Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Short Thought on Christmas

It was a good Christmas.

I feel like my personal "War Against Christmas" has evaporated since losing belief in the "Reason for the Season." Before, my strong desire to follow Christ and to be more like him prevented me from feeling complete joy in the gifts I would give and receive while celebrating his birthday. It felt like going to someone's party and ignoring him, giving gifts to the other guests, eating cake, but not doing much for the birthday-boy.

Now I don't worry about what Jesus wants - I don't think he's alive to care about it. I've come to appreciate Christmas as a warm and familiar holiday in the middle of the bitter cold that draws on traditions from many faiths. Now my joy is complete in the giving and receiving of gifts, in the egg-nog with a wee bit of rum, in the singing of carols - both beautiful and silly, in the happiness of family and friends.

If there is any sadness in my heart this Christmas, it is in the memory of years lost in service to a myth and in the knowledge that most of the people I know still labor under the same heavy yoke of the Christian faith.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Mr. Rogers and Tragedy

I don't know if this would comfort me, were I in the position of the loved ones of 27 people in Connecticut tonight. But for what it's worth:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
- Mr. Rogers

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Is Mystery Overrated?

This is taken from Steve Shives, without his permission; hopefully he won't mind.

A little over a week ago, as my wife and I were on our way home from Hagerstown, I looked up and saw a group of strange lights in the night sky. There was a period of maybe thirty seconds where I had no idea what they were. They weren't stars, or aircraft, or anything immediately familiar. They just burned bright and hung there in mid-air, as if by magic, or perhaps some technology far advanced of humanity.
As we began to drive past them, I realized what they were: sky lanterns — candles inside inflated paper bags. The heat from the candle's flame heats the air inside the lantern, causing it to rise like a hot air balloon. The lantern flies as long as the candle burns, then falls back to the ground once the flame goes out. No magic, no alien technology. Something humans in China knew how to make hundreds, perhaps thousands of years ago, a simple combination of science and craftsmanship.
My purpose in sharing this with you is to demonstrate (hopefully) the beauty of a true explanation for something, even when that explanation might appear mundane to some when compared to more fantastic theories. Mysteries should intrigue us because we want to know things, not because we cherish our own ignorance. To cling to a supernatural or extraterrestrial explanation of something without evidence undermines the very thing that got us interested in that something to start with: we wanted to know. And wanting to know is pointless unless we're willing to accept the answer we find, whatever it might be.
I find nothing beautiful about reports of UFO sightings or alien abductions or magical and supernatural happenings. There's no reason to believe that any of these things is real. They stand between us and the truth. They're the clouds obscuring the stars. (Metaphorically speaking, you know — clouds are actually very interesting.)
Those sky lanterns, though . . . they were beautiful, especially once I knew what I was looking at.
My favorite parts of this:‎
"...wanting to know is pointless unless we're willing to accept the answer we find, whatever it might be."
and
"...they were beautiful, especially once I knew what I was looking at."

There's something about "mystery" that is beautiful. Do you think there is something about the reveal that lessens the beauty?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Self-fulfilled Prophecy

As a non-topic preface: My sister recently pointed out how scary it can be to publicly share your ideas - whether writing a blog post, commenting on a blog post, or arguing on Facebook. She was referencing a post I had shared on Facebook by a fellow at Patheos named Bob whose recent post on Christianity as an Adult Activity got severely criticized in the comments section. Bob has a lot of readers. I do not. And sometimes I'm happy about that...

Okay. Here I go, sharing my ideas with the three or four of you. (grits teeth) I welcome your criticism...

I've been enjoying Anna Mardoll's re-read and criticisms of the Chronicles of Narnia so far. Admittedly, they've left a bit of my nostalgia in tatters, but that's not always a bad thing. Sometimes it's good to wake up and smell the coffee. At the end of each book, she watches the movies (BBC version and Walden/Disney/20th-Century-Fox version) and comments on those as well. Her most recent post was about Walden/Disney's adaption of Prince Caspian. You should read it! And especially the little links she has here and there to some pretty hilarious critiques of the movie.

There was one quote from the movie that she mentioned that stuck out to me, and it is a line spoken by Trumpkin after Peter expresses amazement that what looked to be a talking Bear simply wasn't:

"Get treated like a dumb animal long enough, that's what you become."

I'm pretty sure this line was not in the book, although there is a similar idea in The Last Battle. There, Ginger the Cat, having entered the stable and encountered the evil god Tash, and, running for his life, ceases to become a Talking Cat. And this is exactly what Aslan says might happen to the Talking Beasts way back at the Creation of Narnia, back in The Magician's Nephew, if they stop acting like Talking Beasts:

"Treat [the Dumb Beasts] gently and cherish them but do not go back to their ways lest you cease to be Talking Beasts. For out of them you were taken and into them you can return. Do not so."

There's a pretty big difference between Lewis' concept of reversion to Dumb Beast's and Disney-Trumpkin's. Lewis stipulates that the onus is on the Talking Beasts to remain Talking Beasts, whereas Trumpkin puts the blame for the sad state of affairs squarely on the oppressors of the Talking Beasts - the ones who continue to treat them as Dumb so that they eventually act that way.

What's my point?

I think kids (and people in general, I guess, but especially kids) tend to become what they're told they are, even if they weren't that way in the beginning. It seems common knowledge that if you call your kids stupid, they just might behave that way. Tell them they're unworthy sinners long enough, that's what they become?

Is a person who has done stupid things Stupid?
Is a person who has stolen a Thief?
Is a person who has sinned a Sinner?

Be careful of applying labels to people because of single snapshots of their lives. They may just become the label.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Daniel Refuses to let Christians Judge Him

Daniel Fincke at Camels with Hammers recently posted what some of you might see as a fairly angry diatribe against Christian judgments regarding his deconversion. Hopefully, though, you can see why he would be angry at the constant and erroneous attempts to tell him what his motivations were for leaving the faith. I can identify with this anger, although I must clarify that I have only felt angry in this way with a small number of my Christian friends, family, and acquaintances. If you can't remember a discussion about this with me, you're probably in the clear... :)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My Biggest Disconfirmation of the Existence of God


Theists (specifically Christians) often state that I can't disprove God. Sometimes I wonder if that is because the definition of "God" is a little vague.

If we define God as "a being who makes everything appear purple," then we could disprove God. After all, not everything appears purple. If God existed, everything would appear purple.

So here's a definition of God that I think most Christians and ex-Christians could agree on: A being who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good.

And by that definition, I think I can safely dismiss this God as easily as the God who makes everything appear purple.

After all, if God is all-knowing, he knows what it would take to convince me that he was there. If he is all-powerful, he is able to do it. And if he is all-good, he would want to.

But since I remain sincerely unconvinced that he is there, does that count as a disproof of God, as per my definition?

