Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Nobody Dies

The picture linked below has resulted in no deaths. Not by stoning, decapitation, hanging, or immolation. In fact, nobody has been injured as a result of this drawing despite its offensive, incendiary nature.

It is obscene, derogatory, extremely profane, potentially racist, and certainly NSFW. It is not funny in the least, and has no socially redeeming value whatsoever.

It exists for one reason, and one reason only.

To demonstrate the profound difference between fundamentalists of different religions.

Remember, I warned you that it was profane, obscene, and offensive, and NSFW. It involves various deities in compromising positions. Despite the fact that I am a fundamentalist follower of one of those deities and find the image offensive, even as I understand the underlying message, I feel no burning desire to behead, stone, assault, or otherwise physically harm the artist.

For obvious reasons, this post will not be on Babble!

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Faith and Doubt

Most people desperately desire to believe that they are part of a great mystery, that Creation is a work of grace and glory, not merely the result of random forces colliding. Yet each time they are given but one reason to doubt, a worm in the heart of the apple of the heart makes them turn away from the thousand proofs of the miraculous, whereupon they have a a drunkard's thirst for cynicism, and they feed upon despair as a starving man on a loaf of bread.

Odd Thomas

The quote comes from the book Odd Thomas: An Odd Thomas Novel by Dean Koontz.

I don't know what Koontz has for a religious background, but he couldn't have described the human condition any more perfectly regarding our faith and our doubts. We are told throughout the Bible that God is in control, and that everything that happens is in accordance with His will.

As Christians, we should believe that. So why do we worry?

Because we are human.

When I fail, and my faith falters, I look at Peter, and know that I am in good company. Jesus called Peter a rock, and said that He would build his church upon that rock. That's pretty high praise, but Jesus also told Peter that his faith would fail through fear, enough so that Peter would deny even knowing Jesus.

And we know how that turned out.

What really strikes me about Peter though, is what a slow learner he was. After all, this wasn't the first time he'd been tested and failed.

After Jesus fed the multitude, he ordered the apostles with him to take their boat and go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee while He went into the mountains to pray. During the crossing, storms held back their boat and in the dark just before dawn, they saw Jesus walking to them on the water.

[28] And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” [29] He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. [30] But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” [31] Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

(Matthew 14:28-31 ESV)

Here's what gets me every time I read this. Peter was walking on the water. He didn't step out and immediately sink; he was walking on the water. He was doing it. But he saw the waves and felt the wind, and began to doubt, not Jesus, but himself. We know this because when he began to sink beneath the waves, he called out to Jesus to save him. He still believed that Jesus had the power to save him; his doubt was for himself.

You have to admit, Peter failed both times, and very spectacularly at that. Yet Jesus still saved him from the water, and still poured the Holy Spirit on him at Pentecost, and even made him the spokesman for that awesome event. See Acts Chapter 2.

It relieves me to know that when I doubt, I can be forgiven. I can still call on Jesus to save me from the waves and He will still reach out His hand and pull me back into the boat. How many of us as Christians really, truly believe that? And how many fall into the trap that opened this article? How many allow their doubts to separate them from God? How many take a burden of guilt for their momentary doubts? And how much does Satan use that doubt and guilt to drive us further away from God?

Remember Peter. He doubted. His faith failed. But still he cried out "Jesus, Save me!"

And Jesus did.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, February 17, 2012

You Must Choose Wisely

In Tennessee, if you are opposed to teaching 12 year old kids about sexuality, safe and unsafe sex practices, and the societal implications of different sexual preferences, you are an intolerant hateful bigot who needs to be shunned, and driven from polite society.

On the other hand, if you think your 12 year old child should be able to read his Bible, and talk to other children about it while at recess, you are a religiously intolerant hateful bigot who needs to be shunned, and driven from the public school system.

I'm sensing a trend here. What do you think? And do you want to be on the side that our society has apparently chosen?

About 10 years after Jesus was crucified, James, His brother, wrote:
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

(James 4:4 ESV)

And in case you think I am selectively quoting or cherry picking, the same idea is expressed elsewhere. For example,
  • John 15:19

    If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

  • 1 John 2:15

    Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

  • Matthew 6:24

    No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

A lot of Christians want to ignore these verses because they are hard. They require us to stand for God even when our world stands against Him. Sooner or later, everyone who names themselves after Jesus the Christ will be called to stand for Him against the world.

Where will you stand?

