Toward a Christianity of Common Sense

Sure, we all had some fun yesterday with the pictures I put up of me speaking. (Some of us you had a little too much fun.)

Oh, you jokesters, with your funny photo captions!

But about the talk itself.

Without question, I’m a Christian. I believe in the core stories of the gospel: that Jesus Christ was God incarnate; that he performed (what from our point of view we’d have to call) miracles; that as a means of providing for the irrevocable reconciliation of humankind to God he sacrificed himself on the cross; that he rose from the dead; that he left behind for the benefit of all people the totality of himself in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

I’m very good with all of that. It’s been at the very center of my life and consciousness since the moment of my sudden conversion.

Christ and Christianity are meant to be understood, appreciated, and experienced as galvanizing inspirations for living a life of love, compassion, fairness, peace, and humility. Period.

I also believe that!

Hmm.

Here are a few random other things I … well, hold to be self-evident:

  • The Bible is a collection of a great many separate documents written by different people in different languages over thousands of years. Properly understanding both the letter and spirit of the Bible necessarily entails taking into account the historical and culture contexts that so greatly informs so much of it its text. The size, density, history and complexity of the Bible render unfeasible the idea that not one of its words reflects more man’s will than God’s. The spirit of God is inerrant; people—even those impassioned by the conviction that God is speaking directly to or through them—are not. (For more, see my The Bible’s Two Big Problems.)
  • Anyone seeking to mix church and state has failed to understand the nature and proper role of either. Being founded upon the principal that all men are created equal and deserving of equal protection under the law is what makes the American system of democracy such a gift to mankind. To incorporate the inherently exclusionary imperatives of a particular religion into the determinedly inclusive system of the American constitutional form of government would be to undermine the very spirit of America by pushing it away from a democracy, and toward a theocracy. (Does the Holy Spirit Vote Republican?)
  • It’s not possible to read Paul’s New Testament writings and remained unmoved by his open heart, intellectual prowess, and staggering bravery. And yet Paul (whom, we should never forget, spent years zealously persecuting and having executed untold numbers of Christians) must remain to us a mortal man. More than reasonable, it is incumbent upon those who claim to seek the deepest knowledge of Christ to subject the words of Paul to the same kinds of objective analysis we would the words of any man daring to describe the qualities, purposes, and desires of God.
  • With regards to the written identity of God, the pronoun “he” is a necessity of the English language, not an actual anatomical designation. God is neither male nor female; God is large enough to contain and hold in balance any of the qualities one might assign to either. (Does the Average Christian Reader Need God to be a “He”?)
  • The Biblical scholarship supporting the idea that Paul never wrote a word proscribing natural homosexuality is at least as credible and persuasive as the scholarship (if not the typical translations) claiming that he did. Any person who uses the words of Paul in the New Testament to “prove” that homosexuality is a sin against God has either never themselves researched the matter, or has simply chosen to believe one set of equal proofs over another. Though laziness is easily enough understood, I remain mystified as to why anyone who purports to follow Jesus would choose to condemn an entire population over choosing to obey Jesus’ self-proclaimed Greatest Commandment to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself. (Christians and LGBT.)
  • It is much more reasonable—and certainly more compassionate—to hold that throughout history God chose to introduce himself in different ways into different culture streams, than it is to believe that there is only one correct way to understand and worship God, and that the punishment for anyone who chooses any but that way is to spend all of eternity having the living flesh seared off of his or her bones. (“God Can Love Me; God Can Send Me to Hell. But He Can’t Do Both.”)
  • “No one comes to the Father except through me” does not mean that only Christians can get into heaven. It means that Jesus decides who does and doesn’t make the cut. (Jesus the Decider: Do Only Christians Get Into Heaven?)
  • The question of whether or not hell is real is properly subsumed by the truth that a moment spent worrying if you’ll be with God in the afterlife is an opportunity missed to be with God in this life.
  • God’s will and intention is to forgive and teach us, not judge and punish us. (Are We Already Fulfilling God’s “Plan” for Us?)
  • The only person who should be actively endeavoring to convert non-Christians into Christians is God. Jesus does not need our help drawing people towards him. He does need our help—or could certainly use it, anyway—making sure that people know that they are, just as they are, loved. (What Non-Christians Want Christians to Hear.)
  • Getting a divorce is painful—and if at all possible should certainly be avoided. But ultimately the act in and of itself is not immoral.
  • God does not want any woman “submitting” to anyone. (If “Submit” Isn’t the Right Word for Christian Wives, What Is?, and 7 Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships.)
  • There were no dinosaurs on Noah’s ark; Jesus didn’t have a pet stegosaurus. Anyone who believes the earth is only 6,000 years old needs to start eating at the grown-up table. An all-powerful God and the theory of evolution are not incompatible.
  • The single most telling indicator of a person’s moral character has nothing to do with how they define or worship God, and everything to do with how they treat others.

Not that I covered all that this past Sunday. But writing about all that sort of stuff is certainly much of what I do here on my blog. And because you guys read what I write—and share it with others, and link to it on your own blogs and Facebook profiles, and join my Facebook page, and so on—I am empowered to continue doing that work.

And to even sometimes dress up, venture out into the big, bad world, and do it in person.

So I thank you.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

    Wow. Gnat or not, I’m moved. Fucking brilliant post, man!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Sorry I called you a gnat. I just grow weary, sometimes, of people taking swipes at my—or anybody else’s, actually—moral status.

  • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

    Of course, there is a few (all in all probabably rather minor) points I’d want to take up issue with. For example the little bit where you say “God’s will and intention is to forgive [...] us.” I’m not certain if maybe you just chose this wording for its brevity and poignancy, but I think it is important to phrase it differently.In his lecture about the Grail Romances (which is available for download as mp3 to those with a modicum of google-fu, though I’m not all that certain about the legality of the downloads, so in deference to past conflicts about money with Mr. Shore, I’d rather not include a direct link here) Joseph Campbell quotes a Guru from India as saying that to God all things are good and beautiful but that for man some things are good and some are evil. Mr. Campbell goes on to explain this as meaning that from a transcendent, extra-temporal perspective everything is good, but for those of us within the temporal world, good and evil exists and we have to chose.But if you say that God wants to forgive us, I wonder if it isn’t actually that God doesn’t judge us on such an absolute scale, but wants to help us forgive and accept ourselves while teaching us to do so without harming others.

  • Marcelo

    But…but…I want a stegosaurus as a pet!!

    • jes

      And who doesn’t, really? An iguana might make an okay substitute though, since stegs are so difficult to get now a days.

  • Marcelo

    Now that I got my cracking wise out of the way…John, I wish I had a similar “conversion” experience as yours…actually, I’d settle for any. It’s obvious that your faith is authentic and a living one. I wish I could be as certain, but in this stage of my spiritual journey, I’m not….

    You’ve brilliantly encapsulated not only what you DON’T believe in, but did so without emphasizing the negative aspects of your belief, while emphasizing the most important, and transcendent, aspects. God wants us to love, no? Everything else necessarily flows from that….

  • http://allegro63.blogspot.com/ allegro63

    you just pretty much laid out my core beliefs there John. And here I was thinking I was the only one who thought like that.

    Ok not exactly, I once thought I was the only one, then I stumbled across your blog, now I am certain that I’m not the only one who thinks like that.

    • http://www.lovecominghome.com christina britt lewis

      that’s why i’m so drawn to john. i didn’t know there were others who think like i do. always feel so alone in the universe. when i express my thoughts to christians they get all hot and bothered. heresy, they say. so i figured i must not be a christian. but God is so real to me. and while i don’t know if i even want to be comfortable with the label “christian”, whenever i walk away, something catches my eye, smooths back my big hair, whispers my name, tears fall like rain, everylittlethingisgonnabealright consumes me, and i’m back again. i believe in Something.

      • http://allegro63.blogspot.com/ allegro63

        The term Christianity has certainly gotten a bad reputation over the past several years, and I find it sad, that in part that bad rep is deserved. Yet I still am like you Christina, drawn to God and the essence of what he laid out so simply yet so perfectly for us.

        It is of course a comfort to discover that there are others who don’t quite fit certain molds, and who are desiring for something better then can be offered by mere dogma

        • http://www.lovecominghome.com christina britt lewis

          yes. it is a comfort. xoxox

          • Rkerstetter1

            Neither of you two are alone (of course you know that now). I’m a 33 year old girl raised in a conservative home and a ‘Christian’ for all my life – but the more I learn of God and his Holy Spirit – ‘something catching my eye, blowing my hair, whispers in the wind, tears like rain – I loved how you described God speaking’ God just seems so much more like how John’s blog talks about him than ANYTHING traditional. XOXO

          • Anonymous

            Lovely. Thank you again, Rk.

    • Marcelo

      I’ve been trying to find a community that believes the same things. Out here in these ‘burbs, it’s either pretty conservative or bland main-line Protestantism. I’m not attracted to the (I hope I don’t offend anyone) foofier versions of Christianity found in some Unitarian and even Quaker groups (although I admire and feel most drawn to Quakers, most of the time). Ironic that it’s taken the Inturwebz to bring this disparate group together, no?

  • Mindakms

    Overall I feel unity in the spirit about what you believe, which is probably why reading your posts is so uplifting to my spirit ;) One point though, and I should preface this with a fact: I am divorced (and remarried to another man) and the divorce was my doing. On to my point, I think Jesus was pretty clear that divorce is immoral. Of course so are forty million other things and still we are forgiven, but to put a fine point on it, he was pretty clear about it at least a couple of times in Matthew and Mark. Your thoughts?

    • Anonymous

      I changed my wording on that, so … this is what I now have:

      Getting a divorce is painful—and if at all possible should certainly be avoided. But ultimately the act in and of itself is not immoral.

      That’s … how I think of it.

      • http://allegro63.blogspot.com/ allegro63

        I would certainly have to agree. Of course I am having to go through one, and in SC the waiting period is a bit lengthy. The process is painful, I tried to avoid accepting the necessity, but in the end it was the right thing, not an immoral one at all.

        • Marcelo

          I’m sorry to hear of your circumstance and your pain.

          I’m not sure there is anything really as a pain-free, amicable divorce. There is nothing, save perhaps the loss of a child, that causes as much emotional and spiritual pain as a divorce. I have been divorced nearly two years and separated for two years before that. I still haven’t gotten over it. There’s really no such thing as closure with some things.

          I have struggled with the entire Mattean and Markian proscription against divorce. My divorce wasn’t my idea. At all. Not that we didn’t have tremendous problems and not that our marriage wasn’t a daily source of deep pain, but I wanted to work through it. She didn’t agree.

          This disruptive phase in my life led me to question my faith since I thought we had a Christian, God-ordained marriage. I haven’t been able to reconcile that faith and the reality. Ultimately, we are free will agents, and my ex-wife’s free will overrode anything I wanted anyway.

          So…I still struggle with the entire divorce thing. Even if it isn’t what I wanted, am I bound by God’s law to avoid any relationship in the future since in God’s eyes I’m still married?

          Jesus’ words were pretty clear. I’m trying to reconcile that with the reality of modern life and my circumstances.

          • Mindy

            Marcelo, you are IN NO WAY to avoid future relationships. That is simply wrong. No one who loves you would expect you to live a life without the option of finding love again. And I assume you believe God loves you, yes?

            This is the problem with taking the bible literally. To my knowledge, there are no man-made rules without exceptions. YOU did not choose to divorce. YOU took your vows seriously and tried to honor them. YOU did your best. You had no control, ultimately, over what someone else chose to do.

            As a divorced woman going on six years now, I would caution you only to take your first relationship slowly and don’t put all of your expectations for “happily ever after” on that first connection. There is a lot of truth to the warnings about “rebound relationships.” Just take it slow – but it’s OK. You can love again.

          • Marcelo

            Thanks for the advice, too, which is very correct. I’ve gone out with a few women since the divorce, but it never got past that, and still felt pretty weird. (Last time I dated before then was before Al Gore invented the Internet.) I do question whether I was ever meant to be in a real relationship.

          • Marcelo

            Thanks for the advice, too, which is very correct. I’ve gone out with a few women since the divorce, but it never got past that, and still felt pretty weird. (Last time I dated before then was before Al Gore invented the Internet.) I do question whether I was ever meant to be in a real relationship.

          • StraightGrandmother

            Mindy you wrote, “No one who loves you would expect you to live a life without the option of finding love again”

            err Mindy, psst …maybe you forgot, in fact many many good “Christian People” expect gays and lesbians to do exactly that. They are gay but in order to be in the grace of God they must forego having a mate. In others words be gay but not ever act on it. Why should they be any different that our friend Marcelo here????

          • Don Whitt

            Divorce is horrible, but I don’t think God wants us to stay in bad relationships where we are not receiving, or able to give, the love we deserve.

          • Marcelo

            Thank you, both. Your words are very kind. I wasn’t a saint in my marriage, but I certainly didn’t do anything that would have justified a divorce, Biblical or otherwise. My ex has…issues. Serious ones that can’t be overcome, really, without a sea-change on her part, and when it was all said and done, it was this that would preclude us from having a real relationship. It was clear she couldn’t or wouldn’t love me. There was no caring on her part anymore. She abandoned counseling, apparently because the counselors weren’t prepared to condemn me for being the source of all problems in our relationship. Counseling therefore was of no utility to her.

            If God is God, then yes, He wants the best for me. What I struggle with is this from Matthew 19:9: “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Or in Mark 5:32: “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.”

            There doesn’t appear to be any wiggle room, exception, or limitation to this. At least not any that I am aware of. The condemnation even lands on the person marrying the spurned wife. No, the divorce wasn’t my idea. I was prepared to do just about anything to save it. But Jesus’ words, anyway, state that even the blameless party could be a participant in sin.

            Now, we can say that God doesn’t want us to be unhappy, doesn’t want us not to love, or couldn’t possibly have intended that we become celibate for the rest of our lives, but…He doesn’t say any of this, does He, in these passages? He is stating that our happinesss is of no import in this scheme of things. I’m REALLY trying to understand this.

          • Ace

            I suppose a lot hinges on your understanding of “except for marital unfaithfulness” Marcelo. You did what you could, but your wife of her own free will chose not to love you and to leave. Sounds to me to be a good example of unfaithfulness, which is where your “except” is.

            I’m not theologian, not even close, but I don’t think Jesus wants you to spend the rest of your life all alone if you don’t want to be all alone.

          • Marcelo

            Thanks, Ace. That’s an interesting way of looking at it…and quite novel to me. I hadn’t considered it in that light.

            Without going into too much exegesis, which I’m not really qualified to do, not knowing Greek, I know that the word “porneia” that appears in the earliest texts we have of these passages in Greek, has been translated in a number of ways. I think we got into this discussion in this blog a few weeks ago through John’s “Gay Series” (if I can refer to it as that) and Biblical analysis, interpretation, and debate.

            Porneia has been translated as adultery, marital unfaithfulness, and sexual immorality, but the word may have had a more specific or general cultural meaning that has been lost over the years, so it makes our understanding today that much more problematic. Not to mention that Jesus may have spoken these words in Aramaic, subsequently being translated into the Greek that was the “learned vernacular” in the Hellenistic world at the time.

            I understand the uncertainty, and ambiguity. On the one hand, if it isn’t clear that it was limited to adultery but had a more expansive definition, then are there numerous reasons to permit divorce? If a very specific definition and meaning, then which one is it?

            What I struggle with is, what if I’m wrong?

            Yes, this is all getting neurotic, but it also goes to the heart of my faith struggle I’m locked in at the moment. It might just be personal to me.

            Again, thanks. I would like to think you’re right.

          • Ace

            Jesus also said something along the lines of that looking upon a woman with lust in your heart, you have already commited adultery with her in your heart (paraphrasing, obviously).

            I think unfaithfulness can take a lot of forms that don’t necessarily physically involve the naughty bits, so to speak. It’s all too easy to betray someone in ways that have nothing to do with sex. Even simple abandonment (as seems to have happened to you from your description) can be completely devastating. I’m sorry you had to go through that but I don’t think forever punishing yourself is going to please anyone, and I don’t understand how that could somehow please God (again, I’m no theologian but it makes no sense).

          • Ace

            Jesus also said something along the lines of that looking upon a woman with lust in your heart, you have already commited adultery with her in your heart (paraphrasing, obviously).

            I think unfaithfulness can take a lot of forms that don’t necessarily physically involve the naughty bits, so to speak. It’s all too easy to betray someone in ways that have nothing to do with sex. Even simple abandonment (as seems to have happened to you from your description) can be completely devastating. I’m sorry you had to go through that but I don’t think forever punishing yourself is going to please anyone, and I don’t understand how that could somehow please God (again, I’m no theologian but it makes no sense).

