Monday, July 24, 2006

Thanks for nothing

I was only partially listening to the news yesterday morning and heard a comment that there was a call for an “International Day of Prayer for Peace.” I did not give the item much attention, and later looked up what this call for an “International Day of Prayer for Peace” was about.

Apparently the pope decreed that Sunday, July 23, 2006 was a day for Praying for Peace. What become more interesting is that I had to search for which Day of Praying for Peace the Pope was talking about! Perhaps he did not know that as recently as Memorial Day, 2006 Pres. Bush had called for an International Day of Prayer for Peace. Or that the World Council of Churches had one September, 21, 2005 and intends to have another September 21, 2006. In fact, they want one EVERY September 21st.

Other groups disagree, holding that June 21st is the appropriate Day for International Prayers for Peace. And, we are beginning to break down into certain groups, calling February 20th an International Day of Prayer for Peace for Iraq.

If you want to join in this international cry for Prayer for Peace, you could have chosen September 21, February 20, May 29, June 21, July 23, or start back over with September 21, again. I would suspect that if I started looking harder, I would find more and more and MORE International Days for Prayer for Peace.

What good are these Prayers for Peace doing? Do theists really believe it affects their god? By what means?

It seems odd that we must have so many. Does God forget that he wants peace unless we have these days often?

I imagine God in the morning:

God: Well, time to review the over-night prayer sheet. What have we got? Joe is asking for health again. O.K. Hmmm. Jim wants world peace. Interesting. Jane is still looking for a new job. Hey, Jack wants world peace too! Look at this! So does Bob, Bill, Bruce, Buster and Barry. Looks like a whole bunch of ‘em want world peace! I haven’t broken out in peace for a long time. Maybe it is high time we had some…

Or do theists believe that if enough people pray for a certain item, God has to do it?

God: HA! Only 100 Million people prayed for peace today. No peace for them.
Angel: I heard that they are calling for an international Day of Prayer for Peace next week.
God: Crap! Do you think that enough people will pray, so I have to step in?

I would presume that people praying to God actually think he is capable of stepping in and exacting peace in some way. Seems a bit useless to pray to a God that is either unable, or uninterested, despite the prayer.

If God is capable AND is able—why don’t we have peace? If the God that is painted as all-powerful, all-knowing, and people are praying to as if he has the ability to have peace, if that God wants peace, I would think it would be impossible for us, as mere humans to have war.

Conversely, if that God wants war, it would be impossible for us to have peace. We have war—it seems quite straightforward that such a God must therefore either be limited by desire or ability.

So why ask him for something that he either can’t or won’t do? Appears to be a waste of time.

Now, I am sure there are some residual effects of these International Day(s) of Prayer for Peace. It may give people a chance to pause and reflect that Peace would be a good thing. Again, though—so what? A momentary thought of “Gee, wouldn’t peace be nice?”

“Gee, wouldn’t reduction in world hunger be nice?”

“Gee, wouldn’t elimination of disease be nice?”

Think of all the wonderful things that we could have an International Day of Prayer for, and we can pat ourselves on the back because instead of solely selfish thoughts, for once we took a few seconds out of the hours we spend on us, and thought, “Gee, it would nice if people didn’t kill each other.”

The most noxious part of this Day of Prayer is that people think they are actually doing something by asking a God that is either non-existent or not able, to do something.

The concept of theism, at times, is very tempting. How great it would be, to have some all-powerful creature out there that has the capability to solve every problem I have, no matter how screwed up it is.

It’s like having an immensely rich father that I could know no matter what financial straits I find myself in; He is there to bail me out ever time. Only better. This father can do miracles, and make people well, and cause entire continents to disappear. Like Daddy Warbucks on supernatural steroids!

And theism goes one step further to re-iterate and reinforce time and time again how pitiful and weak and flawed humans are, and it is only by the most powerful being’s whim that we are allowed to even exist at all.

We can’t have peace on our own. Only a God can do that! So, the only action we can take is to ask, and beg and plead this God to step in and do what we cannot—“have peace.” The theist can proudly get off their knees, dust their hands, and proclaim, “Hey, I did my part. Everyone knows that without a God, wretched humans will only have war. Don’t worry, everybody. I asked God to step in with peace.”

And then next month we can have another International Day of Prayer for Peace, and again the theist can play their pivotal role.

After 10 or 12 of these, does unease overcome the theist, in the form of doubt? Why doesn’t God step in? Is it possible that this God may not want peace? How can that be?

