Thursday, July 31, 2008

God is Great or Not Great? That is the Question

Read this article from National Review Online. It contains some interesting logic from the right, logic that is faulty in my view. Read it carefully and please give me your comments. I will get us started by writing comment to my own blog entry by the end of the day. The most interesting debate in the public arena may eventually be science vs. religion, very meaningful public discourse to say the least.

The God Defense --- Fr. Williams takes questions.

Father Thomas D. Williams is author of Greater Than You Think, a direct answer to Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great), Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), and a whole host of others. Fr. Williams, a Catholic priest who teaches theology at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University in Rome, recently answered questions from National Review Online editor Kathryn Jean Lopez on God, man, and books. Kathryn Jean Lopez: There seem to be so many anti-God books on my bookshelf at once. What’s the occasion?Fr. Thomas D. Williams: The two biggest factors at play are money and radical Islam. With The DaVinci Code, Dan Brown showed that atheism sells, and sparked a whole cottage industry in atheist literature. The neo-atheists authors jumped on the lucrative DaVinci bandwagon and are laughing all the way to the bank. Secondly, especially after 9/11, Americans are rightly petrified of what Islamic fundamentalists are willing to do to advance their agenda. The new atheists have exploited this fear of religious fanaticism and extended it to all religion, even moderate Christianity.

But this doesn’t mean that atheism per se is on the rise. The recent study of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows that atheists still make up a miniscule minority of Americans. Atheism isn’t growing. Atheists are just getting noisier.Americans are curious and like to hear why atheists think the way they do. We are also into conspiracy theories and love to hear wild stories of cover-ups, especially when the bad guy is a big institution like the Church or government. Finally, for the many who have ceased actively practicing their faith, the neo-atheist books provide a veneer of respectability and justification for their inactivity.Lopez: There also seem to be a lot of books in retaliation. What makes yours different?Fr. Williams: Mine is a simple, point-by-point rebuttal of the atheists’ central claims. I read through all the recent atheist literature (a little pre-Lenten penance!) and distilled the atheists’ accusations against God and religion into 27 theses. In my book, each atheist thesis forms a short chapter in which I respond head-on to the accusation. I think readers will find this to be a clear, helpful approach for understanding the crux of the neo-atheist arguments and having convincing answers at the ready.Lopez: Is someone picking up your book going to have to agree that Catholicism is the one true faith?Fr. Williams: Not at all. That isn’t the purpose of this book. It’s not an apologetics for the truth of Catholicism or even of Christianity more broadly. It is simply a dismantling of the atheists’ claims to show that they are based on myth, fallacy, and historical inaccuracy. From this, people can see that atheism isn’t a more “rational” worldview than religious belief; they are free to believe without feeling like they have adopted a less credible view of reality. In fact, it is more credible.Lopez: How does Christopher Hitchens confuse you with an Islamofascist?Fr. Williams: Very cleverly. Hitchens writes well, and people who are taken in by his wordsmithery easily overlook his logical lacunae. He narrates detailed stories where religious people behave badly, and then applies that particular judgment to religion in general. In this way all religious believers are guilty by association of the crimes of the most fanatical. This is like blaming all Americans for Timothy McVeigh’s Oklahoma bombing or blaming all doctors for Jack Kevorkian’s medical misbehavior.Lopez: What’s the most absurd point the atheist books make?Williams: There are so many it’s tough to choose just one. Among the more absurd is the accusation that parents who raise their children to believe in God are guilty of child abuse. This claim is especially worrisome because it demeans the gravity of real child abuse, and also seeks to impose an atheist standard on child-rearing. We easily forget how the imposition of atheism education failed so miserably in the former Soviet states. If the ACLU were really concerned about hate-mongering, they might say a word about these dangerous charges.Lopez: What’s the best point they make?Fr. WilliAms: The best anti-God arguments are the classics — the ones that thoughtful people have wrestled with for millennia. Of these, the strongest is the existence of evil and the suffering of the innocent. Surprisingly, however, in their search for novelty our neo-atheist authors pay little attention to these more substantial arguments. They prefer to pit religion against science (a hopeless enterprise) and to make religion look like the culprit for all the world’s ills (another impossible task).Lopez: So, say, you’re a typical Joe or Jane who believes and you are confronted with casual atheists at work, at school, at play. What do you do or say without being preachy? Or is preachy good? It usually doesn’t win fans in, say, the locker room though?Fr. Williams: There’s no need to be preachy. In my opinion, preachy is never good. The last thing we should do is assault a casual atheist with a battery of biblical quotations. This is a guaranteed turn-off. Sincere non-believers need to be heard, understood, and addressed with respect and seriousness. Again, I think the best way to do this is to first show that atheism does not hold the moral high ground, and that religious belief does not require a suspension of reason, but its full engagement. Sometimes it’s enough just to make people question their own assumptions and prejudices against religion. We don’t need to leave the locker room having made converts out of our agnostic friends. We need to start them re-thinking their position.Lopez: Can you teach morality without religion? Does it work without religion?Fr. Williams: Morality can be taught without religion, but experience shows that it rarely takes hold. Our nation’s Founders were convinced that morality without religious belief and practice is destined to fail, and this seems to be the case historically. But the important question isn’t so much whether morality is possible (in rare cases) without religion. A much better question is whether religion bolsters morality or undermines it. Here, the answer is patently clear: religion sustains and fortifies a moral citizenry by providing an ethical code, divine sanction, a standard for conduct, and the assurance of eternal justice.Lopez: “WWJD?” is the popular expression. Can you pretend to know what he’d say, say, to Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins?Fr. Williams: That depends. Jesus was quite indulgent with the sincerely erroneous, but severe with hypocrites. I don’t pretend to know the state of Hitchens’ soul or whether Dawkins really believes what he writes. I also don’t know what life experiences influenced their choice for atheism. I suspect, however, that Jesus would invite these men to openness to a greater truth, a truth that they cannot control or manipulate. This is a frightening endeavor, since it involves stepping into the unknown, but life without transcendence, without God, is the saddest of existences.Lopez: What’s this pope got to offer Americans rich in a culture of hostility toward God — at least, it would seem, in the publishing industry?

Fr. Williams: He has repeated the cri de coeur of his predecessor, John Paul II: “Don’t be afraid! Open your hearts to Christ!” Atheism is a “safe” position, and Benedict invites all to a greater courage in exploring the deeper truths of the world, without being afraid of what we might find.

Pope Benedict is a firm believer in and defender of human reason, and is convinced of the power of the human mind to reach the truth. He has engaged in very fruitful dialogue with noted agnostics in Europe, and has encouraged this dialogue for believers and non-believers everywhere.Lopez: Why do people believe that Christians hate sex? Is that our fault? Can we do something about it short of embracing Carrie Bradshaw?Fr. Williams: People never like to be told “You can’t do that.” We don’t like people putting moral restrictions on our behavior, or telling us that our lifestyle is sinful. So there will always be resistance to Christian sexual morality, which places sexual intimacy in the context of the marriage covenant. In reality, Christianity is extremely “pro-sex,” but it will never be “pro-adultery” or “pro-fornication.”Perhaps in past generations too much emphasis was placed on sexual morality in the larger context of Christian morality generally, and perhaps Christians insisted more on what is forbidden than on the immense adventure of faithful sexual love. The explosion of interest in Theology of the Body, ignited by Pope John Paul II, has begun a revolution in this regard. People are realizing that the Church’s message on human sexuality is liberating and fulfilling, and even exciting.Lopez: Father: Why would a great God ask faithfully married couples to put themselves in constant danger of having another child — to lay off birth control? Isn’t he realistic? Can’t he let us get with the times?Fr. Williams: I don’t think keeping up with the times was very high on Jesus’ list of priorities. Moreover, he never claimed to be a realist. When confronted with the difficulties of his teachings, Jesus blithely replied that “what is impossible for men is possible for God.” In reality, Christians have never gauged their morality on the reigning standards of the moment. Perhaps one of our problems is that too often we frame the question of having another child as a “danger” rather than a blessing. We have our idea of the perfect family, without sufficient openness to what God may have in mind. And if we really must put off having another child, even permanently, there are ethical ways of doing so. They do, unfortunately, demand personal sacrifice—something that none of us likes—but they are effective.Lopez: Father: What’s really wrong with two consenting adults getting to fully know one another? Aren’t Catholic prohibitions against premarital sex unrealistic?Fr. Williams: Again, here we have the “realism” question again. God expects more of us than we think we are capable of. He demands selfless, faithful love. He demands that we pardon our enemies and those who have hurt us. He demands that we give from our want, and not only from our surplus. Why does he ask such difficult, such “unrealistic” things? Because he is calling us to greatness. He is calling us to realize our potential and to grow in resemblance to Jesus. Is this unrealistic? If we were left to our own devices, yes. With the assistance of his grace, no.Lopez: What you’ve said there – How do we lay the groundwork for that in high school and college, where handing out condoms seems to be the default position? Do Catholics have to offer something to everyone here?

Fr. Williams: Most people nowadays think that perfect continence is impossible. They think that an active sex life is as necessary for the body as eating and drinking. They think that it is absurd, even unhealthy to ask kids to be chaste. Yet this is a myth that has been created to promote the agenda of the sexual revolution. In reality, very many kids lead happy, healthy, well-rounded lives without engaging in sexual activity. We need to remind kids that the sexual messages of our contemporary society undervalue their real potential. Pressures to lose one’s virginity are unfair to young people, and Christian educators abdicate their responsibility when they cave into society’s criteria and assume that young people are incapable of virtuous living. We need to call young people to greatness, and show them that it is possible.

