Sunday, September 25, 2005

How to Be Open-Minded 101

In this article a documentary producer says, "If you made a movie about Darwin now, it would be revolutionary" because of Christian intimidation. Ah, so that explains all those conservative, Christian TV shows and movies that keep dominating pop culture.

Class, repeat after me:

- When people with Christians beliefs voice their opinions it's called "hate-speech" and is an example of "intimidation."

- When people with very liberal beliefs voice their opinions it's called "the truth" and is an example of "being open to new ideas."

Some people don't like preachy coffee cups

Dear World: Could we please declare a moratorium on using the phrase "being open to new ideas" only meaning "not being open to any new ideas except those that involve gay sex"? It's getting old. Thanks.

So I recently came across the story about the Starbucks at Baylor that pulled a coffee cup from its shelves that has a quote on it that reads:

My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long. I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don't make that mistake yourself. Life's too damn short.
This post is typical of the reaction in the blogosphere, throwing around the word "hate" when Christians express their opinions about homosexuality and, my favorite, decrying the cup censorship as an example of Christians not being open to new ideas. Reread the quote but replace the word "gay" with "Christian" and the word "someone" with "Jesus" and think about how the news coverage might be different if Berkeley had decided not to stock this cup. Oh, wait, there wouldn't be any news coverage. And any bloggers who got wind of it would certainly not accuse Berkeley of being closed to new ideas or call it a hateful campus.

If you're a gay man you can make fun of Christians publicly, call them ignorant and stupid, ridicule Jesus and deem Christian beliefs dangerous and wrong, but if a Christian says that he thinks a homosexual lifestyle is inappropriate it's hate speech.

Two of the couples that my husband and I count among our dearest friends are gay and the officiant for my wedding was gay, so obviously I don't have a big issue with homosexuality (although I don't think that two dudes getting married is the exact same thing as a man and a woman getting married). But as a person who is actually open to new ideas, I don't have an issue with my Christian friends who think that homosexuality is inappropriate. And, frankly, watching them get raked over the coals every time they simply express their opinions makes me increasingly sick of the hypocrisy and self-centeredness of the gay community.

I suppose to pacify the trolls I need to actually type out the obvious statement that gay-bashing is wrong and any sort of physical or mental abuse based on one's sexual orientation is wrong. But, just as nobody makes the case that simply saying that Christians are stupid is a dangerously slippery slope that could lead to Christian-bashing, nobody should make the ridiculous case that Christians not wanting to read preachy gay propaganda while sipping their lattes is a half-step away from gay-bashing. Maybe they're not open to new ideas, but neither is the gay community.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The right environment

One of the biggest things I've been struggling with lately is that I still don't feel God's presence on a minute-to-minute basis...or at all, really. After I had my big realization in July that I could be a logical, reasonable person and still believe in God I kind of expected it all to instantaneously fall into place, for the credits to start rolling as the camera panned over a shot of me smiling peacefully while reading the Bible.

But that hasn't happened, and I've spent a lot of time wondering why.

First of all, I've realized that going from non-belief to belief is not an instantaneous event. Rather than being struck by spiritual lightning and falling to your knees, shouting, "I now believe!" I've come to understand that for most people it's more of a gradual process, littered with setbacks and ups and downs. I can accept that and it helps keep me focused on this process.

But, most importantly, I also have to consider my environment. If there is a God there are definitely certain environments that are more conducive to you feeling his presence. For example, sitting in unexpected traffic is certainly less conducive to getting in touch with God than, say, camping in the Rocky Mountains.

I need to continue to remind myself that, even for those who have a firm belief in God, there are times and places that are much more conducive to experiencing his presence than others. And my cluttered, chaotic house with a teething baby who hates to sleep is not one of those places.

Fairly frequently I catch myself thinking, "Come on, if God existed I would surely feel his presence by now. This can't be real." But then again, I'm not sure if I'm really giving him a chance here. Perhaps my living room where SportsCenter is turned up so that it can be heard over my baby banging a wooden toy on the coffee table is not the environment where I'm most likely to have my first deep understanding of God.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Big hurdles: The Adam and Eve story

Ever since I actually opened my mind to Christianity (rather than just vociferously describing myself as "open-minded," which I used to do all the time) I've found acceptable answers to some major hurdles to faith. Hopefully this post will be the first of many on this subject.

What about all that Adam and Eve stuff? No reasonable person could believe that's literally true, therefore the rest of the Bible must be suspect as well.

This was a big one for me. Especially when you approach the topic with a cynical, bitchy attitude it's easy to write this off as a bunch of silly stories. But when you calm down and actually open your mind and think, "ok, is there any way this could be true and/or be the inspired word of God?" a funny thing happens: it starts to seem plausible.

Do I literally think that two people named Adam and Eve were hanging out with God and talking snakes in a place called the Garden of Eden? Not exactly. But I think it could be true in a sense. For example:

When my son is four years old and starts asking questions like where babies come from I'm not going to open up a copy of Hustler and give him all the graphic details. I'm going to tell him something that's based in truth, but more appropriate and palatable to his four-year-old mind. I'll probably say something like, "When two people love each other very much a baby is formed, and it grows in Mommy's tummy" or something like that.

