[Bush] is completely convinced he knows what things are, so he shuts down all avenues of inquiry about them and disregards the information that is offered to him.
there has been a lot said about the article i am going to quote later in this post, but none of it that i’ve seen calls out the glaringly obvious point that i’m seeing in this:
Consider one more experimental example to prove the point: the ultimatum game. You are given $100 to split between yourself and your game partner. Whatever division of the money you propose, if your partner accepts it, you each get to keep your share. If, however, your partner rejects it, neither of you gets any money.
How much should you offer? Why not suggest a $90-$10 split? If your game partner is a rational, self-interested money-maximizer — the very embodiment of Homo economicus — he isn’t going to turn down a free 10 bucks, is he? He is. Research shows that proposals that offer much less than a $70-$30 split are usually rejected.
Why? Because they aren’t fair. Says who? Says the moral emotion of â€œreciprocal altruism,â€ which evolved over the Paleolithic eons to demand fairness on the part of our potential exchange partners. â€œI’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mineâ€ only works if I know you will respond with something approaching parity. The moral sense of fairness is hard-wired into our brains and is an emotion shared by most people and primates tested for it, including people from non-Western cultures and those living close to how our Paleolithic ancestors lived.
the idea that most people react this way is something in our selves so deep that it is something we share with other primates.
when we share so much DNA with monkeys, apes, and lemurs, and yet so many people deny that we come from common ancestors, it just seems dishonest to me.
intellectually at best, and plain-old lyin’ at worst.
as i get further and further away, as the months tick by, from my old christian self, i have trouble even remembering how it is i ignored so much evidence for evolution and spent so much time researching â€œscienceâ€ that â€œdisprovedâ€ it.
how was i able to accept as fact then what is so clearly horse-pooey?
this article explains it, in some small sense.
First, a bit of background, from John Crane’s post entitled “Who Really Believes in the Virgin Birth”
Who really believes in the virgin birth?
A recent survey by the Barna Research Group, asked adults what they believed about the virgin birth of Jesus—Was this story literally true or not? Across all demographic spectrums most adults said they did believe in the truth of that biblical story. In fact, 3 out of 4 (75%) of all adults said they believe that Jesus was born to the virgin, Mary.
I have been intending to post something about this research myself, and John’s post gives me a good place to start. Both because his always well-written and well-thought-out posts are a very good summary of the Christian worldview (like there’s â€œaâ€ christian worldview…) but also because he consistently (though never maliciously) misunderstands the agnostic/atheist outlook of the universe.
Now, I don’t begrudge him this. I myself totally misunderstood what the universe must look like to those who do not believe in god, before I came to not believe in god myself. It is one of those â€œwalk a mile in their shoesâ€ kinda things — until you really experience life from this side of the belief fence, you can only take mad stabs at what unbelief is really like.
And, as usual, John makes some gross simplifications about how an atheist or agnostic will or won’t think about the world.
I would like to clear up some of those misconceptions here, because I believe they are common ones.
Let us get started, shall we?
John goes on…
As one might expect, a large majority of those who do not profess religious faith or belief in God did not believe the story to be true.
Here we agree. I also think that we can expect a large majority of those who do not profess religious faith to believe in a virgin birth. In fact, I think we can be downright suprised that there are any, but then, human beings have an incredible capacity to holding conflicting beliefs. In another recent survey it was shown that twenty-five percent of Americans believe both that the Earth is around 10,000 years old and that evolution is true.
That warrents a repeat: they believed both to be true, at the same time.
So we need not be all together surprised when we find that:
Only 15% of atheists/agnostics said they believe in the virgin birth as a literal story.
John then goes on to state:
But that is what is so particularly surprising, not so much because of the agnostic responses. One can understand a varying set of beliefs based on their â€œI’m not sureâ€ agnostic perspective. But it was more specifically the responses of the atheists which caught my attention. Shouldn’t the percentage of atheists who believe in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ be?
Again, this surprises me as well, but do we have a breakdown of what percentage of atheists believe this versus the agnistics answering the question?
My conjecture is that few-to-none of the atheists expressed a positive belief in the virgin birth, while agnostics could have, and both are lumped together in the research.
Back to John:
I hesitate to conjecture too much about this,
…but I’m going to anyway:
but this inconsistency seems to indicate a desire to â€œhave your cake and eat it tooâ€ as it were. I’ve talked about this in the past as it relates to morality in particular, that those who don’t believe in God (and who interpret the world through the lens of evolution) then want to embrace aspects of the world that are desirable, yet inconsistent, with their belief system (e.g. the notion of altruism—that noble idea that one sacrifices him/herself without expecting anything in return).
