Advertisements

Archive

Archive for October, 2007

Who Else Kissed Dating Goodbye?

October 25, 2007 5 comments

Back in my church-going senior highish days, there was a book that was all the rage titled I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris. Does anyone else remember this book (mid/late 90’s)?

It’s a how-to guide for Christian Courtship. It advises against the traditional one-on-one dating scene in favor of traditional courtship. He emphasizes group socialization and never being alone with the significant other in order to avoid those all-too-evil physical moments. As I recall, the only alone-time he advocated involved walking side by side with your significant other in front of her parents house within plain view of the parents.

It’s so funny looking back on that, and how much the church and other religious organizations praised the book. I didn’t take too much of it to heart and thought the courtship idea rather comical even at the time. However, it did sort of warp my view on relationships. For a few years I avoided relationships because in my skewed mindset, they weren’t endorsed by god.

I have no regrets now, because I’m with the best girlfriend ever. During college, it took a while to get out of that weird anti-relationship funk. I finally realized that my prayers to a complacent god who would just drop a girl in my lap were just a pipe dream. You can’t go through life sitting back and expecting a deity to bring opportunities on a platter. I think that’s a given for the nontheists, but it’s something I never figured out till my waning years as a Christian.

Does anyone else remember that book?

Advertisements

My Guitar Gently Weeps

October 8, 2007 14 comments

For five years during college, I attended a Christian based campus ministry group. Most of my social life was involved with this group, and I seldom found close friendship externally. I do not regret those years, nor do I regret at all the friendships forged during those times. Although my view on life has changed considerably and I have lost some of these friends in the process, I still hold on to what I can.

Like most college-aimed campus ministries, this was led by a ragtag band leading the congregation in worship music. After my first year, our particular band was missing a guitarist, and praise jesus, I just happened to play guitar. Nervously, I became involved and went to a few practices. Those practices turned into playing with the band at weekly meetings, and I went on to be a regular staple every week for four years. I didn’t sing, as no god seemed to bless me with any singing voice, but rather played more of a rhythm guitar and filler during the emotional/spiritual moments of the night.

Puppet Strings

Now don’t get me wrong. I want to preface this by saying that I was a very dedicated Christian during this time and had no doubts whatsoever about the bible and anything spoon fed by the guys up front.

Music was a very integral part to the worship service. Several people that I had talked to told me that reason they came originally was because they were near the room we held our worship services in, and heard the music. It was upbeat and very heartfelt, and the whole audience was completely into it, so it naturally aroused the curiosity of the *ahem* worldy.

I strained to be an instrument of god; that he would allow me to be a vessel for his use. Our worship leader would often times go through the same standard rigamorole: starting off calmly upbeat, moving to upbeat, slowing it down, bringing it up slightly, then slowing it down to a grinding musical halt with a spiritual high. At that point the mood was set for the speaker/preacher to begin his sermon.

God certainly used me. I felt spiritually alive up there with the guitar, doing his work. The times I felt it most were when things would swing real spiritual-like – the lights would be off and all the music would stop. That is, many times all the music would stop, except through a prearranged continuation of a smooth, lulling guitar piece while the leader of the band had a heartfelt message to get across.

I was trained in classical guitar, so coming up with basic heartfelt chord progressions was child’s play. The mood of the room aided in this and for years I felt it was god acting through me. I don’t really know what prompted it, but during one of these deeply spiritual times, my consciousness suddenly sprang to life, as if gasping air from the under-water feel of the mob-mentality of worship.

I had full understanding of where I was and what I was playing on the guitar. More than that, I had a much keener understanding of what my guitar was doing to the crowd. Emotions and spirituality were peaked, and I was cycling through the same dreary chord progression, with a little feeling. The room was silent as people were asked several times to pray.

In this unexpected awareness, I did what I always did, but now with a different frame of mind. Through the music coming from my guitar, I manipulated the crowd as if pulling the strings on a puppet.

