I post mostly messages and commentary about religion and politics, and the scary occasions when they collide.
I am a: Liberal, Green, Christian, Math teacher
Lover of Math, Philosophy, Animals, Civil Rights, and Arguments of all kinds.

30th August 2014

Post with 4 notes

Thoughts on prayer

I think a lot about why we pray and what value it has for me. There’s often the argument that prayer is used to make ourselves feel better about people we’re not doing anything for, and it’s one that makes me angry and frustrated.

But maybe there’s some truth to it.

(This may be upsetting)

Read More

Tagged: religionprayergodpovertyphilosophy

28th August 2014

Post with 3 notes

Private School

I sometimes think that the outrage generated by certain issues blinds us to what should be more important ones.

My job, for example, is tutoring math to children in both public and private(read: religious) schools. Almost without fail, the private school kids are years ahead of the public school kids, despite the fact that most of the time there is no obvious difference in intelligence with either group. From looking at homework, however, I know that the private schools demand a lot more from a lot younger kids. Consistently. 

And I once had a student that made me just… absolutely infuriated with public schooling. She was struggling to pass her end-of-year assessment, and with math generally, in danger of failing and being held back. It was obvious to me after one tutoring session that 1. She was bright, 2. This problem had been present for a long time. Her family did not have much money for tutoring, but they did pay for the services when it was obvious she wouldn’t be able to advance on her own. Technically, she got a discount rate of “we’ll charge the same but she gets a private tutor and you can come in however many times you want.”

After considerable hard work on both our parts in reteaching her five years of math, she did pass- but my question is, how is it the school never noticed this painfully shy, smart kid despite five years of failing grades? Why should her family pay money they don’t have for a service that is theoretically guaranteed to everyone, regardless of class or income? There are solutions to these problems, and plenty of other developed countries have better ones than America.

To get back to my original point, there is no question that teaching evolution or religious indoctrination in schools is A Bad Thing. But when people complain about “religious, private schools” in general as being a bad thing because of that, or because religion = bad, it makes me want to shake those people. There are far worse injustices happening to far more kids in public schools, and not nearly enough importance placed on fixing them. Wealthy parents should not be the only ones whose kids are guaranteed success. My company should not even exist, because the service should be provided, publicly, without charge, to all students.

Should private school kids be learning about religious beliefs besides Christianity? Maybe. Should all kids know the numbers that add together to make 10? Freaking yes.

Tagged: religionchristianityschoolseducation

25th August 2014

Question with 24 notes

thread-of-fire said: Since I previously saw you wondering about morality, it turns out there is good philosophical grounding for it (regardless of god belief). It is outlined in Sense and Goodness Without God by Richard Carrier, and he uses the work of other philosophers there too.

I appreciate the book suggestion. My issue with morality without God is not that I’m not aware of the work of any philosophers attempting to resolve the question, but that their answers are unsatisfactory. Moreover, many atheists give the impression(or state outright) that they have never considered the question at all. And just so I’m clear, the argument is not that a single atheist cannot be a good person(of course they can), but whether the concept of “good” even makes sense without an objective, non-human being that defines it. 

There are, however, several religions that provide answers to the moral debate without God(Buddhism would be one), and philosophers since Plato that have attempted to define goodness, with or without deities.

Tagged: religionphilosophyatheism

30th July 2014

Post with 6 notes

"The Bible was written by humans, and humans are corrupt"

Both are true, and neither implies that the teachings or history of the Bible are false. Nor are they the reason why the speaker believes the teachings of the Bible are false. How do I know that? …Because this same person will never make the argument that evolution is false, or medical science is false, or that mathematics can’t be trusted because they are ideas created by corrupt humans. 

Tagged: religionlogicbiblechristianity

10th July 2014

Post reblogged from Overthinkings of a Philosophy Student with 21 notes

Not exactly an atheist but…

I like these sorts of questions, even if I hate the way they’re asked.

opinionsrfacts:

The site Today Christian posed 10 questions for every atheist andclaimed that it is unanswerable by honest people. So I gave it a try and tried to be 100% honest about it. These are the questions and my corresponding answers

1.       How Did You Become an Atheist?

Actually, by some definitions, I am. And I was an atheist back in high school. It was 2 things. 1. Evidence, or lack thereof. 2. Logic. the definition by organized religion of God really doesn’t hold up to logic.(See Heavy Rock Omnipotence paradox or something). The arguments by Saint Aquinas and other medieval philosophers are seriously flawed because 1.) it wrongly assumes the infinity of time and 2.) It’s basically a form of “I can’t provide an answer, therefore God”

Some of these questions, my problem with them is that they’re phrased in a way that eliminates the complexity behind them. There are legitimate questions that apologists ask atheists… but the ones asking kinda need to understand them to be credible.

