Books Read in 2005, Part I

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Part II is here.


1. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell.
Wow! What a page-turner! Gladwell writes with refreshing briskness and informality in a book about studies, statistics, experiments, and theory. This book is stuffed with fascinating studies and real-world examples that contradict 'common sense' and show us how social epidemics are triggered, how they spread, and how to start positive social epidemics of our own. While reading, I was struck by how well blogs have illustrated Gladwell's principles and 'characters' (archetypes necessary for a social epidemic). I never would've thought I'd be so engrossed by a 20-page chapter about Sesame Street and Blue's Clues. Highly Recommended.


2. A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey by Brian D. McLaren
After the engaging efficiency of The Tipping Point, I was initially irritated by the wandering nature of this book, which follows a fictional conversation about 'Christian postmodernism' over several months. The author has many gems of discovery and wisdom to offer, and he could have presented them as efficiently as Gladwell in The Tipping Point, but instead he buried things in a messy narrative, a string of half-finished dialogues. But this is actually the beauty of the book: Christian postmodernism is an ethereal, mostly undefined concept that rejects the surgical analysis and overconfident intellectualism of 'Christian modernism' (evangelicalism) in favor of a 'living faith.' The result is messy, just like the book (and, not coincidentally, real life), but both offer a wonderful new way to be a Christian - one driven not by by stagnant (but comfortable) boxes and rules, but by a passion for Christ and an 'organic' faith. I know now why the book is presented as "a tale of two friends on a spiritual journey," instead of an all-answers manifesto: McLaren doesn't have all the answers. Instead, he is embarking on a journey with all Christians who are curious about a new kind of Christian (important: not "the new kind of Christian"). The new perspective this book has given me also causes me to grieve over the way I handled some earlier discussions on Listology. If you're not a Christian, this is not for you (yet!); if you are a Christian - of any kind - then: Highly Recommended.


3. Double Your Dating by David DeAngelo
At this rate, I'll have 100 books read by next year! Anyway: as you might suspect, this is a poorly-written rehashing of 'girl advice' articles from men's magazines that begs for sales by telling guys what they want to hear: women are easily manipulated, physical attractiveness and money don't matter, women are powerless, etc. Still, the best lie is a half-truth, and a compilation of the truth fragments within would result in a useful, if brief and hole-filled, guide to successful dating. Watch Rodger Dodger instead. Not Recommended.


4. The Power of Intention: Learning to Co-Create Your World Your Way by Wayne W. Dyer
I barely made it through this one alive. At least Double Your Dating was short, brisk, and occasionally amusing. This book seems devoted to transforming straightforward, common sense wisdom into confusing semantic babble ("In mathematics, two angles that are said to coincide fit together perfectly. The word coincidence does not describe luck or mistakes. It describes that which fits together perfectly. By combining free will with intention, you harmonize with the universal mind"). Anyway, I've got a shortcut. Step one: Know what you want to do. Step two: Do it. That's all you need to know. If it's not, then what you need certainly is not anywhere in this book. Definitely Not Recommended.


5. The Story We Find Ourselves In: Further Adventures of a New Kind of Christian by Brian D. McLaren
The Sequel to A New Kind of Christian is, on the surface, not so different from its predecessor, and it's failure only makes sense when attributed to several simultaneous factors. In the last book, McLaren embarked on a journey of questions. But in this book, McLaren preaches only answers, through the character Neo, with the other characters immediately praising his genius. McLaren's constant self-congratulation is irritating, especially when I don't agree with his points. I thought I wanted answers, in retrospect I prefer the questions. Furthermore, McLaren has increased the time devoted simply to narrative. Who are you kidding, McLaren? Nobody's reading this for a piece of good fiction (and it's not); this was always a 'spiritual lifestyle' book. And while there are some interesting points within, there is less insight in whole chapters of this book than in one page of A New Kind of Christian. Not Recommended.


6. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: Film Writings 1965-1967 by Pauline Kael
Yes, I read every page, cover to cover! Legendary film critic Pauline Kael, like Malcolm Gladwell, is smarter and more well-thought than most of us, but has the sense to write what she knows or feels in a way that makes her work accessible to 'mere mortals.' She's just as readable as Ebert, and far more interesting. As you might imagine, though, some of her essays and reviews are more currently relevant than others. Recommended.


7. Evolution : The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory by Edward J. Larson
This is probably the best (real) introduction to the theory of evolution I could've had. The history of evolution is an amazing one, and Larson tells it, for the most part, fully and fairly. It's occasionally too technical for it's own good, however; there were a multitude of paragraphs that I had to reread several times to comprehend, as Larson uses terms like 'allopatric speciation' and 'interspecific morphological variation' without explaining them. The book also, regrettably but understandably, does not discuss the last decade of developments (the edition I read was released in 2004), probably because sufficient perspective on them has not yet been attained. I mostly came away with the awareness that modern evolutionary theory is a very new and immature one with fundamentally important refinements still being made - which only waxes my marveling at its popularity. Recommended.


8. Persepolis : The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
I can't say it better than French magazine Liberation: "A triumph... Like Maus, Persepolis is one of those comic books capable of seducing even those most allergic to the genre." This is the funny and wrenching tale of Satrapi's childhood in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. The art style is minimalist, and the story moves quickly, but it's packed with excitement, humor, insight, history, culture, and emotion. (I was moved to tears 3 times in the brief time it took me to read it.) This could also make a great movie. Highly Recommended.


9. The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations by James Surowiecki
Surowiecki's study on group intelligence is a Tipping Point clone - and I mean that in a very good way. Unfortunately, it's not quite as successful because it's messier (perhaps due to the subject matter, perhaps due to failings of the author), less coherent as a whole, and, therefore, less memorable. It reads well, but putting the big pieces together is a bit tricky, and Surowiecki doesn't help us do so as much as he should have. A good book that a couple more rewrites could've made great. Recommended.


10. Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi
Oh what a relief, this is just as good as the first one! We follow 'Marji' through her adventures with freedom, drugs, and love in Europe, and then her return to Iran, schooling, and marriage. It's touching, it's fast-paced, it's eye-opening, and it's not to be missed. Highly Recommended.


11. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
I heard this on a flash player checked out from the library. The batteries they gave me only lasted a half hour per charge! But I finally made it through. Anyway, the book: I don't read enough sci-fi to know if it's imaginative or not, but I like the color-coded paths and other very practical technologies. And while the writing is fairly pedestrian, stars children, and uses the word 'fart' more times than I care to hear the word in a lifetime, Orson Scott Card has made it very easy to love his novel, and I did. Highly Recommended.


12. In the Shadow of No Towers by Art Spiegelman
I had to read this one twice. The first time, I didn't understand everything, but I knew something marvelous was passing before my eyes - a bit like watching Un Chien Andalou. The second time, I understood most of it, and recognized it as a kind of surrealist masterpiece. Unfortunately, the early comics tacked-on at the end do not add to Spiegelman's objectives as he intended, and they seem like filler to an admittedly short book. If you like comics, this is for you. If you don't, you'll just as likely be bewildered as anything else. Recommended.


13. Climbing Mount Improbable by Richard Dawkins
I admire Dawkins for writing this book, and several of the reasons it doesn't work are not his fault. The chapters that describe primitive computer simulations are of little use now, and many of Dawkins' arguments pertain little to climbing Mount Improbable - but that is sometimes because the arguments he's counterpointing are no longer used (perhaps, because of this book?). The biggest problem, though, is that Dawkins has attempted to argue what cannot yet be well argued. Quite simply, most of the book is filled with wild assumptions. Most questions of 'How did this work?' are answered by, 'We really don't know yet. But maaaaaybe...' - and that's not very convincing. For a theory so dependent on scientific evidence, there is little to be found. (For example, the entirety of scientists' 'knowledge' on ape-to-human forms - 300 million years of human development, 2 genera, and more than a dozen species - is based on a mound of fossils that wouldn't fill the bed of a pickup truck and a whole lot of arbitrary assumptions.) I marvel at the faith of evolutionists that their theory is correct despite a nearly complete lack of real evidence - indeed, their faith may surpass that of most Christians who believe in creationism purely through faith. In short, there wasn't enough relevant material (mostly chapters 3, 4, and 10) to make this book worth it. It hasn't aged well. Not Recommended.


14. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Perhaps a reason so many students change their majors several times during their higher education is that nothing excites them - especially in the scientific fields - so they choose a field mostly on the basis of job availability and pay. If schools taught with something like this book (and then filled out the information with details and practical applications), young people would be excited about science. With 'A History of Nearly Everything,' Bryson has done what he intended; he has made science what it rarely is - exciting, fun, and memorable. Had I read something like this in 7th grade, I might be majoring in chemistry or physics right now. Highly Recommended.


15. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
Some books claim you can read its chapters in any order, but this one means it. Each tiny chapter is a nugget of wisdom for writing often and well. It needs a second edition: "I can imagine using a Macintosh, where the keyboard can be put on my lap, closing my eyes and just typing away. The computer automatically returns the carriage. The device is called "wrap-around." You can rap nonstop. You don't have to worry about the typewriter ringing a little bell at the end of a line." Recommended.


16. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
Not even a fever of 102.6 degrees and 53 sleepless hours could keep me from reading this in less than a day. Malcolm Gladwell is the most readable and fascinating author I've read, and with Blink, he's hit another one out of the park. If you want to be entertained, intrigued, and make better, quicker decisions - or any of those - read this now. Highly Recommended.


17. Evolution vs. Creationism : An Introduction by Eugenie C. Scott
If you're looking for a dry but very complete classroom book introduction to the evolution vs. creationism debate, this is for you. If you've already read several evolution books in the past month, like me, you're going to be bored with half of it. Information is even repeated several times within the book itself, though - most notably in the early historical chapters and the later concluding 'legal issues' section. It didn't contain enough new information for me, and didn't answer my questions, but I can't really fault the book itself too much for that. Taken for what it is, I'll let it off with a barely passing grade: Recommended.


18. A Gap in Nature: Discovering the World's Extinct Animals by Tim F. Flannery, Peter Schouten
After a wonderful but frightening introduction, we are treated with a few dozen gorgeous and anatomically precise illustrations of mammals, birds, and reptiles that have become extinct since the 1500s, starting with the Upland Moa in 1500 and ending with the Atitlan Grebe in 1989. Each illustration is accompanied by a few paragraphs that describe all that is known about the animal, how it went extinct, and what record we have of it. I've done my best to scan some of my favorites for you: the Choiseul Crested-pigeon, the Crescent Nailtail Wallaby, the Cuban Red Macaw, the Desert Rat-kangaroo, and, of course, the Dodo. I would've liked to see more variety, though - half the illustrations were of very similar small birds, large lizards, and long-tailed mice. Recommended.


19. Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences by John Allen Paulos
I hated virtually every subject in high school. They were all so tedious and inapplicable. Now, thanks to 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' and 'Innumeracy,' subjects like physics, chemistry, mathematics, and biology are exciting and relevant. The question that naturally follows is, What the fuck was I being taught in high school? Obviously, I did not lack the ability to appreciate scientific and mathematical education. Rather, the education was lacking. I knew it all along: high school is a waste - at least, the one I had was a waste. Maybe if I'd gone to a state school that offered car repair and carpentry classes, I could've gotten a little something out of it. Well, anyway, I am no longer wholly innumerate! Are you? Highly Recommended.


20. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
Mary Roach is a funny, fascinating writer, and her subject here could hardly be more... interesting. Yes, it's quite 'gross' at times, but never so much that you don't want to read the next page. Did you know that normal decomposition or even cremation is just as disgusting as dissection, or that human head transplants are quite possible? Of course, Mary Roach doesn't stop there: she even discusses cannibalism. The life of human cadavers is far more varied and interesting than I'd ever have imagined. Highly Recommended.


21. Complete Idiot's Guide to Songwriting by Joel Hirschhorn
This is a waste of time and space with no songwriting instruction whatsoever and lots of insipid tips like 'write with a #2 pencil' and 'numbers are always popular in titles' and 'look upon rewriting as a pleasure, not a chore.' In fact, the entire first chapter and parts of other chapters are devoted to telling you where else to look to learn good songwriting. It's also focused directly on writing a 'perfectly crafted hit song,' and using every popular device possible to write a pop song, with no consideration for artful songwriting. Do people actually buy these kinds of books? If so, I've found my path to fortune. I'll just copy-and-paste a bunch of tips on - oh, who cares - gardening, put cute character icons in the margins, and make a hundred grand. Definitely Not Recommended.


22. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Ah, so this is what critics mean when they call a novel "devestating." This book, a fictional series of anonymous letters telling a teen's high school life, doesn't read like a collection of real letters because real letters are boring, incoherant, unstructured, unpoetic, and often incomprehensible. But this is a great book. It speaks of characters and experiences that we all know - or we know someone who knows them. Also, it's terribly honest on so many subjects where honesty is rare. The other reasons for this book's greatness cannot fit in a 'mini-review.' Had I read this book when I was 12, it probably would've been my 'favorite book ever.' Magically, this is the only great book I've ever read that made me feel better about my own literary potential. Highly Recommended.


23. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
This is an entirely different sort of 'so bad it's good': unlike Wallflower, Catcher sounds like real speech and real writing. Yet somehow, it's just as riveting and 'devestating' (sorry) as the impeccably edited and refined Wallflower. How Salinger pulled it off is beyond me, but there it is: on every page. And Sweet Merciful Yahweh, how is this still so 'edgy'? Amazing. And, surprisingly timeless - something Wallflower won't quite be. Best line ever: "Get your dirty stinking moron knees off my chest." Highly Recommended.


24. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
I must be missing something. It's a decent book, but not an impressively strong one. There's some neat Einsteinian theory and the WWII/sci-fi mix was fun, but I can't figure out why this shows up on 'greatest novels' lists. (Merely) Recommended.


25. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
I think this is one of the best stories, just below Hamlet and Don Quixote and company. It's even better when you see it in your mind, directed by Carl Dreyer. Highly Recommended.


26. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
Yep, it's long. And I didn't appreciate the extended scientific whale babble. But otherwise, it's much better than I even thought it was going to be. Like everything from that time, it sounds stuffy compared to modern styles, but I can't say it feels aged. A masterpiece of narration, description, commentary and character. The final battle was more epic and exciting than I was expecting. Highly Recommended.


27. The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
This doesn't 'show off' as a singular artistic triumph like Catcher in the Rye. Instead, it's a marvelous example of artful craft. It's the kind of book that is supremely great, and makes you wonder why all modern novels can't be this good - because the could be, they're just not. BTW, I didn't read this, I was read it, by John Lithgow in a fantastic performance that only helped me appreaciate this book more. Highly Recommended.


28. Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships by John Gray
I figured this is one of those books everyone will expect you've read. In fact, it was/is so popular that I found I was vaguely aware of many of its precepts without having read the book because they have seeped into our culture so well. But it's amazing how easy it is to forget how the opposite sex thinks in a completely different way than you do. This should probably be on every couple's bedside stand to skim over every other night. I'm not even in a serious romantic relationship, and it's probably the most useful book I've read. And now I'm even angrier at today's education system. Learning about Byzantine history or subatomic particles can be fun but isn't useful to 99% of us. A book like this is incredibly useful several times each day for all of us. Still, I have to hope there's a better-written book that contains some version of all this useful information. John Gray's book is humorless and classroomy, which surprised me in a mega-popular book about relationships with a catchy title. Recommended.


29. Mister O by Lewis Trondheim
This book gives me hope that I could make a comic book if I wanted. It involves simple stick figures crossing a small chasm. Mister O always fails. Too bad it's not funny. Not Recommended.


30. Microsoft Word Version 2002 Step By Step by Perspection Inc.
Does this count? I don't know - at this point it's not going to make or break my goal of 50 books this year, so I'll include it for completness' sake. Is it good? Sure, I dunno - I passed the exam it prepares one for, so I guess it's good enough. Of course, it'll be no use whatsoever to people who don't want to me certified in Microsoft Word. Recommendation Irrelevant.

Yeah, wasn't the Tipping Point wonderful? I had to read it for college, but I enjoyed every page. I'm glad you liked it too.

I immediately checked out a dozen similar books from the library, but they were all very specific to business or commercial advertising, and weren't nearly as engaging and well-written.

I am not sure as to your taste but I will suggest

1. Disgrace-Coetzee
2. Monkey Beach- Eden Robinson

enjoy all 50 books you read this year!

Strangely, I find it much harder to get into fiction writing than nonfiction (a few years ago, I felt the opposite). Your suggestions didn't grab me enough to dare attempt a work of fiction. I think I may have to go with revered sci-fi classics to make it through.

Anyway, thanks for your suggestions!

If you're looking for a good nonfiction book, I'd recommend The Culture of Fear by Barry Glassner. The book is about various examples of the media scaring the American public into thinking that certain dangers are more prevalent and dangerous than they actually are. You may remember Glassner being interviewed by Michael Moore in Bowling for Columbine. In the movie, he bashes this sort of sensationalism as well.

For another option, Malcolm Gladwell has a new book coming out as well. In fact, maybe I'll check that one out too.

Ooooh, yippee. Thanks for the suggestions.

I just noticed some comments on Blink here, from someone who hasn't even read the book yet! Huh? [said he who often comments on movies he hasn't seen]

I saw Malcolm Gladwell on Book TV. The man is an amazing thinker. He kept me up watching him talk about his new book at 3am in the morning.

Talking about 'Blink', you mean? I would've loved to have seen that.

Yes, 'Blink'.

I'm half way through the sequel to 'A New Kind of Christian.' In it, one of the characters presents the most compelling argument for God-initiated Darwinian evolution I've heard:

"Go back before creation. If God is the only thing that exists, the only being that is, then God has to creat3e some kind of neutral space, very literally, and God needs to create time, so that the universe can be itself, become itself, with some kind of freedom and authenticity. Otherwise, it's just a puppet universe, just a simulation. Do you see it? So if God wants to make a universe that's real, I think we would expect it to happen just as evolution says: the universe would develop, over time, writing its own story, so to speak. It's a story of becoming, of unfolding, of novelties emerging and possibilities being explored and diversity flowering."

I agree that God wanted to create a 'real' universe. That's why he gave us free will to love or hate, care or disparage, nurture or destroy. Otherwise, he'd be Lord of the Robots, all programmed to love him unconditionally, and that's boring.

I'm pretty sure Darwinian evolution isn't necessary, however, for God to create a 'real' world. It does seem a little more plausible that God would use it, however.

My biggest problem with Darwinian evolution is still the science of it - which I find to be illogical and sometimes silly. Which is not insult those people so much smarter than I to whom it makes sense.

Luke, may I make a request that one of these 50 books is a contemporary book about the science of evolution? Disagreeing for religious reasons is one thing, but if you're going to call the science silly, I think you should at least be more informed.

A marvelous idea. I'd forgotten all about it. Can someone recommend a particular, definitive title (bonus points for recommending one with lots of big pictures)?

This page should help you pick one out.

I'm sure that the books that AJDaGreat has pointed out are excellent (I guess I could pretend that I've read them) but...

For definitive there is nothing like the brilliant Richard Dawkins and his book The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution. It's a blending of Origin of the Species with Canterbury Tales written by a brilliant, fervent evolutionary biologist from Oxford. A Darwin-Chaucer mutant hybrid! What's not to love? Over 600 pages! Forget it: nobody can read that much, let alone write it. As if that wasn't enough, Dawkins usually supplies an extensive and wide-ranging list of readings to supplement his work. However, he might win your affection by his (surprisingly!) diffident stance on proof/belief. [Allow me to interject that inability to prove does not necessarily mean that other possibilities might be true or should even be considered.]

You may find the issues covered in Edward J. Larson's Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory more in tune with your concerns/interests. In truth, I think that it actually might be more threatening to your beliefs (as I understand them) than many other books that are concerned with the science of evolution. [I do not want to be misconstrued: the science here is excellent.]

To rack up some much needed bonus points I'd like to bring Lisa Westberg Peters' book, Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story, to your attention (...in the hope that you will confirm my high opinion of you by ignoring me and reading one of the first two books.)

If/when you read something Darwinian I'd love to know if/how your thinking has... erm, evolved. I must confess (musn't I?) that I'm often more interested in the direction that your thinking is going in rather than where it is at any given moment. I'm not sure what that means but take it as a compliment....

Note that I haven't actually read any of the books on the page I directed you to, Luke, so you should probably listen to 0dysseus since she's speaking from experience.

Wow, thanks guys! Maybe I'll read two or three books on evolution - I certainly have enough to choose from!

I'm sure it sounded like I was making a joke about pictures making a book easier to read, but what I really meant was that pictures (diagrams, photographs) can be especially helpful in illustrating or 'proving' evolution. For example, a large cross-section of a vertical, washed away, stratified wall of soil that shows the layers and fossils in perfect order as described by evolutionary theory would go a long way to boosting the theory's credibility for me.

[erm]...and now I'm sure it sounded like I wasn't joking about the picture book. Sorry. As Dave Thomas has said, "*sigh* it's funny if you get it." (As for layers and fossils in order) there are such a wide variety of phylogenetic trees planted everywhere that it's often difficult to see the forest. Finches are cool (not as cool as whales, but still a bit frosty.) Erich "Iworshiphim" Jarvis shows why being a "birdbrain" is actually quite impressive... not that I have a clue as to what he's talking about. Finally, I'm curious as to what you mean by "'proving' evolution." How would you prove evolution to yourself? (As, evidently, you are two people.) [erm]...you've already read more books in '05 than I read in '04 and I am not joking.

I don't think 'proving' evolution (or Creationism, for that matter) is possible, because neither are repeatable in a lab. Indeed, I find the notion of 'proving' anything very strange, since things have been proven scientifcally before and only later found to be false. Our human mind is too finite to prove anything, ever. Everything must be accepted by a degree of faith.

I guess what I really meant was that I'd like to see if reading a good book on evolution makes it seem less laughably silly to me.

Yeah, I've already read more books in 2005 than I read in 2004, too :-) And at this rate, maybe I should shoot for 200 books this year, not 50. But I'm sure I'll tired of them somewhere, so I don't want to commit to keeping up this pace for a whole year!

The thing is that to prove something through deductive reasoning, you have to base your proof on smaller postulates. But the postulates must be devised by the human brain at some point. It's not like there's a big rock somewhere with a list of objective facts about the universe on it. So you're right, it's pretty much impossible for humans to prove something objectively. When we say that something is proven, we are talking about for our minds and in the context of our postulates. Our minds may be too finite to prove things objectively, but we can prove things to ourselves.

And when a proven fact turns out to be wrong, it's usually because one of the postulates was wrong. So we have to alter our own reality to prove something in a different context.

I don't think this is destructive to the idea of proof in general. We have to simplify things in this way because otherwise we could never know anything. Maybe we can't prove that sticking your hand on a hot stove will really hurt, but I still wouldn't recommend trying it.

Yes, you're right - 'proof' is a convenient shortcut, and I'm glad you agree that nothing can be really 'proved' in the absolute sense.

BTW, I tried that 'hand on a hot stove' thing the other day and now I have to wash that hand seperately in cold water and hold it away during a hot shower.

Hmmm. According to my results to this test, I'm a Secular Humanist Worldview Thinker. But I prefer being called a bad Christian. Thought you'd all like to know that.

Woah! I won't hold it against him, but Richard Dawkins definitely sounds like an evil genius.

oops - I've realized in the course of reading 'Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory' that I don't mean 'Darwinian Evolution,' because modern evolutionary theory has progressed on a different course from most of Darwin's suppositions. I was just trying to refer to the theory of evolution ('special progression through natural selection' or however you want to say it) as opposed to other kinds of evolution unrelated to species.

I hope some of you find these Pauline Kael quotes as interesting as I did:

Of Seven Women: "It's rather like watching an old movie on TV and thinking, 'No, no, they're not really going to do that next' - but they do, they do, and superior as you feel to it, you're so fascinated by the astounding, confident senselessness of it all that you can't take your eyes off it."

"The Big Sleep made us aware how little we often had cared about the ridiculously complicated plots of detective thrillers, how fed up with them we were - that we had been going for the riffs for a long time without being aware of it."

"The basic ideas among young American filmmakers are simple: the big movies we grew up on are corrupt, obsolete or dead... so we'll make films of our own, cheap films that we can make in our own way. [snip] Much of [their style is] a reaction against the banality and luxuriant wastefulness which are so often called the superior 'craftsmanship' of Hollywood. In reaction, the young become movie brutalists. They... may prefer the rough messiness - the uneven lighting, awkward editing, flat camera work, the undramatic succession of scenes, unexplained actions, and confusion about what, if anything, is going on - because it makes their movies seem so different from Hollywood movies. [snip] The movie brutalists... are hurting our eyes to save our souls."

"[Director Lelouch] uses a 'delicate' palette and he shoots through rain and snow and ice and into sunsets; he blurs for romantic softness, and he tints for mood and variety. With swinging graphics and a teasing score, A Man and a Woman is designed and rhythmed more like a trailer than a movie. It's all promises."

"John Huston is an infinitely more complex screen artist than David Lean. He can be far worse than Lean because he's careless and sloppy and doesn't have all those safety nets of solid craftsmanship spread under him. What makes a David Lean spectacle uninteresting finally is that it's in such goddamn good taste. It's all so ploddingly intelligent and controlled, so 'distinguished'... Lean plays the mad game of superspectacles like a sane man. Huston... tests himself, plays the crazy game crazy - to beat it, to win."

Of Fahrenheit 451: "Truffaut, in his adulation of Alfred Hitchcock, has betrayed his own talent - his gift for expressing the richness of life... Instead, he is a bastard pretender to the commercial throne of Hitchcock - and his warmth and sensibility will destroy his chances of sitting on it. [snip] Truffaut can't use Hitchcock's techniques because they are based on coercing the audiences' responses (and, of course, making them enjoy it). Hitchcock is a master of a very small domain: even his amusing perversities are only two- or three-dimensional. Truffaut has it in him not to create small artificial worlds around gimmicky plots, but to open up the big world, and to be loose and generous and free and easy with it."

"It's a simple mistake in the arts to assume that anything that moves us must be a masterpiece."

"There is a brief passage in Ingmar Bergman's Persona - Bibi Andersson tells about a day and night of sex - that is [so erotic] that it demonstrates what can be done on the screen with told material. We do not need to see images of the beach and the boys and the return to the fiance that she describes, because the excitement is in how she tells it. [snip] As she goes on talking, with memories of summer and nakedness and pleasure in her words and the emptiness of her present in her face, we begin to hold our breath in fear that Bergman can't sustain this almost intolerably difficult sequence. But he does, and it builds and builds and is completed. It's one of the rare, truly erotic sequences on film."

"The movies, the one art that people don't have to be encouraged, prodded, or 'stimulated' to enjoy... are still at the mercy of the economics of the mass market, which have broken the heart of almost every artist who has tried to work in the movies."

"There's so much written about what slaves to advertising and group patterns teenagers are; but parents often appear to be the worst slaves of all - letting advertisers convince them that children's movies must be innocuous and that their children will be deprived if they don't take them to every Disney picture."

"Now [older] movies are there for new generations, to whom they cannot possibly have the same impact or meaning, because they are all jumbled together, out of historical sequence. Even what may deserve an honorable position in movie history is somehow dishonored by being so available, so meaninglessly present... In other arts... only the best or the most significant or influential or successful works compete for our attention.

