Charity Disparity

The following article is about atheism and philanthropy.  Notice that of the $430,000 raised for cancer research in 2012 by “atheist groups,” $215,000 came from Stiefel (who is independently wealthy) and that a large portion of the remainder came from Christians.  No wonder Stiefel doesn’t want to entirely alienate religious people.  Obviously, he recognizes that they’re the ones who give.
CNN Belief Blog

Strategic Planning

I just reblogged a post on Islamophobia.  I agree with the facts related in the post and with the contention that many people fail to call out the misdeeds of Muslims out of fear of backlash or worse.  However, I would not say that Islam is ultimately to blame for the evils committed by some Muslims around the world.  Islam just provides a convenient palate upon which the sinful hearts of humans mix the blood-red hues of their hatred.  Other convenient ideologies have been churchianity, Communism (rational atheism applied), nationalism, and racism to name a few. For the real issue check this sermon I delivered on November 11th.

Strategic Planning

Growing Young

I’m coming to believe that human thought goes through three phases on individual and societal levels.  Humans begin in intellectual childhood.  They believe the things they’ve been told.  They are limited by rules and driven by fear.  Some societies and individuals remain in childhood.  Often they do this because those entrusted to lead them seek only to exploit them.  Whether it’s a communist government or a denominational board, codependent leadership must jealously defend the naiveté (pronounced “orthodoxy”) of their constituents.

Beyond childhood, humans can develop into adolescence.  Those in this stage break out into individual thought and personal gratification.  They rely on peers and mistrust established authority.  They rabidly question assumptions and delight to liberate “children” from them.  While more aware than children, intellectual adolescents have their own blind spots especially to the limits of their own perspective.  For minds to progress they must go through some form of adolescence.  Sadly, some people remain in adolescence indefinitely.  One example would be Richard Dawkins and his sympathizers.

Should a person somehow find the humility to continue learning past adolescence, he or she will move on into intellectual adulthood.  At this level, a person has faced struggles and had the rough edges knocked off.  More than once, he or she has had to admit that much of what they were told while in childhood was in fact true though misunderstood or misinterpreted.  Intellectual adults have discovered a world outside their own minds where others’ ideas and needs disallow the luxury afforded to the critic.

My prayer for all of us is that our minds can grow up.  After all, Jesus told us to love God with our minds as well.

Empty Legacy

photo credit: waycoolpics.wordpress.com

No person should be allowed the luxury of holding a belief while ignoring its implications.  Why?  Because the implications of today’s prevalent beliefs shape the ethos of the next generation.  For instance, suppose I had been born into a culture which had been largely shaped by the belief that the ability to overcome a rival tribe was conferred on me through a rite of manhood.  Obviously, I would go through that rite.  After several defeats I might come to question the effectiveness of the manhood ritual.  I might come to believe that the rival tribe’s practice of cannibalism made them more powerful.  Since cannibalism had not been part of my cultural ethos, I would probably find the idea of eating another human to be distasteful (pardon the pun).  For me, eating another person would be hard, but propagating my ideas would be easy.  Suppose I convince others in the tribe of my position and after another defeat at which I get killed, they decide to eat a couple of the felled rival warriors.  What if after that, my tribe won the next battle?  My tribe would most likely continue to dabble in cannibalism.  Within two generations the buffet would be open.

Lately, I’ve encountered some pretty aggressive anti-theists.  The messages coming from that camp are fraught with what I would label, “ideological dissonance.”  So, just to do my part to help everyone come into personal harmony, I present this atheistic ontological syllogism for review:

P1- Meaning is an interpretive construct of a sentient mind.

P2- Sentience requires interplay between evaluative consciousness and memory.

P3- Consciousness and memory are products of chemical processes in the human brain.

P4- When the brain is destroyed, consciousness ends and memories are erased.

C1- Relative to the deceased individual, regardless of the details or duration, the life that he or she lived becomes retroactively meaningless.

P5- At some point, all brains and their products will be destroyed.

C2- Human life, regardless of the details or duration, is utterly meaningless.

P6- Resources invested in something which is utterly meaningless are wasted.

C3- The attempt to survive or accomplish anything is a total waste.