This is the point where I think some would accuse me of judging God. If God is all-knowing, then I cannot safely say that God would want to reveal himself to me at this time, if at all. An all-knowing God knows things about all-goodness that I cannot comprehend.

To this I can only throw up my hands.

If God does not exist, we will never come to that conclusion if we constantly apply "God works in mysterious ways" to everything. With this rebuttal, at no point will we reach the conclusion that the God hypothesis is garbage. It's assuming an outcome before we've even done the research.

Same-Sex Marriage

There was a time in my life where I believed that homosexuality was against God's plan. While I don't remember ever using such strong language as "abomination," I'm pretty sure I blanket-ridiculed homosexuals. And I am ashamed of that.

Back in high school, gay marriage was not even on my radar. I lived in a very Catholic country and went to a school run by Evangelical Americans. If homosexuality was discussed, it was the lifestyle and the act - I'm not sure gay marriage was even conceivable to me back then.

Then I moved to Canada, and was here for the legalization of same-sex marriage, and of course that forced me to start thinking about it.

Still calling myself an Evangelical Christian, I began to wonder what right any of us had to be against it. While still believing "active homosexuality" to be a sin, I realized that this was a religious opinion that a majority of Canadians didn't hold, and so my opinion became that it should indeed be legalized, as long as the religious freedoms of those who disagreed were not threatened (i.e. - no pastor would ever be sued for refusing to perform a same-sex ceremony).

So now the debate is happening in America. I no longer believe homosexuality to be "sinful," but even if I did, I think (and hope) I would be appalled at this:


Catholic blogger Lisa Graas said in an exchange with Jeremy Hooper that when the reverent in the video says "worthy of death," he is speaking of spiritual death, not calling for the death penalty. And yet the specific passage he is referring to (Leviticus 20:13) literally calls for the death penalty for homosexual acts.

Zinnia Jones, I think, has a good reply to Lisa:


Especially this:
Because whatever someone's religion says about the afterlife, this is only their own concern, and it's never grounds for telling the entire population what they can and can't do. The only reason they're able to practice their own faith without interference is because of this fundamental principle of individual religious freedom, and disregarding that freedom jeopardizes everyone's rights. If the government ever told them they needed to stop being who they are for the sake of their own "salvation", they would be outraged at the total lack of respect for their freedom of conscience and self-determination. And you know what? So am I! We don't need a nanny state in the name of a nanny god. If your god really exists and wants to send me to hell after I die, then that will be between me and your god. But right now, we all live on earth, where there are things like basic human rights and secular governments that do not endorse religions. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Short Thought on Inerrancy

The Holy Scriptures, as originally given by God, are divinely inspired, infallible, entirely trustworthy, and constitute the only supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.
(from The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada's Statement of Faith; emphasis mine)

If God is so interested in making the originals of Scripture infallible, why is he so unconcerned with keeping Scripture that way? If you're going to divinely inspire the authors of the originals, why not do the same for the scribes and translators?

The Deaths of Judas Iscariot

I'm not sure what the small amount of people who read this blog actually think about Biblical inerrancy. Is the Bible inerrant? What does inerrancy mean to you? It seems to have different definitions for different denominational persuasions.

I've come across a figurative ton of Christians recently who are perfectly comfortable throwing the idea of inerrancy out the window. That is, point out an obvious contradiction in the Bible, and you get a nod of agreement.

That is not, however what most of the Christians I know believe. They believe that the Bible (in its original manuscript) is inerrant; that is, error free. It has literally no contradictions. Point out an obvious contradiction to this person, and you get denial.

So here is why I think the accounts of the death of Judas Iscariot are at odds with each other and that any attempt to reconcile them is simply scriptural gerrymandering.

Here they are:

Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they took counsel and bought with them the potter's field as a burial place for strangers. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.
-Matthew 27:3-8 ESV

Now this man [Judas] acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.
-Acts 1:18-19 ESV

I see two contradictions here:

1. In Matthew's version, Judas dies by hanging himself. In Acts' version,  Judas dies by falling and losing his guts.

2. In Matthew's version, the chief priests buy the field with the 30 pieces of silver. In Acts' version, Judas acquires the field.

Here is how I have seen theologians attempt to square these stories with one another and keep the doctrine of infallibility intact:

First, they say that Judas hung himself, and that his body somehow fell to the ground and burst open, whether because the rope broke, or someone cut him down, or something like that.

Second, they say that the priests bought the field with Judas' money, so they were his proxies, in a sense.

Unless you are completely committed to the reliability of the Biblical accounts, you can see why these two attempts at reconciliation are absurd. Those who are committed to inerrancy would not accept this kind of twisting of the narrative in any other situation.

Here's an example:

Say I have a friend, Betty, and I just discovered today that she has died. My mother calls me up and tells me, and at the same time, a friend of mine posts it on Facebook. My mother says that Betty was in a car accident and was killed instantly. My Facebook friend posts that Betty was shot in a convenience store robbery gone wrong.

Both my mother and my friend are generally reliable people. What am I to make of this? If I were to follow the lead of Christian apologists, I might come up with something like, Betty was driving in her car and crashed into a convenience store where a robbery was taking place. As the car crashed through the front window, the criminal pulled the trigger and shot Betty, killing her instantly. And so, both my mother and my friend are correct in their versions of the story.

Now, is it possible that Betty was killed in this way? Sure. Is it plausible? Do I have any good reason to believe that this is what happened? No. Why? Because there are a few possibilities that are more plausible. My mother is mistaken. My friend is mistaken. They are speaking of different Betty's.

So back to Judas.

Isn't it far more likely that either Matthew or Acts (or both) got it wrong? Or that there were a few stories circulating and Matthew picked one and Acts picked the other?

If you disagree with me, in what way is the Judas story different from the Betty story?

Monday, October 8, 2012

What Would Change Your Mind?

There are so many things I've been wrong about that I've been fortunate enough to discover.

There are so many things I'm still wrong about that I may never even know I'm wrong about. As Donald Rumsfeld says, "...there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know."

But once I start thinking about the possibility of being wrong, what does it take to cross over to Rightness from Wrongness?

I suppose it's different every situation and for every person.

For evolution, it took a desire to know not only what it really was (I had never been taught that), but why the scientists who accept it (and there were far more than I was told) believe it to be the best explanation for the diversity of life.

For religion, it took a desire to follow the evidence wherever it led, even if my most cherished beliefs were proven wrong.

For gay marriage, all it took was a little thought, a little bit at a time. Even before doing a little research and realizing that homosexuality was not the abomination I had been taught, I thought a little bit about what it meant to live in a pluralistic, secular society. Even while still believing it to be sinful, I realized that this was a religious position to have and that I had no right on imposing my religious view of marriage on state marriage (which are two different things).

Which leads me to the title of this post. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that you're wrong on one of these issues (or any other issue, for that matter), what will it take to change your mind? I think that's an important question to ask yourself, because if you are in the wrong about a given issue, and you don't think about how you could get out of that predicament, you never will.

