Topics: Religion

The combination of a person’s wordview + a social man-made institution revolving around how to dogmatically live your life in light of this worldview.

Atheist / Christian Dialogue…

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

http://justreality.org/2011/04/26/truth-beyond-the-provable/

An old friend of mine from Rochester, a pastor with a PhD in Physics named George, creates a mock dialogue between the believer and the skeptic.  A great summary of the different defense postures of the Christian when discussing religion with skeptics.  Of interest to me (because I never thought of them before) was his criticism of the typical skeptic refusal of a null hypothesis and doing a test that falsifies their hypothesis of God’s non-existence. That is a way to turn the burden of proof to the skeptic.

I also liked the straw-man criticism of the typical “how could a ‘good’ God do bad thing xyz…” skeptical criticism of Christianity.  How often have I heard the argument that God is “evil” from a worldview where there is no God.  I have always believed that good criticism must borrow the worldview of the the other in order to be effective.

Where Jesus Grew Up: A Study of Lower Galilee

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

Hey all!  I thought I would start the new semester off by publishing a paper I wrote about the history, culture, and geography of the Lower Galilee region of Israel, the place where Jesus lived for about 30 years before he began his public ministry.  I left out the footnotes, but included a cited works section at the end if you are interested.  If you don’t feel like reading the entire thing, I can sum it up for you:

The region is quite conservative.  Many scholars- atheist, agnostic, and Christian alike seem to agree that the area Jesus grew up in was populated by people who were resistant to outside religion or spirituality.  This culture was in many ways linked to its secluded location up in the mountains off the main roadways.  Although they could see out over the valley of Armageddon where the main roadways were, they were not influenced by the foreign influences that traveled along them.  The body of research work I surveyed seems to agree – Whatever cultural influences that affected Jesus growing up, its certain that little to none were of a foreign nature.  He grew up in a very traditional Jewish world, one that remembered very clearly the stories of Elisha and Elijia, and the many Judges.  For a resident of Nazereth need only look out over the valley to see the very location of where a majority of the stories took place – where God acted on behalf of his people.

Enjoy!

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Accountability & Authority

Friday, October 12th, 2007

Hierachy vs. Network

*updated on Oct. 15th*

I wanted to speak about a thought I closed my last post series with: accountability. This religious term has a lot of baggage for me, and I am assuming it may to my readers as well. But understanding what it really is, or at least defining a healthy version of it, is important for formulating a final idea I am trying to reach – what a good working spiritual authority structure looks like. I have concluded in my past post that current religious power structures don’t take into account the fallibility of human moral corruption. Human leaders + power = inevitable corruption. Just because people are Christian and are expected to be moral doesn’t protect them from moral decline that people in all other spheres of power are susceptible to. To temper this unfortunate truth, I believe a leadership structure overhaul is needed. In the closing thoughts of my last post, I mentioned that the glue to hold a better structure together is – you guessed it – spiritual accountability, a feature that is hopelessly broken due to the way traditional structures are designed.

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On Authority – Part 3

Monday, September 17th, 2007

This is part 3 of a 3 part series on my thinking about the subject of spiritual authority. If you are just beginning to read on the subject and are interested, check out part 1 and part 2. In the final installment of this series, I will attempt to determine what ideal spiritual authority is.

After surveying the disaster of spiritual authority that I saw all around me, I set about trying to understand what good authority might look like. I began at once to wonder if spiritual anarchy was the way to govern a religious movement. I quickly dismissed this after a small amount of thought – in my experience, it was a humble leader, whose authority came only from his/her adherence to a moral/scholarly standard external to themselves that got things moving. Any movement gains momentum though a charismatic champion devoted to some cause external to themselves. This seems true of a religious movement as well.

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On Authority – Part 2

Monday, September 10th, 2007

Last week, I talked about the dangerous of a spiritual community with unaccountable authorities and blindly obedient followers. I also mentioned that I attended a church like this and had to wrangle with this problem. So in this second of a three part post, I will continue to discuss these issues and my responses.

After leaving the first of many churches with bad leadership, I remember facing the struggle of thinking of religion as an evil thing- a tool for corrupt men to control the emotional and relational lives of the people under them. But in the end, even though the pain of loosing friends and a time of intense anger, the only thing that I decided was hopelessly flawed was church, not God.

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On Authority

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

Two months ago, I decided to write on the topic of spiritual authority. As soon as I decided to do this, I realized that I have never talked to a single person who did not have a strong opinion about it in either a negative or positive sense. Because of this, I apologize in advance if this is something that has been beaten to death in the the course of your readings on the internet. My intention in this post is not to rant on about how much I dislike spiritual authority, or how badly it has been abused throughout history, but just to voice my honest attempt to understand it from my experiences. In addition to this warning, if you have never had problems with church or other religious authority, what I am going to say will probably not make sense, or worse make me sound like a person who hates authority because he is selfish. You would probably be better off not reading on because it will not be productive. But to everyone else, hopefully you’ll find my musings interesting, and if you are willing, to leave your own thoughts in the comments.

