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Thursday, December 29, 2011

So, thinking about the Ancient Aliens stuff, Jan Irvin's "Magic Mushrooms are a basis of the Christian Faith" routine, and UFO / paranormal things in general, I wonder why any of these things are accepted as normal or reasonable compared to the historic Christian faith? The world goes to astounding extremes to plug the putative "God-shaped hole" with anything but Biblical teaching. Pascal's wager makes eminent sense to me, pointing out that of the possible choices, living the Christian life is best for you and everyone around you. When I shuffle off this mortal coil, as the curtain falls, and the lights go down, if all I see is blackness, then...nothing...what have I lost? Ravaging my body with damaging chemicals (cocaine, meth, aspartame...), ravishing other bodies with psyche-draining serial one-night stands, not to mention diseases, contracted or shared, or just living as a lump, satisfying my own whims at the expense of others. I listened to an XM show "The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe", hosted by skeptics (though not of the militant atheist type), and BOY it was unpleasant to listen to. Smug, self-satisfied attitudes. Nothing terrible or faith-shaking, but the sort of conversation that if I was seated at the next table at the cafe, I would move.

A summary of the wager is:

  1. One does not know whether God exists.
  2. Not believing in God is bad for one's eternal soul if God does exist.
  3. Believing in God is of no consequence if God does not exist.
  4. Therefore it is in one's interest to believe in God.
 There are hordes of atheist / agnostic sites that trumpet the weaknesses and fallacies of Pascal's bet.
Being an uncomprehending and unsophisticated oaf, I ignore them. It makes sense to me. I would rather live a life which blesses and helps those around me, so that at least I may depart leaving fond memories of myself. The stats have been in...believers are more giving, more charitable than non-believers. At least partially the pudding's proof.

The differences in charity between secular and religious people are dramatic. Religious people are 25 percentage points more likely than secularists to donate money (91 percent to 66 percent) and 23 points more likely to volunteer time (67 percent to 44 percent). And, consistent with the findings of other writers, these data show that practicing a religion is more important than the actual religion itself in predicting charitable behavior. For example, among those who attend worship services regularly, 92 percent of Protestants give charitably, compared with 91 percent of Catholics, 91 percent of Jews, and 89 percent from other religions. -
"Believers give more to secular charities than non-believers do"

Nuthin' more...just some thoughts.


Doom said...

The reason what I lump as superstition* is so heavily 'practiced' is that those beliefs require no works, no acts, no specific faith, no limits on behavior, nothing. It is the perfect matching bookend to drugs, careless love, and money and power grubbing. Between those bookends is an empty life (was for me back when anyway).

*(from traditional superstition to UFO to pagan or 'scientology' (not the actual "religion" of Scientology but the belief in sciences that many of the believers neither know nor understand usually))

I am terrible about giving, and some things hit home otherwise. Even though I have serious health issues I feel lazy. I receive an income I do not earn. I am putting my finances in order, however. Until a few years ago I honestly didn't think I would still be alive though too. It is hard to plan for a future you aren't likely to see. Once I saw, I moved where it was wise (I think) and safe, then found a house and bought it. Things are coming together but I am playing catchup so things are tight.

I absolutely agree with your assessment of the wager (which I hadn't been aware of until now). I would much rather attempt to live life as God, fictional or no, has prescribed than live in bondage to things I know are bad for me and all those around me. I am only disappointed that it took 35 to 40 years to realize it. One night stands, living in sin, and quaffing myself silly wasn't all that much fun. I knew it was wrong, inside, deeply. It took a lot of calls to "come, follow" for my thick head to finally get. At least I have an idea of where many of them are coming from. And some hope for those who... know what is right but can't quite turn that ship around quite yet.

The Aardvark said...

There is giving, and then there is giving. The charitable thing is but one metric. Spending time praying for others is a real service. Being ready "to give reason for the hope that is in you" is prepwork for giving of your time and testimony. It is easy to write a check, far harder to take time to disciple someone, or to share the Word, comfort, a meal.

The Kingdom life puts us on a continuum; we each of us are somewhere on that graph toward maturity in Christ Jesus. Those of us on the journey, let us be thankful to even be on the graph, and trust that "God is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure".

Michael W said...

