Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Finding Refuge Amongst the Artisans

I was thinking yesterday as I was watching the artists work in some of the villages in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains of how an important role they play in every society.  It is not just our enjoyment of their crafts, but they are not only the dreamers, the thinkers but the questioners.

I'm not an artist . . . but I admire them.  Of course the easiest medium for asking the hard questions are the writers of poetry, novels and lyrics. But the painters ask the hard questions visually.  They are the heroes of the society.  I just heard (tangentially as I was reading the Hobbit between my many trips to the bathroom . . . the artisan's food did me in) on Algazeera about a poet in some country being arrested for what he said.  I didn't know where because they didn't run the story again.

The only problems is that the artisans rarely find the answers.  Many have died by their own hands in hopelessness.  But at least they feel, they observe and they ask and that is so important.

It is too bad that much of Christian thinking has been to replace true-truth, and the search of with questions as your shepherds, to dogma as a substitute for truth, a dogma that is poured on your in a passive way, without searching.  When Christians talk about truth, they are usually meaning dogma.

We need to revitalize the questions and the honest search for truth, but with the hope of answers and not ending in hopelessness as many artists have.  But I do enjoy being with them, sitting at their feet and letting them disturb my peace . . . in a good way.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Infinity . . . and Beyond . . . more Metaphysical Troubles for the Atheists Part II

Okay, I'm back from the souk with some spices, fossils, ear rings and a swarma sandwich in our stomachs.

So, here is what I was starting to say. This new way of looking at the universe states that beyond our "visible" or potentially "knowable" 13 billion light-year diameter universe is an infinity of space and time, or who knows, anti-space and anti-time. But when you put this into a mathematical equation, then you end with meta physical chaos.

As you know (or at least I've said--but I certainly wasn't the first person to say it) mathematics is the language of nature. Another way of saying it is that mathematics is the language of what is.  Now, in my pro-Christian camp of thinking, this is one of the supporting truths. Because you can know the universe through math alone. Einstein knew atomic energy was real through his brain and a caulk board, using mathematics.  He didn't discover nuclear energy through experimental physics.

So when you, as the article suggested, reduce this concept to the mathematical you have a total negation of all we know.  It is simply true that when you divide any number by infinity, you end up with zero.

First we will talk about one simple concept and that is of knowledge. If we know everything there is to know about the visible universe (and we know less than 1% now) then this universe is still a fraction of the whole. So we know 100% of this fraction. But when you express that fraction as X/infinity (can't use the symbol for infinity as the bog doesn't have it) the answer approaches 0 to the point that it is 0 or the same as 0.

So, when it comes to our knowledge of all that is, then our knowledge is 0. But then the mathematical equation does more.  When you apply it to metaphysics, you end up at the same place. If we are 1 (or 1,000 or even 1,000,000 as it doesn't matter) when you place it above infinity as a fraction of what is . . . we become the non existent.  You can apply this in the area of morals or any area and you always end up with 0.

So, in summary, if the universe is infinite, then we, for all practical purposes, don't exist nor ever will.
 We are less than an anomaly  I was going to say a brief blip in time but if the infinite universe has infinite past and future (if time exist there) then once again, our existence is reduced to zero. Even if the universe has existed for 14 billion years, that is still 0 time (1,000,000,000 years/infinite time = 0). Sure you can say "approaches 0" but really it does mean 0.

Even with the finite universe of 14 billion light years, we already ran into the problem of total insignificance of our being. You can not have a spontaneous big bag, a spontaneous evolution of the elemental and then the geological and then the biological and have meaning. Another equation that makes no sense. It is at this juncture the atheists use their faith that is no less a shot in the dark than the evangelical's faith.  They live their lives as if something mattered and it does not. Knowledge doesn't matter, the advancement of humanity doesn't matter. The universe couldn't care less if human's went extinct today. The universe doesn't give a damn if all life forms went extinct today. It doesn't give a damn if all matter collapsed and vanished overnight. But still the atheists lives as if they have meaning.

I will stop here. But that was my thought of the day. :>)

Infinity . . . and Beyond . . . more Metaphysical Troubles for the Atheists Part I

In case you don't know me, I must first give you my somewhat unique perspective when it comes to Christian apologetics.  For several decades I followed the lead of memorizing apologetic exercises and sound bites.  The purposed of such "programed" apologetic is to provide comfort for the one giving the apologetic.  It gives them the sense that their (Christian) view point is clearly head and shoulders above that of other world views . . . speaking intellectually . . .  thus only a fool wouldn't believe that Christianity is true.