Of Citizen Kane: "Welles not only teases the film medium with a let's-try-everything-once-over-lightly, he teases his subject matter once over heavily. It's exhilarating to see the mechanics of movie-making (usually more concealed) exploited for theatrical effect. (Welles's devices were like visual counterparts of the booming voice, the echoes, the hollow sounds, and his other old radio techniques.) Citizen Kane is more fun than any great movie I can think of, and it's also a rare example of a movie that seems better today than when it first came out: in 1941 many of us were disappointed by the shallowness of the film's political treatment, but now even the shallowness seems evocative of the period."

"There's a good deal to be said for finding your way to moviemaking - as most of the early directors did - after living for some years in the world and gaining some knowledge of life outside show business. We are beginning to spawn teen-age filmmakers who at twenty-five may have a brilliant technique but are as empty-headed as a Hollywood hack, and they will become the next generation of hacks, because they don't know anything except moviemaking."

apparently not. :-)

I'm currently reading Evolution : The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory by Edward J. Larson, which has got me thinking about evolutionary theory:

To me, it seems that most phenomenon are interpreted by evolutionists as evidence of evolution and by creationists as evidence of creation. The evolutionist sees the hexagonal structure of a beehive as the result of slow improvements by natural selection; the creationist sees it as original perfection due to intelligent design. The evolutionist sees the inconsistent stratification of the fossil record as evidence of special progression disturbed by unstable rock formations; the creationist sees it as a pattern of changing earth conditions rendering many original species extinct while similar original species survive. The evolutionists see a tiny, human-shaped skeleton as evidence of a human ancestor; the creationist sees it as another small human, like pygmies or midgets. These observations and discoveries in our world are always interpreted with equal confidence by members of each view as evidence for their opposing theories.

My problem with evolution, therefore, is at a theoretical level, not an evidentiary one (if I see an ape give birth to a human, I may reconsider).

How, for example, did the first sighted creature arrive, if not by (very) intelligent design? The most basic mechanism for useful optical recognition and interpretation is a very complex one, involving several necessary parts. If evolution occurs through gradations, how could it have created - and passed on - each of the necessary parts, since none of the individual parts are useful without the others?

As I later discovered, this is a common argument against evolution, usually distilled as, "What use is half an eye?". Thankfully, because of the popularity of this argument, evolutionists have devoted great effort to answering it. Some sparsely detailed online documentation makes it appear possible that each step from a photo-sensitive cell to a basic 'eye' could be a beneficial development, and I will read Climbing Mount Improbable to see if this possibility holds up upon closer inspection.

Other questions I have about the feasibility of evolution may be answered by this and other books I intend to read.

Let me ask you this. Do you still think that it's impossible to believe in evolution and believe in God, or have you reconsidered about that?

Evolution as I currently understand it and God as I understand Him are irreconcilable. People who believe in God and evolution believe differently than I do about God, understand evolutionary theory differently than I do, or both.

So, does it follow, then, that if someone was hypothetically able to prove to you beyond a shadow of a doubt that the creation story couldn't possibly have happened the way it is described in the Bible, that you would not only stop believing in all the rest of the Bible, but would entirely renounce your faith in God?

I don't think it's possible to prove that (even as we discussed the word 'prove'), but I can't predict me reaction to such a hypothetical revelation. I imagine I would first decide that the creation account was a metaphorical piece of the Bible, or at least to be interpreted loosely. But my faith in God has as much to do with how I and those near me have personally experienced him working in our lives (miracles and more) as it has to do with what the Bible has to say about it or my inability to concieve of our wonderful world without a Designer.

Okay. So if the creation story were hypothetically false, you would still believe in God. And if evolution was hypothetically proven entirely true, the worst it could do is falsify the creation story, right? (which I don't think it entirely does, but we're talking worst-case scenario) So how could you say that you can't believe in both evolution and God?

Like I said above - that would be impossible only in the way I currently believe in God, and the things I currently understand about evolution. If what I believed about God and what I believed about evolution changed, it would certainly be possible to believe in both.

So based on the rest of our discussion, you're saying that you think it's impossible to believe in God and evolution if the creation story is completely true, but possible if the creation story is untrue, correct? I guess that conclusion is a little more obvious than I was hoping for.

Yeah, pretty much. :-) All I'm really accounting for are variations on 'theistic evolution' that are currently in use by many people's belief structures.

Would you be willing to let me know what you believe (not just about evolutionary theory)? I know (I think) that you're a non-Orthodox Jew, but that's about it, and the label doesn't give me any more an accurate picture of your worldview than a simple label of 'Christian' would give someone of my worldview. Also, what are your beliefs about evolution, and how do they intersect with your religious beliefs? Feel free to add relevant details, if you're willing.

I would be happy to, but I'm pretty sure I've discussed this elsewhere - most likely on this list. Let's see...

Okay. Read my 9/26/04 post at 9:07 pm and my 9/28/04 post at 2:34 pm on that list. I looked for our previous discussion on evolution but couldn't find it. So I'll just say that I believe in God but don't believe that one should accept the Bible as 100% literal, and I think the creation story was more a metaphor than anything else. I do believe in evolution.

erm... I was hoping for a bit more :-)

specifically, how does your own belief structure and practice differ from Jewish Orthodoxy?

Sorry. My previous post was rushed, as I was hurrying to get to the Golden Globes. I'm happy to answer any questions you have about my beliefs, and I hope I didn't seem dismissive.

I'm a conservative Jew, which is more secular than Jewish Orthodoxy but less secular than reformed Judaism. Conservative Judaism is a pretty broad category, and there are many things that people disagree with (we would have more sects like Christianity does, but I guess we just don't have enough people). For example, one rabbi at my synagogue does not think that God personally wrote the Old Testament and handed it down to Moses, but that Jews wrote it over many years. My mother disagrees with that, however. One time she commented that the seven-day period of creation could actually mean thousands of years. I asked her why, then, could "God dictating the Bible to Moses" not be a metaphor for "God inspiring great, faithful Jews to write the Bible"? She seemed personally offended when she said she thought that was too much of a stretch.

Orthodox Jews tend to interpret the Bible more literally than I. Many of the laws from the Old Testament which you claim that Jesus made obsolete are still observed by them. The men and women have very strict laws about when they're allowed to see each other, touch each other, and hear each other sing. Almost all Orthodox Jews will not eat food unless it is from a kosher restaurant or has a symbol indicating that the food is kosher. I keep kosher too, but I'm not so strict (I can go into that more if you like). On holidays most Orthodox Jews don't turn on lights or use any electronic devices, won't write, won't drive cars, won't spend money, won't do much of anything. I ignore most of these laws, except on Yom Kippur. I did stay home from school for the major holidays all throughout high school in order to go to synagogue though.

Politically the vast majority of conservative Jews tend to be liberal (ironically enough). Orthodoxy is more divided. I think some of their views on "moral values" tend to be similar to those of conservative Christians, and it helps that everyone seems to think that George W. Bush supported Israel so much better than John Kerry. On the other hand, one rabbi at my synagogue was in strong support of marrying two Jewish lesbians last year.

I'm not sure what exactly you're looking for here, so feel free to ask me anything else you want to know.

That was good, thanks!

Here's an excerpt from a post on another forum I found very interesting:

Here is the situation: The past 150 years or so; publicly funded science has been bent on proving evolution to be true. It helps to explain away the miraculous and physics defying nature of God if evolution were true. But has anyone seriously acknowledged that perhaps the supposed lack of evidence for a young earth creation model, is simply because 99.99999% of scientists that have anything to do with the topic are looking for the opposite? What university would even fund research to prove the young earth, more Biblically literal interpretation of Creation? Much of the evidence for Young Earth/non-evolution is swept under the rug. I saw this first hand at the University of Michigan in 1993, where my wife was taking an anthropology course.

The professor mentioned recent discoveries of fossilized human footprints alongside dinosaur footprints in the same exact strata. He stated very matter of factly, 'it is a paradox'. Not a single person in the class raised their hand to probe him more on it. No eyebrows were raised. Well, I couldn't contain myself. I apologized for interrupting him and asked why that didn't shake him up just a little - that the whole system of evolutionary thought comes crumbling down with this evidence. He just shrugged his shoulders and said something like 'obviously, it must be a mistake of some kind' and went on with his lecture. Since that time, I've spent enough time looking for evidence for the creation account, and seen that there is plenty there to cast some doubt on whether evolution is really as fully baked as it's been foisted on us to be; whether purposely or not.

I guess it comes down to this - you get what you look for. If the tables were turned, and 99.99999% of science were out to prove the biblical creation account to be true, we all would be familiar with a completely plausible system of physical/biological theories, laws and hypotheses that explain the existence of the universe; not over hundreds of millions of years, but over a few tens of thousands.

More on footprints than you could possibly want to read. Here's the conclusion:

Claims of human tracks occurring alongside dinosaur tracks in Texas have not stood up to close scientific scrutiny, and in recent years have been largely abandoned even by most creationists. Although genuine dinosaur tracks are abundant in Texas, the alleged Paluxy "man tracks" involve a variety of misidentified phenomena. The most celebrated "man tracks" on the Taylor Site are forms of "metatarsal" dinosaur tracks--made by dinosaurs which, at least at times, made elongate prints by impressing their metatarsi (soles and heels) as they walked, rather than walking on their toes only. When the digit marks on such elongate/metatarsal tracks are subdued by sediment infilling, mud- collapse, erosion, or a combination of factors, the metatarsal segment at the rear often presents an oblong shape that roughly resembles a large human footprint. Other alleged "man tracks" include erosional features and indistinct markings of uncertain origin, some of which were enhanced with water or oil at times to appear more human, or even physically altered in some cases. A smaller number of "man tracks" are outright carvings (mostly on loose blocks of rock). Claims of other "out of order" fossils from Texas and elsewhere are also lacking in scientific support.

Thanks.

Though, I wasn't really trying to point out the bit about human tracks, sorry. The most interesting point in the quote I provided, for me, was the point that if so much effort is put into 'proving' evolution, and so little in 'proving' creationism, evolution will end up a far more convincing argument (scientifically, anyway). As in most of life, it's not the quality of something that matters, it's the quality of the argument made for it that counts (and, reflexively, the quality of the arguers).

But how can you prove creationism? It seems impossible to me. I mean, you could try to prove that evolution is wrong; you could try to prove elements of creationism, like the young earth theory; but in the end, it's impossible to prove that all this happened because of one Creator. If it is was possible to prove that there is a God, I can assure you that there would be a hell of a lot of money invested into doing so.

No, you can't come even close to proving either of them, that's why I put 'proving' in quotes. What I mean is that far more effort has gone into scientifically defending evolution than has gone into scientifically defending creationism. So, it doesn't matter which theory actually makes more sense, because evolution has more and better defenders. That doesn't mean evolution is wrong, just that if it is we'd probably never suspect so.

I think it'll be a lot easier to prove evolution (and by proving, I mean in the terms that we discussed earlier) than to prove creationism. We spend time and money on evolution because it's a theory based on scientific facts. How the hell are scientists going to prove that a Creator exists?

I agree with the gist of what you're saying, but scientific research and theorizing could still be done with regard to how the universe can be explained through creationism rather than through evolution.

And, I'm a little confused. Maybe I'll find out when I read my next evolution textbook, but what facts are evolution based on? As far as I can tell, it's mostly been broad speculation and then trying to fill in the holes with possible interpretations of earth's evidence.

Creationism's scientists wouldn't bother proving the existence of a Creator, of course: they would instead demonstrate that it could've happened that way, and that everything we see in the world around us can be explained in these terms (and, simultaneously, that evolution makes less sense than most people give it credit for).

The facts I'm talking about are the thousands of pieces of evidence that support evolution. Saying you disagree with the interpretation of these facts is one thing, but saying evolution is not based on facts is another thing entirely. If it wasn't based on facts, no one would spend a cent on proving it. It's not like the theory just came to Darwin one night when he was stoned.

I still think it's a silly idea to spend money proving creationism. Everything in creationism is just explained as, "God did it." So why don't the two-million-year-old rocks that we found disprove the young earth theory? Easy: God aged the rocks Himself. Of course it could've happened this way. There could be a God, and he could have created all the non-bird, non-fish species all in one day, just like it says in the Bible. The people who believe in this shouldn't need scientific proof to confirm that they're right; they believe in this because they believe in God and in a literal interpretation of Genesis. People who are strong in their belief in creationism shouldn't feel threatened by studies of evolution. Evolution is science-based, creationism is faith-based; they are simply different ways of understanding the world, and it only makes sense that scientists spend time with the science-based explanation.

That site you linked to about "What use is half an eye?" had some pretty negative things to say about creationism. But here is a quote that I found very truthful:

"Historically, those with the deepest and most truly profound faith have been those for whom faith alone was enough. Consider Gandhi. Did he feel compelled to try and bend science to the defense of his faith? Not at all. For the truly pious are secure in their faith and need not invoke crusades against reality in an attempt to reassure them that their faith is merited."

I think any arguments for creationism I've made on Listology fail because I've attacked too many, occasionally opposing, fronts: incredulity over evolution, scientific evidence for creationism, and the overrated-ness of science, all before reading enough about the subject to really know what I'm talking about. Forgive me.

I hope you and others have enjoyed demolishing me here, even if that was not your intent. You've taught me not to argue about something I know little about, and that's a useful (and really, not that painful) lesson.

I did consider the idea your quote references when I was reading Evolution. I asked myself, "Do I want to challenge my faith in Divine Creation? Do I want to (probably) weaken it? Or should I just let my faith be faith and leave it at that." In the end, I decided to keep reading, because the origin of the human race is not that important to me as long as God still works in my life today. But what I discover about my origins may have a serious effect on my belief in God in general, and that's downright frightening.

First, it's frightening because I don't want to live in a world without God. Sure, sometimes I wish he'd go away so I could fuck or destroy rampantly, but a world without God is a cold, meaningless one. I don't want to be just another creature with no meaningful future or past, and no purpose other than the continued success of my species.

