galaxies, planets, the earth and the sequential appearance of life forms on earth leading up to the emergence of the first humans.  It was deftly done and neatly illustrated that the Genesis sequence fits nicely with what science has revealed.

At the very end, the movie suddenly adds a compelling drama, through an original plot twist. Noah falls into the trap of a fervent misinterpretation of God’s message. He convinces himself that the scope of God’s punishment was to be total; that humanity was to be eliminated.  Though his family was to survive the Flood, he thought it was God’s will that there be no more humans.  So, when a daughter is pregnant, Noah mistakenly reasons that she cannot be allowed to bear daughters, envisioning that the surviving children must be barren, each survivor burying the last until the last man standing dies alone on a planet cleansed of humanity.

Noah is espousing an ideology that has been slowly gaining 21st century underground adherents, to wit: That the Earth is a deity (for Noah, a creation of deity more precious than the humans who have despoiled it), and humans are a cancer that must be pruned away, even eliminated. His speech to this effect startled me, because in my forthcoming novel, Gabriel’s Stand, those same sentiments were voiced by malevolent eco-terrorists. [6]

This sets up a chilling scene where Noah’s daughter, weeping uncontrollably, holds his baby girl granddaughters, while Noah stands over the helpless twins, grimly holding a sharp blade. He is totally self-convinced that murdering his granddaughters is doing God’s bidding. This dreadful moment echoes the famous biblical passage where Abraham, following God’s explicit (not metaphorical) command to sacrifice his son, Isaac, obeys right up to the very last second, when God explicitly cancels the order. In Noah’s case, at the urging of his wife, he recovers his wits and his compassion; and he realizes just in time that God really wants him and the rest of humans to live, to be fruitful and multiply.

In the biblical account, God issues the “rainbow” covenant:”

All flesh shall never be cut off again by waters of the Deluge, never again shall there be Deluge, to bring the earth to ruin!

And God sets a bow in the clouds as a sign of that promise.


NOAH, the 2014 movie suffers from two not-trivial theological problems:

  1. The False Inclusion: It tries to place the Deluge in a simplistic and anachronistic punishment for urban blight.  This was a mistake, partly redeemed by the portrayal of widespread human wickedness that was the “real” divine motivation.
  2. The Regrettable Omission:  It leaves out of God’s explicit promise, never to do that again, not to people, not to life.  This is the watershed moment  that set the stage for the very important modern theological development in which Evil and Punishment are all about human behavior, not nature’s machinations, however destructive[7].

The movie’s single brilliant innovation, in my opinion, was the portrayal of Noah’s grave misinterpretation of the divine will, followed by his final act of choice of life over death, his redemption through love and reason.  The movie’s best touch was the running illustration of Genesis as evolution during Noah’s speech aboard the Ark.

The producers may have assumed that the silent rainbow at the end was enough to convey the “never again” message, but I think that was too silent by half. We should never presume the presence of biblical knowledge or theological nuance among a 21st century movie-going audience.

Taken as a whole, Noah carries an 8,000 year old message about life affirmation. It marks the dawn of our realization that the Creator is no longer going to take the rap for natural disasters; and that we humans are fully accountable for our self-caused disasters.  …And more importantly, that we are to live life abundantly.



Copyright © 2014 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law


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Irving Finkel, THE ARK BEFORE NOAH: Decoding the Story of the Flood

Hodder and Stoughton 2014 London

ISBN 977 144 7 5707 1


Everett Fox (trans.), THE FIVE BOOKS OF MOSES

Schocken Books 1997

ISBN 0-8052-1119-5



1973 Michael Grant Publications 1996 Barnes & Noble Books

ISBN 0-88029-025-0

[3] Mr. Crowe, a New Zealand born  Australian, who keeps a cattle ranch, is a serious actor, endowed with a moral compass (both traits are somewhat rare among the California screen actor set); while Pope Francis, in a very short time, has become the “coolest” Christian figure of the 21st Century. That His Holiness accomplished this guilelessly is a hopeful development in a popular culture, hungry for authenticity. Innocence is now “cool”.

[4] All my biblical quotations are taken from from the powerful translation from the Hebrew by Everett Fox. See the bibliography.

[5] My commentary on the Burning Bush image is an example. See

[6] This is often expressed in quasi-religious terms, that Gaia, the earth, is a living being, a demi-god, and that humanity is an ecophage (cancer that devours the environment) that must be eliminated.  This outrageous and dangerous nonsense is more prevalent – and more explicit – today than it was 20 years ago. As a novelist, I have explored this dark theme in my new political thriller, Gabriel’s Stand, to be released by Central Avenue Publishing of British Columbia (for all North American book markets  – print and e-book) later this spring. Check out >

[7] This insight has been particularly tough to bear for the 20th and 21st century, post-holocaust Jewish adults, mostly secular in outlook, who have struggled to come to grips with the Shoah. But the G-d who “permitted” evil to be visited on the innocent by a malevolent tribe fallen, depraved Nazis, is the same G-d who warned about the costs of freedom when the children of Adam and Eve chose to the protected innocence of that mythical garden-state of the human condition. Once again, the literalists among us are missing out on another powerful Teaching Myth.

