Saturday, October 07, 2006

News Flood - Micellaneous

Given my lack of blogging lately, a number of news stories have piled up that I wanted to at least mention. So, I'll be doing a series of posts that are, for lack of a better term, a news dump. (Similar to a "data dump," that portion of a movie or TV show where the viewer is given a large amount of background information all at once)

This post is news that is just weird and goofy, or didn't fit into the other categories I selected. Enjoy!

Viewing God as male leads to domestic abuse
Of course, I don't expect anything different from the Episcopal Church, but it's still bizarre. The reasoning is poor at best, and it's just another symptom of a sickness in the church. Dr. Mohler wrote about it once. The essence was that liberal theologians were trying to break new ground by challenging core tenets and aspects of Christian theology, declaring that they were unsuitable as parts of Christian orthodoxy. However, it eventually progressed to the point where there was nothing left; with nothing left to challenge, there is nothing on which to base a faith. A church full of John Shelby Spongs . . . not a pretty picture.

Harvard committee recommends returning religion to curriculum

This I find interesting. Harvard did begin as a seminary, so I suppose it's only fitting. Still, knowing how many of the academics at Harvard feel about religion, I can only wonder what kind of classes will emerge from this kind of policy.

Moron recovering from 2-story escape
This is a hilarious story, once again highlighting how combining drugs with practical jokes means college students will always have great stories to share.

Hemmorhoid cream not for the face, according to makers
I didn't realize this was something they actually had a problem with. Thanks for the tip.

Teens learn hard way that nude beach has been overrun with perverts
Ah, Australia. I suppose one would expect perverts at a nude beach, but this seems out of control. Highlights: Girls are offered money for oral sex; upon fleeing, they encounter a man masturbating in the bushes; when they return to their car, a couple is copulating on it.

Youth asking for salary is stripped, paraded
Amazingly enough, he's not a grad student.

Slang of the 1920s
Well, this is just the bee's knees.

Prince offers strippers money to quit their jobs

Sounds like the guy is a feminist, really. I'm impressed.

Coolest. Teacher. Ever.
Unless you're against eating children. Then you might not like him.

Basement Arcade
This is the ultimate DIY home project. This guy transformed his basement into an 80s style arcade, including ambient music and sound effects piped in through speakers.

The pictures are amazing. I wish I could do it myself.


steve the troll said...

Of course, I don't expect anything different from the Episcopal Church, but it's still bizarre. The reasoning is poor at best

The reasoning is poor? Have you ever read the Bible? It's a book by men focused on achieving male dominance. eventually progressed to the point where there was nothing left...with nothing left to challenge, there is nothing on which to base a faith

So you're talking about the end of organized religion? Sounds awesome to me!

on't worry though. We will always be able to challenge your belief in the existence of an imaginary friend named God, and you will always base your faith on Him because God knows it takes a lot of faith to believe in something that there is no evidence for.

By the way: faith and science don't mix.

Anonymous said...

STEVE WHY ARE YOU SUCH A JERK?! It's exhausting. And may I mention, the previous personal attacks that you've made really make people want to see your point. NOT.
It's not that I completely don't agree with you, it's just that you don't sound so intelligent when you make personal attacks--it kinda makes you sound like you're losing the argument and are grasping for anything to make yourself sound better.

Hal said...

Well, quasi-anonymous stranger, thanks for the support, but people like steve thrive on attention. If you validate such behavior, it is only encouraged.

Steve provides some amusement, but this type of thing is usually best ignored.

steve the troll said...

Oh come on! Hal can attack an entire Protestant denomination (millions!), and I can't even attack Hal? He's entitled to his opinions...after all, it's his blog. However, if he attacks people or groups of people and you don't like it, either stop reading, or join the discussion. It is a blog, after all.

Anyhow, I thought my point was a good one, but it appears that the personal attacks distracted from the good points that preceeded them. Sorry about that. I was just frustrated when I was writing reflects not my feelings toward Hal himself, but rather people like Hal who make sweeping generalizations that make no sense whatsoever.

steve the troll said...

And hey! I'm probably Hal's most faithful reader. I love his posts and the debates they spark, and sometimes I even agree with Hal. I provide feedback because I want Hal to know that I read his stuff and think about it.