Second, it's frightening because then I have no framework with which to interpret several phenomenon in my own life that science cannot explain. If there is no God, and no supernatural, then is this the world of psi-empowered, invisible aliens?

Third, it's frightening because it would mean a complete overturn of my most fundamnetal assumptions and beliefs. That's never easy or fun.

Despite these worries, I will continue to read books that challenge my faith - to see if it holds up under the heat. If it doesn't, then it's probably not worth it. If it does, maybe it is worth it, after all.

But anyway, I'm going to hold off debating evolution until I know something about it. Sorry for all the confusion I've caused by not deciding to do it this way in the first place.

Forgive you? Bah. I should thank you. You've allowed me to partake in many a fascinating argument.

I think it's a culture shock, really. I was taught evolution in school and it seemed perfectly sensible and well-documented to me (not that I remember much of the proof that my biology teacher taught me); I have never heard any Jews dispute evolution on religious grounds, not even my mother; and it just seemed a little weird to me to hear someone say there's little basis for a concept that such a vast majority of biologists agree on. My guess is that your experience with evolution has been very different.

At the same time, I hope you never thought I was trying to compromise your faith or make you doubt it. It is my belief that religious faith can exist along with evolution, and I've been trying to articulate how to you (sometimes without much success). But at this point I think we should both just listen to 0dysseus.

Finally, as a side note, why can't you fuck and destroy rampantly when God's around? I thought you believe that as long as you believe in Jesus, you're getting into Heaven, so who cares if you sin?

That's one hell of a side note. I'm getting tired (I've recently decided to actually awaken while it's still morning), but I'd like to discuss this.

Unfortunately, my beliefs about salvation, faith, deeds, and a personal relationship with God are currently in 'question, explore' mode, so any attempt to assemble a coherant answer at this point would be fruitless.

The answer I would've given two weeks ago is that 'getting your butt into heaven' isn't the only thing that matters, and that sin (some kinds more than others) damage my relationship with God. God has also been known to hit the big, red SMITE button when he sees his subjects fucking around, and I don't want that sucker aimed at me.

I can understand that. Actually, it was a pretty dumb thing for me to ask, given that I keep kosher despite not even believing in hell. I was just wondering what motivates you... but I'm not sure what motivates me either. I don't think anything bad is going to happen to me if I eat a piece of pork; it just doesn't seem like the right thing to do.

Yeah, if you come up with a decent answer for your question, let me know. :-) In any case, I'll revisit this question later.

I can't tell you how thrilled and delighted I am to learn that you're reading Larson's book. I hope that you enjoy it. I hope it's helpful to you. I hope you know I'm not hoping you'll be "converted." I have too much respect for you (and your faith) to feel as though I need to change your mind. Having said that, I'm thrilled. Thrilled, thrilled, thrilled. And there's a possibility of later mounting an assault upon Richard Dawkins, what blisss!

Do you interpret most phenomenons like scientists/creationists do? As evidence for one side or another. If you do then perhaps reading any further would be a mistake; the evidence will simply pove what you already know. Be that as it may: I'm delighted... and I look forward to learning what you learn. Even if they are the "wrong" lessons... as if there was such a thing. Until then, it's back to the bliss.

Well, um... I'm happy you're happy. :-)

The entirety of my education on the theory of evolution had thus far come solely from Bob Jones University high school textbooks, so everything was obviously presented through the creationist view.

I'm specifically reading books on evolution by evolutionists for the purpose of exposure to their view.

Though I'd still technically categorize myself as a creationist, I'd like to think that, at this stage, my ideas about evolution are not very well developed (and certainly not well-rounded!), so I have an open mind.

As evidence of my open mind, I commend the following: I recently checked out 2400 pages of Pauline Kael from the library, intending to read them all. Then, half a dozen conversations (on Listology and elsewhere) that occurred while reading Kiss Kiss Bang Bang changed my mind about film criticism, and I've basically decided not to pursue it, and that it's not as important as I once thought.

I'll certainly share my thoughts on this and other evolution books on their way from my library system. I also need to find a very recent creationism book to counteract them and provide the most well-rounded picture of the issues, but I haven't found one yet.

There are a variety of subjects about which I know little but need to know more (besides evolution): cars, guns, women (maybe this one's a lost cause), and finances (shudder) come to mind. Perhaps I'll end up relying on the '...for dummies' and 'the complete idiot's guide to...' series, but I'd love to get suggestions for excellent beginners books (with lots of pictures, especially for the first two - the third I can find on my own) on these subjects.

I imagine an abnormally fun book on theoretical quantum physics might be cool, as would a book on rock history.

Don't stop giving me suggestions, people!

Suggestions, eh? Finances, eh?

I have a first-cousin-once-removed who is always looking for cheap books at the library. I think over the span of his lifetime, he has bought at least twenty copies of this one book that he says is the best book on money ever written and given them to various people. I don't think a single person has ever read the book. He realizes this, too; I think it is more of a psychological experiment than anything else. He is fascinated by the fact that people ask him for books and never read them.

But you seem pretty motivated with these 50 books. If you read the book based on my recommendation, I think it would help validate his existence. If you're interested, the book is The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham. I won't be offended or anything if you decide not to read it; I'm sure it's not an easy read, but my cousin is smart and he has read a LOT of books.

Oh, BTW, if you can't find it in the library, I can loan you a copy by mail the next time I go home. I'm sure I have at least two or three copies lying around.

I really dread reading a finance book, though I know it will be good for me. Investing is specifically what I was looking for, though: mostly, how to personally manage one's finances and balance the checkbook and make taxes easy at year's end and stuff.

It's not an "abnormally fun book" and it's not really about quantum physics but Cornelia Dean has written a fine essay How Quantum Physics Can Teach Biologists About Evolution. She has also written many other (in my opinion) worthwhile pieces. Here she articulates the (one of the?) issue much better than I have. And much better than I ever could. Rats.

[S]omeone uneducated in the scientific method who listens to the arguments over evolution could be forgiven for thinking that they boil down to "my theory is better than your theory," with both sides preaching with theological fervor.

Scientists don't talk often enough or loud enough about the real strength of evolution - not that it is correct, but that it meets the definition of science.
...
Science looks to explain nature through nature (the works of God rather than the words of God, as Darwin himself is said to have put it), and its predictions can be tested by observation and experimentation.

I think you might like the distinctions that she makes.

Interesting link. Thanks!

I do believe in proof without the ability to recreate something in the lab. If anyone is able to replicate my faith with test tubes, bunsen burners and a particle accelerator I would take it as a sign that my faith is of little worth. I find the notion of 'scientific doubt' strange because science is not set in stone but rather in observation of evidence (and vice versa.)

Aristarchus of Samos observed that the earth revolved around the sun and for 1800 years few believed him. Copernicus offered proof that the earth wasn't the center of the universe, the sun was, and Galileo caught hell for providing evidence. Later it would be theorized that the Milky Way, not the sun, was the center of the universe. All of it has been found to be false. To me, this is not a failure of either postulates or of a finite mind's attempt to be objective. I feel that it is all part of a process of continual, gradual enlightenment.

There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in my philosophy. I may not agree with or even understand things that I read in good books. I hope that doesn't mean that I will find these things laughable, especially when they are held so dear by so many people of such good will.

The concept of 'evidence' for people of true faith seems misplaced to me. If one's faith is true, what need is there for evidence? I don't mean to say that faith makes one blind to evidence but that evidence has no relevance to faith. I do not need to (nor do I hope to) find a manger in an archaeological excavation to contribute to my faith. I think that the very idea of this diminishes the power of my faith.

I think that 'evidence' in science shouldn't fit a theory but that scientific theories should fit the 'evidence.' It discourages me that observations are forced to be 'evidence' for or against certain ideas. I certainly feel that newly acquired knowledge that fits into our preconceptions is (and perhaps should be) taken as confirmation of those preconceptions. I don't believe that the scientific method takes the side of these preconceptions. In fact, I would argue the opposite, that the scientific method asks us to constantly revisit and revise our preconceptions in light of all evidence, both old and new.

Both faith and science, as expressed in religion and evolution, are internally consistent theories. Based upon their tenets there is nothing self-contradictory in the way that either view the world. Seeing an ape give birth to a human would not fit the premise of either world view. Seeing the miracle of conception and the development of a fetus through various stages reinforces both faith and science, or so I believe.

Science asks that nothing be taken on faith. Faith needs no proof. I can't imagine that I could trust a scientist who said that she had the truth nor woman of faith who said she had the proof. Hopefully these two hypothetical women would be able to talk to each other and understand one another. Perhaps these could be attributes of a single woman who sees no contradiction between her religion and scientific theories. Coming to a resolution of concepts from one domain by using the tools of the other domain seems hopeless, fruitless and pointless. I would love to see theories and beliefs about art discussed with the vigour and rigour of the discussion here. It's definitely not the case that I'm uninterested in what is being said here; I am anxious to hear what else can be said.

"To me, this is not a failure of either postulates or of a finite mind's attempt to be objective. I feel that it is all part of a process of continual, gradual enlightenment."

In a sense I'm purposely 'missing the point' of your post in discussing this:

If scientific discover is a continual, gradual enlightenment, that's fine. But if every step 'forward' can be just as false as the last, and if we can never really know if we've reached the last step (as demonstrated in your example), why are we so sure of scientific 'advances'?

I hope that you don't think that I have been trying to demolish you. I have too much respect for your opinions and beliefs. (...and your talent for thinking about both, your intellectual passion, the frequency of your posts, your yada and your yada yada...) If you do think this then I've failed to communicate my intent and I feel bad about that... and worse if you think that I would enjoy it.

Furthermore, I don't think that I (or anyone else) has demolished your position. That may be of some interest to people but for myself I am fascinated by the how you use to come to your position, not the what of your position. To use an analogy (and I have been trying so hard to avoid wading into the muck of metaphor): I am a Napoleon at Waterloo who is uninterested in winning territory or the battle. The focus of my interest is the tactics being used by Nelson, the method that he uses to reason/fight. (Sometimes you do give people an inch by soliciting "suggestions" and shouldn't be surprised when a mile is taken.)
But what I wanted to say is that:
According to my way of thinking, science is about steps forward, always and continually. It is also about steps back. Reframing data, taking fresh looks at old evidence... it is learning for its own purpose. Science itself assumes that "every step 'forward' can be just as false as the last." Science is based upon an accumulation of evidence (or, to put a more neutral spin upon it, data) and then a reasoned explanation of that evidence.

From what you've said it is possible that you've rejected the very notion of science. If you assume that the previous step is false then one can deduce that you assume that the very initial step is false. This means that the entirety of science sits upon a flawed foundation. This also means that you are willing to make unchanging assumptions. I would hold that this is the antithesis of science, that your method of interpreting science is diametrically opposed to the scientific process itself. If this is your take on scientific matters then there is no point in discussing the possible validity of science; it is false to its core.

If this is not your opinion then you are willing to consider that science might be on the right path. I hope that you can see my reasoning: science allows for the (self-)correction of missteps. This is in order to remain on the true path. Science will never achieve a 'final truth' but it is always trying to sail towards truth. If you require reaching a "last step" in any philosophy that you consider then, again, you cannot consider science on its own terms.

To try and answer your question, "why are we so sure of scientific 'advances'?" let me take that from two angles. The First: Because science mistrusts itself. The concept of surety is in opposition to the contuous questioning and exploration that science is. Science is an advocate for doubt. The Second: because science works. We rely upon science. It is how we live our lives every day. "We plug our televisions into little wall sockets, measure a year by the length of Earth's orbit, and in many other ways live our lives based on"... science. It works better and is more widespread than any system of belief that came before it. As science would be the first to tell you: That doesn't mean that it is valid.
And you certainlly need not respond to my gray area here.
Finally, let me apologize for sticking my snout in all of this. I would like to point out that you have a predeliction (knack?.. whatever) for putting a paw through the bars into the realm of secular vs. religious... that tends to overwhelm your hope to discuss something else.

It's hard to focus on art/culture/whatever when you and AJDaGreat stage a brilliant Thunderdome. If I didn't have a fatal allergic reaction to emoticons I'd put a smiley here.

Fatal allergy to emoticons? I must be killing you daily, then. :-...waitasecond, I won't finish that.

My question about the validity of science was really an exploratory question, and I appreciate your thoroughness. I definitely think science has validity, but I also think that some people put too much assurance in it. I don't think that every, or even most, scientific 'first steps' are false - just that some art. And some second steps are false. And so on. I must say, though, that I haven't spoken with too many scientific people who feel that science is an advocate of doubt! But there again, it's possible I simply haven't spoken with enough scientific people.

No, I don't think anyone was trying to demolish me, or that my position has been 'demolished,' but it is more dramatic and exciting to say it that way, isn't it? [smiley]

I knew that I could bring this back to culture! Boston Legal dealt with issues of Intelligent Design (at one of my favourite sites.)

huh. I had no idea battles like that were still taking place.

My thought is that it's unfortunate the founding fathers used the word 'religion' instead of 'worldview' in the Constiution. Because, by not not being able to support any religion, they are basically forced to support athiesm, which is a worldview just like any religion.

BTW, I hope everyone knows that 'seperation of church and state' doesn't appear in any early US government document. It's all just 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,' from the Constitution

... and I hope everyone knows that just because something isn't in the Constitution, it doesn't mean it's a bad idea! (the converse is also true).

Also, I think not supporting any religion is much closer to agnosticism rather than atheism.

Yes, good points, Jim.

I never attended a public high school, so I'll ask those who have:

Did they mostly teach athiesm, or agnosticism? From my friends who did attend a public high school, it sounded like athiesm, but that is a small sampling (probably only 3 people - yes, I've had a very unhealthily 'sheltered' life).

I couldn't tell you, as I've never been to a public high school either, but I'm curious - did you go to a Christian private school, or something else?

