Blogging as a spiritual experience

Deutsche Version: Das Bloggen als spirituelle Erfahrung .

 

I have begun to blog several months ago after I realized it would be good to write down some of the numerous thoughts which go though my mind. Despite their tentative and evolving nature I have the hope they can be useful to other people dealing and struggling with similar issues.

I am deeply disturbed by the fact that legitimate debates and discussions between Christians and atheists are degenerating into rhetorical tricks, name-calling and emotional bullying.

Since I began blogging and commenting I’ve been confronted with very hostile people from both extremes of the political and religious spectrum (needless to say that their enmity was sometimes due to mistakes I did).

I have progressively realized that this represents a wonderful opportunity for me to follow one of Jesus hardest comments, namely loving one’s enemies like oneself.

 

Image

I haven’t real enemies in my real life and I almost never encounter people showing any kind of hostility against me. Things look really different on the Internet where many folks can allow themselves to be aggressive, disdainful and hateful without having to fear any personal consequence, being protected by the veil of anonymity.

This is where the temptation comes in to respond to this by using the same means. As Christians, it is vital to ask oneself, at that moment how one can love the other person in spite of her behavior, that is how to search her good despite all the anger one might feel inside.

Rebuking and using irony might sometimes be in order but NEVER with the goal to break her.

All this Internet experiences show me I have a lot of progresses to achieve in many respects. But this can be a marvelous way to become more and more loving and compassionate.

And as the apostle Paul would say, if I possess the best arguments of the world but don’t have love, I am nothing.

 

 

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

 

Advertisements

A Lesbian coming out as a commited Christian

Interview with Kimberly Knight about progressive faith and tolerance

I had the immense opportunity to have a chat conversation with Kimberly Knight, who spoke of her experience as being a passionate follower of Christ while being gay in an American context.

https://i2.wp.com/wildgoosefestival.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/WGF13-Kimberly-Knight.jpg

I report it as vividly as it happened. Both of us would be glad if her testimony would be of help for other struggling Christians.

Kimberly Knight: Hi there, so sorry. I took a little nap and it went a bit longer than I planned :$

Lothars Sohn: Alright I know that all too well :=) One feels kind of frustrated after that, doesn’t one? 😉

Kimberly Knight: 🙂

Lothars Sohn: Anyway I’m so glad and thankful you’ve accepted my invitation!

Kimberly Knight: my pleasure

Lothars Sohn: So I would like this to be more a conversation than an interview. So if you wish you can ask me things back

Kimberly Knight: ok – sounds good

Lothars Sohn: What would you tell us if you were to sum up the most important steps of your life?

Kimberly Knight: Wow, that is a big question…When asked, a few key places in my journey come to my mind: my childhood with my parents, though not perfect, was formative in good and challenging ways.I was fortunate to have both of my parents together until the day my mother died in her 60s…

Lothars Sohn: I’m sorry for that…it must have been very painful

Kimberly Knight: I was raised in the southern US and much of our lives revolved around food – holidays, daily meals, friendships.

Lothars Sohn: Is that not the case EVERYWHERE in America? 😉

Kimberly Knight: indeed but there’s nothing as good as southern fried chicken, buttermilk cornbread and a huge potof collard greens…I felt loved by my parents even if over the years it was clear we were so very different.

Lothars Sohn: I know that feeling all too well.

An important part of my faith journey happened when I was a teenager, we attended a church named Confederate Ave. A Baptist Church in downtown Atlanta. We worshiped with an all white congregation and I really felt like I belonged there, I loved the church, the youth group and the Wednesday night suppers.

Well, there is one Sunday that I will never forget.  The church was packed, more than I had ever seen. This was in the early 80s and people who had been members but not attending for some time were present. The reason that everyone came that day was to vote about a membership request and behold, the custodian for the church, an elderly black man, wanted to join the church. I understood that to mean he wanted to give his life to Christ that is how we talked about it, joining the church meant giving your life to Christ.

But when I witnessed the congregation voting, by a show of hands in the sanctuary, whether or not he would be allowed to join, I was devastated because it seemed to my young self that they were deciding whether or not he could give his life to Christ.

So in that instant I understood for the first time what religion looked like – and it looked like humans deciding who was worthy of God and who was not.

Lothars Sohn: Yes!

So I walked away from the church that day not to return for a decade but – i went to college and studied religion

Lothars Sohn: to a secular college?

