Archive for the 'God' Category

21
Oct
08

always free cheddar in a mousetrap….

Just a little something I found amusing……..

I’d sell your heart to the junkman baby
For a buck, for a buck
If you’re looking for someone
To pull you out of that ditch
You’re out of luck, you’re out of luck

The ship is sinking
The ship is sinking
The ship is sinking
There’s leak, there’s leak,
In the boiler room
The poor, the lame, the blind
Who are the ones that we kept in charge?
Killers, thieves, and lawyers

God’s away, God’s away,
God’s away on Business. Business.
God’s away, God’s away,
God’s away on Business. Business.

Digging up the dead with
A shovel and a pick
It’s a job, it’s a job
Bloody moon rising with
A plague and a flood
Join the mob, join the mob
It’s all over, it’s all over, it’s all over
There’s a leak, there’s a leak,
In the boiler room
The poor, the lame, the blind
Who are the ones that we kept in charge?
Killers, thieves, and lawyers
God’s away, God’s away, God’s away
On Business. Business.
God’s away, God’s away,
On Business. Business.

[Instrumental Break]

Goddamn there’s always such
A big temptation
To be good, To be good
There’s always free cheddar in
A mousetrap, baby
It’s a deal, it’s a deal
God’s away, God’s away, God’s away
On Business. Business.
God’s away, God’s away, God’s away
On Business. Business.
I narrow my eyes like a coin slot baby,
Let her ring, let her ring
God’s away, God’s away,
God’s away on Business.
Business…

–Tom Waits
from the album “Blood Money” (2002)

18
Jun
08

Faith Affirmed

Last October, while I was in California on vacation, I was going through a crisis of faith, as many believers occasionally do. Maybe it was all that time I spent debating the atheists, but for whatever reason, I began to question my own beliefs. And so, on a chilly October night, while I was standing on a beach contemplating the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean,  I prayed, like many millions of believers before me. I asked God to give me a sign, a small sign, any sign at all, that He exists.

A few nights later, the Red Sox rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the American League Championship series to beat the Cleveland Indians, and went on to steamroll the Colorodo Rockies and win their second World Series in four years. Later, the New England Patriots ran off a perfect, first-in-history, 16-0 perfect season. Two Red Sox rookie pitchers have thrown no-hitters, one in just his second major league start, and another after battling back from cancer. And last night, after 22 years in the wilderness, the Boston Celtics won their 17th NBA Championship.

God is not only going out of his way to show me He exists, but He is clearly revealing himself to be a big Boston fan.

“But wait a minute”, you object, “the Patriots LOST the Super Bowl, remember? Where was your God then?”

Like all men of faith, I never let an inconvenient fact get in the way of my dearly held beliefs. To my mind, the fact that they lost simply validates the theology of Manichaeism.

“Hold on, not so fast”, you say. “What about the Bruins? They haven’t won anything in years! What’s your God doing for them?”

Oh, that’s easy, I scoff, secure in my faith: God, like all sentient beings with an IQ higher than the room temperature, doesn’t give a shit about hockey.

Finally you trot out your last, and seemingly most devastating argument: “Surely Lakers fans were praying for their team. Wasn’t God listening to them?”

The True Believer will already know the answer to this question:

No.

Obviously.

Ok, moving off this rather dubious metaphysical plane, I realize it may be difficult for some to realize just how big this is for the Boston sports fan. Bostonians, in all frankness, have suffered from a collective inferiority complex for a long, long time. The Patriots (or as they were formerly known, the Patsies) were, for years, the doormats of the NFL.

The Red Sox were like that girl in college who teased the hell out of you, but always ultimately left you high and dry. The Sox always played second fiddle to the New York Yankees. New York got Joe DiMaggio, Boston got Dom DiMaggio. New York got Babe Ruth. Boston got “No, No, Nanette”. The Yankees won 26 World Series. The Red Sox won two pennants.

And on top of all that, New York and L. A. are just bigger, glitzier, and occupy a more prominent place on the world stage. The really, really rich and famous don’t live in Boston. They live in New York or L. A.