          • Kara K

            As John mentions in his post, the Bible (even Jesus’s words) are from a time and culture that are very different than the one we live in. I believe we need to take into account the ramifications of divorce at the time Jesus spoke. A divorce at that time was economic devastation for a woman and quite possibly a death sentence. There was no alimony and a woman could not earn money (except as a prostitute). That is obviously no longer the case. Culture has changed so much, I don’t believe we can take everything exactly as it was written and apply it to today. We have to ask why did Jesus feel so strongly about this. The answer I see is that he cared about the person who would be victimized by the culture. This is more consistent with the Jesus who answered “Love God and love your neighbor”, when asked what the greatest commandment is, than “Here is my rule for divorce”.
            That Jesus also doesn’t want you to beat yourself up for allowing your wife to leave when she wanted to leave. He loves you and her and wants you both to be healed, whole and reconciled to him. Work on that and everything else falls into place.

          • Don Rappe

            Good thinking, I think.

          • Mindakms

            If you are wrong, then you are forgiven. Clearly you have labored hard over this issue and want to follow God’s heart in the matter. I also struggle, but in your story I am your wife, so maybe you aren’t so concerned with my struggle, as I was “the bad guy”. I am remarried now 13 years and feel daily God’s hand in my second marriage. Did I follow the heart of God when I married the first time? When I divorced? When I remarried? I don’t know. But I do know going forward I try to hear His voice and do my best. And no matter what, I know I’m forgiven.

          • Marcelo

            Well, if you divorced because you felt it was a huge mistake or caused you (or him) too much pain, then I can certainly understand and even relate. I was on the receiving end of a fair (and eventually daily) amount of emotional abuse, and occassional verbal and even physical abuse. I tried to “man up” and just take it. I nearly imploded from it. My ex couldn’t handle whatever emotions were bubbling up, but didn’t seem to care enough to get to the root causes and simply blamed me for everything. I did feel a tremendous sense of relief when I left (because if I didn’t leave as she demanded, I knew what was in store for me the minute the kids were asleep), and I felt guilty for feeling thatm but I don’t play the scapegoat too well. I truly hope that my ex is happier and I hope she finds the love she wants. Given my pretty well-founded beliefs in her emotional issues, she will likely always have turmoil in her intimate relationships. I just know that I gave it my best, suffered for it, tried to bear up under the suffering, didn’t always behave the best way I could under the circumstances, regret that I didn’t, and also know I am healthier now for not being in such a toxic environment. But, of course, having kids, I’m never completely away from it because her issues manifest themselves predictably and regularly and usually put the kids in the middle of it. I just wish I could move on as easily as she did. I also very much want to have a healthy and loving relationship with a woman. Hasn’t happened, and given that I am entering middle age, is a little more difficult to find the opportunities. I pray on it. I just haven’t gotten a lot of answers.

            Thank you for believing I am forgiven if I am wrong. It is some comfort. And, like you, I can’t change the past, but am trying to discern God’s will for me going forward.

            Thanks to all for listening to all this. Your hope and good will has put me at ease being here.

          • StraightGrandmother

            Marcelo, how nice for you that you found enough ambiguity in the Bible that you can ease your conscience and still be in the grace of God even though divorced. Sincerely, I really mean it. I am happy for you.

            Now moving on do you find any ambiguity that permits gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender people to also be in the grace of God while being with the one they love? Just curious.

          • Anonymous

            Go easy, grandma.

          • StraightGrandmother

            Why John? Why should I “go easy?” Just as Marcelo moved away from the abstract discussion of divorce and into a real life personal situation, why should I not ask if that ambiguity extends beyond your personal situation and onto the very real lives of GLBT people?

            The truth is Marcelo hit a raw nerve with me. Something that really grinds on me. Biblical purists (for lack of a better word) will condemn GLBT behaviour and people, but they sure seem to gloss over divorce which is also condemned in the Bible. It really gets me John. You don’t see protests to roll back divorce laws in this country but you sure as heck see that against GLBT people.

            I am thinking that you were cautioning me because Marcelo came on here and shared a painful experience and he was looking for support and you wish to provide a safe place, a welcoming place for everyone, which is a good thing. Where is my safe and welcoming place, I have friends and family I love dearly who are GLBT, I bring my pain and indignation for them also to this forum. The truth is this just hangs in my craw, how purist Christians gloss over the Bible’s teaching on divorce but damn straight hold the strictest interpertation condeming GLBT people. It is so insincere. Perhaps John you probably look at these, as two unrelated topics and I was interjecting. But not to me, to me they are one in the same, one in the same, and that is why I bring up GLBT discrimination whenever I see topics on divorce.

            Honestly Marcelo I agree with everyone above who posted regarding divorce, including yourself when you started to post that it is okay to get divorced. I honestly meant it that I was, and am, happy for you. You are out of that bad marriage and once you hit bottom the only way to go is up, so it is blue skies above. You will find true happiness I betcha. I am also very comforted that you responded to my honest question and I am pleased with your response, very pleased. To me they are very very related.

          • Marcelo

            Thank you, SG. Your words are balm to a battered soul. :-) And, no worries, about raising the question.

            Yes, they are related, and of course related in ways that homophobes and hateful fundamentalists refuse to acknowledge. (I say hateful ones, since I do know many caring, moral fundamentalists, who although I do not agree with on some things, are clearly trying to “help the least of these” and to love all.)

            I am far from a virtuous creature. I have my appetites, my stubbornness, my moods, and callousness like many of us. I have focused on the “divorce thing” because it bothers me. Is it misplaced guilt? Perhaps. Perhaps I also look for how to accept the tearing of what was one heart into two again.

            But I certainly see the hypocrisy and legalism around me and it makes me shake with anger sometimes. I hate hypocrisy. I try not to hate the hypocrite, because I’m one more times than I care to acknowledge, I’m sure, and it isn’t for me to hate anyone if we are all God’s children. But, it takes one to know one, I guess, and I know and see too many.

          • Marcelo

            Yes, I most certainly do find such ambiguity. In fact, I think it’s far more ambiguous, from a Biblical standpoint, than Biblical proscriptions against divorce, largely because of the translations, definitions, and context of those biblical passages. There appears to be far less ambiguity as regards divorce (primarily in the words of Jesus himself). Regardless of whether the Bible does condemn homosexuality (I personally doubt it does), the Bible clearly condemns other behaviors that are far more, or at least as common. More importantly, I do not believe that we can’t be in the grace of God just because we’re sinners. If that were true, none of us would be.

          • mrs_lehman

            I see no description in any of the translations I’ve read of just what being unfaithful is. My marriage died and the people we had been on our wedding day were long dead as well when we finally parted ways. Before that parting both of us had been unfaithful in a variety of ways, none of them having to do with sex. It was that inability to abide by the vows of ‘for better or worse’ that ended our marriage long before the courts disolved it.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            The one committing adultery is one who quits the relationship to then find a new spouse. It is really no different spiritually from a state of adultery—the only difference is the state of legal papers. So since she left you, should she ever find someone else, she’ll stand alone the guilty party here. For the guilt is not in the adultery even (though there in fact forgiveness is) but rests with he who “causeth her to commit adultery”, just as if robbing a bank because somebody kidnapped you and your family and was forcing you to do so. (Of course, a woman initiating divorce was rather unheard of in Jesus’ day. Hence the apparent sexism in the response to a gender-specific question posed by the Pharisees. Nevertheless (Mk. 10:10-12): “When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.’” So again it would seem that the one who causes the divorce—who moves to render, whether de jure or de facto, the vows hollow—is the only party to blame.)

          • jes

            I’m in agreement with Ace on this. There are so many possible things that fall into unfaithfulness. Sexual cheating is, of course, one way of breaking the faith of your marriage. But so is abuse (which you describe in a later comment). I think that by defining “faithful” as “sexually exclusive” you are really limiting your options…and also throws a really odd image into the rest of religion and being faithful to God.

            I would, if I was in your place, not fret too terribly about eternal damnation because you (very naturally!) want to seek companionship after your wife dissolved the union.

            ‘Course, being a queer, living-in-sin, agnostic, what do I know about God’s wishes? Anyway… you have to do what makes you happy and fulfilled in life. Any loving God that condemns seeking to love another isn’t a very loving God, and in my mind, not much worth worship.

          • Marcelo

            Well, by that definition, I could have been “unfaithful” myself, by having practically given up on my marriage at one point, of “checking out.” Not that your definition is not right. And perhaps I should add this to the list of things I am or was responsible for in the failure of my marriage. No relationship is one-sided by definition. I have pored over in my mind all the mistakes I might have or did make in my marriage. Although on balance I don’t think objectively anything I did justified what happened, I can’t say that I was so virtuous that I should be put on a pedestal and be free from blame or examination.

            As far as your authority to divine what God’s wishes are…I’m assuming you’re human, right? :-) As I’m beginning to surmise, God built into every one of us the necessary things to move in that direction. I don’t believe God places us in categories that dictate what truth we can or can’t divine from the mere fact of living. He wants all of us to be His children. And He’s capable of working through all of us and for all of us for what’s good.

          • StraightGrandmother

            Marcelo – If I might. I think you are being awfully hard on yourself. I have never believed that old saying about “It takes two” I don’t believe it. One person can ruin a marriage, it doesn’t always take two. If you want to meet a nice woman I suggest go to where the women are. I can tell you that really nice women take ceramics classes and it provides an ideal forum to get to know women. If you want to meet nice women go to where nice women go.

            All right the glves are coming off, I am going to admit something here. When I was jsut out of high school the drinking age in my state was 18. So sure I went to the bars many nights of the week but I jsut wan’t meeting the kinds of guys I wanted. So of course me and my girlfriends sought council from my friend Nancy’s big sister Janet. Janet was a knockout and she had guys pursuing her 24/7 so we went to Janet and aksed her how we could meet nice guys. She told us a very wise thing, she said you have to go to where the nice guys go. She said that really nice guys take scuba diving lessons. So me and Nancy and Gail we signed up for scuba diving lessons, and we were not even interrested in scuba diving at all. But I have to say that Janet was right, there was a whole pool full of nice guys and only we 3 girls. So if you want to meet a nice woman then concider taking a sewing class, or cermics or a yoga class. All places where nice women go :)

          • Marcelo

            SG, that was incredibly sweet and funny. Thank you. Haven’t laughed out loud all day. I will definitely keep your advice in mind. Never thought about ceramics, scuba diving, or sewing. I thought about yoga, but realized I would then have to hope to meet a nice woman at the emergency room, ’cause that would be the next place I’d end up. :-)

          • StraightGrandmother

            Take the yoga classes, just do it. Trust the yoga instructor, they know how to bring you into yoga in steps. Plus you may not know this a lot of yoga classes there is a bit of socializing afterwords. They might serve tea for example. Yoga is really good for your mind and your body. Don’t get all manly on me, hrumph! Trust me very very very nice women take yoga classes. What have you got to loose?

          • Marcelo

            Other than a ligament or two, nothing. I will consider it. Thanks. :-)

          • StraightGrandmother

            I guess I should have written the end of the story. I spent a lot of money on the scuba lessons, then we had to buy regulation masks and fins. I guess in my younger years I got away with stuff because to get your scuba license you have to take an open water test. The day the test was scheduled in a local lake it was raining so the instructor said that was okay we didn’t have to go out on the lake in the rain he would jsut sign off anyway he thought I did good enough in my lessons which were all in the indoor pool. Bottom line, I still carry my scuba diving license and I never ever went scuba diving again, not once. BUT I sure did meet and go out with several of the real nice guys that were there, as well as did Nancy and Gail. You may not ever glaze another bowl once you leave that class but I will guarantee you you will meet nice women in ceramics classes and they will want to introduce you to their nice family and friends if they are already married. And you will be the only guy there, just like me and my girlfriends were the only girls in the pool ha-ha. Janet was right play the odds :) You will be the only guy there, hey no competition he-he-he.

          • Diana A.

            Ballroom dance classes. They are always looking for men and men who know how to lead on the dance floor win big.

          • jes

            Well, humanoid, at any rate ;)

            I wouldn’t claim to speak for God; but I just can’t swallow the whole argument that re-marrying is adultery. I can certainly see where divorce would be frowned on in a society where it leaves one half of the marriage helpless and destitute, but that’s no longer the case. And divorce has lost a lot of the associated stigma as those societal pressures eased off. Not that I think divorce is what we should all be aiming for! But sometimes there really are irreconcilable differences… and I can’t jive the belief that God is great and loving and wants you to be happy (which I understand is your belief?) with a declaration that you’ve blown your one chance and now you must shuffle off to the corner and never look at another woman again.
            You’ve argued several places elsewhere that homosexuality isn’t a sin, but now you’re putting yourself in the same penalty box out of which you’re trying to let others.

          • Mindakms

            Again, prefacing with the fact that I am a divorcee and remarried, I think your statement sounds “nice” Don but not very Biblical. What immediately pops into my minds is Jesus’ whole diatribe about not just loving the easy people and about turning the other cheek. As a divorced woman, I wish I could fight on the side of “Divorce isn’t wrong”, but so far I just can’t. I’d love to be convinced I am wrong that I was wrong to divorce…so have at it folks.

          • Don Whitt

            Mindakms:

            Do you think God wants you to be miserable because you made a bad choice? Do you think he wants you to STAY miserable? That your punishment for being a really bad chooser is to suffer through the end of your days , making yourself and everyone around you miserable and wretched?

            If the answer is yes, then you’re not going to find me very convincing, I’m afraid. I believe God wants you to understand why your marriage failed and for you to change those things about yourself that caused it. It’s never one-sided. Even the innocent in a marriage were ignorant enough to marry the louse. Why? Come to terms with that aspect of yourself and move on. Grow. Bare fruit. Lamentations are fun, but not very fruitful.

            With respect to my points of view being “not very Biblical”, that should probably be my nickname: Not Very Biblical Don. My original course of studies (my undergrad) is in Philosophy wherein I decided that most canon is like fruit – sweet when it’s fresh off the tree, but soon rotten and not very sustaining. Canon, like the rest of us, need to evolve and stay relevant. I realize this is a radical departure from conventional Christianity, but that’s another aspect of my beliefs – that true Christianity is always a radical departure from convention. Jesus was undeniably a rebel and a radical and, if we are to emulate him, we need to constantly tear down the walls of the “church” and rebuild anew. Look at us and our “pastor” here on this blog. I’m certain this whole thing bothers the hell out of many, many Christians. I’m not saying we should cast out all scripture. I’m suggesting very strongly that we look at each and every passage through our own lens, today. In today’s context.

          • Mindakms

            Do I think I am at times called to suffer for God’s kingdom? yes! Does suffering means “miserable because you made a bad choice? Do you think he wants you to STAY miserable? That your punishment for being a really bad chooser is to suffer through the end of your days , making yourself and everyone around you miserable and wretched? ”

            NO! In calling divorce immoral I in no way think Christ or myself is saying to those who have already gone through it, “Be miserable in your poor choice” I think instead what I am trying to say is, “Yep, there is ANOTHER poor choice I made, and another reason to be grateful that I am forgiven, instead of RIGHT.” Not that I don’t still seek to be right from time to time ;) I think we should focus away from “Am I right or justified?” toward “What does God have for me in this moment?” Thoughts?

          • Don Whitt

            And moving on is a great way to forgive one’s self.

          • Anonymous

            Hi Marcelo

            I feel your pain. My wife divorced me a little over a year ago, yet we were separated two years prior. Likewise, I wanted to fight for our marriage, but she said she had been fighting alone for too many years. She fought alone because she never confided in me that things were that desperate. Oh yes, there were problems. However, my love was one who possessed what I now term as a “fatal optimism”. Always happy, smiling, superlatives abounding…how much she loved our life, our kids, her job. I was amazed since I was this older guy who was having difficulties. It started with the family bed. A waning libido is common when a guy hits his 40′s, but I also had insomnia, hypertension, and chronic fatigue. The last three were already a deadly trifecta, but the dead libido was the stake in the heart. My love was a trouper, though. She was in all ways, a great wife and mom. She always made me feel as though I was her one and only. But somewhere along the way, I checked out. Turns out chronic depression was the reason for my difficulties. By the time I was diagnosed, she had silently given up the fight and settled on someone else…though she couldn’t admit it. I found out later when she left an email to her lunchtime lover open.

            It is excruciating, Marcelo. I am still married regardless of what a judge or a piece of paper says. We were both solid Christians when we got married. I still am, but she let go of her relationship with Christ. She was all set to be a foreign missionary when we got engaged. In most ways, I thought her level of spiritual maturity was beyond mine. I think about being with other women, but my heart wants what my heart wants. I realize it will probably never be, since she has her own free will…just like you said.

            Divorce is unnatural. For the rest of our lives, we will sit on opposite sides of the room for graduations, showers, weddings, funerals, etc. Like suicide, divorce is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I hope that at some point I will be able to fall in love with someone else…but I could no sooner divorce her from my heart than I could my own son or daughter.

            I respect John’s prerogative to believe as he does about divorce, but I disagree heartily. Regardless of who is right or wrong in a marriage, taking apart that which God has put together, is immoral. The only moral higher ground for divorce is being the victim of abuse or infidelity. But even those positions are not insurmountable. I’ve seen marriages come back from worse…and were made that much more resilient. God is good if we allow Him to be, but it does boil down to our own will.

            God’s peace and my best to you, Marcelo.

