Religion

October 21, 2009

I often read militant atheists talking about how “religion” is evil and if we could just get rid of it the world would be a better place. (The most recent place I’ve seen sentiments like this was here.) Besides the fact that history doesn’t particularly support this thesis (consider the actions of confirmed atheists Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot) as long as there are humans there will be religion.

I looked up “religion” at dictionary.com, and this is the first definition:

a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

Note the qualifiers “esp.”, “usually”, and “often”: neither superhuman agencies, devotion and ritual, or even a moral code are required for a set of beliefs to constitute a religion.

Everybody has a religion of some sort, because of our nature and condition as humans:

  • What we actually know about the universe is just an infinitesimal fraction of the total truth. This applies to the human race as a whole and particularly to each of us as individuals.
  • We are compelled by our nature to seek meaning in our situation and in what happens to us. We constantly order our experiences and feelings into narratives to create meaning. We have to have some kind of belief system to function.
  • We are social animals, so many of the narratives we create and beliefs we hold are shared by a community.

If I were to give my own definition of religion, I would call it a collection of narratives, beliefs, and practices shared by a community to give meaning and purpose to its members’ lives. It’s quite clear that modern secular atheism fits this definition. Basing your belief system in whatever seems to have been proved by science today is really no more rational than basing it on anything else.

My personal belief is that God has given us enough evidence of his existence that it is reasonable to believe in him, but not so much that we are compelled to do so. In the end we are free to choose for ourselves what we will believe, and by that choice we reveal what kind of person we are.

…be not faithless, but believing. (John 20:27)

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Sam bought a car

October 18, 2009

On Tuesday Sam bought a car from one of his coworkers. It’s a red 1991 BMW with a standard transmission. Too bad Sam doesn’t know how to drive a standard. (I let him practice driving home from choir practice after church today. He only stalled out four or five times.) He’s also starting to learn that the purchase price is only the beginning of the expenses…

Religious freedom

October 17, 2009

I finally had a chance to read the transcript of Elder Oaks’ talk on religious freedom. Go read it if you haven’t already.

A couple of comments:

It’s obvious that Elder Oaks has been influenced by the Book of Mormon (surprise, surprise) because of the way he ties together freedom and responsibility.

Therefore they relinquished their desires for a king, and became exceedingly anxious that every man should have an equal chance throughout all the land; yea, and every man expressed a willingness to answer for his own sins. (Mosiah 29:38)

I don’t know anywhere else that “equality” is tied like this to a “willingness to answer for his own sins.” This is quite a bit different from the way our culture increasing equates liberty to absence of responsibility.

My second point is something that Elder Oaks didn’t touch on. One of the things that increases the challenge of religious freedom today is that government has come to function for many politically active secularists in the way that church functions for people of faith. When some of these people talk about “separation of church and state” what they’re really saying is “keep your infidel beliefs out of our place of worship.” How do we prevent the establishment of religion when the state becomes a religion?

We need more idiots

October 8, 2009

In Congress, that is: We Need a Bigger House.

I came to this conclusion several years ago. When your congresscritter represents 700,000 people, what are the chances that you’ll ever even meet him?

To go along with this, I’d use modern telecommunication technology and get most members of Congress to stay out of Washington, D. C. There’s no reason they all need to be in the same physical location any more, and if they spent more time around people not involved with the government they might get a better perspective on its importance.

Sudoku

October 8, 2009

Yesterday at work I was reading about Test Driven Development and followed a link to an article describing a Python program to solve sudoku. I had hoped it would show me some new strategies for solving the puzzles, but in the end it just tries out possibilities until it finds the one that works.

However, I wanted to respond to this:

As computer security expert Ben Laurie has stated, Sudoku is “a denial of service attack on human intellect”.

Perhaps in the same way that exercise weights are a DoS attack on human muscles. But unlike machines, with humans it’s “use it or lose it.”

Remaining chaste

October 6, 2009

I don’t intend to run with a theme here, but I was surprised but pleased when I got to the editorial page in today’s Austin-American Statesman and saw this: Why I will remain a virgin until I’m married, by Arleeen Spenceley of the St. Petersburg Times. Our culture needs more of this.