Hal said...

Steve, while I do appreciate your readership and some of your comments, it does boggle my mind. Many of your contributions are, "You're not a scientist, that opinion is stupid, religion is stupid." It causes me to wonder why you keep coming back.

That being said, I don't expect you to understand my "attack" on other Christian denominations. It would be like me listening to two baseball fans arguing over who is the better coach. Knowing nothing about managing teams, I would have very little idea what they were talking about.

Similarly, when I talk about other denominations, you're an outsider looking in. Given that you come from the position of "all religion is stupid," I don't expect you to appreciate the differences in doctrine between churches.

Which is why, when you respond to such things with, "religion is stupid" type comments, I prefer to just ignore them. If you're going to approach it like that, I assume that any sort of discussion following it would be unfruitful at best.

steve the troll said...

This may be an opportune time to point out that I was raised catholic, "confirmed," and married in a catholic church. My wife is an evangelical protestant (think Vineyard).

Hal said...


I've known plenty of people "raised" Catholic who had only a passing familiarity with Christian doctrine. Your attitude doesn't help.

Imagine, if you will, a post in which I write, "Lutheran pastor in the news says X, but the bible says Y, so I think he's wrong."

I imagine your response to be, "No, you're both stupid for believing in God." Something along those lines. Not exactly what I would term "productive dialogue."

steve the troll said...

The point is, I was baptized before.

Hal said...

So? In what way does that make you knowledgable on Christianity?

I was baptized as a Catholic, but that doesn't qualify me to comment on Catholicism. The reading I've done on Catholicism gives me some grounds to speak, but nearly so much as Ryan, who has been Catholic his whole life and is far better read on it than I am. Just an example.

Anonymous said...

"By the way: faith and science don't mix."

There have been sincere, moral, highly intelligent, truth seeking individuals that have reached that same conclusion. But it does require some support. It's highly unpersuasive to just throw it out there like it's some self-evident truism (the aforementioned sincere, moral, highly intelligent, truth seeking individuals tend to make an argument for their position that faith and science don't mix, acknowledging the counter-evidence, rather than continuously shouting a slogan in hit-and-run fashion.)

Steve, I would be interested in your thoughts on this article by by a theoretical partical physicist. It includes five twentieth-century scientific discoveries which “threw some twists in the plot” of the story of religion and science. It starts out:

"We often hear of a conflict between religion and science. Is there one? Certainly, some religious beliefs are scientifically untenable: for example, that the world is six thousand years old. However, for Jews and Christians not committed to a narrowly literalistic interpretation of Scripture, that kind of direct and clear–cut contradiction between scientific facts and religious doctrines does not exist. What many take to be a conflict between religion and science is really something else. It is a conflict between religion and materialism. ..."


steve the troll said...

I just think that a scientific worldview is a good one to have and to employ in every walk of life. That said, I think a scientific worldview would come to the conclusion that there may be a God out there, but there is no more evidence to support the existence of a divine being than there is evidence against it. I don't think this is asking too much.

If you disagree, and you are a scientist, you should probably think deeply about why you make exceptions to your own scientific standards, and if there are any other areas of your life where you do this.

If you say you don't know, that is being scientific. If you have reproducible data that proves God, then publish it. If you really have faith that God exists, then it doesn't make sense that you would have a career in science, because (at least in book religions) this life is temporary and anything outside of worship is sin.

Anonymous said...

"... anything outside of worship is sin."

Steve, I will grant you that you do easily defeat the strawmen you construct.

Let me know when you read at least part of either of the articles I provided to you. I'll read any links that you provide of comparable length.


steve the troll said...

I already disagree with the part of the article you quoted, and therefore may have trouble assuming its credibility. Alas, I will read it, though with trepidation.

I don't have any articles per se, but I would encourage you to read "The End of Faith" by Sam Harris (though I don't think it requires any reading at all to understand that these "strawmen" I've constructed are just common sense).

Seriously, anything outside of worship is sin. Or at least that's what God said in the bible.

Anonymous said...

... "The End of Faith" by Sam Harris

As a newly married man, I have a hard enough time justifying purchasing books that I really want to read, so I'll look for it when I'm at the library.