          • Anonymous

            Hi Marcelo

            I feel your pain. My wife divorced me a little over a year ago, yet we were separated two years prior. Likewise, I wanted to fight for our marriage, but she said she had been fighting alone for too many years. She fought alone because she never confided in me that things were that desperate. Oh yes, there were problems. However, my love was one who possessed what I now term as a “fatal optimism”. Always happy, smiling, superlatives abounding…how much she loved our life, our kids, her job. I was amazed since I was this older guy who was having difficulties. It started with the family bed. A waning libido is common when a guy hits his 40′s, but I also had insomnia, hypertension, and chronic fatigue. The last three were already a deadly trifecta, but the dead libido was the stake in the heart. My love was a trouper, though. She was in all ways, a great wife and mom. She always made me feel as though I was her one and only. But somewhere along the way, I checked out. Turns out chronic depression was the reason for my difficulties. By the time I was diagnosed, she had silently given up the fight and settled on someone else…though she couldn’t admit it. I found out later when she left an email to her lunchtime lover open.

            It is excruciating, Marcelo. I am still married regardless of what a judge or a piece of paper says. We were both solid Christians when we got married. I still am, but she let go of her relationship with Christ. She was all set to be a foreign missionary when we got engaged. In most ways, I thought her level of spiritual maturity was beyond mine. I think about being with other women, but my heart wants what my heart wants. I realize it will probably never be, since she has her own free will…just like you said.

            Divorce is unnatural. For the rest of our lives, we will sit on opposite sides of the room for graduations, showers, weddings, funerals, etc. Like suicide, divorce is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I hope that at some point I will be able to fall in love with someone else…but I could no sooner divorce her from my heart than I could my own son or daughter.

            I respect John’s prerogative to believe as he does about divorce, but I disagree heartily. Regardless of who is right or wrong in a marriage, taking apart that which God has put together, is immoral. The only moral higher ground for divorce is being the victim of abuse or infidelity. But even those positions are not insurmountable. I’ve seen marriages come back from worse…and were made that much more resilient. God is good if we allow Him to be, but it does boil down to our own will.

            God’s peace and my best to you, Marcelo.

          • Marcelo

            Thanks, RTT. And I’m very sorry to hear about your pain. My story is somewhat different than yours, but the pain of having excised what was sewn into your heart by joining with a spouse? That is a pain I all too easily identify with. I saw her the other night at my son’s game, holding hands with her new boyfriend. Somehow that still stabbed me in the heart. Surprised me, actually, that I could react that way.

            The details aren’t important, but I can’t say I love her anymore. Not after all the cruel things she did and sometimes still says, but she is a great mom to our kids in most respects and I love her for that. But the awning hole left in my heart is taking a long time to heal over. I hope and pray it does.

            Discerning what God really wants me to do in this situation is what I’m struggling with. I was prepared to let God heal our marriage if my ex-wife was willing, but she essentially rejected it. Maybe she saw God’s will for her as different, but regardless….I now pray for God to heal me if nothing else. And to help me forgive her.

            Blessings, brother.

          • Anonymous

            Pain is a part of life. We can be made bitter or better. The pain pushes me to God (If I allow). He redeems my pain and gives me beauty for ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning. It’s a difficult process and it may take years, but I will not let the pain of life go to waste. I trust it will benefit my kids, my extended family, and my friends, and maybe (God willing) a wife.

            You’re in my thoughts and prayers, M.

          • Don Whitt

            Rinny,

            Hang in there – you’re not alone. One of the most painful ironies of divorce, particularly when you have children together, is how long you “remain unmarried” to your ex-spouse. There’s no clean break and recovery. And we often marry the image of the person, not the actual person. We fall in love with who we think they will be and over-look all the bright red flashing warning signs. The point is to understand what it is about us that made it so easy to ignore them all or to not even see them.

          • Anonymous

            Thanks, Don. I am hanging in there.

            Love is blind, neither is it logical as we humans understand logic. I believe the logic behind true love is the Logos…at least the agape, unconditional flavor. Such love transcends life, death, affinity, anger…basically an indestructible love. It is amazing and life-giving, but very painful too. Loving through ultimate rejection has set me free to forgive in way I didn’t think possible.

            BTW, I appreciate your posts and replies.

          • StraightGrandmother

            Rin_Tin_Tim, I am in total shock, no way did I imagine that any woman would have ever passed on you. YOU are a great guy. I really enjoy almost everything you write and your thoughts on the topics. Honestly RTT, you are a great guy, it comes through in your writing. I cna’t be wrong about this. I can hardly believe youa are still available, that another woman has not pulled you in and shut the door. Read my posts above to Marcelo, RTT to to where the nice women go. You are a catch for sure.

          • Anonymous

            Thanks, SG. Really. But raising my kids and being there for them is my only priority right now.

          • http://rdmlorisgoretownhorrycoscusaearth.blogspot.com/ Robert Meek

            Marcelo: Why would you presume that in God’s eye you are still married? I know, I know what you’re reading. But that goes on the assumption that the marriage in question was WILLED BY GOD, to begin with.

            I think it is safe to say when you have a spouse that elects to abandon you, divorce you, against your desire and will to do so, that one can say that they are NOT in a marriage that was WILLED BY GOD, but rather more likely married to the WRONG PERSON, to begin with.

            Just something to think about.

          • Marcelo

            Well, that’s kind of interesting. We married in a Christian church (actually a non-denominational fundamentalist church that my ex-in-laws belonged to and which they insisted we get married in). I have to tell you that I really felt that God was blessing our marriage. No heavenly choir or “presence” per se, but felt it nonetheless. Maybe (and perhaps likely) it was wishful thinking.

            I was raised Catholic, but most recently identified as Methodist. Our children were baptized in the Methodist church. I know that the Roman Catholic Church does not recognize our marriage as valid under church law (ha! which means I could get married next in a Catholic church with no penalty!), but that church also consequently considers my children bastards.

            Nothing particularly wrong with Methodism, just that my crisis of faith goes much deeper than that.

            As much as I could be sure of anything, I truly believed I was married to the right person. I found out she wasn’t quite the person I married–in fact there was a fair amount of manipulation and pretending going on, long story–but to change my thinking to “she wasn’t The One” and that I shouldn’t spend my life pining away for her still has been very, very difficult. Thanks, though, it gives me something to think about.

          • Don Rappe

            There is a difference between divorcing and being divorced. Even in the most legalistic view, which I do not share, you are like a widow and free to marry again. Carefully, I would hope.

          • Rkerstetter1

            Marcelo, I am sorry for your pain and disappointment in the hope of a Christian marriage failing. I had a few ‘perfectly clear ‘good’ Christian hopes in my life go bust – and have lived through the disappointment to find the following true for me. Please let me know if it is a help to you:

            Being a Christian and following God in faith only promises WE ourselves can respond in a Godly way in the power of grace to circumstances. It has never promised more. Not that Godly circumstances will reign or others will make the right choices – only that if/when we submit to God, we can do all things – regarding our response and actions – period

        • http://allegro63.blogspot.com/ allegro63

          Wow, I post this and go off to work and utterly miss the dialogue. However I will add this.

          We must remember the culture of the days when Jesus walked the earth. The culture was vastly different. Part of that culture was that marriage was often not for love, but for other contractual relationships, often for money, for prestige, for position, at least for the men.

          The women had absolutely no say whatsoever, they had no legal voice, could not own property, (at least in the jewish and greek cultures, roman women had it slightly better). In that world it was not uncommon for a man to decide he needed a wife with better family connections, or who’s family had more money or more prestige. So he’d ditch the current wife and toss her in the street, often without a penny to her name. Now the poor woman has no husband to protect her, has to hope that her father or brothers, IF they are able or willing will take her back in, and in many cases her dowry wasn’t returned.

          Jesus saw that and called these men into account for such a shabby treatment of marriage. He was essentially telling these men to stick with the bargain they had made with with exception, which in that culture was less likely to happen then it would be for the man to be sexually unfaithful to his wife.

          In my case, the vows were broken by my spouse within six weeks of our marriage, yet I stayed for over 23 years. We may say “what god has put together, let no man render apart” in marriage ceremonies, but men and women do just that. I stayed in a very bad and often dangerous relationship because I believed I was stuck because of those damned vows. I also firmly believe that it was God’s telling me quite firmly and very clearly to get out.

          • jes

            I’ve often wondered about the whole “what God put together let no man set apart” thing. And really, how do you know? Supposing that God puts you together by inspiring love. So when you fall out of love, isn’t that equally God setting you back apart? God didn’t perform the wedding–that was all human doing, so isn’t a divorce taking apart what humans put together?

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            One of the few wise things my mum used to say was that a vow of marriage is a declaration of will, not of love. I dunno, that probably doesn’t even hold true linguistically in English, but in German it does. And language aside, I’m quite convinced that it should be.

            Often relationships seem to fall apart because peeps have this idea that we just have to fit perfectly together, that it all has to be natural and just fall into place on its own. Love isn’t like that. To quote Stephen King: Love has teeth. They bite. A relationship, if married or not, is hard work. It neither means doing whatever you please nor bowing before the will of someone else, but for two peeps to sacrifice to the bond of a common life and a common identity, to a we, without giving up the I or the you. Too often one or both seem to be insulted at the request that they ought to change, just as they are at the realization that the other actually remains the person he was and doesn’t change just cuz they want it.

            All I wanted to say, falling out of love isn’t necessarily the same as God seperating you. It might be failing to live up to the challenge of making it work.

            That said, I said it before elsewhere: Everything about our lives, about the material necessity of marriage, of protecting for offspring, our whole concept of romantic love that didn’t exist before the 12th century, social structures, all of that has changed in the last 2000 years. The authors of the bible had no idea of what being married means today, and they had precious little meaningful to say about it. About universal human feelings and trials, yes. About actual social structure, no.

      • Mindakms

        I might be able to see my way to that statement. I don’t really believe in court authorized marriage, so I guess the actual paperwork act of divorce is no different…still, I feel unsettled on this issue, as I have since I took the action of leaving my first husband…

  • http://twitter.com/jmike811 J. Michael Moore

    Fantastic work, as always.

  • Kimberli_rose

    John, Thank you so much for writing this article! It says what I have believed all along– you don’t have to be painted with the same narrow brush to be a Christian. You don’t have to follow a philosophy of exclusion or hate of other religions in the name of Jesus. I especially love your last bullet point: The single most telling indicator of a person’s moral character has nothing to do with how they define or worship God, and everything to do with how they treat others. Great work!!

  • Ace

    Of course Jesus didn’t have a pet Stegosaurus.

    Everybody knows he rode on a T-Rex, DUH.

    :P

  • Mimicross22

    John, I can’t thank you enough for your writing. This particular “article”, blog, heart-sharing speaks volumes to me. Like others have said, I thought I was alone in my thoughts, only to find you here and now! I’ll move over on the bench to make room for you and others who truly believe “The single most telling indicator of a person’s moral character has nothing to do with how they define or worship God, and everything to do with how they treat others”. God bless you.

  • http://twitter.com/chrishyde chrishyde

    (((Standing “O”)))

  • Anonymous

    Hey, guys. Thanks for these kind words. (Especially given that someone just emailed me that I’ve lost about ten FB fans since I posted this?)

    • Don Whitt

      Great post, John. Thank you for showing the courage to express your faith so clearly.

    • Mindy

      Hopefully that is just a . . . glitch of some sort? Anyone who had been a fan of yours, truly, wouldn’t “unfan” you over this. Or they *really* haven’t been paying attention.

    • Marcelo

      I agree with Mindy. Not really fans, where they, then? You of all people have been very clear about what you believe and why. Maybe some people can’t handle the truth? ;-)

      If I could “fan” you ten times over I would. It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality, no?

      Wait, how DO I “fan” you?? I’m a dork when it comes to Facebook, so the button is probably right in front of my nose.

    • Diana A.

      “(Especially given that someone just emailed me that I’ve lost about ten FB fans since I posted this?) ” Their loss more than yours, IMHO.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks, D. (And, again, I don’t care. I mean … I just don’t. You can’t ever say anything real without offending someone—especially, of course, if you’re talking about the kinds of things we do here.)

    • Mindakms

      someone’s keeping track of how many facebook fans you have? hmm, that’s a little creepy…

      • Anonymous

        nah, she’s sweet

  • Lee Walker

    …and yet again, this post affirms why I’m “adopting” you as a by-and-large spokesman for ideas that have been whirling around in me for a long time. You easily articulate what I ‘sense’ but have had trouble putting into words. Thank you for sharing your gifts and heart with the world. Having been fully ‘immersed’ in Southern Baptist thinking/teaching during the formative and early adult years of my life, I still have occasional pangs of worry when entertaining thoughts and ideas that move me away from all that. But I’m reminded we are to fear God and not mankind–even the Baptist/fundy/evangelical kind.

    Keep on speaking(writing) what God and common sense shows you!

  • Lee Walker

    …and yet again, this post affirms why I’m “adopting” you as a by-and-large spokesman for ideas that have been whirling around in me for a long time. You easily articulate what I ‘sense’ but have had trouble putting into words. Thank you for sharing your gifts and heart with the world. Having been fully ‘immersed’ in Southern Baptist thinking/teaching during the formative and early adult years of my life, I still have occasional pangs of worry when entertaining thoughts and ideas that move me away from all that. But I’m reminded we are to fear God and not mankind–even the Baptist/fundy/evangelical kind.

    Keep on speaking(writing) what God and common sense shows you!

  • Mindy

    Ah, John. Brilliant, yes. I’m trying to come up with another adjective – magnificent? Powerful? Just damned lovely?

    Now, to convince all the rest – - – - – -

    • Marcelo

      “Now, to convince all the rest – - – - – -”

      The Just-Slightly-Less-Than-THE-Great-Commission?

  • Kim

    Ok John…either you’ve made me love you all over again, or you and I were separated at birth (and dropped into equally shitty families) and are now sharing pieces of the same brain. You are articulate, discerning, and just plain straight with it (not that there’s anything wrong with that…Ok, my lame Seinfeld reference…) :):):)

    Bravo on this post!!!

  • Nirakia

    Love it ! My favourite part (and I’m saying this as a Gay Christian and one that values your opinion of us) –> “The question of whether or not hell is real is properly subsumed by the truth that a moment spent worrying if you’ll be with God in the afterlife is an opportunity missed to be with God in this life.”

  • Nirakia

    Love it ! My favourite part (and I’m saying this as a Gay Christian and one that values your opinion of us) –> “The question of whether or not hell is real is properly subsumed by the truth that a moment spent worrying if you’ll be with God in the afterlife is an opportunity missed to be with God in this life.”

  • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

    And for what you do on your blog, John – giving us ideas to consider and a place to discuss them, thank YOU.

  • Sunny

    I just posted this excellent column on my facebook page, John! (I’m back after some work by my webmaster). Love, love, love this column. Thank you for it, and for all your thoughtful musings. They (and you) enrich my life.

    sunny

    sunnylockwood.com

  • Sunny

    I just posted this excellent column on my facebook page, John! (I’m back after some work by my webmaster). Love, love, love this column. Thank you for it, and for all your thoughtful musings. They (and you) enrich my life.

    sunny

    sunnylockwood.com

  • robin

    Why do you say there were no dinosaurs on the ark?

    http://www.icr.org/men-dinosaurs/

    • Matthew Tweedell

      They wouldn’t fit. (The dimensions of the ark are given in the Bible shortly after that unambiguous claim that dinosaurs came into being the same day as man.)

      • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

        Neither would two of every kind of beetle.

        • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

          And how did they transport all the bacteria? Both the harmfull ones and those necessary for survival, and those that are either depending on who meets them. Or how about those that lived in antarctica or the arctic or on all the other continents, like marsupials? What about plants? Or fungi?

          Yes. Clearly the flood/ark is not an historic, literal event. I am still amazed how that can lead you to the conclusion that it isn’t true, but then, it’s your life you’re building out of your words. If it suits you, yay for you.

    • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

      The second sentence at the linked site reads However, the available evidence shows that man and dinosaur coexisted. This an outright and intentional lie driven solely by theological necessity in direct confrontation with the ‘available’ evidence to try to show ‘scientifically’ that the square peg of creationism fits seamlessly into the round hole of paleontological evidence. It is not true and I would think that those who feel that they must lie and deceive in the name of supporting their religious beliefs are not serving any kind of god worthy of the name.

      • Ace

        …..technically birds are a type of dinosaur (cladistically). ;)

        • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

          You know, Ace, I almost made reference to the critters descended from dinosaurs that exist today, but then I thought I should just stick to the intention of the Creation Institute’s meaning. But you are absolutely right: the dinosaur genome exists in all of us modern critters.

          • Ace

            well, you know I can’t resist an opportunity to be snarky.

            No, there were no stegasauruses on the Ark, or in Jesus’ backyard. Just birds.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Which makes sense considering the birds dinosaur relative died out about 65 million years earlier… the birds in Jesus’ back yard, that is… not the snarkiness, which has yet to become endangered.

    • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

      *Groans.*

      You are not helping, mate. Seriously. You are making me blush…

    • jes

      Citing passages from the Bible to prove that the Bible is true is horribly circular and unproductive. Stories and myths are not evidence; saying that because several cultures had descriptions of dragons means dinosaurs lived in mid-evil Europe is quite a stretch, and about as accurate as saying that the Spanish conquistadors really were centaurs because the Native Americans thought they were 4 legged, 2 headed monsters.