With 1, the idea behind it is that there is no evidence that can point toward the non-existence of God. No one can come to the conclusion “naturally” that one does not exist, they can only fail to be convinced by the evidence. It’s somewhat meaningless to talk about the evidence for atheism, which is why I think agnosticism is more logically sound- still, that doesn’t mean that someone can’t be a legitimate atheist. Just means that I’ve yet to hear a logical argument for how they come to the conclusion that there is no God, only that they aren’t convinced by the alternative. Alright. The ‘Heavy Rock Omnipotence’ paradox is not a paradox, and it has been answered before.

Not sure how the infinity/finiteness of time is related, though. There are arguments for the existence of God, thus, it’s not a default position of a ‘lack of knowledge’. We have to learn religion, same as anything else.

2.       What happens when we die?

The people who loved us will miss us, mourn for us maybe, then we would decompose. We exist as memories to them, we decompose, and the energy in our molecules get dispersed to be reused in some other part of the cosmos. The deeds we have done would be remembered, and that would be pretty much it.

You’re attacking with the problem of nothingness, I presume? How can “nothing” exist and if it does, is it really “nothing?” I’m familiar with this argument. A language professor told us once that nothing is a qualifier. it’s an adjective. it’s descriptive. it’s not a noun, simple as that.

Also, if we reach “The Singularity” death would, theoretically, be obsolete.

I’m not fond of this particular question, because I don’t know how I’d answer it either. I believe certain things about the afterlife, but pretending to know my place in it seems arrogant and counterproductive when it comes to just living my life now… And saying that ‘nothing’ happens to us is an unsatisfactory answer for many people, but it’s not a good challenge that the atheistic one is wrong.

3.       What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!

Pascal’s wager eh?

I really don’t think an all loving God would create a place of eternal punishment. As stated in answer #1, contradictions

Stating that one’s definition of a loving God is one that wouldn’t create a place of eternal punishment is circular reasoning- it assumes the definition of loving, therefore no eternal punishment, without defining either independently of each other. There are many theories on how both could coincide: My belief is that God allows us exactly as much of a relationship with us as we ask of Him. If don’t want a relationship with Him, therefore, He leaves us alone(thus explaining Hell and atheism). Hell is not described in the Bible as a form of eternal punishment, but one of eternal shame for our mistakes. Unpleasant, I’m sure, but no more than what we ask for, and what we deserve.

If one is an atheist though, Pascal’s wager should be pointless. Why  theorize about Hell(non-place) or what a loving God(non-existent) would do?

4.       Without God, where do you get your morality from?

Empathy maybe? Recognizing the rights of other human beings? Various schools and systems of ethics such as utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, the like?

Religion is not a prerequisite for morality. We should be better than that, doing or not doing stuff because of fear of eternal death or for the promise of eternal life. 

I would reverse question #3 here. What if there is no heaven or hell? Then would all the good deeds you have done in your life be for nothing? I don’t think so.

This has got to be one of the most misunderstood questions ever asked or answered. I think it helps to take the YOU out of it, because where YOU, personally, get your morality is not the point. “Where does morality come from, if not from God?” Where does empathy come from? Why did we develop a need for social justice and compassion for humans(and animals), even when it serves us no evolutionary purpose? Most religious arguments about morality don’t invoke Heaven or Hell as the ORIGIN of morality- only as the consequences of it. The origin is with God. Those who align themselves with His morality have a place with Him, in Heaven. And vice versa for Hell.

If there were no Heaven or Hell, I would still believe in God, and still believe in the existence of objective morality, as revealed by Him. Thus, nothing in my life would change.

5.       If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?

 Refer to answer above. Again, religion is not a prerequisite for morality.

That doesn’t really answer the question. Again, whether an individual ‘you’ or ‘we’ wants to rape or murder is not the issue- ultimately, if there is no “real” standard for judging good or evil, does it matter if one commits acts that a particular society has laws against? Who is the judge of whether an act is right or wrong, and what gives that authority? If the answer is ‘collective society’, then why one society’s laws versus another’s? If there is no judge, does it matter if someone commits a crime and is never caught? 

6.       If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?

With or without God, the meaning of life will always be a debate. The inner nerd in me wants to answer ‘42’ but meh.

Personally, I believe that the meaning of life is what we, as humans make of it.