The healthy skepticism which I would take with me when reading such a book would echo the words of the French philsopher Gabriel Marcel:

"Theoretically one might have imagined - and this indeed was what many people did in the nineteenth century - that as soon as the majority of men in a given society ceased to believe in an afterlife, life in this world would be more and more lovingly taken care of and would become the object of an increased regard. What has happened is something quite different, the very opposite in fact: this cannot, I think, be overemphasized."

Steve wrote, "My wife is an evangelical protestant (think Vineyard)."

Curious ... does she still practice that faith, or is she 'fallen away'?

Also, I'm curious: 1. Do you have any favorite music, movies, fiction? 2. Do you have any particular goals?


steve the troll said...

"Theoretically one might have imagined - and this indeed was what many people did in the nineteenth century - that as soon as the majority of men in a given society ceased to believe in an afterlife, life in this world would be more and more lovingly taken care of and would become the object of an increased regard. What has happened is something quite different, the very opposite in fact: this cannot, I think, be overemphasized."

I don't understand the passage. The majority of men believe in an afterlife (in this country, and ol'd Nazi Germany), yet in countries where they don't, life is better. This dude is ignoring reality.

My wife still practices.

My goal is to help you.

Anonymous said...

Marcel was seeing the 20th century with the 20/20 vision of hindsight and the 100 million killed due to atheistic utopian projects gone bad. Your hypothesis was reasonable back when folks like Freud said it, which was before Stalin and Mao. But now you should know better, you should admit that the project you propose has been attempted, and led to some of the most horrific atrocities against humanity in recorded history. Those who still believe in some form of atheistic utopia should at least be prepared in theory and practice to avoid the highly fatal errors of the past. -Ryan.

steve the troll said...

Since when do I advocate the philosophies of Stalin and Mao? They limited freedom and promoted ignorance. That's the last thing I want.

You know, Hitler was Christian. He's your brother in Christ. You can't escape that.

steve the troll said...

Ryan: your article by Stephen Barr is decent until he actually tries to make a point.

The materialist imagines that a religious mystery is something too dark to be seen. But, as G. K. Chesterton noted, it is really something too bright to be seen, like the sun. As Scripture tells us, God “dwells in unapproachable light.” The mystery is not impenetrable to intellect or unintelligible in itself; rather, it is not fully intelligible to us. And reason itself tells us that there must be such mysteries. For the nature of God is infinite, and therefore not proportionate to our finite minds. The mysteries of the faith primarily concern the nature of God, or they concern man in his relationship to God and as the image of God. They concern, that is, what is infinite or touches upon the infinite. Consequently, religious mystery hardly concerns, if it concerns at all, the matters studied by the physicist, chemist, or botanist. The things they study are quite finite in their natures and therefore quite proportionate to the human intellect. That is why there is nothing in Jewish or Christian belief that implies or suggests any limit to what human beings can understand about the structure of the physical world. Although the writings of scientific materialists are filled with hostility toward religious mystery, in fact religious mystery has never acted as a brake upon scientific progress.

I don't agree with the bold sentences. Apparently, he and I differ on our definition of "reason," and to say scientific inquiry is finite compared to faith is simply absurd.

I want to clarify one thing: good scientists don't claim to know fundamental mysteries like how the universe began, or if there is a god...we just think that there is an answer, because there cannot be no answer. Religious people, on the other hand, boldly attest through faith that they know the meaning of life. This is deeply troubling, because by framing it that way, nobody can ever say that they are wrong. As a scientist, I can't say that you guys are wrong to believe in Jesus, but I can say that to believe in such a thing is not a worldview based on reason or logic.

It is not the job of scientists to point out that to make such claims is unreasonable.

My dream is for all the Christians reading here to admit that it is silly to worship the bible and to have faith in an afterlife when there is really no good reason to. Do this, and acknowledge that it is just a comforter in the face of the nothingness that may prevail after your death, and I will finally understand you people, for this is how I once felt (though I grew out of it when I was ~13 years old).

Anonymous said...

Steve wrote: "I grew out of [faith in an afterlife] when I was ~13 years old."

Was there a pivotal moment(s) in this outgrowing, or was it more of a gradual process? (sincere question.)

