Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Universe: Two Perspectives

My wife and I enjoy reading and watching mysteries – you know, Agatha Christie, etc.  I like to watch the television versions with her because I often get lost in the details and she doesn’t.  I have to have things spelled-out in simple terms. “Okay, was it the long-lost cousin who showed up from Kenya who took the papers from the study in the dark of night or was it the daughter who stood to lose her inheritance?”  “Who done it,” is easy for her (and Miss Marple), difficult for me.  I have noticed I have to do this with most things.

I can’t claim to have always been a solid theist.  In my university days, I followed in the footsteps of my father and began my studies as an agnostic.  My professors reinforced that position since most of them were either atheist, agnostic or ambivalent on the matter of belief.  Thanks to a teacher who helped me to see there are two sides to the question of belief, I came down on the side of faith in a Creator.  It just seemed much more reasonable.  Still does.

In my life-long attempt to get things straight, I have looked long and hard at the ongoing debate between theists and atheists. I have begun to see that whether to believe or not believe is largely a matter of perspective. We are part of an amazing, spectacular, unfathomable, intricate universe.  Before we even consider our microscopic little blue planet, there are the stars orbited by uncountable planets, gathered into galaxies numbering in the multiplied millions.  Then there is our tiny island with the only life we are presently aware of.  Intricate complexity and design is increasingly evident as we delve into the subatomic realms. Are the complexity, intricacy, design and order we see the results of accidental, random yet unobservable processes?  Is life the outcome of chemical processes that we don’t yet understand? How do we account for all this?

As for me, this is how it all boils down: The theist looks at the universe and concludes there is no way this complexity, intricacy, design and order could happen by itself.  The atheist looks at all the complexity, intricacy, design and order and concludes that it did indeed happen by itself. Two perspectives – which one makes more sense to you?

My blogs:
Whitticisms: dwhitsett.wordpress.com
In the Charamon Garden: charamongarden.wordpress.com
Whitsett Carving: whitcarv.wordpress.com
Mission South Pacific: missionsouthpacific.wordpress.com

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Filed under Apologetics, Atheism/Theism, Attributes of God, Culture Wars, Discussion, Faith, Persuasion, Religion, Science, Skepticism, Supernatural, Theism

Walk Like an Egyptian

We’ve all been watching the events in Egypt (you have to, that’s about all that’s been on the news) with rapt attention.  The non-stop rally in Cairo’s Tahrir square has us (or, at least the news casters) spellbound.  Would Mubarak step down?  What would happen if he did not?  How would control be reestablished?  What will be the outcome of this semi-peaceful revolution? Will “…free and fair presidential elections,” really eventuate?  So many questions answered only in time. Speculation about the future is largely just that.

But I am impressed with the people, aren’t you? They finally had enough. They demonstrated that in the only way left to them: demonstrations. Too many died…too many were wounded but the demonstrations were mostly non-violent. Their demands were amazingly cohesive.  Primarily, they wanted an end to the thirty-year autocratic rule of a man who clung to power like it was his lifeline.

It all made me thankful to live in a real, live democracy where we, the people, can bring about change by going to the polls. Yes, we demonstrate, but we call them “political rallies.” Whether or not you agree with the “Tea Party,” you have to give them credit for bringing about change in a peaceful manner. There comes a time when the people (last I checked, this is still a government of the people) must say, “Enough!  We demand change!” The major flaw in our system, it seems to me, is when our judicial branch unilaterally decides what is best for us (another topic for another time).

The people of the Middle East have thrown a big rock in the autocratic pools of their nations beginning with Tunisia. The ripples will be felt for years to come. All reasonable people hope the resulting waves will be peaceful. Indications from Yemen and Algeria, however, point to something more violent.

Because of the internet, people around the world who are fed up with dictators and repressive regimes are taking to the streets. Freedom is in the air. Let’s hope that oppressed souls everywhere will have the courage to walk like an Egyptian.

My Blogs:
Whitticisms:
dwhitsett.wordpress.com
In the Charamon Garden: charamongarden.wordpress.com
Whitsett Carving: whitcarv.wordpress.com
Mission South Pacific: missionsouthpacific.wordpress.com

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Filed under Change Agent, Culture Wars, Current Events, Dictatorship, Egypt, Freedom, independence, Middle East, morality, Peace, Politics, Revolution

Judgmentalism

I sometimes get criticized (judged) for being judgmental, do you?  This accusation usually arises when I have made a negative comment with which someone disagrees.  I submit, however, that we are ALL judgmental.  Last night, for example, I found a dead mouse in the pantry, no doubt a result of my efforts to poison him and his family who have taken up residence in my house.  I judge their presence to be harmful in several ways:

1.       They eat our stuff.  Little holes in the rice bag, nibbles in the butternut squash, obvious nipping at the bread we accidentally left out, etc.

2.       They are nasty little spreaders of various diseases.

3.       They scare the dickens out of the wife as they scurry about.

4.       They make noises in the voids in the walls and ceilings they inhabit.

5.       Their droppings are unsightly.

It is my judgment that they must go and my further judgment that traps and poisons are effective in this regard.

On the other hand, we also share living space with some little geckos.  I judge their presence to be good.  They eat various pests such as cockroaches, spiders and other unwanted critters while doing no harm otherwise. They can stay. So, am I being “judgmental” when I “judge” something to be right and good?

