Friday, June 13, 2014

On Soulmates

You hear a lot of talk about soulmates, how there's someone out there for everyone. Personally, I'm not a fan of the classical view of soulmates. The idea that there is only one person out there for you and that such a person is a fated lifelong companion for you seems kind of foolish to me.  People change over time, and in that time, so do their souls, their relationship needs, and even their lifestyles.

When I was first starting college in September of 2006, I was sure I had found my soulmate. We clicked on every level. 6 months later, we were planning our future for the long haul. We were engaged, we had definite plans in our career paths, planning for a life together. In September of 07, tragedy. My future shattered, and her future was no more. We never even had our first anniversary. Under the traditional view of a soulmate, that would have been the end.

 In April of 2008, I joined the US Navy. I had never planned on it, but failing grades and a life adrift moved me into that decision. I wasn't really planning on making it a career, but I wouldn't have planned against it either. Fast forward roughly 3 years and I met my beautiful and amazing wife. We now live happily married, saving up to move to a place of our own, while I work at a grocery store and we save what we can.

When I graduated high school, it never even entered my mind that I might, just 8 years later be raising two children, and planning to start a business. And that, in a sense, is my problem with the classical idea of soulmates. Our lives, and through extension our souls, change over time. As I see it, soulmates are not an eternal thing, we need different things at different times, and each change informs the next. Had I not had the situation with my first soulmate, my path never would have led me to my wife.

Our souls are ever-changing, ever-growing. We need certain things at certain times. At some times, we may even need to go it alone; for if we settled for the next best, we might miss the best when we're meant for them, all because we were trying to make it work with the knock-off. So, we must live our lives to the fullest, take the hits and roll with the punches. You never know, you might be destined for a story similar to mine. You may need to experience great loss to push you into your greatest gain.

 *Dedicated to my wonderful wife. May our story continue for many years to come.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Importance of Proper Translation

Warning: some crude references may be used in this post.

Phil Robertson is under fire yet again for something included in a sermon he gave on Easter. The part in question is quoted from a Newsbusters report as follows:
Is homosexual behavior a sin?,’ the guy asked me. I said, 'Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Don't be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor the idolaters, nor adulters, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves, nor greedy, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor swindlers — will inherit the kingdom of God.' I gave him the rest of the story.
This is one of the problems I have with our obsession with creating "easier to read" translations of holy texts. The Hebraic term from which homosexual is so often translated is more properly translated as "effeminate". Effeminate is an adjective used to describe behaviors of a man which are womanly in nature. In a biblical sense, this refers to a man taking a woman's place in society. Lest we forget, in a biblical sense, a woman's place in society is in the home, raising children, and teaching other women, not owning property, leading churches, or leading communities. Exceptions to this do occur in the bible, but if one pays attention, in each case, the woman in question was either unmarried or a widower with no male children, hence she was head of household, therefore being taken as a man in all legal senses until marriage/remarriage.

In all my years, I have never once found any reference strictly to homosexual sexual relations within the bible. In fact, the closest reference to homosexual relations of carnal nature is the line "thou shalt not lay with a man as he would lay with a woman." In fact, the only part of homosexuality forbidden by the bible is sodomy, which, I may remind you (crudely) one does any time one receives falatio or conducts anal penetration. Furthermore, the line which Phil quotes includes drunkards, adulterers, and most of all fornicators. Fornication, in biblical parlance, refers to any sexual acts without the intent of pregnancy. Therefore, following the verses being referenced, heterosexual relations with a woman who is no longer of childbearing age, or relations in which contraception are involved are also banned.

The bible also teaches that lusting after a woman to whom you are not married is commission of adultery in your heart. Therefore, you are also prohibited from not only premarital sex with your fiance, but also sexual desire of your fiance, let alone such desires with a woman to whom you are not betrothed. So, finally, I submit this, according to the passage quoted, if you have ever had sex out of wedlock, including masturbation; if you have ever lusted after a woman to whom you were not married, or if you have ever cooked for your wife, you are just as sinful as a homosexual.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

On Respecting the Beliefs of Others

Today is Easter, and this is going to sound like a rant. For that, I apologize, but I feel the content needs to be said. I am truly at wit's end. Every Christian holiday that rolls around, people feel the desire to preach to me, try to turn me from my "heathen" ways. To this, from this day forth, I say STOP!

 My problem is not with your allegiance to your faith, or even your desire to share it. My problem is with your overt hipocracy. For these same people that choose to "share" their beliefs with me refuse to allow me to share mine with them. You live in deliberate ignorance of any ways not your own. As I see it, the refusal to listen to others and their beliefs does not indicate anything but the weakness of your own beliefs. For if you refuse to retain an open mind on others beliefs, it displays to me that you are fearful that another's beliefs might make more sense than your own, causing a crisis of faith.

