Sunrise over Saint George

On vacation this week. Hope y’all enjoy yourselves. More to follow probably =)

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September 11th, 2001

I’ll never forget hearing on the radio that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center as my work day was starting. I’ll never forget turning on the television and watching the plume of smoke as it rose against the New York skyline. I’ll never forget my confusion. What happened? How could a plane fly into a building like that? Did the pilot pass out? Did the navigation equipment malfunction?

I’ll never forget watching the second plane smash into the other tower. I’ll never forget turning to my boss and friend, Ed McGee, and how we came to the fantastical realization that this was not accidental, but on purpose. I’ll never forget the anger I felt upon this realization.

I’ll never forget calling my wife that day. I’ll never forget telling her to pick our children up and take them home. I’ll never forget that feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop and being powerless to do anything about it.

I’ll never forget the reports that continued to come in. A plane had struck the Pentagon. A plane was missing and assumed to have crashed in western Pennsylvania. I’ll never forget how I felt when we learned all flights had been grounded. How could someone do this to the United States of America?

I’ll never forget watching the buildings burn. I’ll never forget wondering how the people in the buildings were going to get out. I’ll never forget thinking about what the emergency responders were facing as they entered the buildings to save lives.

I’ll never forget the horror I felt as the first building collapsed. I’ll never forget the feeling of despair as I realized that all of those people trapped in the building and those responders trying to save them were almost certainly dead. I’ll never forget thinking the other building won’t be far behind. It wasn’t.

I’ll never forget the days that followed. The investigation, the pictures of people leaping to their death to avoid being burned alive. The shock of it all and the anger. The realization that there really is evil in the world, and the realization of what evil men were capable of when not restrained.

I’ll never forget the contrasting tales of heroism that day. I’ll never forget my admiration for those fallen responders who rushed into the breach, disregarding their own safety in their desire to help others. I’ll never forget learning about how the passengers of the flight over Philadelphia attempted to retake the plane and ultimately crashed it, instead of letting it be used as a weapon like the other three were. I’ll never forget contemplating the vast and clearly marked divide between evil and good.

September eleventh, two thousand one. Never. Ever. Forget.

Cross Roads of Faith: Quick Quotes 9/9/14 – The Atheists’ Creed

Every now and then I run across an article with information I think is relevant to the purposes of this blog, but that I am not prepared (or maybe not inclined) to write a full blown article on the subject. So, I have decided to do a “Quick Quotes” post on some of these articles, in order to highlight information for interested parties, and to help myself keep track of possible ideas for future articles.

quotes

Some quotes are more informative than others…

The Atheists’ Creed

(AKA Humanist creed, revised from the Apostle’s Creed)

I don’t believe in God, an imaginary father with almighty power.

I don’t believe in heaven; I do believe in earth.

I believe that a man called Jesus of Nazareth lived in Palestine at the beginning of the Common Era,

That he was conceived in the way of all human beings, that he was born of a woman called Mary, that he had a following large enough to trouble the authorities of his day, that it’s very difficult to separate what he actually said and did from what people would later say he said and did, that odds are good that he was a more than decent man.

I believe that this Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate; that he was crucified, died and was buried, that there were no souls in hell waiting for him to set them free, that his death was in no way redemptive, that crucifixion has to be hell enough for any person.

I believe that when Jesus died, he remained dead. He did not ascend into an imaginary heaven, nor does he sit at the right or left hand of God, an imaginary father.

I do not believe that Jesus judges human beings. It seems to me that far too much judging goes on in his name, and that most of us try to do the best we can with the lives we’ve been given and that all of us fall short of the unreachable ideals we sometimes set for ourselves, that we ought to be kinder to ourselves.

I do not believe in ghosts, holy or otherwise.

I believe that the church is a human institution that still has much to learn about the humane exercise of power and authority.

I believe that each human being is connected with every other human being by bonds we do not often perceive, that what we do matters because our deeds affect beings animate and inanimate, for better or for worse.

I believe that justice and mercy are both essential and that forgiveness is often one of the deepest kindnesses we can extend to others and to ourselves, but that it should not be offered indiscriminately.