Now here’s where you stop and accuse me of taking credit for god’s work, or for being so overly conceited as to think that I had any such control as this. Well, I can’t argue against that other than to say I was caught up observing how easy it was to manipulate this mob mentality with a few plucking strings. I’m just trying to explain what I felt and what bothered me so much from then on out.

The room was about 200 people silent, the only sound coming from my guitar. With only slight variations like a wave on the oceans, I would subtly rise in tempo and volume, slowly and carefully, like bringing a still heart back to life. This was no different than what I had done a thousand times before, except this time I had an eerie presence of mind that somehow I had missed in the past. As I made these conscience fluctuations, it was as if the entire feeling of the room rose and fell with the vibrations from my guitar.

People’s hands would raise higher. “Yes, jesus!” and various moans were heard throughout the crowd. Some would go to their knees. I’d bring the tempo down. The leader of the band would take the cue and call for more prayer, and I’d be back to my little experiment. I fully played with these people’s emotions through the guitar, increasing the intensity of the room to a near fever pitch until the song would start up again.

I felt like a conductor in an orchestra, and it scared me.

Danger

It felt dangerous. It felt like a loaded gun. It felt impossible, like I was sinning or doing something wrong in god’s eyes. After all, how arrogant must I have been to believe it was me, not god, who was controlling the mood of the room.

Most of all, it was a slight crack in the shell of belief I wrapped myself in. After that first night of my returned consciousness during such spiritual times, I was afraid of them to come up again, yet strangely drawn to see what I could do. I tried to ignore such thoughts and to focus mostly on god and the music, but there was this fissure that had opened up and the realization that we, as a band, were playing the crowd like a fiddle.

It wasn’t just me, I was part of the band, and there were times when each of us had these interludes or solos in which we really drew out the emotion of the crowd. My eyes had begun to open and I realized that this was how the band had been all along. Our fearless leader did this all the time and we practiced explicitly to bring out such emotions.

There was no god in the equation. It was just a cheap ploy to manipulate the masses, and I was as much entranced by the spell as anyone.

Tribal Dances

There’s really no difference between this kind of manipulation and the tribal African fire dances that result in trances, the crazy speaking in tongues done by evangelicals, or the mass hysteria of teenage girls at a Justin Timberlake concert (sorry he’s probably out of date but whatever). It just isn’t quite as socially acceptable for college age students to drop on the floor in convulsions during a worship service.

The same neurons are firing in all circumstances, and they have little to do with any god. The mob mentality rules supreme in such scenarios. It feeds upon itself like a feedback loop, and our minds attribute such manufactured ecstasy with an external deity, or whatever it is we are intending to worship.

My favorite example has to be our old friend Benny Hinn:

Categories: music, religion

The Authoritative Bible (part 2)

October 5, 2007 1 comment

In my first post on this subject, I commented on this pdf given to me by a friend who is a pastor in order to help persuade me as to how the bible can be authoritative. I’ve now gotten around to reading the second half of this lecture, though it has had no impact on me other than the further conviction that the only way the religious can convince themselves to a certainty is to invoke a recursive circular argument, out of which there is no escape.

Whose Interpretation?

Having outlined the basic idea of the circular reasoning in the first post, I’ll see if I can adjust my focus to other points made in the document. In several points during the second half, the author alludes to the fact that Christians merely need to “let the Bible be the Bible.”

I believe I first heard a rebuttal to such an argument from Richard Dawkins. The bible is going to be interpreted by the reader. There is no getting around that fact. What the author fails to realize is that for millenia, people have been attempting to let the bible be the bible, and have come up with different interpretations. They somehow think that if they just take the bible at face value, that everything will be made clear (now or eventually), when in reality, they’re just adding to the miles-high stack of interpretations that already exist.

I would argue that the closest anyone has come to reading the bible without any prejudice is going to lie more in the scientific realm than that of science. At least science attempts to tackle problems without prejudice or presupposed interpretations. That’s one of the reasons I find Ehrman’s book so fascinating. It introduced me to the world of textual criticism, and its ability to do away with any religious agenda while studying the history and creation of biblical texts.

