Archive for category God

Opposite Effect

Posted by on Monday, 23 July, 2012

Someone on fb (who am I kidding, it is always the same person) posted something about the number of abortions in the U.S. and China. The China figure was significantly higher than the U.S., but when adjusted for population, apparently China has roughly double the number of abortions per capita. Which is still a lot, so that point is neither here nor there.

No, what I have been pondering for the last week or so was a comment someone else left about how the aborted babies are “immediately with Jesus forever.” I do not know that there is Biblical evidence to support this, I think it is merely assumed because God is not a d-bag*.

I started thinking, academically, about what part of you actually goes to Heaven. Specifically, whether or not you retain your personality and values in the after life. I have to assume either that these unborn babies with Jesus will either have no personality, or that our personalities are in no way formed by the experiences of our mortal lives. Or that that which is aborted is not actually a person. Or that the whole thing is hogwash and there is no such thing as Heaven.

And with that simple comment, I felt as though the entire concept of eternal life came tumbling down like a house of cards.

*Although the Biblical evidence for THAT is somewhat open to argument.


Posted by on Monday, 13 February, 2012

Last summer, I had the opportunity to meet the fiancée of one of my ex-girlfriends. I expect that such situations are weird for everybody. It actually was not that awkward; at least, no more awkward than when I meet anyone else for the first time. My relationship with that ex was a long time ago, and our lives have gone in *very* different directions since then, so it is not as though I was harboring a secret desire that we might get back together some day. (Which I realize is probably something that people say whether it is true or not, so you will just have to take my word for it.)

However, what was disappointing is that, perhaps uniquely among my close friends, not only am I single, but none of my ex-girlfriends are married either. So until now, I could always fall back on the comforting, “It’s not me, it’s THEM.” So, just to be clear, it is your position that the fact that you are only attracted to independent women who do not want to be tied down is in no way your fault? Oh. Well, when you put it that way…

Besides, whatever happened in the past, it “is me” now, because I do not date. At one point, I realized that the amount of time that had passed since my last relationship exceeded the total length of all of my relationships combined. And it has been another two years since that realization. My father was widowed and remarried in less time.

I also can not help but notice that several of my friends are not having much more success than I am on the serious relationship front, and I take comfort that I at least have spent very little thought, and no effort whatsoever for the same result. Although, it occasionally comes out that someone actually has been dating, but just never felt the need to tell me.

I have a stack of reasons for why I do not date that I might give depending on my mood and to whom I may be speaking. I once tried to change my relationship status on FB to ” ‘It’s complicated’ with ‘Vow of Celibacy’.” However, since “Vow of Celibacy” was not on my friend list, it only showed up on my profile as “It’s complicated”, which I think has completely the opposite connotation from what I intended.

I never actually made a formal vow of celibacy, of course. However, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I would list my reasons for not dating. In no particular order:

  • As I have stated previously, it became clear to me that my desire for a romantic relationship was hindering my search for God. Yet my desire for a romantic relationship was the very reason for my search for God. Unable to resolve this paradox, I essentially gave up the pursuit of either.
  • I am particularly against casual dating, because I still believe in courtship. That is, dating specifically with the intention of marriage. The concept was my introduction to Christianity. I sometimes think it foolish that I should continue to hold on to that when I have largely abandoned all other religious convictions, but it is LIFO I guess.
  • If I were a convinced Christian, I would obviously want to be with a Christian woman. Whereas if I were an atheist, I would prefer someone with similar views. However, being stuck in limbo for as long as I have makes such a choice impossible. To be honest, I rather prefer someone with Christian values, which seems especially unfair if I do not actually have them myself.
  • I tend to be attracted to someone unattainable. She might be way out of my league, or simply not interested. Or, though it may come as a surprise that I actually have a moral code, there are circumstances where the context in which I know someone means that pursuing a romantic relationship is simply out of the question.
  • It has been many years since I have even met anyone that I was seriously interested in pursuing. Now, I am obviously not some kind of Zen master. I certainly encounter intriguing females now and then. But after this many years, I have become rather adept at telling myself, “Is there any chance that you going to ask her out, talk to her, or really even think about her ever again? No? Move along then.”
  • I can not help but think that if a woman gets to be my age and still is not married, there is probably a good reason for that. Of course, someone could say the same about me. They would be absolutely correct.
  • I honestly do not feel that I have a lot to offer an eligible lady. I do not currently have any female friends who talk to me about relationship matters, but if I hypothetically did, and she told me about some new guy she was interested in and described someone with my lifestyle and habits? I would advice her to run for the hills. Or if I tried to do an online dating profile what would I say? “College degree that I don’t use. No real job. Live alone in a house owned by my father. Enjoys not leaving the house and never doing anything productive.” I can’t imagine that I would want to be with someone who had such low standards. I have a lot of issues that I need to work out before I could be in anything resembling a healthy relationship. The catch is, without anyone special in my life, I do not have any pressing need to work through those issues.