 In the end, all I ask is that you treat my beliefs with the same respect that I do yours. I don't stop you on your way to work and look down upon you for not believing the same as you, I don't push my beliefs upon you and ask you to spend time away from your family to come to my services. But above all, I don't presume to take the place of a deity and condemn your soul to eternal anguish simply for disagreeing with me.

I remain ever-willing to discuss religion, the meaning of life, the nature of the soul, and other religious topics. From this day forth, however, I will no longer accept being preached to with contempt and disrespect.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

On Creation

Every religion has a creation story. Everything has a beginning. I last wrote about a debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham about the conflicts between evolution and creation. I think the biggest problem is that the concept of this debate completely throws out religions other than Christianity. This led me to want to describe my views on where the universe comes from. My belief states that everything has a soul. Everything has life. Everything. This includes the universe itself. But where did it come from? Why does it seem to be tailored to life as we know it.

Quite simply, the reason that the universe seems to be tailored to life as we know it is the same reason that an apple tree produces apples. As I see it, and some scientists have been working with a similar theory, this universe is a product of a multiverse, a multiverse that is constantly trying to become stronger. Different qualities are tried, and productive universes go on to produce more "daughter" universes. It very much ties in, in my mind, to the idea of the World Tree. Our universe only appears to be tailored for life as we know it because it happens to sit on a very fruitful branch. It is even possible that we happen to be on a less fruitful branch. The point is that our branch is alive.

Our universe is alive. Over at Big Think, they have this nice photo. It's in an article about fractals and complexity. Basically, it's about natural patterns repeating on scales we can barely comprehend. What is clear is that there appears to be some sort of overall structure. Think what you will of various religions and their stories of world trees, but the structure of the universe clearly gives me the idea of something sprouting.

 The basic concept here is this: The universe is alive, it's creation was birth. Galaxies give rise to black holes, which are baby universes of their own. The universe seems to be tailored for carbon-based life because those same conditions for the creation of carbon are also vital to the propagation of black holes as we know them. As with any living being, the universe is host to numerous other life-forms that would not be able to exist without it. Just as E. Coli is a bacterium that lives in the intestines of gut of people and animals, so too do we live within the dark recesses of the universe. We may not be bacteria, but we pale in comparison to the scale of the universe.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Kevin Ham Debates Bill Nye: Creationism vs Evolution

My wife and I chose to watch a recent debate (found here in Standard or High-Def) between Bill Nye (of PBS fame) and Kevin Ham, CEO or Answers in Genesis, a museum which puts forth one of a few different interpretations of Genesis. Specifically, Answers in Genesis bases its message on literal interpretation of the Bible, that the Earth was made in 6 24-hour periods, and that the world is just over 6000-ish years old. (There is a specific number that gets thrown around, but every year, by definition, that number will rise by 1, hence my comfortability with vaguery.)

In this debate, many points were made by Ham, and some of them quite valid, but I want to share a few specifics of where I disagree. First, he constantly points to a difference between Observational and Historical science. Observational science is the actual science, verified by observing the world and experiments and such. However, he then points to Historical science and basically says that it is a religion of itself. I've heard this one before, and it's used all the time in the debate over the teaching of evolution in schools.

Basically, the crux of the argument is this: I have determined your "historical science" is a religion, and therefore you must also teach mine, or you shouldn't be allowed to teach yours either. There's a problem with this. Historical science, as Ham refers to it, is based on the idea that I can observe Event A, occurring in conditions B, following the natural laws of physics C, that have never been seen to change on their own. From this key point, that the natural laws of physics have never been seen to change on their own, those who carry historical science as fact (which Ham views as belief), one can infer that since the laws of physics have never been observed to have changed, that they don't change without some outside (of the universe) impetus.

He then goes on to make some other points, including "pulling the race card" by citing a comment in the report of the first coding of the human genome, which states that all of the worlds people are definitively "of one race, the human race". (Inherent in this is the old ploy of "if you don't address this, you're scared because you oppose it.") From this he concludes that such is evidence of Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, and Biblical Genesis. The problem with this is the fact that he is ignoring several other research studies, Neanderthals are known, we have frozen bodies of them. We also have "Lucy" as well as specimens classified as Homo Erectus, Homo Habilus, and many others. These, are the scientific predecessors of humanity. No scientist has been taken seriously in the last 30 years purporting that the different ethnicities are separate species. The current belief is that there are multiple species whose interbreeding led to what we call Homo Sapiens, the human race.

Ultimately, the problem is that the Creationist model of Christianity relies on the view that everything in history and science is fundamentally unstable, and that the natural laws which have never been observed to change just suddenly became what they are roughly 6000 years ago and then haven't changed since. This is something that I just can't see how it is can be reconciled. Why do we have evidence of an expanding universe of at least 13 billion years of age, why does all the experimentation we have done on the accessible solar system hold to roughly 4.6 billion years of age. As Bill Nye put it (I'm paraphrasing), if you want me to believe your worldview, why should I when it involves throwing out such a large section of what has been observed? More to the point, why should the Creation story of Christianity take precedence over all other religions' creation stories?