What inspired this thought are an amazing collection of videos from John Corvino about the gay marriage debate in the U.S., and this ad from Expedia:



Will these be a couple of the little things that move you from one frame of mind to another?

Also, I need a recipe for Lawyer Guacamole.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Short Thought on Fanaticism

Give me the freedom to criticize you, and I will be respectfully critical. Deny me that freedom, and you have earned my disrespect.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Short Thought on Church

I miss the community and fellowship of church.

I don't miss the cognitive dissonance.

Is there a place (not online) where you can get the good stuff without the bleaugh?

Friday, July 27, 2012

I'm an Idiot for Making You Think I Thought You Were an Idiot

A friend told me yesterday that this blog makes it seem like I think Christians are idiots.

Oops.

Since all of the people I consider good friends minus one are Christians, I must be losing friends fast. So I'm sorry if you know me and have felt like I think you're a dumb person.

As we were talking we both agreed that there are many many smart people – smarter than me – who find the Christian faith believable, plausible, and even factual.

So I think it's pretty obvious that intelligence has nothing to do with it.

I think we all have blind spots, though, and I think a smart theologian's biggest blind spot is the implausibility of his faith, and I said this to my friend.

He asked what my blind spot is. What a jerk - as if I want to take time for that sort of introspection. I'm far better at finding other people's flaws than my own... My reply was that I didn't know - that's why it's my blind spot.

If you know me, what do YOU think my blind spot is?

I guess the bottom line is this: if you are a Christian (or of any religious persuasion), I think you're wrong when it comes to matters of faith. If I know you personally, I try very hard to separate my respect for you from my respect for your beliefs. Those beliefs used to be my beliefs, and I now consider my former beliefs wrong almost to the point of shaking my head in wonder that I actually swallowed such a tall tale. But that doesn't mean I think my former self was an idiot. I mean sure, I'm not the smartest guy around, but I don't suppose I'm the dumbest either. So there I was, a guy of fairly average intelligence, believing things that I now find ridiculous. Was I an idiot? Nah. Misinformed? Definitely. Ignorant of my faith's validity? For sure. But you know what? I still kinda like that guy! And I respect him. Because as silly as I know regard his faith, he cared about doing what was right and holding to his beliefs for good reasons.

If I think a person's an idiot, it's generally because of actions and not beliefs.

I'm sorry to have conveyed otherwise.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Answers in Genesis: Are we more moral than God?

Here's another interesting post from Libby Anne over at Love, Joy, Feminism.

Answers in Genesis: Are we more moral than God?

It seems that the Christianity I was brought up in has a “God seems evil, but that’s only because we’re bad judges of character” type of vibe to it. Or am I wrong?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Spank Them

I found this piece by an anonymous author tonight, here, and it really resonated with me. Perhaps I'll share some more of my own experiences with spanking (receiving and administering) some time. It's not a fun topic, so I'll have to think about it a bit more. In the mean time:

If you want your children to behave only when you're around, spank them.
If you want your children to see your anger as something to be afraid of, spank them.
If you want your children to sneak behind your back and keep things to themselves to avoid your anger, spank them.
If you want your children to hurt and berate themselves when they feel like they've let themselves down, spank them.
If you want your children to be fed lies like "this hurts me more than it hurts you", spank them.
If you want your children to think that your love is conditional and that making mistakes mean you don't love them, spank them.
If you want your children to physically fight with each other, spank them.
If you want your children to feel justified when your spouse abuses you, spank them.
If you want your children to move far from you the first chance they get, spank them.
If you want your children to resent you and authority, spank them.
If you want your children to be introverted and afraid to let themselves show, spank them.
If you want your children to learn how to draw themselves into dead, emotionless state when criticized because "crying just makes it worse", spank them.


"Spare the rod, spoil the child," they say.


"Use the rod, spoil your relationship with your child," is the reality.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Presupposing the Non-existence of God

I’ve talked with a few theists about their big problem - they presuppose that God exists. This is not based on any rational, evidence-based discovery. It’s home base. Where they start from.

Of course, this was then flipped (oh yeah? well you too) to me. I’m sure there’s a Latin phrase for this, and I’m sure I’ll look it up and insert it here: tu quoque. (I’m guilty of this all the time when attempting to defend myself against the insights of my wife...)

Forget that this is a dodge; a fallacy. It’s flat-out false!

I do NOT presuppose the non-existence of God(s). In the same way that I do NOT presuppose the non-existence of unicorns. I’ve never seen a unicorn. Nobody that I know of has seriously claimed to see one. The only claims I see regarding unicorns are in fairy-tales and maybe some VERY fringe groups. So it does not require presupposing the non-existence of unicorns to discount their existence. That does not mean I am not OPEN to changing my mind regarding the existence of the unicorn. I am! Show me the evidence and I will gladly revise my opinion.

And the same goes for God.

What am I presupposing here that I shouldn’t be?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

You Are The Media

YOU are the media.
Blame yourself.

The higher the technology becomes, the more everybody becomes the media. People at V-Tech complained about over-extensive media coverage of their plight. And that is because Cho himself WAS media. He used media-producing devices to get his message out there. As did whoever filmed the classroom using their cel phone. That person is also the media. Our world is changing. Anyone can have a blog or a vlog. Anyone can upload stuff to Youtube.

We are the media.
And we are biased.

People rant and rave about how Fox news is so Right-wing. People rant and rave about CNN and MSNBC. They rant and rave on blogs. They rant and rave in songs that are later published on CDs. They rant and rave in front of their little webcams and post their rantings and ravings on Youtube. Um, hello!? These networks are biased because they are catering to viewers who are equally biased! You’re just a small version of whichever giant’s viewpoint you espouse!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Please Stop Evangelizing Children

A couple of months ago I sat with my wife in a Christian gathering and listened to the testimony of a couple who had recently been to Latin America with a Christian mission.

One of this group's main goals is to minister (provide physical relief) to children in poor and underdeveloped parts of the world, but the main point of their ministry is to bring children into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

The woman in this meeting spoke of the "5-15 Window" - the age at which most Christians become Christians. Once they get past this window, according to her, the likelihood of their salvation becomes increasingly small.

I wonder why that is?

Had you asked me ten years ago, I might have pointed out that Jesus said one must have faith like a child in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Perhaps I would have gone on to say that as one grows older, they get increasingly set in their ways - you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Now I think it's mostly because kids are gullible.

From my experience as a father, I am pretty certain that my kids are willing to believe anything I (or others) tell them. Especially if I use my serious tone...

The other day we were watching some dinosaur clip on YouTube and the younger boy asked me if Triceratops was real. I think he was wondering whether it was like a lion or like a dragon in the existence department. At that point, I could have told him anything, and he'd have believed me. At this point I am a trusted source of knowledge.

My kids also see other adults as trusted sources of knowledge.

The other day, my eldest told me he believed in God.