I believe that when we’re dead, we’re dead, and that while we, for a brief stretch of years, breathe upon this planet, we experience mysteries we ought not pretend to understand, though one day human beings will understand them better than we do now. I believe that we should affirm as true only those things we know with reasonable certainty, according to rigorous standards of history and science, that to cede our intellect to religious tradition is to allow ourselves to be manipulated by those who benefit from our credulity. I believe in the value of helping others and nurturing ourselves so that we can live lives as full as they can be.

Amen.

I’ll post an actual article with some of my own thoughts and questions about this creed, but I’d like really like to ask you, the reader, for your input. Atheists/humanists, do you subscribe to this creed? Do you agree with the things she has affirmed? Christians, are you offended by this creed?

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Previous “Quick Quotes”:

Cross Roads of Faith: Quick Quotes 9-1-14 – Some Biological Common Sense

Cross Roads of Faith: Quick Quotes 9/5/14 – (Former A)Theist Antony Flew on Islam

Sign here, whoever you are: California’s birth certificate makeover

At the end of the day, biologically speaking, a child has one mother and one father. Why are we trying to complicate this simple biological principle?

askthe"Bigot"

On the day when the first wedding bells were ringing for gay marriages in my state, I wrote a post about how the push for “marriage equality” was not the end game for some gay marriage advocates, but rather the beginning of an unraveling of children’s rights on many fronts.  The final paragraph of that post read:

Our new law is the beginning of significant legal challenges to the structure of family, especially as they relate to children. Examples include California’s narrowly defeated “three parents” law, France’s push to erase all references to “mother” and “father” from legal documents, and Quebec’s efforts to stamp out “heterosexism” (the idea that heterosexuality is normal). So while the definition of marriage has been redefined in our state, judging from states/countries that are further down this road, there are many more legal issues that will arise in the future. And if we continue to consider marriage to be primarily about…

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Cross Roads of Faith: Quick Quotes 9/5/14 – (Former A)Theist Antony Flew on Islam

Every now and then I run across an article with information I think is relevant to the purposes of this blog, but that I am not prepared (or maybe not inclined) to write a full blown article on the subject. So, I have decided to do a “Quick Quotes” post on some of these articles, in order to highlight information for interested parties, and to help myself keep track of possible ideas for future articles.

quotes

Some quotes are more informative than others…

Antony Flew was one of the most prominent and influential atheistic philosophers of the late 20th and early 21st century, that is until he became a theist based on the evidence of design in the cosmos and in living things. In an article entitled My Pilgrimage from Atheism to Theism, an interview of Flew conducted by Gary Habermas, Habermas interviewed Flew about his transition to theism. It’s a very interesting read. What particularly grabbed me in the article was some of Flew’s commentary on Islam, in contrast with Christianity, and here I will present some of his thoughts. Please note, the quotes below are not necessarily contiguous. Read the article for context!

As for Islam, it is, I think, best described in a Marxian way as the uniting and justifying ideology of Arab imperialism. Between the New Testament and the Qur’an there is (as it is customary to say when making such comparisons) no comparison. Whereas markets can be found for books on reading the Bible as literature, to read the Qur’an is a penance rather than a pleasure. There is no order or development in its subject matter. All the chapters (the suras) are arranged in order of their length, with the longest at the beginning. However, since the Qur’an consists in a collection of bits and pieces of putative revelation delivered to the prophet Mohammad by the Archangel Gabriel in classical Arab on many separate but unknown occasions, it is difficult to suggest any superior principle of organization.

Whereas St. Paul, who was the chief contributor to the New Testament, knew all the three relevant languages and obviously possessed a first class philosophical mind, the Prophet, though gifted in the arts of persuasion and clearly a considerable military leader, was both doubtfully literate and certainly ill-informed about the contents of the Old Testament and about several matters of which God, if not even the least informed of the Prophet’s contemporaries, must have been cognizant.

This raises the possibility of what my philosophical contemporaries in the heyday of Gilbert Ryle would have described as a knock-down falsification of Islam: something which is most certainly not possible in the case of Christianity.  If I do eventually produce such a paper it will obviously have to be published anonymously. [emphasis mine]

The Bible is a work which someone who had not the slightest concern about the question of the truth or falsity of the Christian religion could read as people read the novels of the best novelists. It is an eminently readable book.