Kimberly Knight: yes I thought a wholly academic approach would appease my mind and my heart

[Lothars Sohn: I had a similar feeling…

Kimberly Knight: well, that is what i told myself

Lothars Sohn: you were young…

Kimberly Knight: yes so I took my sweet time in undergraduate school and I was starting to understand who I was – well, i was confused and was trying to NOT understand who I was Through a series of bad and then somewhat better choices I was now attending a United Methodist church in my neighborhood

Lothars Sohn: and then you probably wondered: does God really want that for my earthly life?….

And my pastor (who would later come out too and start a UCC church) introduced me to my now partner and it was like God smacked me in the head with a cosmic frying pan. As I began to enter seminary I also started coming out and  I could feel God walking with me in such a tangible way like I had never felt before. 

When I kissed my wife for the very first time, I knew I was home though I kept waiting for it to feel bad, dirty and wrong – gross even, but it only felt more right every time she kissed or touched me and so I began the long process of shedding my old life and claiming the next part of my journey as God wanted it for me.

That is a long answer and there are many more points on the journey but – there you go

Lothars Sohn: of course, it was very poetically described :=)

Kimberly Knight: thank you – I have never blogged about that – not yet but likely will soon

Lothars Sohn: I’m looking forward to it! Now would be my next question

It is clear that (conservative) Evangelicalism in America is facing a great crisis. An increasing number of clever young people are leaving conservative and fundamentalist churches and oftentimes become very resentful atheists. What are your thoughts on this phenomenon?

Kimberly Knight: That we are in a great shift….some are calling it another Great Awakening in America

Lothars Sohn: For me it would be a Awakening if those folks gave up their wicked theological beliefs and worshiped a truly loving God instead of becoming militant atheists.

Kimberly Knight: I believe some people, with hungry minds and open hearts are engaging the Bible in ways they were specifically trained not to – with questions and faith rather than certitude and dogma

Lothars Sohn: I hope so, but I have experienced all too often how people who were fundamentalists turned into nasty antitheists who want to destroy every religion and oftentimes even Socialism for that matter

Kimberly Knight: indeed but that is not what I am seeing in the Emergent movement

There are plenty of atheists who are really just angry at religion and God but in the emergent movement something else is happening and it is becoming more progressive and it is moving toward activism.

Lothars Sohn: That’s also what I am aiming at with my blog.

Kimberly Knight: me too, exactly

Lothars Sohn: I am sure that fundamentalism is destroying Christianity

Kimberly Knight: well, in some ways – but it also may end up saving it, that is a weird thing to say, let me explain… perhaps the best thing to happen for LGBT rights is Westboro Baptist nonsense

Lothars Sohn: I understand but feel sad about them, often angry but also sad. I wish them to get “saved” from their wickedness.

Kimberly Knight: me too…but, if American Christianity had just idled along as bland and ineffective that might have killed it and was killing it, since that is not Christian either. But with the willful ignorance and the twisted rendering of the bible, people had something to get mad at – to awake from and were so tied to a life within the church they had to seek for answers that still equaled God

Lothars Sohn: This leads us to my next question

On of the purposes of my blog is to defend a form of progressive Christianity which is intellectually honest and rationally and morally acceptable.

One complaint of militant atheists (the so-called New Atheists) is that liberal and progressive Christians are dangerous because they legitimize the existence of fundamentalism. I believe that in quite a few cases they are unfortunately right since many liberals AVOID confrontations to preserve “the Christian unity“.

What should we do about that?

Kimberly Knight: Oh, well I do not avoid confrontation as you see 🙂

Lothars Sohn: yep!

Kimberly Knight: and yes, plenty of my progressive sisters and brothers criticize me for not being gentle and loving (which I am) or for not being a bridge builder (which I am)

Lothars Sohn: but Jesus was confronting some of the pharisees of his time all the time those who had a wicked theology and behavior

Kimberly Knight: I feel called, in no uncertain terms, to confront that which has hijacked the gospel. not that God needs little me to defend God but because I feel called to be very clear that what many Americans think about Christians, God and Jesus are obsoletely wrong and it is wrong for me to remain silent when I can speak up

Lothars Sohn: For the readers, could you please put the NALT project in a nutshell?

Kimberly Knight: Hmm, well that is not my project and I have not even recorded a video yet but i can try: it is a project, inspired by the It Gets Better video project where progressive Christians are invited to share a video talking about how they understand their faith, primarily in terms of love and radical hospitality

Lothars Sohn: that speaks to my heart 🙂

Kimberly Knight: Create a video, upload it to YouTube and tag it with the appropriate words and key pharses and then let NALT know it is out there

Lothars Sohn: I am sure this is going to have much success

Kimberly Knight: I hope so and I know it has been criticized (exactly for why you mentioned)

Lothars Sohn: and I hope this will also show to the non-Christian world that we don’t agree with what fundamentalists are doing

Kimberly Knight: but I am a fan of the project if it saves one life, prevents one person from believing that God hates them

So here is a question for you: why the name Lothars Sohn?

