Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

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He is risen!

April 12, 2009

I can’t get past Jesus.  Science can say what it wants about millions of years ago, but 2000 years ago the world fundamentally changed.  Was it actually today?  Who knows, and does it really matter?

The world is fundamentally not right.  We all know this.  We all feel the brokenness permeating everything, just below the surface.  

We look for cures.  

Some say look to science, but science explains everything without giving it any meaning.  Some say look to politics, but kings, prime ministers, and presidents have failed again and again across the millennia to make the world  a better place.  So I look to God.  Not God, the absent, who made the model train and walked away, but God the father.  He watched the conductors derail their trains, their lives, and ruin everything about themselves and each other. 

God, the perfect, watched his creation distort the perfection they were given into war, hate, starvation.  Even when we forgot about God we recognized the broken and we tried to fix it. We called it inequality, and made a new stratification.  We called it poverty, but there were too many empty mouths to feed.  We forgot the first term: sin, and what it requires: a sacrifice.  

God did not forget.  In an inexplicable way God joined us in his son Jesus.  God, the perfect, became God, the human.  Not just human but the perfect human, the one we were all supposed to be.  Jesus scared the authorities of his day so they killed him.  He died and his cult vanished, he rose again and his follower caught fire.  They told the world, as I tell you now:

Beyond hate there is the love of God.
This was the Resurrection.
Beyond this broken world there is the work of Christ’s followers.
This is the Resurrection.
Beyond death there is the life of bent knee and dry eyes.
This will be the resurrection

He is risen!
He is risen indeed!

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Scienceless Science Minister?

March 29, 2009

I have been waiting a little while to weigh in on this one.  My good friend Matt, not to be confused with other Matts, who has become my most regular commenter here asked my thoughts on this.  For those who don’t know about it, Canada’s minister for Science and Technology, Gary Goodyear, refused to say he believed in evolution.  His response was that he didn’t feel the need to discuss his religious beliefs.  As someone who has spent 88% of his life in secular education I can understand playing your cards close to the chest when it comes to a question like this.  There are two fundamental issues with his answer though.  The first is that evolution is an undisputed fact of science.  The (legitimate) dispute is over degree.  This is where clarification over macro and micro evolution comes into play.    As someone who is not in science I can only say that I sit somewhere between the camp known as Intelligent Design* and a secular understanding of evolution.  The fact that Goodyear didn’t have an appropriate answer for this question means that he had not thought about the question except to decide against evolution.  

The second issue is that Goodyear has now given ammunition to those who think Christians are a bunch of idiots.  This is unfortunate on a large scale because there are theists, atheists, and many in between who are not happy with where evolutionary theory is being used.  Where Popper’s idea of the ideological revolution has replaced the scientific revolution it rightly was.  On a smaller scale this story is unfortunate because it ends up downplaying Goodyear’s credentials as a chiropractor (who go through the same anatomical training as doctors), and his studies in Biomechanics and Psychology at Waterloo.  By not thinking through his position he ended up allowing himself to be cast as antiscientific.  There is a lesson in this for all of us.

*Intelligent design is not the same as creationism.  If you haven’t bothered understanding the difference it breaks down quite simply.  Creationism sees the world as 6,000 years old, static, and divinely ordered on a literal biblical model.  Intelligent Design generally encompasses viewpoints from Macroevolution to Creationism, focusing only on the difficulties of accounting for the beginning of life, the cambrian explosion, and complexities of the cell as happy accidents and instead explaining them as the products of intelligence.

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An Atheist and a Christian walk into a bar.

March 29, 2009

This thought has reoccurred to me a number of times. It is kind of simple and definitely in need of refinement. It is essentially related to the problem of evil. When you ask nonbelievers why they don’t believe in God, especially those who once did, you frequently get an interesting response. “If there is a God look at all the pain he’s caused, all the evil he allows. How could anyone believe in him?” They blame the God who doesn’t exist for the problems in the world. But there is a disconnect. Without God being responsible for evil we are left with two possible conclusions as to evil’s existence. There is no evil, or evil is humanity’s fault.

In the first category you have Nietzsche and Richard Rorty. Evil is merely a definition that varies according to person or the powerful. This is, so far as I can tell, the most logical outcome of true atheistic ethics. However, if you don’t subscribe to that outcome of atheism you are left drawing the same conclusion as the Christian.  We’re responsible.

This is where exitential guilt comes in.  Every time I lie, every time I take an action that in some way injures someone else, it is my responsibility.  I can blame no one else.  This guilt seems to be little felt in the West, where the consequences for something as simple as buying a cup of coffee or pair of sneakers are so far removed from us we don’t see them.  But we’re contributing to the mess of the third world by our mere existence.  Forget pollution, try and imagine everyone on earth producing as much physical trash as we do, there isn’t the landfill space for it.

