shirenomad: (philosophical)
Cross-posted to Facebook and Livejournal:

Yesterday I talked about how Neil deGrasse Tyson gave ten minutes of evidence (describing the scientific brilliance of the Muslim Golden Age) that spoke against his final point (that believers have no place in science), proving that Tyson may be a great astrophysicist but he'd make a terrible lawyer. Today I'll talk about how, at least with some, the reflex of resisting believers is even more ingrained.

Perhaps I was foolish to assume that YouTube viewers would even care, especially those that would be watching Tyson's video in particular, but I made the following comment on the video:

"The issue is not that 15% of the scientific community accepts God. Tyson himself admits that Baghdad, at its scientific height, had people of all religions (certainly including both Muslims and Christians) present, and that Jews (who also believe in God) currently dominate science. It is when those who accept God believe the lie that this means science is false that we have problems. Muslim science did not crash and burn with Muhammad but with al-Ghazali."

I got a quick response: "youre right. science in no way goes against the idea of a god. but it also in no way goes along with the idea of a god. it does however go against the bible and most other religious ideas. so if you want to believe in a god. then by all means do it. but youre going to have to pick between science and the bible assuming you are a christian"

I should have left that one alone but I couldn't just let it hang there. I assumed (correctly) that the commenter was referring to the creation story, and the more recent, dare I say, heresy that it must be literal. But theologians throughout history have pointed out that the creation story in Genesis is likely allegorical, being written to establish not any detailed or scientific explanation of how God did it, but simply that He did. (In fact, Origen -- 3rd century -- argued that it must be allegorical, and that the original readers would have understood that. Why? Because if you treat it literally, you have the first evening and morning without a sun or a sky. You don't need a shred of scientific understanding to understand that this is no more literal than Psalm 23's description of the writer as a sheep.)

And I said so... and now the hordes truly descended. Some came at me with additional points where they felt the Bible contradicted science (including some that, given that I had just stipulated that Genesis 1 was not literal, were already not at issue; they were just moving through a checklist without listening). Others, despite admittedly not being Christian themselves, told me what a horrible Christian I was for not treating every word of scripture literally, as if they were authorities on its meaning. A few taunted me that one day science would contradict every last word of the Bible and I'd have to disavow it all. Our science is greater!

I see three possible intentions of these commenters (possibly all three were there):
1) They thought I, having admitted that the Bible was not literal in certain places, was on the verge of abandoning the entire thing, and they were trying to convert me to atheism.
2) They could not accept that I, as a believer, could also believe in science, and they were trying to get me to revert to their preferred stereotype.
3) They just wanted to punt the believer around.

Regardless, the result was the same: I thought, no wonder believers are abandoning science, if those in favor of it are telling us it's an exclusive club, no silly God-followers allowed. You're trying to chase us away. You're trying to keep us separated. These arguments are not the solution; they are part of the problem.

Here are my responses to atheists who get the urge to push the faithful away:
1) As I just said, you are part of the problem. If a Christian is forced to choose between God and science, odds are decent that he will choose God. And if he does the opposite, you have still widened the gap between the two groups. Feel lucky that some recognize it as a false choice.
2) As Tyson admitted before he forgot, great scientific minds can also believe in God. You are rejecting in advance the next al-Haytham (also a Muslim theologian), the next Newton (also a Christian theologian). You are also pushing away lesser brilliance who won't revolutionize the world but can still be part of the workforce that any solid scientific community needs. Why do you want to thin the numbers of science? Why not instead encourage us to pick science without abandoning faith, and grow in numbers?
3) You are bringing your own conclusions about what the Bible says to the table, when you have not studied it on more than a cursory level. Yes, you share these conclusions with some Christians who haven't thought about it either. But you do not share them with actual theologians, even ancient ones like Origen and Augustine. Nor do you share them with the modern Catholic church, who have been studying the Bible for 2000 years straight and, as I noted earlier, currently hold that it does not require anything in conflict with modern science. In short, you are fighting even those who are on your side because you have convinced yourself in advance that they aren't. You assume that the other side is 100% at war with you because a minority is making noise.
shirenomad: (philosophical)
Cross-posted to Facebook and Livejournal:

Last weekend I watched a for-the-most-part fascinating discussion of science history on YouTube. The speaker was Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist who you may be familiar with (he's host of NOVA scienceNOW and has made two appearances on The Daily Show in recent memory). The history he told was well researched, applicable to the present day, and I absolutely agree with the conclusion.

