Sunday, December 30, 2007

Airport Security Follies Essay

The NY Times has a gem of an opinion piece written by a pilot about the inanity of airport security and the TSA. While I personally find very little difficulty in flying beyond the torturous experience of queuing up through security, I find the various policies absolutely frustrating. So, now the TSA is going to ban certain types of batteries. What the heck? Battery bombs? Yes I'm well aware of the purported problems with lith-ion batteries catching fire, but come on already.

Unfortunately, once freedoms and rights have been given up to the machine that is government - controlled as it is by inane people - those rights are almost impossible to regain. What is so easily given can be only extricated from the fingers of government at the threat of either great violence or great protest. Oops - now we sound like terrorists.

Personally I'm tired of living in a society filled with drones who trust their government and expect it to create for them a nice cozy safe world. My water bottle is not explosive. My nail clippers are not a weapon - my fists and feet can do far more damage by themselves. A trained person can cause more damage with a credit card than with a nail file. They can kill you with a pen much quicker. For what it's worth, I can probably knock a flight attendant out with my large Bible. Where will all of this finally wind up? With us being required to strip from our street clothes, put on hospital gowns, be handcuffed and escorted into a seat where we are enchained for the duration of the flight? Con-Air here we come. Silly, you say - but that's security.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Don't get stopped in Utah

Some would say, avoid the state, but Utah is a beautiful area. But this video that's floating around the blog'spere is fairly enraging. A young guy with his pregnant wife are pulled over and he winds up tazered and arrested. IMHO the cop is way out of line. But as most of us know, you just don't argue with cops. They have badges and guns, and way too much power. Polite and contrite is best. Amazingly enough, it appears that this guy still has his job.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Homeopathy - sounds like sociopathy

I stumbled on an excellent article in a blog post on homeopathy and its dangers. I recommend a read-in-full. It so reflects my feelings as I've listened to the dribble that passes for science among many I encounter here in Bible Belt Land. For some reason the home schoolers in this area demonstrate a strange kinship with the homeopathic industry. I'm constantly presented with "suggestions" for everything from Blake's stuttering to flu. I try to retain an open mind, yet my more skeptical nature constantly kicks in at many of the suggested remedies.

The most recent suggestion (from his teacher) was that my son may be ADD and should get a battery of tests to determine if he is suffering from an allergic reaction to environmental toxins. While I'm sure that there are environmental toxins that we react to and know for a fact that many of us react badly to them, is this the cause for his lack of interest in Math? Sure he's distracted and won't focus on homework, but is this caused by an allergic reaction? Could be. Maybe he just doesn't like math. Or there could be a need to diagnose the reason medically. But if the doctor were to confirm that he's ADD and prescribe Ritalin (I'm not a fan of, btw - but it does have its place), I can even now hear the crescendo of protests at the medical establishment wanting to "drug my child".

Too much like the health advice I encountered growing up SDA...

Sunday, September 30, 2007

50 Years and counting

A number of the family got together to celebrate my aunt and uncle's
50th anniversary. This is a shot of the group. My brother and I had a
great round on the golf course earlier in the day. The weather was a
cool 92.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

New Apple Store

I still remember hearing about the first Apple store opening in New
York I think. People said they were crazy. Yup, like a fox.

The Mall of Georgia is the latest sighting of the seemingly unstopable
incursion of Steve Job's band of artistic nerds.

They are giving away T-shirts to the first 1000 people; I'm seriously
wondering if there might be that many in the line in front of me. The
Northpoint community church drummer in the line with me thinks its

Updates on my other blog...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Music scholar barred from U.S.

This N.Y. Times story profiling Ms. Ghuman, a musician who's been barred from re-entering the U.S - and not told why - is frustrating.

I find it disturbing how many of these types of "security" nightmare stories I've seen during the past 5-6 years. As I read this story I could feel just a little of the helplessness that Mr. Ghuman must feel every day about this situation.

When freedom is something that a government gives the people they are really not free. When the people have given power to their government they can not expect their government to freely give back to them. Freedom must be a right demanded by the people that comes from their will and ability to constrain their government's ability to restrict their freedom.