Luckily, there is an answer presented to reassure that doubt—we are too stupid to understand why there is no peace. The theist informs me that God is so smart; HE knows why it is more important to have war than Peace. We think that humans are more intelligent than snakes, which are more intelligent than flowers, which are more intelligent than rocks. It would only make sense that a God is more intelligent than a human, and just like a rock cannot understand basic algebra, humans, apparently, cannot understand the importance of not having peace.

Well, for heaven’s sake, stop asking God, then, to provide peace! I would hate for super-intelligence to do something dumb, just because stupid people asked him! If theists really think that God has an intelligent reason for not preventing war, then do us all a favor and stop asking him to do something you think is stupid!

But theists really don’t think it is less intelligent, or stupid to have peace. So why doesn’t God?

Or perhaps there is some higher purpose, such as free will, or the allowance of war from the fall. Again, if God has a purpose, why is the theist asking him to set this greater purpose aside? Does the theist think that their purpose is better than their own God’s?

If the theist does not know God’s reason, and cannot know it, who are they to question God? I have been told that it is not a matter of circumventing God, but that God likes to be asked.

Yikes! If God “likes” to be asked for peace, why would he EVER provide it? Once he did, we would stop asking! How long has it been since we have had an International Day of Prayer for Curing Polio? Or International Day of Prayer for better communication? Did God stop “liking” those requests? Or did humans knuckle-down and work out the solutions themselves?

Look, I am not asking theists to all voluntary to become peace-negotiators, or handcuff themselves to anti-aircraft guns. Rather, I would ask that instead of wasting time asking a God that obviously doesn’t want something to provide it, get out in their community and work for peace on their own.

Perhaps interact with people of a different culture, race or creed. Get involved with people we would normally be uncomfortable with. Start telling your nation’s leaders you want peace, not war. Start actually doing something, rather than institute yet another “International Day of Prayer for Peace” in which your God demonstrates admirably he has no interest in peace at all.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Four Zero


By the time Mozart reached my age, he had been dead for five years.

(With apologies to Tom Lehrer.)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Lazy Summer Days

I have finished my deck, except for some trim. With a great deal of relief, last night I put away the last of the lumber scraps, and actually planted seed where dirt/lumber/tools have sat for a month killing my lawn.

Every night I came home from my employment, and worked on that deck, hoping to get one more board on, or one more section done, before the sun set, I grabbed a bite to eat and dropped in bed, only to repeat this frenzied activity the next day.

And every Saturday was spent from sun-up to drop-off (where you hit the same nail nine times and it doesn’t sink any further) with Sunday yet another repetition.

I realized that today my big plans for tonight are to turn on the spigot for the sprinkler on the new grass, and later finish up with a rousing bit of turning it off. In the meantime, I am in for a heavy bit of lounging in an inflatable in a pool, and falling in when I get too hot.

I have been hit by lazy summer days.

But this is a blog about theism, not my floating, so I could not help but contemplate—Does God get lazy?

One of the interesting aspects about my journey from theism, was to take the evidence where it leads. (I know. Very cliché.) As a Christian, I had a certain picture of God, and all evidence fit within that picture. “Evil” was a problem to be dealt with, yet maintain that picture.

After I realized Christianity was incorrect, I was still convinced there was a God. But what did that God look like? One basic premise that I have always taken within the concept of God was that the created cannot do what the Creator could not. We should not have more options available than God does.

Within Christianity, this creates the commonly known Problem of Evil, but in theism, it does not. Where does Evil come from? The same place as Good—God. In that journey, I looked about me and thought, “If I do that, so must God.” If I can be surprised, so must God. Otherwise, where did surprise come from? God would not even have known what it was, to create it.

Humans get lazy. No, I am not talking about that perpetual laziness of people that prefer to not work, or need a remote control for everything, even to recline. Even my own current state of laziness, I know that within a week or two I will pick up another project and be off obsessively pursuing it.

But each of us have an afternoon, or an evening, where we know we could accomplish a number of small tasks, and yet we sit and breathing seems like almost too much effort, and relax. We take a lazy day off. Does God?

Yes I am aware of the Christian concept of the seventh day of rest for God, but what does God have to rest from? Does creation wear out a God? What if there was an emergency on that seventh day? Does God wave it off and say, “Not today. I am just too tired to deal with it. We will have to repair the rip in the time/space continuum tomorrow.”

If we, as humans, sometimes need a moment to “re-charge” our batteries, does the entity that created us have to as well? Or is God tireless, in which case, he must be surprised at our weakness. Wait, God can’t be surprised. He knows everything.