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, April 02, 2011

Religion of Peace?  Or Pieces?

If you can show me the last time a group of Christians rioted, killing 7 people just because somebody in another country burned a Bible, them I'll accept an argument that draws parallels between Christianity and Islam.

Until then, anybody drawing such parallels is by definition a moron.

In case you haven't been paying attention, there are Christians dying in other countries just for being Christian and most of the time, it's Muslims doing the killing. As far as I'm concerned, being a moderate Muslim is like being a moderate Nazi. Moderate Nazis weren't happy about the slaughter of the Jews, but they sure didn't do much to stop it.

I'm certain that this stand will cause some people to write me off as an intolerant extremist.

That's okay. Unlike the Muslims, I won't behead you for not believing as I do.

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Dangerous Indifference

For the last two days, the DHS Threat level for Nashville Tennessee has been elevated due to a gathering of some of the most dangerous potential terrorists the country has ever seen. Compared to these desperate and obsessed people with their fixed perspective and unyielding sense of right and wrong, the September 11th hijackers don't even get mentioned in the same breath. In fact, this group is so dangerous that the US DHS issued a special report, helping local law enforcement identify members of this dangerous group.

Yes, there was a conference in Franklin for a bunch of conservative evangelical Christians. We gathered in Franklin to hear some of the top BiblicalProphecy experts talk about the current situation in the world and in America.

All kidding aside, (you did know I was kidding, right?), one of the speakers uttered the words guaranteed to make a Congress critter's blood analog run cold...

"As Christians,we don't need politicians. They are irrelevant because we follow a King, the King, the King of Kings, and He outranks any politician on earth! Now you can call a politician a lot of things without repercussions, but irrelevant ain't one of 'em. The idea of an entire class of people, evangelical Christians,not just thinking, but knowing that politicians are irrelevant to them is enough to cause political heads to explode. Politicians feed off of dependency the way a vampire feeds on blood, (I'm sure that's not the first time that comparison has been made!) without a vampire's socially redeeming side.

Yet in this church just south of Nashville, over 1000 people were being reminded that when you serve a King, congressmen, judges, and even presidents can pale into insignificance.

Of course such arrogance cannot be tolerated by the federal government, and I fully expect some kind of backlash against these most dangerous people.

Who do they think they are, anyway?

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Taking Sides vs Taking Over

I just spent the last hour or so listening to a former member of Hamas explain why there will be no peace deal in the Middle East, at least, not as long as the international politicians are in charge.

Lissa and I are at a conference just outside of Nashville and the guest speaker tonight was Mosab Jousef, son of Hamas co-founder Hassan Yousef. Mosab, or Joseph as he was called tonight, became disenchanted with the use of terror as a means of removing Israel, and in the process, began to question Islam as well, a process that led to his conversion to Christianity about 3 years ago.

Joseph opened up with a very provocative statement, one which cast the two sides in the struggle into a very different light than that usually presented to the American public.

"There are two sides in this struggle; the Palestinian side and the Israeli side. Jesus is not coming back to take a side; he's coming back to take over!"

For a Biblical Christian, this is unquestionably true, but it is an odd feeling to see the conflict from that perspective because all of the sudden, we're not seeing the struggle as Israel struggling to survive against the evil Arab,and waiting for the Messiah to wipe out the bad guys. Instead, we're seeing the Messiah coming back to lay down the Law for both sides, and that's really cool because if you think about it,that's exactly what he did the first time around.

He didn't kick the Romans out of Jerusalem; he gave everyone, Jew and Roman, a path to salvation, which was a much greater gift.

As I listened to Joseph speak, he taught me something very important about the terrorists and suicide bombers, something at once reassuring, and deeply chilling.

"The terrorists are people," he said. "They are good people who have good lives. They love their families, their country,and their god. The problem is their ideology, which teaches them that the most holy thing they can do is to kill infidels for their god."

That's a hard concept for us to grasp because it means that we have to accept that these people doing monstrous things are not monsters or animal, but people like us, with hopes and dreams and families. While this seems incomprehensible to us, it is also a hopeful thing, because monsters must be slayed; people can be changed. The chilling part is what I alluded to earlier.

