Monday, November 15, 2004

The Nature of Faith

I spent a lot of time laying in bed last night and just thinking about this. It troubles me that this even comes up in my head, but I suppose no one can remain intellectually honest if this doesn't cross their mind at least once.

What kind of faith do I have? I don't know. I suppose it could be stronger. I mean, I'd like to think that I have a strong faith. After all, I believe everything in the Bible is true and that God will fulfill his promises. Yet . . . do my actions reflect the "strength" of faith I seem to think I have? It often seems not. I'm too willing to sit in my safe little den of solitude and comfort rather than venture out and actually share what I know or what I have. Is that the mark of a strong faith, or just a different faith? It's not like I never do those things. But when does it become enough? Is it ever?

The really scary thing is that sometimes my doubts become frighteningly strong. Usually, when I consider my faith, the thought is, "This all makes sense, it's logical and reasonable to conclude that this is true, I can trust that God is there and these things have happened because everything points to that conclusion."

And yet then there are times when I think about it, and the thought becomes, "What is going on here? Do I really have any good reason for thinking these things? Is all of this just something I've convinced myself of because it's comforting and helps me deal with problems I couldn't handle otherwise? Have I not given enough thought to the atheist's arguments? What happens to my life if none of this is true?"

That becomes one of the scarier thoughts. What happens next if that were to actually become my state of mind? I'd probably lose all of my friends. I've so surrounded myself with Christians and Christian culture, I'd find myself alienated in my own world. That would be weird. Would it change my morals dramatically? I still have plenty of non-religious reasons for not doing things like drinking, taking drugs, and having sex. That would make befriending new people difficult, though. It's not like there's a large contingent of people in the college world who aren't Christians, yet don't get into the "alcohol and sex" thing.

But what is the end result? These thoughts pass through my mind, thoughts that maybe it's all a lie and I'm just fooling myself, and then . . . I just ignore them. Why? Do I bring up the arguments I've had in my mind in the "pro" column to counter the opposition? No, I just set it aside and try to keep living my life as best I can. Somewhere in there is the thought that God will help me through the doubts that peck at my soul.

I make it sound much worse that it truly is, I suppose. My doubts are never truly overwhelming, and I never find myself perched on a precipice between belief and a total lack thereof, but it just bothers me that these thoughts creep up every so often, far more often than I would prefer, and I really don't seem to deal with them in any satisfactory way at all.

So . . . what do I say?

Life in a college town

I'm trying to talk as little about politics for now as possible. It's like the week after Thanksgiving or Christmas. You've just spent so much time being stuff constantly, once the events are over, you just want to lay low and eat some celery for a while.

With that in mind, some interesting occurrences from this past weekend:

I must say that I'm frustrated with the location of my house. Don't get me wrong, being close to campus is great. The problem is that there is a parking lot right outside my house and it is directly in the path between campus and a large clustering of fraternity houses (a veritable "party central").

Friday night I was up reviewing material for the Chemistry GRE Saturday morning. I knew I needed to get a decent night's sleep, so I went to bed as soon as I thought I could, which ended up being about midnight. No sooner had I laid down than a group of people on their way back from "party central" decided to congregate on the parking lot. This is not an unusual occurrence. What was unusual was 1)The early hour at which they were returning, 2)The length of time they stayed compared to the air temperature outside, and 3) Their overall noise level. I'm used to drunk people being noisy, but for some reason these guys were just really loud. I could hear their conversations outside from my room, laying in bed. It didn't help when they started hootin' and hollerin'. Ugh. I waited them out, but they stayed for half an hour. Who stands around outisde in 30ºF weather for that long with only light jackets on? Yeesh.

Saturday night was no better. I had just fallen asleep Saturday night when a couple of guys started arguing outside. Now, this wasn't like the folks before. These guys were right outside my window. I could clearly hear every word they said, and it was really disconcerting that they would get right up next to the house when they have no business walking there. From the sounds of their conversation, they had just come from a party, and had been drinking. How much, I'm not sure. One tends to be fuzzy on details when one is woken up by conversation at 1AM. In any case, at one point they started hitting on the wall to emphasize their points to each other. That was that. I pounded on the wall knowing they could hear it. They took the cue to move out into the parking lot where I could still hear them. Yeesh! I ended up calling the cops to get them out of there, but I have no idea how well that worked out. The cops showed up almost immediately after I had called, but spent a good deal of time just talking with the guys. What they were saying, I have no idea. It's bizarre how I could hear drunk people in the lot talking, but when the cops pulled up, I couldn't hear their conversations. In any case, they left, and nobody threw rocks through my windows or anything, so it was all well and good, but man! What a pain!