But the one thing we Bostonians always had was the Celtics. “Celtics Pride” translated into Boston Pride. They perennially gave us a reason to hold our heads up. In 13 seasons between 1957 and 1969, the Celtics won the NBA Championship an astounding 11 times, including a mind boggling 8 consecutive championships between 1959 and 1966. They beat the Lakers in the finals seven times (eight, if you count the 1959 finals when the Lakers were still in Minneapolis). It was an unparalleled record of success that even the Yankees couldn’t match. No matter how bad the Patsies were, no matter how many times the Red Sox disappointed us, no matter how out of control our collective inferiority complex got, we always had the Celtics.

The Celtics remained a force to be reckoned with and a source of regional pride throughout the ’70’s and ’80’s, winning four more championships, including one more over the Lakers. But after their 1986 Championship over the Houston Rockets, the famous Celtics “luck of the Irish” began to run out.

The first ominous sign that the Leprechaun had deserted them was the unexpected death of their first round draft pick, Len Bias. Touted as the successor to Larry Bird, he died of a cocaine induced heart attack, ironically while at a party celebrating his being drafted by the Celtics.

A few years later, in July of 1993, Reggie Lewis, another rising young star, died of a heart attack brought on by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy at the age of 27.

What followed from then on were years in which the Celtics occasionally enjoyed periods of mediocrity, but more often just plain stunk. The glory years of the past seemed like the stuff of mythology. The Celtics were just one more basketball team, nothing special.

But today, that’s all changed. Boston is now home to arguably the best baseball, football, and basketball teams in the world. Boston is second best to no one. Sometimes God does answer prayers.

Sometimes He even says “yes”.

-smith

22
Mar
08

Resurrexi

Pascha nostrum immolatus est Christus
(Christ our Paschal lamb is sacrificed)
-Dominica Resurrectionis (Gregorian Mass for Easter)

These words, originally from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, form the entire Alleluja section of the Gregorian Mass for Easter, written some time in the 10th century. Or, should I say, written down some time in the 10th century, as the Mass itself is undoubtedly much older than that.

I love Gregorian chant. I love how this music floats down through the mists of time, envelopes me in its seductive, meter-less rhythms, and carries me away to a world of monasteries and mysteries. It is spiritual and mystic, and very, very, beautiful. The haunting melisma in the word “immolatus” (sacrificed) still sends a chill up and down my spine every time I hear it.

Easter is a very different holiday from Christmas. Christmas is a holiday that even an atheist can get into, if he so chooses. Uber-atheist Richard Dawkins admits that he “likes singing Christmas carols”, and describes himself as a “Cultural Christian”. Apart from the fact that Christmas has been secularized and commercialized almost beyond recognition, Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Nothing especially remarkable about that, really; we celebrate the birthdays of lots of people: Washington, Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., for example. It does not require a belief in divinity to celebrate anyone’s birth.

Easter is very different. Unlike Christmas, one cannot separate the the holiday from its religious underpinnings. What is being celebrated here is no less than the idea that someone was resurrected from the dead. While one can believe that Jesus lived without being divine, one cannot believe that Jesus rose from the dead without believing in the divine. You either believe it, or you don’t. The only middle ground is agnosticism.

Personally, I guess I fall into the agnostic camp on this one. I’ve reached a point in my life where I’ve shed many, but not all, of my religious beliefs. Like many people nowadays, I find little that is appealing, and much to be deplored, in religious orthodoxy. But unlike the atheist, I am not prepared to state that something cannot exist beyond the capability of my five senses to understand it. There is much in the universe we will never understand. The unseen can still exist.

As far as Jesus goes, he lived during a time when eschatological “prophets” were a dime a dozen. Yet while the rest have all been forgotten, he somehow inspired a group of men to spread his teachings, even to the point of sacrificing their lives in the process. He quite literally changed the world forever. Divine? I don’t know, but he clearly had something going for him. The real sin is that Christianity has strayed so far, so often, from the teachings of Christ.

But I still love Gregorian chant.

Happy Easter, to all those who celebrate it.

-smith

13
Dec
07

Pillars of Heaven

“A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.”

–Carl Sagan, “Pale Blue Dot”
.

This haunting picture is not something out of science fantasy, but is an actual picture of the Eagle Nebula, and was taken on April 1, 1995 with the Hubble Space Telescope. These ghostly looking pillars are in fact made up of concentrated hydrogen gas, the most basic cosmic building block. What you are seeing here is literally an incubator for new stars. The size of each bud on the head of this giant star factory is roughly equivalent to our entire solar system. You can read more about this and other wonders of the universe here.

