Saturday, June 28, 2003

Anyone who thinks I've been slacking off on blog updates would do well to check my Guestbook. I've changed it so that the newest posts display last, so that the EPIC DEBATE therein is easier to read.

So there.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

One of my contemporaries has posted his thoughts to my guestbook. Here is a copy of the entry:

"God is an interesting concept and all. But, in the end, he is extremely illogical. Therefore, to prove my point, call upon the powers of time and space...ah, scratch that. To paraphrase the immortal Douglas Adams...God is nothing without faith, and the majority of humans beings need proof in order to have faith. However, there is no need for faith in light of faith beacause the proof makes faith moot. Therefore, God's response is "Oh, I hadn't thought of that" and he promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

"On a more serious note...I think that the being Christianity thinks of as God, on one level of thought, is God. However, on another level of snetience he maybe interpretted as a series of natural occurances of anomalies of nature that resulted in the big bang and the creation of Earth. For some, God DID create Heaven and Earth....but George Burns saids it best: "When i woke up this morning, the Trojans were still fighting." So, my point is that all points in and of themselves are valid intepretations of our existance, what is 'real'? To paraphrase Morpheus:
What is real? How do you define real? If real is what you can taste touch see or feel, then real is merely a series of electrical signals interpretted by your brain.

"Reality is shaped by our perceptions. And sadly, a person who has already 'made' their decision to "think in a box" has just limited to themselves to that one train of thought and are immediately biased to infinite array of possibilty. I do not deny the validity of your point of view...however, I think because of your view you deny everyone else's point of view by default.
That's what infuriates me about religion. Only oneperson is right and the rest should be burned or converted. If your 'god' was so benevolent, why didn't he get off his cloud and save the condemnation of millions of innocent lives because of the inhumane brutality of groups hunting "different' peoples? Or what about the thousands of Crusaders who sliced up the infidels in the name of the Grail? How benevolent is a lord who preaches for his childeren to convert people regardless of whether or not they want to listen? If they come to be it. But I am disgusted by the arrogant preaching of even the most kind hearted and decent souls of our planet...I turns my stomach everytime I'm forced to listen to the holier than thou and "well I know where I'm going when I die" responses to every argument that can be mustered?

"I do digress. In short, I think that Christianity is a valid way for people to cope and bring order to the insane tendencies of I'm not going to debat the nuances of a life preserver compared to buoy while I cling for dear life in a howling gale. I do think, however, you are one of the most decent human beings I know, so please take no offense to my ranting.
On a lighter note, is Reverand Lovejoy of the Simpsons telling the truth when he says; "technically, we're not even supposed to go the bathroom....." ???? "

I promised that I would respond, and have. Let’s rock.

First, you have terribly misquoted Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The “puff of logic” to which you refer involved not man’s supposed desire for proof, but rather the fictional Babel fish. The Babel fish supposedly proved the existence of God because it could not possibly have evolved. With God thus proven, the need for faith disappeared. And because God supposedly required his believers to believe out of faith and not proof, God could not exist. Even the Hitchhikers Guide, you may remember, reported that people called this notion a bunch of rubbish.

Second, I am thoroughly sick of the idea that perceptions shape reality. Perception shapes perception. What we see, hear, think, etc. shapes our worldview, not the world itself. Reality is real, and perception is how we experience it. This makes perception important, but it does not mean that we cannot be wrong in our ideas about the world. Refer to the truck example in my March 30 post. I would much rather limit my thoughts to what is real rather than letting my mind swim about considering infinite possibilities, undisciplined. This is not to say that I should not think; it means that I should, and hopefully reach a conclusion of some sort. Considering infinite possibilities means considering a lot of garbage, along with the plausible, useful, and generally worth-thinking-about. It is difficult to say where those limits lie, but I will say that I will spend more time considering how to comfort a friend in mourning than I will spend considering whether or not they are real.

I agree that religion is often quite infuriating. There have been many atrocities committed in the name of God. God is not for any of them. Arrogant preaching is not to be tolerated. Holier-than-thou types are misguided. The Crusades and the Inquisition were crimes against man and God. As to a given religion thinking it is the only way to God, consider this: what if it’s totally true? In the case of Christianity, if it is true, then everyone should be converted. Again, if the words of Jesus are true, then it is very, very important that they be told to the entire world. However, no one should be forced to convert. Come to think of it, how could someone be forced to believe something? Ask anyone who has had religion pushed on them what their response has been, and they will tell you a story about rebellion and lasting bitterness. People must make their own decisions about what to believe. According to Jesus, it is merely part of His followers’ duty to spread the word. He tells us to be kind, gentle, and wise about it, make no mistake. Some people (myself most assuredly included) have trouble following those guidelines.

Some people think of religion as a crutch, merely something for damaged people to lean on. In a way, I agree. Only, I say everyone’s damaged, and everyone genuinely needs a crutch to lean on. We need God’s help. Of course, we need to remain thinking human beings while we’re involved in religion.

I can’t recall a single accurate statement Reverend Lovejoy of The Simpsons has ever made about God. But then, maybe that’s the point of the character.

Finito. Ole.

I shall continue my discussion of Christianity from my last post next time.

