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8.19.2013

Historical vs. Devotional Biblical Study

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I dated a fundamentalist Christian woman once. She was a very nice person, but she wanted me to convert to Christianity. I told her I supported and respected her beliefs but could not embrace them as my own. She liked me though, so for some reason she stuck with me for a while. All she asked was that I attend Bible study with her. I agreed, because why not? I might learn something.

Unfortunately, it was a bit disastrous. We attended a Bible study in a church and the fundamentalist cleric leading it spent most of the time denigrating science and reason, and not talking about the Bible at all - just putting down everything that contradicted it as the inerrant word of the Lord. I could see where it was leading. Kill off every idea against devotional acceptance of the Bible and all you are left with is devotional acceptance of the Bible. That's not what I was going for, and I was immediately put off. I wanted to get into the meat and potatoes of the "good book." I wanted to find out all the inner workings and drama from a rational scientific and historical standpoint. I wanted to learn about the people who put the Bible together and what their lives were like. But that was not the purpose of this particular Bible study.

On my own, I started reading some of Bart Ehrman's books on historical study of Jesus and the Bible, without the devotional mumbo jumbo of the fundamentalist churchies. Ehrman showed me the difference between devotional closed minded biblical study and historical, scientific, factual biblical study.

I had had a hard time understanding why the churchies avoided exploring the Bible historically, but Ehrman showed that it is a fundamental difference in approach. One is faith based, the other is reason based. With faith, you don't need facts or science, just blind belief. Conversely, reason is limited to what you can know through historical research. It is not interested in miracles so much as why the stories of miracles were included in the Bible.

Once I grasped the fundamental difference between historical biblical study and devotional biblical study, all bets were off. We were doomed.

I wanted to know stuff about the Bible like who really wrote it and how it came to be all in one book and why the stories all contradict in important ways. I wanted to know how it was a product of the times during which the various books were written and why the authors took the angles they did in telling the same stories in different ways. That seemed a lot more eye opening to me than simple ignorant acceptance of the book as the inerrant word of God. I could not understand why Christians would not desire to explore their book more deeply and richly through intimate historical study, even if the facts contradicted their long held devotional beliefs. Why did they fear truth?

In any case, I did not want to be brainwashed into devotional worship of a clearly errant and metaphorical mythology book. I wanted to go deep and rational.

She thought my desire to study the Bible historically was destructive. It was. But only to our relationship.

8.10.2013

The Chicken/Egg Question

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I have never understood the quandary some people seem to have regarding the question, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"

Evolutionarily speaking, the egg predates the chicken by a vast stretch of geological time. It is a no brainer.

5.31.2013

Imbalanced

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Sometimes I wish that I could win back my staunchly Christian ex-girlfriend. OK, a lot of the time.

But I can't.

As far as I can tell, the reason we broke up was because I staunchly refused to become Christian. That was her "on paper" reason anyway. I certainly was accepting of the religion and learned as much as I could about it. I still am that way. I learned a ton from her and I enjoy reading about Biblical history. I just don't have a devotional (emotional) interest, but rather an intellectual one.

I mean, I guess it's possible that she just lost interest in dating me for all the usual reasons, and the lack of Christianity was an easy out for her to let me down easy. I'm willing to accept that's true. I am also willing to accept that we had a great relationship and were really close soul mates. That's what it felt like anyway. I cared about her unbelievably much. I still do. There are no hard feelings at all, and I would be there for her as a friend if she ever called upon me for help, no questions asked. I have not one ounce of resentment or angst. She is an awesome person and always will be in my heart and mind.

It doesn't really matter though. For whatever reason, we are not together and we never will be. I accept that totally.

But this creates a bit of a quandary for me. She was awesome - creative, fun, caring, compassionate, smart, and pretty. Everything I could want in a partner. Like I said, she might not have felt the same way, and that's neither here nor there.

What matters is that I now have a higher standard for the kind of human being I want to be with romantically. She had it all. Our relationship was one of those relationships that makes every other relationship seem obsolete and uninteresting. We were always there for each other, very supportive and loving. Everything we did together was fun because we were doing it together. We didn't even have sex because she wanted to wait until marriage, and I was totally fine with that. I could not say that about other girlfriends. My friends still don't believe me when I tell them we did not "do it." But that's because our society expects people to "do it." And that's what made her such a great girlfriend. We had an awesome and fully satisfying love without "doing it." We kept each other interested in other ways. We almost never argued, except about religion, and even then it was cosmetic and semantic, at least to me.