Here’s where John’s conjecturing has led him down the wrong path. He has picked up the ball on the 20 yard line and run the wrong way back towards his own endzone.
He shows a simplistic understanding of evolution in general and in survival of the fittest specifically, and this has brought him to the wrong conclusion.
Altruism is a great concept for a sentient species to develop, and it is one of the main attributes humans display that has helped us survive and adapt and, yes, evolve, to be the species we are today.
Without altruism, and the ability to sacrifice one’s self for others, we as individuals would be so selfish that we would consistently make decisions that are ultimately harmful to the species as a whole.
Self-sacrifice helps humans get a next generation born and raised. Of course, if we all sacrificed our very lives, the specieis would eventually die out. But there’s plenty of evidence that humanity is not in any danger of becoming too willing to die for one’s friends.
The inherently Christian idea of sacrificial love for others…
Sacrificial love for others is an older idea than Christianity is. It was co-opted, not created, by Christians.
…(as epitomized in the death of Christianity’s founder, Jesus)…
It was Paul of Tarsus that founded Christianity, not Jesus of Nazereth. It happened almost a full two generations after Jesus suposed ressurection, of which Paul states clearly he did not witness himself.
The organization that eventually became known as the Christian Church would be wholly unreckognizable to Jesus, whom John sets up as its founder.
Anyway, John’s still talking about sacrificial love for others….
..is certainly desirable and should be lauded in our society. And indeed it is, by Christians and non-religious people alike.
But I still haven’t been able to figure out in my own mind how one can embrace this noble idea of sacrifice for the welfare of others while holding to the theory of evolution for the explanation of the world—a worldview which is inherently built on the guiding principle of self-preservation above all else.
This last sentence of his is the major telling factor.
I know of no human being who believes in â€œself-preservation above all elseâ€.
Every human being has an amazing drive to keep on living, just like every other living thing in the univsere that we have yet encountered.
But above all else?
Beleiving in evolution is like some magickal potion, in John’s view, that suddenly makes one selfish to the point of completely disregarding of life and other people’s right to it.
This view is clearly not squaring with reality, where athiests, agnostics, notional christians, Hindus, Muslims, and people of every kind of faith (or non-faith) exhibit laudable attributes every single day.
Morality is possible without belief in the Christian god, and to claim otherwise is to be unwilling to face the plain facts.
The origin of the comic god goes like this: The arrogant Thor needs a lesson in humility, so his father Odin, the ruler of all gods, sends him to Earth in the form of a crippled mortal to teach him to be humble. When Thor finally learns his shits do stink, his mortal form dies off and he is allowed to become himself again.
This spiritual lesson serves to confirm two things: Being handicapped is God’s way of punishing you for religious transgressions, and to the son of God, Earth is essentially a giant time-out where instead of facing a corner for five minutes you live a short, challenging life rife with confusion and pain until you are eventually allowed to die.
i’ve spent three years on a mission to decide about god.
i’m not done yet, but i’m a lot closer than i was when i started.
after thirty-two years on this rock, three of which i have been seriously, open-mindedly, truthfully searching for Truth (if there is such a thing) here’s what i have come up with as far as “what chris believes”:
god exists and created the universe(s)
of this i am fairly certain. i have studied enough physics to come to believe that someone made the rules, and makes sure that that which exists in the physical plane follows those rules.
this someone is “god”.
god is aware of my existence
i’m almost fully convinced of this. not 100%, but pushing eighty-eight maybe?
it seems unlikely to me that god is an non-person, a “thing”.
this does not mean i believe god is a super-human, or that god’s attributes are even approaching imaginability, but i do think it is very likely that what is possible to be known about god is made clear simply by watching the world around me and extrapolating.
having been doing this very carefully, i have come to believe that god does in fact know i exist.
god cares about me (and therefore, everyone else, too)
this one i’m less sure about. seventy-five percent or so.
it seems to me that god cares, because i care about god, and i care about people, and i think that reflects on (or reflects from) the person who created me.
this does not mean that god cares for me in the way i care for the people i love (but, admittedly, i don’t have kids, and i’m guessing that parent relationship comes closest to being analogous). rather, i think god cares for me and i have no idea what that really means.
in light of the above, i, then, also believe:
since god exists, and cares about me (and others), prayers to god are heard and sometimes acted upon.
