Archives For philosophy

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Before Christians invented side-hugging, they expressed Christian unity by awkwardly hugging and nuzzling each others’ faces. Thankfully, expressions of Christian unity were redefined.

Just a few more days until Life After Art releases on April 1!  Pre-ordering is open, but remember that starting April 1, forward your receipt to LifeAfterArtBook.com to get the deluxe ebook, the Life After Art Field Guide, and The Art of Storytelling from Moody Publishers.

I spent two years at a small Christian college…

…before I had to get out.  I transferred to a state school to finish my art degree.

The first reason was because a Christian college isn’t really the place to learn art.

But honestly, those two years at Christian college was one of the spiritually darkest times in my life.

Now, how could a small town Christian college, with its chapel sermons and curfews and the guys playing exactly three guitar chords all over the quad, be one of the darkest places for my spirit?

It was because of how a place like that defined Christian unity. 

And the further I get away from college, the more I realize how many Christians define unity in the same way – a definition that actually creates disunity.  I have realized our desperate need to change how we think of Christian unity.

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Fundies get a lot of flack, you know?deservehell

I mean, “fundamentalist” is pretty much the go-to pejorative for anyone with any kind of extreme views.  And it pairs so nicely with terms like “right-wing” or “cult member” or “outright crazy.”

That’s what you think when you hear the word “fundamentalist,” right?  Crazy.  Extreme.  Dangerous.  Hateful.  Small-minded.  Misogynist.  Fearful.

Yes, a lot of fundies live up to their image.  Stereotypes exist for a reason, right.  Incidentally, whenever people talk about demolishing “hurtful stereotypes,” I never hear anyone standing up for the fundamentalists and all the stereotypes that are heaped on them.  Just saying.

But I have a confession to make.

I am a fundamentalist.

Yup.

I’m going to shoot you straight.  Most of the fundamentalists out there aren’t real fundamentalists.  Most of them are frauds.  The word “fundamentalist” has become so loaded with meaning, that it’s hardly any use anymore.

Well, I think it’s time we cleared the air and restored the meaning of “fundamentalist.”  Who knows?  At the end of this blog post, you may just decide you are a fundamentalist, like me!

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What Can Karma Do For You?

November 9, 2011

Karma.

It’s a pretty popular philosophy, and it’s not just for Hindus.  It’s a great philosophy for New Agers, Christians, religious and atheists.  It’s just a super trendy one-size-fits-all worldview.  We like to think that what goes around comes around.  Justice happens, one way or another.  Seems reasonable.

A couple of years ago, I blogged about how karma had become like a trendy piece of Pier 1 furniture that most Americans keep in their homes.  We don’t really think about it, but it seems more exotic than our regular old couches, and our regular old Jesus.  I have heard many Christians refer to karma, as if it is a real force.

But unless you are a Hindu (and I don’t think there are very many of you reading this blog,) it’s time that we ditched karma.  It’s exotic appeal is starting to wear thin on me.

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I love a friendly debate about faith.  Or a friendly debate about anything, really.

There are people who believe differently than I do, and can debate faith fairly.  I always leave those conversations energized and hopeful.  This post is not about them.

But whenever I start talking faith I can almost guarantee there will be some poser standing around who will have this to say: 

“Christians think they are the only ones who have the path to God.”

Or, “Christians think they are the only ones who are right.”

That’s supposed to be an insult, like being called a racist, and it’s played about as often.  People who accuse Christians of believing they have the one true religion usually claim that all “spiritual” paths are equally awesome, as long as the people who practice them are sincere. 

Christians especially are caught in an awkward place.  Many of us believe we know the truth.  But in a world of political correctness, it’s easy to be afraid of others thinking we’re narrow minded. 

Well, it’s time I made a tidy little response.

Four responses to “Christians think they’re the only ones who are right.”
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Know what I’ve been thinking about lately?

Sex.

And by “lately,” I mean “approximately the last sixteen years.  Give or take.