If you disagree, please tell me why.  If you agree but still choose not to commit suicide, then it’s because you fear the only certainty of your existence.  In short, your life isn’t advancing the human condition or accomplishing anything noble; you are just procrastinating.  So, the most consistent atheist ethic would be “die today” or “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.”

If you are living in the West, then you were probably raised with a value system which says that you should value human life.  The basis of that value is, “all men were created equal” or some similar formulation.  Your heart is trying to retain a borrowed ethic the basis of which your mind and mouth deny.  So, feel free to keep going where you’re going, just please admit that you are going there.

Fish Eyes

Mike the mallard bobbed on the surface of the pond, the early November wind whipping through his feathers.  Driven by an empty gizzard, Mike plunged toward the silted bottom.  Halfway down he encountered a rather large bass which caused him to backpedal a bit then come to a full upright position under water.  The bass, equally startled, came to a dead stop.  The two stared at each other for a few awkward seconds before Mike broke the silence with a little small talk.

“Boy, this water sure is cold today.”  He observed.

To which the bass replied, “What water?”

My Two Masters Part One

I’ll admit it: The movie, “Karate Kid” has to some degree defined me as a person.  I’m not talking about the nepotistically-produced, pathetic excuse for a remake.  I mean the gloriously cheesy, deliciously predictable original.  I grew up without a father and really without a consistent father figure.  As a modern individualist, my rational mind never allowed me to acknowledge my need for a mentor but the relationship between Daniel and Mr. Miyagi compelled my hungry heart.  Ironically, the movie came out during one of the two summers I spent with my father.  We are both fans of the martial arts.  We went together.  Sitting next to a man who had never been there watching a man who didn’t exist, I found a mentor.

I got into Tae Kwon Do.  Martial arts helped me in many ways.  However I hung up my dobok three years later when I discovered a greater mentor – Jesus.  After twenty five years of training under the Master, I’m still blown away by all he has to teach.  Looking back, I’m surprised to discover that Jesus and Mr. Miyagi teach similar lessons and employ similar methods.  Over the next few posts I’ll be sharing a few.  The first is:

“Avoid the middle of the road.”

On the day of his first lesson, Mr. Miyagi asked Daniel, “Are you ready?”  Daniel responded, “I guess so.”  The master seized this teachable moment by explaining that a man who walks on either side of a road is safe while the one who walks in the middle will be “Squish!  Just like grape.”  Mr. Miyagi admonished that a person who makes up his mind either way regarding karate will be safe while the person who takes the “guess so” approach to karate places himself in harm’s way.

Jesus also instructed people who offered him conditional commitment that they would be better off not following (Luke 14:25-33).  In fact, half-hearted disciples make the Master want to barf (Rev. 3:14-18).  From the standpoint of the progress of the gospel, an open opponent is preferable to a half-hearted adherent.

Jesus and Mr. Miyagi teach that those who would come under their tutelage must buy in or get out.  The alternative is “squish.”

To be continued…

One Rule

When discussing morality and ethics, atheists are wont to say that they are actually more moral than theists because they do what is right because it is right, not out of fear of punishment or hope for a reward. While I will grant that higher morality transcends personal interest, I take exception with anyone, atheist or Christian, who depicts Christian morality in terms of rules enforced through threat or bribe.

The New Testament presents but one rule to govern the lives of Christ’s constituents.  The various biblical writers express it in different ways.  Here is my favorite expression of the one rule:

“Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.  Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:15-16 NIV)

The problem with the “right for the sake of right” ethical formula is that it requires every adherent to be “right.”  Sadly, we’re not all right.  Many of us are very broken.  Sitting here right now I can’t think of anyone who has done wrong because it is wrong.  That being the case, how on earth could we ever expect that humans would ever on a large scale do what is right because it is right? 

Since we can’t count on others to do right, we’ll need to limit human behaviors through laws enforced by duly appointed officials.  Which means that people will do right because they fear punishment.  On an interpersonal level, we’ll need social norms and societal approval or censure to bring people into conformity.  In other words, humans will do what is acceptable in order to be accepted and not rejected – in order to gain reward or avoid punishment. 