The Arab Israeli conflict is not about land or money or geopolitical power any more than the American Civil War was about slavery. In both cases, the conflict was ideological at heart. Joseph explained that the goal of Islam was the complete eradication of Israel. He also abolished the notion of the moderate Muslim. As he put it, the Global Caliphate is in the Koran, therefore every good Muslim must be working to bring that about. Even the so-called moderates, who might never touch a gun or an explosive, were part of the struggle, by providing funding or political cover for the jihadists. A territorial struggle ends when one side gains control of the territory. An ideological struggle is a war to the knife; the fight goes on until one side is destroyed.

I've heard words like this before, but always from analysts and columnists,or people who've studied the Middle East, and I've always taken them with a grain of salt. But now I've heard them from a man who literally grew up in the center of it all, going to the mosque with the leaders of Hamas, and that makes it much more difficult to dismiss. Joseph said flat out that the chance for peace in the Middle East died when the conflict was Islamized by Hamas. A true peace will only come when the Prince of Peace returns to take over.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, January 02, 2009

2009 WIll Be a Good Year

Why can I say that?

Because I know that this world is not all there is. I know that life is short, but eternity is long, so I'm working on taking care of eternity and letting the world take care of itself. I know that Somebody else is in charge, and that His hand is on the steering wheel, not mine.

I'm not talking about some Panglossian "best of all possible worlds" here. There are going to be hard times coming, harder than any of us expect. From this brief moment of calm before the storm breaks over us, I can see that the troubles will come, and that they will pass. My prayer is that I can keep that vision when the winds rise and my vision is obscured by doubt. I have to remember that my life is not mine to do with as I will anymore. I've given it to my God, to do with as He Wills, and that makes everything different.

I've offered myself as a servant, and so far I've done a pretty poor job of it. Fortunately, God does give on the job training to those of us who are slow learners at times, so I know through His grace, I will get better as time passes.

From this place, everything that happens, good or bad, is training for the next thing.

God tells us through Jeremiah:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope

My future and my hope is in heaven, so everything that God plans for me is to get me to that future.

So this will be a good year.

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Shooting

I'd write a long meaningful post about the shooting, but what can I say that hasn't already been said? I've just been swimming through the filth that is the KNS comment pool, and believe me, I've come away from it with a whole new view of my fellow Knoxvillians.

It isn't pretty.

Atheists, agnostics, fundamentalists, gun nuts, gun control nuts; all of them using this tragedy to claim victory for their side of the argument.

It's sickening, and for the first time, I'm happy that my comments section is mostly vacant. If I stimulated that kind of response, I think I'd have to stop writing.

What's really scary is that some of the comments have been deleted, indicating that there's even worse stuff floating around out there.

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Puzzling Thought

A long long time ago, a guy sitting out in the desert for too long, with no food or water, had a vision. In that vision, his God told him that this desert region would one day be the most important place in the entire world. In fact, the fate of the entire human race would be settled in this arid, poor region. Other prophets had similar visions, but most refused to take them seriously. After all, it was a desert. There was nothing of value there.

Flash forward a couple of thousand years, and the deserts of the Middle East are now key to the prosperity and security of the entire planet.

But that's just a coincidence, right?

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Christopher Hitchens Pitches a Fit and Misses the Target

Via Ann Althouse, I read this from Christopher Hitchens:
But this sober conclusion, objective as it is, is surely preferable to the delusion that we have been created diseased, by a capricious despot, and then abruptly commanded to be whole and well, on pain of terror and torture.

I actually agree with Mr. Hitchens. His statement is indeed the product of a delusional mind. Fortunately, Christians are not as delusional as Mr. Hitchens would have you think, and do not believe the tripe he assigns to us.

  • To begin with, we do not believe that man was created diseased. Man was created in the image of God and it took an act of will to fall from His grace. Man chose to place his will before the will of God, a choice Mr. Hitchens is obviously quite familiar and comfortable with.

  • Next, while God may be described as a despot, His nature is anything but capricious, unless you define capriciousness as laying out in great detail the future events of the world, the correct actions to take to prosper spiritually, the consequences of failure to follow His plan,and then following that plan to the letter over several thousand years.

    Personally, I have a somewhat different definition of capricious. And so does the Merriam Webster Dictionary, which defines it as "impulsive, unpredictable, and inconstant."

    Mr. Hitchens may not like the rules of the game according to God; what he cannot claim is that God has broken those rules.

  • Next, we are not "commanded" to become whole and well; we are invited to do so.

    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
    For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. John 3:16,17

    Man placed his will over God's and in so doing turned away from God. But God wasn't willing to let that be the last word. Instead, He became man, and took our sins upon Himself, so that we might turn back towards Him. God could have commanded our obedience; instead, he asked for it. He is still asking for it.