      All the evidence available most certainly does NOT point to dinosaurs co-existing with humans, and stating such is at best disregarding and misunderstanding scientific work, and at worst intentionally twisting and misleading facts. “Science continues to demonstrate that dinosaurs did not predate humans, and that dinosaur kinds did not go extinct (if they all have) until after the Flood, which occurred only thousands of years ago” is a blatant contradiction to the conclusions drawn by actual scientists based on actual scientific evidence.

      • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

        Indeed, I should say. Centaurs don’t have two heads! o.O Jes!

        • jes

          Do you have scientific proof of that, FreeFox? :D

  • Anonymous

    Do young earthers hold childish beliefs, or different beliefs? I don’t hold to that view of creationism myself, but I would think that a more literalist view of the virgin birth, global flood, or creation of man would put me at that same kiddie table. God is obviously compatible with science. Especially if one holds that God is omniscient. In comparison to an almighty God’s wisdom and knowledge, I’d have to assume we’re all at the kiddie table.

    • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

      RTT writes God is obviously compatible with science.

      I don’t like to have to raise this counterpoint, but I feel I must even if appears divisive.

      If by god you mean an active agent and science as a method of inquiry, then the sentence doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

      But if you mean the kind of belief that allows you to assert that god is real and an active agent in the affairs of humans is somehow compatible with the kind of belief you have that the method of inquiry we call science reveals knowledge about the universe and everything in it, then compatibility in the two kinds of beliefs is only true if you can clearly compartmentalize and separate these two from each other. They are not compatible ways of knowing but stand in direct conflict.

      • Anonymous

        You don’t LIKE to raise counterpoints…you LOVE to. : )

        I believe God is compatible with science. Obviously.

        • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

          In it’s proper place I do, but I meant that my point – although it needs to be made because you asserted it here – is off topic for this thread.

      • Matthew Tweedell

        And you were on such a roll until that last sentence.

        Anyhow, if God is supernatural and science, in the sense that you use the term, is natural—if God is metaphysical and science is physical—then they cannot be in conflict at all. As a way of knowing, the scientific method does indeed conflict with that of religious tradition, but this says nothing of God Himself (who is the way) or the knowledge so obtained (systematized as science—in the more general and ancient understanding of the term—knowledge, in fact, of the very things of God’s Nature and creations).

        • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

          Supernatural in this context is a code word to describe a special exemption from evidence based reasoning.

          If god and its actions stayed confined within this metaphysical realm, then think what you want (no harm, no foul). But as soon as this metaphysical supernatural agency enters the universe and is deemed to be a causal factor, you have left the realm of the supernatural behind. Now we’re talking about backing that causal claim up and this is where evidence that links cause to effect by this hypothesized mechanism called god can be investigated. With no evidence of effect to date, the claim of this causal agent becomes what we call in scientific terminology ‘making stuff up.’ This is not good news for those who believe.

          Making stuff up is not an equivalent method of inquiry to an evidence-based method nor is making stuff up some specialized way of knowing. In fact, the two methodologies are, as I wrote, incompatible methods of inquiry.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Methods built on mutually exclusive foundations need not be incompatible in practice. You use “making stuff up” frequently enough but are reticent to admit to it.

            But then again, “tildeb” is a mechanism only to the extent that God is.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            What exactly do you mean by “metaphysical” anyway? Cuz sometimes it sounds as if by that you mean “Cloud Cuckooland”.No matter how often you say it, serious theological thought is not “making stuff up”. Granted, there are a lot of theologians who do make stuff up. (Simple creationists are amonst them.) There are also a lot of scientists who make stuff up. (Lobbyists for various industries are amonst them.) And granted, there exist more and more rigorous mechanisms of finding out scientists who make stuff up than there exist mechanisms of finding out theologians or philosophers who make stuff up – though it seems to me far less than you would like to believe. Philosophy and its sub-discipline theology is without a doubt less rigorous. I know that that is the reason you claim it to be “made-up” (which springs more from bias and fear of the un-acknowledged part of life than from any actual research into the claims of serious philosophy/theology) but in reality it’s lack of rigour has more to do with its function than with any lack of truth.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            You have raised a really important point here, FF: there is a difference between making stuff up and having some way to check it. I understand your reference to myth and its importance to the human narrative and appreciate its perceptiveness.

            But please note that the method of science allows for correction. This is a strength. Note the theology comes with no such method. Look at John’s Christianity 3.0 (or 2.0… makes no difference here) and see the trouble that accompanies even just a kinder, gentler interpretation… even one that makes better sense in today’s world than the more fundamentalist version. That’s a weakness. Now add all the competing religions and their conflictual truth claims and realize that there is no mechanism, no method, in religious belief that allows for any one to have more authority than any other. That’s highly problematic.

            The lessons we can learn from myth are not truth claims about the universe; they are commentary on the human condition and how to live well. That’s not theology. It’s advice. Theology is the actual belief in the veracity of divine agencies (specifically). Believing that myth offers wisdom falls under literary criticism and not religion. Believing that the supernatural critters of mythology really do exist (and not merely allegorical or metaphorical) and are active today in the world requiring our fealty and worship is religion.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            “This is a strength.” Yes, it is. Which is why I heartily approve of the method of science wherever it is applicable. However, I didn’t know this was arm-wrestling. (My methodology is stronger than yours. Bow before it!)

            “Note the theology comes with no such method.” Actually, it does. It’s only a method very hard to keep checks on. It’s called contentment. (Do you really think any suicide bomber is a content, balanced, and happy person? Come on, mate.)

            “Now add all the competing religions and their conflictual truth claims and realize that there is no mechanism, no method, in religious belief that allows for any one to have more authority than any other.” Aye. Hence my synchretistic approach.

            “The lessons we can learn from myth are not truth claims about the universe; they are commentary on the human condition and how to live well. That’s not theology. It’s advice.” Actually, I would say that calling dealing with these questions “commentary” or “literary criticism” is trying to hide from their primal, awesome, life-defining power and importance by attempting to force it into small, quaint, inconsequential sounding words.

            “Theology is the actual belief in the veracity of divine agencies” Yep. No argument here.

            “merely allegorical or metaphorical” All language is metaphorical. Calling an electron a wave or a particle is metaphor. Mathematics is metaphor. Language means creating symbolic plceholders for real phenomena. These things, god, love, the soul, salvation, damnation, etc, these are not only real things, they are the most important things. And the metaphors for them are as real as “electrons”. For a nuclear war, it takes both the technical device and the will to build and use it. You can explain to me how it is built and dismantled. I can explain to you why it should be.

      • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

        “even if [it] appears divisive.”

        You, divisive? Tildib! Inconceivable!
        (But why would it be wrong to be divisive? Or rather, why would it be wrong to appear to be divisive, especially if one is?)

      • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

        “compatibility in the two kinds of beliefs is only true if you can clearly compartmentalize and separate these two from each other.”

        Yes. And what is your problem with that?

  • John

    I know I’m not that great at talking (as evidenced by my previous posts) but I really do appreciate what youre doing. I can sometimes forget there are christians that try to be christ-like. I dont doubt I’m the only one either. After some other experiences with christians this place is like a breath of fresh air.

  • Violet

    John: Love, love, LOVE this post. I know how you feel as my super religious family thinks my husband and I are heretics for believing along the same lines. I am so <> of people trying to to “bring us back in the fold.” Stepping out of the said “fold” is the most freeing thing I’ve ever done and I feel like I’m only now getting a glimpse of what God truly is. It’s good to know we have company.

  • Mike

    John, it is sooooooooooo easy to read what you’ve written and agree with you. Please respond this comment as it relates to 2 Timothy, Chapter 4: Vs. 3. WHO has itching ears these days?

    • Kara K

      For those who don’t want to look it up: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
      My response is that Mr Shore’s doctrine is quite sound and consistent with Jesus Christ as he is portrayed in the gospels.

    • Matthew Tweedell

      Well, some of John’s statements were rather—as he says—self-evident. Others, admittedly—not so much. However, the errors of unsound doctrine that I can find here are relatively minor:

      1) “The only person who should be actively endeavoring to convert non-Christians into Christians is God.”

      should read, “The only persons … are God.”

      2) “God’s will and intention is to forgive and teach us, not judge and punish us.”

      One cannot know that our Lord is not ultimately a god willing of strict judgment; apparent counterexamples abound, both in Scripture and in human experience.

      Far worse heresy than such I’d reckon is preached weekly from your church’s pulpit.

      • Anonymous

        Wrong–twice. (If I thought I should have said either of these any differently than I did, you can trust that I would have.)

        • Matthew Tweedell

          I know you would have. Nevertheless, those are indeed identifiable-to-me instances of doctrine that’s potentially fallible. I know; I know you’re using “person” in the sense of the gender-neutral “man”, and I know there is very, very good reason to proclaim the forgiveness and gracious teaching of our Lord. Yet the first may give rise to problems like that with the word “proceeds” in the controversy over the filioque, and the second is, well, to put the simplest way possible, only knowable by special revelation but unsupported by any widely received revelatory tradition, not to mention that of the Church (universal & apostolic).

  • Donrappe

    Good common sense teaching. “No one comes to the Father except through me.” I have long felt that this is not about how to come to the Father, but rather, who the figure of Jesus portrayed in the 4′th Gospel is.

  • Karen

    Awesome! STANDING OVATION and the crowd goes wild! (oh, wait, its just me and the my cat in the room and the cat looks a bit spooked with all of the this commotion.) Anyhow, thank you John for your post and for bringing together like minds on your blog. It is so refreshing to know that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

  • buzz

    Didn’t leave much for the rest of us to write about, did you?

    Seriously, great post. You hit several nails squarely on the head. (Will the people who need to read this actually read it? Probably not, but you did your part.)

  • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

    Ever notice that when you put something about God in a bellingerent tone you got both atheists and Christians shouting you down because you profess to believe the wrong thing, but when you word essentially the same belief in such a harmonious feel-good way like this one, nobody dares to speak up, cuz it would make them look bad.I think the worst thing blog comments (everywhere, not just here) have taught me is that next to no peeps ever engage in discussions because they want to learn something, and hardly ever because they actually want to convince someone else (though most think they do), but almost everbody is only here to feel better about themselves by either slapping shoulders of those who say to us we’ve been right all along, or by arguing loudly in front of ourselves that the others are all wrong. This turns out to be a lot less interactive than I originally thought…

  • Murf

    The gospel according to John Shore. It’s an interesting gospel. It’s a pretty predictable gospel. It is world’s apart from the historical understanding of the gospel, and must necessarily pick and choose what it thinks is “true” in the Bible.

    1. It was Christ himself who had the most to say about hell, so yes, it would be quite advisable to spend just perhaps a moment or two on this earth to consider that fact since it does apply to all of eternity…

    2…which is why the historical understanding of evangelism is that we ought to preach the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ to all, because this too deals with both this life AND eternity.

    3. The “scholarship” that claims that Paul proscribed “natural homosexuality” can only be described as laughable. This is “scholarship” driven by ideology, not by facts and data.

    4. I will concede that you have a great point when you entitle this a “Christianity of Common Sense.” One wonders why your common sense has more authority then the biblical writers. This seems to me a shaky foundation indeed for Christianity. When your common sense theology disagrees with another person’s common sense theology who is correct? Both of you? To whom or to what do you go for authority?

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for inspiring my latest FB status, Murf: “One of the best ways to buttress the conviction that it’s wrong to “pick and choose” which parts of the Bible to most believe in is to never actually read the Bible, and thereby remain ignorant of how intensely complex it is.”

      • StraightGrandmother

        Look at that John, I counted, you wrote up 14 points. Murf choose 3 points to disagree with you on. Notice that again, one of the top 3 is gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender people. Didn’t talk about divorce, didn’t talk about woman submitting to man, but oh boy gotta correct John on dah gayz, can’t let that one slide by, even used the derisve term of “laughable.”

        John a wek or two ago you promised you would write a topic on why Christians will never stop persecuting teh gayz. You said you knew why they did it. I have been watching and watching and waiting to find out. Why John? Why do they do this? If you could please write that article I would appreciate it as I would really like to know why.

        Murf, my family and friends are not a joke. They are not sick nor do they need healing. Every single, and I mean every health care professional organization says that homosexuality is NORMAL. This is no different than picking on a person of color simply, well because of the color of their skin. You are condeming a whole group of people that medicin says is NORMAL. What is wrong with this picture????????

        See John they will never ever let an opportunity pass, they just won’t. 14 points, teh gayz jsut ahd to make the top 3, of course, this is what I would have expected.

        • Anonymous

          I have no idea what this “points” thing is. I just … don’t know what they are, or how they … get registered, or anything. I should probably try to figure that out …

          • StraightGrandmother

            You had 14 bullet points in your article above. That is what I meant when I said 14 points.

        • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

          “John a wek or two ago you promised you would write a topic on why Christians will never stop persecuting teh gayz. You said you knew why they did it. I have been watching and watching and waiting to find out. Why John? Why do they do this? If you could please write that article I would appreciate it as I would really like to know why.”

          Hear, hear! I second her!

    • Don Whitt

      @Murf:

      Isn’t that our primary task in the here and now? To sort through life’s “evidence” and decide what resonates as true and what does not? To decipher what is supported by what we know and/or supported by those we respect and then to make informed decisions?

      I believe that what John is doing is a continuation of what people like Luther and Kierkegaard and many enlightened pastors have done before him: To move us away from a dogmatic view of Christianity and the “authority” of others who want to tell us how to worship, interpret verse, view Jesus and even pray, and closer to a personal relationship with God.

      I realize this more liberal perspective invokes disdain from those who seek a more rigid worldview. To each their own.

      And that’s the point.

      • StraightGrandmother

        I wish I could write like you.

    • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

      Oh boy… it would indeed be quite advisable to spend just perhaps a moment or two to consider the garbage that you spout.You really have no idea what hell even means. Or what eternity is. Or, while we are at it, who Christ is. What salvation is. Or how the bible, as you know it, was created by a bunch of old men sitting together picking and chosing from a multitude of gospels and others writings, and finally decided on grounds of political power.You are definitely one of those “Christians” that ought to sit at the kiddie table and shut up until they are grown up enough to begin to take the messaget to heart, instead of just using it as a crutch for their fear of life…(Hah! That divisive enough for ya?!)

  • Plefevre

    Thank you! ALL of that is so helpful.

  • Mike Burns

    John Shore said:

    “An all-powerful God and the theory of evolution are not incompatible.”

    True…but, if one believes that humanity is God’s pet project, it takes some pretty torturous reasoning to make Theistic Evolution compatible with Christianity (or any theistic belief). If one subscribes to evolution and [in this case] Christianity, then one must acknowledge the fact that 99% of all life lived, suffered and went extinct with one slender thread of genetics resulted in modern humanity after some billions of years.
    Then, God let modern man live, suffer and die for several hundred thousand years before he revealed himself to a remote, illiterate desert tribe.

    What was the point of all those species that came into existence that have nothing to do with humanity’s evolution?

    • Anonymous

      Good luck to anyone who takes this bait ….

      • Mike Burns

        What’s with the subscription feature? I check the box for emails to replies, but I don’t get any.

        • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

          I see…I had to set up a profile on Disqus.com

      • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

        It’s not bait John. If one believes in evolution and one believes in a theistic God, then one must 1) have come to terms with the facts as I stated them or 2) be fundamentally ignorant of the implications of holding these two convictions.

        • Marcelo

          I guess I’m missing it, but what “implications”? I saw you stating a question.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            It is my observation that those that have acknowledged what the scientific community overwhelmingly sees as fact is wholly unfamiliar with everything that the theory of evolution by natural selection (ENS) encompasses. The ‘implications’ are that ENS, if initiated to result in humanity, is unspeakably inefficient, pointless, and barbaric. ENS recognizes that modern humans have been around for about 200,000 years, so God had to let us live and die (often horribly) in ignorance for 198,000 of those years before he showed up in some flaming vegetation.

          • Anonymous

            …and I mean that most theists and NON-theists alike are wholly unfamiliar with everything that ENS encompasses.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Yeah. Well, if you check out cave paintings, and stone carved and pottery figurines from the neolithic age, you’ll see that God did a lot of showing up before the burning bush. Wait, actually, read the (limited, specialized) hebrew scripture you refer to and see that creation of the world, creation of man, the flood story, all that sodom and gomorrah firebombing, recruiting of abraham and the covenant, joseph and his brothers and the founding of the 12 tribes, shit, several thousand years of history all happened before Moses met God in the burning bush… but I see that you have done enough research to be able to make polemic claims about the nature of God.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            I just liked the narrative image of the burning bush. …and are you really contending that all the gods of primitive humankind were really the same god of Christianity?

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            As a monotheist… of course I say that all faces of God are faces of the one Godhead… and that definitely includes the over 20.000 year old Venus of Willendorf.