I have probably forgotten something. In any case, I would probably throw out every one of those reasons for a girl with the right smile, but that smile is just so very hard to come by.


Posted by on Tuesday, 4 October, 2011

I happened across this article yesterday. You can read it or not. The gist of it is that some Harvard guys did a survey where they asked people their religious beliefs and then gave them a quiz of trick questions. The example given was:

“A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?”

The “intuitive” answer of “10 cents” is incorrect. However, they found that intuitive people were one and a half times more likely to believe in God compared with reflective people who thought about it and came up with the correct answer. [Speaking of intuitive verses reflective, I for one tripped all over what exactly they meant by “one and a half times more likely.”]

When I read the question, my immediate thought was, “10 cents”, then I quickly reconsidered and realized that that was incorrect, but I did not want to bother actually working out the correct answer . Which is a fascinatingly accurate analogy for my own belief in God.

The Other Shoe

Posted by on Friday, 30 September, 2011

In a prior post, I said some unkind things about Christians, and I wanted to follow up with a post on what I hate about atheists, but my heart just has not been in it, and I have avoided the topic for several weeks. I actually had a lot of specifics in mind, but ultimately I am just going to say that I find the arrogance and bitterness of militant atheists (that is, atheists that want you to also be an atheist) to be off-putting, and quite frankly, if being right means being like them then I would rather be wrong.

I understand that that is not a rational argument, but it is what I have.

Instead I will share a thought that I had with no real conclusion: The Bible was obviously written (or at least, written down) by literate people in a time when literacy was far from the norm. Education and intelligence are not the same thing, of course, but there is some correlation there. So, while the skeptic might conclude that the greatest supporters of the Bible are not necessarily the finest minds of today, it would be a mistake to assume that held true throughout history. Basically, what I am saying is that there is a high chance that the authors of the Bible were smarter than you or me.


Posted by on Friday, 26 August, 2011

I was listening to Christian radio last week (because: Surprise! I still listen to Christian radio sometimes) and the DJ was reading a “letter” that he had received from a young girl (I have to assume that it was really an email, if we accept the premise that little girls actually send messages to radio DJs at all) whom, as I recall, was wheelchair bound for an unspecified reason. I do not recall how much was in the original letter and how much was his own commentary, but the gist of it was that “the world” convinces you that you have no value if you do not fit into a particular mold, but God/Jesus/The Bible/The Church (whatever the term used was) says that you do have value even if you do not fit the mold.

At that moment I almost wanted to pull the car over and throw everything down. I finally had the answer for which I had been searching for eight years:

Christians spend a lot of time talking about nonsense with no basis in reality.

What church was this guy talking about? Oh, I buy that the church will accept you if you do not fit into society’s mold. In fact, they probably will NOT take you if you do fit in to society’s mold (at least their interpretation of it). But you still have to fit into the church’s mold. I can not even say how many people were, for lack of a better phrase, “forced out” of my church group precisely because they did not fit the mold. No one would admit that, of course. In fact, I have no doubt that if you asked anyone involved in any of these incidents, they would genuinely claim they bent over backwards trying to accommodate the person, but that it just did not work out. Of course it did not. Because they did not fit the mold. There is nothing to be done.