i have seen the evidence in my own life, and so have billions of people from all faiths that exist.
i ought to behave in a way that is god-pleasing
since i believe that i, and other humans, are god’s image-bearers, i believe it is important to behave in ways that seem like they would be pleasing to god.
there are thousands of years of religious thought put into deciding what exactly those sorts of behaviours are, but jesus seemed to hit the nail on the head: love god, love people.
when it comes to how one goes about loving god, and loving people, well, the jury is still very much out on that one, for me.
some people have gone to war over such minutiae, willing to kill to defend their (inherited, likely) ideas about these things.
as for me, i don’t claim to have a damn clue beyond this: i am pretty sure that it has nothing to do with how or what one eats, drinks, wears, or even believes.
rather, it seems, the idea is to be intentionally good to other people, as best as one can, and hope that god is pleased. this seems to fit in with what jesus taught, which pleases me, coming from a protestant background.
hey, speaking of jesus:
jesus’ teachings in the sermon on the mount are worthy of study in the attempt to work out what is god-pleasing
given my above statements, it is unlikely that i qualify as “a christian” anymore, at least to conservative evangelicals (who tend to claim, or at least believe, they’ve got the definition of “a christian” locked up), but i am still very much a fan (disciple?) of jesus and his teachings.
i spent eighteen months very seriously studying the sermon on the mount, and i still go back to it often for guidance on dealing with daily matters.
i suppose if a label must be applied to me, one could call me a “jesusist”.
what i do not believe
now, given the above, there are some things that are worth pointing out that i specifically do not, or no longer, believe in.
these would be things that i have abandoned in my quest for truth, as i find they are unworthy of believing in:
i do not believe hell exists
given my view of god, i believe the idea of eternally conscious torment for those to do not believe very specific things about the creator is, at the very least, extremely distasteful.
in fact, i believe the idea is evil. hell makes god into a monster, not a loving father. i think hell is a particularly nasty way to coerce people into falling into line, thought-wise, and it has had nasty consequences on religion and on how people behave.
if god hates, then i am one-hundred per-cent sure god hates that we humans invented the idea of hell.
i do not believe in the “authority of the bible”
i love the bible. i have memorized over half of the new testament. i am intimately familiar with lots of the old testament. i believe the bible (like all scripture) is useful for teaching, profitable for rebuking, and has lots of wisdom.
i do not believe the bible is “infallible”, “inerrant”, “authoritative”, nor “the word of god”.
as i’ve re-read the bible in the last three years (more than once) with an open mind, i have come to see it from an outsider’s perspective, and i now see it for what it is: a collection of myths, poetry, religious writings and “shared wisdom”.
i find it not at all internally self-consistent (which i had always been taught it was) nor particularly inspired, compared to some of the other religious texts i have bothered to study in the past few years.
it may well be “god-breathed” but, then, so is everyone who’s ever existed.
i do not believe the christian church is anywhere near what jesus had in mind
i think that many of the early “christians” got jesus message of love and peace all wrong, politicized it in order to throw off roman rule, and thus: jesus beautiful teachings ended up becoming romanized themselves.
i don’t think jesus had “an institution” in mind, and i think jesus would read the new testament the church has come up with and weep, saying, “no no no.. this is not at ALL what i meant.”
so, there we have it.
friends and family may wish to re-read the beginning, before freaking out.
go on, we have time…
done?, okay, so… now what?
how will i change in light of this?
guess what, you’ve already seen it.
the happier & healthier chris is a result of this thinking.
if you have seen a change in me, it is because of my beliefs about the above.
you will not see me go off the deep end and start murdering puppies, raping villages or pillaging women & children.
if my rejection of orthodox christianity was going to lead to such behavior, it would have done so already.
so, you’ll not see a change me, beyond the slow gradual one towards happiness that you’ve seen in the last six months.
don’t be scared: i’m not.
rejoice with me, cause i’m pretty sure i’m closer to “knowing” than i ever have been.
and, once again, i’ll say: friends and family may wish to re-read the beginning, before freaking out.
comments welcome, either below, or you can email chris at flickerbulb dawt com.