I went to a very small (less than 100 people, K-12) school from kindergarten until 11th grade. For my senior year I did PSEO, which means I took college classes and got high school and college credit for them. Wish I'd found out about that earlier - it's one hell of a deal.

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between church and State."
-- Thomas Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury Baptist Association (January 1, 1802)[emphasis added]

"I must admit moreover that it may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of separation between the rights of religion and the civil authority with such distinctness as to avoid collisions and doubts on unessential points. The tendency to a usurpation on one side or the other or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them will be best guarded against by entire abstinence of the government from interference in any way whatever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order and protecting each sect against trespasses on its legal rights by others."
-- James Madison in a letter to the Reverend Jasper Adams (Spring 1832) [emphasis added]

Yes, those letters somewhat explain the thinking behind 'Congress shall make no law respecting and establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' I've just run into so many people who think the phrase 'seperation of church and state' is in the Constituion that I felt compelled (perhaps unnecessarily) to remind people that the phrase was not in the Constitution.

Do you think 'entire abstinence of the government from interference in any way whatever' is the state of things in public education right now? As I mentioned in my post to Jim, I'm not qualified to answer that question myself.

I think that that those letters completely explain the thinking behind “Congress shall make no law…” Thomas Jefferson wrote The Declaration of Independence . James Madison wrote The Constitution of the United States itself as well as The Bill of Rights , which was promised in order to assure the ratification of The Constitution . If there is historical evidence that these letters only “somewhat explain” original intent I am unaware of it.

There are many phrases that aren’t in The Constitution but can be applied directly in any interpretation of the document. One example would be the word “slavery” which first appears in 1865 in the XIII Amendment. Anyone who claims that, upon its creation, The Constitution didn’t address slavery is being disingenuous at best.

I certainly do not think that the United States Government practices “entire abstinence” when it comes to the “public schools” (otherwise known as “state schools.”) Examples that spring to mind range from students’ participation in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the funding of educational vouchers for religious or home schooling. A particularly discriminatory example of public funds being used for (a) religion is the use of school buses for CCD students. I believe that all of this puts America in danger of losing its promise to be a city on a hill.

To assume that, in the absence of religious instruction, schools are teaching atheism or agnosticism is to misconstrue non-theistic education. When a government declines to interfere in religion that does not mean that it encourages opposition to religion, far from it. Separation between the civil authority and the rights of religion encourages the free expression of faith. That liberty is the only way to insure a true expression of faith. It is what has made the United States of America such a beacon to the world.

Peoples of all kinds have looked in hope to America as a land of freedom and tolerance. When any government inserts itself in matters of religion, no matter how innocently, it diminishes the light of both in the eyes of all people upon them. The lamp beside the golden door should shine upon good works, not religious tenets. To do anything else would open the mouths of enemies to speak evil.

I'm not proposing that the United States should more actively support creationism or other 'religous' views. I'm reminded of the emperor of Constantinople in about 300 A.D. (can't be bothered to look it up) who declared his empire a Christian one - and by all accounts it was one of the 'darkest' periods in the history of Christianity.

So, I agree that the establishment of a state religion is a bad idea - even if it was 'my' religion that was established!

The type of education they're giving kids in public schools (admittedly, based on second-hand knowledge) is in opposition to religion. They're not teaching kids to hate religious people, but they are telling religious kids that their views are incorrect and 'ignorant.'

What exactly have you heard from your friends in public schools? Are you talking about what they are taught in specific classes? I'm guessing you're speaking figuratively - from what I've heard from my public school friends, I'm pretty sure that if a teacher literally told a student he / she was ignorant for being religious, the teacher would be fired on the spot.

I do have a friend named Eddie who attended a state school for almost his entire pre-college education. He is a Christian and very vocal about his beliefs. He likes to challenge his teachers.

He would even go so far as to answer questions on tests in science class based on what he believes, not on what he had been taught. For example, if a question was, "How old is the earth?" he would answer "Less than 10,000 years old" even though he knew they wanted the answer "4.5 billion years."

Of course, they would mark these answers incorrect, which is saying that his beliefs were ignorant of the 'facts'.

Eddie would also ask questions in class (again, usually a science class) that would challenge the teacher's lesson - for example, the feasability of simultaenous evolution of mutually dependent, complex body parts. Any time he brought up something that challenged the teacher's lesson because he had different beliefs, the teacher would say, "No, you are incorrect. This is how it happened. We know this is how it happened."

I don't think this is a state school issue, I think the bias you are citing is inate to science (and science instruction). Science is based on evidence, so claims like "the earth is less 10,000 years old" are indeed "wrong" as far as science is concerned because there is no evidence to support that idea.

It's one thing to poke holes in scientific theories because they don't conform with your belief system. It's quite another thing to come up with alternative scientific theories supported by evidence that fit your beliefs.

If you even want to mix science and religion, that is.

I understand your argument, but remember that many Christian scientists have convincingly argued that evidence can support a 'young earth' theory. So, there is evidence that can be indicative of either belief. I do think that science and 'religion'* are inextricably mixed; they are both inevitably part of one's worldview.

While I'm still developing my own belief system, I'm beginning to think nobody has anywhere close to 'all' the answers, and so very little of any one existing 'worldview template' may be the truth.

* religion: I use this word alot because it is concise and communicates something that is understood by most people, but I really don't like this word because it doesn't apply much to my own lived faith. I guess I'd prefer the more generic 'worldview.'

I would love to see a convincing argument that the Earth is only 10,000 years old. I'm not being facetious; I had no idea anyone even attempted to make a credible scientific case on that point anymore.

There are two books in my intimidating stack of library checkout backlog that deal with creationism science. I know many creation scientists have made the case, I just haven't looked into them myself yet. I'll let you know what I find out and what I think when I get to those books.

I do want to mix science and religion, instead of standing them opposite each other. Somebody else explained how I do it better than I have or ever could.

From your link:

You see, there is a reason why religion survived the Age of Reason and the Industrial Revolution. It is not an either-or contest between modern science and ancient superstition. They are two different pillars of society, each holding up different ends.

I was only suggesting that they be separate as the author has described. It seems like you want them to be one pillar, no?

I'm so pleased you bothered to read all that! If you're interested, the whole site is fantastic - I'm working my way through every page right now. As AJ (who pointed me to the site initially) pointed out, the homosexuality discussion on that site covers many of the same topics we covered here at Listology.

It's difficult to pair my inarticulate fumblings with his metaphor. I think what the author is trying to say with that paragraph is that religion and science have different purposes. "Science studies the universe. It cannot tell us why the universe is here or if was anything behind it or before it. Scientists don't have that data at their disposal." Why the universe exists, what came before it, and what is beyond it are the province of religion.

What I was failing to say earlier is that both religion (even if it's athiesm or agnosticism) and science must be part of a single 'worldview'. Or at least, I can't see it any other way.

If I believe that science proves without a doubt that the earth is 4 billion years old, I cannot simultaneously believe that the earth is 10,000 years old because I think my religion says so.

In this case, it so happens that I'm not as convinced by the evidence of a billion-year-old earth as I am with other scientific findings. It also so happens I do not adhere to young earth theory anyway. Oh well, it was just an example.

Thankfully, the subjects in which science and religion could overlap are very few, because they don't cover the same topics.

So, whether you see that as one pillar or two, I don't know. I don't want to mix metaphors. All I'm trying to say is that I cannot simultaneously hold two opposing beliefs. (Here I'm using 'beliefs' in the extremely specific sense, like 'I believe science has proved that the earth is roughly spherical', not 'I believe in evangelical Christianity' or 'I believe in science.' Such labels don't say much because there are so many deviations under each heading.)

Somehow I feel I've only said what I said before and not made it any clearer. Let me know if I'm getting lucky and you're starting to understand what I'm trying to say, or if I need to try it yet again.

That entry was very well-written, and it reflects my views on the roles of religion and science pretty well too. I do have two complaints with the article though:

"Most of what ancient man believed turned out to be true. They believed food would keep them alive if they ate it. They believed babies were the result of sex. They believed they would drown if they built their house under water."

This made laugh. What a ridiculous statement. Or maybe... the ones who didn't eat or built their houses under water just DIED??

"They have strayed from teaching 'these are the facts the scientists have gathered' into 'this proves creation can happen without a creator.' Science has proven no such thing and does not claim to have."

Of course they have proved that creation can happen without a creator. What they have not, and cannot, prove is that creation did or did not happen without a creator.

I agree that some of Mr. Anon's metaphors and tangents don't stand up to inspection because they're there to improve the flow and sound of his writing. Those parts are regretable.

But, do you really believe anyone ever thought they could live without food? Or that they could survive underwater? Do you think people innocently tried those things on purpose and died because of it? Aside from a few psychos, I mean...

I wasn't aware that they'd proved that creation can happen without a creator. Or if they did prove it, they didn't convince me.

Think if you had just been born one day and had never seen or heard of the concept of food. Do you think it would occur to you to put things in your mouth and swallow them? Would you connect that rumbling in your stomach to a desire for those colorful things that grow on trees? Well, maybe you would, but I'm sure some people didn't. Those that figured out eating=good lived on to pass the knowledge to their children. Those that just tried to take some Pepto-Bismol for their stomachache keeled over within a few days.

I'd say the Big Bang theory proved that creation can happen without a creator. You might not believe in the Big Bang theory. You might even be able to poke holes in it. But those holes might have explanations, and the Big Bang could have happened, and that would explain creation without a creator. But of course, there could be a creator who formed the universe through a Big Bang, so the Big Bang and God aren't ideas that contradict each other, as a random person off the street tells us.

If you're not convinced that creation could possibly happen without the existence of God, you must be damn sure of your beliefs. You couldn't think of any alternatives that would even be possible? Not necessarily true, but just possible?

I'll never know if a completely alone human automatically connects the concept of food to a rumbling tummy.

Oh, I do think alternatives to creation are 'possible' - they just haven't 'proved' anything related to the beginning of the universe. I was just saying that Big Bang theory, to me, is a lot of scientists just speculating wildly about the beginning of the universe, with no basis in evidence or experimental findings. There are people smarter than I who disagree with me, but I still think that. It's the same way I feel about string theory, for example. A neat little theory, but not a shred of evidence or experimental data to support it because it's beyond our scientific grasp (at the moment, anyway).

So then, how can you say that you are not convinced that creation can happen without a creator? You said alternatives to creation are possible, and that would be a way creation can happen without a creator. That doesn't mean these alternatives are substantiated, or true, but I would say it's very easy to prove that creation can happen without a creator.

I read Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time in 10th grade, and that provided much insight into the way the universe was formed. Unfortunately, I don't remember any specific evidence. You might find it interesting; I'd possibly suggest it for this list, but be warned: it is a difficult read, and I'll understand if you're not up for it.

"...you are not convinced that creation can happen without a creator." Did I say that? I think I said that scientists haven't proved (or shown) that 'creation' (which in this discussion I'm equating with 'the spontaneous arrival of the universe') can happen without a creator. I accept that creation could possibly have happened without a creator because I don't have a clue what happened way back then, not because science has shown me that it's possible for creation to have happened without a creator. (Though, semantically, it would seem impossible to have a 'creation' without a 'creator', no?)

Well, perhaps this just becomes a matter of nitpicking, but let's break this down. You said earlier:

"I wasn't aware that [scientists had] proved that creation can happen without a creator. Or if they did prove it, they didn't convince me."

When you said that, I assumed you meant by the last sentence that you weren't convinced that creation could happen without a creator. Did you mean that the scientists weren't the ones who made you believe that creation could possibly happen without a creator, that you believed this on your own? If so, I misinterpreted your statement. Sorry.

As for the scientists, I would say they have sufficiently proved that creation can happen without a creator. For thousands of years, many people believed that the only possible way for everything around us to exist is if a higher being created it. Scientists proved that everything could possibly have come about as a result of the Big Bang. If someone didn't know about science and couldn't fathom the universe existing without someone creating it, the fact that scientists have come up with an alternate theory thereby proves that creation can happen without a creator. Of course, if you can already think of alternate possibilities for how the universe formed, then you don't need the scientists. But they have proved it.

Again, the scientists' theory doesn't have to be substantiated, or flawless, or necessarily true, to prove that creation can happen without a creator. It just has to be possible.

Yes, I meant that scientists weren't the ones who made me believe that creation could possibly happen without a creator. If anything, studying the science of Big Bang theory has made me more aware of how inadequate science is in this area. But that's just my interpretation of what I've read. Thank goodness it isn't very important: as the guy off the street (Mr. Anonymous) said, if scientists told you today that the universe was 51 billion years old instead of 17 billion years old, it wouldn't shatter your existence or belief structure or change how you live your daily life.

In addition to what Jim said about science, I would add two things. First of all, I would say that if Eddie had written on his test, "According to you and science, 4.5 billion years; according to me and my religion, less than 10,000 years", the teacher would have marked him correct. If he's excluding the teacher's worldview from his perception of reality, he's just doing the same thing the teacher is doing to him.

Secondly, I think that these examples are just evidence of the teacher's personal desire to save face, not of the government endorsing atheism. I don't think the government goes up to teachers and says, "If any of those silly creationists contradict you, give 'em hell."

I recently chatted with a new friend about the issue of religion and science. We essentially saw it the same way, but he phrased it in a fresh way. To him, all truth is God's truth, because God created the universe. Sometimes he reveals his truth through prophetic inspiration. Sometimes he reveals it through scientific discovery. And quite often, people decieve by claiming inspiration from God when none is present or by claiming science proves something that isn't actually true (it's possible to decieve others unintentionally by being decieved yourself). The Church has typically been very resistent to science. It murdered scientists claiming the earth revolved around the sun because their findings didn't fit with the Church's longstanding interpretation of some Scripture verses that the earth was the center of the universe. Now, everyone excepts that the earth revolves around the sun and thinks it's quite a stretch to make those verses mean that the earth is the center of the universe.