We've allowed our government to become so powerful that they can restrict freedoms to "protect" our security - and they are not held accountable. When they can do this even to non-citizens and not be required to disclose their motives and reasons, at some point they will have the ability to freely treat you and I in the same way; in fact they already can, if you are accused of "terrorism".

I hope it's not too late for us.

See also: MTV Singer visa revoked, this blog posting,

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

This is your life...

... on GA 400. Mix 1 part rain with 10 parts traffic, don't mix or
stir, just let it sit for an hour or so... and voila! Instant Atlanta

Update: 1:45 commute this morning...we need to win that lottery...

Monday, August 27, 2007

Testing mobile blogging

This is a test from the iPhone of mobile blogging. (whew, already
tired of typing).

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Night for Africa

Northpoint Community Church held a fund-raiser "A Night for Africa", last night ("fun raiser", as Lanny thought it was). It was a good time and somewhat educational. Jeff Foxworthy was the headliner - he had gone with the 410 Bridge group to Africa. They also played video from their trip and had slides showing some of the depressing statistics about life in Eastern Africa. They handed out these informative "passports" at the event.

While they did highlight some of the issues with water availability and quality, and the mortality rates of children, they didn't much mention the rampant AIDS problem (as I recall). I'm on the donor list of Doctors without Borders, so I get alerts and newsletters about many of the issues in Africa. Amazing how wonderful our quality of life is in sharp contrast to others' around the world.

Naturally, what's a fund-raiser for Africa without representative indigenous smiling faces. There was a young lady who's been sponsored by an American couple - and who wants to be the first female Kenyan president in, say, 2030. There was also the talented Daraja African children's choir. In all it was a good night, though I wish they had highlight a bit more the real depth of the problems in Africa. However, had they done that there probably would be those who felt that they were using emotional manipulation (can't win sometimes, I guess). I did like the philosophy of 410 Bridge, which is to work with the Compassion International and local organizations rather than come in with their own Westernized agenda.

Generally I'd rather see funding for humanitarian efforts go to dedicated organization rather than through church organizations, which too often focus more on the "soul" than on solving the physical problems. Telling someone that one day they'll be happy in heaven doesn't make their life here on earth any better. Yet must of the focus of this event is on addressing the very real problems that exist in the here and now.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Photoset from Germany

I've uploaded the pictures from the Germany trip. Dumb flickr has a 200 picture limit, but I think all the recent trip pictures are still visible.

Green with Envy

My co-worker and I agree: Germans are much more green conscious than we Americans. Everywhere I looked I saw evidence - at least superficial evidence - that they value being ecologically friendly. There were lots of smaller cars, lots of riders on the trolleys, and lots - I mean, lots - of bicycles. While the motivation might not be ecological alone (extremely small and rare parking spaces in many areas, and 1.35 € per liter for gas also stimulates the more lofty values) still the fact is they are driving small cars, they are riding their trains and trolleys, and most impressive, they are riding bikes and scooters in far greater numbers than I've seen anywhere here in the States.

While in Frankfurt I observed a young professional lady coming out of one of their massive business towers. She was dressed in a business suite (with skirt) and high heels.

She looked like she was walking toward the crosswalk, and I guessed that she was probably heading up to the train station. Instead she walked up to a bicycle that was chained to a sign, unlocked it and off she peddled, presumably toward home or off to meet friends for dinner. I would find it extremely surprising to see a suit-clad man mount a bike much less an attractive woman over here. To them it is just a regular, and prudent mode of transportation.

Other examples included the rare use of air-conditioning, sod and grass growing on rooftops, and automatic shutter systems that reduce the glare of sunshine into buildings. They are very keen to not give you a bag at the grocery store (yet will happily if you request one). Sure - some of them drive absurdly large Mercedes, and sports cars. And I'm sure if one looked deeply enough there would be more examples of rampant waste. However, the point is you'd have to look - unlike here where one is constantly dodging urban assault vehicles that suck gas at from between 5-15 miles per gallon.

Yes, we love America - and we have reason to be proud of our achievements. We do, however, need to remember that the world that we live in is fragile and we can (and have) wound it. Here in Atlanta we have one of the worst air quality (I use the word "quality" loosely) situations of any North American commuting city. We also have one of the worst public transportation systems, and we all drive with mostly a single commuter per car. I would hope that we are motivated by either shame or by some form of greed into doing better ecologically. Reducing our dependence on foreign oil is a noble goal; changing our driving culture from the tankish to the stylishly small will dramatically increase that reduction. (Now where are the keys to my Hummer...just kidding.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Notes from Germany

First, Karlruhe Germany is great. The people are very friendly and just awesome. The city here is very cool and seems like a great place to live and hang out. Lots of shops and street cages. People just seem to appreciate each other and life. The seem just like i imagined.

