It’s been about two weeks now since Dylann Roof, during an evening service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, shot ten parishioners, killing nine of them, including state senator & senior pastor Clementa C. Pinckney.
So much has been said about this incident. Allegations of (and plenty of evidence for) racist motivations have been discussed at length. The public discourse even went so far as to bring the good ol’ southern heritage of being proud of a time when the black man was subjugated beneath the white man, with the so-called Confederate flag being all over the news, its appropriateness in modern times being examined from every possible perspective.
I’ve said enough about the sociopolitical/racial aspect of the incident over on Facebook, so I won’t dwell on that aspect of the situation. I also wanted to allow a bit of time to pass so that the more urgent discussions could be had before adding my voice on a slightly more obtuse aspect of the incident to the zeitgeist.
There have been 108 school shooting incidents of some kind or another just since January 2010 and just in the United States. Let that sink in for a moment. In five and a half years, there have been over 100 life-threatening incidents within schools — a place we expect to be safe for our children! That’s over 20 per year, over 1 a month on average!
Granted, we don’t usually hear about these. For these instances to break into the mainstream news reporting, it needs to be deadly enough to not be considered — and I hate to even call it this — “business as usual.” Sandy Hook, Columbine… Those and others like them are what we hear about, what we heartbreak over, and what we promise ourselves “never again” over (until the next time, right?).
Without fail, you’ll hear some people of the Christian persuasion make the accusation that the shootings wouldn’t have happened if we would just let God back into our schools. Continue reading Why Didn’t God Stop the Shooting?
Here’s a meme which has been passed around in various forms and with various designs; I did a Google Images search for the text (“No matter who is president, Jesus is King.”), and the above version of the meme was the first result. There are two things I want to point out about this meme:
Observation the first, from a biblical POV
From a strictly biblical perspective, the meme is right! Christians are, biblically, citizens of an unearthly kingdom (Philippians 3:20), under the rule of Jesus, their king (1 Timothy 6:15).
So why, if the meme is technically biblically correct am I including this as a mindless meme? Well, do you actually know anyone who lives their life as if Jesus is their king? Continue reading The Kingship of Jesus, A Meme
Five years ago, I left Christianity behind. It was not a decision made lightly, nor was it one which required a great deal of thought. If that seems like a contradiction, let me explain.
I wish I had journaled the situation — life-changing moments ought to be preserved, I think — the date, the context, all of it faded into the past. What I do remember is that I was upstairs in my home, sitting at my corner desk, doing some thing or another on my computer. Was I debating? Was I cross checking something?
A Bible lay open on the desk before me, the ancient words of Deuteronomy awaiting my eye. Why was I looking at that book in particular? Why chapter twenty-two in particular? Continue reading In Which I Disobeyed Journey and Stopped Believing
I suck at blogging. No, really. I do. For nearly a decade (holy crap, seriously?) now, I’ve attempted to push my thoughts out into the world — longer if my pre–WordPress blogging days are taken into account.
In that time, I wrote a lot about my faith in Jesus Christ and about my understanding of the Bible, sometimes loudly, often without a clue about which I was talking.
Without focus, I published movie reviews, anti-science rants, conservative political rants, contextless journal entries, and so much more, little of which contributed to an overall narrative or theme — as if there was an actual ultimate goal to my blogging besides pretending that what I had to say on any and all topics mattered and thus should be said. Continue reading The Ascent Begins…
Apologetics is the art of answering critical questions about a religion and in providing positive reasons to believe in a religion, both as a reassurance to current believers and as an invitation for unbelievers to become believers.
If you’re one of the rare few who come here with very little experience with religion, then you might be wondering just how many reasons there could be to believe in things which don’t exists — you’d be hard pressed to find any literature defending the existence of the Wicked Witch of the West, after all. Thousands upon thousands of pages have been written throughout history in defense of Christianity alone, not including apologists for any of the world’s other religions.
Comprehensively responding to every reason which apologists have given through the years would be a monumental task, so what I hope to accomplish here is looking at some of my favorite reasons to believe which I have come across.
I never quite understood what gluten was til my wife came into my life — she has celiac disease, which hasn’t resulted in huge changes in my life, but now unless I’m buying just for myself, I try to be a bit more aware of the breads and grains that I buy: No more whole wheat purchases for family consumption! Not a big deal, by any means, and it keeps my wife’s insides from tormenting her.
Just over a decade ago, I had finished a months long DIY project: I had built, from parts old & new, a pretty powerful (for its time) desktop computer. Doing so was, of course, a pretty remarkable feeling in and of itself, but then having a beast of a computer let me do something even cooler: I loaded it up with a couple distributed computing programs and donated my idle computer power to protein folding research, the search for extraterrestrial life, or various other projects.
I loved the feeling of being able to contribute in a direct way to the scientific bettering of humankind, but when I transitioned entirely to a MacBook laptop, I abandoned the distributed computing scene; don’t get me wrong, I did try it, but it made my laptop run incredibly hot regardless of how I set the throttling on the research. Rather than shorten the life of my computer, I cut the distributing computing projects from my life. That was about half a decade ago, thereabouts.
Flash forward a few years, and I now have a smartphone — a powerful device that, particularly when it’s charging, sits idle, doing little more than awaiting the next push notification. The idea that my phone could be crunching numbers for SETI or some other research group has crossed my mind numerous times since first getting my phone, but searches of the App Store have never turned anything of that nature up.
