|The Bible and slavery
||Saturday, May 18, 2013
|Whenever the Bible's stance on slavery comes into question, it's usually based on a few verses in the Old Testament that essentially say, "Cut your slaves some slack every now and then," and some verses in the New Testament that essentially say, "If you're a slave, be a good one." As a Christian, I learned to respond to these objections with such statements as, "Slavery was a fact of that time period," or "At least God supported fair treatment of slaves."
However, upon further consideration (and insight from some light reading), here's an observation: The Bible is often considered the focal point of modern ethics. I mean, without the Bible, we'd all be murdering and raping each other. The fact that slavery is absolutely and unquestionably wrong is evident to all modern people. No one these days (aside from some groups in the Middle East and Africa) believes it's even remotely acceptable to own another person. There's just no doubt about that anymore. Yet the Bible, the pillar of morality and righteousness, doesn't really make a stand either way.
If the Bible is considered to be the ultimate set of moral laws handed down by an all-knowing God, why didn't the author have the foresight to condemn a ridiculously evil practice like slavery? He covered murder, theft, and coveting asses, but the ownership of one human being by another human being was simply accepted.
|The Dow Jones is stupid
||Friday, May 03, 2013
|A recent Planet Money episode talked about why the Dow Jones Industrial Average is a poor metric of our nation's financial health. The main point was that you can't compare today's average with the average from 20 years ago without adjusting for inflation, and when you do, today's average isn't that good. The secondary point was that the DJIA is a group of big companies chosen for secretive reasons and which don't necessarily represent the current state of the economy. So now every time there's a news headline about the Dow, I ignore it purposefully, instead of just ignoring it because it has absolutely no effect on my life.
||Wednesday, Apr 10, 2013
|It seems like a lot of furniture commercials cater to cheap people. I guess that's true of a lot of commercials, since everyone is essentially looking for a deal. But with car commercials, for example, there's no "Discount Bob's Car Company" that makes a car comparable to a Mercedes, but cheaper. Or I guess there is, and it's called Hyundai. My point is that furniture commercials make me feel like a bottom-dwelling deal-seeker. Which I sometimes am.
||Saturday, Apr 06, 2013
|There exists a human being named Reince Priebus. Clearly this man's parents hated him, which is why they named him Reince Priebus. On a sidenote, he was born about five miles from where I currently live.
|New ten commandments
||Friday, Apr 05, 2013
|I came across a new set of Ten Commandments in Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, and I'm posting them here in their entirety because I think they're pretty good, and they have nothing to do with god or days of the week:
I've lately been trying to employ rules 7-9 more and more.
- Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.
- In all things, strive to cause no harm.
- Treat your fellow human beings, your fellow living things, and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness and respect.
- Do not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.
- Live life with a sense of joy and wonder.
- Always seek to be learning something new.
- Test all things; always check your ideas against the facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them.
- Never seek to censor or cut yourself off from dissent; always respect the right of others to disagree with you.
- Form independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience; do not allow yourself to be led blindly by others.
- Question everything.
||Thursday, Apr 04, 2013
|I'm convinced the supermarket has a sensor near the produce that detects when a pale, bald-ish male reaches for something, then promptly engages the sprayer.
|Atheism part 2
||Thursday, Apr 04, 2013
|Continued from part 1.
(I realize this is a little brief and a lot of details are missing. I could probably fill a book with all the nitty gritty, but I'm intentionally keeping it brief simply to get it out there.)
Switching from faith to doubt opened a lot of unexpected doors. If the Bible wasn't true, maybe God wasn't real, and maybe the ideas and practices expressed in the Bible were simply outdated tribal ideologies invented by a primitive people who thought the earth was flat. Or maybe not. Regardless, I felt free for the first time in my life to investigate other ideas. I promptly read a bunch of books about science and reason and found myself agreeing with everything they said. It felt good to have an open mind for once, and it felt good to allow my mind to be changed by rational arguments that were supported by evidence.
When I first considered calling myself an atheist, it was a difficult proposition. Even before I called myself a Christian, I at least believed in a god. Making the switch from god to no-god wasn't trivial. I was hesitant at first, but the more I thought about it and admitted it to myself, the more comfortable it felt.
One of the first major changes I had to make was to get out of my church responsibilities. I had stopped leading a Bible study a few months prior, but I was still attending, and I was also still attending church. There's probably nothing more ridiculous than being part of a religious organization while actively not believing in its tenets. I experienced this firsthand, and I couldn't take it for long. It probably had a little to do with the fact that I was keeping my new beliefs hidden, and so in a sense I wasn't being completely honest. I finally found the courage and proper moment for a "breakup speech" with my Bible study. It was awkward and difficult, but entirely necessary. Leaving church wasn't as hard; I just stopped showing up. No one noticed.
