The Empty Sundays

Posted in Uncategorized on July 27, 2015 by RWZero

Every so often these days, I’ll wake up on a Sunday and realize that there are millions of people dressing up and going to church. Or rather, that millions of people are coming home from church, considering the time that I usually wake up on Sundays.

It feels a bit weird, to think that that’s still going on. The time between now and even just 5 years ago, when I last went to church as a churchgoer, feels like the time between now and prehistory for me. But for many people the routine has just continued, unabated, since childhood; and there has been nothing much changed in their views of God, existence, reality, and so on.

So on the face of it, I’m tempted to think that it’s just me that’s changed. Church hasn’t suddenly become more silly, more antiquated than it used to be… I just feel this way because I haven’t been going for a while. But that can’t be all there is to it. Undeniably there have been some drastic cultural shifts in the last few years. Indeed, had it not been for some of these cultural shifts–the “New Athiesm,” or what have you–I might never have left Christianity, for I might only have read books about it written by other Christians. But the fact of the matter is that you can still attend an evangelical church, or Google an evangelical topic, and find that everything is humming along just as it used to. Sure, it’s less mainstream. And answers in Genesis has different articles on the front page (“Is Atheism a Religion?” and “Pluto’s Surface is Young!”)–but it’s all still there.  Still tickin’.

Or is it? Being a Christian might feel mostly the same as it always did, for most Christians. But it can’t feel entirely the same. In my early years, nobody ever talked about religion. Questions of God, life, death, beginnings… in my mind, these were topics that only religious people had thought about, for if anyone ever considered where we came from, why we’re here, and what happens when we die, then they would surely be religious, or take their religion more seriously. The culture of my early youth seemed to corroborate these assumptions. Religion was a respected thing. Nobody around me ever seemed to think about large questions, and to whatever extent they did, they tended to vaguely affirm Christianity, though they were completely ignorant of it and not at all living in accordance with it. The idea that there might be some evidence against Christianity out there was hardly threatening–for even if it did exist, it seemed absurd to think that it all might coalesce, like some great storm, and strike at the heart of a little church in the old suburbs.

But for many people, it did. The ease with which information is shared and disseminated quickens entropy; it blends the world’s discordant views together in a cacophonous froth. A timid man might once have stood at the pulpit and, on the basis of a single apologetics book, sought to bolster the faith of a hundred congregants, whose doubts had arisen from stray rumours and books. Today, the same thing might be done, but it does so in the shadow of all human knowledge, ever looming, ever current, and accessible with the flick of a thumb, in the back pew.

Lectures on indigenous cultures often includes phrases like “in the [such and such] culture…” followed by a viewpoint about some fact. In Eastern cultures, the body has meridians, along which flows the chi. But as the years go by, it will become increasingly clear to people–as it has already–that cultures don’t get their own set of facts. There’s just one set of facts, and the sun doesn’t rise for a different reason among your group of friends as it does in mine.

Christians, perhaps more than most people, appreciate this. But they have unwittingly (and ironically) benefited from their insulation from things that are destructive to their faith. Christianity has always been a culture, and evangelical Christianity–since the Victorians lost faith, and since society has been secularized–has for many years had a subculture, with its own lingo, its own music, its own festivals, its own trends, its own interpretations of scientific facts, and its own set of morals. It would not have these things if it did not require them. And since it cannot sustain them, one wonders how it will adapt when they are taken away.

Sunday morning church feels like a thing of the past; it feels like a thing that I can hardly believe people are still doing. Not because it’s odious or even undesirable, but just because it seems so obviously based upon a falsehood. Perhaps the Rational Man of the 19th Century felt this way over 100 years ago. The difference, however, is that there were no forces in the 19th Century that prevented people from having facts to themselves. People could have safe little buildings where the truth was whatever it needed to be, for whoever was there. But as the years roll on, we’re inching towards a world where there’s just one truth for everyone, without alternative. Whether we’ll be able to survive on that remains to be seen.

Feminist Christians

Posted in Uncategorized on September 21, 2014 by RWZero

Worshipping a 2000-year-old man. Since a few decades ago.

Why the Ontario Law Society’s Refusal to Accredit Trinity Western is Unconscionable

Posted in Uncategorized on April 29, 2014 by RWZero

According to recent news reports, “the Law Society of Upper Canada has voted 28 to 21 against the accreditation of Trinity Western University’s proposed new law school in B.C.” The reason for this is that ‘Trinity Western University students must sign a strict Christian covenant governing behaviour, including abstaining from sexual intimacy ‘that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.'”

I do not see this to be a complex issue of any sort. It is nothing less than the outright suppression of a minority group for holding opinions that trasgress against the prevailing opinion. And an intolerance towards those who hold different opinions from oneself is called “bigotry.”