Lothars Sohn: I come from Lorraine/Lothringen, a region in France with a German-speaking part, expect that the French government destroyed our culture and language

 Kimberly Knight: I am sorry to hear that

Lothars Sohn: I am proud of my root and have taken “Lothar’s son” as name in honor of king Lothar the founder of my region.

And like the Israelite are sometimes described as being the children of Abraham I am a child of Lothar 🙂

Kimberly Knight: cool

Lothars Sohn: Did you take a look at my theological argument for the acceptance of homosexuality? I think it is extremely compelling

Kimberly Knight: I have not yet, I am sorry – can you resend the link…this latest blog post about my seminary has taken a great deal more energy than I imagined

 Lothars Sohn: Alright! No problem.

Kimberly Knight: and now I am supposed to be writing a sermon for tomorrow

Lothars Sohn: You can perhaps hope that the Holy Ghost will transfer all words to your brain tomorrow at 09 am 😉

Kimberly Knight: that is apparently what I am counting on

Lothars Sohn: But let’s move forward if that’s the case.

Many conservative Christians agrees that homophobia is morally wrong while holding fast on the idea that homosexuality is inherently sinful. They teach that the desires are not sinful but that God demands from homosexual to always remain single but that one should encounter them with compassion.

What is your response to this widely held belief?

Kimberly Knight: LOL, well, that they are wrong

Well, here is why – I believe in a created universe and us as creatures created by our creator in that universe and I know that God – who is love – did not create millions of people that are expcted to remain single and in pain for their whole lives. We are created for relationships.

Lothars Sohn: yeah, I often say to grow in our ability to give and receive love

Kimberly Knight: and some are created to love people of a different gender and some are create to love people of the same gender and there are scads and scads of biblical arguments we could engage in but if in the end we are not acting out of love and compassion, then the answer is always wrong

Lothars Sohn: That’s no problem for homosexuality but I am struggling a lot

with pedophilia which is undoubtedly harmful (unlike homosexuality or trans sexuality)

and people never choose a pedophilic orientation

Kimberly Knight: right

Lothars Sohn: why would a good God allow that…I struggle a lot with that problem…

Kimberly Knight: but that is an orientation that is based on predatory behavior…Ah – that is a good question and that is the theodicy question right?

why does God allow cancer or earthquakes or rape or domestic violence?

Lothars Sohn: it’s part of it but it’s more than that

because human evil is supposed to stem from our free will

but many psychopaths and pedophiles have no such free will, they are evil from their early childhood onwards.

How can God, how can we hold them accountable, if they were wired that way so to speak?

Kimberly Knight: because what they do robs another of their humanity and anything that robs another of their humanity – anything that causes such pain or death even…

One can only be guilty if one have had the choice to do otherwise and psychopaths seem to be machines which have been programmed to kill.

Kimberly Knight: not really and there is a difference between guilt and evil or guilty and wrong

Lothars Sohn: yeah I would say it’s bad, terribly bad what they do

Kimberly Knight: and so, they must be stopped by other humans with free will who understand that what they do harms innocent people

Lothars Sohn: Yes but I believe that no psychopath will end up in hell for having done what his brain was programmed to, God will redeem him

Kimberly Knight: well, I am not sure what I think about heaven and hell

Lothars Sohn: Welcome to the club, I am also unsure about heaven and hell 🙂

Kimberly Knight: All I know is that the life we have to live should be lived with love and compassion and yes, I may have compassion for the murderer and understand that they were broken by the evil free will of others likely

Lothars Sohn: sometimes yes

Kimberly Knight: but I can still believe they must be stopped from perpetuating the cycle

Lothars Sohn: Of course! And I try to take very seriously Jesus call to love our FOES

Kimberly Knight: yes, that is the hardest of all

Lothars Sohn: But to my mind God can only be just and good if He offered eternal life to everyone truly desiring him

I don’t know that but I diligently hope it is true 🙂

Kimberly Knight: me too

Lothars Sohn: Otherwise I am dumbstruck by the fact that conservative American Christians focus most of their attention on homosexuality and abortion. But when I ask them about the communism within the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles, they say it was bound to a specific time and place and is no longer valid today.

How do they manage doing this?