Fire in the Whole – Cannibals of the Spirit




A Meditation

By Jay B Gaskill


This text was first written 1400 – 600 BCE, in other words around three thousand years ago. The modern translation (2,000) from the scholar Everett Fox is considered to be the closest to the original Hebrew.



“Now Moshe was shepherding the flock of Yitro his father-in-law, priest of Midyan.

“He led the flock behind the wilderness- and he came to the mountain of God, to Horev.

“And YHWH’s messenger was seen by him in the flame of a fire out of the midst of a bush.

“He saw: here, the bush is burning with fire,

“Moshe said:

“Now let me turn aside that I may see this great sight-

“When YHWH saw that he had turned aside to see,

“God called to him out of the midst of the bush, he said:

“Here I am.

From The Five Books of Moses – The Schocken Bible: Volume I, translation & notes by Everett Fox





I will revisit Moses in a moment, but consider the radical context presented by 21st century insights about reality.  The phenomenon of emergent reality describes how coherent “supervising” patterns spontaneously appear as new organizational systems out of constituent, less organized, less coherent, disparate elements. The list of examples is long, and includes bird flock formation, weather cells and the emergence of certain complex ordering patterns within fluid dynamics. The universe appears to be self-organizing, influenced from its very beginning at the singularity before the cosmological explosion we call the Big Bang, influenced by and suffused with the creative emergence of increasingly complex, integrated systems.  And it is increasingly clear from our “modern” Genesis narrative that the list of emergent systems includes conscious being.


I’m not about to propose one more definition of what we mean by conscious being – after all, if you are conscious, you get it, if not, not. But we can observe that consciousness is an emergent property of very complex, biological neurological-networks when they achieve a certain critical state.  We are able to make this observation in the same way that we observe emergence when it manifests in fluid dynamics (in vortices, for example), and in nature generally.


That the entire universe appears to exhibit this self-organizing tendency is no longer even controversial. This is to say that emergence is universal, a deeply important, recurring aspect of nature, itself. But the implications of a universe filled with – even defined by – ongoing creative emergence have not yet been fully appreciated.  In this short meditation, I am proposing that we can profit greatly by revisiting key elements of the biblical creation narrative in light of what we have learned over the last several thousand years. That the biblical narrative is to be understood allegorically and metaphorically is no longer controversial among biblical scholars. [As anyone who has read Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE) can attest.]


Instances of creative emergence are not a strictly determined outcomes in any given time, place and circumstance, at least in the sense that energy decay follows the second law of thermodynamics at all times.  So we can say that human consciousness depends on the existence and operation of a material body (the brain’s neural net) to manifest it.  But someone can be unconscious.  And we can also say that the essential character of conscious being is a novel manifestation, not strictly predetermined in the sense that the fall of Newton’s apple was predetermined by its release from the top of a tower.


Emergent systems are not prefigured in the situation that obtains immediately before they occur. Nothing about of a snapshot of a chaotic scatter of birds, for example, prefigures the emergence of the orderly flock pattern. The particular unpredictability of novel order is particularly evident when we observe a creative leap, as in creative inspiration.


Now flash back to the Exodus narrative for a moment to reconsider the significance of an image that was presented to Moses. What if the burning bush was a Divine metaphor, only dimly understood at the time it was conveyed?  A metaphor of what?


Think of a vastly complex neural network achieving, in the whole of its operations, something new and seemingly magic, a state of meaning-apprehension, motivation, and self-awareness. Imagine a graphic representation of such a network — a tangled wiring diagram in a roughly spherical shape, much as an illuminated schematic of the brain’s complex neural pathways is mapped.  Now, imagine conscious being as a glowing, fluctuating fog, a representation of the self-aware semantic field that we call consciousness. The field of conscious being as it is generated by the network appears in this graphic image as a fire linked to, surrounding and generated by the neuron branches as a whole.


In the vision, the fire that did not consume the bush was divine self-consciousness emerging from the virtual network of the entire universe.  G-d was revealing to Moses a picture-representation of conscious being, a vivid description of the very fabric from which humanity was made in G-d’s likeness. Later when G-d is asked by Moses for a name, the answer, seemingly enigmatic, was actually very straightforward:  The divine Being said: I am that (i.e. “that which is”) “I am”. In effect, G-d was revealing to Moses that G-d is conscious being, the fire in the whole.