I said, "Okay. How come?"

"Because they told me that he was real in Sunday School."

They can tell him anything, and he'd believe them.

I, the Sunday School teachers, and the folks over at that Christian evangelism organization realize that kids are malleable. They're gullible in ways that adults aren't. And that is why you hear slogans like "Get 'em while they're young."

Does anyone see the problem here?

Say you're presented with an option:

Your child will be approached by members of X Philosophy—be it a religion, cult, political party, or ideology—giving her seven reasons to be a member of their group. Would you rather this happen when she's eight or when she's twenty-eight?

I know I'd prefer twenty-eight. Hopefully, during the next twenty years, I will have taught her how to think critically and deeply so that she can carefully and logically evaluate the claims being presented to her.

And it doesn't matter to me which philosophy X is. I don't want my child joining a philosophy before she can understand what it means to join a philosophy!

I don't want atheists telling my kids why God cannot exist. I don't want Christians telling my kids they need to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior now, or risk eternal hell-fire. I'd rather they be adults who know how to think so that they can carefully and critically evaluate these claims—as opposed to children who will willingly disbelieve in Triceratops because you tell them he's fake. (I didn't tell him this, by the way!)

I can think of no good reason to proselytize any child into any religion, regardless of whether or not that religion is true. Children are so gullible; how can you even regard this as a real conversion!? To me, the claims of religion are nuanced and require serious thinking before any of them are to be accepted. They require the type of thought and contemplation that children are just not yet capable of.

If you disagree with me, ask yourself how comfortable you would be if you knew your kids were being actively proselytized by members of a different religion/ideology.

Christianity's founder himself, Jesus of Nazareth—tell me, what were the ages of those he called to follow him? Any children in the bunch? Fishers of what now?

All this to say: I think proselytizing children is a bad idea.

An addition a few days later:

I just watched a very interesting interview about the Good News Club in America that reminded me of my feelings regarding child evangelism. It's long, but... watch it instead of your two TV shows tonight.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Why I Hated Madagascar 3

A month or two ago, we bought a trio of blu-rays from Dreamworks. Upon bringing them home, we realized each had a coupon for $8 off a kid's ticket for Madagascar 3, and since we have three kids, yay! We were hanging out with a good friends from out of town who have a couple little hooligans of their own, so we decided to go see the movie together on Saturday.

We arrived at the mall with plenty of time to do a bit of shopping before hand. We congregated at the entrance to the theatre at 2:45 (the movie was supposed to start at 3:30), but the doors were closed and there was a sign saying they'd open at 3:00. Fine. Let's hang out for fifteen minutes longer, no problem. We put our kids in the hurricane simulator. We chatted. We waited.

The doors opened, and we made our way in. We found out we couldn't use our printed-out coupons at the little automatic kiosks. Also, the box office was closed (apparently our theatre is under-staffed). No problem. We'll just stand in line and get our tickets at the snack bar, like everybody else. Our friends got their tickets at the kiosks and said they'd save us some seats. At this point, it was about 3:05.

Well, we waited in line. There were three of them, and of course we picked the one that was being attended by a staff member in training. Or else he was just really methodical. I don't know. At any rate, our line was moving very slowly. Our kids were getting restless. I was getting restless. But you know what, that's okay. I'm glad they have staff members in training, or at some point that would run out of staff, am I right?

After about fifteen minutes in line - at about the point we realized we'd probably not get into the theatre in time, my wife nudged me and whispered, "These people are trying to cut in line."

I looked, and there was a small group of people standing right next to us. A lady with two kids that looked like hers and one more kid who didn't. They were staring straight ahead, and the youngest kid was standing almost directly behind my wife in line. It appeared he was trying to look like he belonged in our group.

But I like giving people the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they were just standing in an odd place. I asked my wife how she knew, and she said that this little family had been doing the same thing to the people in front of us, and that she had heard one of them telling the kid that "the line is back there," which had been followed by the small family moving to stand beside us.

Hmm.

I looked at the kid. He looked at me and quickly looked elsewhere. Some people tell me I'm intimidating.

I stood there and thought about these people for the next five minutes while the line moved a few feet and our movie started without us. The kid and his family slowly began to wedge themselves between us and the people behind us.

I turned to them and, gesturing with my face, asked them, "Do you know these guys?"

"Nope. I think they're trying to cut in front of us."

"Yeah. I think you're right."

I thought a bit longer.

But then I put my face close to the kid's and asked him if he was trying to cut in line. He said, "Well that's my mom right there." Classic. Reminds me of the purse incident from my childhood. Pretty sure I should tell that story some time.

I said, "That's not what I asked. I asked if you're trying to cut in line."

He didn't say anything.

"Would you like it if you'd been standing in line for 20 minutes and some guy tried to cut in front of you?"

He shook his head.

"Then be a good guy and go to the back of the line, please. Because I wouldn't like it, either."

The kid moved to stand on the other side of his mother. I heard him whispering to her. She said something in an offended tone; I caught the word "jerk." I imagine she was referring to me. The family stayed right next to us, albeit not as close as before, for a few more minutes. We inched closer to the till.

Presently they moved to stand a few feet up, looking to try cutting in front of the people a group or two up.

I asked the people ahead of us, "Do you know these guys?"

"Nope. I think they're trying to cut in front of us."

"Yeah."

So there we all stood, letting ourselves be taken advantage of.

Finally, I couldn't stand it any longer. I walked up behind the matriarch of the family, tapped her on the shoulder and said, "Ma'am, do you have a good reason to be here?"

Because I still wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she had a good reason to be cutting in line! I couldn't think of any good reason to cut in line at a movie theatre, but hey. I'm not the most creative guy in the world.

She stuttered a bit and looked around. Classic.

It looked like I was about to win the day, when a large woman standing in line in front of the group in front of us said, "I'm letting her go ahead of me."

I turned to her. "Why?"

"Well because I'm waiting for my husband to come because he's buying our tickets."

"So you're letting these people cut in front of you?"

"Yes."

"Do you know them?"

She looked nervous. I repeated the question.

"I do now."

I was appalled. Temporarily speechless.

"You can't do that!" I finally said.

"Yes I can," she retorted, finally finding her courage. "This is my place in line, and it is my prerogative if I want to let someone cut in front of me. She's not the first person I've let do this."

My voice grew loud enough for the all the people around me to hear what I was saying.

"Absolutely not! It is absolutely not your prerogative to let people cut in front of you! If you were the only person in line, then it would be your prerogative to let everyone and their dog walk all over you, but you are not the only person in line! There are close to 40 other people who have been waiting in line for their movie tickets, movies they're missing now because you've been letting people barge in front of you! You are not the only person here, and what you are doing affects everyone else!!!"

She looked ashamed of herself. She said, "I suppose your right, when you put it like that."