Lopez: Do Christians hate science?Fr. Williams: Christians have been in the forefront of scientific investigation from the outset and any supposed rift between science and religion is an historical fabrication. Just as the Church actively patronized the arts, so, too, it sponsored and encouraged scientific research. Atheists love to point to the Galileo case as proof that the Church hates science. The very fact that the only case ever presented is Galileo’s demonstrates how rare Church interference in scientific study was. What the atheists studiously avoid is any mention of the countless discoveries made by Christian scientists, who saw their science as fully compatible with their faith. Many scientists were even religious brothers, monks and priests (such as Gregor Mendel, the father of modern genetics). While some fundamentalist Christians may oppose science, this has never been the position of orthodox Christianity. If any hostility exists, it comes not from believers, but from atheist scientists who feel challenged by religious belief.Lopez: Then why do so many insist we do? Do we have a communications problem?Fr. Williams: Some scientists, such as Richard Dawkins, insist on absolute incompatibility between science and religion because they don’t want to admit that there are important questions that science cannot answer. They would like to believe that the only questions that matter are scientific questions. Others try to undermine the authority of religious belief because it would impose ethical restrictions on their research. Finally, as noted above, some fundamentalists give a bad name to religious belief by insisting on a blind fideism that is inimical to science. Little attention is paid, however, to the numerous projects today where science and faith work hand in hand.Lopez: Let’s say I’m attracted to the “God Is Not Great” way of thinking but not sure. What should I consider?Fr. Williams: Read my book! I will challenge every assumption and claim made by Christopher Hitchens and his gang. Above all, I would ask for openness and a willingness to consider the claims of Christianity without prejudice. In the end, both atheism and religious belief are choices; in other words, they involve the will and not just the intellect. No empirical proof will definitively prove or disprove God’s existence. We all must consider the testimony at our disposal and make a personal choice about the nature of the universe and the meaning of human existence. In my mind, the global proposal made by Christianity explains the world and my life infinitely better than materialistic claims regarding the nature of things.Lopez: If God were so great, why are we in this mess?Fr. Williams: Part of God’s greatness, according to Christian theology, is his willingness to allow people to act without coercion. He assists us, but our lives and our world are truly in our hands. He made us free and respects our freedom. This means that things will go wrong. The world is not a Swiss watch, where every part fits perfectly with every other part. Humanity is a mishmash of passion and self-control, selfishness, and love, personal interest and generosity, reason and irrationality. We are called to the triumph of good over evil and reason over chaos, but the perfect world we dream of will happen only in the world to come.Lopez: Are you trying to convert all NRO readers? Are these billable priest hours?Fr. Williams: I don’t hope to convert anyone. What I do believe is that the Holy Spirit is at work in the hearts and minds of every person on earth, inviting them to belief and to conversion. If my words can trigger a greater openness to that invitation, I am delighted. Jesus called his disciples “sowers,” people who scatter to the four winds the Good News of the Gospel. Some of that seed will fall on fertile soil and bear fruit. That is not due to the talent of the sower, but to the excellence of the seed and God’s burning desire that all men and women discover the power and beauty of his love.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


In a Gallup poll 44 per cent of the American people said that they believe the world is less than 10,000 years old,” that according to evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. “It’s a massive error. I’ve likened it to believing that the width of America from New York to San Francisco is 7.8 yards – that’s the equivalent error if you scale it up to the true age of the Earth, which is something like 4.6 billion years.”
For Dawkins, there is a tree of life; not the one featuring Adam and Eve, but the one tantalisingly sketched by Darwin with the two words “I think” written above, showing how different species branch slowly off from each other over millions of years, until fish are on one branch, and apes on the opposite. If creationism falls, so, logically for Dawkins, does the rest of religion piled upon it.

Religion can be vitally important to people's lives though. My wife showed me an inspirational story from our church newsletter from a church leader who in an epiphany, says God sees our many flaws but still overlooks them and never takes his love away from us. How I would want this benevolent father figure fantasy to come true, but to me it simply isn't. But if it helps Dave, then I will respect it to an infinite degree. Dave says that sometimes our lives can become cracked and broken and sometimes we feel useless and unwanted, but that God doesn't want to throw us away. To argue with Dave about his belief system would be fruitless and would only hurt his feelings. The secret may be to encourage the parts of Dave's belief system that help himself and others and discourage the irrational thoughts which could be harmful down the road.

We must be gentle with peoples' illogical beliefs and their magical thinking, because each person deserves respect. We need to respect their belief systems until or unless they become a personal attack on us. It's a tricky tightrope to walk.

I've been watching a lot of youtube about Carl Sagan, respecting more and more all the time what he thought about continually, world peace and continued exploration of the stars. He held great hope until the end of his life (in 1996) that humanity will find the answer to saving itself through logic and reason. He devoted his life to helping people understand such concepts as global warming, nuclear winter and truth about evolution. His concept of Earth as a Pale Blue Dot is magnificent. My next reading project is "Pale Blue Dot." Maybe I will take it along when we go to Door County later this summer.

One final thought---about the dangerousness of scientology, the so called church that my cousin got involved with in California. These are serious and dangerous people. Don't let Tom Cruise's smile or John Travolta's charm fool you. This stuff is poison.


By all appearances, Noah Lottick of Kingston, Pa., had been a normal, happy 24-year-old who was looking for his place in the sun. On the day last June when his parents drove to New York City to obtain his body, they were nearly catatonic with grief.
This young Russian-studies scholar had jumped from a 10th-floor window of the Milford Plaza Hotel and bounced off the hood of a stretch limousine. When the police arrived, his fingers were still clutching $171 in cash, virtually the only money he hadn't turned over to the Church of Scientology, the self-help "philosophy" group he had discovered just seven months earlier.
His death inspired his father Edward, a physician, to start his own investigation of the church. "We thought Scientology was something like Dale Carnegie," Lottick says. "I now believe it's a school for psychopaths." Their so-called therapies are manipulations. They take the best and the brightest people and destroy them." The Lotticks want to sue the church for contributing to their son's death, but the prospect has them frightened. For nearly 40 years, the big business of Scientology has shielded itself exquisitely behind the First Amendment as well as a battery of high-priced criminal lawyers and shady private detectives.
The Church of Scientology, started by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard to "clear" people of unhappiness, portrays itself as a religion. In reality the church is a hugely profitable global racket that survives by intimidating members and critics in a Mafia-like manner. At times during the past decade, prosecutions against Scientology seemed to be curbing its menace. Eleven top Scientologists, including Hubbard's wife, were sent to prison in the early 1980s for infiltrating, burglarizing and wiretapping more than 100 private and government agencies in attempts to block their investigations. In recent years hundreds of longtime Scientology adherents -- many charging that they were mentally of physically abused -- have quit the church and criticized it at their own risk. Some have sued the church and won; others have settled for amounts in excess of $500,000. In various cases judges have labeled the church "schizophrenic and paranoid" and "corrupt, sinister and dangerous."
Yet the outrage and litigation have failed to squelch Scientology. The group, which boasts 700 centers in 65 countries, threatens to become more insidious and pervasive than ever. Scientology is trying to go mainstream, a strategy that has sparked a renewed law- enforcement campaign against the church. Many of the group's followers have been accused of committing financial scams, while the church is busy attracting the unwary through a wide array of front groups in such businesses as publishing, consulting, health care and even remedial education.
In Hollywood, Scientology has assembled a star-studded roster of followers by aggressively recruiting and regally pampering them at the church's "Celebrity Centers," a chain of clubhouses that offer expensive counseling and career guidance. Adherents include screen idols Tom Cruise and John Travolta, actresses Kirstie Alley, Mimi Rogers, and Anne Archer, Palm Springs mayor and performer Sonny Bono, jazzman Chick Corea and even Nancy Cartwright, the voice of cartoon star Bart Simpson. Rank-and-file members, however, are dealt a less glamorous Scientology.
According to the Cult Awareness Network, whose 23 chapters monitor more than 200 "mind control" cults, no group prompts more telephone pleas for help than does Scientology. Says Cynthia Kisser, the network's Chicago-based executive director: "Scientology is quite likely the most ruthless, the most classically terroristic, the most litigious and the most lucrative cult the country has ever seen. No cult extracts more money from its members." [Note: since publication of this article, the Cult Awareness Network has been taken over by Scientology. Do not contact them!] Agrees Vicki Aznaran, who was one of Scientology's six key leaders until she bolted from the church in 1987: "This is a criminal organization, day in and day out. It makes Jim and Tammy [Bakker] look like kindergarten." To explore Scientology's reach, TIME conducted more than 150 interviews and reviewed hundreds of court records and internal Scientology documents. Church officials refused to be interviewed. The investigation paints a picture of a depraved yet thriving enterprise. Most cults fail to outlast their founder, but Scientology has prospered since Hubbard's death in 1986. In a court filing, one of the cult's many entities -- the Church of Spiritual Technology -- listed $503 million in income just for 1987. High-level defectors say the parent organization has squirreled away an estimated $400 million in bank accounts in Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Cyprus. Scientology probably has about 50,000 active members, far fewer than the 8 million the group claims. But in one sense, that inflated figure rings true: millions of people have been affected in one way or another by Hubbard's bizarre creation.
Scientology is now run by David Miscavige, 31, a high school dropout and second-generation church member. Defectors describe him as cunning, ruthless and so paranoid about perceived enemies that he kept plastic wrap over his glass of water. His obsession is to obtain credibility for Scientology in the 1990s. Among other tactics, the group:
Retains public relation powerhouse Hill and Knowlton to help shed the church's fringe-group image.
Joined such household names as Sony and Pepsi as a main sponsor of Ted Turner's Goodwill Games.
Buys massive quantities of its own books from retail stores to propel the titles onto best-seller lists.
Runs full-page ads in such publications as Newsweek and Business Week that call Scientology a "philosophy," along with a plethora of TV ads touting the group's books.
Recruits wealthy and respectable professionals through a web of consulting groups that typically hide their ties to Scientology.
The founder of this enterprise was part storyteller, part flimflam man. Born In Nebraska in 1911, Hubbard served in the Navy during World War II and soon afterward complained to the Veterans Administration about his "suicidal inclinations" and his "seriously affected" mind. Nevertheless, Hubbard was a moderately successful writer of pulp science fiction. Years later, church brochures described him falsely as an "extensively decorated" World War II hero who was crippled and blinded in action, twice pronounced dead and miraculously cured through Scientology. Hubbard's "doctorate" from "Sequoia University" was a fake mall-order degree. In a I984 case in which the church sued a Hubbard biographical researcher, a California judge concluded that its founder was "a pathological liar."
Hubbard wrote one of Scientology's sacred texts, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, in 1950. In it he introduced a crude psychotherapeutic technique he called "auditing." He also created a simplified lie detector (called an "E-meter") that was designed to measure electrical changes In the skin while subjects discussed intimate details of their past. Hubbard argued that unhappiness sprang from mental aberrations (or "engrams") caused by early traumas. Counseling sessions with the E-meter, he claimed, could knock out the engrams, cure blindness and even improve a person's intelligence and appearance.
Hubbard kept adding steps, each more costly, for his followers to climb. In the 1960s the guru decreed that humans are made of clusters of spirits (or "thetans") who were banished to earth some 75 million years ago by a cruel galactic ruler named Xenu. Naturally, those thetans had to be audited.
An Internal Revenue Service ruling in 1967 stripped Scientology's mother church of its tax-exempt status. A federal court ruled in 1971 that Hubbard's medical claims were bogus and that E-meter auditing could no longer be called a scientific treatment. Hubbard responded by going fully religious, seeking First Amendment protection for Scien- tology's strange rites. His counselors started sporting clerical collars. Chapels were built, franchises became "missions," fees became "fixed donations," and Hubbard's comic-book cosmology became "sacred scriptures.'
During the early 1970s, the IRS conducted its own auditing sessions and proved that Hubbard was skimming millions of dollars from the church, laundering the money through dummy corporations in Panama and stashing it in Swiss bank accounts. Moreover, church members stole IRS documents, filed false tax returns and harassed the agency's employees. By late 1985, with high-level defectors accusing Hubbard of having stolen as much as S200 million from the church, the IRS was seeking an indictment of Hubbard for tax fraud. Scientology members "worked day and night" shredding documents the IRS sought, according to defector Aznaran, who took part in the scheme. Hubbard, who had been in hiding for five years, died before the criminal case could be prosecuted.
Today the church invents costly new services with all the zeal of its founder. Scientology doctrine warns that even adherents who are "cleared" of engrams face grave spiritual dangers unless they are pushed to higher and more expensive levels. According to the church's latest price list, recruits -- "raw meat," as Hubbard called them -- take auditing sessions that cost as much as $1,000 an hour, or $12,500 for a 12 1/2-hour "intensive."
Psychiatrists say these sessions can produce a drugged-like, mind-controlled euphoria that keeps customers coming back for more. To pay their fees, newcomers can earn commissions by recruiting new mem- bers, become auditors themselves (Miscavige did so at age 12), or join the church staff and receive free counseling in exchange for what their written contracts describe as a "billion years" of labor. "Make sure that lots of bodies move through the shop," implored Hubbard in one of his bulletins to officials. "Make money. Make more money. Make others produce so as to make money . . . However you get them in or why, just do it."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

In the Secret

Playing "I Can Only Imagine" at church Sunday morning was great. Over 100 in attendance. During the service, the choir sang "In the Secret," a song made famous by the Christian group Mercy Me. My wife Debbie recommended that I play that for my next guitar solo. I have been practicing it today and Debbie said she liked it. To me it feels as if I'm playing it in a John Gorka sort of style with my own brand of chording. It's Capo 6 like "Heavenly Day." A very cool range to sing in that fits me perfectly. So I'm ready with my next song when ever they need me .