Monday, June 16, 2003

...made it to the 15th. Sunday. The Sabbath day. That would be a good excuse not to have done it, but I'm done with excuses.

Today should make up for it. Back to Day One, with a vengeance.

It can be said that I am a Christian. When I say that, however, some very bizarre ideas come to some people's minds; notions about Christianity that are amazingly untrue. Today, I offer a basic explanation of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Read on... you may be surprised.

In the beginning, God created Heaven and Earth... okay. That's the easy part. As God created the world, it was good. He made people, and gave them the option to screw up. We screwed up. Shocker. Whether or not you think the stories of the book of Genesis are metaphorical or not, the important point is the same: sin entered the world. Sin is an important concept to understand. It is not, as many Catholic-raised stand-up comics have joked, merely the idea that we should abstain from doing anything fun. Sin is, essentially, separation from God brought on by not doing what He says we should do.

A quick aside. Some wonder why it's such a big deal that we do what God tells us to do. Here's why: the rules God sets for how we should live our lives are not arbitrary, not random. They are operating instructions for human beings. My good friend Brett explains it beautifully, saying that there are two important things to remember about God. First, He knows everything. We're talking about the designer of the entire universe. The author of you. Second, He loves His creation. He wants what's best for what He has made. Those two facts mean that God is much more qualified to run my life than I am. Something to think about.

Back to sin. There is a whole lot of sin in the world. This is because it is part of human nature. In other words, human beings are innately imperfect, or become imperfect quickly as we are exposed to the world. Whatever the cause, one thing is clear: we need help. On our own, we only dig ourselves deeper.

Help came in the form of Jesus of Nazareth, who you know as Jesus Christ. "Christ" was not his last name. The word is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word messiah, meaning "anointed one." The messiah was a figure in ancient Jewish prophecy, said to be the very son of God. Christianity holds that Jesus was in fact the Son of God... more specifically, that He was an incarnation of God, but also fully human. History shows that Jesus of Nazareth lived and taught in and around first century Jerusalem, and was killed by crucifixion at the hands of local Roman officials and Jewish leaders.

Christianity teaches that on the third day after Jesus' death, He came back to life. This is amazingly important. You see, Jesus came to Earth with a specific purpose in mind. Sin had created a rift between man and God that man could not possibly cross by his own power. Ironic, the word cross, since that's what it took to bridge the gap. You see, with sin comes a penalty. This is where the fire-and-brimstone preachers get their ammo. You know the type: "Repent, or burn forever in the deepest stinky pit of Hell where it burns and it sucks to be you!"

Jesus, through his death, took on Himself all of the punishment due for everything wrong the entire human race has ever done, and will ever do. He did this out of mercy and love. His sacrifice has cosmic implications... some of which I hope to summarize next time.

This is a quick-and-dirty explanation, if you haven't noticed. If you are left with burning questions, or merely flickering ones, e-mail me by clicking "contact" above, or post in the guestbook. More soon.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Every so often, I remember that some people think I'm a writer. Every so often, I think of myself as a writer. This is ridiculous, since I rarely write much of anything. The intermittent nature of the updates to this blog are evidence of that. I can hardly explain the frustration of being a writer who has trouble actually getting things down on paper. The main frustration, I think, is that my lack of output is no one's fault but my own.

Now is the time to do something about it. Eh, let me clarify... the time to do something about it started a long time ago, and has extended since then to the present. In any case, I am now officially committed to write something of substance daily, as though I were... a writer.

With a sense of undue drama, I declare this to be... Day One.

Start your stopwatches, everyone. Let's see how long I can make it last.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

The word "sarcasm" comes from the Greek sarkasmos, meaning "to tear the flesh." How terribly appropriate.

The youth minister from my high school church group described the old phrase "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me" as one of the greatest lies taught to children. Until he mentioned it, I hadn't noticed how true that is. Of course words hurt. How often do the scars from sticks and stones heal and disappear quicker than the pain of a single careless word? Careless, mind you: not necessarily malicious or angry. A simple slip of the tongue can be just as harmful as an intentional insult, often more so. least, that's the case for me. I'm very sensitive to words. As something of a writer (and a needy, oversensitive type), perhaps I nit-pick over what are, to others, minor verbal issues... miniscule variances of intonation, dreadfully specific word meanings, and often imagined implications. Others among my friends can shrug off sarcasm seemingly without taking a scratch. I can't imagine myself being able to do that, but time will tell.

Sensitivity aside, it's easy for sarcasm to get out of hand. And it's often easy to tell when that happens... you may be familiar with that moment when, in the midst of some friendly banter, someone makes a comment that's just a little too true, a little too close to home. For perhaps a second there is a thick silence, as though everyone had just gasped and were still holding their breath. Then, depending on your company, one of two comments: either "dude, that wasn't right," or more often, "aaaaaanyway..."

One of the biggest challenges in my life is being careful of what I say. I have a very stupid, eager tongue, which wants to slingshot into the world anything and everything in the DO NOT SAY area of my brain. Ask any of the girls I know. Oi, vey.

To everyone who will speak with me anytime soon: remind me to watch my mouth. I need a reminder more often than I'd like.