But it was too late. The cutting family was purchasing their tickets and their large quantities of food and drink. I contemplated confronting them as they left and demanding that they hand their tickets over to me, to give to the next people in line. My wife told me that would be illegal, but that cutting in line was not, in fact, illegal.

I fumed out loud for a bit. The families in front and behind thanked me for doing what I did. Of course, no one else in that line had my back while I was trying to stop the cutters. They just watched.

I suppose this is one of the few times I think I'd rather live in the States. I can't imagine Americans watching blithely while a petty injustice like this took place.

So finally we got to the front and tried purchasing our tickets with the coupons. By this time our movie had already been running a full ten minutes. The kid at the till had never seen this type of coupon before and had no idea what to do. He went and got his manager. The manager processed a coupon and then said I owed him 25 cents. Apparently they couldn't just run it all through and charge me two adult tickets plus 75 cents for the kids. This looked like it was going to take a while, as we had no cash and so I was going to have to run my credit card through the machine three times for a quarter and then once for 18 bucks.

Despondent and grumpy, I said, "Screw it, I'll just pay for the full amount of the remaining kids' tickets and ours." So I did.

Tickets in hand, we left the line and got to the place where they rip your ticket up. Then I realized I only had four tickets in hand. Looking at the receipt, I realized that I had indeed only paid for four tickets. I almost felt like crying.

I told the guy, "I've only been given four tickets."

"That's okay," he said, and let us through.

So went into the theatre. Our friends waved at us. We sat down and watched the movie. I couldn't really enjoy it.

I can only recall really chuckling at one point in the movie:

Julien and his two sidekicks have just entered a train car that looks like it has a monster in it - spooky music is playing, and you hear a small child singing; a classic movie trope. Then the camera pans down and you see it is only Julien's smaller side kick humming happily to himself.

But that's about it. Everyone else thought the movie was awesome, so that's cool.

Later on, driving home, I asked my wife if I'd embarrassed her. She nodded in the affirmative.

"I'm sorry. I don't like embarrassing you. But at the moment, I'm actually struggling with guilt - guilt that I didn't do more to stop those people from taking advantage of all the people in the line."

She understood. And she said that she was only embarrassed because she hates public confrontation, and not because I did anything particularly embarrassing.

The moral of this story, in my mind, is that our society mostly works. Our species is awesome. We have a successful society because we are capable of empathy. We can imagine what it is like to stand in line for 45 minutes and how little we would appreciate people cutting in front of us, and so WE DON'T DO IT! This mother suppressed her empathy gland, I guess. She was teaching her kids that other people don't matter.

But thankfully, she only represented a tiny percentage of all the people crowding that theatre lobby.

Perhaps that is why, when this mother had finished purchasing her stuff and was walking toward the theatre, I called after her kids, as a parting shot:

"Hey kids! Don't be like your mom!"

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Conversations Between a Christian and a Skeptic, Episode II

Why don't you believe in God?
I have no reason to.
Here's a reason: He loves you.
Well that's a nonsensical reason!
How so?
You tell me I should believe in God because he loves me. But if I'm to believe you when you tell me he loves me, I must first believe that he exists, and I have no reason to.


This conversation actually happened with a specific person. Please don't take it as representative of the views of all Christians and Skeptics.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Conversations Between a Christian and a Skeptic, Episode I

Prelude: Do you have any idea why God would be hiding from me? Why I have not found him, despite sincerely desiring to?

Seek the Lord and you will find him.
Well, I sought the Lord for quite some time and never found him. Either he doesn’t exist (which is the sneaking suspicion I finally came to), or he doesn’t want to be found.
Of course he wants to be found. Or, more accurately, he wants to find you.
Then let him find me. Here I am.
Where did you look?
Excuse me?
You said you looked for God for a while. Where did you look, when you were looking for him?
All the usual places. Nature. Scripture. The lives of people who profess belief in God. You know, the places he’s supposed to be.
And you didn’t find him in any of those places?
Nope. I used to think it was easy to see him in nature. When I was a child, thunder was God muttering. Rain was him crying. The moon was his thumbnail. As I grew older, I came to understand these to be natural phenomena, but I still believed that the existence of God best explained their existence; the stars on a winter's night were Nature singing its Creator's praises. As I continued to study, I came to understand that natural phenomena came about naturally. There is not a single instance where a natural phenomenon has turned out to have had a super natural cause. It’s either a documented natural cause, or remained unexplained.
And Scripture?
The God I believed in was completely good. There was no darkness or evil in him, and so when I found things in Scripture that went against the morality I ascribed to deity, I was at a cognitive dissonance. For many years I was successful in suppressing this dissonance, but over time I forced myself to think about it. And I did not like what I found.
The God of Scripture knows all things, and yet claims to be good. And yet he allows things to happen (and sometimes causes things to happen) that are very, very evil. And if any human had the power to stop these things and didn’t, they would be considered evil as well.
What do you mean?
Say I saw a woman getting raped. What do you think my moral obligation would be?
Where did that moral obligation come from in the first place?
Don’t change the subject. We can talk about that another time. What’s my moral obligation?
To stop it.
Exactly right. Why should I expect any less from a being who is supposed to exceed my own morality?
But the difference between you and God is that you are a finite being. God is infinite. He knows past, present, and future.
So you’re saying that if I knew the future, it might be okay, nay, even moral, for me to stand by and watch? If I knew that this woman would go on to found a women’s help line that would be a force for good in the lives of millions of women and even put a stop to millions of rapes, that this knowledge would grant me the moral authority to stand by and watch her get raped?
God doesn’t enjoy it!
I don’t care! If I were the woman, and a stranger stood by while I was violated, I wouldn’t care whether he enjoyed it or not. I don’t care if the stranger knows the good or bad that will come of this event. The fact is, he is standing by while my body is violently penetrated against my will! He does nothing while I am robbed of dignity and self-respect! What does that make the stranger!?
You know, as sad as a situation like that is, we all deserve worse. We all deserve Hell.
Do we deserve to get raped?

Your silence brings me to the third place I looked for God. People of faith. What matters is not their religion, their affiliation; the church they went to or the prayers they uttered.
 I figured, if God wants to be found, surely one of them has it right, and I should therefore see him at work in someone’s life. Especially if I’m looking for him.
And?
Nothing.
What about me?
Sorry, buddy. Besides your "orthodoxy", I see no praxis that sets you apart from people with different orthodoxies.
Did you never feel God tugging at your heart?
Oh, sure I did. It’s what the Mormons call the “burning in the bosom.” You’re not suggesting they’re the ones who’ve actually found God, are you?
No.
See, I cannot trust my own emotions to tell me if I’ve found God. I’ve had plenty of emotional experiences. At the time, I thought they were God. But it becomes so hard to sort out which are God and which are just me, feeling emotional. An encounter with God must be more than that.
What would it take to convince you?
I don’t know. I’ll let the good God I don’t believe exists handle that one.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Meaning

What is the meaning of the color yellow?