...Not the conclusion he actually made, mind you, but the conclusion I thought he was going to make, because it was the one that logically followed from everything he said.

You can watch the video for yourself here, but here's a summary, combined with my own research on the matter:

The Muslim world was, from roughly 750 to 1200 AD, the center of science in the world, taking the knowledge of the Greeks and building on it dramatically. Al-Khwarizmi's development of algebra revolutionized mathematics. Astronomy hit such a boom that Arabic names such as Aldebaran and Altair still dominate the sky. Al-Razi wrote a medical textbook that remained the authority in medical schools, in both the Middle East and Europe, for nearly a thousand years. And Ibn al-Haytham was likely the first to conceive of what we now call the scientific method.

And then, in the late 11th century, came al-Ghazali, an imam who denied the very idea of cause and effect, save for the Ultimate Cause: every event happens because and only because God wills it. (His famous example was that fire does not burn cotton, God burns it.) While God usually behaves the same way, creating what appear to be laws of nature, He can do something else any time He likes. Therefore, he concluded, science is meaningless... even blasphemous, because it says that God will always behave the same way and therefore has no will.

The idea, sadly, caught on, despite attempts to refute by other Muslim scholars. By the 14th and 15th centuries, Muslim science was in serious decline, and by the 16th century it was all but non-existent; only recently has it begun to recover. Christians and Jews began their own domination of science and culture (Tyson's analysis, not mine) and the Western World, not the Middle East, remains in the lead today.

Tyson, having told this tale, mourned what could have been had Islam remained pro-science. He then compared it to the present day, with the tendency of some Christians to deny discoveries and theories such as the Big Bang and evolution. And I am in total agreement. God has clearly set laws in effect over the universe. God gave us brains. And the fate of Muslim science should be a warning to us. I have been a big fan of a saying of a Christian and physicist I know: "the Bible is infallible, and science is infallible, but fallible man can misinterpret either." I also know that the Catholic church, no liberal bastion, never quick to reject tradition, interprets the Bible such that there is no contradiction with evolution (read Cathecism 283, or the words of the past five popes on the matter, or just walk into any Catholic private school and hear evolution taught by nuns). So absolutely, Dr. Tyson, I agree that Christians should not poo-poo science just because it appears to conflict with an image of God we've developed that isn't necessarily accurate; that we should instead embrace it...

And now I'll directly quote the last 30 seconds of Tyson's speech, and we'll see if you can spot the moment where he abruptly forgets everything he just said:

"I am concerned about what lost, what brilliance may have expressed itself, and did not, in [the Muslim] community over the past thousand years. And so, what I want to put on the table is -- that's the end of my talk, but I want to say -- I want to put on the table, not why 85% of the National Academy rejects God. I want to know why 15% don't. And that's really what we've got to address here, otherwise the public is secondary to this. Thank you for your attention here."

Whoa. Did I understand him right? He had just spent ten minutes telling us how the Muslim community had made huge contributions to science, and could have continued to do so had it not fallen into the lie that faith and science are incompatible. But Tyson now appears to conclude not that scientists should encourage the faithful to return, but that they should automatically assume that any belief in God is a burden to science. In short, he's saying that faith and science are incompatible.

How dug in are scientists against what they perceive as the savage and superstitious, that one can both see and recite evidence that faith and science can work side by side, and still walk out believing that belief in God will always be an anathema to his cause? And if Tyson believes that science requires leaving such silly religious beliefs behind, then should he be surprised that some believers think that science must be wrong?