I am told that God created everything for a reason. Free will is a common item to blame. Why did he create rest? Why do we need to sleep? Could God have created us to never sleep? Think of the things we could accomplish. What is the reason for sleep?

As I wear my sunglasses in the pool—could God have created us with an additional eyelid of UV protection? Sure, but to the theist, they must claim that either God did not on purpose, or God simply didn’t care. Humans care more about protecting sight than God. Odd.

As I go about my day: walking, tiring, drinking—I think of all the things that God did in creating humans-- that this was the best he could do?

Now I am sure a theist would tell me, “Who are YOU to question what God does? It was the best he could do with what he had to work with.” There must be some reason that God could not have improved the situation. Why not have us survive quite well with only 2 hours of sleep? Or even just 4? Why not sun-repellant skin?

And, in the end, the answer the theist is left with, time and time again is “We don’t know. We don’t know.”

Or is it possible that God got lazy, and made do with what he had put together, because he wanted to lounge in the pool?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"God is busy. Please call back."

Recently, I have been struck by the stories of Christian homosexuals, and their struggle (and often failure) of maintaining a heterosexual lifestyle as demanded by the Christian community in which they live.

The Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin. Yes, I have seen the arguments and exegesis as to how Romans 1 is teaching that only homosexuality in certain instances is a sin, and is not a universal prohibition. I have seen the arguments of how the Mosaic Law is no longer in effect, and even then did not clearly prohibit homosexuality. I understand how 1 Cor. 6:9 has a difficult interpretation.

All that being said, I find such argumentation as tortured as an inerrantist attempting to align the two (or three) accounts of Judas’ death. In a sentence—it is not persuasive. To be brutally honest with myself, I must admit that the Bible condemns it. (Of course, I am equally convinced that honesty demands the Bible supports slavery, polygamy, genocide, infanticide, and is ambivalent to abortion, alcohol drinking, and the occasional smack of the wife, so as a moral guide, it is hopelessly askew.)

What is the homosexual to do? Why, it is as simple as pie—just like any other sin: “Don’t do it.” I have never seen an argument that an urge to sin is a sin. I may want (for a moment) to cause bodily injury to that thoughtless punk that just cut me off on the highway with a gas-guzzling SUV and spinning rims, but as long as I don’t act upon this momentary compulsion, even Christians would agree that I have not sinned.

In the same way, the homosexual may have a desire, and even an unsolicited thought of engaging in a homosexual act, but as long as they do not act out upon it, we are to understand, sympathize, and even congratulate them upon their restraint. And, even further, to demonstrate their conquering of this sin, they commit to heterosexual marriages, have children, never look at gay porn, and go about happy, healthy lives.

And then commit suicide. Or become depressed. Or spend years in therapy, trying to be what the Christian community defines as “normal.” And get divorced. And become shunned by the very social group that they begged, pleaded and attempted to do everything humanly possible to join.

I am aware of families being torn apart and worse, am aware of a current situation in which a young woman is engaged to a man who is struggling with this exact problem. Mixed marriages (“mixed” meaning a variety to things from religious preference, to race, to social status, to sexual orientation) are rough roads—voluntarily entering one is unimaginable to me.

But to a Christian—why not? After all, homosexuality is just one of many sins. We are all sinners, right? If a person would only marry someone who will never sin, no one would ever marry. Homosexuality may be a bit more difficult, but it is still only a sin.

As I was thinking about this situation, and reading the numerous tales of homosexuals that struggled and fought with “sin” for years and decades, eventually ridding themselves of the religious grapples, and coming to terms with who they are—it struck me. Why doesn’t God eliminate this sin for the individual? A “Problem of Evil” on a one-person basis.

The equation is not complex. I am assured that God hates sin. That God will eventually rid the entire Universe of any sin, or at least contain it in a location inaccessible by those He really loves. I am informed that while philosophers argue over the some ultimate reason that sin must exist, as to each individual God would desire at the least a reduction, if not complete elimination of sin.

So on the one hand we have the Creator of the human, the universe, and the ability to sin that has not only the desire, but the capability to eliminate it.

On the other we have the human that equally desires to be rid of this sin. As I read these tales, I am humbled by the efforts, time, attention and money that is poured into becoming a heterosexual. These are Christians who struggle every minute, and with but one desire—to no longer be this “hideous monster” as portrayed by the Christian world in which they live.