So this all sounds like I have not moved on. I have. I am not an idiot. I know I can't have her back and that's just how it is. I leave her alone and she appreciates that. But I am also unwilling to settle for less. I want a partner who has her values, her intellect, her goodness of being, her charm, and her great attitude.

So even though I have been out with other women since then, they just don't do anything for me romantically a lot of the time. They don't interest me. I now know exactly what I am looking for and I accept no substitutes. My dream woman is out there, and she is in most respects a lot like my staunchly Christian ex-girlfriend.

I'll eventually find her. The sea is full of fish.

Until then, I'll wait.

5.22.2013

Pray, Pray, Pray

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Pray, Pray, Pray
That big tornado away
And as long as your not gay
You won't get blown away

Pray, Pray, Pray
Every night and day
And you will be OK
That's what the Bible say'

If I hear one more person talk about prayer and thanking the Lord with regard to the Oklahoma tornadoes...well, I am not going to do anything. It's not worth my effort.

Well, I will do one thing. I will shake my head in pity.

How can you pray to the Lord when you see that destruction? How can you thank the Lord that you survived when there are dead kids? The Lord had nothing to do with the tornado and nothing to do with who lived and died.

That's science. Nature decides that, following the Laws of Physics, strictly. Nothing more.

Stop praying for the victims and their families and go DO something for them. Prayer does nothing. It sounds good, but it's totally useless to the people who were affected.

Go down there and help out, or work toward ending climate change, or demand that schools have tornado shelters, or donate some of your excessive material belongings to the families who lost their stuff.

But don't bother praying. It serves no purpose. God had nothing to do with it. When you keep someone in your thoughts and prayers, that does exactly ZERO for that person.

If you want to pray, do it on your own time. It's not newsworthy and I don't want to hear about it on the radio anymore. Thanks.

3.02.2013

Science is Simple

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Dear Fundamentalist Religious People,

When it comes to science, you have a really simple choice to make.

Either science and math show us God's simple, elegant plan for the universe.

Or it is a deception.

If it is a deception, then it is the Devil's work and you'd best not fly on a plane, use a cell phone, balance your checkbook, make babies, or do anything at all. Because all of those things use simple, explainable, consistent science and math.

If you make use of science in any way, even by say, breathing, you are participating in the Devil's deceptive and diabolical plan.

But the more logical view, if you simply must believe in a deity, is that science shows us the beautiful, elegant, simple, self sustaining plan for the universe that only a wise and intelligent God would come up with.

Laws of nature that keep everything stable and running smoothly.

Math that is repeatable and consistent and practical.

Think about it. A smart God would devise a parsimonious universe that can sustain itself. A smart God does not want to do a lot of meddling or maintenance. Set it in motion and see what happens.

What kind of a system takes care of itself? The natural cosmos does.

DNA is one of many smoking guns that confirm how science shows us God's plan. DNA (and the related RNA) controls all life on earth and it's propagation. There are no exceptions to be found. If it lacks DNA/RNA, it is not a living thing. Consistently.

So clearly, God figured out that DNA, and by association evolution by natural selection, is a great molecule for creating life that is adaptable and self-sustaining.

This is not debatable, except to argue that it is a deception (once again, the Devil's work). All life is based on DNA, including human life. Whether you believe in evolution, this is irrefutable fact. So if DNA is the Devil's work, then YOU are the Devil's work. The Lord demands that you exterminate yourself.

But a better idea is to accept that a smart God would base life on a self replicating molecule that adapts itself to the world in which it exists, just as evolution by natural selection consistently illustrates.

There is just no way around it. Either science elucidates God's plan, as Isaac Newton believed, or it is a deception of the Devil. Decide for yourself.

But if you conclude that science and math are the path to examining God's plan for the universe, then you have to logically accept that science and nature are Godly and its components are all part of God's plan.

Thus, scientists are God's prophets, to be respected and worshipped.

Sadly, this also means, the Bible cannot be divine. It is inconsistent with science and thus with God's plan.

So, you decide. But it is black and white. There is no gray area. Science either shows us God's plan for nature and the cosmos or it does not (deception). If it is a deception, it is the Devil's work because it cannot lead to truth. In that case, the Bible can be true, but you by definition are the Devil's work.

I do not envy you this decision. You could just ignore the question. But that does not change the reality of the situation.