Kimberly Knight: the way all humans do – we see what we want and we ignore what we do not, they read the bible through the lens of their desire

Lothars Sohn: Is it not ironic that they pretend they are the ones who take EVERYTHING in the Bible seriously

Kimberly Knight: yes

Lothars Sohn: the people holding the view that homosexuality is sinful are often good persons who are wrong and sometimes even brainwashed. How can we encounter them in a spirit of love while not hesitating to point out their errors?

Kimberly Knight: i suppose it depends on their posture and by that I mean, if they are content to love and not try to create secular laws based on their religion and are not about hurting or changing anyone, then we can likely be in relationship and being in relationship does more to point out errors than telling them so

Lothars Sohn: True enough! But even people wanting to turn America into a theocracy can have a good heart even if they are terribly misguided…

Kimberly Knight: oh yes, and I have met them many times and there is rarely a thing I can say to change their mind so sometimes relationship is not even possible

Lothars Sohn: that’s the real tragedy of fundamentalism of any kind, religious and secular alike

Kimberly Knight: yes and that is what makes it unChristian because if we can not be in relationship and find a way to love one another then we are going against the will of God as revealed in the Incarnation

Lothars Sohn: And they often bully emotionally those they view as their enemies

Kimberly Knight: oh yes

Lothars Sohn: but many militant atheists who are former fundamentalists bully their enemies in the same way, in a very unrighteous manner

Kimberly Knight: yep, equally as wrong

Lothars Sohn: How should we react as Christians when confronted with such bullies?

Kimberly Knight: sometimes it is walking away, sometimes it is confronting them

Lothars Sohn: Consider someone for instance who says that in the LONG term, he wishes “fags” to be put to death. The Westboro baptists aren’t the only ones out there who want the state to murder homosexuals.

Kimberly Knight: then I confront them with truth and then walk away

Lothars Sohn: yes, Jesus did that!

My honest investigation of the Bible has led me to the conclusion that the books considered as Canonical are NOT more inspired than other religious books.

What is your own view of the Bible?

I know it’s a big one 🙂

Kimberly Knight: oh I agree, I have for a very long time…I am reading (off and on) The New New Testament. an interesting collection

Lothars Sohn: and what is the NNT?

Kimberly Knight: a compilation of canonical and non-canonical texts into a new canon but of course it leaves out plenty that could be there

Lothars Sohn: And what kind of texts are those?

Kimberly Knight: it is an extended version of the New Testament including very early Christian texts having been rejected by the Church. Sleep well!

Now we have touched on many topics during this conversation and we would be extremely glad to learn what our readers think about all of this.

 

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

Tribalism, love and God’s shameless ploy: a response to Cyngus and Valdobiade

A fellow called “Cyngus“ took me to task for having pointing out that influential evolutionary psychologists like Joshua Greene think, from an atheistic standpoint, that any objective morality is an illusion.

His response was very emotional and confused and I reproduced it here:

Dear Lothar,

Glad you mention Joshua Greene, he is a very smart guy and he discovered that the human brain is evolved for tribal life. The morals of a tribe applies inside the tribe, outside the tribe you can lie, kill and rape. Read your Bible, God condoned lack of morality of his chosen tribe, the Israelites, when it came to deal with other tribes.

God’s “objective morality” told his people to hate his enemies, then there came his beloved son “Jesus” who put his foot in the mouth of his father by saying: “love your enemies”. Isn’t that cute? But don’t fall for this trick, it is used to make the whole humanity be like one tribe under the same old crappy God. Don’t want to be in the “tribe” of God, then burn in hell.

Think about that: “Love your enemies”. In order to have enemies you have to hate, be hated or both. If you stop hating your enemies by saying that you love them, you have a chance to make them drop the guard. With their guard down you give them your love, if they don’t accept it, you send them in hell. Such a mischievous plan of “Jesus is love” could be thought only by the “tribe” of Christians.

Try to use your brains when you read the Bible. You quote a lot from Bible in your blog, but you don’t think, you just interpret it to serve your own Christian “denominated” tribe. You have no morals if your morals are to serve an immoral God.”

Since the whole comment reeks of rudeness, lack of respect and incoherence in thinking, I wanted to utterly ignore it.

But then another blogger called „Valdobiade„ came along and urged me to write a response, saying that:

I found the comment rough too, but the idea that seems true in the comment is that “love”, in Christian sense, is used to “divide and conquer”.

Many Christians denominations are understanding “love” in such a way that are put at odds with each other. You can even say that some Christians are enemies and they will love their “enemies” with the condition of the “love” as they interpret by their Christian denomination.