I know, I know. Maybe I just went to a bad church. That is a very real possibility. Hell, I felt compelled to lie to almost everyone that I knew for years and years as a condition of attendance, so I am not exactly what you would call “objective” in these matters.

Last weekend I went to a certain local establishment with a friend. I recalled that the previous time that we had been there, we had been accompanied by a third person. I do not want to go into details, but let me summarize by saying that the individual in question spent an unpleasantly long time arguing against a comment that I had made about a specific socioeconomic matter. Yet I remained unconvinced by his arguments, and more annoyingly, completely unsuccessful in my attempts to shift the conversation to another topic.

Some people just really like to argue. I do not understand where that comes from, but I know that is is there. I do not care for arguments and debates. If in the right mood, I do like to try to understand other people’s point of view, but if and when I do bother to state my opinion on anything [like, on a blog maybe?] I do not generally spend additional effort trying to convince someone who strongly disagrees with me that they are wrong. (Alright, I admit that sometimes I can not resist a good sarcastic jab just to mess with someone’s perceptions every now and then, but that is the extent of it.)

Anyway, I was out with my friend again and wouldn’t you know it, this very same guy shows up again. He and my friend proceed to get into a lengthy debate about faith. I am ashamed to say that I pretty much hung my friend out to dry on that one by not saying anything the entire time. I could point out that this man was really an acquaintance of my friend in the first place and I had only ever seen him three or four times, and also that it was my friend’s fault for encouraging him in the first place. Yet still, are not conversations about faith and doubt kind of “my thing”? Not that day. Not with that guy. For one thing, they were not even talking about theology exactly, merely discussing hypotheticals. It seems silly to criticize, given that my post just a couple of weeks ago was one giant “what if”, but I did not see the value in what they were discussing. I could not even confidently predict a likely outcome in the real world of the scenarios they were debating, let alone offer any conclusions about what that outcome may or may not say about God.

A different friend recently wrote a lengthy post; the first part was an anecdote about the struggles of a certain individual whom she had known at some point in the past, and the second part was about what God showed my friend through that experience. It was the sort of thing that you can not argue on facts. That is, I suppose that you could argue the details of the story, and I recognize that there is a slight possibility that the entire thing was invented for a school assignment, but I think that it actually was a true event. However, you can not argue the second part (which is really the whole point of the post) on facts simply because there are no facts. Here is what God showed you? Here is what you feel about this and that? That’s… nice.

I certainly would not say that feelings have no value, but they are not evidence. A feeling can be a good starting point, but if that is all you ever have then… it simply is not enough. [Hold on a moment, the kettle is calling. “Yes? This whole post, you say? No? The entire BLOG‽ Well that’s disappointing.”]

In my bolded statement above, “nonsense” is the wrong word. Nonsense has no meaning, no value, and is possibly even made up on the spot. Christianity is none of those things. No, the word that I wanted is “fiction.” Fiction can be entirely self-consistent and even remarkably accurate to real life, either by intention or coincidence. That does not make it true. On a practical level, I find that Christianity largely amounts to empty platitudes and unprovable assertions. It sounds good. Consistent even. And if it gives some people hope and strength, then good for them. For me, at the end of the day, at the end of eight years of days, it is not enough.

If there is one simple thing that I should have asked my contrary acquaintance above, and perhaps my friend can use this in a future encounter, it would be this: Who would you say has a better knowledge and understanding of whom? Is it my knowledge of God, or His knowledge of me? Presuming that the answer to that is self-evident, therefore if God thus far has not revealed Himself in a way that I am able to comprehend… why is that my fault?

Twenty Minutes On a Thursday

Posted by on Friday, 10 June, 2011

For the past few years I have worked setting up the sound equipment for a local community’s summer concert series. As I was heading to work yesterday to pick up said equipment, I happened to be listening to Zooropa. For the unfamiliar, the song has a rather long ambient intro with synths and heavily effected voices and samples. Right at the moment when the full band kicks in, I noticed a pedestrian a little ways in front of me suddenly lean to one side and make a motion to hitch up her jeans slightly or something. Or in other words: shake her booty in time to music that only I could hear.