The song can be found on Youtube sung by a group called "Shane N Shane." Kind of interesting.


In the secret,In the quiet place
in the stillness you are there
In the secret in the quite hour I wait, only for you
Cause i want to know you more
In the secret In the quite place
In the stillness you are there
In the secret in the quiet hour I wait
Because i want to know you more

I want to know you I want to hear your voice
I want to know you moreI want to touch you
I want to see your face I want to know you more

I am reaching for the highest goals
That i might recive the prize
Pressing onward Pushing every hinderance aside
Out of my way
Cause i want to know you more

Repeat Chorus and first verse and end

The song brought a nice smile from Debbie. That's my goal. She says the song could also be about couples and wanting to see each other in new and different ways, to love them more deeply perhaps.

If Charlie were still alive, he would say I was a "closet Christian."

I'll leave it up to you to decide.

Have a good evening. May the stars shine brightly in your corner of the world.

Monday, July 28, 2008

How Could God Let This Go On?

These kind of stories boggle the mind. How could a benevolent God let this go on? In a church no less. Right wing radio plants these thoughts into the minds of people who are disturbed/mentally off-balance and this is what happens. Thanks Hannity, Rush and especially Michael Savage. I hope you sleep well tonight.

Chief: Church gunman says he acted out of 'hatred for the liberal movement'

Police say a man opened fire at a Knoxville, Tenn., church yesterday because he couldn't find a job and "his stated hatred for the liberal movement."
Two people died in the shooting spree.
Jim Adkisson, 58, faces first-degree murder charges. He's being held on $1 million bond. (Here's a profile in the local newspaper.)
"It appears he was acting alone," Chief Sterling Owen IV tells reporters. "In his written statement, he does not describe any affiliation with anybody and the subsequent search at his residence shows that it appears he was operating alone."
The chief says Adkisson fired three times with a 12-gauge shotgun. They recovered 76 shotgun shells at the Tennessee Valley Universalist Church. The gun was purchased last month at a pawn shop.
"I do not believe he expected to leave there alive," Owen says.
Owen says officers were at the church within minutes of receiving a call for assistance.
The FBI and ATF are assisting with the investigation.
Knoxville News Sentinel reports that the four-page letter that investigators recovered from Adkisson's truck "indicates he had been planning the shooting for about a week."
"It appears he did choose that church intentionally," Owen says.
Here's our earlier story.
Update at 2:15 p.m. ET: The News Sentinel reports that Adkisson's ex-wife was once a member of the church. A longtime friend tells the paper "he needed help a long time ago and never got it.""He always had the attitude the government was trying to get him,'' Carol Smallwood says. "He disliked blacks, gays, anyone who was a different color or just different from him."

Here is the poignant statement today from the church's website:

The Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church thanks you for your thoughts and prayers and many expressions of support. As you might imagine, we are only beginning the process of accepting and grieving this tragedy. Our process continues this evening with a series of events, beginning at 5 p.m. with a debriefing for those members and friends of our community who were most directly affected by the shooting. We respectfully ask that the larger Knoxville community respect the privacy of these individuals and not attend these debriefing sessions, so that the survivors of this traumatic event might begin the work of healing.

If you watch this UU video, you will become convinced that the guy that did this shooting was not buying into any ideas that Unitarian Universalists stand for.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Thoughts on Obama on Sunday Morning

Obama wants to reverse the well worn practice of corporate lobbying. It's the way things have been for so long. Can he change the this status quo of corruption so quickly. His plan may be too radically different than the current atmosphere in Washington DC. Walt Whitman once said we "lead by our presence." But will take more than a presidential presence to get rid of such a dirty system. He will have to get his hands dirty and may face death threats.

He says he will end dependence on foreign oil. How will he do that? American auto manufacturers will not change if they will lose tons of money.

Barack also wants to create more transparency. Does he mean more transparency in government, in the White House? Will he give us more war secrets? This is a little vague and he must explain. Maybe he will work to enforce public disclosure laws. That would be good.

He also wants to provide free radio and TV ads for candidates. The ultra conservative broadcasting lobbies(e.g. Rupert Murdoch) will not take that sitting down. Broadcasters will fight this.

I like that he would require all of his cabinet members to hold "fireside chats." I hope Barack would also hold regular town hall type meetings, much like Russ Feingold does as security precautions require. I also like that Barack is looking seriously at federal ethics legislation.

I agree with his views on health care, immigration and education too.

I continue to like many of his quotes like this one,

"Together we will create a nation healed, an America repaired, an America that believes again."

“Your own story and the American story are not
separate – they are shared. And they will both be
enriched if we stand up together, and answer a
new call to service to meet the challenges of our
new century. … I won’t just ask for your vote as
a candidate; I will ask for your service and your
active citizenship when I am president of the
United States. This will not be a call issued in
one speech or program; this will be a cause of
my presidency. ”

I also like that Obama would set up a Google type search engine that would track federal government spending, so anybody could follow the money trail from their home computer. Government would have to become more accountable.

Health care....No one would be turned away because of a pre-existing illness or condition. that sounds very positive. When talking health care, Obama also mentions that only about four cents out of every dollar goes to preventative health care. What will he do to trim the fat of all the insurance companies? It seems like the business is quite currupt. He will be swimming against the tide here I fear. The insurance industry has very powerful lobbiests.
I also like a couple of other ideas he proposes. He would require employers to contribute a certain percentage of money toward insurance plans. At a previous job, I was required to pay most of a policy that was not very good. Obama also would require health plans to disclose the percentage of premiums that go to patient care versus administrative costs. The results of such surveys may be shocking.

More quotes I found today from
A good compromise, a good piece of legislation, is like a good sentence; or a good piece of music. Everybody can recognize it. They say, 'Huh. It works. It makes sense.' Barack Obama

Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential. Barack Obama

I don't oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. Barack Obama

I opposed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. It should be repealed and I will vote for its repeal on the Senate floor. I will also oppose any proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gays and lesbians from marrying. Barack Obama

If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually you'll make progress. Barack Obama

In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? Barack Obama

It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to where we are today, but we have just begun. Today we begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we leave our children is just a little bit better than the one we inhabit today. Barack Obama

That is the true genius of America, a faith in the simple dreams of its people, the insistence on small miracles. That we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door. That we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe or hiring somebody's son. That we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will be counted -- or at least, most of the time.
BARACK OBAMA, speech at 2004 Democratic Convention

I have seen, the desperation and disorder of the powerless: how it twists the lives of children on the streets of Jakarta or Nairobi in much the same way as it does the lives of children on Chicago’s South Side, how narrow the path is for them between humiliation and untrammeled fury, how easily they slip into violence and despair. I know that the response of the powerful to this disorder -- alternating as it does between a dull complacency and, when the disorder spills out of its proscribed confines, a steady, unthinking application of force, of longer prison sentences and more sophisticated military hardware -- is inadequate to the task. I know that the hardening of lines, the embrace of fundamentalism and tribe, dooms us all.
BARACK OBAMA, preface to 2004 Edition, Dreams of My Father

[The] issues are never simple. One thing I’m proud of is that very rarely will you hear me simplify the issues.
BARACK OBAMA, MSNBC interview, Sep 25, 2006

The true test of the American ideal is whether we’re able to recognize our failings and then rise together to meet the challenges of our time. Whether we allow ourselves to be shaped by events and history, or whether we act to shape them. Whether chance of birth or circumstance decides life’s big winners and losers, or whether we build a community where, at the very least, everyone has a chance to work hard, get ahead, and reach their dreams.
BARACK OBAMA, speech, Jun. 4, 2005

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.
BARACK OBAMA, speech, Feb. 5, 2008

I was drawn to the power of the African American religious tradition to spur social change. Out of necessity, the black church had to minister to the whole person. Out of necessity, the black church rarely had the luxury of separating individual salvation from collective salvation. It had to serve as the center of the community's political, economic, and social as well as spiritual life; it understood in an intimate way the biblical call to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and challenge powers and principalities. In the history of these struggles, I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death; rather, it was an active, palpable agent in the world.
BARACK OBAMA, Audacity of Hope

This notion that's peddled by the religious right - that they are oppressed is not true. Sometimes it's a cynical ploy to move their agenda ahead. The classic example being that somehow secularists are trying to eliminate Christmas, which strikes me as some kind of manufactured controversy.
BARACK OBAMA, Street Prophets interview, Jul. 11, 2006

What Washington needs is adult supervision.
BARACK OBAMA, fundraising letter, Oct. 2006

In an interconnected world, the defeat of international terrorism – and most importantly, the prevention of these terrorist organizations from obtaining weapons of mass destruction -- will require the cooperation of many nations. We must always reserve the right to strike unilaterally at terrorists wherever they may exist. But we should know that our success in doing so is enhanced by engaging our allies so that we receive the crucial diplomatic, military, intelligence, and financial support that can lighten our load and add legitimacy to our actions. This means talking to our friends and, at times, even our enemies.
BARACK OBAMA, speech, Nov. 20, 2006
All across the world, in every kind of environment and region known to man, increasingly dangerous weather patterns and devastating storms are abruptly putting an end to the long-running debate over whether or not climate change is real. Not only is it real, it's here, and its effects are giving rise to a frighteningly new global phenomenon: the man-made natural disaster.
BARACK OBAMA, speech, Apr. 3, 2006