Primitive cannibals ate their opponents in the naïve belief that they were taking into themselves the character and power of these enemies. But by reducing them to food, they destroyed those very qualities.


Enter scientism (not to be confused with science), sometimes presented as “naturalism” and “materialism”. By whatever name, this is the bold claim (popular among late 19th and early 20th century intellectuals and still prevalent in the modern academy) that the material sciences, the experiments and investigations of chemistry, physics, neurology and so on, represent the only valid objective source of all human knowledge, thereby reducing art, music, ethics, spirituality and the other humanities, to subjective whims, to anthropological developments, to tribal behavior patterns, and even electromagnetic fluctuations in that “electric meat” resident in our skulls.


This is the modern (and postmodern) equivalent of cannibalism. Its advocates attempted the very same feat that the primitive eaters of human flesh tried and failed to accomplish.


The followers of scientism purport to reduce conscious being (and its meaningful contents – including art, music, beauty & goodness) to the purely physical processes of neurology. This is pursued in the erroneous belief that by doing so – in effect by eating the human soul – they are taking in to themselves (i.e., into the domain of materialist science) the character and power of living consciousness and its values.


In fact, when scientism is taken seriously, it destroys being, beauty, meaning and value, in the same way that a cannibal destroys its victims.


My common sense advice: Don’t take these cannibals seriously, because deep down they do not really believe their own narratives.  And, above all, don’t let them eat you.




Copyright © 2013, by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law, All rights Reserved

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The author is a California Attorney …and a lay theologian.


Further Reading-








A Fresh Look at Reality

By Jay B Gaskill

cropped-FutureRome2.jpgWe are living through a seemingly endless intellectual war between two competing worldviews. One dominates the intelligentsia (with important exceptions) and the other prevails in the world of common sense.  The first view goes by several names, naturalism, metaphysical naturalism, materialism, scientific materialism and reductionism, among others. Put starkly, its adherents purport to believe that absolutely everything there is, seen and unseen, can be fully accounted for by the physical sciences, chemistry, physics, biology, and so on.

In the materialist worldview, even psychology and anthropology can be reduced to their physical, scientific descriptions. Our values, our aspirations, our perception of beauty and of the mysteries of the soul, all of it and more, are “just matter, energy, electrons and other stuff.”

The adherents of this view rarely put it so starkly, but  Richard Dawkins, the atheist biologist, gave us a clear preview when he wrote that “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”

I said “purport to believe” because few materialists live out their lives as if the atoms, electrons and other physical features of our existence are the sole reality. Do they actually think that our most cherished loves, hopes and moral verities are merely illusions?  Or that we are actually self-deceived robots without will or authentic being?  They have too much common sense for that.  They cling to their materialism in self-defense; they fear an onslaught of fundamentalism.

I submit that the available evidence, in its totality, carries a message. It points to a universe that not only “self organizes”, but generates hierarchies of ordered systems that are novel. These systems represent emergent creative order, an outcome that is not physically required. …And these new systems in turn facilitate the emergence of new levels of ordered systems, the mutual interactions of which led to the emergence of the first living organisms. These developments staged the emergence of decision-capable organisms, then conscious, intelligent organisms, endowed with creative capacities that can generate useful novelty at a hugely accelerated rate.

What are we to make of a universe that generates meaning, beauty and goodness, and the beings endowed with the capacity to create and appreciate these things…and each other? Our universe long ago transcended the cramped, mechanistic narrative of reductive naturalism advanced by a faith-phobic intelligentsia. Materialism survives, but as a narrow, useful methodology.

Given the bankruptcy of the grand materialist worldview, what are we to make of the emergence of caring, meaning-seeking intelligence on the stage of a “dead’’ universe? Was life “there” all along, much as Plato imagined the eternal shapes of geometric forms?  If not, where was it? Were the archetypes and designs of mammals and their precursors, the DNA code nestled in some updated version of Plato’s realm of forms, alongside the streamlined engineering solutions that resulted in the fin and the wing? Or were they just the lucky hits in nature’s casino?

Plato was a visionary who lacked our actual vision. Seen from our expanded perspective, it is almost as if a lifeless, pitiless universe has been gradually colonized.  In science fiction scenarios, we accept such notions as at least plausible.  The clever, highly advanced aliens seed a planet with mysterious germs/cells/nanoparticles that contain the self-replicating plans for an entire invading race; then, over time these invading bio-tech agents mature into life-sized creatures who take over.