I drove on thinking about what an unusual occurrence this was, and at some point I realized that this coincidence did not effect my belief in God in any way. Because I know that we live in a complex and chaotic world with uncountable variables, and sometimes coincidences just happen.

I was talking with my dad earlier this week and mentioned that this concert series was starting up again, and then I happened to remember that it was while setting up for one of these shows a couple of summers ago that I heard the news that Michael Jackson had died. I do not know why that is important to anything at all, it was just some random detail that I remember for some reason.

So anyway, when I arrived at the shop yesterday, one of the secretaries was on the phone. Toward the end of the conversation it became apparent that she had received bad news. After hanging up she asked me if I remembered [a girl I used to know], and that she had died that morning.

WTF? Now this is just bullsh

Still Blogging After All These Years

Posted by on Sunday, 24 April, 2011

Today is the seventh anniversary of my blog. An awful lot has changed in seven years. Some things have not.

It also happens to be Easter today, or “Resurrection Sunday”, if you prefer. Somewhat appropriate to “resurrect” my blog from its longest hiatus yet. Stumbling Toward God… I was talking with someone a little while ago about how that title was not really appropriate. I have not been blogging this year because I honestly do not have anything more to say on that topic. I am no closer to God than when I started seven years ago. I almost went to church one Sunday several weeks ago just because I was feeling so alone, but then I had to ask, “How exactly would that make me feel any LESS alone?” So I did not.

It has been a rotten year so far. I was tempted to call it the worst year that I have had in a while, but then I had to ask myself, “Really? Who died?” Well, no one that I know. So, generally speaking, that would make it a better year than 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, and oh, while we are at it, 2008? Jesus… Well okay, but this has been a bad year for *me*… nevermind.

If Only

Posted by on Monday, 27 December, 2010

I had a dream, several weeks ago now, that I witnessed an (unspecified) miracle that made it absolutely impossible to doubt that Jesus was truly Lord and Savior. And my having accepted that allowed someone who really does not talk to me anymore to completely forgive me, which was essentially a second miracle.

It was the sort of dream from which you wake and take in your usual surroundings with a very dissappointed, “Oh.”

I have witnessed no miracles since.

So Far

Posted by on Thursday, 12 February, 2009

You say
You want
Diamonds on a ring of gold
Your story to remain untold
Your love not to grow cold
All the promises we break
From the cradle to the grave
When all
I want
Is you

It began with five words.

So, courtship. You may wonder, like I did, what the heck that means. A few months ago I was party to a conversation about courtship where it was described as “dating with purpose.” That purpose, of course, being marriage. (Isn’t that always the purpose of dating, you ask? Tragically… it most certainly is not.) Six years ago, all I knew was that “courtship” meant that I was not allowed to ask out a certain delightful young lady without first consulting her father. That conversation went about as well as you might expect.
“Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?”
“Uh… no…”
That was sure over quick. But this courtship thing had me intrigued. Maybe it was because when I met this girl I had recently come out of a breakup. I did not need any convincing that the practice of dating has an enormous capacity for confusion, for deceit, and for pain. A number of my married friends have mentioned how horrible they think dating is and how relieved they are that it is over. Single people seem to just except it as a necessary means to an end. But what if you could skip all that? What if it could be over before it begins? Sign me up for THAT. How hard could this “Christian” thing be?

So I started reading the Bible. By this point, I had already accepted the existence God, because the whole situation was so ridiculous that I was convinced that there just had to be a higher power that was screwing with me. I started going to churches and was invited to join a Bible study group. I had grown up believing that Christians were simply not very bright people who just believed the nonsense that their parents had taught them. It had never once occurred to me that an intelligent person who had not been raised in a Christian environment would actually convert to Christianity. But I found that there was far more depth to it all than I ever could have imagined. And I met actual intelligent, thinking people who still believed in all this. I started a website to record my thoughts and experiences, which later became a blog. The Pastor at one of the churches that I visited gave a convincing argument about the necessity of publicly accepting Christ, and I was one of the ones who went forward. I started seeing and hearing references to baptism all around, so I did that too. I stopped playing my music, because it was ever so depressing, and I was caught up in the idea that life does not have to be so bad.