What is necessary to give meaning to yellow? Me. It's my favorite color. Because of this, it has meaning to me. Perhaps your favorite color is red. I'm happy for you.

What is the meaning of life?

What is necessary to give meaning to life? Me. It's my favorite form of existence. Because of this, it has meaning to me. Perhaps your favorite form of existence is mineralhood. I'm happy for you. Okay, maybe not.

Weird thoughts at 2:30 in the morning.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

No True Scotsman

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
1 John 2:19 ESV

In my discussions with believers, both in person and online, I have often been subtly accused (or at least the person "wondered") if I ever was actually a Christian in the first place. How frustrating to convince a former "brother in the faith" that I actually was what I said I was! That I wasn't "living a lie," but was actually a member of that faith. One of the big problems for me in trying to convince them of this are Scripture passages like the one above. The No True Scotsman fallacy is present, right here in Scripture.

I think the video I've posted below from TheraminTrees kills two birds with one stone. It exposes the faulty thinking in 1 John 2:19, and it also explains another concept I've tried to elaborate on in my conversations - that nobody actually has faith in Jesus himself. It all boils down to faith in people.

So who do we believe?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Ghosts

Is it just me, or are people more into Easter this year?

I have a crummy memory sometimes, but I don't remember last year's Facebook scroll being this full of Vernal cheer and jeer. Most of my friends are full of cheer - expressing joy and gratitude to Christ for his sacrifice. A tiny number are full of jeer - posting cartoons of Zombie Jesus.

I don't feel cheer or jeer. I think about the present in its relation to the past and the future.



A year ago, I was finishing up my relationship with religion. It was a long break-up. Our Facebook status would have been "it's complicated" for about a year and a half.

Two years ago, I was having very serious doubts - questioning my Evangelical and Protestant understanding of the Christian god. I knew who the Bible purported him to be. I knew other Christians' testimonies regarding this being. I even recalled my own "experiences of the Divine." Yet these three refused to jive with reality.

Three years ago, I was a "liberalish" Evangelical Christian. By "liberalish" I mean that I didn't think homosexuality was a sin and nodded in agreement to the idea that evolution best explained the diversity of life. By Evangelical Christian, I mean that In Christ Alone was one of my favorite songs and aptly described my belief regarding Easter.



This year, I have mixed feelings. Happiness at where I am in life. Gratitude to my wife for putting up with the last three years of transition. Sadness at the pain I've caused people. Frustration at the sway mythology holds in the lives of people I love. Hope for the future.



Hope for the future. A different hope than the one I once had. That hope of the past was based on a belief in the possibility and inevitability of Resurrection.

The hope I now have is not as compelling, I'll admit. It's a lot less boisterous. More careful. Non-committal. I recognize that the things I hope for may never happen. But I hope anyway. And instead of "bursting forth in glorious day," this new hope pokes its young shoots warily out of the snow and smiles, thinking it might be Spring.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tom Hail

I borrowed this form Pharyngula because it resonates with me:


Why I am an atheist – Tom Hail

Atheism
This is a letter I wrote my aunt in 2007 after she asked why I wanted to take her faith away from her.
Why I am godless.
I don’t understand how perfectly rational, intelligent, kind, and responsible people can believe in a God. It baffles me totally. And I think about it a lot, not like I feel like I am missing anything myself but in wonder at how this belief can be corrected. You know, I wouldn’t trade our family for any other family, I enjoy and love them all and the fact that most have faith saddens me somewhat.
I do not see any god anywhere I look. From the maelstrom of quantum mechanics in particle physics, to the busy chemistry of each living cell, to the beautiful physics of aerodynamics, to the majestic geology of our earth, to the titanic forces in our solar system, to the stupendous forces driving our galaxy and universe… it is all so awesome and beautiful that to attribute any of it to God’s creation is, to me, insufficient. That there are questions and problems with what we understand only makes discovery all that more meaningful. It is all so hugely complex in total, but it all builds upon many simpler things. Evolution is perfect simplicity which builds very slowly into the complex beauty of life we have today. I feel that beauty in my heart much better than I can express in words. Even without the controversies of life and evolution, the complexities of the universe are so much beyond a god, needs no explanation with a god. God is so unnecessary.
I have a saying that has gelled in my mind over the last year or so… Atheism: Natural Morals, Real Meaning, Credible Truth.
Our morals come naturally, someone writing them down and calling them the word of God seems like plagiarism to me. And I think they added in the rules to help control the masses better, or at least to control the women better. It looks to me that our natural morals come from our need to survive, we can’t survive if we are killing each other, we are wired for survival and propagation of the population. Stoning women for adultery seems wrong and it is, it isn’t a natural moral, but the writers of the “messiah’s” words seem to have another motive, valid at the time maybe, probably to help control the population to their benefit. The need to survive and procreate is very simple but a lot of things derive naturally from it. Helping others, kindness to your children, education, it just builds and builds on it. To me it boils down to “relieve and prevent suffering, give pleasure.” If I am doing that in any way, I am being true to my morals.
Real meaning in life also comes from the need to survive and procreate, to do so means we must discover how our world works, adapt, learn, overcome problems, coexist with the individuals of our species, coexist with our world. This is real meaning to me. To worship a deity hoping for a good result when I die doesn’t provide any meaning. The discovery of our world may be the most important and leads us into our future. If we stop, we will stagnate and suffer. I think our species made a mistake creating religions, it is a dead end that we have to back out of to progress on, but maybe it was a lesson we had to learn.
Credible truth, the biggest being that this is it. This is heaven, hell, whatever you make of it. This is your one life. You are only borrowing the atoms you consist of for your sort life time and then they are recycled into the universe to be used again. I am ok with that. It doesn’t scare me. I wish it weren’t so but that is the way of the universe. We are such a small mote in just our galaxy which is a small object in an immense universe. But the meaning of life is to be all that you can be to your family and friends, community, and world. That is a real truth that I can believe in.
Why is this important to me? I see thousands dying monthly, sometimes daily in fighting to the death over what are to me fairy tales. Fighting over essentially worthless land, fighting for what boils down to power. Much of it in the name of their religion. It makes me angry. The war in Iraq has many religious overtones that disturb me. The trillions of dollars this is going to cost us is going to hurt.
I didn’t mean to write this on a Sunday, it just turned out that way, I’ve been busy and I had to compose it some in my mind first. I had a great day yesterday with flying passengers for the 99’s scholarship fundraiser. Allena came over and helped out the ladies. It was one of those things I do that gives real meaning to my life, showing 10 people their world from above.
Tom Hail
United States

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Vacuum Cleaner and the Fish Tank