Another idea I found true, is that up to Jesus, God did not say to love the enemies but destroy them. However, even if Jesus said to love enemies, it did not change the fact that we become “enemies” by ignoring the “love”, thus those who don’t accept the “love” will be destroyed.

I don’t find this “love” being fair. Please make new post about this kind of “love”. I’d like to read your opinion.

Thanks.

There are many things I could go into here.

Glad you mention Joshua Greene, he is a very smart guy and he discovered that the human brain is evolved for tribal life. The morals of a tribe applies inside the tribe, outside the tribe you can lie, kill and rape.“

This is only one part of the story. Whilst it is clear that the inner demands of morality are stronger within our own tribe or in-group, we also dispose of a strong sense of empathy wich allows us to feel and understand the pain of all other human beings or for that matter sentient animals.

Read your Bible, God condoned lack of morality of his chosen tribe, the Israelites, when it came to deal with other tribes.“

Here Cyngus speaks like of a fundamentalist of THE whole Bible where God is consistently portrayed as a tribal deity and an evil monster.

But that’s demonstrably false. I view the Bible as a collection of human thoughts about God reflecting the worldview, fears and hopes of people at that time and I see there contradictory views on God’s morality, tribalism, exclusivism, forgiveness, sin and so on and so forth, as well documented by Thom Stark in his book „The Human Faces of God“.

Seeing the Old Testament as a consistent book containing only evil things is exactly the way Nazi theologians interpreted it during the Third Reich.

.

God’s “objective morality” told his people to hate his enemies, then there came his beloved son “Jesus” who put his foot in the mouth of his father by saying: “love your enemies”. Isn’t that cute? But don’t fall for this trick, it is used to make the whole humanity be like one tribe under the same old crappy God.“

This emotional outburst is certainly very efficient rhetorically, but rationally I fear it rings rather hollow. Actually, it’s even hard to understand what the argument is supposed to be.

“ When God teaches us to love our enemies, it is a shameless ploy so that he will impose His dictatorship upon all of us.“

Really? Would he need to teach us love in order to become our absolute tyrant? Is it not a much more likely explanation that Jesus was moved by genuine compassion transcending tribalism as he taught that?

At the very least Cyngus and his fellow antitheists have the burden of proof to show why Jesus was being manipulative as he uttered such statements.

Don’t want to be in the “tribe” of God, then burn in hell.“

I completely reject hell as being a place of eternal suffering.

That said, I believe that God created us as free beings and that he won’t force anyone to get to heaven if she does not truly desires Him and even believes that live is more meaningful if it is limited in time.

Think about that: “Love your enemies”. In order to have enemies you have to hate, be hated or both. If you stop hating your enemies by saying that you love them, you have a chance to make them drop the guard. With their guard down you give them your love, if they don’t accept it, you send them in hell. Such a mischievous plan of “Jesus is love” could be thought only by the “tribe” of Christians.“

Given my conception of hell, I don’t feel threatened at all by this new outburst.

Try to use your brains when you read the Bible. You quote a lot from Bible in your blog, but you don’t think, you just interpret it to serve your own Christian “denominated” tribe.“

I view the Bible as a collection of religious texts, similar in its nature to books from many religious traditions. I analyse it critically and see both truths and errors within its pages and I quote it in the same way I quote Christian authors such as C.S Lewis or John Wesley or even Muslim authors.

Cyngus has just written an unproven assertion about my person.

Since he knows almost nothing about me, this leads to the strong suscpicion I think of himeself as possesing some extra-sensory perceptions (I should probably contact the CSICOP to investigate his case.)

You have no morals if your morals are to serve an immoral God.”

I agree there are many religious persons who do that and I constantly criticize them on my blog for that sin. I will quote C.S. Lewis here:

„The ultimate question is whether the doctrine of the goodness of God or that of the inerrancy of Scriptures is to prevail when they conflict. I think the doctrine of the goodness of God is the more certain of the two. Indeed, only that doctrine renders this worship of Him obligatory or even permissible. „

Frankly speaking there are quite a few atheists I love to read and feel challenged by, but Cyngus and all bullying village antitheists don’t belong to them.

Now back to „ Valdobiade“

I found the comment rough too, but the idea that seems true in the comment is that “love”, in Christian sense, is used to “divide and conquer”.

Many Christians denominations are understanding “love” in such a way that are put at odds with each other. You can even say that some Christians are enemies and they will love their “enemies” with the condition of the “love” as they interpret by their Christian denomination.“

Actually almost all modern Christian denominations agree that you not only have to love (in an intutively human sense) the people in other Christian groups but in non-Christian movements as well.