So, I'm not really threatened by science, and it's definitely not seperate from the rest of God's revealed truth. If science convincingly proves something, then maybe I need to rethink my interpretation of the Bible. But I have to be wary because science often proves things that turn out not to be true. But science is always getting closer to truth, even if it takes some steps backward. It is the same with revealed truth through authors and speakers. Sometimes we take a step back from God's truth (the Crusades), and sometimes we step forward (Protestantism, I believe, was a step forward but definitely not the 'truth').

I think another big step Christians could make towards God's ultimate design for us would be to love people as Jesus preached. He revealed the truth about love 2000 years ago and we still haven't gotten that right.

Another step forward might be to mostly abandon church buildings. Church buildings cause a lot of damage:

(1) Church buildings lock Christians 'inside', away from the world we're supposed to be reaching, and make us think that Christianity is about being inside a building with other Christians instead of being in the world with other people.
(2) They waste colossal sums of money. If Christians just in the US decided to meet in smaller groups in member's homes instead of massively expensive buildings, then: what if we pooled contributions otherwise spent on church buildings for 5 years and ended up with several billion dollars and spent that on helping to solve the AIDS crisis in Africa? Not only would that be a better use of the money, but people might respect Christians more: "Hey, look at that, they actually did something. They're actually loving the world."
(3) Church buildings divide Christians and promote harmful 'groupthink.'
(4) So many committees, boards, fund-raising, loans, accountants, could be avoided, so much time could be saved, so much money could be saved, if Christians just got rid of their big expensive buildings. We could put all that time and those people and that money towards more important things.

Sorry for that tangent, I know this page is too big already. I hope this post helps those of you previously involved in this discussion to understand where I'm coming from and how I look at science and religion and truth and progress.

I am a product of public schools, and I really do not find the above to be true. I will tell you what I often saw. A student decides to write a paper on a hot topic, say, abortion. The teachers tells the student that saying that the Bible says abortion is wrong is not enough support for a ten-page paper that is supposed to examine the topic (especially since the Bible does not explicitly state that abortion is wrong). The student goes off and tells friends that the teacher hates religious people.

I saw variations of the above happen all the time.

On the other hand, I live in the buckle of the Bible belt, and frankly some of the teachers at my school were religious themselves. If you live elsewhere in the country, YMMV.

I saw many papers written on subjects that included religious material get As.

As I said, though, that is just my experience.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Thank you for sharing your own experience, which contributes to a broader understanding of religious conflicts in state education. Many teachers in state schools in my area are religious, and I am certain student experiences vary from teacher to teacher, school to school, and state to state.

I would also like to think that, as in your example, students are more often improperly (immaturely) reacting to 'conflict' than teachers.

I remember my own college English professor assign us an argumentative essay. He opened with, "You can write about pretty much anything, but not abortion. Nothing new can be written about a subject like that, and its divisive factors are so arbitrary [when does 'life' begin?] that you can't very well convince other people to change their minds." (I wrote a paper about how today's blockbusters suck. It would've been a much easier argument if I'd written it just before the Lord of the Rings movies started coming out.)

WARNING: Sweeping generalization ahead!!!

In my experience, many Christians suffer from a bit of a persecution complex. They believe that "The World" is set up to attack and to destroy them, and that it will continue to do so until Jesus arrives.

As a result, some Christians can find religious persecution where none exist.

This is certainly not true of all Christians, and some people do delight in attacking folks of faith, but some times...

I also confess that I have a little less sympathy to many complaints about comments from professors in college. If a liberal education does not challenge our views and beliefs, it is largely useless, IMO. On the other hand, *nothing* justifies outright persecution triggered by somebody's faith.

I really hope I did not offend anybody with this post. I am absolutely not saying that this applies to anybody here on this site. I seriously doubt it does.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I wasn't complaining about my college professor at all - I was commending him! I was also agreeing your point that some students get bitchy over nothing.

Your point about a 'persecution complex' in some Christians is very interesting. I hadn't thought about it like that before. I do remember hearing weekly teachings (in my Christian school or my church) when I was growing up about how 'The World' hates Christians and wants to persecute Christians, because 'The World' belongs to the devil (not that non-Christians are evil, but that they are innocently deceived by Satan into thinking God cannot save them, doesn't love them, or doesn't exist). I'm not sure that has, in my experience, translated into a 'persecution complex.' I'll have to dredge my memory and then examine it through a telescope to consider that.

I wasn't even thinking about your college professor. Sorry if you thought I took your comments the wrong way!

Of course, I can think of three valid logical responses to my post. One, it is correct. Two, most Christians don't really feel that way.

Three, most Christians feel that way, but they are correct; The World is out for them. In that case, my use of the term 'persuction complex' would be out of place. :)

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Oh, I guess I did misunderstand your comments, then. It's all good.

It would be a futile exercise to estimate how 'most' Christians 'feel' about persecution. I agree that your statement does not apply to some Christians. I think it's also fair to say that many people (probably not 'most,' though) are out to 'get' Christians.

This next bit is only sorta related to your point about 'persecution complex' in Christians. My own life experience has led me to infer contempt of religion in general from non-religious people - from former MN governor Jesse Ventura (yes, before Arnold the action movie star there was Jesse the fake wrestling star) saying that 'religion is a crutch for the weak-minded,' to acquantainces smirking when they hear I'm a Christian or that I don't believe in evolution, then calling me an idiot.

Naturally, everyone has the right to think they know the truth, which means some other people must be wrong. But I know I've gotten a lot of disrespect (not much - if any - from Listologists, which is why I like this place so much) from people who know nothing about me simply because I can be labeled a Christian. So I think I may have a bit of a persecution complex - but probably only as much as someone often ridiculed for being vegan or choosing abstinence or liking electronic music (the latter two also apply to me, BTW), and probably not as much of a valid persecution complex as gays or blacks may have*.

So, I think I, myself, have a mild persecution complex - thanks for pointing it out! At best, it's wholly validated by the ways in which I have been persecuted for my faith (forget the 'sticks and stones' chant, I'm glad this persecution was with words instead of whips and knives). At worst, it's completely overblown, and makes me percieve every conflict as unjust, prejudiced persecution. As always, it's probably somewhere between the two. Being aware of it can only help, though.

* tangents:

BTW, it's not just that whites often subconsciously think worse of blacks - blacks do too. 80% of Race IAT Test takers, of any race, exhibit slight subconscious preference for whites.

Anyway, another thought: I have little evidence to demonstrate this, but somehow I suspect that persecution of gays and blacks is falling, while persecution (again, thankfully not of the physical torture variety) of Christians, or at least contempt of Christians, may be rising. The Presidential Election surprised us all with the strength of the 'Bible Belt' in the U.S., but the lashing out against the religious voters in America was immense and intense - most shamefully on the blogs. (Remember the 'Jesusland' map, or Michael Moore stating that 50% of Americans didn't know the 'truth' about the candidates?) I recall reading through my favorite blogs during the weeks following the election. Almost every non-professional, liberal blog depicted religious voters as morons. I don't recall such a reaction after the 2000 elections, which was much closer. Gay-bashing and racism are going out of fashion. Sometimes it seems like anti-religionism is gaining popularity.

In terms of the persecution you are talking about regarding Eddie, I do think that falls towards the "at worst" category. Public school teachers are by no means out to persecute Christians. They are just trying to do their jobs, and they perceive someone like Eddie as just being contentious.

Some of the other stuff you describe I would agree with you is persecution, though I would reassure you that they're not talking about you. There is a stereotype of Christians, and you don't fit it. Sadly, there are a good handful of famous Christians who give Christianity a bad name.

You might be right about Christian persecution becoming more popular whereas other persecution is becoming less popular, but damn, Christians can still dish it out, can't they? I think if [certain] Christians stopped persecuting gays, they'd face less persecution by liberals (and again, I'm not talking about you or anyone else on Listology).

I think persecution usually happens in the context of stereotypes. And there are always a handful of famous members of any large group who give the group a bad name. Bin Laden, for example (though, I have read the Quran, and it instruct Muslims to 'kill all Infidels' - Infidels being those who refuse to convert to Islam. I'm thankful so few Muslims act on that passage, as thankful as I am that I don't feel the need to cut off my hand if it causes me to sin).

Oh, man... Christian dish out so much persecution. Here's the deal: I'm annoyed when people call Christians intolerant in for claiming that Jesus is the only way to heaven - that has nothing to do with intolerance, but instead with a deep belief of truth. But when some Christians persecute gays or even Catholic/Protestant/Liberal Christians the way they sometimes do, I'll stand right next to the agnostic, the Muslim, the athiest, the gay - whoever - and shout, "Hey? What the fuck are you doing?"

The theory is that Christians "hate the sin but love the sinner." The reality is that many Christians commit sins just as great and are disgusted by the *other* sinner. For example, whenever I relate a story to my Christian friends involving one of my gay or bisexual ex-coworkers (I like them enough to call them friends, but I don't hang out with them enough since I quit my job to justify that), many of them will discuss these people, whom they've never met, with disgust. Very little is said of the sinful act, just an obvious debasing of the person. And certainly no love that I can see. There are exceptions (my dad and some volunteer charity workers come to mind).

Of course, I can't say I've never persecuted anyone for having a different worldview. I'd like to think I'm much better at avoiding this since about 17, but I recall thinking of gays in disgust and contempt when I was younger. I'd also like to blame this on my 'upbringing,' but I think it was probably just taking the easy road, since all my peers were thinking this way. I wasn't as vocal as I am now, so hopefully I didn't do too much damage!

Clarifications: Yes, I think homosexuality and many other acts are sin. But of course, everyone sins. According to what I believe is sin and what is not, I've estimated that I commit about 25 "thou shalt not" sins a day, and innumerable "thou shall" sins (though I'd never be able to do ALL the "thou shall" deeds in any one day, of course). So, everyone is a sinner as in 'one who sins.' Many Christians make a mostly semantic differentiation between 'sinner' and 'saint,' though, where a 'sinner' is one condemned for his/her sins because he/she does not accept Christ's gift, and a 'saint' is one who doesn't have to live with the consequences of his/her sin because he/she accepts Christ's gift.

Interestingly enough, I read something about Islam just this morning which said the exact opposite (it was linked from a debunking of this horribly racist urban legend). Not knowing anything about the Quran, I can't comment.

So could a homosexual be a saint then, if he believes in Jesus but still enjoys sex with men? Or are there some sins too great for faith to overcome?

Oh, certainly a homosexual who accepted Christ's gift would be forgiven; a saint.

I haven't quite figured this out yet, but supposedly some sins cause greater interruption in one's relationship with God. These are probably the ones that are a very conscious decision to disobey God in a certain, very obvious way, every day. Homosexuality is one of dozens of sins that fit this category.

Another thing I haven't quite figured out yet: I think the Christian church has put too much emphasis, in its evangelism, on 'getting your butt into heaven.' That's NOT what it's about. Indeed, part of salvation is accepting Christ's gift, and accepting him as Lord of your life. So, perhaps prolonged, insistent, obvious disobeidence after salvation could cost one his salvation? It's a scary thought, but it might be true. All this would be so much easier if the Bible actually was a manual for life. But if it was, we wouldn't need a personal relationship and daily conversation with God in order to live a Christian life - and that's really what it's supposed to be. Christianity is a relationship with a loving Creator and Savior and a growing understanding of how to work with him. He wants to include us in his work! So, Christianity isn't really about 'getting your butt into heaven,' - that's just the first step.

A very conscious decision? Do you think homosexuality is a choice, then?

Oh yes, good question. Absolutely, homosexuality is a choice. Some people are more genetically susceptible to it than others (as with alcoholism, rage, even 'general horniness', etc.), but there is always a choice. Often, those who are susceptible to homosexual urges via genetics simply make the 'easier' choice to give into homosexual urges and blame it on their genes, as if long legs required them to play basketball or an alcoholic father meant they had to be an alcoholic.

Funny, as a heterosexual, I sure don't feel like I could opt for homosexuality. I could not choose to be sexually attracted to a male. I have a hard time believing anyone homosexual feels more free to choose than I do.

I'm not sure whether homosexuals can choose to be sexually attracted to females and not males. That's not the point. Any of us can always choose not to have sex with members of our own gender. I'm also not sure whether someone genetically predisposed to alcoholism could choose to find alcohol unappealing, but they can choose not to drink it.

As an aside, drinking alcohol is not a sin. I'm just using alcoholism as an illustrative example to run in parallel with homosexuality. It's just probably not very wise for a known alcoholic to drink very much.

I won't even mention any of the conclusions of the American Psychological Association, but instead ask you this: if the homosexual lifestyle is a choice, why would anyone choose to be homosexual, preferring a lifetime of persecution and, er, inability to marry to the more accepted lifestyle?

Damn, this list's discussion is really running the gamut of controversy. Just don't go reading any books about abortion, Luke. :-)

People can choose to be homosexual because their genes predetermine them to be sexually attracted to males, because they want to 'rebel' (but like you, I ask: "would it be worth it?"), and because (hopefully not to often!) their upbringing is so messed up that they become sexually confused about their orientation, even if they are not genetically 'predisposed' to homosexuality.

I think you and APA are saying some people cannot choose not to be attracted to their own sex. I agree. But you can always choose whether or not you actually have intercourse with your own sex.

Yeah, I really didn't expect this. It's all very interesting, if occasionally exhausting. I'm glad when people step in and share their own viewpoint, but when every single involved Listologist, all people I respect, are standing confidently & intelligently on the other side of the dividing line... well, it's a bit tiring. But, I really enjoy it, so certainly not a request for less people to post their opinions.

I don't think there's anything to be said about abortion. Doesn't it all boil down to when you believe valuable life begins? And that's pretty arbitrary, I think. And I'm not going to bother opening the 'partial birth abortion' can-o-worms.