They pray and beg God to take away the desire. They go to counseling and pray and beg God to take away the desire. They go to groups, meetings, buy books, articles, materials, classes, and pray and beg God to take away the desire. They enter programs, week-end retreats, specialized meetings and pray and beg God to take away the desire. For years and years and years. All to no avail.

It is a disservice, even a disgrace, to say they did not try hard enough, or just “wanted to sin,” or “let sin rule their life.” In looking at the effort involved, by the thousands that have recounted these tales, one must appreciate that it is not a simple, “you enjoy sin too much.”

We have a God that can and desires to take away this “sin.” We have an individual that asks (and begs and pleads, and implores) to take away this “sin.” We have a God (so they tell me) that loves humans so much He would kill Himself for them; that desires a relationship with humans. We have a human that is striving with every ounce of energy in their being to also have that relationship, and also please this God. We have a God that claims that holiness can only be obtained through asking God, and we if have faith we can move mountains. We have a human that believes this so much they will travel 1000’s of miles and use precious vacation days to attend one conference in the hope of touching this God and eliminatinge this propensity.

Quite frankly, it appears to be a match made in heaven, so to speak. Why doesn’t it work?

When we discuss the grandiose “Problem of Evil” it is easy to use philosophical justifications, such as “greater good” or “ultimate purpose” or “God’s glory” or (my personal favorite) “we don’t know.” It seems to more difficult when looking an individual in the eye.

Explain to the Christian homosexual how their daily struggle, their family being torn apart, their depression, their lack of self-worth, their incessant pleading on deaf ears, their being shunned by those they desire to socialize with, all is for some unknown “ultimate purpose” of God. Or that it somehow is giving God the glory to wreck a human. Oh, and don’t forget to hand them a “God Loves You” bumper sticker to pour salt in the wound.

And let’s not forget the collaterally injured as well. The spouses that pray, and beg and plead, and attend the meetings, the counseling, the conferences. That hope somehow God would make the spouse so desirable, that all thoughts of homosexuality would forever disappear. That meet privately with pastors, counselors, and friends, and try this technique and read that book, and do everything they can to help the other individual. Only to hear, someday, “I’m sorry, but….”

And God is getting some glory, or devastating those lives too, for some ultimate “good”?

And the children that hear their parents are separating, after having been deprived of their father or mother or both while they are off attending meetings and conferences and counseling and praying and praying and praying.

“God loves you, and he could have changed your parent, but He didn’t. Sorry your home life is impaired, your friends whisper behind your back, you have to move, you have “weekend visitation,” you have to struggle with parents with a perpetual half-look of guilt for not trying hard enough in some way…”

What possible reason could a God give to justify this treatment?

That the individual needs to struggle? In order to grow and mature? How much growing and maturing does a person need! Part of a “maturation” process is to resolve a problem and move on. We learn to sit up, then creep, then crawl, then walk, and then run. Is it “maturing” to continue to struggle to crawl?

Does God desire we get stuck on one “sin” and work the rest of our life on that area, putting every effort we can to resolve it? What is “maturing” about that?

I thought part of the idea of trusting in God was to see what He CAN do, not what He REFUSES to do.

Is it the individual’s fault? For not working hard enough? For not conquering sin? Wait a minute—if an individual can conquer sin on their own, why do we need a God? If they cannot, how are they to conquer sin? By asking God? That is what the person is doing! If God can’t conquer it, what is the point of asking Him? If he can, and refuses to, what is the point of asking Him?

On Sunday we are informed, through song, that God is an “Awesome God” and “Loves the whole world” and in the sermon I am told that all things are possible through God, and God Hates sin, and God wants to take away our sin, if we would just ask, and that the Holy Spirit is working in lives.

On Monday, the homosexual is informed, “Oh, but God can’t do THAT….”

Even as a Christian I was appalled at the harsh treatment Christians have given homosexuals. Recently, I have become more dismayed as well. As shocking and horrid as “God hates Fags” can be, the long, slow, torturous death of “We haven’t solved this sin yet, so let’s try one more thing, since God can’t seem to do it…” is equally as putrid.

I am deeply concerned as I watch this young couple enter a relationship, with the thought of “With God we can solve this” after having seen the “solutions” of destroyed homes, wrecked lives, and ostracized persons.

I know that Christians truly believe this, and can’t help but be convinced. I wish they would ask themselves, “Why it is that God won’t intervene?” and honestly consider the heartache that would be avoided by realizing God can’t heal amputees, nor change homosexuals.