Another idea I found true, is that up to Jesus, God did not say to love the enemies but destroy them.“

No, as mentioned above you will find both conflicting trends within the pages of the OT, and of other Near-Eastern religious texts, or about Zeus in the Greek mythology for that matter.

However, even if Jesus said to love enemies, it did not change the fact that we become “enemies” by ignoring the “love”, thus those who don’t accept the “love” will be destroyed.

I don’t find this “love” being fair. Please make new post about this kind of “love”. I’d like to read your opinion.

Thanks.“

https://i2.wp.com/patrickwanis.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/09/Why-people-reject-love1-199x300.jpg

I don’t want to give the impression this is an easy question for any Christian. According to my view, hell is not a place of eternal torment but the utter disappearance of persons not desiring to live eternally with God. God does want them to be saved, but if they refuse He is not going to violate their will. God’s Love always respects the decision of its object but wishes to offer him or her eternal bliss.

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

Do extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence?

Deutsche Version: Erfordern außergewöhnliche Behauptungen außergewöhnliche Beweise?

https://lotharlorraine.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/4e4f9-1797-dog-walking-on-water.jpg

Answering such a question proves much more difficult than many people like to think.

The famous Skeptic of parapsychology Richard Wiseman from Britain was once asked why he rejected Extrasensory Perceptions (ESP) and specifically remote viewing. His answer was very revealing:

“I agree that by the standards of any other area of science that remote viewing is proven, but begs the question: do we need higher standards of evidence when we study the paranormal? I think we do.

“If I said that there is a red car outside my house, you would probably believe me.

“But if I said that a UFO had just landed, you’d probably want a lot more evidence.

“Because remote viewing is such an outlandish claim that will revolutionize the world, we need overwhelming evidence before we draw any conclusions. Right now we don’t have that evidence.”

Such an approach to anomalous phenomena is often backed up by the legendary Bayes’ theorem, according to which one can actualize the likelihood of the truth of a theory by incorporating the information conveyed by new facts.

I’m going to keep a critical examination of the related philosophy Bayesianism to future conversations.

In the second book of the Narnia series “The King Of Narnia“, the famous writer C.S. Lewis completely rejected this method. The young Lucy came into Narnia, a parallel world, after having hidden within a wardrobe. Back in the house, she ran to her siblings who utterly denied the reality of her experience.

Worried that their small sister kept holding fast on the truth of her incredible story, they searched Professor Kirke who rebuked them for not trusting Lucy. After they retorted that her claim was extraordinary, he replied:

“Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”

That is to say, for the old wise professor, normal evidence was sufficient for vindicating the wild claim of the little girl.

At this point, I am kind of confused about both principles.

On the one hand, it is clear one should always take our background knowledge into account before evaluating a new hypothesis or theory.

On the other hand, if a set of facts is sufficient to prove an ordinary claim, I don’t see why a similar set of facts should fail to prove an extraordinary conclusion.

Let us now see some concrete examples of well-known phenomena which were rejected in the past due to their alleged extraordinariness. Saying in hindsight they weren’t extraordinary after all would be all too easy for this was the way they were perceived by scientists at that time.

The existence of meteorites was once thought to be an outlandish claim and the normal evidence was explained away in terms of purely terrestrial phenomena or witness hallucinations.

In 1923 the German geologist Alfred Wegener found normal evidence for continental drift, but failing to present a mechanism which worked, his theory was ignored and even ridiculed during decades.

The same thing could be said about ball lightnings which were often dismissed as stemming from illusions or hallucinations experienced by the witnesses.

http://csironewsblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/balllightning_joethomissen.jpg

Nowadays a similar phenomenon can be observed for the small proportion of flying objects which are truly unidentified.

If extraordinary claims demands extraordinary evidence, then UFOs (in the present) does not and continental drift, meteorites and ball lightnings did not (in the past) exist.

But if one only seeks for normal evidence, a strong case can be made that some UFOs (according to the original definition as “unidentified”) really exist. I am going to explain this in future posts.

We will also explore together the possibility that there really exists normal evidence for the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

 

 

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

 

 

 

Is John Loftus a consistent biological robot? Can he avoid redefinitions?

Alex from the website http://www.skeptiko.com

Image

dealing with paranormal topics interviewed the militant atheist John Loftus.

Image

I am going to offer my random thoughts as the dialog went forward.

John is a former conservative Christian who has been emotionally abused by Christian fundamentalism which taught him he had to worship an evil God along with an inerrant Bible.

