Tag Archives: Faith

Weekly Meditation: The Peace of God

For this week I would like to propose the following from the opening of spiritual text A Course In Miracles.

This course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way:


Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God.

It’s simple. Clear. Direct. And possibly the only summary of a spiritual text I know of within the text itself. Yet despite the simplicity of these two lines there is a lot to consider.

If you haven't read it, you should.

If you haven’t read it, you should.

Nothing real can be threatened. Which means if you’re worried about something either you’re wrong that it can be harmed, and if it can’t be harmed then why worry about it. After all you are your soul, and your soul is immortal and perfect…what’s to worry about? Or if you’re right and it can be harmed then it must not be real…and well, nothing unreal exists. So why worry about it?
Most of our lives are spent worrying about things. Health? Wealth? Success? Worth? But if you assume you were created perfect by God, then how could you ever be flawed or ever have need or want or lack…which leaves so many things in this world as little more than an illusion, a dream (maybe a nightmare) and it will end as if it never existed.

And that’s only one aspect of meditation up these lines. I would recommend if you do any meditation during the day you bring these lines up this week. Anytime anything upsets you. Anytime you have a moment to think about it. And see if you find your life is more peaceful and happy…

…herein lies the peace of God.

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Why is idiotic theology all the rage on the internet?

It constantly strikes me as odd how, despite the fact that the human race makes major jumps in technology, politics, economics, our spiritual growth seems to be very slow…and in some cases it appears to be making giant leaps backwards.

 

For instance over two thousand years ago in works of the Greek philosophers makes a clear point that has been the basis of correct* theology ever since. This point is that God is pinnacle of all virtues. That might seem overly obvious so let me expand on what the argument was. In a dialogue of Plato’s named Euthyphro the question is

A lot of the basis for this government is in this picture...not a lot of these people are from the Judeo-Christian background.

asked: are things just because the gods say they are just, or do the gods say they are just because they are just. If things are just only because the gods say they are just then what is just is merely the dictate of a tyrant, a universally powerful tyrant, but a tyrant nonetheless. It is to say that might makes right and the gods as the mightiest of all clearly are right because of their power. To accept the second option, that the gods say things are just because they are just, is to say that there is something called Justice higher than the gods to which even the gods have to bow down to…but then why worship the gods and not just skip to that higher thing. This can quickly fall into a series of does that higher thing say what it does because of some even higher law or just because it says so. Now no answer is reached in Euthyphro, an early work of Plato’s, but he eventually gets to the answer over the course of his works. The answer is a third option. God isn’t dependent on some higher concept of Justice, nor is Justice dependent on God, because God is Justice and Justice is God. God is Beautiful, and Beauty is God. God is Truth, and Truth is God. God is Good, and the Good is God. God is Reason and Reason is God.   God is the pinnacle of virtue in and of himself, it is not his power that dictates justice, it is his quality of justice; it is not his might that makes something good or right, it is the fact that he is good and right. And eventually this idea became so prevalent within Platonic philosophy that they gave it a single title to encompass the entire concept of a God that is the pinnacle of all virtues. And to distinguish it from the myriad of other gods wandering around the numerous pantheons of the ancient gods they didn’t give it a name like Zeus** or Apollo, but rather the title the Logos from the same Greek word that we derive the word logic from. They chose this word because this conception of God was that he was the logic, the reason, the purpose, the driving force behind the universe. And this idea of the Logos is the only logical way out of this paradox (or at least the only one I have seen proposed in over 2,000 years of philosophy and theology). Anything other than this way out leaves you with either having to search for a higher power or admission that God is God only because might makes right (in which case he is no better than any dictator).

 

And while Aristotle may have proven there is a God, his logic does not conclusively prove what that God is like, it is here that Plato shows that your only options for God are that God is the Logos or that he is a petty tyrant not worthy of worship because his only claim to power is that might makes right. And while I’m not going to unravel the problem of evil here, experience and common sense show that the petty tyrant is not a viable option in reality…but it is absolutely not something you should be arguing for. God is God not because he is subject to Reason, Good, Truth, and Justice, but because he IS Reason, Good, Truth, and Justice.