Christianity, and Judaism before it, had and has a word for this problem: sin.  We are responsible for the problems of the world, merely by existing.  The atheist doesn’t agree with us on the terminology.  But if they believe that evil exists in the world then we are on the same page.

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Ethics, Science, and Power.

March 11, 2009

Today in my History of Psychology class we were discussing (or perhaps being discussed to) Neitzsche.  I’m fascinated by his view of the consequences of atheism on ethics.  So far as I can tell from Beyond Good and Evil Neitzsche* believed that when ethics meets relativism right is decided by the most powerful.   So where does this fit in with Science?  Wired published an article on the trouble of the terminology surrounding Obama’s lifting of Bush’s restrictions on stem cell research.  Phrases like Bush’s decision being a “really, really unwelcome intrusion of politics into science” proliferated in the wake of Obama’s decision.  In a democracy though, laws are ostensibly the tools of the citizens to ensure distasteful actions do not occur.

What Wired missed though was a much deeper issue.  In the penultimate paragraph Brandon Keim says this,

But there will be plenty of cases in the future when the aims of science — or, to be more precise, certain scientists — conflict with widely held values. And if the legacy of the stem cell debate is to label all conscientious objection as anti-science bias, it will be a toxic legacy indeed.

The idea that “widely held values” is enough to define morality runs into trouble not just with science (imagining how people from a hundred years ago would have viewed embryonic stem cell research might cast light on this), but also with much larger issues.  The atrocities in Rwanda were perpetrated by the majority.  We have in a situation like Rwanada a clear demonstration of the poverty of “widely held values.”

So here is my question.  Knowing that Hitler’s policies enjoyed support so wide it even surprised him.  His reaction to Krystalnacht is one demosntration of this.  Also while keeping in mind that most in Europe and the wider world did not go to war because of Hitler’s racial ideology but because of his aggressive militarism.  What would have been the case to intervene in Germany assuming they never invaded another country?

*I’ve yet to read much of it, although I’ve tried.

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Evolution and God 1

February 18, 2008

Evolution and God are not necessarily incompatable.  It’s been interesting reading a few interviews with Dr. Francis Collins who is a leading biologist (head of the Human Genome Project) and also a believing Christian.  It’s comforting to think that even though I’m not quite sure where I stand on the extent of evolution I’m in good company in not dismmissing it entirely.  You can read a short piece by Collins called “Why this scientist believes in God” at CNN.com.  It’s interesting stuff.  I’m hoping at some point to read his book “The Language of God.”  Hearing his thoughs on DNA and God should be incredible.

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Unchallenged Thought

February 11, 2008

Thinking is only thinking if it’s challenged, only then is it a verb.  Unchallenged thinking is only a thought and that, left unchallenged, is prejudice.  If you enter a conversation and there is no chance of anyone changing their perspectives it is a pointless exercise.

Where is this coming from?  Over the past few days I’ve had the opportunity, at this blog and elsewhere to witness people unwilling to accept challenges to their preconceived notions.   This frustrates me.  I’ve spent the majority of my life, with the exception of two years, in an environment that is antithetical to most of what I believe.  If you’re a Christian going through public education or university you are in an environment that at best tolerates you for your aberrant beliefs and at worst openly mocks what you believe.

Before you dismiss me and what I believe as stupid perhaps you should consider whether or not any of your perceptions of the world have ever faced serious or constant challenge.  Contrary to popular belief, you can move through life as an atheist or agnostic and never be seriously challenged intellectually.  It requires thinking to actually believe something.  Otherwise, it’s only a thought.

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Know your enemy…

January 29, 2008

Here’s a thought that just struck me while reading this. Whoever a Christian calls his enemy he has to love. This is the basis of true revolution. The successful revolutions of the 20th Century, Be it Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement, Mandela’s anti-apartheid movement, or even Gandhi’s movement to free India were love revolutions.

People don’t know how to respond to non violence; people don’t know how to hate love. Someone asked Gandhi how he expected the British to leave India, he replied “as friends.” How do you respond to that? The paradox of the Death and Resurrection is the triumph of Love over Violence. The triumph of love over power.*

Instead of trying to win control of political systems, instead of trying to rule the world, perhaps we should be learning how to love our enemies. If people living in the slums of the Rift Vally weren’t hungry would they be killing each other?

How do we put our love in action? It isn’t enough to say the words, we need to act. We need to feed the hungry instead of indulging in our own gluttony. When we love those we despise we change everything, from how we perceive them to how they perceive us, and all the implications in between.

Turn the Rage Against the Machine song inside out: Know your enemy… so that you can love them. It’s harder to love, but sometimes that which is more difficult is more effective.

*for more on this read “Which Jesus?” by Tony Campolo