He became a resentful atheist and now seek to destroy the whole Christendom at all costs.

The topic of the interview was the so-called Outsider Test of Faith (OTF) which aims at pushing Christians to evaluate their religion in the same they critically considered other religions.

As a progressive Christian, I completely agree with that!
Actually, when conservative Evangelicals from the website “AnsweringMuslims.com” point out that the Koran is false because it includes immoral stuff, I evoke worse atrocities in the Bible and tell them with love that they ought to treat Muslims as they themselves would like to be treated by Antitheists. Alas I have never gotten any kind of response from them.

I believe that the Biblical Canon is not MORE inspired than book outside the Canon and when discussing with fundamentalists, I often get answers from folks wanting to prove the Bible by assuming (without any reason) that other parts of the Bible is true.

So progressive Christian do the same experience as non-Christians when dealing with fundamentalists trying to prove their very specific worldview.

That said I believe a valid OTF should mean we are agnostic about every worldview for avoiding biases. I am not sure this is possible to do that while still being able to consider evidence and thinking logically.

Alex agrees with John that Christianity ought to be debunked and dismissed some Christian miracles such as the virgin birth and the empty tomb as nonsensical.
For someone open to the serious investigation of anomalous data, this is strange, to say the least. The empty tomb is a well attested fact accepted by most critical scholars. It is its explanation which is uncertain and heavily depends on worldview commitments.

Alex did not contest any of John’s argument against Christianity (and most of them are actually aimed at Conservative Evangelical Christianity and are very weak against other forms of Christianity) but focused on the problem of materialism and biological determinism.

This is certainly the weakest point in John’s worldview and one he is not well equipped to deal with, since his specialization is in theology, anti-theology, and a bit of philosophical theology.

He was humble enough to recognize this and referred to other naturalism defenders such as Victor Stenger and Keith Pearson. Exposing some fallacies of these authors will be the topic of future posts here…

Alex is a non-Christian theist strongly rejecting materialism and wanting John to defend his own worldview, namely Reductive Materialism (RM) to an outsider like himself.

John is misleading as he said that atheism makes no positive claim at all. This is even worse for Reductive Materialism (RM).

Saying that everything which is real is IDENTICAL to material processes is clearly a positive claim, which not only (given the existence of countless unknown parallel worlds) cannot be reasonably proven but is also probably inconsistent.

John agreed that in one million years (let alone in one trillion years) nothing humans can do matters.

But he emphasized that his actions and his love matter now.

But is John really capable to love, act morally, combat injustices if he thinks at the same time that his love is IDENTICAL to a bunch of molecules, atoms and more elementary particles moving within his brain?

Is that compatible with the way humans over the centuries in the entire world have felt about love?

Would it be not more honest for John to accept the fact that love is an illusion, just a bunch of physical processes leading a self-reproducing chemical system to produce offspring?

John is persuaded that an objective morality exists, and that many stuff described in the Old Testament are wrong (and I partially agree with him about that).

But if everything which is real is identical to particles, and the proposition “Genocide is always wrong” is real, then to what neutrons, atoms, molecules, currents is it IDENTICAL to?

The overwhelming majority of humans would find it absurd to reduce the moral wrongness of an atrocity to a bunch of particles without completely redefining the word.

And when John speaks of making a choice, he is just expressing the fact that his brain molecules are going to push his body to act in a certain way, according to purely physical causes which can be traced back ultimately to the big-bang.

Is that not a striking redefinition of a “free choice”?  How can it be freer than a choice predetermined by God?

John rightly pointed out that fundamentalist and many conservative Christians have a harmful influence on them and others and ought to lose their faith.

I agree and interact a lot with such folks as a blogger. But why should progressive Christians like myself worshiping a God who is perfectly good and loving and rejecting any kind of human dogmas (both outside and inside the Bible) give up their faiths?

And anyone taking a look at my blog, at those of Randal Rauser, James McGrath, the Naked Pastor, Rachel Held Evans, Kimberly Knight and many others won’t fail to see that the antitheistic meme (Liberals and Progressives legitimize fundamentalism) is completely wrong.  We constantly oppose fundamentalism.

John thinks apparently that deism and the belief we live in a very complex computer simulation are not irrational. Great, but if that’s the case, he should view himself as an agnostic rejecting traditional religions.

Considering this whole debate, I regret that Alex did not show slightly more respect to John who was very polite. But I understand it is very hard not getting emotionally involved during such discussions  and I am unfortunately no exception.