 

And for any logical person that should be the end of it.

 

But then I saw this drivel on Tumblr getting reblogged.

 

idiot theology 1idiot theology 2  idiot theology 3 idiot theology 4 idiot theology 5

 

 

So let’s break this down. You have the title card that God is Love but love is not God. Let’s leave this stupid thesis for a second.

 

The next two slides deal with the issue of the problem of evil. In a very inarticulate way these cards are showing the basic problem of people saying, “How can a loving God allow suffering to happen?” Again if I were to get into a severe deconstruction of the problem of evil (which at very least would make this post ramble on for another 10 pages…and nobody wants that) you can come to two conclusions. The first is the one first proposed by St. Augustine and has been the center of intelligent Christian theology (the person who made this little slide show is clearly not in this camp) that God allows evil because he has a plan that will bring an even greater good out of the world than would be possible without evil. It is the logic that we punish our children and sometimes force them to do things that they find terrible because it is good for them and will make them better people in the end. Or you can take the Eastern version that this world is merely an illusion and that evil doesn’t really exist, once we wake up and reach Enlightenment the evil of this world will be nothing more than the suffering of a nightmare, no real harm so no real foul, and it will be quickly forgotten. Both of these answers allow for evil to exist in the world without violating the nature of God being the Logos. And the shortest way of dealing with the objections of the first two slides is “If you could see the full plan of the universe, as God can, you would see that what you describe as something terrible is in the grand scheme of things nothing more than the cosmic version of a parent forcing their child to eat their Brussels sprouts.”***

 

But this slide then goes onto to say:

idiot theology 6 idiot theology 7

Okay the first line is fair enough. Using the problem of evil to attack the idea of God is a bad line of thought, and it can lead to some terrible theology.

 

But it’s the next paragraph where things start going off the rails into the very same bad theology that the idiot who made this complained about just a sentence ago. So the problem here is with the argument is “How dare you say God has to conform to an idea of Love” or Reason, or Justice, or Truth. Not the more rational, you need to admit that your idea of Love (or any of the others) may not be perfect because at this point you’re a human being capable of error. No we went with God cannot be judged by anything because God is beyond Love, Reason, Justice. God may have given you reason and told you repeatedly to use it but apparently it is no way a guiding light back to God. Any serious theologian would say that if that your conception of God and the facts don’t match, then we must defer to reason that either our conception of God is wrong or that you don’t have an accurate understanding of situation.

 

Or as a famous atheist who never applied her own logic to her bad understanding of theology, “Contradictions cannot exist. If you think you’ve found a contradiction go back and check your premises. One of them is wrong.”

If your idea of God doesn’t match up with your idea of love, according to reason, one of these ideas is wrong.

 

Except that this little slide show, that again I kept seeing several times so it’s not like this is just one idiot reblogging this is that your reasoning is not wrong, it doesn’t matter that there is a contradiction, but God is not subject to Reason, or Love, or Justice, or Truth. God is somehow above these things and cannot be limited by them.

 

This is terrible theology. No serious theologian of any faith remotely associated with God would make a claim this stupid.

 

But, you say, you’re blowing this out of proportion. So what if this idea is catching on, it’s not like it’s going to destroy civilization or anything. Which seems like a fair point…except that history actually demonstrates what happens when this idea is prevalent. You see this philosophical battle actually happened before around 1100 in the Islamic Empire. You had two main factions at the time the Mu’tazilite Sunni’s who believed, like Plato, that God was bound by concepts as Reason and Justice, because God was those things; and opposing them you had Ash’arites Sunni’s who believe that God was all powerful and thus could not be bound by concepts of Reason and Justice, because God was beyond those things (just like the idiot who made these slides). Long story short, had the Mu’tazilites won, Islam would have become a civilization of reason, scientific development, capitalism likely eventually…but regrettably the Ash’arites won. And it’s a strange thing when God is not bound by Reason or Justice or Truth, because if he is not those things, those things cease to be relevant to a society. A society that is run by a God whose only claim to rule is might makes right strangely tends to create governments where laws are unimportant and might makes right. A society that worships a God that is not bound by Reason doesn’t value Reason as it serves no purpose in reaching the ultimate goal of life…thus society stagnates as science, medicine, technology all become vain pursuits with no purpose. The idea proposed by these slides is actually the bane of all civilization….don’t believe me, then look at what it did to the Islamic world which is still in many ways stuck in the 6th century.