"So, thinking about the Ancient Aliens stuff, Jan Irvin's 'Magic Mushrooms are a basis of the Christian Faith' routine, and UFO / paranormal things in general, I wonder why any of these things are accepted as normal or reasonable compared to the historic Christian faith?"

There's a military adage which goes: "The army with the coolest uniforms loses". The Axis lost big time in WWII, but they had the Allies royally outstyled (and, in the Star Wars universe, the shabby looking Rebel Alliance whomped the smartly dressed Galactic Empire).

The point I'm (rather clumsily) crawling to here is that, for a lot of people, "Style" will perpetually outweigh spiritual fulfillment hands down. You cannot be "cool" or "fashionable" if you're snapping the mackerel (to borrow H.R. Hornberger's whimsical phrase). However, throw around a few references to UFOs or Scientology, and you stand a much greater chance of getting on the "A" List. It's all a matter of priorities.

(For a rather entertaining discussion on the history of Scientology . . . as well as a few other topics of possible interest . . . I direct you to Harlan Ellison and Robin Williams at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9AGVARpqdk )

OK . . . where was I? Am I wholly off topic here? My instruments are sort of wobbling . . . or I'm sort of wobbling. I'd bet real money on the latter.

It was William Burroughs who said "No one does more harm than those who feel bad about doing it". And I always remember that quote whenever I recall how, in the early 1970s, Handale Baptist Church in Austin was attempting to lure in younger members by having television ads featuring music from The Who's "Tommy", and the slogan "Handale is Where It's At!" It could be correctly argued that Handale Baptist indeed had "It". But even in the early 1970s I was equating "Fashion" with "temporal" and "transient", which not only guaranteed that my social life would eternally be in the gutter, but which I felt was not a position the Church should be taking. And people should not (I felt, and still feel) be treating religion (whichever one it is) as a fashion statement or a means to stay with the In Crowd.

OK, we shall now return to our regularly scheduled blog. I promise I'll have a point next time.

The Aardvark said...

What have you been DRINKING, man? You ate the kombucha mushroom, didn't you?

You have fingered the hair-trigger. Like my "why isn't sex good enough anymore?" rant, this points up A Problem, that of tragically hip ministers working OT to make The Gospel "relevant", because the need for redemption is totally connected to the fashion of the day. An interesting - and terrifying - study by the Barna Group finds that "8 out of 10 young Christians can’t apply their faith to everyday life"


Think of that! What a place to be. 80% of the future of the church has no clue as to the Gospel'a application to Real Life. This after the churches have squandered years of effort to be relevant and with-it. (Oh...Benny Hinn, the '60s
called...they want their Nehru jacket back [and no, I am not calling Hinn relevant].) Meh. Had Jesus wanted to be "relevant to his times", He would have dressed everyone like Zealots and taught them to make camel dung IEDs.


The Burroughs quote defines liberal action, both politically and theologically. (I am mindful of W's "having to abandon free market principles to save that market" or summat. And yes, I equated "W" and "liberal".)

I guess I have to join you in the gutter (or is it the trenches?).

Admit it...you didn't sync to the Console before you took off, did you?

Michael W said...

"Admit it...you didn't sync to the Console before you took off, did you?"

Quite possibly not. Like you, some of my buttons are on a hair trigger and, when they're pushed, the safest course of action is to run to the escape pods.

Yeah . . . "relevancy".

During my senior year at high school (which was loosely adapted into the screenplay for BATTLE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES) I came within an ace of considering Texas Lutheran College and the divinity track. I still wonder what sort of pastor I would've ended up as and shudder as I consider how easy it would've been to be seduced by the Dark Side of the Force!

I mean, when you're trying to shoehorn God and the Soul into a contemporary milieu, then you've already shot yourself in the foot. Not that Christianity is strictly anchored in a time 2000 years ago (which is a big mistake a lot of churches tend to make), that is simply the time when Christ existed as mortal man. His message and philosophy, however, transcend not only specific periods and places, but the mores and shibboleths and fashions of any period or place. Shakespeare's works have survived the centuries up to now because their messages are so basically universal. Those who profess to teach the word of God must learn to employ a similar universal sense.

OK, Mr. President, I might be getting the plane back under control. Inform Lee van Cleef we're doing fine.