And wow, once the history of the bible is looked at without the lens of religious doctrine, it is incredible that it exists in the mind of so many people as authoritative. The Christians seem to just accept, by faith of course, that the bible is somehow true without actually taking the time to find out its history. What is even more ironic is on the bottom of page 18, he bashes the “quite miserable” traditions that “account for the very low level of biblical knowledge” among the church leaders.

Thus, if we let the Bible just be the Bible, as this author is so ready to repeat, its authority diminishes to the point of nonexistence. It is as useful today as the mythological gods of ancient Greece – as in fictional stories that can be used as example for daily life.

Reshaping Traditions

The author did manage to make a few decent points about how traditions need to constantly be analyzed and not held onto too strongly, lest they butt up against scripture. The problem with this view is self evident, and seems to be a recurring theme. I just wish that the author would realize the tradition of interpreting scripture as authoritative is as useless as any of the traditions of the catholic church, to which the author seems so indisposed.

No longer do we need to hold onto the traditional myth that there is anything holy about holy scripture, be it a bible, koran, book of mormon, or fortune cookie. The author, like so many, assumes that the bible must be a natural stopping point and root from which all good things come from.

To beleaguer that point, he seems to keep comparing his, and the church’s way, as squared up against that of the way of the world. Why does it always boil down to the “us versus them” dilemma? The church or judaism is in no way the root of all morality and it is foolishness to think so. To assume that any non-Christian, that is, the rest of the world, is inherently evil is just too much of a statement of pure rubbish that I’ll delve into some time in the future.

Godless

And so on, goes the article. Of interest is another quote on the 18th page which warns of lapsing into the world’s way of thinking, “as is done in the evangelical dualism, for example, that perpetuates the split between religion and politics inventoed by the fairly godless eighteenth century”.

Now I don’t know about you, but I now cherish the term “godless”. Regardless, it was used in the negative sense here. And wow, is it me or is this guy relishing the days when theocracy ruled the world? I mean, he’s constantly bashing tradition and loving the post-Lutheran world, and yet he sees separation of church and state as a bad thing? Seriously? Take a look at any theocracy out there and tell me that any religion inspired government will not come to suppress free thought and individuality.

Abandon Reason

In the end of the article, it comes down to the fact that in order to take the bible as authoritative, one must abandon all reason. To read the bible as suggested by the author seems to be an exercise in futility, as you must disregard the god-given circuitry in your brain that relegates fact from fiction, and reason from myth.

[part one can be found here]

Categories: religion

PRK Scheduled

October 4, 2007 8 comments

I’ve finally decided to have it done. In a short time, I’ll hopefully have 20/20 or better vision. I’ve debated on the topic of laser surgery for years, and after a lot of research, it’s time.

My situation is a little unique and the standard LASIK treatment is not recommended. I’ve been training in kickboxing and mixed martial arts for four years now, and often get hit in the open eye with a glove. While not entirely painful, this slight abrasion could have devastating effects down the road to a LASIK patient, even several years down the road.

The problem with LASIK is that it creates a flap of the outermost layer of the cornea prior to the reshaping of the cornea be the laser. This flap is similar to the dimensions of a contact lens. However, the flap is not completely cut off, but a hinge of tissue holds the flap in place for replacement after the laser is done meddling with the eye. I’ve found that the healing of this flap is never quite 100%.

Even up to a year after surgery, I’ve read that the doc can still lift, or peel back, the original flap without making another incision, in the case that an enhancement was needed. Even years down the road, the flap will never heal completely.

And that’s where PRK comes in. While technically I’m a great candidate for LASIK (really though, who isn’t), my violent tendancies could result in an eventual reopening, or complete tearing, of the flap if I were to ever get hit in the eye again. That isn’t a scenario I’d really like to live through. The other option is the surgery called PRK.