I think this is a variation on the question about the afterlife. Truth is though, many people who believe in God ask themselves about the meaning of life all the time. ‘Doing God’s will’ isn’t always so clear an answer.

7.       Where did the universe come from?

Nobody’s actually sure. So please don’t pretend that you actually know everything, that’s just not a healthy kind of thinking.

The prevalent theory for now is the Big Bang Theory. Don’t go saying “but it’s just a theory!” on me. Know what it means for a hypothesis to become a scientific theory. This is in the language game of science, mind you.

I have no objections to the Big Bang Theory(which answers ‘how’ but not ‘from where’), which leaves the problem of what started it, and why. There are theories about it, and some of those theories point to God. Saying ‘no one’s sure’ doesn’t answer the question. Plenty of people are pretty darn sure they do know in the scientific and religious community(and both). You can’t claim atheism and a lack of knowledge about that question at the same time. If God doesn’t exist, He didn’t create the universe, so something else did- simple.

8.       What about miracles? What all the people who claim to have a connection with Jesus? What about those who claim to have seen saints or angels?

Keyword here is “claim”. Nuff said? No? okay.

And saints can be seen, maybe, in everyday people who selflessly do good deeds.
Maybe Jesus is connected to those who really apply his teachings (which is basically love thy neighbor)
And maybe angels are in Supernatural, portrayed by the likes of Misha Collins. JK. maybe angels, meaning good people, are among us.

That’s a lot of maybes, but no specific miracles addressed.

9.       What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?

 Honestly? interesting people. Their thoughts are interesting and thought provoking.

They’re ignorant of theology, philosophy, a great bit of science and logic, and they’re rather proud of it. At least two of the three are sexist, at least one of those is also racist and xenophobic. Not much fond of them myself, and they’re hardly a credit to atheism.

10.   If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?

Karl Marx is credited with saying that religion is the opium of the masses. Anthropology suggests that religion was made to fill in the knowledge gap for things yet unexplained by science. 

And no, i don’t think every society has a religion.

If Karl Marx says it, he must be right? That’s not an answer, and neither is the claim from anthropology. If there have been societies which lacked religion, the thing to do would be to research them. You thinking it doesn’t make it true. To date, I’ve yet to hear of a society that was without a religion… theoretically, at one time the Soviet Union and China  counted, but the ‘state’ was a form of religion there, too. 

At the very least, it should be an interesting question of WHY human societies create so much religion- enough to do some research into it!

Tagged: religiontheologymoralitygodatheism

8th July 2014

Question with 4 notes

provoice said: Re: your refugee children post: I've been reading my Bible from Genesis (working towards Revelation) and when I was in Leviticus, I came across Leviticus 19:33-34 - I read it over a couple of times and was like, "Why haven't I heard anyone talk about this?" I also found Deuteronomy 29:19. I'm disappointed in how the people of our country are treating these children, honestly. Do you have any thoughts on those verses?

Leviticus 19:33-34- “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

Deuteronomy 10:19(I think this is the one you meant?)- “Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”

And also:

Leviticus 19:10- “And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.”

Exodus 23:9- ““You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”

Of course, the sojourner was presumed to be adults in those passages, not children. I couldn’t even quote the number of passages dealing with our treatment of the poor and outcast, which would be more applicable. I would also quote one of my favorite passages in contrast: 

Matthew 25:40- “‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

-Because the ‘sojourner’ described in the first four could not even be considered the least of our brothers and sisters. They were adults, in no immediate fear for their lives(beyond poverty), requiring temporary assistance in their travels. And the command from God is to give them that assistance, to treat them the same way we would treat our neighbors and friends.

But the refugees coming across the border are children who have no safe home to return to, and in large part have absolutely nothing. How much greater obligation do we have to them? 

Still, I don’t want to give the impression that the choice is easy, cause only the moral outrage part of it is easy. I understand where those in opposition are coming from, and at the same time I firmly believe that their opposition to helping is reprehensible. Christianity isn’t supposed to give us easy moral decisions, and if it is, we’re doing it wrong. That it’s something not many are talking about as a moral issue is a symptom of our culture of rigid individualism(shifting responsibility to the ‘other’) and of feel-good Christianity: God loves us, God forgives our sins, and nothing more is required of us than that.

Bullshit. Christians are called to emulate Christ. We are forgiven for not meeting His standard, but not absolved of making the attempt. Christ gave of himself to feed the poor, to comfort those who were suffering, to reach out to those in need, and ultimately to die for their sake. Whatever less than that we do for these children is still far more than the ‘nothing’ that many Christians are willing to offer- and that fact should make any ashamed to call this a “Christian nation”. 