But I’ve been thinking about it differently lately.  About how it doesn’t make any sense. 
I started thinking this, and then I went looking around the internet to see if anyone had thought of what I had.  It took approximately 19 seconds to realize that my idea wasn’t original.  But that’s okay.  About 32% of this blog’s content is ideas I thought I was clever enough to have thought of on my own, only to find out there are a lot of other geniuses out there plagarizing my brain. 

Anyway, back to sex not making any sense.  True, if you break it down, the whole thing is pretty ridiculous.  But what’s on my mind is just how weird it is in the evolutionary scheme of things.  Back when my eighth grade science teacher was teaching us evolution, she never explained how sex evolved.

The Next Time You Get the Chance to Argue with Your Eighth Grade Science Teacher…
I actually was that kid that argued with my eighth grade science teacher over evolution.  Unfortunately, my family was not fundamentalist enough for me to come well stocked with much pro-Creation ammo.  I made my point, but I was pretty sweaty.  It was about the most rebellious thing I had done to that point. 

All of us who weren’t nurtured in the caring bosom of a Christian school were told by our all-knowing eighth grade science teachers that living organisms evolved from simpler life forms.  They adapted to their environments and gained new traits through natural selection.  They did all of this to make one thing easier: reproduction.  Part of the reason Christian schools don’t teach evolution is that it’s all about S-E-X.

This cute little cuddlebug to the left is E Coli.  E Coli is pretty small and pretty simple.  When E Coli becomes a teenager and moves down to his parents’ basement and gets terrible acne, he doesn’t start thinking about sex.  He starts sneaking magazines into his basement hideout so he can fantasize about dividing millions of times.  One of his classmates told him in the locker room he actually divided once for real, and it was awesome.  Sometimes, he practices dividing when he’s home by himself, but he’s afraid he’ll get caught, because some people say it’s wrong.

E Coli has it pretty easy when it comes to starting a family.  He doesn’t have to listen to someone nagging him to pick up his socks before he gets some, he just divides!  Wham, bam, thank you…me. 

It makes you wonder why evolution didn’t just stop right there, doesn’t it?  Because all the careless, casual animal sex resulting in single-mother animal households can’t possibly keep up with all the hot, sweaty, asexual reproduction happening all the time. 

Then, if that weren’t enough, evolution kept happening!  Animals evolved into humans.  Humans take a really long time to not be helpless ninnies.  Hence, public schools.  Average people only reproduce a handful of times, despite living longer than most animals.  Women invented things like “romance” to cut down on the amount of reproducing men would try to do…or something like that.

And, humans can even choose not to have kids!  We’ve evolved so much, we use sex for everything except making babies!  We use sex to sell beer and cars.  (Which I suppose can inadvertanly lead to babies, so maybe it evens out…)

Talk about an evolutionary mistake.  When it comes to evolutionary achievement, humans seem to be dead last.  There is no reason for us to have evolved this much.

If you could go back and challenge your high school science teacher, what would you say?  I’d definately ask why we were forced to see that awful video in sex ed with the PE coaches while the tiny sea plankton are just going at it like a bunch of asexual addicts.  To you, what’s the biggest problem with evolutionary theory?  If you wouldn’t argue with your science teacher, which teacher would you argue with?

Did you know there are “factual errors” in your Bible?

That’s what Dr. Bart Ehrman says, author of “Jesus Interrupted.”  His book is all about the completely random, human circumstances that formed the Bible we know today.

While I was perusing the bookstore this week, I spent some time with the book.  It seemed like a good idea, this being unofficially “Doubt Month” here at the blog.  I especially concentrated on the last chapter, titled “Is Faith Possible.”

What surprised me was his account of becoming an agnostic (not an atheist.)  He actually said that nothing in the whole book was new information to him, or to the “academic” world, and none of it had to do with his loss of faith.  He felt disenchanted with the Bible long ago, but his becoming an agnostic boiled down to one thing…

Evil: pain, suffering, injustice, bad stuff.