When I was a kid, I had a bunk bed. I remember sharing it with my little sister for a while, but at some point I got my own room and still had the bunk bed, which was awesome for forts and having friends over.
My room had a sloped, wooden ceiling, and if I carefully leaned out from the top bunk, I could just touch it.
One morning, my sister was in my room for some reason I’ve forgotten, and I was on the top bunk, because I had noticed something odd about the ceiling and wanted to get a closer look.
About six square inches of the ceiling was afflicted with hundreds of tiny holes. I couldn’t get close enough with my face to really get a good look at it, so I would have to rely on my sense of touch to explore this anomaly.
Of course, the second my finger touched the punctured ceiling, a significant portion of it crumbled to dust and fell to the floor. I couldn’t see it, but I imagined the resulting hole had hundreds of terrified termites clinging for dear life to its sides.
My sister made a remark about the trouble I would be in when Mom saw the hole and the mess on the floor, and I knew she was right.
But like any kid, I had a wonderful sense of self preservation, and hoped that by cleaning up the obvious mess on the floor, she would never think to look up. So I scrambled off the bed, ran downstairs, and lugged the machine back up to my room.
After sucking away all of the debris (and possibly a large population of termites), I bent to turn off what I hoped was a life-saving device, when out of the corner of my eye I saw my fish tank.
Here were Freddy, Angela, and Sputnik swimming peacefully in their sheltered ecosystem of bubbly water, brightly covered gravel, and (real!) seaweed.
Ah, curiosity! Lover of discovery and flattened noses!
“I wonder,” I said aloud.
“Wonder what?” said Em.
“What would happen if I did this,” I said, as I plunged the still-sucking vacuum nozzle into the fish tank.
The fact that I did this proves to me that children can be thoughtful and thoughtless simultaneously.
There’s a Calvin & Hobbes anthology entitled Scientific Progress Goes “Boink”. Not in this case.
The slurping noise caused by this action was terrific. A little too terrific for my own good, I thought, and quickly jerked the hose from the tank and turned the power off. My lucky fish seemed none the wiser.
At this moment, my sister made a remark about my stupidity.
Still possessing a healthy sense of self preservation, I knew that I had better get that vacuum cleaner back to its closet downstairs as soon as possible, so I retracted the cord and began to haul it back downstairs.
While on the landing half way down, my sister looked over the banister from above and drew my attention to the puddle of black water forming at the vacuum’s back side.
Panicking, I raced down the stairs and put the vacuum away, hoping against all hope that somehow this situation would rectify itself before my mother discover any of my wrong-doing.
As with so many other crimes committed in my childhood, my hopes were not realized, and I was corrected by a mother who no doubt wished for me to find more positive outlets for burgeoning sense of curiosity.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

My "Testimony" (Condensed Version)


My parents were very keen on their children being followers of Jesus. Dad often told me that he didn’t care what career I held, as long as I was following Jesus. I remember praying the “sinner’s prayer” at an early age. It seemed like the right thing to do.

It’s an interesting thing, growing up in a Christian home. On one hand, there’s the standard held up for all to follow - try to be like Jesus. Jesus doesn’t want you to hit your sister. Jesus wants you to try your best at school. On the other hand, I was a human child, and like every other kid I’ve met, I was pretty self-absorbed. Somehow I retained the Christian label for myself in my mind, while externally I expect I was pretty normal. I did hit my sister. I didn’t try my best at school.

At around 17, I realized my life felt empty and seemed to be going nowhere with myself in control. I also realized that if this Christianity thing was any good, it needed to be my faith in God, not my parents’ faith as a proxy. And so I gave my life over to Jesus, calling him Lord and Savior. I spent the next decade dedicating myself to serving God, and to learning to be more like him. This included 4 years studying the Bible at a Bible college, 2 years studying music at a different Bible college, and then 4 more years teaching at the first Bible college.

I enjoyed this time, for the most part. I don’t feel like I was ever “spiritually abused” like some of the “deconverted” have reported.

A turning point in a faith I considered strong and unshakeable was the friendship with strong Christian friends at the second Bible college who were theistic evolutionists. That this was even possible went against everything I had come to expect in a real Christianity, but I had to admit that they did not fit with my expectations. As far as I could tell, they had a strong faith in God through Jesus Christ, despite their rejection of a literal interpretation of Genesis. I decided to investigate for myself, and read a lot of literature on evolution and creationism, from both sides of the argument.

In the end, I had to admit that evolution was the best explanation for the diversity of life on Earth. Still considering myself an Evangelical Christian, I nonetheless wondered that if I had been so wrong on the subject of Creation, was it possible to be wrong in other areas as well? A host of all the skeptical questions from my past came flooding into memory. They were questions I had rationalized away. Or ignored. Now I wondered if it was time to sincerely address them.

I waffled for quite some time with this question, but finally decided that truth was important to me, and that if I were wrong in my beliefs, I wanted to know. And so I embarked on another quest - one that I hoped would strengthen my faith and make me a better follower of Christ, as well as an example to other Christians struggling with doubt. Once again I read a lot of literature - apologetics, books on atheism, etc. - from both sides of the argument.

At the end of this, I no longer had any faith (around May 2010). My life was shaken in several ways.
The place where I worked was very Evangelical, and I knew I could not continue to teach there in good conscience, so I resigned.

My wife and I had gotten married in part because of a mutual faith (that is, marrying a Christian was on both of our lists of “musts”). This loss of faith was a blow to me, but it was a very big blow to her as well. It felt as if all our dreams for the future had just blown away.

We have three kids. How now to raise them?

Almost every one of my friends is an Evangelical Christian. I had fellowship with these people. We would pray together. We would discuss topics within the Christian system. Now that I was an outsider, there was a shift in friendship. I never felt abandoned by my friends, but the friendships changed a little - through no fault of theirs.


I made several unsuccessful attempts to reclaim my faith (the quote “Why oh why didn't I take the blue pill?” comes to mind). It’s been a hard couple years, but I’ve adjusted. My wife has adjusted. My family has adjusted. I guess we’re all still adjusting, here and there.

Change happens. I suppose adjusting is part of what it means to be alive.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Early Questions

As I write this blog, I intend a slow autobiography as I recall events from my life. Some of them will be related directly to the way I see the world now, and some will be memories - both fond and shudder-inducing. Perhaps at some point I'll be able to piece the sections of my life together into something that is cohesive and evaluable.

I have no intention of embarrassing anyone I know if they ever come across this. I hope to portray people's beliefs and opinions as accurately as possible. So I guess I'm leaving the door open to possible edits when I write posts like this.

Okay.

Early Questions.

I grew up in an Evangelical missionary home. My parents were (and still are, as far as I know) Young Earth Creationists - taking Genesis 1-3 very literally. I was taught to do the same. Adam and Eve were always regarded as real history in our house, as was the historicity of the creation account, the conniving serpent, the fall of humanity, the world wide flood, the Tower of Babel, and so on down through Genesis.

This is what we believed.

But I remember having questions as a kid about these stories. Seeds of skepticism, perhaps?

At some point I learned about the Andromeda Galaxy in school, and that it was 2.5 million light years away, give or take a few thousand.