Is it the literal, scientific truth? Not really. But it answers his question sufficiently without overwhelming him or telling him things he's not ready to hear. I have a lot of nuanced reasons for not explaining sex in all its complexity to him, though his limited intellect couldn't understand that. He should just trust me that I know what I'm doing and will reveal information about the world to him as is appropriate.

Let's say for the sake of argument that there is a God and that a few thousand years ago he decided to hand down an inspired text to people to explain life and how they should worship him, one that would be accessible to people of all intellects, at any place and time on earth. Would it have made sense for him to start off with, "When I first created the universe it consisted mostly of photons and other massless particles like neutrinos…"? No. Just like I wouldn't answer my four-year-old's question about where babies come from with a complicated discourse on humans sexual mores, it's plausible that God told people the truth, but just framed it in a way that made it more palatable to them and the times they lived in.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

What to expect in terms of updates

I've been going through phases with this whole religious quest thing. Often I get in the mode where I realize that this is the most important endeavor of my life and spend every second of free time thinking and reading and posting about God. That usually leads to a sort of spiritual burnout where I need to chill for a few days and ponder only things like why Fox keeps moving the schedule for Arrested Development.

I often feel stress that readers to this site will think I've given up or stopped updating and stop reading the site. This is of particular concern with this blog since 90% of its purpose is for me to get feedback from people with interesting thoughts on Christianity.

So, I just want to reiterate how very much all the comments and feedback and suggestions mean to me. This week I'm not reading or thinking about religion as much so I don't have much to say, but please know that I'm reading all your comments and emails with delight and will be posting again soon.

And my posting will probably continue to be cyclical -- five one week then none the next. But please bear with me, because I'm going to need all the help I can get. :)

Monday, September 05, 2005

Too much information

The biggest breakthrough I've had so far came when I pondered a relatively simple question: what is information?

One of the professors interviewed in Lee Strobel's The Case for the Creator made the point that we intuitively understand that information always comes from intelligence. No reasonable person would try to argue otherwise. If you suggested that the Rosetta stone was formed by erosion or that a billboard just naturally formed alongside the highway, people would not only laugh at you but probably question your sanity.

The more I thought about it the more solidly I was convinced that I believe that information always comes from intelligence, with no exceptions.

Around the same time I started reading up on DNA -- I managed to get out of taking biology in both high school and college so I didn't know much about it. The more I read, the more striking it became: this is information. And it makes sense. How else can a being replicate itself but with information?

When I put those two ideas together is the first time I truly believed in some sort of God. To get my son from a couple of cells at the moment of conception to the toddler who just grabbed my mouse and threw it in the trash must require information (and a lot of it).

My father always explained to me that people created belief in God because they couldn't figure out any better explanations for why things happened. They didn't know why the stars existed or how mountains formed, so they attributed it to some sort of supernatural being for lack of anything better to think. When I started exploring religion I assumed that if I came to believe in God it would be along similar lines of thought, a sort of, "well, I can't think of anything better so I guess I'll just go with the 'ol God theory."

But this changes things. I don't believe that life was created by intelligence because I'm grasping at straws. I believe that intelligence is behind DNA for the same reason I believe that intelligence (using the term loosely) is behind that Bud Lite billboard I pass on my way to the store every day: it's information.

As I've said in other posts, I think I'm most of the way there intellectually. Surprisingly, that part of it just fell into place almost immediately once I started exploring the subject. But I have yet to make much progress emotionally, and that promises to be the hardest part.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

When Christians and atheists debate

I sat down to work on a post but ended up spending all my free time reading this Christianity 101 debate on The Raving Atheist. Be sure to check out the comments from Frank, jb, and Steve G. If they don't have their own sites they really should.

Anyway, this discussion pretty closely mirrors my adult interactions with Christians and atheists:

- Atheists are particularly bothered by Christianity and get much more upset and flustered when discussing it versus other religions. Something tells me Seth and AK aren't making comments with the same tone regarding Hindus and Muslims.

- It's easier to find a calm, rational Christian who will engage in a friendly debate and walk you through his point of view than it is to find a calm, rational atheist. They tend to get nasty and flustered pretty easily in these sorts of discussions.

- By and large, atheists are just as, if not more, zealous about their beliefs than Christians. Just look at all the words dedicated to debunking Christian theories in this one discussion on this one random site. Why spend so much time talking about something you truly don't believe in? Are these people also burning up the Santa Claus forums and debating kids about what really happens in the North Pole? They often come up with an ulterior motive so they don't seem so ridiculous, usually something about wanting to change Christianity's bad influence on politics or culture or something, but obviously their pissy little comments on some dude's blog are not going to make anyone renounce God, so why do it?

That's actually the subject of the post I sat down to write. I don't have time to finish it now, but consider this a sneak preview of fascinating posts to come. I know you'll hold your breath.

The kindness of strangers

After a shocking trip to Babies R Us I decided to get on the free message board Craigslist this afternoon to see if I could find a used stroller that wasn't totally overpriced. I happened to see the link to the New Orleans section and clicked on it just to see if anyone was posting.

Check out the Housing section. There are thousands of posts from today alone.

Sometimes I need a forceful reminder that people don't totally suck after all.