There are a whole lot of religious people in America, including the majority of Democrats. When we abandon the field of religious discourse—when we ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practiced, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations toward one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome—others will fill the vacuum. And those who do are likely to be those with the most insular views of faith, or who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends.
BARACK OBAMA, Audacity of Hope

If the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists - to protect them and to promote their common welfare - all else is lost.
BARACK OBAMA, speech, Aug. 28, 2006

Americans ... still believe in an America where anything's possible -- they just don't think their leaders do.
BARACK OBAMA, fundraising letter, Sep. 1, 2006

America is a land of big dreamers and big hopes. It is this hope that has sustained us through revolution and civil war, depression and world war, a struggle for civil and social rights and the brink of nuclear crisis. And it is because our dreamers dreamed that we have emerged from each challenge more united, more prosperous, and more admired than before.
BARACK OBAMA, speech, Jun. 4, 2005

We should be more modest in our belief that we can impose democracy on a country through military force. In the past, it has been movements for freedom from within tyrannical regimes that have led to flourishing democracies; movements that continue today. This doesn’t mean abandoning our values and ideals; wherever we can, it’s in our interest to help foster democracy through the diplomatic and economic resources at our disposal. But even as we provide such help, we should be clear that the institutions of democracy – free markets, a free press, a strong civil society – cannot be built overnight, and they cannot be built at the end of a barrel of a gun. And so we must realize that the freedoms FDR once spoke of – especially freedom from want and freedom from fear – do not just come from deposing a tyrant and handing out ballots; they are only realized once the personal and material security of a people is ensured as well.
BARACK OBAMA, speech, Nov. 20, 2006

We live in a culture that discourages empathy. A culture that too often tells us our principle goal in life is to be rich, thin, young, famous, safe, and entertained.
BARACK OBAMA, speech, Jul. 12, 2006

Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King - indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history - were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
BARACK OBAMA, Jun. 28, 2006

I always believe that ultimately, if people are paying attention, then we get good government and good leadership. And when we get lazy, as a democracy and civically start taking shortcuts, then it results in bad government and politics.
BARACK OBAMA, MSNBC interview, Sep. 25, 2006

That's my Sunday morning thoughts on Obama. I'm going to get some more coffee. Have a good weekend :) Wish me luck on singing in church today. I will sing "I Can Only Imagine" and will have to use my imagination to see what others are seeing.

Love and Peace :)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Faster Computer

It's amazing how having a faster computer can change the way you use the internet.

We just increased our speed about 1000 times by going to Charter Internet. Youtube has an incredible amount of music/concert videos, speeches, video clips, etc. I have already discovered some new talented artists like Nathan Gaunt, Storyhill, Janice Esch and Krista Detor. Broadband definitely broadens one's world. As my 13 year-old son Ryan would say, "Welcome to the 21st Century Dad!!" Amen.

I would also recommend a video from Carl Sagan which I will post today(an excerpt from Cosmos) where Carl is walking along a beach and talking about the future of the Earth. Very poignant.

Today the family will visit Mom as she continues to recover from diverticulosis. Sunday I will sing "I Can Only Imagine." They rejected "Lighthouse Light" because God was not emphasized enough. Better luck next time. At least I know I can play "I Can Only Imagine" with a lot of confidence.

Have a good week everybody. :)

More later.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Susan Jacoby is Worth Listening To

Go to and you will find the thoughts of one of most intelligent free thinkers of our time, Susan Jacoby. The program is excellent. Hit the link and find out :)

Susan Jacoby is the author of Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. A prominent public intellectual, she frequently appears in publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Free Inquiry. Her latest best selling book is The Age of American Unreason.

In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Susan Jacoby explores recent trends that she argues have led to the "age of American unreason," including religious fundamentalism, mass media consumption and "video culture," and multiculturalism. She addresses how fundamentalism feeds anti-intellectualism in America, and how not only fundamentalism can be blamed for it. She details both the upside and the downside of the internet, the perils of too much TV viewing, and the effect of such over-consumption on the cultural literacy of average Americans. She addresses criticism that she is merely "elitist" or a "luddite," and ends with specifics on how people can work to challenge the Age of American Unreason.

The program is worth listening to. I think Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins would all agree that it's our ability to reason that can save us as a human race.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mom's Health Improves

I had a wonderful conversation with my mother today. She is recovering from major surgery. Doctors took out a one foot section of her colon on Wednesday. She is already back home(returned Saturday) I am overjoyed by her recovery so far and am optimistic that she will get better and better as the days go by. Tonight she is back on the internet after a long break. It's good to have her back on line. She says she has been reading my blog with great interest and that word's from Gertrude Stein came to mind, and she adds her own addendum:

There ain't no answer.

There ain't going to be any answer.

There never has been an answer.

That's the answer............By Gertrude Stein

Addendum: The BEAUTY is in THE SEARCH. (By Mom )

Boy, that's it. The beauty is in the search. Each new day is a wonderful adventure. That's what it is all about. Mom, you have it exactly right.

Other notes:

I've been working on a new song for church. I will be playing guitar and singing this Sunday. I have been trying to adapt a song called "Lighthouse Light" by Ry Cavanaugh. I first heard the song from a group called Redbird consisting of Jeffrey Foucault, Kris Delmhorst and Peter Mulvey. Kris sings it with amazing passion.


Lighthouse light keep on shinin'

Keep those ships from your shores

Lighthouse light keep on shinin'

Shine on --- for the one I adore

There's a fairy boat comin'

Across the cold gray sea

There's a fairy boat comin'

It's bringin' my love home to me

There is a light in the distance

It's coming from the west

There's God's light in the distance

I'm thinkin of the one who I love best

Lighthouse light keep on shinin'

You keep those ships from your shores

Lighthouse light keep on shinin'

Shine on---for the one that I adore

Wish me luck with the song. Church leaders may not like it because it doesn't center on God enough. One thing is for sure, the song comes directly from my heart.