Tagged: religionchristianityrefugeesbiblemorality

8th July 2014

Post with 8 notes

What it means to be pro-life, refugee children

Much as I dislike memes, there are a few good points behind the, “If you think fertilized eggs are people, but refugee kids aren’t, you’re going to have to stop pretending your concerns are religious.”

One way to read it might be that it’s shaming people who are pro-life. There’s a more relevant point though, and it concerns what pro-life beliefs mean, what should be valued, and why. “Are fertilized eggs people?”- depends on how you define personhood. They are certainly alive, but wholly without a voice or conscious mind. It both makes it difficult to justify them as full persons, and easy to defend as being “helpless” and “innocent”. From a religious perspective, if we are born in sin, then there is nothing so pure as a being that hasn’t been born yet.

However, one thing I dislike about the anti-abortion(as opposed to pro-life… and there ARE some genuine pro-lifers) movement is that it’s a cause that’s incredibly easy to support. It requires no effort on the part of its advocates beyond shouting at the people who are actually burdened with the decision they oppose. Those ‘burdened people’ are rarely friends or family, and their decision causes no more inconvenience on anyone else beyond moral outrage- in all regards, the perfect cause for someone whose activism doesn’t move past a computer screen. Whether abortion is objectively wrong(in God’s eyes) is beside the point. It’s a convenient moral issue.

Where does that leave the refugee children? Don’t pretend that this cause is the same as being pro or anti-abortion: It’s certainly not. Having hundreds of thousands of undocumented children crossing the border has enormous impact financially, legally, on our ability to provide space and education/job training for them, and on political conflicts between us and the countries they come from. The consequences are far-reaching, they have no simple solutions, and they involve- potentially, in the form of taxes- sacrifice from people who are not related to these children, who may never meet them. Morally, we may all agree that allowing children to be killed is wrong- but logistically, financially, what do -we- do with -these- children? I’ve never heard opposition to helping these ‘undocumented children’ on religious grounds. There are no religious objections to make, even if there are plenty others. 

The question is, do you value life only when it’s easy to do so, when there’s no risk involved in doing so, and when it’s other people making the “wrong” decision- or is life worth defending even if you, personally, might have to suffer financially in exchange?

I don’t know what should be done about the refugees. I can only say that Christianity doesn’t allow us to answer ‘no’ to the latter question.

Tagged: abortionproliferefugeesreligionchristianitychildren

3rd July 2014

Link with 29 notes

Christians Call Out Hobby Lobby For Hypocrisy →

Deeply held beliefs never seem to be an issue when money is involved. At least not for the “corporation” branch of the human race.

Tagged: religionpoliticsabortionchristianityhobby lobby

1st July 2014

Question

Anonymous said: What are your thoughts on Lillith (Adam's first wife)? And would you consider Lillith to represent feminism and equality?

Well, the story of Lilith as Adam’s first wife didn’t originate until the middle ages. It’s not biblical canon for that reason, but a later Jewish myth. 

Within the myth, Lilith represents many different ideas related to women: A seductress, a devourer of children, a representation of chaos and godlessness… and sometimes, of feminism and the rejection of patriarchy. It’s tempting to want to invoke the myth for the latter, but I would point out that Lilith was not created as a feminist icon, rather, she was a misogynistic one. The myth of her being Adam’s first wife did not end well for either of them- a hundred of her (demonic?) children killed each day, and she making an agreement with God and the angels to not kill human children in exchange. It’s not an especially liberating story for women, and doesn’t have anything to do with Christianity.

That said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with re-imagining the Lilith myth as a feminist symbol, i.e. the rejection of patriarchal rule of the husband and of Adam’s sexual dominance. That’s fine, but that’s a very modern interpretation. 

As far as my personal beliefs, I love the Lilith story, and the Lilith figure herself, however she’s imagined to be, and often use her as a character in my writing. But I don’t take her as a representation of feminism(at least, not a perfect one) because I don’t see any need to: There are plenty of real women who could be used as feminist icons without rewriting an old, if appealing, myth.

Tagged: lilithreligionchristianityfeminism

11th May 2014

Post with 2 notes


feelingthatibelonged said:woah i’m not sure that’s how i would describe my protestantism.

Ok. Keep in mind, I said that Protestantism(as a philosophy) puts a higher emphasis on the individual believer and their relationship with God. Catholics tend to place a higher emphasis on the church body as a whole. Neither branch says that either is unimportant.

So, this is just a general rule about Protestantism(which itself covers a HUGE number of denominations). I’m not dictating how any individual Protestant views anything.

Tagged: religion