In PRK, they use the same type of laser to reform the eye. The difference comes in the method used to get past that pesky outermost corneal layer. Instead of cutting a circular flap, they’re going to use a chemical agent to dissolve, then rub away the outer layer. After the outer layer is removed, the inner cornea can be reshaped by the laser. PRK actually predates LASIK, and is used on military personal as well as those with thin or otherwise difficult corneas.

Now, the abrasion of this tiny outer layer of the eye is not mere trifle. They recommend a complete week off of work, since the eye will be blurry and extremely light sensitive. Having personally been the benefactor of a corneal abrasion by a student’s fingernail, I can tell you that this is not an experience one is likely to volunteer to repeat. The upside is that the eye doc will supply pain relief eye drops and the eye will be covered by a bandage contact that helps the healing process, and takes away the painful friction caused by the pesky eyelid.

It will take up to a month for my vision to get to the point where LASIK patients are able to see in the days immediately following their procedure. The first couple days I doubt I’ll be able to open any shades or turn on any lights. I will have become a hermit. My sole comfort will lie in my subscription to audible.com and the many long hours of audiobooks I am sure to read during that time. That, and having a girlfriend at my side who is training to be a nurse, and who I am more than willing to give all the practice she needs in the field of personal care.

My intention is to keep a log of the days following the PRK surgery here on this blog. It has been helpful for me to find similar stories of people undergoing this procedure, as it shows the ups and downs without the salesman pitch accompanying the surgeon. My surgery is scheduled the day after Thanksgiving, November 23rd. I wish it were sooner, but some large projects at work have been forcing the date further and further back. I’ve decided to not push it into next year, and am making my stance after the Thanksgiving holiday, on the busiest shopping day of the year.

Be sure to check back in if you’re considering refractive surgery. I feel much more confident after researching it and visiting several surgeons in the area, but personal experience logs were probably some of the bigger confidence boosters.

Categories: eyes Tags: , ,

The Authoritative Bible (Part 1)

October 4, 2007 2 comments

Every few months I meet with a pastor friend who still leads a Christian campus ministry group at my old university. After reading Bart Ehrman’s book, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, I gave him some of the research from the book that cast overwhelming doubts on the infallibility of the bible. In response, he gave me this pdf – a lecture given by an Anglican pastor regarding how the bible can be authoritative.

When I first got it a few months ago, I read a few pages and then couldn’t get any farther without responding back with a long email that I’ll post later. I’ve just gone back now and re-read the first half of it, and am sorely disappointed. I’ll read the rest of it tomorrow but wanted to jot down my immediate impressions.

I was expecting some kind of evidence or assurance from outside of the bible itself, that would make it apparent that indeed, the bible’s authority is rock solid. Instead, the second sentence in this drivel reads:

I should perhaps say that my reflections here arise not so much from reading lots of books about the authority of the Bible ā€“ though I have read some of the recent ones ā€“ but from the multiple experience I find myself having, of studying and teaching the New Testament at an academic level, of regular liturgical worship in which the Bible plays a central part, and of evangelistic and pastoral work, in which, again, though not always so obviously, the Bible is at or at least near the heart of what one is doing. (emphasis added)

What an utter disappointment. The reluctance to go on was nearly overwhelming. From this statement alone I anticipated the rest of the article. It would be the same old circular reasoning.

  1. The bible is true because it is God’s word, and we know it is God’s word because the bible says it is. This makes it authoritative.

But I forced myself to read ahead. I hoped to be proven wrong, I wanted there to be some new evidence or something within this document that would say, “well now, that’s a good point. I don’t think any atheist has ever considered that.” Part of me would like to see at least some semblance of a challenge, but this author gave up in the very first paragraph!

The article goes on to discuss what it means to be authoritative. He discredits earlier attempts at exactly how the bible is authoritative through the ages, and how everyone except for this particular author seem to be getting it wrong still. Time after time the author goes back to the bible itself as proof that it is authoritative itself. The logic is dizzingly circular. Not unlike many sermons I’ve seen in my day. From the looks of it, it seems this article was given as a sermon, or lecture as well.