Among the lame arguments offered in support of this decision are the following:

1. “It effectively excludes homosexuals from the school”

No, it doesn’t. It effectively prevents gay persons from making a private decision to go to a private evangelical Christian law school (for whatever reason), voluntarily signing an agreement not to engage in gay sex whilst attending the school, and having gay sex with someone who is unwilling to keep it to themselves. That’s what it does.

Implicit in this statement is that you can’t go through undergraduate university without having sex, which, although apparently unfathomable to most people, is entirely possible. And if you squint, you’ll see that it effectively prevents almost all other students from having sex as well, since most of them are not (or will not) be married. That “effectively excludes” a lot of people.

It is a voluntary abstention from an action, based on privately held religious beliefs. That gay people are uniquely prone to desiring the action is irrelevant; there are gay people who are Christian and nonetheless believe that they are divinely destined to remain celibate their entire lives.

2. “If a school excluded blacks, Asians (etc) would that be OK?”

Except that it doesn’t. Even if being born gay were completely analogous to being born black, having gay sex is *not* analogous to being black, for the simple reason that one cannot abstain from being black for a few years.

3. “‎I cannot vote to accredit a law school which seeks to control students in their bedrooms,” bencher Howard Goldblatt said.

Except that this is disingenuous, because telling students they have to wait until marriage has not been the subject of any of the controversy, nor would it have been, if the statement simply addressed sexual conduct “between two people.” Rather, Howard cannot bring himself to vote to accredit a law school full of people who believe that gay sex is immoral, in a country where gay rights are of special importance.

Nobody would say, of a hypothetical Muslim (or a Jewish or a Hidu) institution, that it “seeks to control students in their kitchens.” The dietary prohibitions would be looked upon as the voluntary (if unecessary) abstentions that they are.

Imagine Howard’s horror at what goes on in the U.S., with private Christian universities issuing such edicts as: “After dusk, students should not be alone with an individual of the opposite sex in any unlighted area.”

4. “It violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms”

Section 15 of the Charter says:

“Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability”

It doesn’t say: “Every individual has the right to attend a private evangelical Christian law school full of people who believe that looking at a person with lust in one’s eye is sufficient cause for eternal torment in the afterlife… and not have to sign an agreement to abstain from gay sex.”

If we’re going to go that route, the much more obvious “discrimination” of a Christian law school is discrimination against other religions.

5. “It violates a fundamental principle. Ontario ruled against religious arbitration.”

That decision was equally not an obvious moral imperative.

http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/2010/09/14/one_law_for_all_ontarians.html

But it is, again, not analogous. There are no credible concerns of abuse, threats, intra-cultural blackmailing to submit to the arbitration, etc. Absolutely no one is going to be forced to go to this Christian law school and sign an agreement of this sort against their will–and even in such a scenario, they could privately violate it without producing any external evidence.

*

For all this hot air about “diversity,” Canadians only tolerate diversity of opinion up until it offends a strongly-held public sentiment. And this–exemplified here, and in other cases decided by human rights tribunals–I find repellent and unconscionable. What can be the rationale for refusing accredation to this school? It obviously cannot be to improve anyone’s life. It cannot be to uphold existing gay rights in society at large, since these are not at all threatened by such a thing. It definitely cannot be to prevent Christian lawyers from practicing law, out of fear of their prejudices (since Christians with these beliefs should then be banned from attending law school at all). It cannot be anything other than using legal powers to punish and suppress an opposing view, which is held in contempt by society.

What people ought to remember is that the whole West was once ruled by Christians, who suppressed and bullied all manner of dissenting private opinions. Times have changed (in Canada), and the Christians who once prescribed morality are now clustered in a tiny huddle, receiving due lashes from a secular society for their sins.

I personally find the evangelical (orthodox, in my opinion) Christian view on homosexuality nonsensical, harmful, and just one of a slew of telltale signs that the religion is man-made. But to police the private, consenting practice of such beliefs is tantamount to policing the thoughts themselves. The best places on earth are places where people don’t bear the prevailing opinion upon the lever arm of the state–not for any amount of certainty of their normative views, not for any amount of anger or righteous indignation, and never for revenge against those who have done the same in times past.

“Not Like those Other Christians”

Posted in Primary on March 31, 2014 by RWZero

The argument:

“You can’t use what Christians do as evidence against Christianity, because Christians are just fallible humans. Only the Bible really represents the Bible.”

The problem with it:

A) The actions and beliefs of Christians are based on sincere interpretations of the Bible

B) Sincere seekers of the Christian God should not be led into serious error as a direct result of believing in and reading the Bible, unless the Christian God is false.

C) Christian behaviour is often used to support Christianity (“look how it changed my life!”) but when it does not support Christianity we are supposed to discount it.

 

If a book / belief system leads millions of people to do and say the exact same crazy / incorrect / mistaken things, then it is fair to weigh this evidence when deciding whether the book / belief system is really a calculated revelation from the Almighty Creator of All Things.