Who can deny that these forces inhibit genuine individual liberty?  Given this complex set of incentives, who can claim high morality?  I submit that only genuine Christians are truly free and therefore truly moral.  They have been remade in the image of God demonstrated in the person of Jesus Christ.    In Christ ,doing and being have become one.  We have become whole.  Our behavior is driven by our inner life.  When human laws or expectation coincide with right we transcend those motives.  When they conflict, we defy them.  Followers of Christ observe the one rule, “the new creation.” 

Holigram

Richard scowled at the framed poster displayed on an easel at the entrance to the gift store.  “What a sham!” he nearly shouted.

Startled by Richard’s outburst, a passerby named Peter asked, “What is?”

“This poster, it’s an utter sham!” Richard replied.  “These big gift store chains think they can dupe the public into buying overpriced junk by making ridiculous claims for their merchandise.  I mean, look at this thing; it’s just a mess of recurring jagged lines in shades of blue and they want $30 for it.  It’s not even original art.  It’s a poster for crying out loud!  I’m a realist and if I buy a poster, I want it to actually look like something.  I have a framed poster of the fjords of Norway that’s gorgeous and I only paid $15 for that one.  What are they trying to pull?”

“Well,” Peter began, “the caption at the bottom says, ‘Stalkers of the Deep.’  Perhaps all that blue and wavy lines is supposed to represent water or something.”

“Oh boy, I guess there really is one born every minute!” retorted Richard.  “It can’t be water, the lines are jagged, not wavy, and the patterns repeat at specific intervals.  Besides, even if it is supposed to be water, why would someone pay $30 for a print of a bad abstract of water when they could get an actual photo of the ocean for $15?”

Peter, now feeling a bit patronized and quite a bit curious said, “Alright then, if it bothers you so much, why don’t you just confront the manager of the store?  Maybe he can explain what makes this poster so special.  There must be some reason they think it’s worth that much.”

“Puh, go in there?  I don’t think so.” responded Richard in disdain.  “I don’t need their cock and bull explanation.  I’ve got two eyes and I can see what’s going on.  Besides, that little flunky in there won’t be able to do anything about it anyway.  I’m going to blog about it to warn others against these big conglomerates and the way they manipulate the public.”

Peter stood for a second looking at Richard and then at the store.  He said, “Well, now I’m curious, so I’m going to ask.”

“Suit yourself.”  Spat Richard as Peter entered the store.

Moments later Peter returned holding a piece of paper.

“What’s that?” Richard asked suspiciously.

“It’s a leaflet about the poster.  It says it’s a 3-D sea life scene which was generated by a computer.”

“Really?” Richard quipped.  “How gullible do they think we are?  3-D?  Maybe I’m nuts but it looks pretty 2-D to me.  And sea life…where?  Show me!  It’s not there.  I have eyes, you know.”

“I don’t see it either.” Peter admitted.  “The leaflet says you have to look at it the right way and that sometimes it takes a long time before some people can see it.”

Grabbing his head, Richard yelled, “Now they’re blaming me because I can’t see it!  Well isn’t that convenient!  I suppose they’re selling a beautiful suit inside which only the wisest people can see.  Can’t you see what they’re doing?  You can’t win with these people!”

“I don’t know,” replied Peter, “this is a reputable company and the people inside seem nice enough.  Maybe it’s like when you see a dragon in the clouds or your rug looks like an angry face.  I’m sure they are sincere.”

Crossing his arms and turning from the poster, Richard responded flatly, “That’s up to you.  Feel free to join the impressionable hoard.  I’ll go the way of reason and common sense.  Let me ask you just one more question: Would you put that thing on your wall?”

“Well, no.”  Peter answered sheepishly.

Richard began, “Okay, then, I rest my ca_”

“Oh, wow!” A voice from behind Richard interrupted him in his moment of triumph.  He spun around to see a young woman looking at the poster and pointing.

“Look at those sharks!  It’s like they’re coming right at me.  How much is this poster, $30?  What a steal!  I’m so putting this up in my room!” the young woman exclaimed.  With that, she took the poster inside and bought it.

As she walked out of the store with the poster under arm, Peter called out, “Did you really see all of that in that poster?”

“Of course.” the girl replied, “Didn’t you?”

“Uh, yeah, it was great.” was Peter’s tentative response.

Richard muttered under his breath, “Delusional.  So sad.”