This certainly intelligent guy lost his faith over the same worn out stumbling block that has tripped thousands of minds before his.  How could a perfectly loving God allow all the suffering and evil and pain in the world we see?  Answer: there is no perfectly loving God.

That got me thinking.  How do I justify it?  How do I look at our crappy world, supposedly the very evidence of our wonderful Creator, and actually give Him credit and praise for it?  I’ve struggled with that before.  Maybe you’ve struggled with the same thing.  Maybe it’s caused you to have doubts or a crisis of faith.

Well I finally used my brilliant mind and came up with a couple of responses that I hope are helpful, if you are struggling with this. 

First, I’d ask Bart, “Can I call you Bart?”  Then if he said yes, I’d say, “Bart, as a fellow human being and steward of this world, how much suffering and evil and pain have you allowed to exist in this world?  How have you acted to ease the strife of your fellow man?  How much of the proceeds of your book are going to save the people that God refuses to?”

Really, why is it on God to solve my every problem?  We assume if something’s wrong, someone else should take care of it.  And if you can’t find someone to help you, the government should fix it.  And if the government is too far in debt to handle it, then God should solve it.  That’s what we pay Him 2.5% of our paychecks every Sunday to do!

On the flip side, think about this: the last century saw the rise of more humanitarian organizations than at any other time in history.  There is more human power (and just as important,) more money available to allieviate suffering in the world than ever before.  If you’re one to give God credit for moving human hearts and checkbooks, it sounds like God’s been working his holy butt off, thank you.

Second, I’d say, “Bart, while you’re pondering that first question, let me buy you another beer because I can tell you’ve had a hard day.  Now think about this.  It’s obvious that God allows evil and pain and suffering.  He even allowed Himself to be affected by it.  If he is so good, then it would seem He suffers everyday for His creation.  But isn’t it quite obvious that although God allows suffering, it is people who cause the most suffering?”

Seriously, if we were keeping score on who causes suffering in the world, we’d have the lead on God by, like, a million points.  When it comes to causing pain, God’s so 2000-and-late.

Okay, so God creates a category 5 hurricane, which we called Katrina.  That’s pretty big, and God would be responsible for that storm and the suffering it caused.  As it turns out, humans were only responsible for everything else.  It was human laziness, greed, and outright stupidity that insufficiently built the city below sea level and ignored the scientifically proven need for more water pumps.  It was human idiocy that made such an inept response after the storm.  And it was human arrogance that caused all those people to stay in their homes and watch the weather forecasters tell them what was going to happen days in advance.

Kind of makes the hurricane itself seem like not that big of a deal.  In fact, when we talked about hurricane Katrina in the days afterward, we didn’t blame God.  We blamed George W. Bush (even though we should’ve been blaming the Mayor of Crybaby Town, Ray Nagin.)

The more I’ve studied human history (which has been a lot), the more I’ve realized that we have no one but ourselves to blame.  And yes, God allows us to do it all to ourselves, because He hopes one day, we’ll choose better.  Seems kind of naive and idealistic of an all-knowing God, I know.  But maybe He knows something I don’t.  In the meantime, I think He plans to bring justice to the people who got the short end when He sorts it all out.

The real “problem of evil” is that God hasn’t acted as we would in His place.  If I were God, if I had the power to control everyone, I’d do it.  I’d make sure the humans were put in their place and there would be hell to pay if they screwed up.  Isn’t that what most anyone tries to do when they find themselves “in charge?”  That’s just not God’s game.
Well that’s just me.  My answers may not be enough for you.  What do you think?  I’d be happy to continue this conversation, so let’s go.  Have you ever struggled with the “problem of evil?”  How have you dealt with it?  Are you still struggling with it?

We’re going to have something super fun on Friday.  You won’t want to miss it.  I met a blog hero of mine a while ago, and you’ll get to read all about it.  I’m giddy with anticipation!