Friday, January 16, 2009

Church sex myths

My wife, Cori, has written an interesting post on her blog about sexual myths espoused by the church. Take a read and feel free to comment under her post.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

This atheist's New Year's resolutions (part 1)

A little late for resolutions, I know. But I was thinking the other day about my journey away from Christianity, my interactions with other Christians, and the pitfalls of the New Atheists, which I've written about here. I've observed major issues in the way atheists – me included – interact with theists, and the following seven points are as a result of a little introspection. I hope, at least in my own interactions, to improve in the following:

1. Polarisation
My major frustration of the current culture wars – especially in terms of atheism and theism – is that debates are highly polarised. The 'Us vs Them' mentality is a common element. I hope that I can, instead of engaging in verbal combat, aim to understand and to be understood. As an atheist, should I not enter in dialogue with open-minded Christians who will be willing to at least listen to my story? But maybe this implies a cost on my part: in order to initiate meaningful cross-faith dialogue, I must be willing to cast aside misunderstandings I might have regarding the Christian faith.

2. Bitterness and anger
Not all atheists are bitter or angry. But I know I was. I think ex-Christians have the right to feel hurt and disappointed; after all, it's not easy finding out that some of the stuff you were taught is simply not true. But to be bitter and angry for too long is a way of surrendering yourself to that which you are bitter about. As Carl McColman, in his blog, The Website of Unknowing, wrote in this post:

The atheist who is consumed with anger and hatred toward faith is, in a very real sense, in hell. Not a hell of divine punishment so much as a hell of his own making.

I glad to say I have made great strides in dealing with this anger over the last few years. I think that bitterness hinders one's ability to listen to others, and dealing with bitterness is an important step to really letting go.

3. Painting all Christians with one brush
This is one pitfall that I've fallen into all too many times: assuming that all Christians believe the same thing. I am grateful for the many Christian friends, especially those from the emerging conversation, who have challenged this false assumption of mine. Just because I grew up in a conservative Baptist church that taught Young Earth Creationism and emphasised the horror of hell doesn't mean that all other Christians did.

Click here for part 2

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

An atheist's response to Psalms 14:1

Came across this short video while browsing YouTube. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Living by the rule, rather than the exception

It is often said that atheists have the same amount of faith as Christians. This is a common argument, and my response to this claim is the following question: which of the two belief systems has the most amount of assumptions?

I think that both the Christian and atheist assume (probably by faith) that there is an objective reality outside of ourselves, and that there is some sort of natural order that we all experience. But the Christian is generally the one who believes in incredible events that defy the natural order, such as virgin births, people rising from the dead and parting seas. These events are incredibly alien to our everyday experience and current knowledge of how the world works; they are the 'outliers', the exception-rather-than-the-rule kind of phenomena.

As an atheist, I base my beliefs on the rule-rather-than-the-exception: balls thrown into the air generally fall down; people who die generally stay dead; water does not generally transform itself into wine. As an atheist, the natural order – or the natural world – is all I believe in. Christianity requires the additional element of the supernatural, which includes God, demons, angels, hell, heaven, the soul, etc, etc. It seems to have many more – and I believe, largely unsupported – beliefs.

What do you think?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Evolution and me: a personal story (part 9)

Part 9: The unbelievability of change

Take a look at the diagram below and ask yourself the question: can something so small as a fertilized egg transform itself into something as incredibly large and complex as a fully functional human being? Well, of course – you might say – we have observed, within our lifetimes, people being born, growing up, and changing as they age.

But just for a moment, imagine that you have never observed birth or growth, and know nothing about how humans are conceived. Wouldn't the above diagram seem outlandishly incredible to you? You might scoff at it with incredulity, finding it unbelievable that such a small and simple object can transform itself into something so radically different.

I once scoffed at macroevolution for the same reason. It was difficult for me to imagine how birds evolved from dinosaurs, or how humans evolved from small, hairy mammals. But at the time I didn't consider an important fact: that in nature, small changes (micro-changes) often result in large changes (macro-changes) over a period of time.

Look again at the diagram above. It seems to represent an incredible macro-change (i.e., zygote to human), but this only seems incredible because the diagram doesn't show all the millions of tiny changes that take place in between. After conception, hundreds of cellular and genetic changes take place over a period of nine months to transform this little pack of cells into a human baby. And after birth thousands of changes occur to eventually transform the baby into an adult. In other words, the macro-change in the diagram is simply a result of a whole lot of micro-changes taking place over a period of time.

Richard Dawkins, in the preface of his book The Blind Watchmaker, argues that we battle to grasp macroevolution because our brains are built to deal with changes that occur in time-scales represented by days, months and years – not millions of years. Large macroevolutionary changes seem incredible, but if we consider thousands upon thousands of natural micro-changes guided by natural selection, then macroevolution doesn't seem that unbelievable at all. In fact, it seems perfectly logical.

I know, as Lui mentioned in an earlier post, that I have to do more than simply show that macroevolution is logical. So in the remaining posts I will argue that there are observable facts in nature that suggest that macroevolution has indeed occurred.

And I will start by exploring the layers of my mom's trifle . . .

Next post: Layers in a trifle
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