If God does exist, then his existence is most clearly manifested, not in so-called Holy Scripture, but rather in stunning displays of natural wonder such as this. A god who had to rest after six days of labor is not a very inspiring god, but a God who has the breadth of vision (to say nothing of the attention span) to create a universe such as ours is an awe inspiring God indeed.

–Smith

04
Sep
07

My answer to the atheists

As some of you know, I am engaged in a life or death struggle with the atheists over on Matt’s Notepad. 😉 What began as an offhand remark on my part has evolved (there’s that word again) into a rather interesting debate. I took a few days off to re-examine my own positions and beliefs, and posted a rather lengthy reply to their several points. I must admit that what started off as a simple comment turned into one of my better posts, so I decided to post it here on my own blog as well. I realize that theology isn’t for everybody, but it is a subject that is of interest to me, and I guess I just needed to get this out of my system. And yes, I am trying to be funny with the picture.  If you want to follow this debate go to the post below and click the link.

I’ve taken a few nights off to sort of step back and evaluate what it is I believe and don’t believe. That in itself has certainly been a benefit of having joined in this debate. Having done so, I would like to make a few points, as well as respond, directly or indirectly, to some of the comments made previously.

First, I think it would be helpful to review just what we agree on, before venturing into the turbulent waters of disagreement. I am a staunch evolutionist. I am a believer in the scientific method as a whole. I believe that science, not religion, has taught us most of what we really know about the universe we happen to be a very, very small part of.

I have little patience with religious fundamentalists of any denomination. I deplore the way they dismiss rationale argument with an unwavering faith in the correctness of their beliefs, irrespective of any facts to the contrary. In this I am in complete agreement with Dawkins.

As I’ve stated before, I am NOT trying to prove the existence of God here. I know I can’t. In fact the only reason I’m using the word God instead of a phrase like “higher power” is because it’s easier to type.

But here’s the crux of my argument: neither Dawkins nor anyone else can prove that he DOESN’T exist. Therefore in the absence of proof, the non-existence of God is not a fact, it is a belief, or, if you prefer, an opinion. Therefore atheism is merely a belief, albeit a belief in the non-existence of something. And as such, the proponents of this belief must accept the unpleasant truth that they MAY be wrong, just as adherents of traditional (and non-traditional) religious thought must also accept that their views on God and the universe may be wrong (although they rarely do, another point where I agree with Dawkins).

Please don’t hit me with the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” argument. The fact that I can’t disprove the existence of anything you happen to dream up on the spot (other than to make the fairly obvious point that it can’t exist because you just told me you made it up) in no way lets you off the hook here. Once you make the move from “I don’t believe there is a god” to “There is no god”, at that point you have ceased to state a negative . You have attempted to make an argument, and like all arguments, you have to have some proof, otherwise what you’re stating is not fact, it is opinion.

I asked you folks if you believed in any sort of higher power. You all replied in the negative. I asked if you believed in life on other planets. Your responses were:

“while intelligent life could exist on other planets, we honestly just don’t know enough about life or other planets to have any real clue.”

“Life? Life of some sort … good chance it exists somewhere in the universe. Probability tells us that. If it’s Intelligent … not enough data yet.”

And

“Intelligent life elsewhere in the universe – definitely more plausible.”

The reason I asked this was because I wanted to see to what extent you were willing to allow for the possibility of something existing, even if there were scant scientific evidence for it. And it seems that while there is little scientific evidence for the existence of intelligent life on other planets, you’re willing to at least consider it because, to you, it seems plausible, given the enormous number of planets in the universe. On this I happen to agree with you.

But once you’ve admitted the possibility of life elsewhere, then you must also allow for the possibility that this life is more advanced than us, not just in the technological sense, but also in the, yes, evolutionary sense. And once you’ve acknowledged that a higher form of life may exist in the universe, you have to ask, how much higher? Surely it is no great intellectual feat to imagine a form of life that exists on an infinitely higher plain than us. And if you allow for that, the notion of God is not really such a stretch, is it?

What I find truly fascinating about Dawkins is his willingness to accept the implausible when it’s convenient for his arguement. He writes: “The origin of life on this planet – which means the origin of the first self-replicating molecule – is hard to study, because it (probably) only happened once, 4 billion years ago and under very different conditions from those with which we are familiar. We may never know how it happened. Unlike the ordinary evolutionary events that followed, it must have been a genuinely very improbable – in the sense of unpredictable – event: too improbable, perhaps, for chemists to reproduce it in the laboratory or even devise a plausible theory for what happened.”