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Philosophy does not exist in a vacuum

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

Johnny had a great post over at TheFireSermon regarding how we should approach the big philosophical questions. In a book he sites, there are two general kinds of approaches, both relating to a person’s temperament: tender minded and tough minded.

Those who are tender minded are, Intellectualistic, Idealistic, Optimistic, Religious, Free-Willist, Monistic, Dogmatical. The tough minded are, Sensationalistic, Materialistic, Pessimistic, Irreligious, Fatalistic, Pluralistic, Skeptical.

To me this is a great direction, and my interest would be to further break down the sources of a person’s temperament. Where does it come from? How is it formed? Read the rest of this entry »

Firefly

Monday, April 9th, 2007

My wife’s parents came up to visit to help us with our first week with our newborn baby. They are awesome! Anyway, they went out and bought a season of a sci-fi series that I’ve always wanted to see – called Firefly. We all watched the first 4 episodes in one sitting – they were really good. One of the many reasons I loved the show was because of how they incorporate religion – with one of the main characters on their ship who is referred to as a shepherd.

My thinking on the subject is best summed up by what the captain says about shepherds: “They’re no fun to be around because all they do is make men feel guilty.” This has been my impression of pastors though my life – they are one-dimensional, self-righteous, overly legalistic people that if you are a Christian, are a bore to be around and if you are not, make you feel guilty and uncomfortable in a bad way. Either this is a pattern, or I’ve had terrible luck with pastors.

How sad. The people who are supposed to represent God are so completely his anthesis. Give me a person who is full of life, full of grace, screws up a lot and is approachable, and is a total joy to be in the presence of – that is more of the person I want to be around. I think the ship’s mechanic would be a much better candidate for God’s rep. She’s absolutely charming. 🙂

However, it seems like the shepherd adapts. When the problems that this band of people encounter begin to come head-on, he has to re-evaluate his idealism and simple perspectives of life.

I think Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones seems more appropriate to Christian pastors than the Jewish people (who scholars think the prophecy was towards) in my experience – God animates them (pastors), but they are still just bones without vitality and life. To the few pastors I’ve met that don’t fit my negative stereotype – thank you for making a difference in a world that needs it.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Monday, April 9th, 2007

If anyone who is reading this hasn’t seen the movie Fried Green Tomatoes, I would suggest seeing it ASAP if you are a person who cares deeply about the spiritual life. Since I am spending all my time at home with my wife helping out with our new baby, we end up sitting and watching movies. We just watched it, and when I watch a good movie, I’m up half the night thinking about it.

Two things about this movie made a big impression on me. The first one was who the real heroes in a society really are. I’ve written about the concept of the hero in society before – but this movie is the embodiment of what I think one looks like.

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The optimism of atheism

Monday, February 5th, 2007

Miko over at MoF opened up a discussion on optimism and religion. Both sides of it (theist vs. atheist) have perspectives on this about themselves and their counterpart. Here is my take on the subject.

As a theist? Christian, I have come to understand atheism as a (mostly) healthy and optimistic shift in belief away from a very unhealthy and very ugly view of God put forth by very misguided religious groups. As a Christian, I have seen first hand and experienced how bad evangelical churches and movements can be (which I never thought possible before), and I have heard second hand (via John and Miko and others) how bad other religious groups and their dark and dismal views of God are and how that manifests itself in a religious culture and society. Miko and John’s atheistic world-view and accompanying beliefs/values to me could only be described as optimistic.

No joke – if I went though the experiences of most folks from bad religious backgrounds, I would probably be an atheist now, and I think that the true God would be pretty happy with that arrangement – it is a good way to sever ties with a belief system with so much crap that runs so deep it must be (in some cases) summarily rejected like a cancer for any healthy growth to take its place.

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Church and the perception of God

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

Elise got me thinking about another fascinating (although in real life, painful) subject: How the dogma and behavior of a church are in part a reflection of that organization’s perception of God. If religious life is composed of being forced to follow a list of dogmatic rules (not drinking alcohol, going to church 2 times a week minimum, tithing 10%, mandatory baptism, mandatory bible verse memorization, etc.) then that organization’s perception of God is one who is distant and needs to be appeased by good behavior. I used to attend a church like this myself and HATED it. I have found that there are some people that do not think of God this way but still attend a church like this. To me however, it is a loosing battle. This society that supports oppressive dogmatism will steal away their good perception of God and it will instead mold it into the one the church affirms. Only integrity will help you survive and get you out.