I remember asking Dad how the Earth could be a few thousand years old if the light from Andromeda was a few hundred times older than that. The fact that Andromeda is (barely) visible in our night sky means that we are seeing it as it was a couple million years ago!

I don't remember how long it took Dad to respond. But I'm pretty sure his response was something like, "Mark, God can do anything. If he can create Adam as a fully formed adult human, he can just as easily create the light of a galaxy on its way to Earth." (Let me know if you remember it differently, Dad.)

That answer satisfied me at first. Of course God can do that.

After a while, though, I began to wonder what kind of God would create things that only seemed ancient, but in reality were very young. And even worse, it wasn't just that these things only seemed ancient, but they tested to be ancient.

Assume, for a moment, that the Adam and Eve story is factual, and that we somehow got into a time machine and flew back to moments after Adam's whole breathe-into-his-nostrils-the-breath-of-life experience. Here is Adam, a few minutes old. He certainly appears to be a full grown man. But let's take a swab of his saliva, and run some tests.

How old would the tests reveal Adam to be? What was the shape of his methylation? I imagine that, since all of Adam's organic material was completely new, his age would have been revealed to be quite a lot younger than he looked.

The problem with modern examples like light from Andromeda and the geological strata is that these things don't just appear to be old. Scientific tests reveal that they are old.

If God created light en route to Earth so that scientists - people using the brains God gave them - would come to the conclusion that the universe had to be at least as old as the farthest galaxy was lightyears away, then Science is an illusion. Nothing more than a hoax. A forgery. Evidence deliberately planted to make us believe a lie. Like the Piltdown man.

If the world is indeed only ten thousand or so years old, God invented modern Cosmology. Biology. Geology.


So my question eventually was this:

Why?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Flying too Close to Reason


The stories in the Bible are fantastic. But then again, so are the stories about Odysseus. And Apollo and his chariot. And that kid who attached feathers to his arms with wax and then flew too close to the sun.

If you want me to believe that Jesus turned water to wine, wine to blood, and blood to water (with the appropriate mixture of vinegar), why shouldn’t I also believe in... man, what’s his name? Excuse me while I look it up.

Icarus. Why shouldn’t I also believe that Icarus did indeed embark on his doomed flight?

But, you say, the stories in the Bible are true. And I know this because no other religion or mythology has God actually becoming a man and dying for his creation. All other religions, are the stories of Man’s efforts to get to God. Christianity tell’s the truth: Man can’t get to God. God has to come down to him. God has to rescue him. And that’s what God did through Jesus Christ. Jesus walked with humanity. Jesus performed miracles and told parables - and not for no reason. He turned water to wine to show that there was a new way of doing things. He called wine his blood at the Last Supper to show that he was about to give his life for humanity. Water came forth when his side was pierced by the spear as a cleansing symbol, and to show that he had indeed just sacrificed himself. The other religious stories pale in comparison.

Um, yeah. I find the story of Icarus far more compelling. It’s got people flying in it.

Jesus ascended into heaven.

Yeah, but the story doesn’t have much description in it. The story of Icarus has far more detail. We know what they did and how they did it. In that sense, it’s far more believable. Kind of like explaining exactly how David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear.

My point is that “compelling” is a completely subjective word. While Christians find the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus - and his vicarious atonement - satisfying and compelling, others (like that Hitchens fellow) find it repulsive, barbaric, and immoral.

And just because something is compelling doesn’t make it verifiable or true.

I’m not sure you believe it because it’s compelling. I wonder if you believe it because the alternative is definitely not compelling. To think that what you’ve held onto so tightly all these years might just be a fool’s dream is not a fun thing to contemplate! So you make your feathers, and attach them to your arms. You believe you can fly.

I had faith. It was firmly implanted in my brain. But the closer I got to reason, the faster the faith melted, and eventually it was all gone.

The difference between Icarus and me? Gravity killed him. Reason saved me.

Also, Icarus isn’t real… :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Wave of the Sea

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
James 1:5-8 ESV  
Hi there.

I live in community and isolation. My thoughts are cluttered, and rarely agreed with by those in my immediate circle of friends. Sometimes I get ideas, and this might be the place they go.

I used to be an Evangelical Christian.

I think I've given up trying to demonstrate the truth of my claim. If you believe that a Christian who falls away from the faith was never a Christian, and are unwilling to examine or admit to any evidence to the contrary, there is nothing I can do about that.

Those who know me have no problem believing me, because they knew me back then as well. Some people think they know me and try to put me into an ideological box; perhaps so that they can keep their dogma. Some people don't even pretend to know me personally, but because of what they think a deity has told them (or someone else) about my type, they can still put me into a box. God said so.

I've included the verse above, because I feel it to be a big part of why I lost my faith.

I asked for wisdom, expecting to receive it. I prayed the prayer of the father in Mark 9: "I believe! Help my unbelief!" I expected God to strengthen my faith, strengthen my resolve; to give me real wisdom. I admitted that I could not do it on my own. And then came the evidence that I was indeed doing it on my own; my faith slipped through my fingers while I wept.

I became, in the eyes of the author of James, a Wave of the Sea. Driven and tossed by the wind. Unstable and double-minded.

I suppose this is true. As I slipped into doubt, my world indeed became unstable. I indeed became double-minded. I worked at a Christian institution. I was driven and tossed between my own doubt and the ideology of my employ. I was unstable in my emotions. I was double-minded and a hypocrite. The face I presented to the world was not the same face I presented anonymously on the internet forums. I know I'm not alone in this. This blog is by no means novel.

I am no longer unstable. I still don't believe I'll get wisdom from God, but I no longer ask for it.

I finally arrived at the thought that, given a choice, I would choose truth over faith. And once I had decided this, truth became more important to me than faith, and I began to examine my faith again. I had examined it many times before and was able to tell others what I believed and why I believed it. But this time, before the examination, I discarded my presupposition that my faith was true. Every time before that, I was studying the Christian faith already believing it to be the absolute truth. This time, I allowed myself to say, "Wait and see. It might be true. It might not be. Suspend judgment until judgment can be made."

I am no longer double-minded.

For a while, I waffled between a desire for truth and a desire to keep my social network intact. Sometimes I catch myself wondering if I should have taken the BLUE pill... But no. In the words of a blogger I respect:
I am, in every way…..a normal example of a person who devotedly followed after Jesus who woke up one day and finally realized that most of what he spent his life doing was predicated upon a fantasy.
I have no desire to believe in fantasy, even if it means continued comfort.

Even though I no longer feel unstable or double-minded, I'm content to think of myself as a Wave of the Sea. I have no control over the wind. I can only do my best and enjoy the clean air as I surge along with all the other waves.

Well. I've exhausted my attention span for today. As every blogger says, I hope to update this often, because I think I often get thoughts I'd like to share with no one in particular. But we'll see.

Cheers.

Mark