Anyhow . . . enough about that hooey.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

According to this story by CNN, a machine is being given a trial run at Heathrow Airport which can x-ray a person and see under their clothing. The purpose? To find solid, and potentially dangerous, objects a person might have on them. The response of passengers? Almost unanimously positive. People like to feel safe. The response of civil liberties groups? Voyeurs are looking at your dangly parts!

Ahem. Personally, I'm all about safety and security, though the thought of some random airport security guy looking at my dangly parts does fill me with a certain sense of creepiness. I guess my only question is, what is it that these things pick up that the metal detectors missed? I mean, are those things even good for anything anymore?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Why am I surprised by this?

So, I've been studying in Julian's computer lab this morning, and that is where I'm posting from right now. It was all quiet and normal until these two girls came in to check their email and look at other random things on the internet.

The reason this stands out is that one of them starts reading her email, and, since her computer was in plain view, I could see what the subject was. Someone, later revealed to be the girl she came in with, sent her a forward about getting gift certificates from Applebee's. She asks her, "Did you get your gift certificate?" The girl responds, "No, that's not real, I didn't know until after I sent it." "It's not?"

Oy. They didn't know this was a hoax? Where has everyone been the last 10 years? We've had junk like this spreading across the net for the longest time, and yet nobody ever seems to figure it out. The girl actually had to go to Applebee's website to confirm that this was truly a hoax.

How many offers for gift certificates, money, or products have we seen? These things list Microsoft, AOL, Applebee's, Outback, Gap, Disney, Abercrombie . . . and yet none of them are legitimate. Ever. Why do people continue to be snookered like that?

In fact, why do people start that junk in the first place? It's ridiculous! Are they just trolling for email addresses to use in spam? Or are they just trying to cause trouble? Do they know the strain it puts on the net infrastructure? (Well, maybe not as much as real spam does, but that's beside the point)

People like this annoy me. Their ignorance just astounds me. But I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I've known far too many people whose sole activity on the internet was to fill my and all of their friends' inboxes with innumerable forwards of jokes, "free" money offers, cheesy poems and text pictures declaring how evil you are if you don't forward it, "email snowballs," endless surveys, and so on. I think most people are beginning to outgrow that phase of internet life, but it seems that some people still haven't caught on.



So, yesterday I had this great dialogue written up; a satire of video games (such as Prince of Persia) where something happens and somehow the hero is left escaping the inexplicably unreasonable and illogical "defenses" of the palace or fortress of someone. Imagine if your home was built like that. Or, well, that was the premise of the piece.

But no. Stupid Blogger has to fail on me when I tried to post it. I spent the time typing it up and the piece was chewed up and spit into the endless void of the internet. I wouldn't be so frustrated by it if it were the first time something like this has happened, but it's not.

Apparently the people at Blogger don't like satire.

Monday, November 08, 2004

C'mon, tell us how you REALLY feel . . .

If you follow my link above, you'll see Jay Nordlinger's excellent column for this week. The part I'm particularly interested in is his section regarding the left's opinions about those of us who voted for Bush. Oh, sure, they were playing nice (well, sort of) before the election, but now that they've lost, they're not pulling any punches. It's quite amazing what they really think of us. Or what they'll say about us, Christians especially, when they don't care about being politically correct. This just reminds me one more time that hate speech applies to everyone but Christians (or, in some cases, conservatives in general; the left isn't picky). Go figure.

Oh, and if you want to read some of those columns but can't or don't want to register for, say, the New York Times, you can use this wonderful little website known as Bug Me Not. It's great!

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Look, a crack!

Random stuff for right now. It's so . . . freeing, to be done with the election. But now I don't even know what to do with myself. I've spent so much time reading about election stuff, Democratic antics, and John Kerry's multitude of positions on one topic that now that it's done, I can't figure out what I should do!

Well, in part, I started playing Prince of Persia: Sands of Time again. It's a fun game with some pretty difficult puzzles (although, let's face it: jumping puzzles get old after a while). The sequel is coming, and it looks like it will be cool. But playing this game just makes me wonder.

Why? Well, you, as the prince, accidentally unlock the Sands of Time on the palace of Azad and turn everyone in it except for you and two other people into mindless zombies bent on killing you. When you're not killing zombies, you're running amongst the ruins of the palace (the Sands of Time apparently invite structural failure . . . go figure). But it's not only the crumbling platforms and broken columns that you have to watch out for; no, you also have to avoid the palace "defenses." You know, radial saws that run back and forth on the walls, pressure activated spikes that rise out of the floor, spinning columns covered with blades, those sorts of things. And they're everywhere. This is apparently the kind of place that you don't want to walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night without a light. "Where's my servant?" "Well, he was bringing you your breakfast, but he wasn't looking and accidentally walked down the hall with the pit of spikes in it. Terribly sorry."

Just one question: Are we to actually believe that someone would build that death trap of a home?

Okay, on to other issues.

