Monday, March 16, 2009

The "non-nature" of God

My father and stepmother are fairly hard-core born again Christians. My father started out as a recovering Catholic and a recovering alcoholic. And I think a few other things that I prefer not to ask about.

In any event, while I was over there last weekend, my dad mentioned how he was disappointed in the rescinding of the ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. He then said to me, "You understand how stem cells work. You should be able to see with your own eyes that stem cells are tangible proof that God created the world and everything in it."

"Hate to burst your bubble, Dad. But I can make an induced embryonic stem cell -- a totipotent one -- in a laboratory. From one of your skin cells."

And so it started...mostly with me reprising my recent rant about creationism.

As you might expect, I've had a difficult time reconciling a belief in God with my training in the natural sciences. As you might also expect, my stance troubles most fundamentalists, who find my statements blasphemous and frightening.

These are the same folks who believe that God puts fossils under rocks because of some need to "test" us. To that, I normally reply, "Wow; and you're willing to put up with a God who has nothing better to do than mess with you like that? It kinda seems a bit petty and jealous if you ask me. I don't think my God does that. But if it works for you, then hey. Good luck with that." Sorry; that just sounds a lot more like the notions of the childish dieties of polytheism than the one, true, "I am".

So I don't buy into the concept of "Intelligent Design". Nature is, at its core, just far too random and imperfect than to have been the product of an all-knowing "Master Designer". And the fact that we, as humans, can reproduce that which was thought irreprodicuble tells me that it's all too much a rules-based system to be the work of God.

What we can't explain or reproduce, however, is the Soul. The essence that makes our existence, as humans, meaningful. That, I believe, really is the work of God. That essence transcends and outlives out physical bodies. That essence is what allows us to connect with God while we're here on Earth.

I think, when folks talk about "special evolution", they're right, but it's NOT about the evolution of their physical being, but rather the "special evolution" of their spirit. When God "Made man in His image", it wasn't about appearance. It was the image of God's spirit. (And frankly, I'm not completely convinced that we're the only species with a soul. I think that Genesis is, at its core, a huge human conceit. Yeah, I'll go put the decorative bone back in my nostril now)

The Bible is a wonderful book, full of wisdom and inspiration. But it's a book written by men, translated by men, edited by men. Men who may believe in their hearts that they have the word of God in their ears and on their lips, but men, nonetheless. With the imperfect motivations and cultural influences of men.

My scientist friends have questioned me about why I believe in God when I have so much compelling proof that God did not create the physical world. When I know how to clone. I tell them that my science has never explained how and where the soul comes into being. My science does not explain transcendent joy. My science does not tell me how we love. And in the end, I need to be able to feel grateful to some power for all that is good in my life.

My beliefs don't mesh well with the teachings of the Bible all the time. I've been told by many folks that if I'm in for a penny, I have to be in for a pound. I don't believe that. I believe that we've never been intended to know the true nature of God. So maybe the Bible doesn't have that definition quite spot-on, you know?

Maybe we've tried too hard to make God in OUR image all these years. Perhaps we should all stop talking and start listening for a change. We might finally hear some truth.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Father Knows Best

I was cleaning out old email today (having a mail box that shuts down when I reach 100 MB forces me to do this regularly) and I came across a message that a friend send me in August 2004 about the Iraq War.

I can't believe how prescient this was! If only W had taken time to listen to his daddy.

In his memoir, "A World Transformed," written in 1999, George H. W. Bush wrote the following to explain why he didn't go after Saddam Hussein at the end of the Gulf War.

"Trying to eliminate Saddam...would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible.... We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq.... There was no viable "exit strategy" we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sometimes we need a reminder

I stopped over at Mississippi Songbird's blog today and read a story that broke my heart.

It reminded me that violence against women isn't always of the newsmaking kind. Most violence happens slowly and in a million ways that we can't see. A gradual, but insidious, erosion of self esteem. A child's daily exposure to language and thoughts that would have earned most of us a mouth washed out with soap, growing up. A withdrawal of a woman's access to family, friends, and the activites that give her heart and soul a place to escape and recharge.

Sometimes, we all need a reminder that domestic violence is less often a shotgun blast to the face and more often a thousand stinging slaps.

It takes care and action from an entire community to help break an unhealthy cycle and help a woman heal. We're all part of that community and we all have a responsibility to watch out for those among us who are being worn away, daily, by domestic violence.

Thanks, Stephanie, for your reminder. *hug*

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


I was listening to NPR this morning, and heard a statistic that just made my jaw drop.

50% of Americans don’t believe in evolution, and another 14% have doubts about it, as it pertains to humans.


I was flabbergasted. I called Mr. Bean on the phone and started ranting.

“They can’t be serious about this! This has to be some incredibly biased poll! How did I miss this particular tidbit.”

“You were probably out back, planting Kale or something. You live in a nation of Christians. What do you expect?”

“Well, hell! I’m Christian, but I’m not brain dead! I can read a book as well as the next person.”

“Ah, my darling. The problem is that they’re all reading a different book than you. Besides, you’ve undoubtedly been paying attention to all that pesky fossil evidence that God left lying around on the Earth in order to test your faith.”

I have, of the last several years, believed with all my heart and soul that the forces calling for “Intelligent Design” to be taught in school were some small minority of the woefully uninformed. It seems that the woefully uninformed are, indeed, more likely to believe in creationism. Among those who have less than a high school education, more than 75% believe that we all were plopped down here, in our current form (along with all the animals and trees and bugs and whatnot) less than 10,000 years ago. Like God had one of those big Colorforms sets and said “Ooo! Let’s put the people here, next to the Wildebeests.” The numbers are reversed for folks who have attended some graduate school. They’re also reversed for basically every country in Europe, at all education levels.

But 50%???? Good gravy! Are we, as a people, that narcissistic to think that we’re the ultimate creation in the Universe??

Mr. Bean laughed. “They’re out there. They’re electing our representatives. They’re petitioning our school boards.”

Right after the Rush Limbaugh show is over, no doubt.

Seriously, I don’t know what to say.