  • Finally, our belief is not driven by fear of pain and torture; in fact, unlike Muslims, Christians recognize that coerced belief is not true faith. However, the consequences of unbelief are real, and must be mentioned.

Mr. Hitchen's mistake is to try and equate "goodness" with "godliness," which is a very common error, even among Christians. I'll demonstrate.

How many of you out there, by a show of hands, believe that as long as the good you do outweighs the bad you do, that you are a good person,and will go to Heaven?

I see an awful lot of hands raised.

The problem is that this isn't what the Gospel tells us. In fact, Jesus preached that man can never earn his way into heaven through doing good workss because God's standard is perfection. The Law must be kept perfectly in deed, in word, and in thought in order to be righteous in the eyes of God. No human can meet that standard; we all fall short. That was the whole reason for the Incarnation and Crucifiction of Jesus; his sacrifice shields us from the absolute justice of God the Father.

Hitchens lists the long line of evils perpetrated by religious men, and uses that list to condemn a belief in God. His underlying assumption is that any immoral act performed by a Christian disproves Christianity. This assumption is based on a distortion of the Gospel.

A Christian is still a sinner. Aided by the Grace of God and the Holy Spirit, we fight our sinful nature, but becoming a Christian doesn't mean we've flipped some magical light switch that makes us better than we were before. We still sin in thought, word, and deed. We're still capable of doing wrong.

Not only that, but evil men can act under the cover of religion. Even though God is perfect, man is corrupt, and any organization of men will eventually be corrupted, even religious organizations. The Bible even tells us that evil men will come and claim they are working in he name of the Lord, but that they will be deceivers and the faithful are warned to watch carefully and verify their words against the Scriptures to discern whether they are false or true. Evil men always seek to hide behind virtues. That does not reflect on the validity of that virtue. Many dictators take power under the guise of providing security. Does this mean that security is illusory?

I'll just give one more example of Mr. Hitchens's many mistakes. Michael Gerson says this:
On evidence found in every culture, human beings can be good without God. And Hitchens is himself part of the proof. I know him to be intellectually courageous and unfailingly kind, when not ruthlessly flaying opponents for taking minor exception to his arguments. There is something innate about morality that is distinct from theological conviction.

Mr. Hitchens replies with this:
However, it is his own supposedly kindly religion that prevents him from seeing how insulting is the latent suggestion of his position: the appalling insinuation that I would not know right from wrong if I was not supernaturally guided by a celestial dictatorship...

Hitchens is responding to a charge that Gerson not only did not make, but refutes himself!

I don't know why Mr. Hitchens is so zealous an atheist. But based on this article, it is clear to me that his perceptions of Christianity are based not on Scripture, but on a distortion of Scripture.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, March 12, 2007

The Death of Gaia

I'm filing this under religion partly to tweak those who think the Gaia hypothesis (It doesn't meet the criteria to be a theory) is the neatest thing to hit ecological science since Darwin sailed on the Beagle, but mostly because as a theory, it's DOA. It's no more scientific than Intelligent Design, and for roughly the same reasons. Of course, that doesn't stop the Granola Gang from running around spouting nonsense about the "planetary organism" any more than it stops creationists from babbling about "irreducible complexity." But it does make it much easier to make fun of their delusions.

Let's take a closer look at the Gaia Hypothesis for just a minute. There are two main components to the theory. The first is that all the organic and inorganic systems of the planet work together to achieve a certain goal. The second is that the goal is homeostasis. For those of you who slept through biology, homeostasis is a fancy way of saying that nothing changes. If you apply a pressure to a homeostatic system, it will react in a way to return to the status quo. If you try to make it hotter, it will react in a way to cause things to cool off. If you try to push it to the right, it will rebound to the left.

Think of it like a balky teenager. No matter how hard you nudge, they go about their own business, ignoring you. That's the essence of homeostasis.

Fortunately for us, Gaia isn't so good at maintaining homeostasis. In fact, she downright sucks at it. The history of the Earth is one of frequent and usually abrupt changes in topography, climate, heck, everything. Check out this timeline of the various geological eras. Note that for over half of its life, this planet had no free oxygen to speak of. That's 2.5 billion years of nothing to breathe. Fortunately there were no critters around during that time that needed to breathe.