I have learned:
iPhone (with which i am writing this, via WiFi) is dangerous for Europe. While it is great that it will seamlessly switch from WiFi to edge in the states, here that costs $. Several times I noticed the "E" rather the wireless symbol. There is no way to just disable Edge. Ouch.

Websites automatically send me to German language pages. I even log in to my normal iGoogle and it's all in German. Weird, really, especially when you've logged into, say Yahoo or Google who I'd have thought would know that I'm normally English speaking. But Blogger and Yahoo email are all in German over here. I even had trouble bringing up the English version of Google since it wants to redirect to the .de site. It makes it tough for Americans who travel to see their stuff.

Euros are expensive - 1.47 $ for a €

Europeans are much more "green" than us. Lots of examples.

Good grief! Trains and trolleys, bikes, scooters and small cars. They do people moving much better.

My manager asked when I wanted the transfer to Siemens Germany. Almost right-very nice here. The lifestyle is much better in many ways to suburban. But there is no place like home... I'm off to Paris tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Antichrist calls protestants Antichrists

Growing up as a Seventh-day Adventist it seemed that every time you turned around someone was spouting off about how the Pope and Catholicism was the Antichrist and the beast of Revelation 13. We were taught that the wound was inflicted in the past, but that the beast was to be healed of its wound and march to kill all of us SDA's who keep the law (yada yada).

It's only fitting, then, that the Pope would issue a 16 page document calling the non-Catholic churches sort of "wanna be" churches suffering from a wound (See CNN article (removed) and FoxNews). Nice. Whatever. I love this quote:

The document said the Council's opening to other faiths recognized there were "many elements of sanctification and truth" in other Christian denominations, but stressed only Catholicism had all the elements to be Christ's Church fully.
Exactly what are those "elements"? Hmmm, one could only speculate in an unflattering way... I seriously hope that Protestants don't sit passively and let stuff like this float by unchallenged.

Update: What we meant was...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Protest editorial against Bush

He was my president. I voted for him. I supported him. I now regret that vote and no longer support him. This after much thought and a shifting of perspectives informed by education. We were white-hot angry at Clinton at his wranglings and legal manipulations. We boldly declared that it was about character and honesty. What the hell is commuting Libby's sentence? (See cartoon) Traditional Japanese leaders would step down if they had made a mistake as grave as our attack on Iraq under a false premise. Indeed, they'd commit seppuku.

While I may not share the anger, I certainly resonate with the sentiment:

Update: I was told that this post seems a bit angry (and that it might turn people away). Ding! I am ticked off about this president (finally). I didn't start that way. I supported him. But I do find it super interesting that the religious right descended on Clinton like a flock of vultures when he played with Monica and lied under oath, yet they've not so much as lifted a pinkie of protest with all the things this administration has done or allowed. They whined about Clinton's pardons, yet at least he had the decency to wait for a period of mourning. Bush had his gun cocked, aimed and ready to fire at the drop of the gavel. He commuted Libby's sentence, and could yet pardon him alltogether.

Just after 9/11 I was glad that we had a president of conviction and strength, and I was glad that he was responding in strength to the "terrorist" threat. Mostly I supported the invasion of Afghanistan if for no other reason than I don't like theocracies; the Taliban are no friend of humanity. Yet I'll never forget the sickened feeling I got when I started hearing the administration float the word "Iraq" and "Hussein" into the public awareness. It seemed so transparent to me. Baby Bush was gonna finish off what Daddy Bush left undone (as it were). Sure, there may have been a long series of atrocities against humanity, and sure Iraq may have been supporting terrorists. But suddenly the "war" changed from justice for those who attacked us to a global war against every Tom, Dick and Ahib that looked at us wrong.