The faithful need to be making overtures here as well. What I said before holds; we do not leave our brains at the door when we enter the family of God. God can trump the rules He set in place if He likes, but for the most part He does not; this is why science has been such a marvelous success. And when an examination of the universe's history shows that not only does something in scripture generally not happen under these rules, but it clearly did not happen, then we need to at least put on the table the possibility that we've been misreading scripture.

But to the scientists: when we make these overtures, you need to be ready to welcome us.

Tomorrow: Things get even more counterproductive.
shirenomad: (philosophical)
Scientifically, a tomato is a fruit: nutritious plant tissue surrounding seeds, designed to be eaten by animals so the seeds might later be (ahem) deposited elsewhere surrounded by helpful fertilizer. But in cooking terms, a tomato is a vegetable because of its low sugar levels. If someone asks for a fruit salad, or a fruit sorbet, you would not include tomatoes, because you are in a culinary context. If someone in a science lab wants to study the effects of something on fruit, tomatoes would probably be fine, against because of the context, and you would not use them if the test called for a vegetable.

Just to confuse things further, in 1893, the Supreme Court ruled that a law regarding "vegetables" (and not fruit) included tomatoes in the meaning of the word (Nix v. Hedden if you were curious), not for scientific or culinary reasons but because the justices agreed that Congress had created the law in question to cover a category that included tomatoes. Later laws then made the same assumption about what tomatoes were. The law is funny that way: the intended purpose of a law can affect the very meaning of words in that context, and then that meaning can carry on to other law.

I believe this sums up why perfectly reasonable people can't seem to see eye to eye when it comes to Prop 8 and gay marriage. )
shirenomad: (philosophical)
Sci-fi writers are not open to all views, or with an advanced perspective on things. Sci-fi writers are often the exact opposite. Sci-fi allows one to make a specific argument obvious when it is not so much so in the actual world. Or make an argument that is actually invalid in reality, but works due to the parameters of the fictional world. And the temptation to do so is usually all too great.

A human has a divine nature through his desire to understand. How do we know this? Because Valentine Michael Smith has shown us thou art God. Except he doesn't exist, and no one can actually do what he does, no matter how much they grok the universe.

There is no just war; we should forgive even those who try to kill us to the last. How do we know this? Because an alliance with the Cylons is the only way to locate Earth and rebuild humanity. Except we're not looking for Earth and we're not at war with Cylons, nor with anyone with whom interbreeding holds some huge mystic significance about the Shape Of Things To Come.

Humanity is fallen, disconnected from something greater, and needs to reconnect with God. How do we know this? Because Elwin Ransom learned it on the unfallen Malacandra after meeting its people and its Oyarsa. Except we have yet to encounter another inhabited world, fallen or unfallen.

We must protect the earth at all costs, because preserving its Mako is the only thing keeping it from literally falling to pieces. We must not hate other races, because the dwarf and troll leaders wanted unity before they were lost in a cave-in. We must not try to seek an orderly utopia, because it'll cause 99.9% of a planet to give up on living and the rest to go viciously insane. We must not cheat death because... well, I could go on for days naming all the fictional reasons we mustn't do that.

If our world made it obvious what the answer was, we wouldn't be asking the questions. But once someone has engineered a world with rules to their liking, they can answer conclusively "why" their view is the only accurate one. "Because look at my story! Look what happens there when they follow my viewpoint, and when they don't!" And if no one points out the fallacy -- "yeah, if your story world were real, that would be the case, but that's a big IF" -- then they find themselves certain. Clearly, their view is the only obvious one. Their world tells them so. They need not justify it any other way.

Even if the view happens to be accurate, or at least possible, relying purely on the story is pointless. It proves nothing, and makes one weak in actual arguments. Argumentum ad fabula: argument from fiction.