Letter to Christian Friends Updated


I will try to organize my thoughts as clearly as possible as to not offend the good Christian intentions and purpose of the Stephen Ministry. It is not my intention to be playing with fire here for my own intellectual benefit, but for the elucidation of key ideas and points to bring us to a stronger agreement on what is at stake here.Growing up in a non-religious home has left me hungering for a spirituality I’ve never had before. When I was a child, we attended the Unitarian Universalist Church for a year or two and that was it. As an adult before I was married, I attended the Unitarian Society in Minneapolis, finding some spiritual sustenance in the breadth and the meaning of the sermons and from some fellowship. When married, I followed my wife’s wishes to the Lutheran Church, thinking there were many ways to find spiritual salvation and what people call the wisdom and word of the Lord.Many questions have stopped me from fully immersing myself in Christianity. Questions like: If there is a God, who created God? What about infinite space and time? What does the Bible say about space or is it too earth centered? Is the Bible stuck running in place in an anti-Copernican-like geocentricism which waits not for reason but for ignorant and arrogant believers? What is the purpose of life? To question with reason or to live in happy ignorance that there is some great Santa in the sky that will save us all, that Jesus will come down during a nuclear holocaust and save us all? A good faith should not, it seems, be involved in simple minded answers but the awesome complexity of the stars, of time and space and E=mc Squared. Isn’t something like the Krebs Cycle, the infinity of the night sky full of stars or the miracle of photosynthesis just as beautiful as something like Christ’s face or the manger scene. It seems that Christianity is afraid of the some of the questions--- that is what troubles me. It seems like I shouldn’t be afraid to mention the name Carl Sagan or Stephen Jay Gould in a Bible study group that truly has an open mind about spiritual exploration. There are many ways to find beauty and sublime peace of mind, including in science.One can argue that it’s all about the interpretation of the Bible that is important---that it’s only how we see it for ourselves. But we also have to be awake to the fact that the Bible was written a long time ago and is in some sense a dinosaur, out of date and in desperate need of revision or a complete refashioning. Where does the holy word come from and couldn’t new portions be written and edited today? What would be more practical today in the age of the internet and space travel? What would be a good book for all of the races?There is a much bigger question to answer than who believes in the best religion. The real question is how we survive as a human race. To go in the direction of trying to answer that. we must stop warring between different religious factions and realize our own human decency and commonalities between us. There is a sense that the egos of the different religions all thinking they are the best are detrimental to human progress. Instead of colliding egos, we must concentrate on the goodness in all of us. War will continue to be strongly embedded in the character of mankind as long as we keep wearing spiritual chips on our shoulders. Organized religion needs to become more flexible and compassionate to the human struggle in order for it to be useful enough to save humanity.There is no question that religion has greatly enhanced the lives of millions of people across our fragile globe. People have thanked God for helping them through alcoholism, cancer, divorce and natural disasters. What I am very agnostic about is whether there is a God that has a personal interest in each and every one of us. You see sports stars thanking God for a home run or a touchdown. When you think of it, why would the king of all creation be concerned about a sports contest? There would be much more pressing matters for a deity of mankind. If there is a God does he just care about the Earth or the entire Universe? During early human inquiry, it was widely believed that the sun revolved around the Earth. Science helped us understand that the Earth revolved around the sun. We may yet learn that if there is a Lord that he/she doesn’t exclusively care about just for the Earth but for creation across the Universe. Many of the most intelligent scientists have stated that there is a good chance of life on other worlds. The most intellectually honest atheist would probably concede that we are infinitely important and not important given the sacredness of life and the infinite vastness of everything around us. Existence is a paradox. To meditate upon the Infinity of space and time and the infinite smallness of molecules makes me shudder in amazement. That is enough for me even there if there is not a God. The best way to characterize it is to say that there is infinite meaning in my world even without a deity. I admit I don’t know how to define a God as defined by many, but that there may be an entity beyond the five senses that exists and works through us in unknown ways. It is not scientifically knowable so I cannot describe it. I can only speculate about the “moreness.”As atheist writer Richard Dawkins explains, to pretend to know something and not know it is something short of intellectual honesty. He takes it further by saying that a Christian saying he/she is saved and nonbelievers will go to hell is the height of arrogance and cruelty. A Christian will feel sorry for those who do not believe because they will not go to “heaven.” What is heaven? I do know that extremist Muslims who flew the plane into the Twin Towers in 2001 thought they would get dozens of virgins in heaven if they did this destructive deed. The real question is: How much of a subtle destructive deed is belief in something so strongly that you are willing to calmly let others go to hell for your heaven? Strange indeed.Faith and reason are like apples and oranges. I'm just trying to get a clearer intuitive path to a healthy spiritual direction. I'm not saying I'm not spiritual.My father, a much more ingrained athiest than myself says he is jealous of people who have faith, who can make that leap joyfully and with a full heart. My father's mind will not let his heart take the huge jump. I empathize with Dad but think he may not be letting the whole spirit in. It's funny how I get a wonderful feeling when I hear the Smokey Robinson classic song "Tears of a Clown." It started when I was ten years old. Every time I hear that tune, I go back to that point in my life of innocence and newness. You could call that spiritual, I guess. Same thing happens when I take a bite of strawberry ice cream. I get this spiritual feeling that I cannot explain. It seems to take me back to when I was three years old tasting my first every spoonful of the stuff. This is something I tell very few people. I told my wife about the strawberry thing and she laughed. As one friend used to say to me once in awhile..."Crazy kid." (ha)I will mull over this which was recently shared with me by my friend Mike in West Virginia..."To those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary. To those who need an explanation, none will suffice." This is where faith and reason collide. You cannot reason somebody out of something they were not reasoned into in the first place.In many ways I feel like Robert Frost in the poem "The Road Less Traveled." (life can confusing) I feel sometimes like I'm daring to go against the grain of organized religion to see things in my own way. It can be scary at times too.Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveller, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the differenceHere is a quote from an Amazon review of Michael Behe’s book “Darwin’s Black Box” which asserts that evolution cannot be correct because of the sheer complexity of the natural world, a dangerous call to throw one’s arms up and give up, sacrificing one’s powers of reason to the supernatural because the answer is just too tough. I think any God would want us to keep searching for answers to the puzzle he has put in front of us. Within the biochemistry of living cells, he argues, life is "irreducibly complex." This is the last black box to be opened, the end of the road for science. Faced with complexity at this level, Behe suggests that it can only be the product of "intelligent design."I feel it is dangerous to abandon reason and take the leap to believe whatever we want to. When reason is gone, then everyone is right, because no one is at the helm of reason. When reason is gone from the equation, we give the Jim Jones’s and the Waco people carte blanche to create their own irrational systems which lead in the long run to destructiveness of the human race. I think that any good God would want us to embrace reason with all our heart and soul, and humility. Dawkins argues that religion is the ultimate arrogance---that we are saved but someone who disagrees will suffer the infinite fires of hell. What about mentally handicapped people? Are they damned to hell if they don’t follow the rules of religious political correctness to the nth degree?? These questions just seem to be hanging out there and are not being addressed by the pious crowd. This rigidity of thought caused by a lack of reasoning ability in the brains of those who cling to fundamentalism is dangerous for the future of the world in my opinion. How many different ways can I say that? Religion can cause people to be comforted to a great degree, but ultimately it is the people who are doing the comforting in a humane and reasonable fashion.Behe’s assertations seem to me to be implying that we need to throw natural selection out of the window. And if, as he contends, that some intelligent aliens started Earth as sort of an experimental colony, then how do you explain who created the aliens? There is an infinite pattern of questions that (pardon the expression) evolve out of Behe’s direction here. Just saying…OK…..there was a creator and that’s it, gives power to those unreasonable folks who will say “See I told you. We were right all along!” To ask questions is all we can do with our brains which are the most evolved form of life on the planet. Let’s use our brains’ most highly evolved functions instead of going back to pacify more primitive regions associated with faith.I have more doubt about Behe’s claims when I hear about his the university he teaches at (Lehigh) putting a disclaimer on Behe’s website:“While we respect Prof. Behe's right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally and should not be regarded as scientific.”Richard Dawkins says of Behe:"He's a straightforward creationist. What he has done is to take a standard argument which dates back to the 19th century, the argument of irreducible complexity, the argument that there are certain organs, certain systems in which all the bits have to be there together or the whole system won't the eye. Darwin answered (this)...point by point, piece by piece. But maybe he shouldn't have bothered. Maybe what he should have said is...maybe you're too thick to think of a reason why the eye could have come about by gradual steps, but perhaps you should go away and think a bit harder."With science there is a humility about the ultimate and complex questions. With religion, there is often arrogance about those questions.Another professor talks about Behe’s assertions:"Professor Behe’s concept of irreducible complexity depends on ignoring ways in which evolution is known to occur. Although Professor Behe is adamant in his definition of irreducible complexity when he says a precursor “missing a part is by definition nonfunctional,” what he obviously means is that it will not function in the same way the system functions when all the parts are present. For example in the case of the bacterial flagellum, removal of a part may prevent it from acting as a rotary motor. However, Professor Behe excludes, by definition, the possibility that a precursor to the bacterial flagellum functioned not as a rotary motor, but in some other way, for example as a secretory system."Going down the road of unreason certainly is a dangerous path. I’m finding reviews of Dawkin’s book “The God Delusion” interesting.A large portion of the religious reviewers of this work have obviously never read it, as they have restated objections to his arguments which he deals with in a far more elegant manner than I ever could. I respect your right to hold religious beliefs, but your arguments have been dealt with by Dawkins, yet you can still raise them, apparently with no knowledge of any of Dawkins' arguments. Please! Read the work before attacking him for his beliefs! Please! Raise intelligent points! Don't simply spout the faulty arguments he has already dealt with!Dawkins says, “I am hostile to fundamentalist religion because it actively debauches the scientific enterprise. It teaches us not to change our minds, and not to want to know exciting things that are available to be known. It subverts science and saps the intellect"Hey, guess what? You cannot fight reason with unreason. It will lose every time. You cannot just shake your Bible at me and expect me to say it is just because it is. There has to be something more than that to argue. Just believe and everything will be alright. I think people who criticize Dawkin’s book don’t like it because they have to really think when they read it. It’s far from an easy read but infinitely rewarding in my opinion.I hear things like, “Give up all of your control and God will be in the driver’s seat.” That’s kind of a scary proposition----that we can let go of the steering wheel. What if we crash? My father, who is a psychiatrist, counseled a woman who got in a car accident because she let God take the wheel. A father of an autistic son in Fond du Lac didn’t worry too much when his son wandered off down a busy street thinking that God would take care of it and if he died it was just God’s will. Comfortable thought for him perhaps, but not very logical or rational. This man’s comment bothered me.Taking the leap of faith is difficult and I’m not so certain I want to attempt it. I want to cling to reason. People who reason and use logic a lot are not cold hearted. I think this is a common misperception. Just like the geek, nerd or someone with Asperger’s Syndrome is ostracized for behavior not conforming to the norm, real conscientious thought and discussion about religion and its role in society is tossed off by adversaries as inappropriate and not what people want to talk about. People on their wavelength are simply shut off like a bad radio or TV station. Dawkins is most likely taking harsh criticism from the non-thinkers, from people who would rather watch “Dog Eat Dog” or chant “Jerry…Jerry” along with their TV sets than watch a thoughtful show on public TV about science, history or politics. It’s the mentality of the non-thinkers versus people who like to think. The ultimate battle is against a worldview that would rather bask in ignorance and some arrogance versus the people who roll up their sleeves and aren’t afraid to ask the really, really tough questions.Tonight I will go to church with my wife. I very much appreciate and respect Debbie’s ability to have faith, to solemnly believe she will go to heaven without any doubt. There is something magical about that that I’m a bit jealous of. How can one completely abandon reason to embrace a loving God with no questions asked. Maybe some of my religious friends will think I will go to Hell for questioning religion, but if they are true friends they should be infinitely compassionate in relating to my own special spiritual journey.When I go to church, I will happily participate in the hymns. There will be at least a half-dozen of them! A hymn has a way of getting me into such a