We well know the Iraq war history. Little resistence. No WMDs. No Bin Laden. No after-war plan and certainly no exit strategy. No joy. Enter Guantanamo (see description) America's little terrorist camp - er, torture - eh, I meant to say, America's little terrorist inquisition (crap! freudian slip again) - It's our detention camp, ya, that's it... - that used International legal loopholes to pay bounties and gather suspicious looking characters from all over the world and beat the hell out of them and humiliate them trying to ascertain if they are bad guys. If they were not enemies of America before we grabbed them they certainly are after we finished up with them in Gitmo. We know that there have been innocent people dragged there. But isn't this, after all, why in this country we believe so strongly in due process and individual legal rights? Isn't this why we have an open process? If the humans that are in this country have these rights, are we saying that other humans -- just because they are really naughty -- do not? Have you actually seen some of the people who enjoy the rights of this country and who are in Super Max prisions? Naughty indeed.

So am I a little ticked off? Yes. Do I think other people should be too? Yes.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Sharpton vs. Hitchens on moral absolutes

I'm not particularly fond of either of these guys, especially Sharpton. He strikes me as the classical definition of a "blow hard". Hitchens, for all of his intellectual acumen is generally so abrasive that any merit his arguments about religion and the practice of religion may have are lost. This debate was especially fun to watch, though the debate would have been all the more entertaining were it between Dobson and Hitchens.

As for moral absolutes verses relativism, the question of how we prosecute people is flawed in this context. We prosecute people because we are a society founded on the rule of law. We arrive at this structure as the descendants of England and highly influenced by French thought, which itself was influenced by the classical societies of Rome and Greece. While our founder's motivation may have included theistic leanings law itself is viewed as an impartial arbiter to ensure freedom and the smooth operation of society. ("Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.")

To complain that removing the Ten Commandments will lead to the destruction of the rule of law is a flawed argument, and religiously motivated. This country was never founded on, nor enforced, the Ten Commandments. We have no laws enforcing "Thou shalt not covet" and no method of prosecuting someone for coveting or not holding God in highest regard. Were we to truly have as our foundation the Ten Commandments we would need to prosecute Atheists for breaking the first. These are religious laws that inform the spiritual mind. They are higher, or deeper, than our normal civil laws that are created as a response to societal problems.

To illustrate the difference between our laws and the Decalogue, consider the laws regulating traffic. Shortly after automobiles were invented two things happened. First, guys wanted to race and second the flow of cars through the streets resulted in chaos. Civil leadership understood that in order to facilitate growth and protect people laws were needed. As time progressed the laws, regulations and conventions evolved into what they are today. I well remember intersections regulated by lights with just a green and a red. Such a light would spell disaster today in many busy city intersections. The yellow along with delays provide a buffer that prevents desperate idiots from crashing into too-eager drivers who zoom out at the first glimpse of a green light.

To say that our laws are founded on the Ten Commandments is to hijack modern thought with ancient theology. Even the Christian who has understood the differences between the old and the new covenants understands that we are no longer bound under the Decalogue. The Ten Commandments simply are insufficient to regulate our societies, and would lead to a level of intolerance that is unacceptable. Unless we are prepared to outlaw any religion except Christianity or draft vague definitions of terms such as "god", "covet" and "lie" we have no possibility of enforcing the Ten Commandments.

While the Christian may believe in moral absolutes, this is very different than asking how we prosecute criminals. They are criminals, by definition, because they have been found guilt of breaking one of our criminal laws -- not for having broken some moral absolute. They are prosecuted for driving under the influence, or for having sold drugs. The fact that the various laws on our books can be grouped under one or more of the Decalogue does not in fact mean that our laws are derived from it. We have, as a society, decided that we do not want to allow dangerous drugs to be sold or people to drive unsafely. Fairness, and freedom dictate that one person's actions should not impede the freedom of another's.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Home Improvement Follies

This one falls squarely into the category of "Oh Crap!" Seems that we had someone over working on the roof. Ya gotta love how builders do crappy jobs knowing that by the time you figure out that the nail holes in the roof they've left leak they'll be long gone. So we had nail holes that over the centuries have started to leak. Lovely. So the fix-it guy put a pan into the attic in case it rained, but didn't remove it. So, your's truly wandered into the roof to retrieve said kitchen pan...