That girl was long gone now, but that was okay. I was still learning, and I figured that if this was really meant to happen, then God would bring us back together when I was ready. Wouldn’t that make for an amazing story? Besides, I knew where she had gone: Cal Poly Pomona.

If you go to church long enough, you get involved in the lifestyle, you learn all the lingo, and no one even thinks to ask if you are really a believer. Of course I did not want to advertise that I was still a “seeker”, and I certainly did not want anyone to know that I was really doing all this because of a girl. I figured that one day, I would get it all sorted out, and once I had arrived at a happy ending, I could finally tell the whole story. Then I met another girl. I was not looking to meet anyone, and certainly had no interest in dating, because I already had my plan all set. But I had to admit that she was ever so intriguing.

I transferred to Cal Poly Pomona myself. In the very first week, I saw that girl who had started it all. She was holding hands with another guy. At least, I thought that it was her. I did not get a real clear look… and I had kind of forgotten what she looked like? Even so, I died a little that day. But I also thought of it as a warning to not let that other girl get away. So we dated. It was more good than bad. I was able to be more honest with her than I had been with anyone since I started going to church. I finally was not afraid to share my struggles about God with someone. But what about courtship? What about that happy ending to my amazing story? I had set that aside, but I had not let it go. I remember one day, I fasted and prayed like they tell you to do, I went for a long walk and asked God if it was really right for me to be with this girl or if that other one, who I may or may not have seen, who had reached almost legendary status in my mind, was really still out there somewhere. Two days later my girlfriend ended the relationship.

Then my life proceeded to burn to the ground. My mother died, then my grandfather. My grandmother would later follow. I hated my school and had completely lost interest in my major. In spite of all my talk and all my time in various ministries, I still did not actually believe in the Bible. I was putting on a charade to everyone I met. All I cared about anymore was that girl, not that first one, I mean the real girl, the one that I had never appreciated and never fully committed to when I had the chance. Our relationship had unofficially rekindled for awhile, but she had long since made it clear that that could not continue. I started to get violent and destructive around my house. I spent a lot of time just lying on the floor.

Eventually, I reached a point where I absolutely could not go on any longer. Yet, somehow, it occurred to me that for all the time and effort I had spent studying Christianity and learning about Jesus, I had never tried to actually trust Jesus. When I finally reached the bitter end, I cried out to Jesus… and I kept walking. Things did change. Life did not exactly get better, in fact, for a while it became significantly more dramatic. But I had a strange peace about it. I started going to two more Bible studies. (Making it three a week.) I blogged up a storm in those days (at least compared to my usual output), finally clearing out a lot of the baggage that I had been carrying for years. For the first time, I fully confronted my feelings about that original girl, who started this whole journey. I was somewhat surprised to discover that there was not anything there. There had NEVER been anything real there. I described at the time that I felt like I had been carrying around a piece of baggage for years, only to look inside and find it completely empty. Moving on from my real love was not so easy, but I finally was able to do so. I finally was able to admit that there were other women in my life that I could see myself in a relationship with. There was one in particular that I honestly felt as though God was DARING me to ask out. So ask her out I did. She was not interested.

What the Hell, God? What the bloody Hell? Alright, so I had made the wrong choice there. But at least I was back in the game right? But no, I was not. I realized that I was still selling my dreams short. Five words: “We don’t date we court.” I have no interest in casual dating. I want an honest, permanent relationship.

It became clear to me that it was my desire to get married that interfered with my honest search for God. My father once asked me what made me “want to believe” in Christianity. I do not recall now what answer I gave him. However, “wanting” to believe was never really the issue. I simply needed it to be true in order to accomplish my goal, and therefore, the fact that deep down I did not actually believe it could never be acknowledged. I also began to feel very strongly that several passages in the New Testament actually discourage Christians from marriage, indicating that marriage and family interfere with one’s obligations to spread the Gospel.