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assume you live alone, and are home alone, in your apartment, asleep in bed, when you realize that your apartment is being broken into, downstairs.
what is the proper course of action for a follower of christ?
don’t assume you have, or don’t have, a gun, a bat, a tazer, or any other weapon: all of those choices that are made ahead of time play into your answer.
the protection of one’s “belongings” are never worth violence.
we are warned, by jesus, against anger — let alone acting in anger against one who seeks to impose their will upon us.
we are instructed to treasure heavenly things (people, god, love) and not earthly things (dvds, tvs).
further, we are instructed to give to anyone who asks of us.
we are instructed to greet evil with kindness.
we are instructed to consider others as more important than ourselves.
i see no room in the scripture for “exceptions” to these instructions.
trying to improve one’s life through the accumulation of (let alone the violent protection of) “stuff” is antithetical to the very existence of one who follows christ.
if we are truly treasuring heavenly things, we will care more for the burglar than we will for our “things”.
it seems responsible, at first blush, to look out for our own safety.
but what is “safe”, really?
who holds our safety?
i can’t imagine the christ cowering in his bedroom, praying to god to help him stay alive.
rather, i imagine he’d call out, in some way that makes known that no harm is intended:
i have no plans to call the police. is there something you need?
i usually offer my guests something. can i get you a drink of water?”
we are told never to fear.
surely this isn’t just “pretty worlds”?
could jesus really mean to never, under any circumstances, fear anything, other than god?
i believe that is exactly what he means.
i think that jesus means, quite literally, that we are to greet a burglar in our home with kindness, not vengeful anger, or even the hope of retribution.
that if i am truly following christ, my thoughts will be on loving this person into the kingdom, somehow.
we are told explicitly to turn the other cheek.
are we to act out in a first-strike manner when our cheek has not even been struck?
we are simply instructed to turn our cheeks. this, i beleive, means to remain vulnerable to any and all attacks, not just physical, to our person, be they attacks on our ego, or on our our pride, or on our sensitive feelings, or, yes, even on our cheeks.
i don’t see room for exception to this, and, if you study the sermon on the mount as a whole, and look at “turning the other cheek” in its proper context, you’ll see that it is a major component of living a life in the kingdom.
we who follow jesus are, simply, to make it a habit of not meeting spite with spite, or sarcasm with sarcasm, or hate with hate, or force with force, but instead we are to treat all comers with love.
it is up to you whether you own a weapon, and it is up to you whether you think it is best to use that weapon against a human being.
my take is that the situations calling for violence against another human being (weapons or no) must be exceedingly rare.
i would think, perhaps, there’s been 1, ever. (when jesus himself drove people from the temple area)
like i said, i trust him with such acts, but never myself.
i do not believe i could ever be trusted to do it lovingly. i’m sure there’d always be some amount of selfishness driving my behavior.
of course, the idea of complete safety is absurd — if you are only considering what we can see.
but if you are living in the kingdom of god that jesus preached, the one where the father who created the universe and knows how many hairs are on your head, and who gives good gifts, and takes perfectly good care of the birds…
well, if you truly trust and serve such a god, and live in such a kingdom, then you can always walk unafraid.
for you are serving and laying up treasures where moth and rust do NOT destroy, and where thieves do NOT break in an steal.
fear god only. serve god only.
lord knows i could do better at this.
You have heard that it was said, â€˜An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.â€™ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
jesus, throughout these chapters, is giving illustrations, not rules.
he is presenting illustrations of how a person with a “kingdom heart” will likely respond in certain situations.
i’ll preface by saying, though, that in this one (turn the other cheek), there is no admonition to ever *ever* turn someone else’s cheek.
to idly stand by and allow another of god’s children to come to harm through inaction is sin, be they your family, or someone you don’t know.
now, when it comes to turning your own cheek:
remember, jesus is talking here about how a person living in the kingdom of god goes about life. he’s talking about people who have turned away from anger, contempt and lust.
he’s talking about people who are truly always more interested in their brother’s welfare than their own.
he means, quite literally, to actually present your other cheek to an attacker, whether they are attacking with words or with physical blows.
he’s referring to remaining vulnerable, open and not responding to evil with evil, in an attempt to win your adversary to the kingdom.
what harm can come to you?
if your adversary is intent upon killing you, you are already living in the eternal kingdom!
more likely, though, if you practice turning the other cheek, anyone who may have a gripe with you will never get to the point of wishing to actually strike you, because all along you’ve been looking out for *his* best interests, in loving him into the kingdom the way jesus would.
responding to his verbal blows with grace and love will likely diffuse the situation so that it won’t become physical.
and even if it does: this universe you inhabit is perfectly safe, because your father in heaven is looking out for you.
even if god allows your adversary to harm your body, praise god! you have loved and grown in the kingdom, and one day will understand all this.