Anyways Steve, thanks for humoring me and checking out that article. I've been meaning to check out Richard Dawkins (someone who I've of course heard of, but unfortunately my exposure to his ideas has all been second-hand.)

I'm not disappointed that you weren't persuaded by the article by Stephen Barr. I think that we're both fairly resistant to conversion. It might take an experience like this for me to change, or an experience like this for you to change, and even then, I think we both hope that we'd stay steadfast in our beliefs.

So, you'll continue to challenge everything we thought we knew about God, and I'll continue to challenge everything you thought you knew about monkeys. ;-)

On another topic, It's ironic that recently the Pope said some things that sound just like what you say (except different, of course.) First, the Pope said that faith without reason leads to violence. That's what you're saying (and evidentally what Sam Harris is saying) but you (unlike the Pope) believe that faith is a priori always without reason. Second, the Pope said that reason without faith leads to the diminishment of man. That's what you say too, but the Pope sees this diminishment as a bad thing, while for you, reason without faith is utopia, and the diminishment of man is positive - we need to be knocked down a peg and remember than we're only apes. Anyways, the parallels are interesting to me, even if you and Pope Benedict go opposite directions with it. -Ryan.

steve the troll said...

Well, there are clear reasons why faith exists, but that doesn't mean faith itself is reasonable. For example, my mother believes in Jesus Christ, but she admits that it's just a comfort factor, and I think that is the best I can hope for from any christian. The benefits of faith are many, but so are the drawbacks.

She knows there is no more evidence for Jesus than there is for Muhammad or Vishnu, and she knows that the bible was written by men and abused by translators, but she still likes the culture and the support system. She also prays, but doesn't truly expect to be heard, because her common sense tells her that she's really just talking to herself.

I wouldn't say I ever really "deconverted," because I never really understood or believed in the catholic tradition or the notion of Jesus...I just never really thought about it, because I grew up in the catholic tradition, and was never really taught to question it. However, once I started to think about it, I just realized that the only reason I even knew about it was because I was born into a christian family and they forced me (through guilt, fear-mongering, and threats of social isolation...all passive means) to participate.

I know so many people share this same experience, and I wish they could all feel the sense of freedom and relief that I felt then, and continue to feel now. I've helped some people, but really only people who know me personally and can appreciate the way I live and think. That's why I get frustrated trying to "help" you guys. I've seen the amazing, positive difference that this change in philosophy can make, but try as I might, I can't convey this to you guys.

I'm not sure why I expected to be able to do so, either. The deconversion (nay, "awakening") just seems to come a lot quicker to the people I know personally.

steve the troll said...

Is it not reasonable for me (and everyone) to require the same visit from Christ that Saul received?

Anonymous said...

I've seen the amazing, positive difference that this change in philosophy can make, but try as I might, I can't convey this to you guys.

Steve, I do agree with you that (at least in general, and maybe always) it's a very positive move to go from a lukewarm doublethink support-group style Christianity to atheistic secular humanism. To illustrate why, I quote G.K. Chesterton: "There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there. The other is to walk round the whole world till we come back to the same place; and I tried to trace such a journey in a story I once wrote. It is, however, a relief to turn from that topic to another story that I never wrote. Like every book I never wrote, it is by far the best book I have ever written. It is only too probable that I shall never write it, so I will use it symbolically here; for it was a symbol of the same truth. I conceived it as a romance of those vast valleys with sloping sides, like those along which the ancient White Horses of Wessex are scrawled along the flanks of the hills. It concerned some boy whose farm or cottage stood on such a slope, and who went on his travels to find something, such as the effigy and grave of some giant; and when he was far enough from home he looked back and saw that his own farm and kitchen-garden, shining flat on the hill-side like the colours and quarterings of a shield, were but parts of some such gigantic figure, on which he had always lived, but which was too large and too close to be seen. That, I think, is a true picture of the progress of any really independent intelligence today; and that is the point of this book. The point of this book, in other words, is that the next best thing to being really inside Christendom is to be really outside it. And a particular point of it is that the popular critics of Christianity are not really outside it. ..."