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Revelation (a response to Elise’s question)

Friday, November 17th, 2006

This is a response to a question Elise had about my understanding of how God reveals himself to people, and how I understand atheism in all of this. Please believe me when I say that I am just like the next guy trying to figure this stuff out. This post represents my best current thinking, and I am not at all 100% sure my thinking is solid, but I am just doing my best I can.As a Christian, I do not believe Christianity is the ‘One True Religion,’ and all others are absolutely false, but rather that Jesus spoke the clearest revelation of spiritual truth than all others. All religions have some truth to them, some more than others, but to me, Jesus’ teachings and the God of the Old Testament, who I believe to be one and the same person, seem to me to be the most purest written revelation that is available to men. That is why I believe it was called the good news. Its the clearest, most direct answer to how to live the spiritual life. All religions, including atheism, are like lights in darkness – some are brighter, some are darker – I simply want to follow the brightest light of all.

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Beyond the extremes

Sunday, October 29th, 2006

One of the reasons I started this weblog was to develop a decent theology through writing and good feedback that will eventually land me somewhere between the two extremes of Reformed Theology (Calvinism) and liberal forms of Arminianism. Part of my quest for answers includes reading literature by authors who fall into the Reformed Theology camp who have beliefs that I am repulsed by. But, just in case I misunderstood the few men who I discussed the subject with, I thought I would go buy a book by one of the leaders of the movement and make sure I understand. I don’t want to be tripped up by semantic confusion.

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Written truth vs. revealed truth

Monday, October 9th, 2006

In a previous post, “Empirical Evidence for Spiritual Truth” , John R. posted some great comments about the subject, which made me think more about it. I responded to his comments in yet another comment, but to me, the subject was still lacking something. In another recent post on MindOnFire.com, he gave me more insight into his faith struggle. The interesting part of the discussion in this post revolved around his internal struggle with the validity of core truths of Mormonism. With all reasonable effort, he tried to test these beliefs to see if they were true or not. One method, proposed by a Mormon elder, was just to verbalize them through witnessing, and through this process, belief is instilled in the believer. Another method proposed within the Book of Mormon itself, which seemed more reasonable, was to read the scriptures and then pray about them, and belief will follow. John’s openness about the methods he used to internalize spiritual truth led me to analyze how I came to believe the spiritual truths that I believe today. I was surprised by what I discovered.

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Avoiding “religion”

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

If you have been following some of my previous posts, I have been working on a short series on religion and the spiritual life. So far, I have concluded that to live a thriving spiritual life, “religion” has to go. In an amatureish attempt to explain the spiritual life allegorically, I concluded that it is simply living in a fiery romantic relationship with God. Attempting to live a spiritual life other than this way is like putting your spouse in a glass case and visiting once a week, being entralled by his/her beauty, saying some nice things to them, and then walking away, never even listening to hear if they are speaking back to you and ignoring the tears running down their cheeks as they watch you walk away.

The problem with living the spiritual life in the world we find ourselves in is that by being human, we are by nature drawn to understand and relate to God not in a love relationship, but through the system of religion. Even for those of us who hate religion and are drawn towards God and enter into a relationship with Him, we are still sucked unconsciously by our culture into their mindset, and are thus drawn away from the intimacy and slowly put God back into the glass case.

So what does this religious system look like? What are the signs that we will see if we are slipping back into it? I have tried to come up with a list of common signs and how to avoid them.

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Analogy of the spiritual life

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

What is the alternative to “religion?” If it is so bad, what are we to do instead to find nourishment for the spiritual side of us? To answer this question, I will tell a story.
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“Religion” vs. the spiritual life

Saturday, September 30th, 2006

As usual, my mind starts brewing when reading stuff by the folks over at MindonFire.com, which usually leads me over here after making long comments over there to finish my thoughts. :). In one post, the question of the day was “What is religion?” In terms of the book we are reviewing together by Sam Harris called The End of Faith. I tried to answer that as best I could, but only briefly.
I just want to make this statement: Religion is the destroyer of the spiritual life. If anyone wants to live a thriving spiritual life, they must throw it out. It is a sinking ship – if you stay on it too long, you will die spiritually.

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Analogy of Religion

Wednesday, September 20th, 2006

“Religion” is a hard thing to define. Here’s Dictionary.com’s take:

A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

From my perspective today, the key part of this definition that makes it called “religion” is after the word “usually.” The phrase before that is what I would call a “faith-based worldview”, but combined with what comes after, it becomes what I would call “religion.” Religion is a combination of a faith-based worldview + a human owned and operated institution. The bad part is the human owned and operated institution.

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