joyous mindset. I like the melodies and the deep conviction on the faces of the believers. I feel good for them that they have found a mindset that is comfortable that helps them overcome life’s downers and travails. It may very surely be seen as a form of brain washing, but I guess a clean brain is close to godliness. My grandmother used to say she felt “cleaner” after going to church. I don’t doubt she did. We can wash our hands of all of the day’s problems and just keep it simple and contemplate a relationship with salvation, or what we conceive of what salvation is.I also like the part when people move about and shake one another’s hands. We greet each other and recognize the God within each other. This is a principle of goodness in action. That is something I DO BELIEVE IN---that if there is a God he works through other people. People can say the most profound things at certain times which makes me sometimes hunger for the hope of there being a messenger connecting that thought from the person that comes directly to us. That there is a possibility that a human thought is divinely inspired is kind of a cool idea. But, there is no scientific proof that any of that is happening. So why think about it? It is fun to use our brains, to be alive and to think of all of the possibilities. If objective and rationale Carl Sagan thought a lot about extraterrestrial life, then I can have the luxury of thinking of the .0000000000000000000000000001 percent chance of receiving a divinely inspired thought.I am a little troubled by the fact that religion is so deeply ingrained in the human psyche that it cannot be surgically removed like a tumor. But, then again, why can’t it peacefully co-exist with superior forms of thought? After all, humans exist with lower forms of animals and are able to live together peacefully. Look at all the useful and positive compassion that comes from members of the Humane Society. Why can’t people with differing thought patterns admit their differences and accept and be infinitely compassionate? That’s one great thing about Jesus. He preached this infinite compassion for the poor. That is a wonderful direction to go in if we are to survive as a species in the long run.Reviewer Harvey Ardman sums up my feelings very nicely:There are or might be moments when I am jealous of those capable of faith. I would love to believe, when a loved one dies, that he or she is going to a better place and that we'll meet again some day. What a lovely, comforting thought. Would that it were true, or that I could believe it. But I don't--and it makes this life and every moment in it more valuable to me. I once asked myself how a person totally unfamiliar with religion, might choose among the world's offerings, might decide to adopt one of the world's thousands of religions. I could find no way. They all claim they're right and all the other religions are wrong. But are any of them right? Now I'm thinking similar thoughts about God. I saw a website recently that compiled the names of all of the gods, worldwide and throughout history. They found 3800 different gods or supernatural beings. If I were inclined to believe, which one would I choose and why? Richard Dawkins points out that we're all atheists. We don't believe in Zeus, Thor, Apollo, Odin, etc., etc., etc. He just goes one god further.There is also the question of abortion. At what point does a soul become embedded in the a mother’s womb? When is it completely unethical to consider abortion? Author Sam Harris presents a critique of the pro-life belief that “a soul (person) is created at the instant of conception. Is an additional soul created when a 100-cell blastocyst occasionally divides to become identical twins?Humanist writer Paul Kurtz says in his book “Affirmations” that good conduct and wisdom in living can be combined in a person to make him or her a decent person with or without God. When I look at humanist values in “Affirmations” I hear ideas like “taking care of the Earth for future generations,” “transcending divisive parochial loyalties based on race, religion, gender, nationality, creed, class, sexual orientation, or ethnicity to work together for the common good of humanity,” “the cultivation of moral excellence through rationality,” “nourishing reason and compassion in our children,” “supporting the disadvantaged and handicapped so they will be able to help themselves,” “enjoying life in the here and now and developing our creative talents to the fullest,” and “choosing hope over despair.” It seems that too often religion chooses the laying on of guilt rather than the building up of hope.The concept of skeptical inquiry is a good one. People should not just accept ideas at their face value because that is the way “they are supposed to think.” Children should be taught critical thinking skills in school, not just how to conform. It seems like the people who need religion the most are the ones who have religion as part of their lives. Those who can stand independently, at a higher level of moral reasoning, do not have to lean on the parent in the sky we call God.The leap of faith is a very tough hurdle. A reviewer of the writing of Christopher Hitchens says:“Anyone of intelligence would not believe because "taking it on faith"means believing in something without evidence, substantiation or support. Therefore, those who profess such belief do so without intelligence! Moreover, by implication, such a person cannot be critical of someone who "believes" in, say, the most absurd thing the imagination can concoct, say, the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny. It is time to take the next step in evolution and jettison the mystical explanation ("god") now that science has finally progressed and triumphed.”Another writer who likes Hitchen’s rational view of the world states:“Today's typical "justification" for religion involves charitable or humanitarian work - obviously this says nothing about the veracity of the belief systems involved. All religions must, at their core, look forward to the end of this world; atheists, on the other hand argue that this world is all we have and that it is our duty to make the most of it. It is one thing, per Hitchens, to believe that the magnificence of the natural order strongly implies an ordering force; quite another to say this creative force cares for our human affairs, and it is interested in with whom we have sex and how, as well as the outcome of battles and wars (and even athletic contests). Even accepting Jesus' birth, it still does not prove he was more than one among many shamans and magicians of the day. Einstein took the view that the miracle is that there are no miracles.”Is Christopher Hitchens just an arrogant ego-maniac commentator or his he helping us look in a new brave and brilliant direction? I think the latter.“People who are generally well read are much less likely to take to a fundamentalist reading of the Bible, whereas it is my observation that for many people who do adhere to the literal truth of the Bible, it is possibly the only book they have ever read, and so have no critical reading skills whatsoever.”Anonymous Here we go again with the concept of critical thinking skills, or are we talking about pure intelligence here? Should we follow blind faith or reasoned discussion based on critical thinking skills? The answer seems obvious. Follow the intelligence. Following a God with an unclear definition makes about as much sense as voting for a president with a 95 IQ instead of one with a 195 IQ. Let’s get out of the stone ages and find new ways to find awe and wonder. We can find feelings of wonder and amazement and humility just by looking at the Big Dipper on a clear summer night. The fact that it is not all explained for us makes it even more wonderful I think.I believe that the human race is attempting to evolve past destructive thought patterns. My hope is that we will choose reason over antiquated ways of looking at the world. Just like war must be abolished, “good” versus “evil” type thinking must also be abolished if we are to survive on the Earth. But, the troubling question is, “Is religion far too embedded in our biology?”Gabriel Michael, a Yale divinity student who wrote an impassioned article about his deep concern about rabid atheists who are preaching physicalism, is actually practicing faulty thinking, He appears to shut out any possibility of comparing the patterns of thought coming from scientists and from theologists and postulating about the details. Scientists and theologians have radically different world views, and we cannot just push this aside as if it were the politically correct thing to do at the Yale Country Club. As I see it, Michael wants to have it both ways, to have the philosophy of science and of faith peacefully co-exist, when one is obviously a more advanced form of thinking than the other. What he calls evangelical atheism is actually so close to the truth that it hurts. He says I quote:Evangelists for atheism who link their philosophical positions to science end up doing that same science a great disservice by fueling the fire of fundamentalism here and around the world. Calling them evangelists is warranted, because if their true goal were the propagation of the acceptance of science, they simply wouldn’t focus so much on non-scientific implications. Instead, they spread their various gospels, pander to the popular hobby of religion-bashing, and even invoke a persecution complex — you can purchase a “Scarlet Letter” T-shirt at In reality, though, Dawkins and his cohort are mostly preaching to the choir. In this argument, both sides lose: Reactionary religion marginalizes itself in the face of the modern scientific world, and evangelical atheism helps to produce more of the very enemies it most despises.I guess if everybody was nice, we could abandon reason and everyone would live in ignorant bliss. Is that what you want Mr. Michael? You are simply afraid of the scientific method and how faith is endangered by reason.I also believe in the concept of ahimsa, the principle of non-violence which motivated Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. I believe in sort of a karma that develops when ahimsa is practiced optimally. I see a bit too much violence in the Bible for my own comfort level. Even though Christ is portrayed a very peaceful man---some of the stories of the Bible seem to contradict his passivism. That is a contradiction that is interesting and definitely worthy of much more study.I think we should all be more tolerant of different world views. It disturbed me to hear that a classmate of my 12 year-old son Ryan told him he was going to hell because he didn’t believe that Jesus was his personal lord and savior. Ryan was hurt by that and I tried to explain to him that his friend was probably taught that in church, that he was not being tolerant of those who question. Ryan proceeded to tell me that he believed that each of us makes our own heaven or hell right here on Earth. (Pretty bright for his age I think.) When I was Ryan’s age, my friend Bobby Weber told me I would go to hell if I didn’t believe in God. I remember asking him if being a good person was enough. He replied, “No, It is not enough. There is much more to it than that.” About 3 days before my Uncle Charlie died I tried to express to him about how Christmas gave me a sublime and mystical sense of hope. He said, “I don’t believe any of that Jeffrey.” I said I respected that and I knew he respected my inclination to fully search out my own spirituality. Deep in my heart I DO NOT believe that kind and generous Uncle Charlie is going to hell. Charlie was a great person, always willing to give me advice when I needed it, always willing to help in any way he could. If there is a God that would send him to hell, we live in a cruel world. I’m not at all convinced, though, that we do live in a cruel world. There is much beauty and truth to reach out to. We can create our own heaven on Earth, and it is totally up to us.I have a continuing debate with my good friend Craig S. ho is avout believer. Craig is a person of excellent character who cares deeply about other people and about the Earth.Dear Friend Craig,you said:Creationists, of course, have not the slightest problem with naturalselection...creation and evolution are actually both outside therealms of science and, to know this, you need to know what scienceis...neither "process" is currently observable, testable orrepeatable. I have a problem with a statement saying that evolution is faroutside the scientific realm. Evolution is science and God is faith.They are two different things as far as I'm concerned. Becauseevolution is not testable directly doesn't mean we cannot use carbondating, fossil discoveries to sharpen our pool of evidence toapproximate the best possible understanding given our humanlimitations. It is arrogance to think we have all the answers. Whatreligion says is..."We can stop thinking now. Let's throu up ourhands because this world is too scary and complicated." That is acop out I think. Let's use the reason we were given biologicallyand use it to the utmost limit. We only use 5 percent of our brainsright? Religion may be an outdated part of the cortex. Logical rflection is the advanced part in my opinion. You quoted this:I am also talking about the appearance of life startingfrom inanimate chemicals. When I am talking about evolution, I am nt speaking of natural selection." This statement also doesn't make sense. When one speaks aboutevolution one has to speak of natural selection. It is the principleupon which it is based. It's like saying, "When you are talkingabout culinary arts, you cannot talk about recipes." Of course Iknow where he is going. He is trying to make a deeper point...thathe is in touch with some sublime insight, that science must beinadequate given the conversion from inanimate life to animate life. What if there were 10 to the Google Plex years to get this done, itmay have happened this way. Humans cannot not grasp the concept ofinfinite time or space. It's with science that we humbly take thesteps, not with gross generalizations. If there is a God, I thinkhe would want us not to assume but to make one great discovery afteranother, walking not running.What about the scientific method of carefully testing hypothesis anddisregarding if there is the slightest inconsistency? Science isthe best method we have given our limited five senses. Having faiththat there is a creator and that nothing more needs to be looked intomeans we can just throw up our arms and say "God is in control." What is the purpose of Free Will then? I’ll stick with science because it’s the best we can do to understand the world and how it works. I would rather have a cardiologist perform heart surgery on me rather than a priest. The cardiologist has science on his side. Let's continue the debate. This is fascinating. Your Friend, Jeff---- Original Message ----From: csather To: jeffdeb@milwpc.comSubject: RE: Yale Daily News - Popular anti-religion creates falsedichotomyDate: Sat, 26 Jan 2008 16:47:47 -0600Dear Jeff,In the book, "In 6 Days - Why 50 scientists believe in Creation"there is a statement by one of the scientists, "Creationists, of course, have not the slightest problem with naturalselection...creation and evolution are actually both outside therealms of science and, to know this, you need to know what scienceis...neither "process" is currently observable, testable orrepeatable. Please note that when speaking of evolution, I amtalking of the appearance of new (not rearranged) geneticinformation. I am also talking about the appearance of life startingfrom inanimate chemicals. When I am talking about evolution, I amnot speaking of natural selection." The man who wrote this is Dr.Stephen Grocott, who holds a BS in Chemistry and a PhD inorganometallic chemistry from the University of Western Australia. He holds 4 patents, has published about 30 research