Which brings us to the readers. A reader who focuses on one author is not only going to get the same conclusions, but is all the more likely to forget that hey, this isn't an ethical textbook you're reading. But that assumes one author. What if you read of CS Lewis's divine eldils and Robert A. Heinlein's divine man? What if you see the utopia of the orderly Federation in Star Trek and the dystopia of the orderly Alliance in Firefly? What if you still consider multiple options, what if you remember that sci-fi describes what might be instead of what is, in multiple senses of the phrase? What if you think for yourself which makes more sense given the world you yourself know? Well, that's what makes sci-fi readers open to more views...


Mar. 27th, 2010 10:02 pm
shirenomad: (philosophical)
Yesterday I heard a law professor describe two essential forms of morality. The first she associated with the right wing: a morality that comes from somewhere other the holder (e.g. from a religious source), which that holder attempts to achieve. The second she associated with the left wing: a morality that the holder establishes by herself through philosophy and thought.

I have my own opinions about whether one can truly create a morality uninfluenced by others, but she admitted to what was an interesting insight in the process. The "right wing" morality is something to be sought, a finish line to strive for, therefore somewhere you (unless you claim otherwise like some pious gasbags) are NOT YET AT. So when you are caught short of the line, there is sighing, but there should be no condemnation; it is a hard road to travel. Whereas the "left wing" morality, by default, should be where you ALREADY ARE, your beliefs are already in line with where you say they should be. You have drawn the finish line around yourself. So when you stumble, you couldn't live up to the circle you yourself picked, and we should be free to cry "hypocrite!"

(Mind you, the professor falls firmly on the "left wing" side of things, and was speaking to a group of largely like-minded individuals.)


Dec. 2nd, 2008 03:20 pm
shirenomad: (politics)
This is what needs to happen. Daily. Everywhere.

What Bush says or does, what Obama says or does, what I say or do, it may slow down the plans of a Jihadist (I use the term to describe those who blow up civilians as blackmail to the world), but it does not matter to the mindset of one, because we are the infidel to them and just one more enemy to be killed.

But the Jihadist goes into hotels and kills children because he thinks the Muslim world will laud him for it. Because he believes it will earn him paradise. And so the Muslim world as a whole needs to say what the Muslim Jama Masjid Trust in essence said today:

"We do not laud you for what you do, in fact we condemn you to the point where we deny you the paradise you sought. You will not be given rest, you will not be given last rites. You look forward to what awaits you? We will make you terrified of it. You are not ours and you never will be."

They think they are the pinnacle of Islam, and it needs to be Islam that throws them off their perch. What happened today was a good start.


Nov. 1st, 2008 06:23 pm
shirenomad: (philosophical)
The Tale of the Six Blind Men and the Elephant

Six blind men encountered an elephant one day. The first blind man felt the leg and said, "Ah, the elephant is like a tree trunk." The second felt the elephant's massive side and said, "Ah, the elephant is like a wall." The third felt the ear and said, "The elephant is like a large fan." The fourth felt the trunk and said, "The elephant is like a python." The fifth felt the tusk and said, "The elephant is like a spear." And the last felt the tail and said, "Clearly, clearly, the elephant is like rope." And although none had a full view of the elephant, they had all experienced it, and they were all in some ways right and in some ways wrong.

That's a good story, but you forgot the seventh blind man.

I'm sorry? What seventh blind man?

The one who thought the elephant was like a bathtub.

...Bathtub? I don't follow. Did the elephant spray water--?

No, that would be like a shower. I mean a "sit in it and soak" bathtub.

Hmm.... Okay. I give up. How is an elephant like a bathtub?

I don't know either. But isn't it amazing? We should all learn from what he's discovered about elephants. Maybe I'll tell a biologist or two.

But I'm not seeing HOW an elephant is like a bathtub.

Well, of course not. You haven't seen the entire elephant either.

Yes I have.

But you haven't. The point of the story is that we're all blind and no one's seen the whole elephant, so we all experience pieces but only pieces. Now, if we WEREN'T blind, we might see that the seventh man missed the elephant entirely and walked straight into the lake.

...clever. But also cheating. He didn't experience the elephant at all.