I don’t agree with Alex’s final claim that science shows us that consciousness survives death. While sometimes very intriguing, the results of parapsychology and NDE researches are far from being conclusive.

I am much more convinced by philosophical arguments showing that consciousness is not the same thing as material processes studied by science.

Now I am looking forward to receive critical and approving comments!

 

 

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

 

 

 

 

When did God pick up His Wife?

Deutsche Version

Image

The famous archeologist William Dever caused a bit of a controversy after having published his book “Did God Have a Wife” where he argues (among many other things) that archeology clearly shows that at the beginning of the Israelite history Yahweh was not worshiped alone but besides other deities, the most prominent of these being the Goddess Asherah he is very often represented with.

There are basically three possibilities:

1)    The Israelites began to worship Yahweh alone, the worship of Ashera as his wife was a Pagan corruption (Evangelical view)

2)    The Israelites began to worship Yahweh and Ashera together along other deities, Monotheism is a later invention (Mainstream view).

3)    At the beginning, the large majority of Israelites began to worship Yahweh and Ashera together along other deities, but some of them believed that Yahweh was a much greater god

While there are cases where archeological results have clearly contradicted the Bible, I am not sure this will happen here.
Archeological findings are by their very nature only a small fraction of the past. If Israelites only (or mainly) worshiping Yahweh were a small minority (who perhaps already believed that representing their tribal god was not a good thing) we would not have high expectations to find archeological traces of this.
And the widespread existence of syncretism would be compatible with the Biblical statements about the constant apostasy of the ancient Hebrews.
So I believe that, in that specific case, the archeological results do not undermine forms of 3) or even 1).

To my mind the best evidence of a strong Pagan influence on the theology of early Biblical writers can be found in the divine genocides described in the books of Samuel and Joshua (provided they were not first intended as mythological tales).
We have strong grounds for believing that the Herem extermination warfare demanded by Yahweh was a form of massive human sacrifice very similar to those ordered by Pagan deities of neighboring countries.

 

 

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

 

 

On the Inspiration of the Bible and other Books

 Deutsche Version: Von der Interpretation der Bibel und anderer Bücher.

The Bible as a solid anchor?

Fundamentalists and more generally Evangelicals believe that if God exists and is interested in human affairs, He will give us an inerrant Bible where His nature is revealed in a consistent and trustworthy manner.

We are living in a very uncertain world and I am well aware that such a faith can bring a great comfort to quite a few people who have the feeling to have found an unshakable anchor.

The Bible as a strong anchor in a deep ocean.
The Bible, firm anchor of our faith?

But when clever and intellectually honest persons are confronted with undeniable Biblical contradictions, and above else with places where God is portrayed as  being an unjust tyrant, they will most often throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater and become resentful opponents of Christianity.

Such deconversion experiences often stem from the binary way their brain has been programmed to consider the Biblical Canon: as a young pastor told me recently, if one begins to doubt the truth of details in the Old Testament, everything is called into question and it becomes impossible to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

They fail to consider the possibility there are many other ways to read, understand and see the Bible.

I personally read the books accepted within the Biblical Canon in the same way I read books from all Christian authors between 300 A.C. and our 21cst century, that is as the description of human experiences with and thoughts about God.

When I read the testimonies of other Christians, I will certainly consider what they write as fallible humans words about God, but I am quite open they might have received profound insights about God and how to lead one’s life. I would be also quite open to the possibility that God acted in miraculous ways among them and that they encountered hostile spiritual entities.

And as I explained with the example of the life of Martin Luther  even if people do egregious things and teach mistaken (and even blasphemous) things about God, I have no problem believing they have genuine experiences with Him.

To take a concrete example, I read the books of the apostle Paul in the same way  I read books from C.S. Lewis: I believe that both were exemplary Christians, great defenders of the faith and extraordinary men, and the presence of logical, empirical and theological errors in their writings does not prevent me at all from appreciating all the right things they figured out.

But if we don’t believe that the books within the Biblical Canon are more inspired than books outside it, how can we make the difference between right and wrong beliefs about God?

While I cannot speak for all progressive Christians, I believe that we should base our theology on the fact that God has to be perfect in order for Him to be God. Even if human beings are fallible creatures, they are quite able to recognize perfection and to find out what is morally right and wrong as Saint Paul explained in the first chapters of the letter to the Romans.

Actually, as I will argue in a future post, the apostle Paul (or at the very least the author of the Acts of the Apostles)  believed and taught that Pagan authors thinking about Zeus can get quite a few things about God right.

The apostle Paul, preaching and debating with Greek philosophers.
Apostle Paul at the Areopagus

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)