 

But then comes my favorite part of trying to justify this bullshit.

idiot theology 6

Okay let me pick up a Bible. If they’re correct there should be some very clear passages in the Bible that God cannot be bound by anything and cannot be compared to anything (thus making reason about God impossible) as you see several times in the Koran. There isn’t. But you know what there is in the Bible. The Gospel of John, Chapter 1, which actually says that the idea of the Logos , which states that God is Reason/Love/Justice/Truth and that Reason/Love/Justice/Truth in a very subtle way when it begins with

 

“In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.”–John Chapter 1, Verse 1

John1_1-5

Okay yeah, really bad translators have badly translated the Logos as “the Word,” which while literally correct, misses the philosophic idea packed into that particular word. But even if you want to try and say “well they didn’t mean Logos in that sense” your case falls apart because of the clearly self-reflexive nature of the line which goes to prove that this is the self-reflexive Platonic ideal of the Logos.

 

So whoever put this together might want to actually read the Bible, not just in translation, but go back and find out what it meant in the original language. I know that’s so hard, small minded bigoted theology that requires me not to use reason is so much easier…and it will eventually lead to a justification for blowing up people in the name of my God, so win-win for idiots…lose-lose for actual civilization.

 

Please Christians, you don’t have to accept my particular New Age version of God if reason doesn’t lead you to those conclusion…but don’t think idiocy like this is in any way a legitimate understanding of God.

 

 

*Don’t get me wrong, Plato made a lot of mistakes, but this isn’t one of them.

**You really can’t because the word for God and Zeus is sometimes the exact same word in Ancient Greek.

***I’ll fully admit that I have no way of justifying any of this without the idea of Reincarnation—if there was just one life, you would have a hard time making this as a serious argument. Lucky for me science is beginning to show reincarnation is a fact.

 

 

 

 

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God’s Not Dead: Deeply flawed, but decent

profile

 

So I didn’t think I was originally going to go to this one before it hit the dollar theater but on some word of mouth recommendations (and the fact it is getting as much buzz as it is) this little pagan thought he would see if this was more than the typically bad Christian film.* It wasn’t, I would go as far as to say this is the best I’ve seen from this genre. It certainly was the best performance I’ve seen from Kevin Sorbo. But that is not to say that it is not without its flaws.

 

The central plot revolves around a Christian student (Shane Harper) Josh Wheaton** who is forced to either say in class that there is no God or risk his grade for the class. And as there is no tradition of taqiyya in Christianity he feels he cannot lie about his faith. This, in what I have to say is the worst teaching method I have ever seen, leads the rather pompous professor (Kevin Sorbo) to try and humiliate him by making him defend the idea that God exists before the class. What follows is his defense of God and how it affects him and those in his class…and a lot of people not in his class, and some people only connected by the most tangential lines…honestly I think they tried to squeeze way to many subplots into this movie.

 

Now his argument in favor of God takes three main points:

  • The traditional argument by cause…although Aquinas made the philosophical much better, and I’ve seen many others make the scientific argument much more clearly.
  • The argument from design looking at life, specifically he looks at the rather shaky grounding for modern evolution being set on punctuated equilibrium…rather than the stronger attacks on the fact that life could not just spontaneous come into existence, nor could sentience. But I was quite happy that the writers took the much more intelligent tack that even if evolution is true it still demands a God to work the way it has rather than the ignorant creationist or simplistic intelligent design arguments.
  • And finally rebutting the problem of evil and taking the Augustinian side that evil exists because of free will.

Regrettably the film didn’t actually use any of the names or terms I used above which would make it difficult for most people seeing this film to actually go and read the more fleshed out versions. So if the film wanted to convince people it may have whet their appetite for these ideas but it didn’t give them anything to work with from there. But overall the case presented by the student is one that is accurate if a bit over simplified.