But you can't KNOW whether he experienced the elephant unless you can see the whole elephant yourself. What if they'd encountered a hippo instead? Does the blind man who thinks the hippo is like a python have a piece of the puzzle, or is it likely he simply grabbed a nearby hose by accident?

Probably the latter. But--

And yet you're just as sure an elephant IS partially like a python, but not like a bathtub. That's because YOU know for sure what the whole elephant and the whole hippo look like, right?

Okay, fine. Your point?

My point is that the whole story's supposed to be a metaphor for God and people's views of Him, and it's a way of saying "everyone's equally right." But how can you know? Maybe someone's explored God more thoroughly and has both the trunk AND the leg, while someone else has just gotten themselves soaked. So how can you know that EVERYONE'S seen a piece, but only a piece, of God -- for that matter, that no one's piece is more or less accurate than the others -- unless you're claiming YOU know EXACTLY what God looks like?

(Credit to Randy Newman -- the author, not the musician -- for pointing out the flaw in the Tale, although the seventh blind man was my own idea.)
shirenomad: (philosophical)
There were some arguments about feminism flying around a couple communities, many of them centered around its effects on sexual behavior. On that subject, a thought occurred to me, which I will preface with the Socratic disclaimer that I don't necessarily have a clue what I'm talking about.

Something a lot of people both in and out of the movement don't realize is that there are extremes of thought in feminism about the nature of sexuality. One extreme says that sex is a tool of men to dominate women and should therefore be resisted. Men should remain loyal to those they have committed to. Men who sleep around are pigs who want to feel like they're in control of multiple women. Men think too much with their pants in general and should not be encouraged. And so forth. Then there's the other extreme, which says that sex doesn't have to be just about the men; why should they have all the fun? This view allows women to sleep around as much as men, to take some control for themselves, as it were.

Both are potentially valid if completely polar approaches. Certainly neither are contradictory by themselves. But here's the trick: both claim to be feminist ideas without further qualification. So those looking at the situation see what appears to be a single movement claiming a) men should remain monogamous and shouldn't be so interested in sex, and b) women should do the opposite. Well, that doesn't seem any more fair or just (or sane; it's the very definition of "mixed signals") than the scenario feminists are accusing men of causing. What no one seems to recognize (including some confused souls inside the movement) is that you're trying to merge two completely opposing philosophies. Of course it's going to seem contradictory!

Expand this to anything. Read political columns or listen to talk radio, and you'll hear about the contradictions of "the Republicans" or "the Democrats" as if they were of a single mind, instead of half the nation. You may be told of how "Christians" believe both X and not X, when in reality Christianity is a collection of denominations (and individual preachers), all with their own opinions on the details of the faith. What is frequently the case is that one subgroup thinks one way, and another thinks the opposite. Most individuals within these organizations remain consistant, non-contradictory, fair beings (at least those who don't unthinkingly parrot the multiple messages they hear from every source they come across).

But we fail to distinguish. We see everything as monolithic classifications, and everything within them must behave the same. And if the details contradict, that's their problem, not ours. Right?
shirenomad: (philosophical)
A recent Shortpacked got me thinking about Marvel's Civil War crossover arc, and I realized something weird. Let me share it. )
shirenomad: (philosophical)
There was this icon I saw floating around LJ that revived a certain political issue bothering me. Indulge me for a few minutes, if you will. )
shirenomad: (philosophical)
I'd like to take a moment to reflect on the whole Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays business.

Let me start by saying that I, being a confirmed believer in Christ's salvation for most of my life, nonetheless have no problems with someone coming up to me and saying "Happy Holidays." Or "Happy Hannukah" for that matter. Wish me a good solstice if that's your festival of choice. I will not be insulted. I agree with many of you that it is stupid to be insulted over what was never (hopefully) meant as anything other than an "I wish you well today and in the weeks ahead."

That said, I want to also point something else out: this started, at least in some cases, because the speakers of "Happy Holidays" feared that "Merry Christmas" would -- you guessed it -- insult people. So if the psycho-fundies are dumb to get insulted over "Happy Holidays," what does that make those who think a "Merry Christmas" is an attempt to push religion?