            Or as Mr. Shore put it: “It is much more reasonable—and certainly more compassionate—to hold that throughout history God chose to introduce himself in different ways into different culture streams, than it is to believe that there is only one correct way to understand and worship God, and that the punishment for anyone who chooses any but that way is to spend all of eternity having the living flesh seared off of his or her bones.”

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            OK. Just to be clear then….

            Poseidon, Dyonisis, Vishnu, Thor, Osiris and all the gods here http://ancienthistory.about.com/library/bl/bl_myth_gods_index.htm, were real…just different manifestations of the same God? None of them were myths or fables? If so, which ones?

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Well, obviously I cannot say something about every name ever used to refer to something “god-ish”, can I? How the hell would I know? Especially given that there wasn’t for example only one Poseidon or only one Hecate, but that these god-names often covered often a broad and historically variable, um, let’s call it character-cloud of divine aspects. There are also false gods. In the end it mostly depends on how the humans interact with it. (I’d say that many forms of Yehowa are rather idols worshipped by the ignorant.) But yes, most of those were at least sometimes truthful if diffently “debased” aspects (or emmanations, lol) of the transcendent.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            And of course they are all myths and fables.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Including Yahwey?!?! OK. You lost me.

          • Diana A.

            Hit “liked” instead of reply. Man, I hate that.

            But yes, including Yahweh. We believers (of all stripes) experience something we call God and attach a name (or several) and descriptions to this experience. There are some conflicts because each of us is different and thus experiences God differently. Problems ensue when we become so attached to our own viewpoints (on God or anything else) that we have to treat those with a different viewpoint as anathema.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Of course Yahwe is a myth. Or a mask, if you prefer that term. God is word in our language for the highest, most comprehensive mystery of existance, for that which transcendent all thought. That which is god can by definition not be undertood. If anything it can only be experienced. But experience by its nature is subjective and limited by our mortal, temporal form. So all we can ever grasp are images, fragmnets, emmanations, masks… myths… of God.
            Yahweh is a myth. A mask. Like a burning bush. God made manifest in a form that is comprehensible to human mind.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            That which is god can by definition not be undertood. If anything it can only be experienced. But experience by its nature is subjective and limited by our mortal, temporal form. So all we can ever grasp are images, fragmnets, emmanations, masks… myths… of God.

            If that is all we can grasp, then you cannot define or describe or presume anything about god, his nature, wishes, desires, purpose, and so on.

            You see, FF, what you are doing is starting with the assumption of god as this indescribable, unknowable thingee that you ascribe has properties you know about, and then pretending that you are allowed glimpses of it. But what is it you are actually glimpsing?

            Let me use an analogy of a frosted and etched window through which you glimpse something like motion, changes in lighting, distorted and fuzzy images, and so on. You ascribe something out there with certain properties – let’s say an agency you claim is a unicorn – and then assure us that what we are glimpsing from this side of the window makes sense that what is out there is actually a unicorn… a creature we can never truly see because we are on this side of the window and it is on the other. All we can do is experience the images, fragments, emanations, masks… myths… of the unicorn.

            Do you see the problem you’ve created with what’s going on on this side of the window? Your ‘explanation’ has ceased focusing on what we can know about the data and then following it to some kind of explanation (including “I don’t know”) and has, instead, jumped to a preconceived conclusion whereby you then try to fit the data. It’s the wrong focus, an interfering conclusion, if you want to find out what is truly beyond the window. Jumping to the conclusion “Therefore unicorn” does not answer anything about what is actually beyond the window.

            This is why answers that yield “Therefore god” is always an indication of someone using an incompatible method of inquiry to science. It presumes the conclusion.

          • StraightGrandmother

            Mike Burns wrote: “and are you really contending that all the gods of primitive humankind were really the same god of Christianity? ”

            How do you know that God, or rather Christian God, was not there at primitive mankind?

          • Marcelo

            Yes, if one believes in Christianity (or many other religions) then it would appear to be that way. “Appear” meaning that there is objective fact and provable conjecture as to how life evolved and led to our present circumstances, that there doesn’t appear to be unassailable proof of God’s revelation to mankind, that even if one accepts such claimed revelation that it adequately explains why God appears to allow things to progress as they have and appears to allow all that suffering to occur.

            Appear means that by one set of proofs or by material epistemology there is no apparent reason for all this.

            But we derive the knowledge that we live by due to empiricism, logic, and faith. I cannot prove or adequately explain what consciousness is, for instance, but I am quite certain it exists. Not just for myself, but for others. We all take certain things by faith, sometimes based on like prior experience, and some “blindly.”

            But nothing need be taken by faith that isn’t in at least some fashion reasonable. For many, it is reasonable to assume that as we are not God, we cannot adequately fathom His reasons for doing these things, what purpose it does or has served, or what plan He might have in all this, if He has one. It is also reasonable to assume that there might be a reason we can’t understand for all of it because of our limited natures. There are many things I can’t understand but I take it on faith from those who appear to understand that they likely exist or are true.

            At one time in my life, at least, I have felt a spiritual prescence working in my life that I could not otherwise explain. Without going into details, there was some spiritual power that did things for me and in me that I couldn’t possibly do for myself and which save my life. I cannot explain it. Is it reasonable to assume that there was some neurological phenomenon only at the base of my experience? Yes. Is it reasonable to assume that something that powerful could also be due to a supernatural force that transcended my feeble mortal attempts. Also, yes.

            As much as I embrace ENS, science, and reason, I know none of those things can possibly explain why such long suffering has existed in the world other than as cold, hard natural process. If by arriving at an existential moment when something inside me cries out for something more than this, and by doing so I have discovered a presence I cannot adequately explain but intimately and viscerally feel, and that such presence has led me to something undeniably good in my life and the lives of my loved ones, I can and have made a leap of faith to a belief in a supernatural, benevolent power.

            As a rabbi I read about recently said, and I’m paraphrasing slightly, science explains the world, but religion or spirituality interprets it.

            What you are looking for is a solution to the Problem of Evil. I cannot offer you a satisfactory theodicy because I sometimes struggle with the same issues. I can offer you the direction I believe from where the answer can, and must, come.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            The “Problem of Evil” is elegantly explained by there simply not being a god. There is no better demonstration of Occam’s Razor. Remove the god and everything simply snaps into place.

            Do you remember the tortured machinations that sky-observers had to go through to explain the odd movements of the heavenly bodies because of the invalid, biblical presupposition that the earth was a the center of our [then very very tiny] universe? Then Copernicus and Bruno and Galileo come along, put the sun at the center of our solar system and SNAP!!, everything makes perfect sense.

            That lesson should not be lost. Does it make sense to argue that an active, involved, concerned creator would make a universe and go out of his way to make it look like he doesn’t exist? …or does it make sense that that god does not exist? The universe looks the same either way. Let’s go with the simple explanation, shall we?

          • Marcelo

            We could, but without trying to go into a tortuous recitation of instances where Occam’s Razor might have missed a more subtle, complex phenomenon at play (I don’t have the space or time at the moment for that discussion), I will throw out a radical thought:

            Logic is not greater than God. It can’t be. If God exists, then logic and science and reason and empiricism fail at adequately explaining Him. Those things are the ways we can perceive and explain and make sense of everything around us, but fall short at explaining God. By definition, though, nothing is greater than God. He’s bigger than that. I wouldn’t presume to put God in that sort of box. Similarly, I face the frustrating possibility that I can’t possibly understand or explain why theodicies fail. I admit the possibility that there is something beyond that seeming Problem of Evil. I suspect (I don’t know, Mike, I don’t claim to have that level of certainty) that there is something about making that leap of faith that achieves such a greater good as to render the pain and disappointment of a seemingly uncaring God (or worse, malevolent) moot. I believe the very act of reaching for it adds something to us, not detracts.

            And, wouldn’t old William of Occam also have to admit the following: Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence? That is an intellectual humility I try to carry with me each day. Seems to work for me.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Spoken like a true theologian.

          • Marcelo

            Ha! No one has ever accused me of that before! I know you probably didn’t mean it as a compliment, but hey…I’ll take what I can get.

            Regardless of whether I am or not, my argument should stand on its own. And no, it’s not a well-developed theory…more like a hypothesis in draft form…but I feel drawn–pulled really–in that direction. There’s something significant about that to me, too. Guess that’s why it’s called spirituality. We look for ways to explain existence and that essence of being human and not just being primates that are particularly good at making tools. Science takes us up to that launching point. Beyond that, well, we either crash and burn or catch a particularly good updraft based on what lies beyond, I suppose.

            Of course, if none of this is true, it won’t matter, will it? My consciousness dissipates with my brain’s ceasing electrical activity at death and Marcelo is no more. Until then, however, I explore. Guess it’s what I do.

          • Diana A.

            “The ‘Problem of Evil’ is elegantly explained by there simply not being a god. There is no better demonstration of Occam’s Razor. Remove the god and everything simply snaps into place.” For you. Not necessarily for everybody else.

        • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

          …or be fundamentaly ignorant of the nature of God. ^_^

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Well growing up in a [ostensibly] religious household I never recall anyone ever suggesting that there were other precursor “revelation[s] of God”. It sounds like you utilize the No True Scotsman falacy argument. I know it doesn’t make sense with your interpretation of God, but it makes perfect sense with my proper interpretation of God.

          • Marcelo

            …Or you’re making a straw man argument. :-) You are interpreting not what God’s reality might be, but your empirical understanding of it. And by empiricism and logic, it is lacking. Can we experience something as true that isn’t explainable by your methods?

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Well how do you know it is true if you can’t show that it is true? …maybe by capitalizing the first letter?!?! :-)

            How do we know that the experiences of Tim McVay or Jim Jones or Marshall Applewhite weren’t true? Maybe the Heaven’s Gate cult really did ride off in comet Hale-Bopp.

          • Marcelo

            How do we know consciousness is true?

            And the straw men you proffer may have sincerely believed they were doing God’s work, but I judge people by their actions. I judge their stated convictions by what results from their convicted actions. Which is why these straw men just went up in flames….

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Consciousness is true because we can test for it. The human mind can perceive ANYTHING as true.
            http://fvthinker.blogspot.com/2008/03/book-review-on-being-certain-believing.html

          • Marcelo

            Yes, the human mind can perceive anything as true. Including that God can’t exist. (I’m teasing, now, I’ll stop.)

            But what is consciousness? I don’t want to get into a spacey, “wow, dude, that’s soooooo deep” kind of discussion, but I’ve been reading quite a bit about the scientific “search” for consciousness, and even the leading lights in the field are stymied at adequately explaining or even defining it.

            We experience things. Some of those things are profound. Yes, maybe there are reproducible, neurological phenomena that explain how our physical brains translate or interpret other physical phenomena (like EM stimulation). But those realities don’t contradict that the impetus for those phenomena isn’t supernatural. Doesn’t prove that it is, either. All science can do is explain the physical reality we can measure and perceive.

            I’m not equating consciousness with supernatural belief or anything like that. I don’t ascribe to the “God of the Gaps” fall-back of some theists. I believe everything in this universe is eminently explainable by scientific theory and measured fact. But by its very essence, it cannot explain what lies beyond. And that is what is so fascinating about science. And what is so fascinating about spirituality. Something tugs at us, a yearning for something, to return to something ineffable, that makes us very human, and yet something more. I choose to call it soul, and that it is the essence of me. And…there is no way I can convey the reality of that to you in other than these words.

            Ultimately, what I am talking about we each have to experience for ourselves (or not). It is the existential question and a suggestion of an answer.

            But boy, that answer could be a good one!

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            “It sounds like you utilize the No True Scotsman falacy argument. I know it doesn’t make sense with your interpretation of God, but it makes perfect sense with my proper interpretation of God.”

            How is it a falacy when you make sweeping claims about any theistic belief that simply are not true in some cases – including the one state in the basic blog post you, i dunno, play-act to argue against?

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Well I must say that your interpretation if God is probably peaking a few eyebrows here. I guess I cannot specifically refute every single interpretation of Chrisitiantity (or any other religion.

            Will someone please please tell me just what the minimum qualifications are to call oneself a Christian? I think I am being pretty inclusive and speaking to the majority of self-proclaimed Christians when I say that other gods in history are [purported to be] either false or fables and that the God of Abraham [purportedly] revealed himself only as related in the new and old testaments.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            “It is much more reasonable—and certainly more compassionate—to hold that throughout history God chose to introduce himself in different ways into different culture streams, than it is to believe that there is only one correct way to understand and worship God, and that the punishment for anyone who chooses any but that way is to spend all of eternity having the living flesh seared off of his or her bones.” (John Shore, this blog-post.)

          • jes

            The minimum requirement to call oneself Christian is to believe in Christ. It just all goes in a bunch of directions from there, sorry.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            HA! It seems that that really IS the only thing some people can agree on. Unfortunately some self-proclaimed Christians believe in just the metaphor of Jesus Christ…which make them a deist in my book.

            Since I am reasonably confident that a preacher from Nazareth by the name of Jesus existed…I guess that would make me a Christian also!! :-)

          • Marcelo

            …Or a deist if you didn’t think it mattered that he did exist. ;-)

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            “Since I am reasonably confident that a preacher from Nazareth by the name of Jesus existed…I guess that would make me a Christian also!”

            Not really. You see, there is a reason the religion is called Christianity, not Jesusianity. The important part about Jesus of Nazareth was that he was “the anointed one”. “Christ” after all is not the surname of Jesus, but the greek version of his holy title. It is belief in the power and reality of what that title refers to – the Messiah – that makes you a Christian.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Also the minimum “qualification” for being a Christian that I know of is this: One has to believe in the existance of God, in Jesus Christ as the son of God, and in the eternal life. The rest is sectarian quibbles. :)

    • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

      Indeed, evolution is highly problematic for any assertions about special creationism by some divine agency in particular and any kind of general divine creation for life here on earth as we know it.

      The evidence we have for evolution drives this divine agent’s role in creating life here on earth (I can’t speak for Ceti-Alpha Five and other locales) back into very deep time where there is no evidence to go on. But it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to follow the evolutionary trail to this dark place in knowledge and then change paths entirely – from following the evidence in the direction it offers to a completely different path that substitutes divine intervention. I honestly don’t know how people are able to change intellectual gears like this and continue to think that the two ideas really are fundamentally compatible unless they decide that they really don’t want to think too much about it or ask other people to think much about it.

      If one keeps god in the realm of the metaphysical/supernatural, then that will work with what we know… but I don’t know of any christian or muslim or jew who is willing to constrain his or her preferred divine agent in such a way unless either the person doesn’t care very much about the details of what is believed – and how that belief specifically plays out when compared with what is known – or the divine creative agent is more of the hazy-deity-way-back-in-time kind. If the attitude in the public is more along the lines of the former, then is it any wonder that the very people who DO care about these specific details and how it affects public education – namely, evolutionary biologists who teach – come out of the wood work and start writing books about the negative consequences of maintaining such a problematic belief (Dawkins, PZ Myers, and Coyne, for a short list)?

      • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

        “But it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to follow the evolutionary trail to this dark place in knowledge and then change paths entirely – from following the evidence in the direction it offers to a completely different path that substitutes divine intervention.”

        Can you explain? Who is changing when what path from where to where?

        “If one keeps god in the realm of the metaphysical/supernatural, then that will work with what we know”

        What other realms are amongst the options?

        “I don’t know of any christian or muslim or jew who is willing to constrain his or her preferred divine agent in such a way unless either the person doesn’t care very much about the details of what is believed – and how that belief specifically plays out when compared with what is known – or the divine creative agent is more of the hazy-deity-way-back-in-time kind.”

        Ahem. You should know by now that my God is actively interventionist, that I care quite a lot about the details of what is believed, and that I have a pretty certain idea how my belief plays out and that it doesn’t need to be compared either with “what is known” (cuz, mate, to me, that is exactly what is known), nor with the general scientific consenus on evolution, because it incorporates that theory quite nicely.

        But what’s one specific falsification of a claim of yours. That doesn’t make it invalid, does it? ^_^

        • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

          Can you explain? Who is changing when what path from where to where?

          The evidence leads us to understand that our heritage come from common ancestry. Common ancestry relates us to simpler and older life forms (which is why you are kin to every other living critter and plant on the planet). We have direct genetic lineage to pre-Cambrain blood worms as our ancestors. But before the blood worms, we have no evidence (yet) probably because the critters were without body parts to be fossilized. So if you stay on the path of common ancestry then the trail runs into the darkness of the unknown after this (working backwards in time). I doubt very much most theists (except Collins) honestly think god intervened to create the pre-Cambrian blood worms with the intention of evolving humans as well as carrots 2.5 billion years later. The logical path is to continue down the same evidential one we’ve been on to assume that the blood worms were the result of common ancestry from simpler life forms rather than a ‘poof’ moment when god intervened.

          What other realms are amongst the options?

          I don’t know. I am familiar with the one we occupy and that we can come to know through methodological naturalism. But because people make reference to this supernatural one as if it, too, exists, then I assume there is this one I know nothing about but that other people seem to know. And as long as it doesn’t intersect with the one we do know about in order to remain exempt from honest inquiry, then I am suggesting everything is swell.