But when I decided to approach things from a deeply honest place, I quickly learned that wasn't true. For my Muslim friends, my Mormon friends and pantheistic friends (not so much with the later) all have this same conviction.

So, speaking honestly, and as I've said before, none of the answers are easy.  There is an incredible paradox.  We are personal creatures (we feel that we are persons and not just a carbon based machine) yet the universe has not declared itself without question.  I can argue, as a Christian, that God has revealed Himself in time, space and history . . . but that was in history.  I haven't seen God directly.  All my evangelical friends say they do, but I now know that it is wishful thinking and self-delusion.

As a deeply thinking person, I hate the notion that no world view bridges the gap of the absurd that with each view there has to be an extension of reason through a type of faith. I want to walk the entire way through reason. As a Christian I can explain why we all must face this gap in reasoning and is because of the Fall, our intellects don't function to their full capacity, thus none of us can really know the truth through reason alone.  But, otherwise, reason is very, very good and God-given in my view.

Now, I still haven't gotten to my point but am still in the introduction, but I will add one more tangential point and that is, the faith of the doubter and skeptic is far more powerful than that of the non-thinker.  For example, the "strong Christian man," which I referred to at the beginning of my previous post, use to say how he has never doubted God for a second. In my view, to brainwash yourself that the apologetic of Christianity is a slam dunk, takes little or no faith to believe it.  But for us, who push the thinking to its very limit, then must face this gap that is not filled in by imaginative thinking . . . that takes a very sturdy faith.  Skeptics should be proud of their faith in the face of honest thinking (meaning in a good sense).

Now to my point.  I'm writing from the roof of a riad overlooking the ancient city of Marrakesh, Morocco. As I am typing the prayer call is literally going out from about six or seven nearby mosques.    So, I'm on a much needed vacation. I have a business (medical practice) that requires my energy 12 hours per day and six or seven days per week.  That's why I don't write much here nor read as much as I would like.

But on this trip I picked up three magazines, Scientific American, Astronomy and one about physics. I've now read these journals cover to cover and now get to focus on The Hobbit.  Somewhere in my reading (and I can't remember which one) I read an article that cosmologists are now considering the universe to be infinite. This is a switch as previously, it was considered finite ( well-demarcated space of abut 13 billion light-years across ).  Outside the universe, in the old model, there was nothing.  No space, no time, no energy and no matter. So it was like the Thurman Show (the movie), but on a mega scale.

But when you consider the universe as being infinite, it creates some huge metaphysical and philosophical problems, which starts (as everything does) as a mathematical problem.

My wife says it is time to go to the souk (market). So I will finish this tonight with a part II. I didn't have time to proof read either so reader beware.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Fake Reality

Okay, I know that I've revisited this theme over and over again. But once more, I've had this issue become overwhelm me in the past few weeks.

Based on comments and private e-mails, I often come across here when I write, like I'm throwing spears at what we used to call "hypocrites."  But that is like looking at the trees while I'm tying to talk about the forest. Failures of individual Christians are the symptoms when I'm interested in the disease. There is something much bigger here than just a person being a hypocrite. Even the thinking of someone being a hypocrite seems to be out of touch with the seriousness of the matter. More than just a choice by a bad person, but a whole mind set of being a disconnect between living magically in Christianland and the reality of being human.

There is something inherently wrong with a chunk, let me say one brand, of American Christianity that takes the "faithful" to a place where they are so out of touch with reality that is like psychosis-lite. I will describe the things that brought this to mind.

The first thing was in a couple of events in my real life.  I want to take caution in what I say in a public forum like this. But I got a glimpse into the private lives of a couple of local Christians, previously used as examples of godliness, where the private life were nothing like you would expect.

I will speak tangentially a bit, but one man is considered the saint of saints in my recent evangelical world.  Over and over I heard how he was the example that all Christian men should be.  He is the one who told me many times that he doubted my faith because I didn't agree with him that the earth was 6,000 years old.  It was his statements that led me to leave my last church.  But I got an unexpected, and disturbing, glimpse into his private life this week. I wasn't looking for dirt. But the news came to me in an unexpected way from within his family.  In his private world he thinks and lives in a way that I couldn't even imagine, and I'm not that good of a guy. But once again it makes me believe that all the saints, which I was told about over the years, . . . well, that they are all frauds.  I know I was a fraud when people used to be amazed by  my "godliness."