In other words, we don’t know. We may never know. So why is the notion of some sort of higher power so unthinkable, given the general lack of understanding that Dawkins admits is part and parcel of this issue?

Another quote: “It is as though there were, say, half a dozen dials representing the major constants of physics. Each of the dials could in principle be tuned to any of a wide range of values…. Almost all of these knob-twiddlings would yield a universe in which life would be impossible. You can estimate the very low odds against the six knobs all just happening to be correctly tuned, and conclude that a divine knob-twiddler must have been at work. But, as we have already seen, that explanation is vacuous because it begs the biggest question of all. The divine knob twiddler would himself have to have been at least as improbable as the settings of his knobs.”

This argument is self serving. Dawkins concludes that a “divine knob twiddler” is more improbable than the universe itself, merely because it doesn’t fit into his overall view of the universe. Dawkins and I agree: the universe is very, very, improbable. What Dawkins doesn’t seem (or want) to understand is that a reasonable, rational human being can look at this very improbability and come to a different conclusion about it than he has, one that includes the notion of a higher power.

And finally, there is this bit of musing: “Physicists already have reason to suspect that our universe – everything we can see – is only one universe among perhaps billions. Some theorists postulate a multiverse of foam, where the universe we know is just one bubble. Each bubble has its own laws and constants. Our familiar laws of physics are parochial bylaws. Of all the universes in the foam, only a minority has what it takes to generate life.”

Now let me see if I’ve got this straight: he says our universe is just a bubble amongst an infinite number of bubbles, and I’M living in fantasy land just because I happen to believe in a higher power of some kind?

The “multiple universe theory” is hardly new. But as things stand right now, while it is certainly fascinating, there is scant evidence for it, and more importantly, no way whatsoever of proving it by somehow discovering those other universes. As soon as Dawkins uses words like “suspect” and “postulate”, what he’s really saying is: “I don’t know. It just kind of makes sense to me”.

But as a means of factoring God out of the equation, the “anthropic principle” is a self-serving argument. It is a variation on the old idea that if you have an infinite number of monkeys pounding away on an infinite number of keyboards, eventually they will produce Shakespeare. This is patent nonsense. An infinite number of monkeys pounding away on an infinite number of keyboards will produce an infinite number of broken keyboards. But, say the adherents of the “anthropic principle”, what if we had an infinite number OF infinite numbers of monkeys…, etc.

Many scientists embrace this idea, but there also are many who don’t. Both groups seem to agree on one thing: it’s impossible to prove. But it may be impossible to disprove. Just like the existence or non-existence of God.

So Dawkin’s argument as to “why there is almost certainly no god” rests on the anthropic principal, which itself rests on an idea of multiple universes which even its proponents state is empirically unprovable. Apparently Richard Dawkins is free to make speculations about the universe that are unfounded by any scientific evidence, but no one else is. Surely my belief in some kind of a higher power, the nature of which I in no way claim to know, is no sillier than the notion that our universe is one of billions. Conversely, this speculation which he is ready to believe has no more evidence to support than my belief. So why are Dawkins’ beliefs more valid than mine? If it’s good enough for Dawkins, it’s good enough for me.

So that said, is it so unreasonable to look at the universe, with all it’s complexity AND its implausibility (as even Dawkins admits), to SPECULATE about the POSSIBILITY of the existence of some higher power?

I look at the universe, and I surmise the existence Something Intelligent. You look at the same universe, and you don’t. Who can really say, given how little we truly know about it, who is right?

That’s all I’m saying here. As I’ve stated before, it is not Dawkins’ atheism which bothers me. But like the religious fundamentalist, his unshakable belief in the correctness of HIS position is arrogant, disturbing even, and puts him squarely in the same category as a Jimmy Swaggart, even if he’s arguing the opposite point.

–smith

29
Aug
07

God, anyone?

For those of you who are interested in such things, I am currently debating the existence of God, as well at the merits of well known atheistic gasbag Richard Dawkins, in a series of comments on another blog. The gentleman I’m debating is intelligent and articulate, and this is getting rather interesting.

Yeah, I know, I’ve got a lot of free time on my hands. But if you’re interested in this topic, or you just want to see two reasonably intelligent people debate, click here.

-Smith




taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood" ~ Dr. John H. Watson ************************
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