That was frustrating because smartphones are incredibly versatile in just what they can process or detect. I remember when I first heard about phones containing barometric pressure sensors — useful for fitness apps to detect whether you’re going up and down stairs, for instance, by detecting variations in atmospheric pressure) — thinking that a clever climatology group could take advantage of the distributed weather stations that smartphones represent, data mining atmospheric information on an extremely local scale. Of course, a phone would probably have to know whether it was indoors and outdoors to provide good data, but crowdsourcing the weather isn’t that farfetched of an idea.
As it turns out, thinking about the weather was thinking too small. Continue reading Contribute to the Frontiers of Science with Nothing but Your Smartphone
It’s hardly any secret that the Bible speaks of a flat Earth. [ref]…unless of course you have a bias which requires the Bible to speak of a spherical Earth.[/ref] It was written, after all, when cosmology was a colorful array of imaginative ideas from all over the world — Atlas carrying the Earth, the sun being charioted across the heavens by a god, stars being placed there to honor those who died in gods’ good graces, and so on.
Richard Gunther has said, “Modern science has confirmed that the air around the planet turns in huge circles, clockwise in one hemisphere and counterclockwise in the other.” I honestly don’t know if this was said in reference to Ecclesiastes 1:6, but that quote appears as a footnote on that verse in The Evidence Bible, an apologetics study Bible compiled by apologist Ray Comfort.
What struck me about that footnote, though, is that it was the only one on the page. Far more interesting was the verse which was apparently glossed over.
Let me preface all of this by saying that yes, I understand that the Book of Ecclesiastes is very poetic, and it doesn’t necessarily follow that it should be taken literally. I’m speaking about 1:5, then, only because apologists love to mention 1:6 — same poetry, same context. [ref]In addition to the aforementioned study Bible, InPlainSite.org and Eternal Productions are examples of 1:5 being taken literally.[/ref]
The Preacher, as the author of Ecclesiastes calls himself, describes the sun rising and setting, language which makes sense in a society which believed the earth was stationary and that everything — the sun, moon, and stars — all circled around it.
Rising and setting. We still use those figures of speech even today — each of us has ready access to sunrise and sunset times from any number of weather sites or apps. So maybe the Preacher was simply using figures of speech as well? Entirely possible — but contextually that would mean the next verse was being figurative as well, which throws a wrench into what apologists say about it. What about the second half of our verse, though?
“… and hastens to the place where it rises.”
Here, the Preacher is describing a sun which goes down on one side of the land, hastens underneath it, and rises again on the other side. Why would the Preacher use this imagery? It’s as if the other side of the earth didn’t matter, that it was merely the foundations of the earth and not another hemisphere full of other people with their own myths and legends.
The Preacher doesn’t say that it is as if the sun hastens, but that it hastens — of its own volition, no less.
So if Ecclesiastes 1:6 is evidence that a biblical author had prescience of scientific principles discovered centuries later, then Ecclesiastes 1:5 must be taken as evidence that even though an ancient writer may have noticed that the winds seem to blow in predictable patterns, the same writer still viewed the earth as a flat plane.
A large portion of religion relies on invisibility. We are told that unseen gods, angels, demons, demigods, spirits, and spectres are all around us, active in any number of mysterious ways in our world. These claims are easy to dismiss, though — if something is altogether undetectable, if something is not the indisputable effect to real causes, if someone only exists in the sense that it can be described or believed in, then we can rationally ignore such things, for they have no “real” bearing on reality — they are no more real than any number of fictional characters, invented through the years by human imagination.
But what if reality itself is made up of invisible things? The individual mold spore was invisible for much of human history, only becoming evident when it was part of many mold spores. Now, we are able to view mold spores using tools such as a microscope. They aren’t invisible anymore.
If we go even smaller, though, we find that what makes up reality is more varied and exotic than anyone ever thought in the past, which brings us to the Bible text in question.
The Evidence Bible, in its comment on Hebrews 11:3, says “Only in recent years has science discovered that everything we see is composed of invisible atoms. Here, Scripture tells us that the things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”
Another apologist says that the author of Hebrews [ref]I appreciate the irony that we are to believe the Bible is the most important book in the universe, containing the very words of God, but we can’t really be sure of the authors of some of its books, such as Hebrews, and so cannot know for sure even the circumstances which led to its being written. Seems suspicious.[/ref] “wrote about atomic structure, nearly 2000 years before it was discovered by scientists.” [ref]InPlainSite.org[/ref]
Does Hebrews Speak about Atoms?
Go back and re-read the Bible verse quoted above. Does it seem to be talking about atoms to you?
What the verse says is that the author of Hebrews and those who are likeminded believe that God created the universe, and because of that, they believe that everything that we do see must have been created by something which isn’t seen — namely, God.
What Hebrews is not saying is that everything was made out of existing things. This would be in violation of the conservative doctrine of creation ex nihilo, that the universe was created from nothing — that basically God didn’t use a kit to make the universe, but spontaneously created every last part of it.
It’s apparent that, despite what apologists will say, the author of Hebrews wasn’t even pretending to talk about atoms. It isn’t that the author couldn’t have known about them, but it may mean that he wasn’t as far along in theorizing about the nature of reality as those pesky unbelievers happened to be hundreds of years earlier.