Well, one thing I’ll say in this comparison is that, for goodness sake, Jesus is an enormously attractive charismatic figure, which the Prophet of Islam most emphatically is not.

I tried to read the Qur’an once. I understand Flew’s perspective on its composition. The whole article is fascinating and I recommend it. Anyone care to take a stab at the bolded comment?

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Post-publication edit: Although the title of my article, and the title of the original article, refer to Antony Flew as a “theist”, he was actually a “deist.” This distinction is addressed in the linked interview. Please forgive me if it seems I was trying to trick anyone. Thank you.

Previous “Quick Quotes”:

 Cross Roads of Faith: Quick Quotes 9-1-14

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part Three

One of the blogs I have begun following, entitled “hessianwithteeth” (HWT), has posted a series of articles entitled “Why I Can’t Agree with the Bible“. These articles basically list questions that the author has as she reads through the Bible, starting with Genesis. I will now attempt to answer some of the questions she has from the book of Genesis, using the criteria set forth in my introductory article.

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Questions? We all have them.

Previous articles in this series:

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part Two

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part One

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Introduction

We go back to the nakedness being evil thing again when Ham, Noah’s son, sees Noah naked. So Noah curses Ham’s son Canaan (oh look, the Hebrew Canaanites) for Ham seeing him naked, and he praises his son Shem for covering him (though both of Ham’s brothers apparently covered him, so why did only one get praised?). How does Noah know what has happened to him since he seemed to immediately wake up and curse Canaan? Why is Ham seeing him naked (by accident) so bad that Noah curses his own grandson as punishment? Why does he curse Canaan instead of Ham?

 Unfortunately I do not have a whole lot of light to shed on this particular subject. However, I find myself in good company, as the research I’ve done and the questions I’ve asked have borne little fruit.  I will tackle these questions one by one and answer them as best I can.

HWT: “[Shem and Japheth] apparently covered him, so why did only one get praised?”

Actually, they were both praised (or, more accurately, blessed).

And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. (Gen 9:26-27)

HWT: “How does Noah know what has happened to him since he seemed to immediately wake up and curse Canaan?”

This is a good question, and the text does not reveal the answer overtly. It could be that by “awakened” the author is saying he sobered up from being drunk, and remembered what happened while he was drunk. Or, alternatively, his wife or other children may have informed him of what happened. These seem to be the simplest and most parsimonious answers.

HWT: “Why is Ham seeing him naked (by accident) so bad that Noah curses his own grandson as punishment?”

Here, you have made an assumption that is not contained within the text, i.e. “by accident.”

And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. (Gen 9:22)

Now granted, it doesn’t say it was on purpose either. However, because of the severity of the punishment, I am inclined to think it was more than an accidental peek. However, exactly what happened is definitely the $64 question. There are many hypotheses ranging from Ham castrating Noah to Ham sleeping with Noah’s wife (Ham’s mother). While I would call the castration hypothesis hogwash, at least the infidelity with Noah’s wife has some merit based on a phrase used later in the giving of the law.

Lev 18:8 The nakedness of thy father’s wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father’s nakedness.

Lev 20:11 And the man that lieth with his father’s wife hath uncovered his father’s nakedness…

In the light of these verses it is plausible that Ham at least purposely saw his mother in a compromising position and that possibly more occurred than just his viewing of her. It would also explain why Shem and Japheth backed into the tent to cover up their mother, when that measure seemingly wouldn’t be absolutely necessary were it just their father who was in need of covering. At any rate, it would seem from the result (Noah’s cursing of Canaan) that the cause was more than an innocent viewing of Noah in a compromising position.

HWT: “Why does he curse Canaan instead of Ham?”

This is another mystery. Some have posited that Canaan was involved in the transgression in some way, but the text simply doesn’t give any indication to that effect. At this juncture, speculation could indeed run rampant, but given the lack of evidence in this account and the lack of further details later in the revelation, I think it is quite appropriate to say “I don’t know.”

I do have a counter question for you, however. When I initially asked you to narrow down the focus of your questions, and you said “These are the questions that I am most interested in having answered”, why did you choose these, in particular?