Getting insulted over "Happy Holidays" is childish, but it's also a logical conclusion. Someone complained over a "Merry Christmas" somewhere. Things started changing. Conclusion: complaining changes things. Corollary: you can change things back by complaining louder. And around and around we go. It's insanity on both sides.

And so, to all of you, I will wish you a Merry Christmas. If I discover you don't celebrate Christmas, I hope you'll enjoy the day anyway. If you want to wish me happiness on a completely different day, I'll accept that blessing in the spirit it was offered and thank you for the thought.

And we all walk off feeling brighter and blessed instead of offended and hostile. Now wasn't that easier?
shirenomad: (depressed)
I slept through pretty much all of it. I was in college, classes didn't start for another week, and I was on the west coast to boot, so I didn't wake up that day until past 10am Pacific. My first clue that anything was odd was the faint sound of my roommate's TV on -- he never watched TV at that hour -- but I didn't actually know until he poked his nose out, saw I was awake, and told me to turn on the news, we were under attack. Oddly, I still feel guilty that I wasn't awake to see most of it live... irrational reaction, I know, but it's hard to react completely rationally to something like that.

I numbly watched TV and discussed the events of the day in various panicked online environments until 6pm that evening; I was finally dragged out of the apartment by an email on the church mailing list for an emergency prayer meeting. Spent an hour praying for the protection and recovery of New York, some sort of peace for the families of the victims, and wisdom for the nation's leaders. Then on the way home the radio started playing "Blue Skies" and I thought of the debris-clouded sky of Manhattan. And just like that the true weight of the day, which I'd been trying to ignore, finally hit me full force, and I had to pull over to the side of the road and sob.

It is still beyond my understanding how someone could do that. The Pentagon, I can see. It was a military location; hitting it disrupted military operations, and the people killed within were soldiers who signed on to die for their country... and for that matter fight the same people who hijack airliners. No less of an act of war, but still no less legitimate a target than, say, Pearl Harbor; the only things obscene about it were the choice of weapon (okay, not everyone can afford cruise missiles, but if there had been any way to get an empty plane, they should have used it) and the unprovoked nature of the whole thing. But the World Trade Center consisted of 3000 civilians working at their desks. Hit aircraft carriers. Hit military bases. Hit troops on patrol in Iraq. I don't like it, but it's still legit warfare. But deliberately targeting those you know to be civilians? What purpose does that even serve, other than to enrage those whom you attacked?

People can't understand why these people* hate us. We must have done something to them, they say. it must have been deserved. Do gay people who get beaten to death by homophobes do anything to deserve it? Did the victims of lynch mobs do anything to deserve it? Do abused spouses do anything to deserve it (no matter how much they believe they have)? It's hate, pure and simple.

And for all that, I still don't get it.

PS: As for the recent "docu-drama" business, I don't know enough about it to make a judgment call. I think it's too soon to the event to make dramas on the subject with any objectivity, so I won't watch; I skipped "World Trade Center" and "United 93" for the same reason. But if you want to view something on the subject today, watch this. No propaganda or politicization (the filmmakers were French), and everyone involved started the day thinking they were making a documentary about a rookie firefighter instead of a world-shattering event... but those people were THERE.

* DISCLAIMER: "These people" = Al Queda and similar. Not "all Muslims" or "all Arabs" or other sweeping generic categories; I mean those who actually hate us enough to kill 3000 of us because they can.
shirenomad: (faith)
Emmanuel. The word means "God with us."

Although I won't argue that the resurrection isn't the most important event in Christianity, the birth of Jesus is in many ways just as amazing. Not because of the virgin birth or the angelic announcements or the star of Bethlehem; I don't think anyone who believed in God before or since would deny he was capable of doing all of that without breaking a sweat. But because, starting right then, the Creator of the Universe proved he could understand what it was like for us. He became human, and everything that came with it.