Tale of the Visible God

Posted in Primary on March 25, 2014 by RWZero

In some possible world W’, to be distinguished from W, the actual world, there was a god, who was called God. His appearance was that of a pillar of fire and light, and his voice was an impressive baritone, which issued forth to four arbitrarily-chosen points on the surface of the earth that were equidistantly far away.

The citizens of W’ were accustomed to life with God. He bid them good morning at sunrise, and he bid them goodnight at sunset. They thought little of the pillar of fire and light, which flitted from place to place, attending to the business of the day. They made countless requests of God each day, and all of them he answered, though the answer was not always favourable. God made time for anyone who made time for him–there was friendship, there was laughter, and no one suffered for want of anything.

But the citizens of W’ began to wonder: Where had this world come from? Why was there anything at all? The rolling hills, the colours of the trees, the mountains and the sunset, the vivid impressions of the pillar of fire and light, the booming voice–it seemed mad to think that this was all “just here.” It was mad to think that it was even real… and yet it was: With every closing and opening of the eyes, with every sleep and every wake, it remained, and it ground onwards like some vast and complex machine. So it was decided, one day, that a crowd of brave and inquisitive citizens would put these questions to God, who seemed to know the answer to pretty much everything.

“Reality?” said God, somewhat taken aback. “Existence? The universe? That was me. I made it. I do apologize if that wasn’t clear. I just assumed.”

“But how can that be?” said the crowd.

“See for yourself,” said God, and he inspired a number among them to become scientists, and the scientists peered back into the origins of W’, discovering that it had come together through complex processes of biological and cosmological evolution (in fact it was quite similar to W), leading back to a moment when the whole of it was compressed to a point of infinite density, and at which point scientific scrutiny could take them no further.

“And that’s where I started it off,” said God. “Clever, isn’t it? It practically runs itself!”

There was a moment of silence. Those who had remained stared upwards, unmoving.

“Then what about you?” they asked. “Who are you? Where did you come from?”

“I’ve always been here,” said God. There was another silence, lasting much longer than the first silence.

“Can you believe this?” the people said, discussing amongst themselves. “First he tells us that he ‘started it off.’ Then he tells us that he’s just always been here! What are we to make of all that? We know the universe came from the Big Bang, but we don’t know where this fellow comes from.”

“Why do you doubt?” said God, knowing their thoughts. “I exist in and outside of time. I am perfect. I am all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-present. I am simple. And I love every one of you. It makes more sense for me to exist, than for me not to exist. At least that much you must admit.”

But they began to grumble amongst themselves. For years they had wondered about the answers. Here they were, this pillar of fire looming above them, tongues of flame swirling about the pulsing light. This, the most salient feature of the world–this thing of vast intelligence and unlimited power–cried out for an explanation, and here it passed itself off as brute fact. It flaunted its ontological independence. It threatened absurdity. And so the crowd began to speculate that perhaps God was withholding the answers from them. Worse, perhaps he did not even know them himself.

“Hey!” said God, becoming perturbed. “When have I ever lied to you? What use has an all-powerful being for lies? If it’s assurance you’re looking for, I can give it to you.” And God filled them with a deep and pervading assurance that he was telling the truth. Then their suspicions were raised even further, for this seemed to be coercion, and a direct infringement upon their free will.

Then they fled, trembling and bewildered, for they were afraid.

Over the years, speculation arose among the philosophers of W’ as to the true nature of reality. Some said that it was all a dream, from which they would one day awaken. Some said that a higher being had created God to look after this particular universe, but had kept him in the dark about everything else (a fact he was too embarrassed to admit). Some said that God was an epiphenomenon, or an emergent property of the universe. Some said he was a freak and ongoing concatenation of profoundly unlikely quantum events and that he should not be taken seriously. Some said that he was a collective, instinctive hallucination that had evolved in human brains to place checks and balances on sex, violence, theft, and so on–but that it was amazing (and remarkably annoying) that this adaptation had survived to present day, since it was no longer necessary in modern civilization.

Disgusted by the spectacle, God left W’.

*

In the centuries that followed, children asked their parents the fundamental questions: What did it all mean? Where did the universe come from? Why was there something, rather than nothing? They were told, then, that it had all come from God, the all-powerful creator, who left the world long ago due to mankind’s insolence and doubt.

While some treated the story with skepticism, most found it to be a pretty satisfying explanation. And when they looked up into the night sky, they did not wonder about what it all meant, why it was there, or where it came from. They just wondered what it would be like to have God back.

Reflections in Stained Glass

Posted in Uncategorized on February 15, 2014 by RWZero

Final self-edited draft available at the link below.

No external editor has reviewed this draft. Submit any errors or useful changes in the comments, if you wish.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/22209768/Reflections%20in%20Stained%20Glass%20-%20Electronic%20-%202014%2002%2015.pdf

Cover Art

Posted in Uncategorized on January 29, 2014 by RWZero

This is the cover for the book that became of this blog.

Cover

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