On page 3 is the following:

Most heirs of the Reformation, not least evangelicals, take it for granted that we are to give scripture the primary place and that everything else has to be lined up in relation to scripture.

By his comment on how such a thing could be taken for granted, it seems that it is known to all that everything has to be lined up in relation to scripture. What a mess such dogma has inflicted upon humanity and progress! I recently read a biography of Galileo which went into great detail regarding the treatment given him and other “heretics” by the Catholic church. Unimaginable tortures were used and threatened against such heretics whose ideas were contrary to that of the church. Look at the case of Bruno, an outspoken scientist of Galileo’s time with heretical ideas of our place in the universe. It seems that the author of this document foster the same idea – that “everything in the bible is true until proven… actually, everything in the bible is of course true and cannot be disproved”.

Where do the religious get such silly notions, and why can’t they see the flaw in reasoning? I am in no way saying that my reasoning is unflawed, I’m just wondering why all common sense seems to be suspended when it comes to religion. This is not unique to Christianity, but seems to be associated with all superstitions and defies explanation.

But I digress. Later in the article the author makes assumptive statements about the authority of the bible being such, since it is “Witness to primary events.” Such misconception seems all too common and is especially disconcerting coming from someone in an *ahem* educational position. No, it is widely accepted that the four gospels in the beginning of the new testament were not written by Jesus’ immediate disciples, and that the pentateuch was not penned entirely by Moses.

Back to my favorite aspect, the circular reasoning that somehow proves the bible has authority. Taken from page 8:

And the notion of Godā€™s authority, which we have to understand before we understand what we mean by the authority of the scripture, is based on the fact that this God is the loving, wise, creator, redeemer God.

And where, pray tell, do we learn of this loving/wise/creator/redeemer god? The bible of course, which in order to do so, must be taken authoritatively. Dizzy yet? I might add to that short list of the traits of the biblical god: vain, masochistic, egotistical, genocidal, infanticidal, bullying, among others. And don’t try to tell me that somehow the old testament doesn’t count. The author of this article does just that, albeit for different reasons that to protect his god-image.

I am intrigued by one argument he brought up on page twelve, which he gleemed from Warfield, who seemed to believe that Christianity would be totally true and would totally work even if there weren’t a bible to tell us all about it. Now that’s an interesting thought. If there were no bible, what would Christianity look like today?

Would there be any Christianity? Or would we be left with some other superstition in the way (perhaps Mithraism)?

If I were to think about how I would answer such a question back in my Christian days, I probably would have said something about the question being irrelevant because god planned it this way and you can’t change the past. But just, what if? What if a god had expected us to believe in flying zombies if there were no written “proof.” It would all be word of mouth. Christians would be in the same place as billions of people throughout history who haven’t had the *chuckle* benefit of a bible, so the thought experiment falls on deaf ears. Would their god’s power be diminished in the absence of the book?

[part 2 can be found here]

Categories: religion

Redefining Sin

October 1, 2007 1 comment

I commented the following on Griping from Leaving Eden in response to the feeling of guilt brought on by the idea of sin in religious days, and felt like putting it here as well:

I’ve found that nagging feeling of guilt will pop up every now and again. For me, I’ve had to redefine the idea of sin that was taught to me. I no longer believe in a deity that I’ve somehow offended. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to make bad choices and hurt myself or others. The golden rule still applies.

I would rather know that when I screw things up there’s no one who can fix them but myself, than to take the placebo god-pill and assume I can just imagine my mistakes away with a prayer. I believe it to be much healthier to face your mistakes head-on and deal with them rather than to hide behind the forgiveness of a deity. That’s a hard fact of life that can get lost within the world where a god’s forgiveness can take away responsibility from fixing a problem.

Not that this knowledge will make your mistakes any easier to repair, of course. But it does make things more real. And now you can be glad that you no longer have the empty threat of eternal damnation for your mistake.

We all make mistakes, that’s part of life. It’s up to each of us to correct those mistakes.

Categories: religion