Maybe, to be more topical, I should read a book that claims to have mathematically calculated THE DEFINITIVE BEST FILMS OF ALL TIME.

Okay, so you agree that one can't choose what gender one is attracted to, but still believe homosexual intercourse is a sin. That's a start. It proposes a pretty bad life for people who happen to be attracted to their own sex though, eh? "Your choices are to have sex with people you're not attracted to, or don't have sex at all. You say you can't choose what gender you're attracted to? Too bad, sucks to be you, no sinning allowed."

Of course, given that you've told me premarital sex is also a sin, I wonder why so many Christians are opposed to gay marriage. Without it, gays don't even have the option of having marital sex. Gay marriage would make their sex only half as sinful as it currently is, right?

I'm sorry if we're wearing you out. We all definitely owe you a lot of thanks. Without you, we'd all be sitting around just agreeing about evolution, and where's the fun in that?

Regarding abortion - Some think that life begins at conception, but to that I say bah. I say a portion of life begins before conception. Billions of sperm and eggs are wasted every day. They aren't fertilized eggs, but these gametes have the potential to become human beings! I say, for every sperm or egg you waste, you should be charged with half a murder. This means that every time a man masturbates, he should be charged with at least 100 million murders.

I bet it's possible for therapy to let someone be attracted to the opposite sex, but I don't really know. Again, I'll take the easy way out and make the parallel to alcoholism: it probably really sucks to have a 'genetic addiction' to alcohol and then try to not drink, too. If you want, you could drag this back to the old question of 'Why would a benevolent creator allow so much pain and evil?' If you really want to discuss that, I'm willing, but I kinda hope it's not necessary.

I highly doubt that God measures sin in fractions, and I also doubt he would recognize a marriage between same-sex partners, anyway.

Holy crap I've committed... 365 billion murders! Seriously, though: I don't even really have an opinion on abortion right now - except partial abortion (mostly cuz it's just gross). The only thing the Bible could be inferred to say about it are a few verses that speak of God 'knowing' or 'loving' us in our mother's womb. Whether that means 'he knew we were coming,' or if it's just poetic, or if it means he considers fully valuable lives before we're born - I have no idea. As far as science goes, a sperm and egg are always alive, so I'm back up to 365 billion murders and my conscience can't withstand that pressure. I don't give much time to thinking about abortion anymore. It's strange that it's the #1 presidential voting factor for so many people I know, but when I ask them how they know when life begins according to the Bible (they're against abortion for religious reasons), they can't quote a single verse.

We are created in god's own image.

Yes, but that's so utterly vague I have no idea what it means. Do you?

Genesis... I believe it means that god has made man (male and female) with an eternal inner spirit that is in god's likeness. The human soul is as close as we will ever come to experiencing god in this world. The holy spirit resides in everyone. Everyone.

If you want to discuss this then let's do it somewhere else. If you don't I totally understand (and feel no need to respond.) This elevator is too crowded, I'll wait for the next one.

Yes, that sounds like the makings of a great discussion, but I agree that it's too crowded here. May I ask you more about that later, elsewhere?

I'll enthusiastically take you up on the offer to discuss this! How 'bout over here?

Reparative therapy to "cure" homosexuality has failed, failed, failed. That was part of the APA's evidence that homosexuality was not a choice. I think that's one of the key differences between alcoholism and homosexuality in your example. Alcoholics can get help, they can get therapy, they can go to clinics. But there's no way to stop people from being attracted to their same sex.

I think if a benevolent creator allows so much pain and evil, He should at least cut the pained a little slack. One person's genes make him inclined to pray every day and follow every rule in the Bible; another person's genes make him inclined to do all the bad things the Bible tells us about. The first guy has it easy, the second guy has it pretty rough. Why should they both be subjected to the same standard? Religion should be about doing what you're capable of.

I won't argue the religion (damn, how did we get into talking about abortion after I made a joke about how we shouldn't talk about it?), but in terms of the science, your blood cells are alive too, so every time you bleed, that's another million murders. There are also living cells in your saliva, so make sure you don't spit.

Your complaint about 'He should at least cut the pained a little slack,' reminds me of the parable of the workers in the vineyard, where the landlord makes seperate deals with several workers to pay them a certain amount of money for working in his field that day. One worker he meets in the morning agrees to work his field all day for X amount of money. Another work he speaks with later also agrees to work the field for the rest of the day for X amount of dollars. This happens several times. At the end of the day, the landlord lines 'em up and pays them each X amount of dollars. The guys who have been there the longest complain, saying they should get more money than those who arrived late in the day and didn't work as long - but the landlord had made agreements with each of them that both thought were reasonable at the time of hire. I still feel that was all unfair, but it the parable illustrates (among other things) that God's ways are not ours. I may not understand why or how he does certain things or makes certain choices. Indeed, I even wish he thought more like I did (because obviously, I have the best notion of what is fair and beneficial and right ). But God's ways are not our ways. We just have to have faith that he knows what he's doing.

Didn't know that reparative therapy for homosexuality has failed - that's too bad! I'll resort to prayer. God may also reveal some helpful science shortly.

This discusses a famous series of studies that show genetics to be very important in determining one's sexual orientation (since the rate of mutual homosexuality in identical twins is far higher than the average). But at 50% correlation, at least 1 out of 2 people who are genetically identical to someone who is gay are not gay themselves, so obviously there are other factors. It may also indicate that nurture & environment can 'overcome' a genetic predisposition to homosexuality, and that nurture and environment can 'overcome' a genetic predisposition to heterosexuality. And many ex-gay ministries (here's one in my area, and a story about another nearby) might have something to say about your assertion that "reparative therapy to 'cure' homosexuality has failed, failed, failed." No therapy always works, or even often works, but these ministries have seen that it can work.

My own beliefs about homosexuality are also influenced by my own experience. I personally know a man who had serious leanings toward homosexuality in his teenage years and early 20s, which he now attributes to familial sexual abuse, a controlling mother, and an absent father. Since then, however, he has undergone many years of spiritual and psychological therapy. He is now happily married to a beautiful woman and has conceived several children with her. And actually, he is my only close friend to ever reveal past or present homosexuality to me, so that is my closest personal experience with homosexuality and it reflects that sexual orientation can be changed.

"[Predisposition to homosexuality] proposes a pretty bad life for people who happen to be attracted to their own sex." Our sinful nature proposes a pretty tough life for people who happen to be... human. We are predisposed at birth to lie when it's convenient, steal when we're starving or coveting, lust when we see something our flesh desires, verbally assault others when they threaten us, etc. In your terms: "Too bad, sucks to be you, no sinning allowed." But here's how Jesus might have said it: "I know it's difficult; indeed, impossible. But if you want to obey me, I will give you the strength. If you love me, I will give you joy in hardship. And if you fight your sinful nature with me, I will know that you truly love me. If you were predisposed to always love and obey me, I'd be wasting my love and creativity on a planet of robots, and that's not what pleases me." Still sounds like a raw deal here on earth, but I think you can see where He's coming from.

"it reflects that sexual orientation can be changed" - Okay, it can work, though the practice has encountered more failure than success. But is this really something we want going on in our society? I mean, imagine alternate societal standards where heterosexuality was considered evil and homosexuality embraced as the only pure love. Pretend the Bible doesn't say anything about homosexuality or heterosexuality, and you're straight. Would you want to undergo this therapy?

I do think in rare cases that someone could think they were homosexual as a means of rebelling or getting attention, but I think it's far more likely to see gays repressing their natural tendencies in order to fit in. And I don't think that's a very stable way to be. Sure, you can bury your true sexual preference and hide it behind a life of smiles, but I don't think that's a healthy way to live.

Lukeprog, I hate to break it to you, but the tides are turning in favor of the gays. They're one of the last groups of people that still experience constant discrimination. The Bible was used to justify killing Jews during the Crusades, it was used to justify slavery before the Civil War, it was used to justify laws against interracial marriage and sex after the Civil War, and it's now being used to justify repressing homosexuality. It's only a matter of time before this discriminated group throws off the oppression just like so many others have done. My friend told me he had heard the other day that among young people, 4 in 5 support gay marriage, whereas among senior citizens, 1 in 5 support it. And those people are dying out. I've seen this manifest itself in my everyday life as well: the young Republicans I know tend to be Republican mainly for economic or war/terrorism-related reasons; they at least support civil unions for gays. It might not happen soon as long as we have a Republican Congress, but the times, they are a-changin', my friend.

You must be a very strong, courageous man to find faith in the ideas expressed in your last paragraph. But with all due respect, I'm glad to be a Jew. I don't know how I'd live if I thought humans were naturally evil and the sole point of life is to suppress my desire to sin. Lighten up, Jesus. :-)

If you take God out of the equation, I have no problem with homosexuality. It wasn't me who decided homosexuality was wrong. If God and His Word never existed, I'd have no problem with homosexuality, and I wouldn't want to undergo therapy to change from straight to gay. But the whole point from my end is that God has decided it is wrong and he tells us so.

Again, it's always difficult to suppress our sinful nature. Homosexuality is not a sin that is a struggle for me, but lust, lying, stealing, and a hundred others are sins I must constantly battle. It's certainly exhausting to live this way, but it's easier with God's help and God blesses those who love him with everlasting joy. I have a hard time deciding whether I want everlasting joy or instant gratification, but deep down I'm pretty sure everlasting joy is superior.

"[Gays are] one of the last groups of peopole that still experinece constant discrimination." Yup, gays and redheads. Gays, at least, are gaining ground. I don't want gays to experience discrimination. That's not what I'm about. I don't hate gays. I hate the sin of homosexuality. Just like I hate jealousy, but I don't hate my friends who struggle constantly with jealousy. And while I don't see any reason to exclude gays from job markets or social functions, I do not support gay marriage because I do not support the sin of homosexuality. Continuing my (poor) analogy, I also don't see any reason to exclude jealous people from job markets or social functions, but I don't support any legislation that gives them rewards for being jealous.

Of course, homosexuality will continue with or without legal gay marriage, but I will not support something that encourages what I believe is sin.

The Bible has been used to justify killing Jews, enslaving blacks, and bashing gays. The Koran has been used to justify mass terrorism. Fraudulent student papers have been used to justify war. These arguments due not invalidate their sources, only the people who use them for hatred and destruction.

I wouldn't say the sole point of life is to suppress sinful desires. It does seem to be a battle that pops up every day for me, though. And I don't have all the answers or the perfect perspective, I just have faith.

Yes, I guess I was trying to make things too black and white. Okay, if God said homosexuality was good and heterosexuality is evil in the Bible, would you take the therapy since you're straight?

Do you really think legal gay marriage will encourage more homosexual sex? I've always heard the stereotype that married couples have less sex than unmarried ones. It's the sex that you think is a sin, not the actual attraction, right? So how would monogamy encourage more homosexual sex? I think it would lessen it.

I am absolutely not saying that interpretations of the Bible invalidate the Bible. Indeed, even after certain interpretations of the Bible began to be seen as outdated and corrupt, the Bible lived on. What I am saying is that I think people will begin to interpret the Bible as being less and less homophobic. You may say that the Bible says homosexuality is wrong, but that statement will become a product of your time, much like saying the Bible says interracial marriage is wrong. As history has shown us, the Bible can be interpreted to mean whatever you want; as society's mores change, so does our understanding of the Bible.

God would want me to change, yes. Whether or not I'd obey and take therapy I cannot know.

Will gay marriage encourage more homosexual sex? No idea, but I forgot to point out that the real issue here is that gay sex does not respect God's institution of marriage as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman. Any other kind of marriage does not have God's favor. That's why I don't support gay marriage.

I think the Bible is a bit clearer on homosexuality than on interracial marriage. I don't even know what verses people tried to use to ban interracial marriage, but Leviticus 18:22 is pretty clear on homosexuality: "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable."

So would you support civil unions that provided two men or two women with all the same legal rights as marriage but simply had a different name? If not, how about if it was proven that civil unions reduce homosexual sex?

The thing is, I'm sure the people who used the Bible to argue against interracial marriage thought that the Bible was just as clear on the issue as you think it is clear on homosexuality. But you don't even know what verses supposedly support these claims, because they're interpreted differently today. So the verses about homosexuality will find some alternate interpretation too. I've actually heard one argument that all Biblical statements against homosexuality were due to the fact that homosexuality was closely associated with male prostitution in those days, and that God would think differently about an actual loving homosexual relationship. If that doesn't work for you, use your imagination. Grossness: Maybe historians will discover that there was a practice of removing a man's genitals and having other men have sex with the hole that remained, and that's what God was talking about - literally lying with a man as one lies with a woman. Or maybe people will just begin to see the statements as outdated, like they've conveniently ignored so many other Biblical laws. I don't know how it's going to happen, but I'm fairly sure it will. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday, every gay will have his day.

I'm not sure I would support civil unions for gays that weren't technically 'marriage' because they still acknowledge homosexuality as a valid practice; it's not, because God said so. :-)

I understand the argument you are making with people who were sure the Bible said interracial marriage was sin, but I think it sidesteps the real debate. You're arguing for the subjectivity of Biblical interpretation, but don't you think that somewhere there is a single set of truths God intended to communicate through the Bible? If you want to argue about what the Bible says, we should be arguing about why the verses in the Bible that address homosexuality show God's intention to condemn or condone it.

Arguments for Christians as 'intolerant' toward gays are similarily avoiding the real issues. Everyone is tolerant and intolerant of certain actions and people, and everyone has their own line between the two. Are you intolerant of child molestation, rape, murder, or massive corporate theft? I'd imagine you are. So, slapping people with labels like 'intolerant' avoids the real issue. Why are you intolerant of murder? I hope you have a good reason. Why are you tolerant of homosexuality? I hope you have a good reason. I'm intolerant of homosexuality for all the reasons I've listed above, and you're tolerant of the same issue for different reasons. Labels skirt the issue.