I was momentarily content with keeping my atheism relatively private, but it soon became apparent that people would continue associating me with Christianity unless I told them not to. I sent an email to my family, essentially "coming out" as an atheist, and I was pleasantly surprised by the mostly positive reaction. People didn't necessarily agree with me, but they at least respected my choice.
One of the most satisfying things about becoming an atheist is not having to shoehorn new information into old beliefs. If some astrophysicist discovers that life arrived on our planet via an asteroid impact, I don't have to figure out a way to mash that into my current belief system. I can examine the evidence for myself, then believe it if I want, knowing that nothing I do or think will have eternal consequences. That's a good feeling.
One interesting problem I'm currently facing regarding my atheism is that I've held a number of opinions about topics like creation, evolution, homosexuality, and the Bible, and I went to the trouble of writing these opinions down and sharing them on the internet where they will exist for all eternity and beyond. It's weird and uncomfortable to look back at some of the things I used to think and believe, wondering how I could've been so naive and narrow-minded. But I guess that's life. I could simply delete the things I don't like, but instead I'm keeping everything the way I originally wrote it, as a reminder that things change.
|Atheism part 1
||Sunday, Mar 31, 2013
|About a year ago, I came to the conclusion that I'm an atheist. That statement will come as a shock to people who know me and haven't heard this, since it came as a shock to me as well. I've been a Christian my whole life, and not just a Christmas and Easter Christian or a Sunday morning Christian. I've been an everyday, Bible-believing, Bible-reading, praying, worshiping Christian since I was in high school, and even a little before then. I've read through the Bible on more than one occasion, I've led Bible studies and discipled younger believers, and I've led worship in various churches and groups for many years. Suffice it to say, I was a Christian, like for real.
I was into my faith to the point where I developed doubts, which is completely not a bad thing. I'm of the opinion that if you have no doubts, you haven't completely investigated your faith. Apologetics filled in some of the gaps, so that on the continuum between faith and doubt, I was on the side of faith. I read and studied all kinds of things that provided more knowledge and insight into the historicity of the Bible and the evidence supporting a young earth, among other things. The fruits of my labor were that I knew what I believed and why I believed it, and I could defend my beliefs in the face of questioning and criticism, even though it rarely resulted in either side changing their mind.
One of the early turning points in my deconversion actually happened at a Bible study I was leading. One of the members (who had training in geology) mentioned that it was really no longer an option to believe in the idea of a 6000-year-old earth, since there's too much evidence regarding the carbon dating of rocks and things like that. He mentioned it almost in passing, and it really hurt my young-earth creationist leanings. But like anyone who believes things that contradict reality, I rejected his "opinion" and relied on the fact that God would make sense of it all someday.
There's an interesting psychological phenomenon that occurs when a person tries to believe two contradictory ideas at one time. It's called cognitive dissonance. I found it relatively easy to assuage my cognitive dissonance by using faith, or hope in a future change. For example, I knew from experience that miracles were either impossible or exceedingly uncommon, but I had faith in the existence of a being who could bend the rules of the universe, so miracles were possible by definition. This worked for a lot of things.
Despite my best efforts, I gradually came around to accepting the theory of evolution (and with it, an old earth), which directly contradicts the creation story in the Bible. I specifically remember having a conversation with my wife where I told her I didn't believe the creation story anymore, and she said she was already there and didn't see it as a problem. It was a huge problem for me, because it meant I was cherry-picking what I deemed worthy of believing in the Bible, and there's really no guideline for things you should read as literal versus things you should read as figurative. If you're going to make the claim that certain things in the Bible either aren't true or aren't meant to be taken literally, where do you draw the line, and who gets to draw that line? Why take any of it literally? Or figuratively, for that matter?
As simplistic as it sounds, this slippery slope was indeed quite slippery. The idea occurred to me that if some parts of the Bible weren't true, maybe other parts weren't true as well. Maybe miracles didn't really happen. Maybe this Jesus guy didn't rise from the grave. Maybe -- and this was a tough idea to stomach -- God didn't exist.
Oddly enough, I had been seeing a Christian counselor around this time for various reasons, and he suggested to me that all the work and effort I had been expending to have a relationship with God might actually be completely misguided and that my interpretation of key Bible passages might not be entirely accurate. This was obviously pretty discouraging, but it served to reinforce what I was already feeling: There's no single way to interpret the Bible, and everybody can't be right. And even if everyone could agree on the correct interpretation of a cobbled-together, mistranslated, 2000-year-old document, there's no way to prove any of it. On the faith-doubt continuum, I switched over to doubt.
Continued in part 2.
|Buy.com to Rakuten
||Wednesday, Mar 27, 2013
|Here's a stupid idea: Register a simple domain name in the early days of the internet, build it into a reputable shopping site, then change the name to something unpronounceable and unmemorable. Great job, Rakuten.