Politics, thy name is Specter

So, during the campaign, Bush went out to Pennsylvania to help out Arlen Specter, a man most are loathe to call a Republican. Despite his title as a Republican, he is rabidly pro-choice and incredibly resilient to all pro-life agendas. All of Bush's advisors told him not to go out and stump for Specter. After all, it does tend to tick off your conservative base when you support politicians who go against one of their most deeply held values. Nevertheless, Bush campaigned for Specter. And the thanks the man gets after being re-elected? He's already declared that, should Bush nominate any judicial nominees that are even slightly pro-life, he'd do everything in his power to block them.

What a schmuck.

And this seriously is a problem. The consensus seems to be that, with another term under his belt and a bigger majority in the Congress, the first thing Bush should do is get his judicial nominess to work. This hold-up spells bad news, especially for those of us who want to see changes to abortion law in America. Let's face it: Rehnquist's recent hospitilization makes it ever more important to remember that the highest court in the land is old. I've seen people estimate that Bush could appoint up to three or four justices in this term. Wishful thinking, perhaps, but not beyond the realm of possibility. I find it more likely that some of them would hold off on retirement until they were certain a Democrat was in office and would appoint like-minded justices, but perhaps I'm just being jaded. The issue still remains: Bush could likely appoint one or two in his time in office. We can't be held back by these shenanigans anymore.

It's about time

So, Arafat is in a hospital in France. None of the doctors are saying that he's dying, but everyone else is whispering that his time is short. I hate to say it, but it's about time.

Look, I'm not a monster. I'm sure his family will miss him, and I know that no one is beyond redemption. God could still reach this person and I pray that it will happen. But let's not tip-toe around the facts because we want to play nice: This man was a monster. He was the leader of the longest standing terrorist organization(s) that I can think of. His life quest has been to wipe the nation of Israel off the map, to see the death of every Jew in Israel. This is not a man to miss. The people who will mourn his death cry out for the death of the Jews as well. I'll say it: It's about time he went.

And, perhaps there is something else good to find in this. The story is that, with rumors flying that he won't make it, the leadership within his ranks are asking who will take control. We want to see a power struggle there. If these people fight amongst themselves, all the fewer to strap bombs to their chests and run into an Israeli cafe or bus. This could severely weaken the organizations Arafat controlled, and that is good for everyone.

Yes, I'm a bad, bad man. Eh.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Post Election Thoughts

Well, the election has come and gone. My thoughts on things:

1) Illinois went to Kerry and Obama. Big surprise, eh? I figured as much. But, well, what can you do? Actually, I think next time around I will run for governor or senator. I certainly couldn't do any worse than what the Illinois GOP is bringing up lately.

Or maybe I should just move to Texas. We'll see. Are there any celebrities who need plane tickets to Canada?

2) John Kerry has conceded the election. This is good, although I've still got an inkling in the back of my mind that we're not out of the "quagmire election" danger zone yet. Al Gore conceded the election too, at first. Give it time, we'll see.

Funny story. I was walking through Atkin-Colby just before the concession speech, and CNN was on the TV. I love this. John Edwards was speaking. I couldn't make out what he was saying, but the caption/headline at the bottom of the screen said, "BREAKING NEWS. Edwards: John Kerry is a great American." Let that sink in for a second. John Edwards thinks John Kerry is a great American. CNN is calling that "breaking news." Heh, must be a slow day in the newsroom, eh? Maybe they need to get someone else to write the captions.

I've already heard the democrats and liberals grumbling about how America is going to go to Hell, and how we're doomed as a nation, and blah blah blah. Sore losers. Okay, maybe that's not fair. I'd have been a bit upset if Kerry had won. But, well, let's face it: if America had decided to elect one or the other, then they get what they deserve. Let's not forget that we're all adults here (at least those of us who can vote), and we are responsible for the decisions we make.

Although, I must say that I'm quite scared. Why? Well, I've seen some theorizing that a loss for Kerry was what the Democrats really wanted the entire time. That way, there would be smooth sailing for a Hillary Clinton ticket in 2008. It wouldn't surprise me if that plan starts fomenting soon. THAT scares me. I don't know who the GOP will get to run in '08, but for some reason, people like to elect Clintons to office. I hope never to see a Clinton in the Whitehouse again. Let's just hope the next four years don't bring that.

And, something humorous just to wrap things up. For those who don't know, I'm taking an applied ethics class this semester, and we're discussing racism and affirmative action. The section about it in our book has this little blurb: "Racial discrimination can take many forms, from racially motivated hate speech to the use of Asian mail-order bride services by middle-aged American men who blame their problems with women on feminism." Wait, what? That last part . . . what does that have to do with anything? Am I the only one who finds that weird?

Okay, enjoy the time, folks. Four more years!