Somewhere, sometime, someone has said this all far better than I. They also spent more than 60 seconds on it (haha! Suckers).

With the comparison to interracial marriage, I was arguing that sometime down the road, gays are going to get the rights that (IMO) they deserve. That was the real debate to me, not whether I believed this was right (which is what you seem to want to debate about). But hey, I'm game.

I don't think there's a list of truths that God meant to communicate, but I do think there's a general idea of what morality should be like that the Bible intends to get across. People's idea of what this concept of morality is has changed over time. I don't think that homophobia is part of the main idea of the Bible, because it just doesn't make sense. I mean, if the Bible contained a few verses in which God insisted we all go out at 3:58 pm on every Tuesday and do a naked fish-slapping dance, do you think people would still be doing this today? Of course not. Because it doesn't make sense.

You've said this before, but most of God's laws just make sense. They're good for us for practical purposes, and if they're not, they were practical when the Bible was being formed. It was easy to get sick from eating pig meat back then, or from not preparing meat to be kosher the way the laws described; it was easy to get diseases from having an uncircumsized penis; they didn't have modern medicine or good contraceptives, so sleeping around was a bad idea; and it was easier to pick up STDs from other men. But most of that has changed for Christianity. We have better ways of preparing meat, so you gave up on keeping kosher. We have better medicine, so some of you gave up on getting circumsized. But you still hang on to this sex thing in spite of everything. Sure, you could argue that people still get STDs and still get pregnant against their will, but there are things we can do to lessen this aside from ruling out premarital sex entirely; and at the same time, people are still getting sick from bad meat. You can't get mad cow disease from kosher beef.

I am tolerant of homosexuality because it's not hurting anyone. Murder removes a human being of his/her life and causes all the victim's friends and family much grief. Rape and child molestation are extremely emotionally damaging for the victim as well as anyone he/she tells about it. Massive corporate theft deprives many people of their hard-earned money. But homosexuality? Sure, AIDS used to be the gay disease, but that's certainly not true anymore, and I doubt that STDs are more widespread in the gay community than in the straight community. And homosexuality produces infinitely fewer abortions. Homophobia hurts more people than homosexuality. That's why homophobia can't be part of the main idea of the Bible; it just doesn't make sense.

Gays are going to get the rights they want. No argument here.

The reason I don't bother to stay kosher or follow ceremonial laws or, indeed, most laws from the Old Testament, is that Jesus brought a new covenant, a new way of living (I believe). Jesus affirmed a few of the Old Testament laws (sexual purity among them) in the New Testament, so those remain, but he didn't make any points about continuing to avoid pork.

The Bible doesn't preach hatred of gays or homophobia. I don't hate or fear gays. The Bible (New Testament, too) simply calls homosexuality sin. There are sins against other people (murder, rape, theft) and there are sins against yourself (drunkenness, gluttony) and sins that some argue hurt no one (lust, homosexuality), and all are sins against God.

Where 'homophobia' and 'main idea of the Bible' came from I can't imagine.

Keep in mind I intend to always be changing - who I am, what I do, what I believe. So don't stop trying to convince me unless we start running in circles (which we soon will, I imagine).

Sorry, I was merely using "homophobia" as a simpler word to mean "thinking that homosexuality is evil." As for the main idea of the Bible, I was taking that to mean the truths that God wishes to convey through the Bible - the stuff that's really important.

Okay, but disregarding my wondering why Christians gave up some laws but not others, do you see my point? That most Biblical laws made practical sense at some point, and forbidding homosexuality as a whole just doesn't make sense? My guess is that homosexuality was associated with a lot of bad things at the time, and that's why it's in there. I do know that homosexuality in Roman times was not considered immoral, but that it was all about power (one could be mocked for giving without receiving), and young boys were considered sex objects. This could be the kind of society that the Bible is trying to prevent.

I mean, I could even see how lust could hurt people; too much lust can stimulate a very shallow culture, force advertisers to use sex to sell their products, and make it so that over half of marriages end in divorce (whoops, too late). But the gays never did anything to hurt me.

Yes, your "forbidding homosexuality doesn't make sense" is similar to my "I have few problems with homosexuality except that it's sin."

From en.wikipedia.org's entry on homosexuality:

Attempts to modify sexual orientation (known as "conversion therapies" and so far targeted only at LGB-identified individuals) have been condemned by numerous professional organizations in the scientific field for causing depression - sometimes leading to suicide - and being of little value. In 2001 Dr. Robert Spitzer, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University announced a study indicating that "reparative" therapy has a failure rate on the order of 99.98%. The American Psychological Association in 1997 passed a resolution declaring therapists in these groups engaged in such conversion therapies to be following unethical and unhealthy practice.

This post won't be an argument for or against homosexuality or gay marriage or reparative therapy, but I'll let you know what's going on in my head.

I'm surprised not to have been zapped by lightning when I occasionally wish God and the Bible didn't exist. Then I wouldn't have to reconcile observations in the physical world (evolution, ancient earth) with a literal interpretation of the Bible (everything created in 6 days, 6000 years ago). I wouldn't have to reconcile God's principles (homosexuality is sin, God's power can forgive and heal the sin) with psychological surveys (reparative therapy fails 99.9% of the time). I could fuck and lie and hate and fuck and steal and be lazy and fuck and care only for myself and take responsibility for only the natural consequences of such actions. I could do what I wanted and pursue my happiness and live under my own philosophy.

But God has shown himself to me pretty clearly many times, and he continues to do so. He tells me He loves me and wants the best for me, but his 'best for me' (which involves service, poverty, and sacrifice) is not my 'best for me' (which involves endless amounts of debauchery). I wish I could ignore him, but I can't. So, at least I believe. My next step is to be happy I believe, embrace God and his ways, and surrender my life to him. Those who have done so tell me it's wonderful, but they are not rich and successful in the MTV way.

Again, none of this is an argument in our debate, just some (surprise! ... Not.) revealing personal data.

You continue to confuse me, Luke. If what God's idea of what's best for you is not what you want to do, and you're gonna get into Heaven anyway for believing in Jesus, why do you do these things? Live up your life, then live up your afterlife, since you're getting into heaven either way, right?

Or maybe not. I don't think all this is what religion is about. I know a good number of atheists or non-religious people, and most of them are very kind, generous people. The hedonistic pagans depicted in the Bible are relics of their ancient age. I don't believe humans are naturally inclined to want to lie, hate, steal, and care only for themselves, but I don't believe God demands a life of service, poverty, and sacrifice either. God is fair, God wants us to be happy, and God certainly wants us to fuck.

But even though you'll be forgiven for all your sins, you don't sin anyway. I don't think you would even if religion didn't exist (but our ideas of morality still did). I mean, if God said that May 26, 2005 didn't count, that you could do whatever you wanted and it would all be forgotten on the 27th, would you really act all that differently tomorrow?

Yeah, I'm a complicated guy. Much of the time I don't even understand myself, and I'm not just saying that because it sounds funny.

Don't think I haven't asked myself these questions, and don't think I've ever come up with a satisfying answer! :-) The eternal rewards bestowed upon the faithful in heaven aren't very appealing to me; I'll be in heaven, that's good enough for me!

Only God can know for sure if someone is going to heaven, but I believe that living a that does not serve or pursue God and willfully disobeys him again and again will not get you to heaven. But truly, I want more than heaven. I want God's joy and peace right now while I'm on earth, and he seems to be more generous with those when you're working with him instead of against him. I do believe God demands a life of service, poverty, and sacrifice. I'd pull up the Scripture I'm basing that on, but I'm too lazy.

God says he 'forgets' our sins when we beg forgiveness anyway, but if May 26th TRULY didn't count (or better yet, July 26th, so I could prepare), then hell yes I would act differently. If God would be totally pleased with anything I did on July 26th, I would totally get ready to party.

Service probably, sacrifice maybe, but poverty? Who says you have to be poor to be faithful to God? I think that's a pretty arbitrary qualifier. In any case, do you think a lifetime of service, poverty, and sacrifice will make you personally joyful?

See, this is what I can't identify with in your idea of God. You seem to be fostering this repression because of God's laws, and if he turned his back for one day, damn would you be living it up. It's like God is Big Brother and since he's watching, you can't run naked in the forest and have sex with Julia. God isn't a totalitarian dictator; he's a fair, understanding being. Besides, wouldn't you care about the laws you'd be breaking, the feelings you'd be hurting, and all the consequences of your actions on July 26th? I think God makes laws because they're good for us, not good for him. If God said he'd be okay with anything I did July 26th, I wouldn't do anything differently. And it's not like I normally live a life of constant stealing, lying, killing, and fucking.

If you want to argue scripture, argue scripture. If you want to argue theology, argue theology. If you want to argue morality, argue morality. If you want to argue social policy, argue social policy. If you want to argue belief, argue belief.

If you want to argue all of those and more, argue.

Laws I'd be breaking? If you're referring to human laws then no, I don't pay much attention to them. Feelings I'd be hurting? I can party without hurting any feelings. Your view of God does seem a lot easier and freer, but I just don't believe that it's true from what I read in the Bible.

Believe me, Luke: lying, hating, stealing, and caring only for yourself would hurt feelings. That only leaves you with fucking and being lazy on your laundry list, and those could both hurt feelings too depending on the circumstances. And you might pay more attention to the law if you were arrested.

My view of God is more laid-back than yours, but I've also never wished God didn't exist.

If you believed the truth about God was how I believe it to be, might you wish God didn't exist?

Perhaps, but I still don't think religion should involve constantly resenting God and following his laws against your will. So if I believed what you believed, I'd probably look into a different viewpoint of God. This is just me, of course, and I'm still impressed that you stick with it.

Religion "shouldn't" involve resenting God, but I believe there is absolute truth so I have to believe what I believe is true, not just believe what would make me happiest. I think it'd be sweet if there were highly-developed aliens on Mars, but believing that because it'd make me happy won't make it so. I'd love to believe that promiscuous sex (for my sake) and homosexuality (for others' sex) were acceptable to God, but choosing to believe that because it'd make my life easier won't make it so, either. I can put on sunglasses but that doesn't darken the sun.

Right, I certainly wasn't suggesting that you change your beliefs, I was just saying that this idea of God wouldn't jive with me. I believe God is the most perfect being, that this entails being fair and understanding, and thus I don't think he would make these extreme demands of us.

God is so far beyond what we puny humans may think of as fair and understanding. And don't you think God asking Abram to kill his own son for no reason was a bit of an extreme demand? Naturally, there are other examples.

That was just a test that God used to see the extent of Abraham's loyalty. God didn't make Abraham actually go through with it. The fact is, the depiction of God in the Bible is not very consistent. There are times (like in the book of Job) when he is just plain capricious. But my image of God is the one that was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, but was talked down by Abraham into letting them stand if there were 10 righteous men, and then talked into letting Lot's family leave when they couldn't come up with 10.

In my neck of the woods, I find two groups that seem to have an active disdain towards Christians. The first consists of many intellectuals who are not Christians; it is tough to live in Oral Roberts' backyard being a religious minority without building up some resentment, and some intellectuals feel their intelligence gives them the moral stepping stone to hike up and to look down on the others.

The other, perhaps more vicious group is made up of ex-conservative Christians. Some of them seem to have an odd sense of self-loathing, as if they are disgusted that they ever believed the 'silly' things others do, and some of them can lash out with an intense fury.

The groups are by no means mutually exclusive.

And with this lame post, I think I will end my gross generalizations and leave this thread to be yanked on by others. :)

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Lame, as in non-epic and unassuming?

I appreciated your input into our discussion and hope you will do so again whenever you think you can add something meaningful again.

No, lame simply because I am throwing out many generalizations, and even though I am trying to make sure that people realize I am not using my broad brush to paint everybody with one color, I still fear I might offend somebody.

These observations are just from my experience, and I by no means think that they encompass everybody. I know you know that, but I still feel a bit uncomfortable tossing them out.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

This reminds me of some of the cheese I used to get in my inbox or that I saw on snopes.com. You know what I'm talking about...

The professor watched his students walk into the room, chuckling evilly to himself. He stroked his handlebar moustache in delight. Today was the day.

As soon as class started, the professor posed a question to his students. "Has any of you ever seen God?"

None of the students spoke up.

"Therefore," said the professor, "since God is invisible, God must not exist! Praise Satan!"

As the horrifying realization washed over the students, they all broke into tears. They clutched each other for warmth, terrified by the cold, godless world that surrounded them.

But suddenly, one student bravely spoke up. "I've never seen Antarctica, but Antarctica exists."

The students were silent for a moment, then they burst out into applause. Their tears of sadness became tears of joy. The professor, not having considered this logic, burst into a cloud of smoke and was never seen again.

If you send this story to 10 friends, something good will happen to you tomorrow! And God bless you!

:)

So you get those too, eh?

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

There is no way that I'm making a sweeping generalization or that I think you or lbangs are serving up some of the cheese. I just want to recognize the sincerity, zeal and intellectual firepower that lukeprog is bringing to this swept cheese platter. Although he sometimes (often?) shoots from the lip, I wish that everyone had his intellectual stamina. (Strike that, I've already had to start proofreading what I write and using the poison-pen makes my skull cross. People will just have to take turns riding the philosophical dynamo.)

When I try to write with such intellectual firepower I often end up just shooting myself in the foot in my mouth.

Thanks for the compliment, and I sincerely return it: You've dropped thermonuclear warheads around my pipe-bombs without ever putting a foot or bullet in your mouth. But, I'd like to defend myself against possible backlash over this obvious overestimation of my contributions here by pointing out that I am still in the process of forming my worldview, and I'm using all of your diverse opinions to help me out. So, some of the confusion in my posts is due too my in-flux worldview, which is a tiny bit different this week than it was last week, and the week before, and so on for a couple months.

'shooting myself in the foot in my mouth' - did you come up with that yourself? Either way, I'm stealing it, and you can't stop me.