So, in order to achieve (my understanding of) a “Godly” marriage that I had sought for so long, I first had to pursue God. In order to pursue God, I first had to give up my desire for marriage. I turned this over and around for some time before finally, in a sudden fit of maturity, I declared, “Well fine! How about if I just don’t do either then!”

And to this day, I haven’t.

The final straw came when my grandmother died. I was still in a Bible study at the time, and as with my mother and grandfather, there was always someone who asked if they knew the Lord. I always tried to dodge that question as best I could, partly because I simply did not know the answer, but mainly because deep in my heart, I honestly do not believe that it makes any difference. That being the case, and that point being the fundamental basis of Christianity, then nothing else about my church involvement means anything at all.

There has always been a great emptiness in my life. Christians sometimes refer to it as a “God-shaped hole.” At various stages in my life, I tried to fill it with alcohol, with love relationships, with music, with MORE alcohol, with education, and finally, with God. And I have to say (and I think that any long time reader of my blog would have to agree) that my search for God has left me every bit as empty and despairing as any of the others.

I’m not saying that I do not believe in God, and I am not going to go on record saying that the Bible definitely is not true, because I can not be sure of that. There certainly is a lot of truth to be found in it, but one would expect that in such an extensive body of work. I would imagine that there is also a great deal of truth to be found in the collected works of Shakespeare, but that does not mean that the stories themselves are true, even if many are based on actual historic figures. Still, there are many things that I can not explain. A great many things really. In the past, it was easy to say that bizarre circumstances were the work of God, because that is what all of the people around me would say. Maybe they really were, I do not know. All I know is that I have long since grown tired of hearing the name “Jesus,” when I have never experienced that relationship of which others speak. These Christians, they tell such wonderful stories… but ultimately, I do not believe that there are real answers to be found here. I just pretended that I did in order to get to what to I really wanted.

I began formulating this post because I was asking myself, “Why are you still here?” I do not really go to church anymore, but I still work in ministry. I still occasionally have conversations about God and I probably too readily give my interpretation of Bible passages while conveniently leaving out the fact that I do not actually consider the Bible to be authoritative. Why am I here? Going back now I realize that from those five words to the “God-shaped hole”, all of this, all of it, has been simply because I did not want to be alone.

And how has that worked out for you?

Not. So. Well.


Posted by on Friday, 17 March, 2006

(Before you begin, here is something old that I never finished.)

It used to be my job to find places for various things. One day, I was looking for a place to store some block-and-tackles. I realized that an ideal spot would be to hang them on a nearby wall, so in order to confirm this proposition, I placed them exactly where I thought they should go. I watched in disappointment as they dropped in a heap on the floor. An onlooker said that at that moment, he lost all faith in “faith.” For there were no hooks of any kind on this wall. I had simply placed them up against the wall and let go, hoping that they would defy gravity of their own accord. My friend claims never before to have seen anyone act with so much confidence in something that so obviously was not true.

As the preacher says, it is not faith that saves you, but faith in the truth.

There is far too much in the world for anyone to take it all in. We have no choice but to be selective. We filter, and thus create our own individual “realities.” I get that. But I still contend that there is a greater reality outside of each of our individual realities. I “believe” that there is universal truth that effects all of us, whether we choose to believe it or not. If “truth” and “reality” are only in our heads, then no one would ever get in a car accident. Or, as one speaker put it, “Truth is what you believe. Reality is what you run into when you’re wrong.”

Some of my readers seem to suggest that I would do well to find my own place in the world, and then find a concept of god that suits me. I reject this outright. If I was simply looking for a “god” as a way to make me feel better, I like to think that I might look for something that actually made me feel better.

I want to know if there is a god that exists outside of my reality and outside of your reality. A god that simply IS, not subject to individual perception or perspective. Is such a thing possible? I do not know, but it seems reasonable to assume that if God exists, and that if He was willing and capable of revealing Himself to mankind in a way that they could comprehend, then He would have done so by now. That if the truth about God can be known, then someone already knows it. I happen to think that such issues of whether or not I actually LIKE God, or whether or not I think that He likes me, are fairly irrelevant to the question of His existence.