 

Further I liked the point that behind every atheist is a very angry theist who is angry at God for some reason, which is more or less what I’ve witnessed in life…and what has at least been partially substantiated by research (it’s been shown they all fear him…and with following Yoda’s line of logic…) Although given the rather callous and shallow letter the professor’s character’s mother wrote to him before dying, I can kind of understand why he might have issues with God.

 

My biggest problem is this jump in logic the movie seems to make over and over again. If I show the arguments against God are wrong and show evidence that there is a God then it follows that a Protestant Christian interpretation of God exists.  Over and over again this movie implicitly makes this assumption.   Now to a New Ager like me this is where I have problems. If you destroy the opposition’s case and show that a God exists…that shows that a God exists. You still have a long way to go to prove that your particular interpretation of God exists. And this is the biggest problem I have both with atheists and Christians in this fight; they both seem to assume it’s either their side or the other side. It’s this one or the other. Atheists seem to feel that all Christians believe the exact same thing and can be lumped together and most Christians (or at least a very large portion of the more vocal ones) seem to feel that their interpretation of Christianity is obviously only the right one. As a non-Christian I look at this battle between these two groups with probably the same confusion that America looked at the side war between Finland and the USSR in the early 40’s: Guys you do know there is much bigger battle going on that doesn’t just involve your own petty differences? Right? Honestly as someone with many Thomist sympathies, I don’t think even Catholics would be particularly thrilled with the defense of Christianity in this film (but I could be wrong).

 

But I think this shows a larger problem that is not just specific to Christianity (nor do I think all Christians suffer from it). This film, which ostensibly should have been there to try and offer arguments for atheists and agnostics to give up their beliefs and accept God, does a poor job of it because it implies that if you believe in God you must be a Protestant. You would do a much better job by just proving that a God exists. Once that door has been opened philosophically then if you truly believe in your interpretation you should trust free will and faith (which was a central part of the argument in the movie) to bring people to the truth. By saying that if you have to accept everything or nothing you’re committing just as egregious a logical sin as atheists, and tactically making a very poor move. And I say this is a larger problem because you’re seeing the same problem in a larger political sense, where populists are currently demanding that all who are in the Republican party must be ideologically pure or we can not have them at all…and it is this attitude that drives voters away and keeps the party from winning time and time again…and if Christians* like the producers want to make a case for God they might do best to just try and prove the existence of a God by itself before they make the case for their interpretation of a God as making someone accept both at the same time might in many cases be a bridge too far.
One of the most jarring things of the whole film is that near the end one of the atheist characters in the film is confronted with death and makes a death bed conversion. Luckily there is a minister there to help guide this character back to the faith in their last minutes…and it’s not too subtle that God had a major hand in making sure the minister was there at that place in that time to help save that soul. Even as a pagan I didn’t have a problem with this because I do believe this is how God works…what I had a problem with was that between the writing and directing the scene comes off in a very cold and callous way. Immediately he begins preparing this character for death even though the correct thing for someone to do would have been CPR to save the character’s life. It comes off a little heartless. The fact the very next scene has the cast of Duck Dynasty insulting this character after they’ve already died is possibly one of the worst directing calls I have ever seen (honestly if you just flipped the order of the scenes it wouldn’t have been as bad) but apparently the director felt like insulting the dead.

 

 

On a final note I did appreciate the film showing that China is a repressive tyranny and the religion of peace is anything but.

 

If you’re a Protestant you’ll probably be able to overlook some of the glaring philosophical problems and downplay the bad writing and actually enjoy the film (again I’m not entirely sure how much the Protestant interpretation will grate for non Protestant Christians)…if you’re not a Christian that philosophical jump between God’s existence and Jesus died for you might be a bit much to overlook and ruin the enjoyment.

 

I give the whole thing a C-.

 

*That is not an insult to Christianity…that is an insult to the absolutely pathetic writing and production values faith based movies have had for the past couple of decades. Let’s be honest, Lifetime laughs at the production values of faith based films.

**I still am not sure if the fact that his name bears a great deal of resemblance to a very famous atheist is intentional or not.