However, it's been well-documented that people with authentic faith have been transformed in incredible ways. (When I say authentic, I mean that they really believe what they say they believe. I don't mean to say that what they believe is necessarily true. I admit that there can be other explanations.) You may or may not be interested in this chapter entitled "How Has Jesus Changed the World?" which is not your typical fluffy evangelical tract, it's by a very well-read Catholic who has a lot of first-hand experience in Asia and he discusses Christian work towards social justice and admits Christian sins of omission and comission against social justice. You might also compare the Holocaust experiences of Primo Levi, Elie Wiesel, and canonized saint Maximilian Kolbe.

Is it not reasonable for me (and everyone) to require the same visit from Christ that Saul received?

An excellent and vexing question - I'll admit that I don't have any easy answer. It's something that I've come to terms with, but that doesn't really help you any. One of my inital responses is that I admire but don't exactly envy the man for the time he spent in prison for his faith and the martyr's death he gave for his faith. But that doesn't really answer the question. I've never had an experience like Saul/Paul. However, I have had experiences echoing that of Peter:

Then many of his disciples who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?" ... As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."


steve the troll said...


Sincere thanks for the rational dialogue. However, I'm confused about your Peter-esque experience. Peter chose to follow Jesus, as you have, yes, but he was right there in front of Peter. I don't see how your experiences are comparable. Peter at least knew Jesus on a personal and physical level, which probably contributed to his faith. His faith wasn't based on a book.

Anonymous said...

"Peter chose to follow Jesus, as you have, yes, but he was right there in front of Peter. ... His faith wasn't based on a book."

Steve, I don't know if you are still following this thread or not - it's pretty far down the page by not. I thought of very many ways that I could explain myself and I didn't really like any of them, but I did want to respond in some way. This is meant to be somewhat explanatory, even if it's shrouded in mystery (or in delusion as you may see it) - I don't expect it to be persuasive, but at the same time with all due respect to your mother, my faith is much different than hers - I believe what I say I believe.

I'll start with a scripture passage (John 1:35-42): The next day John [the Baptist] was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, "Behold, the Lamb of God." The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher), "where are you staying?" He said to them,"Come, and you will see." So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed). Then he brought him to Jesus.

What I am trying to point out is that Jesus did not say something like "I am the second person of the blessed Trinity, begotten not made, one in being with the Father." He didn't make an argument, he offered an invitation, to "come and see." To really understand and evaluate Christianity, you have to immerse yourself in it. You may feel like you were immersed into it, to which I refer you to this toothpaste for dinner webcomic as well as the above G.K. Chesterton quote. The apostles jumped in headfirst, and they did not follow an idea, ideal, or ideology - they followed a person - their friend. And this person changed their life. And in this encounter, as they grew in their lived experience "the love which God lavishes upon us" they were compelled, as in the above Scripture, to bring their friends to their new Friend - not as a command, but as a desire. This process, this tradition has been going on for two thousand years.

Mark P. Shea writes, Our age is starved for intimacy yet terrified of it. The majority of us live in quiet desperation, hungry for the touch of love and, above all for the touch of the love of God. Yet, such is our fear that the great majority of us also shy away from such contact. On the human level, that has been one contributor to the enormous frequency of failed relationships and shattered families, which in turn leads to a generation of children who grow up anesthetized to the possibility of real union with another.

But on the spiritual level as well, it has led to a safe and lonely view of God. A God who is the Force. A God who is not even a who (that’s too intimate), but is merely a what: a vast, pervasive Something flowing through the ether like solar wind, requiring nothing but that we feel good about ourselves and administer weak salves of “self-affirmation” to our sadness. ...

The good news of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is that we need not starve but can be filled. It is the shocking announcement that God, the Lover of our souls, is more than a vague Force. He is as concrete and specific as a kiss on the lips – or the nails through his hands and feet. It is the astonishingly good news that Love has come to touch us – physically and not just as a disembodied spirit – in the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus of Nazareth, the Word made flesh.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us," is present in many ways to his Church: in his word, in his Church's prayer, "where two or three are gathered in my name," in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But "he is present . . . most especially in the Eucharistic species."

The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. ... In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained." "This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present."

Once again this is offered as an explanation, not a thorough defense. Despite how long this comment is, an actual defense would need to move at a much more glacial pace, not to mention the fact that the bold claim of Christianity can only be ultimately evaluated from within, by accepting an invitation to "come and see." (Sorry if that sounds like a cop-out.)