This sort of thing is readily accepted for purposes of the story for a couple of reasons: [1] Clarke’s Third Law. The iconic science/science fiction writer, Arthur C Clarke, wrote that our encounter with any sufficiently advanced technology (as in well beyond human abilities at the moment) will be perceived as magic.  Because the alien “invasion” takes place via a materialist form of ultra-high tech, it is threatening in a ‘this is a cool movie’ hypothetical way; but it does not challenge the essential materialist world view. [2] Conventional Threat. We intuitively understand that a material threat can be countered by a material response, as in the last scenes of the alien colonization movie when the heroic earth people blow up the invaders.

But what if the colonization takes place via something essentially non-physical, as in pure information?  That notion threatens the materialist worldview at its very core. There are now three powerful ideas in play that will upset the foundations of narrow materialism, and they are closely interrelated:

a)       Active information. This notion warrants more explanation than space allows, so here is the elevator version.  Information in its most comprehensive sense includes data, instructions and meaning, depending on its complexity.  Our lives seethe with it, carried electronically in the web and in our devices. Information is “carried” or “stored” via various physical media, like electrons, light waves, optical digital storage magnetic, media storage and so on.  Here’s the takeaway point: Information, as such, has neither mass nor energy.  Imagine different electronic or electromagnetic waveforms, each of which is carrying information – or not: one is carrying random garbage; one is carrying no information at all; and one is carrying truly meaningful information.  There will be no measurable mass/energy differences between them based on the message carried or lack thereof. Yet the information content of an input makes a huge difference in physical systems.  NOTE FOR FURTHER READING: Many physicists and philosophers are now beginning to notice that the creative processes in nature are utilizing active information.

b)      Latent information. The laws of physics and the form-order manifest in mathematics consist of information that is somehow stored in the universe without any discernible physical media.  The “rules” that governed the unfolding of the entire universe from the “singularity” to the present wonderful, expanding tapestry of stars, worlds and living, thinking creatures existed before the unfolding, as if the universe utilized infinite information storage in a point. {NOTE FOR FURTHER READING: The pre-Big Bang singularity and aspects of quantum physics hint that this could indeed be the case.}

c)      Integration of reality and information. The scientific enterprise, the monotheistic religions and the spiritual seekers of unity among us are working from the same playbook: It is the faith-assumption/insight that all reality is integrated, including our own reasoning selves, such that seemingly irreconcilable dualisms and seemingly arbitrary breaks in reality are always reconcilable in a larger context.  This is why, as Einstein mused, the most remarkable thing about the universe is that its workings are intelligible to the human mind (my paraphrase).  …And this is why Einstein and other scientist-philosophers have described their task as discerning “the mind of God”.  The professed atheism of some of these (Einstein was a deist in the tradition of Spinoza, not a true atheist) was directed at a specific class of ideas about God, the primitive notions of deity, a fearsome, arbitrary being, not just creative agency/presence, but a micromanager, controller.

Let me return to the colonization metaphor.  It is almost as if a lifeless, pitiless universe has been gradually colonized by life, employing a vast archive/repertoire of forms, design relationships and parameters: It began with the initial anthropic conditions, encoded in the universe’s physical laws; then the more life-favorable environments as star systems generated planets with water; then the reproducing systems emerge and take hold, followed by cells and whole organisms. Eventually, the patterns/plans/architectures of biological intelligence and even the forms and design features of working civilizations…all of these elements of the vast portfolio of creation were and remain poised to emerge whenever opportunities present themselves over the vase reaches of space-time.

But, if we accept the colonization metaphor as instructive, we are led to several obvious questions, among them: Colonized by what? …Or by whom? …And why?

The evidence of colonization presents the picture of a focused, but opportunistic force/tendency/enterprise, seeking beachheads when and where they present themselves.  To appreciate the explanatory power of the colonization insight, we need to examine more closely the operation of the creative processes that have brought humanity into being from a mere possibility in a cloud of exploding energy into thinking, feeling persons who are now able to ponder the “first questions”.

The creative processes in nature represent the appearance/emergence of novelty, often incremental and gradual, but sometimes more dramatically.  The designs that emerge are no different in functionality than the plans, designs, blueprints and algorithms that human inventors come up with. But a materialist like Richard Dawkins prefers that we call them ‘designoids’, since he has determined, a priori, that there is no designer.

These competing design-forms are sorted by seemingly hidden criteria, as if the environment were doing the heavy lifting.  But fitness to an immediate environmental challenge is not really sufficient to explain our existence.  Long after the fact, we can detect that particular early designs (thinking of, say, the cell and early precursors of DNA) were essential to further the continued advancement of life. …And do notice that the emergence of compassionate, creative intelligence also serves that goal.