The next thing that brought me face to face to this reality was more impersonal . . . namely a couple of reality TV show

I am a fan of murder mystery TV shows that you see on Dateline or 48 Hours Mystery. Mostly because I am intrigued by human behavior, especially of the psychopath or sociopath, whom has no sense of guilt.  I think it amazes me so much because I feel plagued by guilt, even when I do things right.

So the first one was, I think Dateline.  In that episode, it told the story of Sarah Jones. She was a gal in her late 20s.  She was the homecoming queen in high school and came from a devout evangelical family. She became a high school teacher herself.

The first event in this course of things was she got a job as a Bengal's cheerleader.  In that role she wore a skimpy halter top and shorts that were so short and showed about as much as her butt as a thong.  She wore this in front of tens of thousands of people each week. She was also in that cheerleader culture. They partied and took a lot of seductive photos. She made friends with a co-cheerleader who too was a strong evangelical.

Now here is the first disconnect.  When she was asked about her cheer-leading job she said something to the effect that she never considered it to be sexual at all.  Her strong Christian mom thought the same.  Really? I guess Hooters is only about the food, that's why some men prefer to have their Bible studies there.

So, the next major disconnect was the fact that rumors started to spread that she (and she was married at the time) was having seductive interactions with some of her male students. They showed an interview where she arguing that those rumors were false.  She smiled a lot and, for all purposes, called on God Himself as a character witness.  She said that she was a strong Christian and never had any inappropriate relationships with her male students and that God would defend her because He (implying they) stood for truth.

Then a boy's cell phone was found and it was full of X rated texts from her . . . I guess you would call it "sexting."

Then they interviewed her again. At first she denied it, but when proven that they were from her, she finally admitted it, but some how put a good face on it.  She swore that she had never had physical contact with the 17 year old boy.  Once again she said that God was on her side and would defend her character . . . you know, God and her are friends.

I know you see this coming, but then the boy admitted that he was having sex with the teacher (in the old days we called this adultery).  Well, when it got out, she left her husband and ran off with this boy. But here is the greatest disconnect, she still sees herself as in the right, in God's will and that God is her biggest defender. But what about all the lies she told, not to mention the seducing of a minor and adultery?  Do you see what I mean? She was comfortable with her sin in a strange way. I'm saying this is not just an exception but a symptom of something deeply philosophical in the way that our Christian society has created the disconnect to reality.

Last, and much more grave, was the example last night on 48 Hours Mystery, titled "The Preacher and the Porn Star."  It is a story about a man who was quite gifted (he is such an over-the-top extrovert I sense at least some ADHD).  He went to Bible college and became a very successful youth pastor, traveling the country, speaking at youth rallies.  His biggest gift was his performance arts, especially mime.

While still being this youth preacher guy, he, without much shame, said he liked to party hard, especially in Vegas (sexy women, drugs, alcohol . . . but God was okay with all of that).  He had come into a fair amount of money from his preaching and starting a couple of businesses.

To make a long story short, he met a gal in Vegas, whom he called a "dancer" but she earn most of her money from her own porn site.  He also seemed to think that God was okay with that.

He moved in with this gal (God was okay with that too).  After he took her home to meet his parents, they were a little shocked when two nephews told his parents that they knew the woman from her porn site (don't have to guess much to figure out how they knew).

Well, this pron start living with the dynamic preacher started to tell her friends that  he was physically abusing her. God seemed to be okay with that too.  Well, to cut to the chase, the woman was found beaten to death.  It was horrible.  There wasn't one square inch of  her body that didn't have cuts or bruising.

The man was interviewed and what I sensed was a total lack of guilt or remorse.  He was arrested.  He claimed that during a drug and "rough sex" session, she beat her self up.  The strange things were how they proved that he was still doing business on the phone, even after he knew she was dying.  After he had called 911.  It was bizarre.

Then the case was botched and he got off scott free. He has no remorse.  He immediately went back tour as a Christian-preacher-entertainer.  His first gig . . . a Christian policeman's conference.  But there is something very wrong with this picture.

I know I've talked about this here a hundred times. But it has to do with connection to reality.  Contemporary  Evangelicalism seems to have found a restful home up on the 60th floor (with reality being the ground).  It is this disconnect that breeds this attitude of keeping the face of Christianity while no consciousness of your own failures.