In fact, when free oxygen began appearing in the atmosphere, it was utterly devastating to the existing ecology. Oxygen killed off most of the life that existed on the planet over the course of a few million years. But that wasn't the only mass extinction. The Permian period saw 90% of all life on the earth wiped out. What happened? All I can tell you is that it wasn't caused by SUV's. The dinosaurs also died out in a mass extinction, this one possibly caused by a collision with a big asteroid causing global cooling.

Speaking of which, check out the chart on this page showing the temperature variation over the earth's history.

Not a whole lot of homeostasis there. In fact, that chart looks like it would make for an awesome roller coaster.

The Gaia hypothesis arises from two main factors, ignorance and hubris. We've already demonstrated the former; let's take a look at the latter. Homo sapiens has existed for roughly 100,000 years, give or take. The earth has existed for roughly 4.5 billion years.

That's 4,500,000,000 years vs 100,000. That means that we've been around for about 0.002% of the time that the earth has existed and we have the audacity to think that because we evolved in this climate, that this is the climate that Gaia "prefers."

That's the hubris, folks.

If you look at it without anthropocentrism, the earth has spent a lot more time in climates decidedly unfriendly to our evolution. Wouldn't those be the "preferred" climates for homeostasis?

Hey, maybe they are! Maybe that's why Gaia spun out the human race. It's our job to spew out greenhouse gases into the environment and bring about massive deforestation to get rid of all that nasty oxygen in the atmosphere, so things can get back to normal around here.

So when you see me driving around town in my pick-up with the windows down and the AC on, don't get angry with me. Just realize that I'm doing my part to help Gaia get back into shape and look the way she did when she was young and in her prime.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Andrew Sullivan claims* to have coined the new word as a counterpart to Islamist.

Yeah, right.

Tell you what, Andrew. When the Christian right in the US begins to behead those who disagree with them, then I'll admit the validity of the word. Until then, you're just a ticked off heterophobe** pedaling spurious moral equivalencies in a fit of pique because most people do not support your sexual agenda.

* Ann Althouse gives a brief history of the word, which was used long before Sully thought it up.

**heterophobe n. one who insists that all who disagree with gay marriages are bigots, ignorant, or both.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, October 16, 2006

Multicultural Myopia.

Let me get this straight:

If a Christian landlord refuses to rent to a gay couple based on his religious beliefs, we should condemn him as a homophobic bigot.

If a Muslim cab driver refuses to carry a passenger because that passenger is carrying alcohol, or is transgendered, we should respect his religion and set up an entirely separate system for him, in order to show respect for his religion.

I don't think so.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, September 15, 2006

Rosie O’Donnell and Fundamentalism

A few days ago, Rosie made the claim that Christian Fundamentalism was just as dangerous in this country as Islamic Fundamentalism.

An odd statement coming from her, since an Islamic fundamentalist state would have executed her by stoning long ago, and here in Jesusland, we give her millions of dollars to be on a talk show.

Of course, she wasn't speaking in isolation. Many on the left say the same thing, that fundamentalist Christians are just as dangerous as Islamic jihadists intent on placing the whole world under their version of sharia. And they are all completely wrong. In fact, they couldn't be more wrong.

Let's look at the evidence.

When was the last government sanctioned stoning of an adulteress in America? Or how about the last government execution of a homosexual? Let's talk about honor killings for a moment. How many Christian families have killed their daughters for the horrendous crime of being the victim of rape? Or for falling in love with the wrong guy?

Obviously, at least to the unclouded mind, there is a deep difference between the American fundamentalist Christian and the Islamic fundamentalist. American fundies condemn behavior; Islamic fundies execute those who misbehave.

Now comes the interesting question; why the difference? After all, the laws given in the Old Testament books are just as intolerant and bloody as the Koran. Eye for an eye and all that stuff. So why are fundamentalist Christians not rioting in the street whenever their God is insulted or maligned? Why aren't they out killing rape victims. And when one does go nuts and kills an abortion provider, for example, the fundies almost unanimously denounce the act, and repudiate the murderer.

You just don't see that in Islam.

The difference is that Christians have another book. The Old Testament represents the old law, under the Covenants made with Abraham and Moses. It sets the stage for the coming of Christ the Redeemer, whose sacrifice freed us from the shackles of the Old Covenant, and made for us a New Covenant, one based on love, not laws.

There is no Islamic equivalent to this New Covenant.

Posted by Rich
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