The fine tuning of this universe for life’s emergence is a well-known problem for the materialist-naturalist school of Dawkins and others of like minds. These thinkers have advanced the claim that the wildly improbable combination of life friendly features of this universe is readily explainable because there are an infinite number of universes and we just happen to be in this one.  But this claim is unprovable. As the physicist, turned theologian, Dr. John Polkinghorne, has pointed out, the leap of faith against evidence to assume that there really are uncountable other universes is by far the longer stretch compared to the inference from evidence that this universe evidences an emergent purpose.

Of all the possible universes, ours is clearly one of a group (if there even is a group), or perhaps the only one, that was sufficiently prepared for the emergence of information-receptive, meaning-seeking beings.

The term teleology is used to describe a universe that has a purpose.  For obvious reasons the materialists reject teleology altogether. But what would a reasonable observer expect to happen when the distinct possibility of a particularly fecund emergent novelty (as in the first living creatures) is coupled to an immense reservoir of probability?  Think of a universe that squanders vast possibilities of variations over vast spans of space-time; think of this unfolding in a universe pre-equipped with fundamental conditions felicitous to life – referring to the  anthropic ‘wiring’ of this universe.  In such a scenario, a mere possibility becomes a virtual inevitability given enough billions of years.  And that is our scenario.  It is hard to ignore the implication: That the evidence points us to the conclusion that our emergence was in some sense destined. (FURTHER READING: The Fine Tuning of Physical Laws Favoring Life – The Anthropic Principle.)

Many scientists and philosophers have now concluded that the materialist/naturalist worldview is fatally incomplete; that all of the evidence cannot be satisfactorily explained unless there really is a non-material, non-physical aspect of reality in the mix. If that is the case, then who are we to assume that this expanded realm of the real does not hold meaning, beauty and goodness, as well as the sterile rules that regularize orbits and power stars?

It is time to revisit Plato’s forms, updated to include the very life-forms that sustain living, consciousness, the venue of meaning.  I propose that we recapture the ancient insight that the beautiful and elegant forms that appear in nature are not arbitrary accidents in a chaotic universe, but the instantiations of a deeper, form-aspect of reality that exists alongside the realm of flux, change, and apparent random chance. The very term emergence suggests a “coming out” of that which was obscure or hidden from our view; this is a description of the appearance of aspects of the ‘other’, non-mechanical level of reality, something very much like Plato’s realm of forms.

The universe is not dead, nor unconscious, nor uncaring; and this is the case because it is our birthplace, and because we are the region/sector/component of the universe that can apprehend meaning, and because our arrival was virtually inevitable.  To put it differently, we are the universe come awake. One might even describe us as the colonists of intelligent life who are awakening to our role.

If we are the colonists of awareness, meaning, compassion, beauty and accelerated creativity, who or what might be the Colonist?  For my part, after decades of careful reflection, certain inferences are inescapable:

I.            Do we represent the emergence of early versions of the Master Archetype, the design template who is the Designer?

II.            Are we the children of the Deity who cannot be named, whose fecund seeds are scattered across all the possible realities, including those that are unreceptive (the hard, infertile spaces) and the others like our (possibly unique) universe that has the nurturing early conditions?

III.            If we were sent to this universe to fill it with intelligent, caring life, is that not a compelling basis to revisit the foundational questions of morality?

My answers, based on reflection and personal experience are yes, yes and yes.

So to my overly skeptical friends, I pose this question: What if it’s not all just “made up?” What if our grandparents were more right than wrong? Of course, that is up to you and your conscience.

Deism is the idea of G-d[1] as the originating force/cause/agency, the creator-designer, who thereafter remains out of the causal picture.  In our working metaphor, this is the Colonist in Chief who is now out of touch.

Theism is the apprehension of G-d as creator, as engaged in ongoing creativity; as present always in spirit; and as mysteriously and subtly engaged in every moment of our lives. The “why?” question is partially answered – we are partial, flawed, but beloved instantiations of G-d as Parent.

Fair disclosure: I am a theist as a result of experience and introspection.

Which, if any, of these reality models best fits your worldview?  That is left to you, to your experience and introspection.


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Active Information

One of my favorite sources is the physicist, turned Anglican priest, the Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne, who wrote, “As embodied beings, humans may be expected to act both energetically and informationally.  As pure Spirit, God might be expected to act solely through information input.  One could summarize the novel aspect of this proposal by saying that it advocates the idea of a top down causality through “active information.” Belief in God in an Age of Science, Does God Act in the Physical World? – John Polkinghorne (Yale 1998) at p 63. A winner of the Templeton Prize for theology, Dr. Polkinghorne has written scores of books and essays, most of which are still in print. As one reviewer put it, “If C S Lewis had a doctorate in physics, this is how he would write about God.”

[See also – “Active Information in Physics” Warwick University, Coventry CV4 7AL, by Pickering at this LINK: .]