          If your god is interventionist, then it behooves you to back up the various truth claims about its nature and intentions based on something more than just your particular beliefs that something natural is, actually, supernatural – something that shows this intervention with causal evidence that something more is present than can be accounted for. That’s called science. I know you have granted all kinds of human neural experiences to this agency that look and behave exactly like self-contained biological processes, but that’s a problem….

          …Of course, I didn’t really write any of this: the devil made me do it so, hence, my writing is evidence of demonic possession…

          You see how easy it is to make false truth claims about the supernatural when it looks just like the natural? If only there were some way to tell the difference…

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            If I wanted to convince you of the truth, or to act in any way because of the supposed truth of my belief, yes, than, in a reasonable, democratic society I should first prove my claim to you. But that is not what I am trying to do. And frankly, I doubt I could in the constraints of such a debate, here. (You do remember what Einstein answered that lady who asked him at a cocktail party to explain the theory of relativety to her so that she could understand it. You clearly do not claim that because he didn’t or couldn’t then and there that that theory must be delusional.)

            Right now I am debating a very specific claim you made: “I don’t know of any christian or muslim or jew who is willing to constrain his or her preferred divine agent in such a way unless either the person doesn’t care very much about the details of what is believed – and how that belief specifically plays out when compared with what is known – or the divine creative agent is more of the hazy-deity-way-back-in-time kind.”

            And I am saying, I am judeochristian monotheist. I believe that my God shapes the course of history and of individual lives here and now. I have a solid idea of how He does that. And it does not violate the laws of physics or the theory of evolution.

            It is now your job to either prove that this impossible, or to take back that claim.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            The point I made was that I know of no religious believer in the Abrahamic faiths – who keeps his or her god secured only within the metaphysical – and not the physical – world. You, FF, place his actions and effects of those actions in this one. And as soon as you cross that boundary, you are making a truth claim that god is some kind of causal force in the physical sense. This is where the need for evidence arises and where it is so sorely lacking. The universe (the part we know about) looks and behaves exactly like it would with no divine intervention and evolution offers us just such an explanation in place of a creationist god as far as life on earth and its development is concerned. This is problematic for those who believe that god created life as we know it in its present form.

            You assert that your god “shapes the course of history and individual lives here and now.” That may be true. Can you offer evidence to show why this assertion is informed by more than just your belief? If you can’t, then isn’t it reasonable at the very least to assert the your god may shape the course of history and individual lives here and now”? And unless you can somehow reveal this causal divine agent actually does – and not merely belief in this divine agency – cause such a shaping, then your claim looks exactly like ‘made up stuff’.

          • Anonymous

            Tildeb, I can’t speak for FF, but I believe in Christ. And, yes, it is a belief…not blind faith, but faith, nonetheless, and it cannot be proven. It is experiential and it is real to me. The most I can do is share it with those who are open to it. Have I seen it manifest in this world? Absolutely. But, anyone who is determined enough to do so, could formulate a non-spiritual explanation to such manifestations. Do I have questions? Absolutely, I’m a work in progress and a student of life. Could I be wrong? Could you be wrong? Absolutely.

            Do any of the theories in which you believe call for an ounce of faith?

            Do you have faith in anything that cannot be absolutely proven?

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            I can’t speak for Tildeb, but your type of faith is belief despite no [or contrary] evidence. I place my faith in the method of thought that delivers objective and real results.

            I ‘believe’ that atoms are comprised of a cluster of protons and neutrons orbited by electrons (i.e. http://sciencespot.net/Media/atom2.jpg). I believe that because it is the best explanation that we have at present. Importantly, I would happily and eagerly (and be intellectually obliged) to discard that belief were we to learn more about the structure of matter that would better explain the behavior of matter.

            …and few things (if any) can be ‘absolutely proven’ (at least in the way you mean it).

          • Anonymous

            I don’t disagree with you, Mike, except for the “or contrary” comment.

            It’s interesting that we share some beliefs, and I’ll bet if we sat down face-to-face we’d find other commonalities.

            But you are not here to share commonalities or learn from others, IMHO. I sense you feel intellectually superior to any of us who have faith. So, if that’s the case, why do you partipate in this blog?

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            I assume we share many many “commonalities” and I assume that everyone here is compassionate and caring.

            Re: intellectual superiority…
            I assume everyone is just as intelligent as the next person, but it drives me nuts when people throw out really bad arguments and then get their pants in a bunch when they are called on it. …and to be honest some people here throw out some arguments that demonstrate their intellectual IN-feriority. [You know who you are!!! Oh...you probably don't know who you are]

            I don’t find evidence for unicorns, hence I don’t believe in unicorns (nor do you). I don’t find evidence for boogy monsters, hence I don’t believe in boogy monsters (nor do you). I don’t find evidence for God, hence I don’t believe in God (but you do). If one will believe one thing on no evidence, then one can believe ANYthing on no evidence. The default position should be dis-belief until evidence is provided. Truth is important…and there are good ways to find truth. There are bad ways to find truth. There are invalid ways of finding truth. Nobody is well served by showing deference to the bad and invalid ways of finding truth. I challenge people as…a public service. :-)

            I participate here (and basically ONLY here), because it hits the sweet spot in that it is lightly trafficked enough that I can actually follow a conversation and doesn’t have 400 comments on my first visit (though it is picking up). But it has enough traffic that keeps the conversations going. Plus John is a generally funny guy and a very pragmatic and liberal theist that I can agree with on most matters of import.

            My participation in these discussions, in general, is because I see public policy being unduly influenced by fundamental religious ideology (“Ban abortion because it makes God mad!!”). If believers would keep their dogma out of public policy, you would never hear from the likes of me. Mr. Shore and I both appreciate the value of Church/State separation. If one formulates policy that can only be supported with theistic arguments, then it doesn’t belong in public policy.

          • Anonymous

            Defending my position, or my faith, is futile, so I will waste no effort on that issue.

            I must agree, however, on your assessment of poor arguments (especially when “scripture” is used as THE argument). Also right there with you Church/State.

            Interesting, these days I find myself pondering the words of Sinclair Lewis: “Fascism will come wrapped in a flag and carrying a Bible.”

            Best,

            Susan

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            “Fascism will come wrapped in a flag and carrying a Bible.”

            True dat!!

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            “My participation in these discussions, in general, is because I see public policy being unduly influenced by fundamental religious ideology.”
            Oh yeah, I agree.

            “Mr. Shore and I both appreciate the value of Church/State separation.”
            Yep. I’m actually very much in favour of a laicist state, i.e. one in which the executive and judicary arms of government (not the elected legislative, or the parties, though) and its organs and representatives are not allowed to publically profess to or show any sign or symbolism of faith. No crosses, no head scarfs, no public prayers, no nothing of that sort.

            “If one formulates policy that can only be supported with theistic arguments, then it doesn’t belong in public policy.”
            What arguments do you permit? That is dangerous again, because you cut out a part of value forming human life. Where do you take your values from? How do you legitimize any desires for policy. But an argument is all it is, and it is as much fair game and up for grabs as any argument. Free speech, after all, shouldn’t be limited by anything.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            I don’t care what a policy-maker’s faith is or what they wear (though Obama’s low-key attitude lets public imagination run wild from atheist to Muslim). I only care about how they legislate. If, for instance, one is against abortion in any and all forms, then express the argument in universal terms that does not require belief in the supernatural to make sense of it. Even if your motives are informed by your religion, it doesn’t make sense unless ALL groups can recognize the arguments as legitimate. [It seems that it is only the religious that can conflate embryonic cell research and late-term abortion as equivalent. There are at least three distinct issues in that spectrum...but I digress] I think it is an eminently reasonable standard for public policy.

            Where do I take my values from? The same place that anybody participating is society does. There is no evidence that values are diminished without religious belief. IMO, some erroneously think God is the source of values.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Oh no, you misundertand me. I certainly do not believe that atheists are less ethical or anything like that. I just meant to say that values and morals are rarely if ever part of a hard scientific discourse (although of course scientific facts are very important to consider when making value calls.) Since all human values are relative and dependent on culture, you cannot really exclude religion from that canon of human culture.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Maybe I will get back to you on that. I will be listening to Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape as I drive out to Washington D.C. this weekend.

            http://www.amazon.com/Moral-Landscape-Science-Determine-Values/dp/1439171211/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1288302202&sr=8-1

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Going to the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear?

          • Mike Burns

            Yep. Driving 15 hour with my brother and friend.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Since all human values are relative and dependent on culture […}

            And this is exactly why we need a science of morality, to get rid of this terrible notion that because health is relative and dependent on culture, medicine has nothing to say about it!

            Absolute bunk.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            …yes? I mean, of course health is mostly dependent on our bodies, and only to a lesser part on our will, stress, etc., and medicine has shitloads to say about it. I don’t have to repeat my extollations of modern medicine, do I? (All that praise-shouting is kinda embarrassing, you know.)

            But what exactly is your “science of morality”. Sounds intriguing.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            FYI: Listened to Sam Harris’ book The Moral Landscape. Very compelling arguments that religion, quite regularly, gets morality wrong by … sometimes by mere virtue of how morality is derived in that sphere. It also contains what is possibly the most whithering attack on the Catholic church I have had the pleasure to witness. The primary thrust, though, is that science does, legitimately, have much to say about morality. It certainly made for interesting discussion.

            As Mr. Shore has also acknowledged; Mr. Harris is an eminently logical and rational thinker. If one wishes to discuss morality with any intellectual credibility; one needs to be familiar with scholarship and philosophy from all sides. This book is a highly recommended read for anyone who considers morality important. … and who doesn’t think morality is important?

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Just finished reading the book and am curious: how did you cover the sizable end notes?

            I think it’s an important way to come at the is/ought divide. Science really can help us determine and define comparative morality.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Well the audiobook did not cover the end notes at all. I will shortly crack open the paper book to better absorb the material. I find it amusing that a book like this can be very nearly 1/3 bibliography where the religious apologist tomes, effectively, have nothing to reference. I felt I was already broadly familiar with some of his claims that likely were referenced in end-notes. Harris is quite fastidious. If I get up off my butt (figuratively), I will post a review of the book. It was interesting discussing it with my riding companions. One companion [I believe] consistently over-insinuated what Harris’ thesis was as to how far science could go in the matter of morality. Importantly; Harris frequently [and rightly] points that there are many situations where there are right answers even if, at present, we can’t precisely determine them.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Well the audiobook did not cover the end notes at all. I will shortly crack open the paper book to better absorb the material. I find it amusing that a book like this can be very nearly 1/3 bibliography where the religious apologist tomes, effectively, have nothing to reference. I felt I was already broadly familiar with some of his claims that likely were referenced in end-notes. Harris is quite fastidious. If I get up off my butt (figuratively), I will post a review of the book. It was interesting discussing it with my riding companions. One companion [I believe] consistently over-insinuated what Harris’ thesis was as to how far science could go in the matter of morality. Importantly; Harris frequently [and rightly] points that there are many situations where there are right answers even if, at present, we can’t precisely determine them.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            I hear you, Susan.

            I often get into trouble needlessly when I question how people attribute their experiences. I know the experiences you have had are very meaningful to you and I do not wish to denigrate or make fun of or disrespect them in any way. But…

            Are there any other explanations other than one you attribute to be the cause of the experiences? For example, consider someone who suffers from alien hand syndrome (also called autonomous hand syndrome). The person who suffers from this condition experiences wearing a limb that ‘has a mind of its own’, a limb that is part of yet separate from the rest of the body. This person is convinced of this ‘fact’ because he or she experiences this separateness. The experience is absolutely real, but does it accurately reflect reality? Is the hand really separate? Does it really have a ‘mind of its own’? If we think it is part of the person, are we being ‘disrespectful’ of the person’s experience or nullifying it in any way if we argue why we think it is part of the person, that it is not separate, that it does not have a ‘mind of its own’?

            In the same way, those who attribute experiences to a supernatural cause, are we being disrespectful of the person’s experience or nullifying it in any way if we argue why we think it is a natural event, that it is caused by natural forces, that it does not require a supernatural element or intervention?

          • Anonymous

            Tildeb, I hear you, too.

            Sometimes what seems “Divine” is not so much the natural event or natural forces, but the timing, string of “coincidences” or both. And when this happens repeatedly and seemingly against all odds, it can appear as if there is a higher power at work.

            My belief is based on many variables, but much is experiential and not “verifiable.” Nonetheless, I do think it’s fine to make logical arguments. Your knowledge and insight is greatly appreciated.

            Faith doesn’t necessarily equate to ‘Anne Heche In The Desert’ crazy or that reason has been abandoned. I continue to have questions, but perhaps the difference is that I don’t need to have all of the answers in order to believe while I still seek.

            It is certainly fine to counter any argument with logic. I appreciate, and learn from, your participation here. and appreciate (and learn from) the logic you add to . This actually helps me to

            No, I don’t think it’s wrong to counter someone with logic.

            The trouble for me is that I can’t refute with verifiable evidence

          • Matthew Tweedell

            “The universe (the part we know about) looks and behaves exactly like it would with no divine intervention….”

            How mistaken you are there! We could list counterexamples by the hundred, but let’s keep it simple: in a universe without God, for instance, we would not observe nuclear decay to take place.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            !?!?!?! [befuddled expression]

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            “in a universe without God, for instance, we would not observe nuclear decay to take place.”

            *Groans again* See, Tildeb (and even Mike… well… somewhat) I do understand why you think that all religion is stupefying, made-up, nonsense… like… well… this. I can only hope that you can allow the possibility that the obvious inability to grasp physics (or any other science) is a tip off to the inability to grasp any complex issue, including religion…

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            I think it is wise to always grant MT the benefit of the doubt: he’s a wily one and oftentimes exasperating in his focus on semantics to obfuscate but he’s more than capable of grasping highly complex issues. He’s up to something here so we’ll just have to wait for it… I’ve noticed that one has to be very learned to be so mistaken as MT! (Just yanking your chain, Matthew.)

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            I am always reticent to engage MT. Sometimes I think he would debate the Arabic alphabet before we could use it to form words. He is sometimes like Socrates on crack…and not in a good way.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            @~b

            “I’ve noticed that one has to be very learned to be so mistaken as MT!”

            That actually makes an awful lot of sense to me.

            BTW, thank you for sparing FF the retort I had in mind for him.

            @MB

            You flatter me.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            *bows* if i truly mispoke I apologize…

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Okay, MT, I’ll bite: how does radioactive decay signify god?

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Well, there are several different ways, but I’ll start by just briefly going over a couple of the easiest ones.

            For it to be true that we would observe radioactive decay, there would be a common truth of which such observations are. It is this truth that is my Lord.

            If we are to have observational presence to an event, there must be a chain of causation linking it to us—we are beings such as exist in a world (i.e. universe or locale therein) with a causal nature. Efficient cause for radioactive decay is ultimately unknowable. Yet components of sufficient cause can be named and mechanisms postulated that adequately explain the effects and predict certain results, incorporating necessary conditions along with an element of chance. But what is chance? What is its objective reality here, other than as “made up stuff” in our minds? If it’s something—if it exists (which we could say it does as it is observable in the reality of such a universe)—it is not anything material; and if it does not exists—if it is nothing (which we could say that it is, for it really would seem to be no thing at all)—we may as well name God (or whatever else) as the causal mechanism responsible for timing the decay of a nucleus, instead of chance. In the first case, as there exist both the material and the immaterial in a single causal universe, an entanglement of their existence in common causation exists; this ultimate cause or highest truth or however else I might try to describe it can only really be adequately described by one English word: God. In the second case, you are likely to object on the grounds that the mechanism of chance lends itself to a productive model of such phenomenon; yet assuming God as the way of causation here does so as well (and in more ways than just prediction/explanation) if only you understand how properly to relate with this Being.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            MT, my hopes to avoid what MT and Ely accuse you of doing seems misplaced when you begin with the statement: For it to be true that we would observe radioactive decay, there would be a common truth of which such observations are.

            Oh boy.

            You use the past tense of the word ‘will’ but then switch to the present tense of the verb to be by using ‘are’. The subject of the sentence is this thing you call common truth which doesn’t sound either past tense or plural but let’s keep going. Apparently there is some other kind of truth that is uncommon. But that notion is put aside and we’re left with common truth.

            Okay.

            You are saying we would see radioactive decay if there were a god because god is this common truth. So far god is truth, god is common truth, we need common truth to observe radioactive decay, and you’re about to explain ‘therefore god.’

            You then spend the next paragraph jumping by leaps and bounds through this meadow of assumptions and questionable descriptions to arrive at the conclusion that god is the mechanism of cause.

            Sorry, MT. In spite of the less than auspicious beginning I have got to see how you arrived at this conclusion.

            The first problem I see is the use of language based on Aristotelian metaphysics… specifically cause.

            There are four kinds of causes in Ari’s metaphysics between accidental and essential causes broken down into: material, formal, efficient, and final. Let’s review so we know what we’re talking about:

            Material cause: the material that makes it up
            Formal cause: the arrangement of its matter
            Efficient cause: that which brings something about
            Final cause: its purpose, goal, or aim.