Furthermore, in this democracy, we cherish the freedom to express our opinions.  By definition an opinion is (for our purposes) “a belief or judgment (notice that word) that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty, a personal view, attitude, or appraisal.” Everyone has a right to their opinions. Is my opinion “judgmental” only when it happens to disagree with yours?

There is also a growing number of people who take “live and let live” to the nth degree.  For these folks, nothing is wrong unless it harms another person (not at all easy to determine). All is relative and there is no absolute truth. Your truth may not be my truth. You have a right to believe what you believe but keep it to yourself. Under these rules, it is improper to make judgment about good and bad, wise and foolish, right and wrong. These folks are highly intolerant of intolerance. They have a negative opinion of those who express their opinions.  Their truth is that there is no truth.  It is their judgment that judgment is…well…wrong.

I think what many folks mean by “judgment” is “condemnation.” I do not have the power or prerogative to condemn anyone for anything…that’s God’s business. There is a big difference between judging or discerning between right and wrong and pronouncing eternal damnation. Christians have access to criteria for making decisions about what is right and what is wrong in the teachings of Jesus and the apostles (messengers).  Using these standards and principles I can confidently say, “It is wrong to steal.” In fact, our whole society agrees having codified it into law.  But, if I dare to make that judgment, I had better be sure that I, myself, am not a thief. We must judge ourselves before we dare to pass judgment on others.  If I am honest enough for self-examination I will judge that it is wrong for me or anyone else to steal.

The other day at the coffee shop a man began making trouble for the young woman at the cash register.  He was loudly complaining because they refused to give him something for free. Becoming increasingly obnoxious, he kept at it, holding up the line and causing the staff a good deal of distress. Filled with negative judgmentalism, I got up from my table and began to interfere, politely suggesting that he basically shut up and shove off.  This emboldened the staff who threatened to call the police.  He did leave and I went back to my table and resumed writing and drinking my coffee.  As I left the shop, the manager profusely thanked me for my judgmental intervention.  It may have been foolhardy, but was it wrong?  You be the judge. Oops!

For those who would like to have a look at relevant Bible passages: John 7:24; Romans 2:1; Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 5:12-13; James 4:10-12

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Filed under Condemnation, Culture Wars, Discernment, Good & Evil, Judge, Judgment, Judgmental, morality, Persuasion

Super Bowl Agony

Well sports fans, it was an agonizing start to the Super Bowl this evening. I cringed and squirmed through the whole unfortunate mess. But finally Lea Michele and Christina Aguilera got through singing.

C’mon ladies, these songs should be sung with some modicum of dignity!  America the Beautiful and the Star Spangled Banner are not hip-hop numbers or torch songs, they are the most beloved of our national songs.  They don’t need the catch in your voice or warbling techniques going all over the place. There’s no warbling in football! You ladies, and the others who try to add touches better left to the club crowd, only cheapen these cherished songs.  Christina, you should concentrate on getting the words right instead of sullying our National Anthem with all that “stuff” you did capped off by a flat final note.

Who selects these folks any way? I strongly suggest that they (whoever “they” is) find performers to sing these songs with the stirring reverence and splendor they deserve. Then we can put our hands over our hearts instead of our fingers in our ears.

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Filed under Christina Aguilera, Music, Singing, Songs

A Healthy Skepticism

Will Rogers, with tongue firmly in cheek, once said, “All I know is what I read in the papers.” In the 21st Century, we need to include television and the internet. For all the multi-faults of the multimedia, where else can we get current misinformation? Given those limitations, it is wise, if you ask me (you didn’t but I’ll tell you anyway), to take it all with a grain of salt (euphemism for skepticism).  Cousin Will also said, “It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.”

My point: it is dangerous to base our conclusions on questionable data from questionable sources.  On the other hand, if the source has been consistently right, we can place a quantum of faith in what he, she or it reports.  So, how do we decide which sources to place our faith in?  Here are some thoughts:

1.       What is the background of the source?  For example, is the source is a solid member of some strange religious group founded on balderdash?  Then his or her conclusions may have the same foundation.

2.       Has the source been shown to frequently report “facts” that later prove to be fiction? Then we would be wise to withhold final judgment.

3.       Has the source has proven to be consistently accurate in facts that can be confirmed? If so, we can most likely assume accuracy in un-confirmable areas (I think I have just defined “faith.”)

4.       Is the source speaking from a biased point of view and more interested in party-lines and platforms than logical, open-minded consideration of the facts?  Then we can also expect the reporting to be positional rather than factual.

5.       Is the source a known conspiracy theorist?  I think you know where I’m going here.

Swagger, slide presentations and blackboards are not enough to produce confidence. Take a cup of media, crack the sources, carefully separating the yokels from the trustworthy reporters, add a tablespoon of skeptical salt, stir well,  pour into an unbiased pan, put in the oven and cook until it is not half-baked. I believe this is a good recipe for a measured response. I could be wrong but I don’t think so.

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Filed under Bigotry, Culture Wars, Current Events, Discussion, Humor, Ignorance, Middle East, Persuasion, Politics, Quotations, Rubbish, Skepticism, Thinking, Trust