papers. He is anelected fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute.This book is quite interesting, and points out the patently falsestatement by Dawkins about scientists not subscribing to creation.All 50 contributors have an earned doctorate from a state recognizeduniversity in Australia, the US, the United Kingdom, Canada, SouthAfrica or Germany. If Dawkins is wrong about this statement, howmany other statements are being made on his faith that God does notexist? It takes faith to believe in either proposition.CraigThis is what it all comes down to. It’s looking up into the night sky full of stars and becoming infinitely humble looking at the mystery of it all. In theological terms, every day is a miracle. The fact that we can live, love, think, care for one another share a laugh or a smile, that we can evolve toward peace using our minds. That is a miracle to me, that I was born during this time of history. That is fascinating to me.Are most with the atheist world view lacking compassion? A fair question. Most probably misinterpret atheists who have a deep sense of compassion and ethics. Some use the atheist label for themselves to express anger against overly religious parents or wrongs done in their lives such an aborted fetus, an uncle who died suddenly, or relatives dying in a car accident. I believe atheism can be a superficial reaction to authority or a carefully reasoned philosophy. The later I respect infinitely more.I think a lot of us are just plain uncomfortable with the idea that we evolved from apes and from lower forms of life. We cringe at the amoral laws of nature and that we came from that random primordial soup. Can we see the logic in why God would have designed snakes, scorpions or spiders. Charles Darwin said of wasps:"I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living body of caterpillars."But as Darwin would remind us, the evolutionary process has produced wonderfully designed creatures, and that there are always new mysteries to uncover. We take the good with the bad, but what a wonderful mystery this Earth is. So much to discover with so little time. Some Christians who are mad at Dawkins say that evolution will always be a theory because we will never be able to directly observe what happened millions of years ago. One reviewer of Richard Dawkins wrote this:It is the grandest insult to human knowledge - to suppose that we have to observe something visually in order to know it sends us straight back to the Dark Ages. You can ask questions of this kind all you want and nothing will ever constitute a sufficient answer if you have already supposed that the answer must be mystical in some way.Again, you cannot reason someone out of something they were not reasoned into in the first place. Science uses exact terms and definitions in debate and the debate is rational. Faith uses inexact terms in debate and the discourse is often times irrational and directionless.This sudden intuitive dawning, this ah-hah experience at the age of 48 that I appear to be experiencing brings some mixed feelings. I feel like I have lost an innocence after having faith in a protector in the sky just a short time ago. The death of my Uncle Charlie is bringing on a feeling(stronger than ever) that an unexamined life is not worth living. To examine life to its fullest is to search out the most important question. The most important question right now is the God question, one we as humans seem to be the most conflicted about. I too am deeply conflicted about this question. Reading Sam Harris, Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins gives me hope in the rationality possible in the human race but also brings a sense of longing for spiritual belief, more than ever. It’s like a void that needs to be filled with something, but with what? This Amazon reviewer talks about how his life has gone into a sort of depressive tail spin after reading Dawkins. He talks about how his once pure spiritual outlook has been “battered.” It is interesting that he admits that Dawkins is “too convincing” in his arguments against supernaturalism:The book renders a God or supreme power of any sort quite superfluous for the purpose of accounting for the way the world is, and the way life is. It accounts for the nature of life, and for human nature, only too well, whereas most religions or spiritual outlooks raise problems that have to be got around. It presents an appallingly pessimistic view of human nature, and makes life seem utterly pointless; yet I cannot present any arguments to refute its point of view. I still try to have some kind of spiritual outlook, but it is definitely battered, and I have not yet overcome the effects of this book on me.Richard Dawkins seems to have the idea that religion and spirituality are not only false, but ultimately unable to give a real sense of meaning and purpose in life. Their satisfaction is hollow, empty, and unreal, in his apparent view, and only a scientific understanding of life can give a real, lasting sense of wonder and purpose.Iwould question this. While I am not sure what (if anything) there is spiritually, I know that a scientific view of life cannot offer the slightest hope of life after death, and since we're all going to die and most of us don't want to, this is a crippling drawback to the kind of scientific vision Dawkins wants us all to have. If there is nothing beyond death, no spiritual dimension to anything, and everything is just a blind dance of atoms, I fail to see how this by itself can give one a real sense of purpose, however fascinating the dance that Dawkins describes - and it *is* fascinating; let there be no mistake about that.Because of this, I have the curious feeling of dichotomy about Dawkins' book that it is certainly fascinating on one level, but that I cannot give even qualified emotional commitment to the outlook on life that seems to lie behind it. I would in the end rather have the hope of something wonderful and purposeful that only some spiritual outlook can offer, even though it may be a deluded fantasy, than the certainty of a scientific vision that eliminates any possibility of long-term hope, that condemns us to an empty, eternal death of nothingness in the end. This scientific view may be completely rational; but rationality is not the only important consideration to shape our outlook on life.Anyone who has a narrow religious view of life, who is absolutely sure their religion is completely right, would be best off avoiding this book like the plague - it probably won't change their views, but they will quite likely get very upset and outraged. And anyone with an open-minded spiritual view had better at least be prepared to do a lot of thinking, and perhaps be willing to change some of their views, because this book *will* challenge almost any spiritual or religious viewpoint I can think of - whether it is of the open-minded or dogmatic sort.Some critics of this book have found its reasoning unconvincing, its materialist reductionism too superficial and shallow. But, from my perspective, the problem does not lie here; the problem with the book is that it is *too* convincing, that it is *entirely* convincing. The book makes it very difficult to continue to believe in anything that contradicts its basic premise, but which might be more comforting, and might give a greater sense of hope and inspiration, and provide a real sense of purpose in life.Such have its effects on my life been that, in my more depressed moments, I have desperately wished I could unread the book, and continue life from where I left off.It has been said that each of us has a God-shaped hole inside, and that we spend most of our lives trying to fill it with the wrong things. I firmly believe that God-shaped hole is there, that we have inner longings of a wonderful sort almost impossible to describe in words. Whether a God exists to fill it, I do not yet know. But what I am sure of is that, as wonderful as Dawkins' view of nature and of life may be on its own level, it will not fill that God-shaped hole.The question is---what to do with that spiritual hole. I say, fill it with wonderment about the natural world, be thankful for every single day, every single hour you are on the planet. Whatever this is, it’s more than kind of neat Just think of the scientific discoveries that await us having to do with time, space, genetic memory, etc. etc. The emperor has no clothes and conventional religion cannot begin to answer our questions anymore.I’ve started a book by John Updike called “In the Beauty of the Lillies.” It is about a pastor who is losing his faith and cannot in good conscience go on preaching, because it is not what he feels in his heart. To the chagrin of his wife, he says he wants to quit the church. His life is in a tailspin because he cannot face the possibility of being a fake to himself, thinking that any meaningful life has to be grounded in truth first and foremost. This is a sort of the bind I feel like I’m in right now, to be true to myself or politically pacify my family.“A Letter to Christian Nation” inspired me to write this essay. Here is an interesting comment about the book by a reviewer:The author's points about embryonic stem cell research and creationism in the public schools are extremely important for anyone who embraces modernity and progress. While a handful of other authors attempt to feebly argue the ridiculous idea that modern science was produced by Christian thinking, Harris explains what should be obvious -- that religion is now, and has always been, a serious impediment to science. Some people are currently trying to force public schools to teach our children that their ancient creation myth -- a fantastic story for which there is only contradictory evidence -- is a good viable alternative to evolution, a well established scientific explanation of human development for which there is a mountain of supporting evidence. These same folks also wish to impede embryonic stem cell research, which could potentially result in cures and treatments for numerous human diseases and afflictions, simply because their prudery-inspired anti-abortion agenda has forced them into the absurd logical conclusion of contending that a 3-day-old blastocyst in a petrie dish is a full fledged person possessing the same rights as anyone reading this sentence. Now, these religious opponents of progress will insist until they're blue in the face that they're not against science. But watching them make every attempt to stop the advance of very important science like stem cell research and evolution while at the same time insisting that they support "real science" is like watching an obese man deny that he has a weight problem while he dines on a bucket of fried chicken.There are many very real contradictions in religious thought, because it is not logical. It is not rational.I find scientific statements like this fascinating….A sugar cube of neutron-star stuff on Earth would weigh as much as all of humanity!There is so much we don’t know about our universe. Why isn’t the Bible more humble and why isn’t marvelous universe addressed in this book of knowledge? There is no evidence of intellectual curiosity in the Bible. Maybe we need a new book. Why isn’t Michael Behe more humble when he throws up his hands and says everything is irreducibly complex? In “The Origin of the Species,” Charles Darwin wrote:"If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case. No doubt many organs exist of which we do not know the transitional grades, more especially if we look to much-isolated species, round which, according to my theory, there has been much extinction. Or again, if we look to an organ common to all the members of a large class, for in this latter case the organ must have been first formed at an extremely remote period, since which all the many members of the class have been developed; and in order to discover the early transitional grades through which the organ has passed, we should have to look to very ancient ancestral forms.”Albert Einstein once said, “The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed out candle. “ He also differentiated between types of atheists, saying, “What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos.”In his book “The End of Faith,” Sam Harris says,“Our willingness to ignore reason and scientific facts as we maintain our beliefs, not based on sound science and reason, will lead the world into more peril because these beliefs not only legitimize intolerance, but they have also invaded most aspects of political and secular life and threaten to become apocalyptic in a world with weapons of mass destruction.”Harris, who is now working toward a Doctorate in Neuroscience, seems genuinely concerned about the ability of mankind to save itself through rational means, inferring that no supernatural God is going to bale us out of current problems we have like over-populuation, terrorism, poverty, disease and pollution.A Mensa study in 2002 showed a very strong correlation between intelligence and the choice to have fewer religious beliefs. It found that the higher the intelligent or education level, the more probability that the person will not clinging to some preset religious rules for one’s own salvation. Studies also proved recently that there is no evidence that prayer helps people. A double blind study was done and it found that the lives of people in hospitals who were prayed for did not improve appreciably and sometimes got worse. The people who were not prayed for did not show any deviation from any normal curve of recovery and other health variables. Now, here is the very ironic point. Religiously inclined people tend would probably be chomping at the bit to interpret information that let’s say would prove that Jesus’s birth could not be tracked to any sexual intercourse before hand. Say that science was able to analyze the body of Jesus’s mother and determine that she could not have received sperm from any male contributor in order to give birth. The religiously inclined would flock to the evidence. As Richard Dawkins infers, one cannot see a fundamentalist Christian stating that it is “just science, I have enough proof in my own mind to know it is true.” Something tells me that they would not ignore the evidence and that Pat Robertson would have it as a top story on his 700 Club, using science to prove his hazy points. Ironic. Truly ironic.Jerry Coyne recently wrote in the Guardian magazine:“Why is God considered an explanation of anything? It’s not. It’s a failure to explain, a shrug of the shoulders. An ‘I dunno’ dressed up in spirituality and ritual. If someone credits something to God, generally what that means is that haven’t a clue, so they’re attributing it to unreachable unknown sky fairy. Ask for an explanation of where the bloke came from and odds are that you’ll get a vague, pseudo-philosophical reply about having always existed or being outside nature. Which of course, explains nothing.”I have used the argument with deeply ingrained and somewhat militant atheists that there could be something outside of the five senses that we are not perceiving that could be true. But they counter with the argument that how can we know anything outside the realm of science? Good point. We can only speculate. We can speculate that there is a gigantic teapot that steams away up in the sky ruling all of our sub conscious experiences. There could be a huge banana in the sky that peels off pearls of vitamin-laced molecules of wisdom. You can make up anything if you don’t have logic. That’s the serious problem mankind is faced with here. Logic is our only way out even though we can speculate beyond logic.What’s so dangerous about belief in irreducible complexity or intelligent design is that we give up using our brains(which are most ironically the most highly evolved tools we have to reflect and logically analyze this beautiful diversity we have here on Earth.) I think