            MT says that for us to observe something, there must be something to observe that can be linked back to us. For most of us doing the observing, this usually comes in the from of radiation we call light. And already we run into a problem here: if its radioactive decay we are trying to ‘observe’ and the only way we can do that is to rely on radiation that may be subject itself to decay depending on the medium in which the observations take place, then we are so befuddled about how to start this examination of observing without bias that we might as well throw up our hands and say “Therefore god.” (It’s such a conveniently ubiquitous ‘answer’. Try it on any curious child and see how long you can use the same answer for any and all questions.)

            Oh well. Be that as it may, let’s gird those loins and press on.

            MT states with authority that we can never know how radioactive decay comes about (efficient cause). But if it is to be used as evidence FOR god, then we are assuming exactly that: radioactive decay DOES come about. So I’m confused. More so than when I started.

            Nevertheless…

            Now comes this new term: sufficient cause. I don’t know what this means in Aristotelian terminology, but I do know what it means in logical terms. Let’s review so we know what we’re talking about.

            There are two main kinds of logical causes:

            Sufficient cause: a complete causal mechanism
            Necessary cause: an effect cannot occur without it

            MT admits that we have all the criteria to understand the sufficient cause of radioactive decay. But that’s not enough for him to understand radioactive decay. He needs to get god in here somehow.

            Oh, wait… he’s sneaking in an idea of results from calculations about decay that allow for a slight difference due to chance. When one does an isometric calculation on, say, a rock to determine its age by half lives of argon or whatever, there is a range of estimation due to the lengthy time of argon’s radioactive decay. We measure radioactive decay by its half lives (in the case of argon, its half life is 1.25 billion years).

            Okay, now we know what this chance actually means in terms of radioactive decay. Is this what MT means?

            Chance is not a range of a measurement in results to MT. It is now a thingee in and of itself, or, as MT says a non-material ‘something’. He describes this notion of chance as ‘something’ as opposed to ‘nothing’ and says that we may as well call this non-material something god that (or who, I guess) is really responsible for timing the different kinds and rates of decay for different isotopes.

            Sigh

            So god equals chance. I know a lot of lottery winners who would agree, but from gamblers sometimes they call that lady not quite so flattering names!

            Because this non material something exists as a thingee – a chance-that-is-actually-god thingee – in a material universe that is itself causal (I don’t know what that means other than cause and effect seem to happen in our universe), he says an ‘entanglement’ ensues in ‘common causation’, meaning the material and non material world entangle.

            Let’s take a moment and admire that sophisticated reasoning. Or shake our head. Or poke ourselves in the eye for bothering with all of this.

            What is being entangled exactly? God and the universe, of course, as revealed by chance and radioactive decay!

            this ultimate cause or highest truth or however else I might try to describe it can only really be adequately described by one English word: God.

            Only. There is no other word for it… although I can think of a few. Notice the sly insertion of the notion of ultimate cause, which really should be phrased as necessary to remain consistent.. but I quibble. (Don’t know why I feel that urge.) Even with the new term “the highest truth”, we know we’re not talking about the same kind of chance that occurs with the roll of a dice or the dealing of cards or the bounce of an oblong ball… no, we’re talking about god-that-is-Truth in the sense of a universal El Supremo over and above mere radioactive decay… as if chance causes radioactive decay rather than radioactive decay causing our measurements to include a slight random error of prediction because of time scales.

            What we see here is MT flipping the entire understanding of causation to better reflect his preference for which causal agent in radioactive decay is his choice for El Supremo.

            And here’s the final nail in the coffin to anyone who dares doubt that radioactive decay proves god:

            you are likely to object on the grounds that the mechanism of chance lends itself to a productive model of such phenomenon; yet assuming God as the way of causation here does so as well (and in more ways than just prediction/explanation) if only you understand how properly to relate with this Being.

            Any doubt is because we don’t properly relate to Lady luck… er… I mean chance… er… I mean cause… I mean…er… ultimate cause… er… I mean truth… er… I mean highest truth… er… I mean god.

            God!

            What could be clearer than that!

          • Matthew Tweedell

            “would” indicates conditional mood, and the noun governing the verb “are” parses unambiguously as “observations” in the first sentence of my second paragraph.

            Wherever I used “common” here it is always to refer to that which is held in common by us, as the observation we speak of is ours—so it specifies such a thing of which, though there is yours and mine, there are not many but is a single unit, in identity.

            “…you’re about to explain ‘therefore god.’”

            Indeed I did at that point. And the rest was a second way in which this is specifically revelatory of God, of which I said in the first sentence there are several, and I went through a couple (2) briefly, which is why, “MT states with authority…” where certain of the truth of something and well aware of its general acceptance among those with understanding of the matter referred to.

            “cause” means prerequisite of effect, with adjectives “efficient” and “sufficient” in the normal senses, so not requiring taking these terms in the context of some pre-fabricated metaphysical system to make sense of them.

            “MT admits that we have all the criteria to understand the sufficient cause of radioactive decay.”

            No, actually, I do NOT.

            “He needs to get god in here somehow.”

            Why? Not only why would I need to get god in (which I don’t think I would—other than that it happens to be true, and even so, I don’t really need to nor particularly want to, but do anyway as others may need it), but why do you think here, of all places (after all, it was I who named the example)?

            “Okay, now we know what this chance actually means in terms of radioactive decay. Is this what MT means?”

            No; look: if you don’t understand the physics just as you didn’t seem to understand my grammar, it’s ok, tildeb; you don’t have to know everything.

            “…timing the different kinds and rates of decay for different isotopes.

            “Sigh

            “So god equals chance.”

            No, not for different isotopes, but for individual nuclei. Think Schrodinger’s cat. The state found upon wavefunction collapse is predictable as a set of probabilities associated each with an element of the set of allowable states. Chance therefore is not God, but a tool of the mind. Of God is the setting of the state thus observed.

            “He describes this notion of chance as ‘something’ as opposed to ‘nothing’ and says that we may as well call this non-material something god….”

            You know what, you may just want to reread the whole thing a bit more carefully.

            “as if chance causes radioactive decay rather than radioactive decay causing our measurements to include a slight random error of prediction because of time scales.

            “What we see here is MT flipping the entire understanding of causation to better reflect his preference for which causal agent in radioactive decay is his choice for El Supremo.”

            In what way have I flipped the understanding of causation!? What preference do I have anyway?

            Besides your apparent misunderstanding of the implications of quantum physics, it is actually my point that you, rather, and many other atheists too, interpret chance to place a role in causation.

          • jes

            Ah… I give. What?

          • Matthew Tweedell

            It’s not really a riddle, nor did I pose a question, so I’m not sure what you give—whatever it is, though, I’ll take it :)

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            “The point I made was that I know of no religious believer in the Abrahamic faiths – who keeps his or her god secured only within the metaphysical – and not the physical – world.”

            I don’t understand. What do you mean by “only within the metaphysical”?

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            I believe Tildeb is saying that believers generally claim their metaphysical God interacts with the physical world. …at which point those truth claims of about the effects of that metaphysical agency can be tested and falsified.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            But what does he mean by the word metaphysical? Anything other than merely a polite form of “made-up”?

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            Meta:In this context generally meant to mean ‘beyond’. God is not physical, he is beyond physical, he is metaphysical.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meta

            Once could rightly argue that our physical sciences and mathematics have nothing to say about the metaphysical realm (non-overlapping magisteria). Popular theistic narratives, though, say that God does influence things in the physical realm (answers prayers, performs miracles, etc)…and science does, indeed, have something to say about that. Need I detail just what science has found regarding those claims?

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            *dryly* thank you. i can translate it myself. I can also ‘pedia the term myself. I just have a hard time coming up with anything he could mean by the word that to him isn’t simply more “made-up” stuff. If he’s just using it as a euphemism for imaginary or even delusional, I wish he’d say so.

            As for popular theology, that’s usually about as much worth as popular science…

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            And that’s why the conclusions of metaphysics used by various religions are not compatible with the methodology of science. Why didn’t Socrates just count the number of ribs in the male and female anatomy before assuming that they were different? Why did it take the rc church 1500 years to deal with the fact that we have an equal number? I’m sure most catholics during the intervening years could count to 12 but when such an answer casts doubt on the Genesis account, well, all bets are off.

            Belief in the veracity of metaphysics and its conclusions has been a significant contributor to maintaining the ‘knowledge’ of the dark ages – past, present, and future.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Socrates assumed the rib count to be different??

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Thank you, MB. But FF is perfectly capable of understanding the etymology of the word. He’s about to pretend that meaning of words is not empirical so our position is that we cannot know anything about it.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Lol. No. I really just wanted to know if you mean anything by it other than an oblique euphemism for “made-up” and “delusional”. ^_^

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            “Of course, I didn’t really write any of this: the devil made me do it so, hence, my writing is evidence of demonic possession…”

            Well, now that you put it that way, lol. No, seriously, that which I would say deserves the name “devil” in a theological sense, is indeed that which is advising you to act that way. And it would indeed be your duty to God to resist his temptation, in this case probably the temptation to ignore your individual, spiritual nature in sole favour of your societally conditioned rationality (though of course I do not know you nearly enough to be certain, this is mainly a projection on my side based on past experiences with people who displayed similar behaviour and beliefs).

            But as we do live in a non-theocratic society, and since we have freedom of expression, and as I am a strict opponent of burning devil worshipers, yeah, you got my vote that you have every right to give in to this temptation. It’s your soul, mate. ^_^

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            [in a hushed voice] Tildeb…back out of the room quitely!! :-)

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Boo! :D

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Hey, Tildeb, why is it that whenever I pose a scientific (falsifiable) challenge to one of your claims, you fall silent?

      • Matthew Tweedell

        You must understand, tildeb, that it’s always frightful to us when living things come out of the woodwork. It’s just sort of a kneejerk reaction, more than it is true and deep concern for our hazy-deity-way-back-in-time. Of course He’s just as present now, and it is He by whom the monsters are rent from the woodwork. That doesn’t make Him the sort of theologically un-Christian God-of-the-gaps you seem to want to peg Him as. Rather, He is the Lord of creation, the Sustainer of all that has being.

    • Marcelo

      “What was the point of all those species that came into existence that have nothing to do with humanity’s evolution?”

      Uh, God knew we would need content to fill up Animal Planet’s airtime?

    • Mindakms

      Mike, you presume to understand the complexity of all creation (evolution, whatev) enough to clearly state that there are species that came into existence that have nothing to do with humanity’s evolution? And by the way, who says creation = God’s pet project humanity? I guess I haven’t been paying attention my whole life, because I didn’t know that was what Christians believed..

      • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

        There are species that branched off from a common ancestor (so they would be cousins of a sort) that have gone extinct. These are species that took a completely different evolutionary path and then died off long before humanity came into existence (billions or many millions of years before humanity). What would be the point of wiping out the majority of all life during the Permian-Triassic extinction event?

        It should be obvious to the casual observer that human-kind is [very conveniently] central to every theistic narrative. Calling us “Gods pet project” was just a cute way of saying that.

        • Don Whitt

          Ahhhh…Mike…the “center of attention” argument. Mankind MUST be special because we see it that way. It’s OBVIOUS.

          What if the main point of all this is an inter-stellar geology experiment similar to billiards, but with large molten masses called stars, black holes used to flush the universe’s detritus on to the next universe and gravitational fabric that ebbs and flows like water? Lots more evidence of that. We occupy HOW much of the Milky Way which occupies HOW much of the known Universe? What makes us so diggity-dang special? Cuz we say so, that’s why. Feh!

    • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

      Actually, one only has to believe that if one thinks of God as a temporal being and if one thinks that the nebrew scripture was the only or first revelation of God… which not even that hebrew scripture itself seriously claims. Only small children, simple minds, and superficial believers would do any of that… (of which there are enough, sure. But there are enough who think that the theory of evolution claims birds developed wings so that they can fly, or similar teleological nonsense.)

    • jes

      I see nothing in science to contradict God kick starting the whole shebang and then standing back, unless you’ve heard more recently than I have about what exactly caused things to start?
      The only contradiction you pose would be that humanity is God’s pet project, and has been from the start. Maybe we’re his current pet project, but he used to be a big fan of dinosaurs? Who knows? Certainly not I…but then I also find it downright scary to contemplate a micro-managing omniscient being who wants to meddle in my life. It seems awfully egotistical to assume that humanity is the most important thing in the universe as far as God’s concerned.

      I really rather prefer a stand-offish and distant creator that doesn’t take a personal interest in every minute of my life. I would surely never claim to be his pet project!

      • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

        Then you are deist?

        • jes

          Does what I call myself matter in any way to how you interpret my comments?

          I guess I am agnostic. I don’t claim to know what may or may not be actual truth about god or gods or why they, if they exist, do what they do. Call me an undecided voter if you like. I spend time thinking about different possibilities, and I find some more attractive than others, and some downright scary, and in the end it doesn’t seem to make much difference in how I actually live my life.

          • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

            I am agnostic also…and am so with regard to everything that has no evidence.

            How you define your beliefs only helps me in how I form my discourse. In these matters, there is only one measure of “attractive”-ness that should have any sway…and that is the measure of truth. As our esteemed Mr. Shore has purports that it doesn’t matter how ugly something is, the truth is the truth and truth trumps all. (I can’t find the original quote and I would quibble with his execution but….)

  • Lilic

    I stumbled across your blog a couple of months ago on Huffington Post, and have been lurking here ever since. This ost has finally moved me to engage a little further and actually respond. Like many of the folks here, I so appreciate the way you beautifully articulate many of the same things I beleive, but perhaps have not been able to express so clearly and concisely. I find this is a painful time to be a christian, because I am so disgusted by what often takes place under the guise of christianity, and don’t want people to associate me with those things just because I define myself, in part, as a “Christian”. On the other hand, I am the director of a non-profiit that works with the isues of extreme poverty and homelessness, and I have seen some amazing examples of compassion, sacrifice, and loving “the least of these” that come from some of the very same people who condemn homnosexuality, divorce, etc. as sin,sin,sin (which can be annoying, especially when I’m looking for someone to look down my nose at and feel spiritually superior to. Darn it, it seems that even a**holes can have good sides). In any event, I just wanted to thank you, John, for your blog, and particularly this article. You, and many of the thoughtful fans that post here, give me a place to consider these kinds of issues without having a constant knee-jerk reaction to hateful rhetoric or twisting of scripture. If it’s ok with y’all, I think I’ll stick around awhile.

    • Lilic

      BTW I can spell – I typed this pretty fast and just re-read it and noticed a bunch of typo’s – sorry:-(

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1554973255 Erika Beseda-Allen

        hi lilic,
        even us crappy spellers are welcome here!
        erika

    • Anonymous

      I’m glad you’re here, Lilic. And thanks for the very kind words. And you’re absolutely right: the world is full of good, thoughtful Christians who, though theologically on the right, do exceptional work caring for the needy. My wife, too, works (as the COO) for a non-profit that serves the homeless and hungry, and there’s no question about it: as a group that actually DOES stuff to help that population, no one beats the Christians—and most of them, we know, lean toward the right. So what? When you’re starving, you could care less where the person offering you food stands on the theological issue of homosexuality. I’ve written on this dynamic before—how, say what you will about the right, but they’re very often the ones front and center DOING the Lord’s work–but it’s something that I think it’s time to emphasize again. Thanks for the reminder.

      • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

        “When you’re starving, you could care less where the person offering you food stands on the theological issue of homosexuality.”

        Ahem… *stands there poised to contradict, but then smiles and waves it off instead*

        Tell your wife a heartfelt thank you for helping the homeless from me. Seriously. Heartfelt. ^_^

  • StraightGrandmother

    John, I would like to suggest 2 topics for you.

    #1 – Have you ever experienced or seen first hand a miracle?

    #2 When you pray, what do you pray for?

    I think these two topics would generate amazing responses.

    • Anonymous

      Well, in the meantime, I can give you my quick answers to your questions. #1. I can’t imagine what in our world DOESN’T qualify as a miracle. #2. I pray in two … parts: First, I ask God to help people with specific problems or concerns of which I’m aware. Next I spend about ten minutes just meditating. (I wrote about this here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2010/08/28/what-is-prayer/)

      • StraightGrandmother

        John, Thanks for the link to the article on prayer I read it and also many of the comments.

        It occurs to me that I enjoy not only what you write but also the many thoughtful comments from way different points of view from the readers here. I read down further some of the comments that people wrote subsequent to my suggesting Q 1 & 2 and I found them quite interesting. I guess I would suggest that maybe you write an article sharing your thoughts on Q1 & Q2 (maybe 2 seperate articles) as I think the comments will be quite interesting, in addition of course to your own brilliance on the questions. I bet they would be good comments, and good comments help bring people over here to read, right? Not only that but it would get me off my GLBT bandwagon for a couple of topics ha-ha.

    • Anonymous

      Some people say that miracles are no longer for today. Others say it has to do with our belief…like if we don’t have enough faith, God withholds His blessing. After working in a church for 20 years, I can’t say the evidence for miracles is overwhelming. What say you?

      • Marcelo

        A pet peeve of mine in church when call goes out during service for prayers, etc., that someone speaks of someone recovering from a serious illness, that it’s “a miracle!” Excuse me, but aren’t miracles supposed to be a bit rarer than that…hence “miracles?” Do we then blame God for every time something bad happens when something good should have happened?

        • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

          We should, shouldn’t we? I mean, if we’re going to give praise for the good stuff, isn’t it only reasonable to place blame for the bad? But that seems to be a no-no.

          As for recovering from illness, a little more praise for the efficacy of modern medicine and those who have been trained to provide it would be pretty reasonable. So would heaping a lot more praise on the engineering team who successfully rescued the Chilean miners rather than holding man responsible for the cave-in but god for the rescue. It’s pious cherry picking.

          • Marcelo

            And I thank God for those medical practitioner’s skills and knowledge. :-) If I pray about it, I usually ask, “Heavenly Father, if it is your will, please guide their hands.”

            I can’t explain why God seems to intervene to help sometimes and doesn’t seem to intervene to help other times. Since I can’t see the rays from heaven that are manipulating physical events I couldn’t possibly say one way or the other. Sometimes, I felt a prescence that seemed to guide me. But, as ole Mick sang, you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.

            About two years ago, in a particularly anguished moment, I was asking God–demanding God give me a sign and to help me through the pain I was feeling over my divorce and related problems. I wasn’t just praying, I was raging. Just when I was about to just come unglued, my cell phone beeped.

            I started, then picked it up. It had an error message on it, “Player Error.”

            Coincidence. Most likely. But…stopped me in my tracks and made me think quite a bit. I don’t really have a right to demand anything from God. Sometimes I ask, sometimes I demand. I have to have faith that I will get what I need, but not always for what I ask since much of the time I really don’t know what’s best for me. Especially when I demand it so rudely. :-)

            I agree. Even for believers, we should spend less time waiting for God to bail us out of our latest mess and more time doing something about it. I also happen to have faith in scientific medicine. The two beliefs are not necessarily incompatible.

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            I also happen to have faith in scientific medicine. The two beliefs are not necessarily incompatible.

            They are incompatible if you mean exactly the same kind of belief: you don’t need faith to establish medical efficacy (to trust in it) but you must have faith out of necessity to believe in (to trust in) god.

            How would you go about locating these ‘rays from heaven’ that you assert are, in fact, manipulating physical events? You are making a causal claim here without any means to inform it with evidence of effect or a mechanism to link the two.

            See, that’s a problem to differentiate your causal claim about god from ‘making stuff up’.

          • Marcelo

            First of all, I was trying to use the ‘rays from heaven’ as a silly example to illustrate that divine intervention is never illustrated in such a fashion. Apparently my sarcasm font didn’t work properly.

            First, you do need faith to trust in medical efficacy. It is based on your prior experience and knowledge about medical science and its application. You have no way of knowing if a medical procedure about to be applied to you for the first time is safe and effective. Perhaps you have researched the procedure ahead of time. You understand it. You take it on faith, however, that it will be safe and effective in your case because in your experience, scientific medicine often works, and your condition is one that has, in most instances, yielded positive results from this procedure. And you would largely be justified in doing so. But you don’t know. You haven’t experienced it.

            I had back surgery years ago. I did a great deal of research ahead of time. I knew that there was a risk of permanent paralysis. But I trust scientific medicine enough to know that it was something that was worth risking given the risks associated with doing nothing due to my condition at the time.

            I have experiences that can only be described as spiritual. I had them personally. I know that those experiences affected me deeply in a positive way, and continue to do so. I have direct experience of a direct causal link between my faith in this higher power and my continuing health today. Perhaps you didn’t have those experiences, but I did. They were as real as the research I did on back surgery and the positive results I experienced because of it. I have use of my right arm because of my faith in the efficacy of scientific medicine. I am alive despite another lifelong condition due solely to a persistent, profound spiritual experience I have had and continue to have. In fact, this presence and this sense of spirit is often more real to me than almost anything else in my life.

            I have trust…faith…that the spiritual experience reveals something that is transcendental and healing and that it will continue to do so. One is testable through experiment and data, one is testable through experiential living. If it happened to me, I have to consider it can happen with you or with anybody, and in fact, I know countless people who have told me they had the same experience I have had.

            Now, you tell me how a causal link cannot be established here. Please tell me how this isn’t real. I accept that it isn’t real for you. I accept (and actually laud for the most part) your skepticism of these sort of claims. But the (one of many) straw man you’ve propped up here, ‘belief’ in an abstract philosophical concept of a creator, is not what I or many others are talking about. It is experiential. It is real.

            “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

            Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Again, I don’t doubt your experience or how meaningful it is to you. But the agency to which you attribute the cause is exceptionally doubtful because there is no evidence or any knowable mechanism for the cause to be linked to the effects of your experience. You substitute faith for the mechanism and claim it is a transcendental agency you call god, and you substitute faith for the cause and claim it is because this agency wanted its presence to made known to you. This is the sense of the word ‘belief’ when used theologically: confidence and a level of trust that what you assert is in fact true and real but without any means at your disposal to establish that you attributions are correct, right, or accurate other than your assertion is they are so.

          • Anonymous

            A few weeks back I was having a particularly tough morning struggling with the sadness of being divorced and having a split family. I never seem to enjoy too many completely pain free mornings, and mornings used to be the best part of my day when I was still married. I asked God if it wasn’t too much bother, could He give me just a small sign that He was there and in my corner. I had no sooner uttered that prayer and my cell phone rang. It was my son’s school teacher. She asked if I would please see her when I came to pick up my son that afternoon. She told me not to worry, it wasn’t anything bad. So I got to my son’s school 10 minutes early and went to Ms. Quinn’s room and she had me shut the door. She told me that an anonymous benefactor wanted to donate a 75% scholarship for my son to go on an 8th grade trip to Boston, NYC, and Washington D.C. My son knew I couldn’t afford it, so he played it off as though he really didn’t want to go, but all of his buddies were going and I knew that he wished he could go. So thanks to my anonymous benefactor, my son will go. I praise God for my son’s benefactor, and I praise God for arranging the circumstances to remind me that He still moves through the actions of other people…believers or not, to let me know He hears me.

          • StraightGrandmother

            That’s a nice story RTT. Thank you.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            Praise, praise, praise be to antibiotics! And praise to Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin for modern medicine. And to the many, many scientists that have discovered and created more and better antibiotics since. They saved my life. Twice. And the life of the mother of the kid I’m raising! Oh, and to maggots! They saved my life, too! (Seriously. And in a very scientific, medical way, too.) And to a whole phalanx of modern medicine keeping the Hep of the man I love in check!!! I LOVE modern medicine. Life is much too fragile to not love medicine.
            And boo to God for murdering my sister with medulloblastoma! And for allowing the man that I love to be infected by Hep after only one, single, stupid mistake at a much too young age! Cursed be his name. I still hate his stinking, beastly, cosmic guts for that, and will forever more.
            (Me and mine, we’ve had a rotten run with all those things that make life short, I know. Partly stupid risk-taking, partly cruel fate.)
            I praise my God for this wonderful, cruel, glorious world, and for every day I get to spend in it. I curse him for the pain and suffering in it. I praise science and medicine and the men and women whose work and dedication made it accessible to me, for having helped me live longer in this glorious, cruel world. And I curse men for the pain and suffering they cause.
            Whether you believe in my God or not, does that at least satisfy your craving for honesty and fairness, Tildeb?

          • http://questionablemotives.wordpress.com/ tildeb

            Truly refreshing, FF.

          • StraightGrandmother

            I am trying to say this in a way that emits the correct emotion behind it, I don’t think it is very nice to curse God for problems/issues. I can see questioning God, “Why, why God …xyz” but I can’t really see cursing God. I am trying to say this in a generic way so please don’t take it personally it is not meant to be personal but more generic.

          • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

            That’s okay. I am even aware that I should learn how to accept fate, in as much as I cannot change it, but, what can I say. I’m not a very nice person. I got severe anger management problems. That does extend to God, not just to rozzers or my mates.
            But I was trying to make a point (to Tildeb) that I do hold God responsible for the things that happen in this world, the good as well as the bad, just as I hold humans responsible for what they do or don’t do. And as I hold myself responsible for my sins. Including using way too much profanity, slamming doors, clocking peeps, cursing God, and spamming Mr. Shore’s blog with way too many comments. ^_^
            (And none of it is incompatible with science.)

        • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike Burns

          You need to talk to Mr. Shore. Right in this thread he says“I can’t imagine what in our world DOESN’T qualify as a miracle.” He also made an interesting case about God’s role in a SoCal earthquake a while back at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2008/07/29/earthquake-almost-converts-lady-in-my-apartment/

          • Marcelo

            Yeah, I saw that, and John and I can speak for ourselves in our perspectives and experiences with it. I don’t pretend to know that much of what I see aren’t miracles. I have experienced things in my life, in fact an ongoing basis, that could easily be described by some as miracles. The point I’m making is that it’s a default and over-used terms by believers. I wish some would use more restraint.

        • Anonymous

          A good friend of mine did an extensive study on miracles. He came to the conclusion that miracles seem to come in waves preceding spiritual revival. One revival in particular out in Lakeland Florida a couple years back, started when a Canadian pastor, Todd Bentley began holding healing services in a baseball stadium. One woman I know of was healed of a disease (which name escapes me), JG (a reader on John’s blog) knows the details. Also, JG’s daughter received a healing when the woman healed at the Lakeland services, prayed for JG’s daughter back here in San Diego. Transferable anointing, evidently. There were lots of people crying hoax and fakery, but I can’t argue with a certified physician’s clean bill of health for a disease that has no known cure.

  • http://www.facebook.com/10gyall Tenacious Gbeoytch

    Me likey, John…and may I say, you DO look sharp rockin’ that jacket…;).

  • Maahes

    I have a brief question, for John, but anyone else here may answer it for themselves too: By what standard do you choose to apply the interpretation from modernity? What I mean is, it is indeed a misconception to interpret the bible literally, because certainly much of it is metaphorical. But especially on things like moral prohibitions, the bible is often explicit (see: divorce.) Also in terms of the bible’s teachings on wealth, this is one of the most explicit “worldly” teachings of Jesus, but is not only not generally practiced nor preached, but often marked as metaphorical despite the fact that it is repeated many times for clarity. (i.e., give all your money to the poor, it is easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle).

    Additionally, considering for example, statements which are either ambiguous or rather clearly contradicted elsewhere, what guidepost do you use to selecting the “right” interpretation or even just the “right” passage to follow. For example, and I already know most modern Christians answer to this question so it’s not necessary to answer it: Given that there are passages which say Jesus has fulfilled the spirit of the law, but also that (and IIRC this is from Jesus’ mouth) that not one jot nor title of the law had been erased, what is the correct interpretation of the applicability of biblical law? Now I know most people choose to interpret Jesus’ fulfillment as superseding biblical law on the level of: The biblical law applies if you are not saved by Jesus. Or: It applied only to the Jews. Or a combination of those two. But to my mind a more fair and logical interpretation is that the laws still apply but that the blood sacrifice for redemption from transgression of the law is forever fulfilled, and that the biblical punishments for the law no longer apply (let he who is without sin, etc.)

    Also a brief aside re: Paul, while it is “technically” ambiguous as to whether or not Paul condemns homosexuality explicitly (and well, Paul would have no social conception of modern homosexuality, something that has only really existed for somewhere [depending on how you define it] 100-300 years) Its not a stretch of the imagination to presume he would have condemned it, likely as something Roman, barbaric or Hellenistic (the latter being particularly ironic considering how much Hellenistic dualism is in Pauline theology). And I have not read your series on gays, so I don’t know if you have covered this (I read the one post you posted here and did not see it): But Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 tell a story of Jesus explicitly blessing a homosexual union.

    Also not directed at John specifically, but anyone else who reads this, I’m fond of sharing it because not many Christians know this fact: If Jesus’ name were translated directly from Hebrew (Yehosua) It would be Joshua. The reason it is Jesus is because early popular translations went from Greek into Latin, for the new testament. Joshua is kept, because it’s translated from Aramaic (and the Aramaic word is only spelled slightly differently than Hebrew). Bible factoid of the day ^_^

    • http://mine4thetaking.blogspot.com/ FreeFox

      I have an answer, but it will probably be shared by neither the, uh dedicated atheists here, nor by the, um, more conservative Christians. (Though actually, my interpreattion is older than theirs, so I guess, I’m actually more conservative…)God is eternal. That doesn’t mean of very, very long time, but outside of time. From His perspective all things are good and beautiful. But humans are temporal beings. In the sphere of time, things are mortal, and they fall apart into the relative and dualistic: Light and dark, life and death, being and not being, true and false, man and woman, hot and cold, and good and evil. We cannot truly experience all of God. So, from this relative and dualistic temporal perspective parts of God can be experienced as the Devil (which would explain how an all-powerful, all-knowing being can allow all this suffering… or the whole even by biblical standards strangely anthropomorphized backstory in the Book of Job, about the wager between God and the Devil). Or the divine can be experienced as a pantheon of many Gods and Goddesses.Religion has a lot of functions. There is the function of making us appreciate the world. Before we had science that included a very primitive form of explanation. But if you read for example the biblical creation story, you can see that while the actual creation is rather rushed through, the recurring, stressed element is that God sees His work and sees that it is good. Even there the celebration of all the elements of existance (day and night, land, sea, and sky, life in all its forms, and the existance of us, of humans) is actually more important than the explanation of how they came to be. Because religion is mainly concerned with matters of the heart (joy, anguish), and not of the mind (how exactly does the world work so that I can intelligently change things to increase my joy and decrease my anguish.) Another function is that of personal spiritual enlightenment: How must I lead my life for it to be as “good” (that is: as much a celebration of itself and the world it is part of) and not “bad” (that is: a waste of its potential) as I can make it.All of that has to do with the relationship between the individual and the cosmos.But religion is also concerned with questions of conscience, and of how people can live with each other. I know that in the widely-practiced more legalistic versions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (as opposed to, for example, the mystic or ecstatic versions) this aspect has been stressed to a dangerously dominant point: The oughts and ought-nots. That aspect of religion tries to formulate rules of conduct and behaviour to help us form societies, deal with strife, with sex and lust, with economics, with jealousy and anger.That is the part of religion that goes deepest into the temporal, relative realm. But the temporal world is not static. It changes. Politics change. Technology changes. The modes of production, of agriculture, of trade all change, all the time. What worked once, must not necessarily work at another time. The rules religion give us are usually pretty enlightened at the time they are formulated, and if you dig deeply, you will often be able to still see the overarching compassionate and harmonious basic message behind them, but they are put in a way to regulate life in specific circumstances.And as circumstances change, so must those rules, or Yahweh becomes Baal. And every generation must try to dicover new, living interpretations of the old, human truths. And that is hard and difficult and not easy to resolve. But it wasn’t easy to resolve back then: Look at the history of Christianity or any other religions and how always there was a struggle about the correct interpretation of the message. That’s nothing new. After all the four gospels we are usually taught are far from the only ones.So, if you wonder how to interpret the word of Jesus (and which of the many words that have been passed down), well, you have to be honest and truthful to yourself, you have to be aware that those words were said in specific cultural contexts, you have to decide what are probably the most basic expressions of divine will in them (as, for example, the Great Commandment that Mr. Shore keeps citing) and how those would translate into our current situation. And, yes, you have to consult what science, and sociology, and psychology, and history have taught us, to help you make sense of all of that. As has been true at all times.(Consider that a large part of the New Testament are actually letters… letters sent and written by people engaged in exactly that sort of an endeavour, and that by people who either met Jesus himself or at least his disciples. Even then they had to argue and think and interpret and decide.)

      • Maahes

        Minus the more exulted aims in your last paragraph. I suspect that’s what the majority of Christians in any denomination do: They selectively apply the modernity principal to how best fits their pre-conceived notions of culture / modernity. The opposite idea is practiced by say, the Amish, certain fundamentalist sects, and monastic orders: To convert the material life into the spiritual, to adapt their physical / extra-social environment according to their spiritual views.

        Whereas most modern Christians adapt their spiritual lives around the material. Essentially people who decided to read the bible in such a way as to condemn gays, but ignore say promiscuity or divorce, or commitments to the poor, etc. Are making the same selective choice as the type of Christian spirituality you more favor.

        Just my thoughts.

  • Anonymous

    From the bottom of my heart, mid-section and top, thank you, thank you for this post.

  • Ladyofleisuredc

    “An all-powerful God and the theory of evolution are not incompatible.”

    Heresy Abbie! !!

    I didn’t say that, John did!

    Ok-Really, you say God is all powerful? Study evolution….no REALLY study evolution then you’ll see how powerful he REALLY is!

    (Again- Get out my head John!)

    ps: Sorry I keep popping comments all over your blog. I’m excited, can’t you tell?

  • Ladyofleisuredc

    “An all-powerful God and the theory of evolution are not incompatible.”

    Heresy Abbie! !!

    I didn’t say that, John did!

    Ok-Really, you say God is all powerful? Study evolution….no REALLY study evolution then you’ll see how powerful he REALLY is!

    (Again- Get out my head John!)

    ps: Sorry I keep popping comments all over your blog. I’m excited, can’t you tell?

    • Anonymous

      I appreciate your comments. Thank you for them.


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