***Again certainly not the entirety, but an awfully large number with access to mass media.

 

 

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Monthly Meditation: Long Term Goals

Looking to goal

It is the long term goals that should hold your attention.

 

So it has been a while since I’ve put up a meditation.  I’m sorry, but nothing has been coming to me on this front and I feel nothing is better than something that is halfhearted and forced out.  So I’m now going to title these monthly meditations, and hopefully will have something come to me at least once a month.

 

However, something has come to me at last.

 

There is an expression by the Dalai Lama:

“If there is no solution to the problem then don’t waste time worrying about it. If there is a solution to the problem then don’t waste time worrying about it.”

 

This is an excellent thought and a variation in sentiment on the Serenity Prayer.

 

However, this or the serenity prayer isn’t always appropriate because sometimes, regrettably, we don’t always have the wisdom to know whether something can or cannot be done.

 

For instance a few years ago I was unsure if I should focus on my writing or use my time to find a new job as I was very unhappy in my job at the time.  Or should I split my free time between the two? At the time I made the correct choice and focused on writing, although at the time I probably didn’t consciously realize why that was correct decision.   But it was the correct decision because it focused on the long term problem and not the short term.

 

There have been other instances in my life that were like this, and when I reflect on them, when I focused on the long term problems and working to resolve those things tended to work out (as they did with my job…although admittedly not in the way I would have planned).  And when I focused on the short term problems, problems just kept piling up.

 

And suddenly in the last week I have realized that it is always the long term issues that need to be focused on.  Always.  It’s not enough to look toward the future, you have to look to an actual long term goal.

 

It’s ironic that I didn’t see this sooner as this has been my complaint about politics for so long, that our elected officials only see the immediate problems and their immediate solutions to an immediate problem which in turn only causes long term issues.  But this is true of personal lives and problems as well as in politics.

 

You need to focus on the long term issues, the long term problems and the long term goals first.

 

If you are directed toward the long term goals, the small things work themselves out either because you don’t focus on them as much or because God (or whatever name you want to use) tends to help you get over the small crap of the short term issues.

 

So the thing to focus on for this meditation is, as I’ve suggested before, make a list of what you really want in life.  Now prioritize them—what you want the most at the top, the lesser things at the bottom. (Hint: Happiness should be at the top, and the next few should be exactly what you need to have Happiness)   Now circle the top five or six.  And now forget about the rest.  Focus on those. Figure out what you need to do to get those, figure out what you need to learn, to find, to create to achieve those top three (four if you count Happiness, which your other things should all lead to).  Forget about everything else.  Every free moment you have should be focused on those things.

 

All the other small stuff will take care of itself, just keep focused on the long term goals.

 

The meditation for this month will be in training your mind to ignore all the smaller issues and stay focused on the major things.  Have a little faith, that if you are directed toward your ultimate goals, everything else will sort itself out to help you reach those goals.

 

 

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Evolution, probability, and the first cell…

Evolution is a miraculous and wonderful thing.  It literally describes how everything from the first cell division to a highly evolved erect ape came to be.  Every adaptation, every change, every little small piece of growth from single celled organism to problem solving primates.

The problem is what is on either side of that string of beauty.  Evolution cannot begin to describe the jump from highly evolved chimp to self aware human.  No other animal other than humans has ever been shown to ask questions or contemplate abstract ideas (and we’ve tried to get chimps and gorillas taught to use sign language to do just that).  The jump from animal to sentient human is an infinite jump that evolution doesn’t quite explain.  But more than that evolution has a problem explaining the beginning of the chain.  A big problem.

Now the usual argument is that random amino acids just luckily formed together to form a DNA strand that not only included the information to create a cell, but also all the cell structures necessary to have read that and replicate that information at the same time (Like having a biological CD with the information to build the first biological CDR and luckily also having a biological CDR to read it, which is lucky since the information to build that first CDR had never been read before then).  And let’s ignore the improbability of that situation or the pure luck that the first cell also had the needed building blocks around to form more cells.  That first cell just hit the cosmic lottery.