Latent Information

“The Omega Point Theory by Tulane University professor of physics and mathematics Frank J. Tipler is what he maintains is a proof of God’s  existence according to the known laws of physics. The theory is an integral part of the Feynman –Weinberg–DeWitt quantum gravity/Standard Model  Theory of Everything (TOE) which Tipler also holds is required by the known physical laws.

“The Omega Point is a term used by Tipler to designate the final cosmological singularity, which he contends is a physically-necessary cosmological state in the far future of the universe.

“According to his Omega Point Theory, as the universe comes to an end at this singularity in a particular form of the Big Crunch, the computational capacity of the universe (in terms of both its processor speed and memory storage) increases unlimitedly with a hyperbolic growth rate as the radius of the universe goes to zero, allowing an infinite  number of bits to be processed and stored before the end of spacetime. Via this supertask, a simulation run on this universal computer can thereby continue forever in its own terms (i.e., in “experiential time”), even though the universe lasts only a finite amount of proper time.

“Tipler states that the known laws of physics require there be intelligent civilizations in existence at the appropriate time in order to force the collapse of the universe and then manipulate its collapse so that the computational capacity of the universe can diverge to infinity. Due to the increasing temperature of the universe during the collapse phase (wherein the temperature diverges to infinity), Tipler says that life will have to transfer its information processes to higher energy states, eventually using elementary particles to directly compute on via traveling waves  and standing waves.” LINK:


The Anthropic Principle

The minute alteration of any one of a score of physical laws, many of which are not obviously required by logic to be the way they are, would have made the evolution of life impossible. See Michael J Denton, “Nature’s Destiny”,1998 Simon & Schuster ISBN 0-684-84509-1. …And John D. Barrow and Frank J Tipler, “The Anthropic Cosmological Principle” 1988 (1st Ed 1986) Oxford U. Press ISBN 0-19-282147-4 (paperback)


The Unity Principle

The seminal book was by the physicist, David Bohm, “Wholeness And  The Implicate Order, 1980 Routledge ISBN 0-7448-0000-5. But I believe the most important contribution was made by a somewhat obscure British scientist, who consulted with Albert Einstein on unified field theory, Lancelot Law Whyte. He who proposed the “Unitary Principle” as a universal, applying to science and everything else.  Whyte’s works, now out of print, are all available on Google Books.  Among them, the three most interesting are “The Next Development in Man”, 1948, Henry Holt and Company; “The Universe of Experience” 1974, Harper and Row 06-131821-3 (paper)/ 06-236143-7 (hard); and “The Unitary Principle in Physics and Biology” LINK – .

In the major world religious traditions, the commitment to metaphysical unity, a feature of monotheism, is also described as monism. [See the Wiki article at –]

Unity is a core value of Sufi metaphysics. [See] And of Hinduism – “At the metaphysical level is absolute unity; everyone is nothing but Brahman. Consequently, there is no notion of the other in Hinduism. This leaves no place for hostility towards anyone.”  Ashok Vohra, Department of Philosophy, University of New Delhi. [See]

The quest for and belief in unity is the a priori commitment that drives the scientific enterprise. See the article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at] Also see the article by William Bechtel and Andrew Hamilton of the University of California, San Diego at –


First published on The Policy Think Site <> and the linked Blogs

The author is a California Attorney, writer, consultant and lay theologian.

Copyright © 2013 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law // Contact:

[1] The vowel ‘o’ is dropped in deference to the Jewish and other traditions that resist fully naming deity, on several grounds, chief among them that a name imposes an implied limitation. See the author’s essay at –






By Jay B Gaskill

The anti-god bias that manifests in sophisticated circles is rooted in the fear of the primitive intelligent atheists fear the very possibility that God is real.[1].

Among atheists, this can be a deep aversion bordering on dread; many fear religion. What explains the emotional force that drives the anti-theism among this group? I believe it is the arch-materialism, the narrow rationalism of the post-superstitious. This is a force that is often amplified by the lingering traces of Post Ecclesial Abuse Syndrome (PEAS)[2]. It is no coincidence that most fiercely committed atheists (whom I prefer to call the anti-theists), have experienced an attempted religious formation by some authority figure of the literalist/fundamentalist stripe.

These traumatized minds are repelled by, and actually fear, a set of ideas of God (that to sophisticated modern theologians represent discarded anachronisms, cartoons, and caricatures of deity). A version of these dark images appears in atheist nightmares. It seems they are haunted by a fearsome archetype, a foreboding persona of raw untamable power, an authority beyond reason, a being fitful and often arbitrary, an unanswerable Parent who forces a grim, hierarchical order on all humankind via a single command, a directive that trumps dialogue, discernment and debate with a single word: SUBMIT.