He was a baby; he needed diaper changes and feedings. He was a kid; he stubbed his toes and skinned his knees. He was a teenager; he went through puberty, his voice broke, he probably had acne. He was a young adult; he worked as a carpenter, got sore muscles and sweat. He made himself dependent on others.

And when death came, he feared it. He faced it, but he feared it. And by the time it arrived, he would understand pain, to levels his human body was never designed to tolerate.

For thirty-three years, the most powerful Being in existence walked among us. God was with us.

If God just wanted to die for our sins -- no small thing, don't get me wrong, but if that's all he wanted to do -- he could have showed up as an adult for a few days, gotten killed off, and that would have been that. Like some celebrity getting some photo ops with starving African kids for charity before going back home to a Hollywood mansion and a professional chef. But God went for the whole package.

And so we don't have to wonder if someone like him cares about us mortals. We don't have to wonder if he truly understands what it's like to be human. He does. He stepped off his throne and spent thirty-three years proving it. That's the miracle of Christmas.
shirenomad: (faith)
My church in Irvine has some strong Republicans and some strong Democrats. We have some people who enjoy modern (noisy and active) worship and those who still hate the idea of guitars in church, electric or otherwise (thankfully, we offer both types of worship services). And yes, we have those who think Harry Potter promotes satanic witchcraft and those who were in line for the 12:01 showing Thursday night.

Full disclosure time: the pastor at Irvine Presbyterian wrote "Hoodwinked by Harry?" so it's not hard to figure out what his personal feelings are on the last subject. But given the controversy on that and other subjects, he felt yesterday was an appropriate time to break out Romans 14 for a sermon.

The controversies when Paul wrote Romans were eating meat (all good? just kosher? veggies only?) and whether to worship on the Sabbath or whenever. Paul personally had no issues with eating whatever you liked (he doesn't mention how he feels about the Sabbath), but it's interesting to note what he has to say to people on both sides. You can read the whole thing at Bible Gateway in several translations, but here's a quick excerpt:

Accept Christians who are weak in faith, and don't argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it is all right to eat anything. But another believer who has a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who think it is all right to eat anything must not look down on those who won't. And those who won't eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn God's servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord's power will help them do as they should.

In other words, if your conscience tells you not to eat meat (watch Harry Potter, whatever), don't. If your conscience gives you no grief on the subject, enjoy it and appreciate whatever God gives you from the experience. But in either case, it is not your job to split the church over the matter. Don't say those who went to see the movie are any less Christian for doing so, don't say those who refuse to go near it are any less Christian either.

Maybe one person is strong enough to discern what's good and bad in the movie and can filter accordingly while another can't and should avoid the whole thing because of that. If they've said "God, I want to follow you," God will convict those who fall in the latter category and will leave those in the former alone. (And for those who haven't made that prayer, it's not our business to tell them what God wants from them when they haven't yet decided they want to hear it from God Himself. Tell them that God has a better plan for them, and leave it between them and God to determine what that plan is.)

Not even my two cents, but I thought it was worth passing on...
shirenomad: (webcomics)
The latest webcomic to join my (already lengthy) reading list has been Dominic Deegan. That fact it made the cut surprised even me at first, because it alternates between overly dramatic epic events and really cheesy puns. As I'm not a fan of either, I'm frankly amazed I pulled together enough patience to rip through the archives at all, much less want to stay afterwards.

I had to think about this for a bit, and if you'll indulge me, I'm going to steal a page from Eric Burns and Robert A. Howard and put down my thoughts in an amateur webcomic article. )
shirenomad: (empathetic)
Just finished an excellent read: Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul. It's got an admittedly Christian slant to it, but most of the first third of the book will speak to every guy out there regardless of their faith. I found myself nodding my head throughout, and even getting a little watery in the eyes when a point particularly hit me.

Speaking of which, I wanted to share the part that struck me as most profound (and important), namely: every boy needs to be told they're strong, by whatever father figure they have in their life. (It has to be the father, who almost inevitably serves as the example of what the boy seeks to become, at least at first.) This is vital to the kid's development. If he's not told he's strong in something (or worse, if he's told he's weak), that can devastate him down the road... many neuroses and unhealthy habits of adult men can be traced back to the inferiority that develops at that moment.