DNA

Because in universe where the laws of physics dictate that things get more chaotic not more orderly as time goes by, stuff this complex just forms by chance.

Let’s just look at that DNA strand.  Now one of the smallest DNA strands known for a basic prokaryotic (it has no nucleolus) cell is about 490,000 base pairs in length.  But you know that’s pretty long as it is.  And that’s the shortest one we’ve found after billions of years of evolution, the first cell must have had a much shorter DNA strand (let’s ignore that at 490,000 base pairs the cell doesn’t have all the processes to sustain life and such a cell needs to live off other cells to provide it certain necessities in life).

Now the most basic cell we can find performs well over two hundred processes (unzipping DNA, processing chemicals, building cell walls, letting certain amino acids in, copying DNA and RNA, etc., etc.).  Yes, yes the high school version of the cell seemed so neat and clean…but so did the high school formula to figure out the velocity of a falling object, but we all know the equations necessary to figure out air friction and the influence of various forces on a falling object would drive us insane with the advanced Calculus needed, so we’re just happy with 32 feet per second per second.   So it is with the cell. Even the most basic cell is like a Cray Supercomputer in its complexity, and certainly much more complex than the simple diagram you learned in high school.  But for sake of argument let’s say that the least number of processes needed to sustain life and reproduce a new cell is 150.

And let’s say that each of those functions only require one amino acid chain (which is what DNA actually creates) of only three amino acids in length.  Now to create an amino acid chain DNA must have a start and stop code in the DNA as well.  So any amino acid chain needs 3 lines of DNA to start the process, 3 for each amino acid (so 9 in our example) and 3 to stop the process or 15 base pairs in length. So you need 15 bases pairs for each amino acid chain, multiplied by 150 processes.  Giving you a needed 2250 bases pairs needed.   This number is preposterously low, but go with me on this.

Now each of those 2250 base pairs needs to be the right amino acids to get the function correct.  Now there are only 4 possible base pairs (represented by the letters G,A,T, and C). And they need to be in the right order so that each line in the base pair has a one in four chance of being the right one.  And you have to do this 2250 times over.  (Now I’ll admit that there are base pairs that produce the same chemical in the amino acid chain, TAT and TAC, but given how ridiculously low my number of base pairs is, let’s just say it balances out…you could also argue for filler code as all life now has…but keep in mind that such code is also given to harmful mutations…let’s just go with the hideously low number as it is).  So we have a one in four odds, 2250 times over…or 1 in 4 to 2250 power.

1:42250

That’s the odds of the most basic DNA strand forming.  But let’s say I’m still over shooting the odds even with my hideously short DNA strand.  Let’s say it’s just 1:42000 is equivalent to 101204  (there’s a decimal in that power, but let’s just round it out…in fact let’s round it to an even 1200).

1:101200

 

Basic Cell

It’s more likely that a land slide would produce a BMW than this thing would just randomly form.

So how likely is that?

Well I could tell you that it’s close to 1:108 when it comes to odds of winning the lottery. But I don’t think you fully understand the difference between 108 and 101200 and I can’t blame you.  A 1 with 1200 zeroes after it is something you don’t often consider.

But let me give you some general figures to give you an idea of the size of this number.

The US National Debt: 1013

The number of seconds between the Big Bang and the present: 1016

The number of protons and neutrons in all atoms in the visible universe 1080

 

Okay maybe I can’t give you a way to conceive that number.

Let’s be honest if the number of protons and neutrons in the visible universe is only to the 80th power (and if the whole universe was a trillion times as big as the visible universe then it would still only be to the 92nd power) then I can safely say that the number of times you’ll have to conceive of anything to the 1200th power is probably pretty low. You have better odds of winning the lottery twice a week every week of your life.

I’m sorry if you can sit there and tell me something that is so improbable that isn’t just effectively zero, it is zero, happened by chance, you’re insane.

Now those who believe that there was no hand of the divine in the creation may say I just don’t understand science…and it may be true I don’t have the firmest grasp on all aspects of science…but I can safely say that anyone who thinks the first cell just happened by chance clearly doesn’t have the foggiest concept of math or probability.

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