Our naturalist, scientific materialist friends are in rebellion against superstition and ignorance personified. They secretly see themselves as warriors.  As combatants, they are too engaged to stop, smell the roses, and reassess the mission goals. They are caught up in full-on war against the primitive unconscious itself, as if it were the deity-in-charge of Life, the Universe and Everything, the author of existence.

These (typically) moral men and women have gotten themselves trapped in the materialist bubble in which the sole authorized form of existence is found only within the comfortably narrow confines of the mechanistic realm of the natural sciences that can be accessed only via the specialized forms of reason appropriate to its unpacking. Nothing outside that bubble must ever be acknowledged as objectively “real”. Ironically, their moral fervor, which is directed at a phantom deity construct, has deep, but unexamined, spiritual origins. Better, they think, to live without the tooth fairy and also without that religious monster under the bed.

The larger reality views that include meaning, beauty and goodness, are allowed in the door provisionally, and only as admirable human “inventions” or “constructs”.  As a consequence, any understanding of deity as the author of order and reason is rejected (even though it is a more acceptable model to the scientific mind than the fundamentalist boogeyman) on the grounds that the very notion of a priori authorship smacks of superstition.  The corollary notion of Deity as the embodiment of holiness and compassion is also attractive to these same minds. But so was the tooth fairy.


The naturalist-materialist bubble is a self-imposed, philosophical autism. Just as true autistics tend to find the inner conscious, affective life of other persons to be deeply puzzling, the inhabitant of the materialist bubble are puzzled by their own, richly endowed “extra-rational” cognitive faculties (think empathetic, esthetic and spiritual here). The parts of their minds that operate beyond the structures and constraints of “respectable science” are not “real” except as bio-electronic brain processes. An entire cluster of powerful, integrating, inductive, conscious thinking tools includes our capacity for moral, esthetic and spiritual awareness. These capabilities evolved in tandem with the sensorium, memory, and the base reasoning capabilities of the human reality-interface. These our most precious of endowments t This amazing cognitive suite is far, far more valuable than some entertainment algorithm; they transcend the rules-of-conduct strategies that any autistic must learn in order to function socially. These faculties are not only “real”; they are our connection to an immensely important part of reality.

This situation is unexplainable in strictly materialist terms.  …Which is why the materialist-naturalist needs to compartmentalize, anointing as “objective” the “real-real” realm with which the empirical sciences deal, and demoting as “subjective” the “unreal-real” realm, that holds what is most valuable in our human experience of reality.

Albert Einstein gave us a window into this conflicted mindset when he wrote a friend.

You find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world (to the extent that we are authorized to speak of such a comprehensibility) as a miracle or an eternal mystery. …Even if the axioms of the theory are proposed by man, the success of such a project presupposes a high degree of ordering of the objective world, and this could not be expected a priori. That is the “miracle” which is being constantly re-enforced as our knowledge expands. There lies the weaknesses of positivists and professional atheists who are elated because they feel that they have not only successfully rid the world of gods but “bared the miracles.” Oddly enough, we must be satisfied to acknowledge the “miracle” without there being any legitimate way for us to approach it. I am forced to add that just to keep you from thinking that –weakened by age–I have fallen prey to the clergy.[3]

“All belief starts with a decision; in this instance we decide to adopt a world view and to live into it while always holding the possibility of correction in reserve.  Our strongest beliefs are anchored in authentic personal experience and in trust of those whom we deem worthy of trust.

“The state of mindedness I have called ‘On Approach’ is rooted in a life-derived heuristic faith stance: that the mystery of shared being is always reconcilable with ‘the world’; that the arch-materialist mindset, the fad of this age, always can be transcended; and that our deepest urgings, that sense of connection with being-as-universal, including our intimations of the numinous, all these things represent our glimpses of that greater reality that transcends the mundane. [This is] a reasonable act of faith, no more or less reasonable than the faith-perceptions that allow us to see into the hearts of other persons, to recognize them as persons and not objects, and to see, in them, something of ourselves.  The very suite of cognitive faculties that allow us to be social and sometimes moral beings, to apprehend and create beauty and to experience awe, and even reverence,  for creation, also allows us to apprehend G-d, by whatever name or no name at all.”[4]


Copyright © 2013 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

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[1] The atheist philosopher, Thomas Nagel, has created a stir among his former colleagues by advancing the heresy that the materialist naturalism of his peers is wrong.  His name came up in a conference of famous atheists in the Berkshires, covered by the journalist, Andrew Ferguson. His revealing field report, “The Heretic was published in the Weekly Standard, March 25, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 27.  Fergusen reports that- “In a recent review in the New York Review of Books of Where the Conflict Really Lies, by the Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga, Nagel told how instinctively he recoils from theism, and how hungry he is for a reasonable alternative. “If I ever found myself flooded with the conviction that what the Nicene Creed says is true,” he wrote, “the most likely explanation would be that I was losing my mind, not that I was being granted the gift of faith.” He admits that he finds the evident failure of materialism as a worldview alarming—precisely because the alternative is, for a secular intellectual, unthinkable. He calls this intellectual tic “fear of religion.” [NAGEL adds]“I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear. I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isnt just that I dont believe in God and, naturally, hope that Im right in my belief. Its that I hope there is no God! I dont want there to be a God; I dont want the universe to be like that.”