I started a quest about 15 years ago. I made a pledge to myself that would try to seek the ground floor with all my being, but it is hard. Society, especially Christian society bears against that quest with all of its might.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Minuscule God of the Evangelicals . . . Part V . . . The Genie God

Some of the comments on earlier posts got me thinking about this perspective.  While I'm thinking about the idea of people making comments I wanted to say I do read them all, although I don't always comment on the comments. But I do appreciate them. I don't comment because I can't think of anything intelligent to say.  I also don't have near the time I wish I did.  I'm on a hamster wheel right now trying to keep a medical practice from going bankrupt because it is virtually impossible these days to get insurance companies to pay you what they owe you. So I'm working a good 60 hours a week right now and come home and collapse in bed. But I digress.

So, this is a little different than my last post where I talk about the silly "miracles" attributed to their god.  This is about manipulating god to fulfill your every whim.

When I find myself listening to Christian radio by mistake, and drawing from my past memories where I was an intense evangelical myself, the reasoning goes like the following.  God, the creator of the universe loves me deeply. So, he is happy to fulfill my every need and desire and not just the big things. So, the evangelical god, not only cures my mother of cancer, he is constantly doing the little things, getting the stain our of my shirt, helping to find a Starbucks while on a road trip, helping me to get a refund on my taxes, causing the tree to fall (during the intense wind storm) on the car three cars back rather than me, killing a child and their father . . . but sparing my righteous butt.  The paradoxical list could go on and on.

But is this kind of god the way he is because he loves us so much?  I beg to differ.

Okay, I love my children intensely.  If they called me on the phone and asked me things like, "Dad, can you come over and get the stain out of my shirt?  Dad, do you know someone at the event center who can get me free tickets to a concert?  Dad, can you play interference and help me get a parking spot near the door of the mall?  Hey, Dad, can find a Starbucks for me?  Dad, can you make sure my tomato plants produce good maaters?"

I would look at my kids, and I do love them dearly, and think, "What's wrong with you!?  Isn't this pandering and manipulative behavior?  I smell a bit of narcissism here . . . you know, my needs and desires rest at the center of the universe."  I really do sense of lot of narcissistic behavior around this kind of me-centric god.

So this kind of god either fits in your pocket or in the Aladdin's lamp that you carry in your knapsack.

A really big God, you know, the one who could breath and create a big bang with all of it's complexities can deeply love me, because He is personal and has created us in His personal image. He can, rarely, step outside of the beautiful laws of nature, which He has created, but He can't fit in my pocket like IPhone's Siri.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Minuscule God of the Evangelicals Part IV . . . The Magician

If you are old enough you might remember the series (three I think) movies where George Burns played God.  In the first one, to prove that he was God, he appeared in a court room and did a card trick . . . okay then he disappeared.  But to the evangelicals, God's miracles is in the lines of him being a magician . . . or maybe an illusionist.

The problem begins (keeping with the theme of this blog) with the notion that this physical world is unimportant. Therefore for anything to have meaning, it has to be connected to the far more important spiritual realm (so goes their thinking). Therefore, nothing has value unless it is a "miracle."  So then everything becomes a miracle, meaning a super-natural (above the laws of nature) miracle.

Rather than seeing the Red Sea part (a real super-natural miracle) it is, "I ran into Joan at the market . . . obviously a miracle and a God-thing."  This discounts the odds of seeing Joan in a town of 3,000 people at a market where 180 of them are there at any one time.

But it saturates the evangelical thinking.  All illnesses are either caused by the direct hand of God ("God disciplining me") or the devil (see the previous post).  Any resolution of an illness isn't through the natural (God-given in my opinion) forces of our biochemistry of healing but had to be the direct hand of God.

God directs me to a verse in the Bible, rather than the Newtonian laws of forces applied when opening a book.

So these miracles are woven with tissue paper.  But they have no other choice. If they believe that this physical world is crap, rather than an incredibly beautiful place with God-designed complexities and forces, then you have to believe that all things are miracles.  At that juncture you loose all contact with reality.

But, I do believe that God does work outside of nature, but it is rare. My God does things like create universes and the complexities of all that is. I'm very okay with God working within the nature He has created because I love it the way He made it. As Einstein said, either everything is a miracle or nothing is.  I'm in the camp that everything is.  The big bang and on. No, the universe makes no sense, something that big created by a personal being. But the absence of such makes less sense.

So, it is at this point the Evangelicals tell me my God is small the most. It is when they suggest that God did something, like just missing getting hit when you accidentally ran the red light. Then I say, I think it was just being lucky where the timing was just right.  Most the time when you run a red light you survive. But the 10% odds of getting hit are terrible. So, the odds were in your favor.  Then they smirk and say ". . . your God is so small."