This passage and those like it are examples of the brutal honesty of the Bible. Noah was as much a hero as any man could ever hope to be. I mean heck, he literally SAVED HUMANITY from extinction. Yet, the last picture we see of this hero is an old man naked and drunk, and cursing his grandchild. Not a pretty picture, but the Bible tells it, warts and all. There is no attempt to cover up this dark period of Noah’s life, nor the problems of many other Biblical heroes such as Abraham and David, and even Peter and Thomas and other Apostles in the New Testament had their moments. Their flaws are not covered or glossed over, but are told about and dealt with honestly, for our benefit.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Why I Am a Christian (Part Four): Fine Tuning for Discoverability

In my last article in this series we talked about how the universe appears to be finely tuned for life, and particularly for intelligent life (ie human beings). This is only part of the “design argument” as some have called it.

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Evidence for design keeps stacking up…

Previous articles in this series:

Why I Am a Christian (Part One)

Why I Am a Christian (Part Two): Because There Is Stuff

Why I am a Christian (Part Three): Fine Tuning (or, Design of the Cosmos)

To take the design argument a step further, not only does the universe appear to be designed to support our particular species, but it also seems that the designer has woven the fabric of the cosmos together in such a way that the very conditions which make our existence possible here on Earth also lend advantage to our ability to discover those conditions, and much more.

The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. -Albert Einstein

The Human Mind – Before I talk more about the physical properties of the universe and our little corner of it, I want to talk about the human mind. We have been uniquely gifted with an infinitely curious nature, and the ability to think about and learn about all of the things related, not only to this particular discussion, but to a multitude of other subjects, both real (actually existing), abstract (such as mathematics), and non-existent (such as unicorns and vampires). Human beings are the only known creatures in existence that have these unique mental properties. You can read more about the improbabilities involved in the possibility of similar life forms evolving elsewhere in the universe, purely through naturalistic processes, here.

Given that the universe is inordinately vast, is it therefore reasonable to claim that intelligent extraterrestrial life almost certainly exists elsewhere in the universe? Not at all. Multiplying the many scenarios which led to the human developments of symbolic language, mathematical understanding, and advanced technology quickly leads to probabilities which are easily as insanely small as the universe is ridiculously large. [emphasis mine]

Discoverability: the right time – In addition to the qualities of the human mind, it is also difficult to account for the fact that we (humanity) are living at just the right time in cosmic history to observe the very conditions and circumstances that cause us to question whether or not the cosmos is designed in the first place. In a paper authored by Lawrence M. Krauss (certainly no friend to theism) and Robert J. Scherrer entitled “The End of Cosmology“, the authors have made the following observations. (Note, the quotations are not contiguous. Please read the entire article for context.)

We may be living in the only epoch in the history of the universe when scientists can achieve an accurate understanding of the true nature of the universe.

What will the scientists of the future see as they peer into the skies 100 billion years from now? … The big difference will occur when these future scientists build telescopes capable of detecting galaxies outside our own. They won’t see any! The nearby galaxies will have merged with the Milky Way to form one large galaxy, and essentially all the other galaxies will be long gone, having escaped beyond the event horizon.

We are led inexorably to a very strange conclusion. The window during which intelligent observers can deduce the true nature of our expanding universe might be very short indeed.

Rather than being self-satisfied, we should feel humble. Perhaps someday we will find that our current careful and apparently complete understanding of the universe is seriously wanting. [emphasis mine]

Now, 100 billion years may seem like a long time, but as the authors admit, it “may seem long but is fairly short compared to
the wilderness of eternity.” So, the obvious question would seem to be, given the insanely small (naturalistically speaking) probability of our existence, “Why us? Why now?”