if there is a God(oh, there I go again) he/she would want us to use every single cell of our brains to comprehend this complex and wonderful, beautiful world. Traditional faith, you are going in the wrong direction. Let’s appreciate the marvelous complexity of the one-celled animal or what salt looks like under a microscope or the colors of the rainbow. Even the religious could be taught to appreciate the 10 to the googleplex power of biologic beauty that has been dumped on us in our very very very short lives here on the planet. There is no time to waste reading and exploring all one can to get in touch which what we could call “the miracle of just being here.” Where? On Earth of course! We are living in heaven right now. Let’s wake up and smell the coffee.Let’s for a moment bring the anthropic principle into the mix. At face value, it would seem that this would bring in more ammunition for the ID inclined. But the relativism which is inferred by it, only deepens my scientific curiosity. The fact that life could have evolved in a google-plex number of combinations lights the fire of my imagination perhaps like Douglas Adams was awe struck by the world beyond God. With our limited scientific minds, we are given the chance to figure things out. Truly amazing.This morning I prepared for a meeting with my Stephen minister. I picked out about a dozen Bible verses out of about 90 on a Christian calendar that I got from Miles Kimball. The key was finding things that were meaningful to me. I picked out several that really struck me as having some meaning that was applicable to real life. Words of the Bible must not be taken literally, but highly figuratively. It’s what it means to you and how a person can shape the ultimate life path. My song “Beyond Belief” to my wife Debbie has a line about meeting in heaven. It is figurative. I don’t really believe that I’m glancing at Debbie at the pearly gates. It means that in the infinite time there is a chance of anything. My mind is open to the remote possibility that we may see each other again.I picked out some psalms the other day and gave my interpretation to each one and then my Stephen Minister Tim and I had a very spirited discussion about their meanings.This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be gladin it." Psalm 118:24 Be happy about each day, each minute for that matter on Earth. Thisis a very special experience...more special than you would everimagine. Rejoice and enjoy the entire experience! Live each dayto the fullest. That's the idea."And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring youtidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." Luke 2:10 Don't forget about the great potential for giving that all peoplehave, that angels can be seen in the eyes of almost everyone in theright circumstances. Good things happen and good does notdiscrimminate between the lucky and the needy. We can all recognizeand take solice from our angels of mercy."For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shalllose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it." Mark 8:35This simply means keep the spirit alive. The old future is gone,but it is up to us to shed the old unproductive ways and develop lifehabits that make sense for the long run. The Christian would say tobe come more completed in his/her faith. We are losing our oldselves in favor of the newly evolved self. New ways to interact andto think and to act. We are hopefully improving until the day weare 80, 90 or 100. If we save our life for our own sake withoutintegrating with a combination of our fellow human beings then it'sall worth nothing. We must be highly integrated in helping. Wemust learn to tap into the energy that enables us to rush ahead withlife with a high level of meaning and momentum and not wallow in selfpity when down or over involve ourselves with our own ego when up. Share the joy with others and your life will mean infinitely more."And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath givenhimself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor." Ephesians 5:2 To walk in love....what a beautiful thought. For truth alone withoutlove wiil perish and love without truth is naive. To hear infinitelove and truth will propel us to greater heights and help us touchthe face of God. You will encounter the slings and arrows ofmisfortune when taking the hard road, but it will all be worth it ifwhen a higher purpose is embraced. Each person must choose his/herown spiritual path, but must be highly integrated with goodness andrighteousness. Have the courage to take your own brave. That iswhat that is saying to me."A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not, but knowledge is easyunto him that understandeth." Proverbs 14:6 Have a good attitude and important life wisdom and knowledge tends tostick. Wisdom accumulates on wisdom and becomes infinitely morepowerful and yes I guess you could say closer to God, whatever yousee him/her as."Where no counsel is, the people fall; but in the multitude ofcounselors there is safety." Proverbs 11:14 I'm not sure what this one means. Maybe Tim or Craig can help me with this one. Maybe it means we have the responsibility to choose good friends who can be great counselors in the time of need."And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of thefirmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever." Daniel 12:3 Sharing wisdom is as true and beautiful as the stars in the sky. Reach out with faith and it becomes infinitely more meaningful andpowerful."Seek the Lord, and his strength: seek his face evermore." Psalm 105:4 Seeking out the face of goodness; that has a very spiritual meaningfor me. We are continually looking for God in others. Seek thegreatest truth and beauty every minute of our lives. We must allfollow our own roads to spiritual truth. It is truly the road lesstraveled. A Christian would always believe that the power of God isalways with him or her. That one is never alone----what a powerful feeling."For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world,and lose his own soul." Mark 8:36 This is a powerful one for me. If we don't follow our ownconscience...that angel on our shoulder, then we are doomed to do thepleasureable thing, but not necessarily the correct thing. Life isseries of decisions. Jesus always has patience even when we fall offthe ladder. Worldly prizes don't mean anything in heaven. My purpose for writing this is to attempt to examine severalimportant passages in the Bible, throwing most out but keeping theprecious. Hold onto the precious ones dearly. I write this as Iprepare to meet with my Stephen Minister at Starbucks today. I continue to ask a lot ofquestions and Tim is very patient with my spiritual development. Oh, by the way, What exactly is spiritual development?Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around –Leo Buscaglia.Ryan(who just turned 13) decided to join us for church yesterday. It was an amazing turn around for Ryan who has rejected taking in the experience for some time. I have always emphasized the fellowship aspect of church to him and maybe he is realizing it will not kill him to experience something that Mom highly cherishes. Ryan willingly participated in sharing the peace and even in reading verses and singing part of the hymns. It was a grand effort from Ry and I deeply respect it. We talked to one of the church leaders(Paula Draves) after the service and Ryan was very appropriate with our friend. Does religion fill a gap in the brain, a need that needs to be satisfied whether God exists or not? Or is it more about love of this life in this world and the intense need for friendship. I like the talking before and after the service and of course, the sharing of the peace. It is about the “Namaste” of the experience. This is the word that Tim and I were trying to remember as we savored our caramel coffee at Starbucks. According to Wikipedia, Namaste means:Namaste is one of the few Sanskrit words commonly recognized by Non-Hindi speakers. In the West, it is often used to indicate South Asian culture in general. "Namaste" is particularly associated with aspects of South Asian culture such as vegetarianism, yoga, ayurvedic healing, and Hinduism.In recent times, and more globally, the term "namaste" has come to be especially associated with yoga and spiritual meditation all over the world. In this context, it has been viewed in terms of a multitude of very complicated and poetic meanings which tie in with the spiritual origins of the word. Some examples:"I honor the Spirit in you which is also in me." -- attributed to author Deepak Chopra[citation needed]"I honor the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells, I honor the place in you which is of Love, of Integrity, of Wisdom and of Peace, When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are One.""I salute the God within you.""I recognize that we are all equal.""The entire universe resides within you.""The divine peace in me greets the divine peace in you.""Your spirit and my spirit are ONE." --"That which is of the Divine in me greets that which is of the Divine in you.""The Divinity within me perceives and adores the Divinity within you".The concept of Namaste means that we infinitely respect what is in others, the beauty they perceive and the hopes, dreams and innocence that still exists in their soul. In a recent Deepak Chopra book, he talks about the rose. If we perceive a beautiful rose, our senses send signals to make it real in our mind. So literally, much of the beauty of that rose exists in our mind. It brings up the argument of how much of the world’s beauty is perception and how much is actual reality. A religious person may say the beauty of the rose is a gift straight from God. Of course, give our complex brains some credit, right? But, Namaste, means to respect the infinite worth in all living things, especially the God that exists in the world’s most highly evolved creatures, human beings. It is a concept like Namaste that can be extremely powerful in the world. It has the potential to counteract what is worst in human beings, like war, arrogance, greed, and selfishness. It has the potential to help us see the tremendous potential in each of us to achieve peace instead of conflict, elevating our quality of life in every way on this fragile planet of ours. If I remember correctly, it was the great Gandhi who used this when greeting everyone, respecting the very best everyone brings to life.He that hath a numerous family, and many to provide for, needs agreater providence of God. --Jer. Taylor.Providence is such a powerful concept, that implies that the greatlife force has a sort of empathy for us and that we are being watched and cared for. This is what makes athiesm so dangerous, that we riskbursting the bubble of people who happily and confidently believethat there is something greater and that there is a force of somekind protecting the good, the righteous and the ethical. It seemslike a gigantic mystery, but there is certainly no scientificevidence for this being true---but it is something that many "feeldeep in their hearts and souls." Hard core athiests would callprovidence a delusion a simple trick we are playing on our own mindsto feel safer or more protect ourselves. Hard core athiesm has the potential to bring on some very heavy andpossibly dangerous paradigm shifts in the minds of the believers,maybe some huge let downs. I guess my only advice is that we must bevery courageous in the hour of our extreme uncertainty. God is nothing you can prove by science. A good friend of mine recently recommended a book called "A Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel. As one reviewer said of the book, "Some of Strobel's points, I think, are irrefutable: Jesus did exist, his life is muchbetter documented than that of any figure of the same era and he didnot merely swoon on the cross, but actually died there.However, I found some of the key arguments for his divinity,resurrection and miracles less than convincing. For instance, one ofthe scholars interviewed, J. P. Moreland, argues that the bestcircumstantial evidence for Jesus's resurrection is the conversion of"an entire community of 10,000 Jews" to Christianity within fiveweeks of his crucifixion. This is all the more striking, he says, asthe Jews' extremely resilient beliefs and religious practices havesurvived over the millenia." It seems like some directionless tripto prove some literalism of the Bible's events from a man hell-benton making a point. Not real journalism at all I don't think. Itsmells like a heavy dose of pseudo science! I have just picked up "The Blind Watchmaker" by Richard Dawkins fromthe local library. I like the way Dawkins writes when compared tohis overly pious and serious minded counterparts. It's more eloquent and poetic where people like Behe and other right winger evangelicals posing as scientists seem to always be straining to make a point andtalk in less exact terms. Like the writing of Stephen Jay Gould, Bill Nye, Isaac Asimov or Carl Sagan it is easier to digest because it is not so pretentious. It doesn't try too hard to be goodwriting, if you know what I mean. Since life is too short and Ihaven't finished the book yet, I will go to just the 5 star reviewsof the Dawkins masterpiece. This reviewer was impressed with Dawkins' honest and direct writingstyle: "It's pretty obvious that a fair few people criticising this bookhave not read it - and have no intention to. Or if they have attempted to read it they simply haven't grasped the most basic concepts. General assumptions that a pro-evolution stance is just an"opinion", or that evolution is "just a theory" (a complete misunderstanding of the meaning of the word in a scientific context),or statements like "given enough time, dirt can turn into people."show that clearly.One person even takes one of the central aims of the book - where Dawkins takes Paley's watchmaker analogy and attempts to show how a complex object like an eye could evolve byselection - and berates Dawkins because because he apparently doesn'tgrasp the fact that because a watch or computer has a designer, thatlife must have a designer as well! Awe-inspiring. If I remember healso accuses Dawkins of circular reasoning! The whole case of the book is that this "it's all chance" thing isprecisely the opposite of what Darwin and Wallace said. As Dawkinswrites in the prologue "The trouble with evolution is that everyone*thinks* they understand it". If one thing should be taken from thisbook, it is the realisation that Natural Selection is *anything* butchance. I used to think I understood evolution. I did Biology as anelective at university but I didn't really begin to understand thesubtleties and elegance of the theory until I first read this book 10years ago. It's genuinely one of the milestone books of my life - and not because I already had an opinion before I read it - unlike the creationists." A reviewer of Sam Harris's book "Letter to a Christian Nation" isprobably firing on all cylinders when he says,"Letter to a Christian Nation" is a call to everyone of faith to move past their belief systems and progress toward a future world where humanity can solve its most pressing problems using intellectual honesty and without having to resort to irrational and superstitious lines of reasoning (or lack thereof)."Let's think about that term---intellectual honesty. We need to behonest with ourselves and others if true communication is to takeplace right? If we hide in delusion using words that we alone havemeanings for, then we never connect with each other. I think weshould ponder what this "intellectual honesty" means to us and whatvalue it should play in our lives. As the reviewer implies,"irrational and superstitious lines of reasoning" only get us further into trouble. We need to interact with each other on clearly defined and honest terms and I don't think religion always lets us do that.JM