When a poor (or no) answer comes, the kid responds in one of two ways, depending on his personality: either he believes in the answer wholeheartedly and embraces it, or he focuses all his attention on proving it wrong (largely to fight the constant doubt that it's right). Thus:
  • A boy told he's a "sissy" by his father will either become an unassuming pushover (believes it) or, out of fear of being a sissy, overcompensates as a huge tough guy (denies it).
  • A boy told he's "useless" or "stupid" will either start self-sabotaging everything he does or over-achieve until it kills him (all the while believing it isn't good enough).
  • A boy whose father just ignores him (or who isn't there) will find his questions about his strength unanswered and will believe he's on his own; he'll either be driven to prove his worth to others or a total loner.
And so on.

I have to wonder how many young men on my list are still letting their father's voice drive what they do. And how hard it is to stop listening to it.
shirenomad: (informative)
1) The church has this room they set aside for prayer and meditation during Lent (that's the 40 days leading up to Easter). It includes some exercises if you want to contribute. One's a jigsaw puzzle; if you want to, put in a few pieces, then use it as an inspiration to think about how you're contributing to the larger church, and how each piece is important.

Well, I go in there every week for about an hour and spend at least ten minutes on the puzzle every time. (Often more; it puts me in a good zen mode.) But the past few weeks I haven't seen any noticeable difference between visits. Just my contributions. If anyone else is trying to help complete the puzzle, they're being subtle about it. I was almost annoyed at first, but I had a bit of an epiphany while mulling that over. There are several situations where I've contributed without seeing anything resembling an end result. And I've just got to give what I can and trust that others will step in to keep things going when I'm not available. I may not see their contributions, but that's not my job to worry about; my job is to do what I can do.

2) There was some Chinese radio station playing at the restaurant I ate at tonight. I was largely ignoring it, since I didn't understand the words, but then... *geek sense tingling...* I know those opening bars. Can't place them; what are they? *lyrics begin* ...Oh my God, they're playing Eyes on Me.

3) For those who think Republicans all think with one mind (or no mind), there's a fascinating debate going on over a recent Supreme Court decision at The Corner on National Review Online. From what I can tell, the positions include Good Decision, Bad Decision, Good Decision With Bad Justification, and Good Decision That Was Nonetheless Not The Court's Business To Decide.

Also, in between the debate you can find Jonah Goldberg griping about the continuing decline of Star Wars, commenting on fun tech developments, and making references to the Treaty of Algernon.
shirenomad: (Default)
Re: #38 (not as far down as you might expect)...

By all means, I want a woman with a brain in her head. I want a woman who doesn't instantly agree with me on everything. I want a woman who can stand up to me if I deserve being stood up to. I want a woman who I can talk with about anything, especially deep stuff because that's what's important to me (but also the casual stuff as well), and I want her to be able to do the same. I want her to decide for herself what she does with her life -- I'll just be happy to be a part of it.

And by golly, I don't want a bubbly, giggly airhead who wears pretty dresses all the time and talks about girl stuff. I've known someone who's like that for years and I 've never been attracted to her. I know someone else who started off normal and whom I liked, then she degraded into one of those gigglers and I lost all interest.

There was a time when I had the Prince Charming complex. Wanted to rescue some damsel and sweep her off her feet. Then I met one, and you know what? When I was done rescuing her, when she was able to stand on her own, she left, because she didn't need me anymore. I'll still help those who need it, but I no longer find it romantic to be dating a fixer-upper, and I want any woman I pursue to be able to stand on her own before I start. And I will help her through the hard times that no one could handle on their own, because everyone has those and that's what friends and family should be there for, but I'll be all the more proud of her of every challenge she takes down without me. When she doesn't need me, that's when I'll know she wants me.

I am a guy who's interested in an equal relationship.
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