Discoverability: Our Place in the Galaxy – The “galactic habitable zone” is defined as that area of the galaxy that is life permitting (see graphic). As you can see, this zone is roughly circular, about halfway out from the center, and in between the spiral arms of our galaxy. The reasons for this seemingly narrow area of habitability are varied, ranging from radiation from stars destroyed by the supermassive black hole in the center of the galaxy to a lack of the heavy elements needed for earth to form out near the periphery. For more specifics on this subject, you can read this article at Astrobiology Magazine.

ghab

Galactic Habitable Zone

It turns out that the very conditions which make our solar system’s location in the Milky Way advantageous for life also make it possible for intelligent life (such as human beings) to explore their surroundings in the galaxy and universe. Because our solar system is located between the clusters within the spiral arms, we can view both the shape and structure of the Milky Way galaxy and much of the universe at large. If we were closer to the center of the galaxy, or located within one of the spiral arms, stellar dust and gaseous clouds illuminated by nearby starlight would severely inhibit our ability to see very far, no matter how powerful the telescopes we were using. Why should the one (habitability) so closely coincide with the other (discoverability)?

Discoverability: Earth’s Atmosphere – From National Geographic: “The Earth’s atmosphere is more than just the air we breathe. It’s also a buffer that keeps us from being peppered by meteorites, a screen against deadly radiation, and the reason radio waves can be bounced for long distances around the planet.” Earth is the only planet in the solar system with a clear atmosphere. If we had an atmosphere like Saturn, or Jupiter, we obviously could not observe very much from the surface of our planet (not to mention that type of atmosphere is inhospitable to life). The very qualities of our atmosphere that protect us from danger and enable us to breathe also lend to our ability to discover the universe around us.

A Note on Observers: As a Marine, one of the jobs I trained for was Forward Observer (FO). The FO’s purpose was to survey the battlefield and call adjustments back to the indirect firing batteries (ie mortar reams, artillery batteries, air-to-ground strike forces) so that the ordinance was delivered to the proper locations to disrupt or destroy enemy positions and operations. When the commander positions his FO, he chooses the most likely position from which the FO can see the battlefield while also trying to minimize risk to the FO from the enemy.

The location of earth and humanity in our universe seems to follow these guidelines with respect to observation and discoverability as well.

I have mentioned just a few of the features of the universe that appear to be finely tuned which also make discoverability possible for intelligent life (ie human beings). I will also give you some links so you can check these things out yourself.

Privileged Planet (video documentary) playlist

Fine Tuning for Discoverability-Robin Collins

The Place of Life and Man in Nature: Defending the Anthropocentric Thesis – Michael J. Denton

Those who disagree with the idea of a designer will of course say that it is only a happy coincidence that:

  • the values for so many of the fundamental universal constants are such that they allow humanity to exist
  • the unique qualities of our solar system and the planet earth are uniquely fitted to allow for humanity to exist
  • many of these same constants and qualities that make humanity’s existence possible also place us in a privileged position to discover, observe and study our universe and surroundings.

My question to them is at what point do we look at the mounting pile of coincidences and ask ourselves “are these really coincidences after all or is there something else going on here?”

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Cross Roads of Faith: Quick Quotes 9/1/14 – Some Biological Common Sense

Every now and then I run across an article with information I think is relevant to the purposes of this blog, but that I am not prepared (or maybe not inclined) to write a full blown article on the subject. So, I have decided to do a “Quick Quotes” post on some of these articles, in order to highlight information for interested parties, and to help myself keep track of possible ideas for future articles.

quotes

Some quotes are more informative than others….

Today’s quotes are from the following article: Evolution Used the Same Molecular Toolkit? Common Sense from Jonathan Marks  “Marks is an evolutionary biologist/anthropologist at the University of North Carolina, and an uncommonly plain speaker and writer.” Here are the quotes that caught my eye, and this is what I think about when I invariably hear or read that we are genetically “99 percent identical to chimps.”

If the overall biology of the animals tells you that they are very different, and the genetics tells you that they are nearly identical, it follows that the genetic comparison is telling you something relatively trivial about the overall biology.

Does it not stand to reason that if you essentially cannot tell human hemoglobin from gorilla hemoglobin, the sensible thing to do is to look at something else? In other words, if you cannot tell a human from a gorilla, you really should not be in biology.

If hemoglobin provides you with a lens that blurs the difference between human and gorilla, then just get a different lens. What is curious is why anyone would want to privilege such a weird dataset, a dataset that makes a human seem like a gorilla. [emphasis mine]

Thank you, Sir, for expressing what should be painfully obvious. Would anyone care to take a stab at the bolded comment?

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

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