[3] From a letter to Maurice Solovine (1875-1958), a young student of philosophy who wanted to take lessons with Einstein in physics… As quoted by Robert Goldman., Einstein’s God—Albert Einstein’s Quest as a Scientist and as a Jew to Replace a Forsaken God  (Joyce Aronson Inc.; Northvale, New Jersey; 1997) …Also, see Einstein’s Collected Papers at Princeton .


[4] From my short essay, “On Approach”






In cities and towns throughout Europe in the 1930’s and 40’s Jewish parents kept their children indoors on Good Friday.  It was a frightening day because some loosely wrapped Christians were stirred by the reminder of an ancient Jewish “crime” to retaliatory violence.   They had been moved by a retelling of the Passion (i.e., condemnation, torture and execution) of their Lord by “the Jews.”

With that context in mind, consider these not-unrepresentative Gospel passages –

Matthew 27

{25} All the Jews answered, ‘Let his blood be on us and on our children!’

Luke 23

{13} Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders and the people, and said to them, “You brought this man as one perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of the charges against him….  Indeed he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him”.  …  {18} Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow!”… “…they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!”  {22} A third time he said to them, “Why what evil has he done” … But they kept urgently demanding with loud shout that he should be crucified, and their voices prevailed.
In these and other Gospel passages there is a widely understood subtext that taken as the “Gospel truth” in places like Hitler’s Germany, in which phrases like “the people”, “they all” and “they” are really talking about “those murdering Jews.”

And Pilate is somehow exonerated.

I believe to the core of my being that this is slander. Some of my fellow Christians have become aware of the problem.  They and I wince with pain during a traditional reading of Jesus’ last hours, his “Passion” as told in one of the gospel accounts.  This should be a glorious chronicle of a holy hero, but for me it was poisoned by a falsehood, innocently repeated, that Jesus was murdered by a mob of his fellow Jews who forced a reluctant Pontius Pilate (that worldly and sophisticated humanist!) to kill an innocent Jewish teacher.

In effect, Pontius Pilate leers at us from history’s stage like some bloody Shakespearean figure, holding a dripping knife and shouting: “The Jews made me do it!”  I submit that Christians are still reading “The Passion According to Pilate”, an account with about the same credibility as a document called “Hitler’s liberation of France” written by the Vichy government.

During the Easter season Christian congregations hear about the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, including this passage from the gospel of John (John 20:19)

Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, “Peace be unto you”.

What if we were to adjust that passage for its missing context?  Recall that Jesus was a popular Jewish spiritual leader who was executed by the Roman occupiers as a revolutionary threat.  Recall that the Temple authorities were much like the collaborationist Vichy government in Nazi-occupied France.

When the Nazi’s ruled Europe, not everyone was enthusiastic.  Most French citizens longed for the removal of their German overlords. Some of them undertook active resistance at great risk to their lives. One hero of the French resistance, Jean Moulin, met secretly with fellow freedom fighters in German occupied France for the last time on the 21st of June 1943. The meeting was behind closed doors for good reason.  But someone had betrayed them. The Gestapo raided the place and arrested Moulin. He died not long after while in Gestapo custody.

Now imagine how one might describe Moulin’s last meeting—

When Moulin met with his fellow resistance leaders the doors were shut because of fear of the (a) the French people, (b) German soldiers, (c) Nazi collaborators.

Only in the scenario where the Nazis won would the account read, “because of fear of the French people”.

As I hope to show in the following pages, the reason for the following proposed historical correction should become bright line clear —

Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Roman authorities and their collaborators, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, “Peace be unto you”.

I started this project several years ago when I first encountered the work of the growing number of Jewish scholars who are actively exploring the life of Jesus of Nazareth as part of the history of First Century Judaism. My project became more timely because of the impact of Mel Gibson’s widely viewed film, “The Passion of Jesus Christ”, and the concerns of the Jewish community about resurrecting the “Christ killer” war-cry of some loosely wrapped anti-Semites. As to any detail concerning Jesus’s execution, no one can claim to have finally “proved the case”. That would be unrealistic at this remove.  But the evidence is more than enough to prove Pilate’s scheming culpability and exonerate the Jewish people.


Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law