Yup - you really do fall through quickly if your foot slips off the beam. Imagine my foot dangling through and you get the picture as it was all of a sudden like. If it didn't hurt so bad it would have been funny...well, it was funny all the same.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Pope's dresses

"Dahhhling, your drag is divine, but your purse is on fire!"

Friday, May 04, 2007

Habeas Schmabeas

They won a Peabody award for it in 2006. I didn't hear it back then; I listened to it this morning and it made me mad all over again. Here's from their site:
The right of habeas corpus has been a part of our country's legal tradition longer than we've actually been a country. It means that our government has to explain why it's holding a person in custody. But now, the War on Terror has nixed many of the rules we used to think of as fundamental. At Guantanamo Bay, our government initially claimed that prisoners should not be covered by habeas—or even by the Geneva Conventions—because they're the most fearsome enemies we have. But is that true? Is it a camp full of terrorists, or a camp full of our mistakes?

When I first heard that we were aggregating "prisoners" at Guantanamo Bay I was very nervous about it. As a Bush supporter I, at the time, supported his aggressive counter measures toward those who were waging an unconventional war against us. But over time I started to wonder just what we would emerge as once this was all "done" - if it ever was done. What would our nation look like?

There is an America that we all think is, then there is what our leaders and politicians are molding it into. There is what Evangelicals want to mold it into with their "wedge strategy" and for some the goal is to transform this into a theocracy. Um, that's not worked well in the past as I recall. We have been a nation of laws and of personal rights. We believe that it is better for a guilty man to walk free than to have an innocent man imprisoned. But I'm wondering if that's changing by our apathetic attitude toward Guantanamo. Is our need for security allowing our government to exchange security for human rights? I certainly hope not. I certainly hope that we will use our important voting power to ensure that the America that we want -- that we teach our children that it is -- continues: An America that values human rights and personal freedom over security.

Personally, this may be one of the first elections that I do not vote Republican. (Though, anyone but Hillary...)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Shooting at VT

The shooting at Virginia Tech is horrifying and an example of the worst in humanity. Researchers and analysts will dissect every aspect of the event, and families and students will for years to come have to live with a reality that most of us never experience.

Already people who are against guns and pressing for greater gun control are making bold statements in an attempt to capitalize on the fear and horror of this situation. The Australian prime minister reaches across the ocean to toss in his two cents worth from a country that has totally banned guns.

I have only one question for him and all those who are for greater gun control: If we had not been so successful in eradicating guns from our society, do we think that there might have been someone equipped and prepared to stop this madman before he killed 33 people? As it stood, there was simply no one who could stop this person since we are essentially unarmed and unprotected.

For years those of us who are against strict gun control have been saying that when it is criminal to own guns only criminals will own guns. This is a prime example. When a society is unarmed they are unable to protect themselves from the person who is armed and who totally disregards societies norms and laws. It is illegal to kill someone in cold-blooded murder. This guy didn't care. Society finds this behavior unacceptable. This guy didn't care.

If someone had had a gun that day, they could possibly have stopped this gunman. However, that person would well have faced legal consequences for having broken the law and carried a gun onto campus.

People say, "I'd rather be arrested than killed." While that makes a lot of sense, we all wind up playing the odds. We abide by society's laws and norms and take the chance that something like this doesn't happen. For those at Virginia Tech the odds were against them. They were unarmed, and the worst that could happen did.

Update: Tom Plate would not agree with my position. Ted Nugent would. I agree with him too.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Ten Commandments Weekend at 3ABN

I'm always tempted to call 3ABN "3 A Bad Network". I'll resist.

But if you're a fan, be sure to tune in May 5,6 for the 10 Commandments weekend (link broken). I'd need to check, but it's probably the weekend after the All Grace Weekend? Maybe not.

I'm a bit disconnected from the facts but still tied into the Adventist grapevine. I never liked the network and even more dislike the goings on with Danny Shelton. (Linda Shelton has a nice website by the way. And personally, I believe her.) I think the who situation is despicable and gives much evidence to the bankruptcy of that religion. Geez: why can't we just all get along :)

Saturday, March 31, 2007

"Planet Earth" and Global Warming

I'm very excited about the new Discovery Channel series entitled Planet Earth (page is very "heavy".) It promises to bring images from unreachable parts of the Earth (for most of us) right into our living rooms. What kills me, however, is the spot that they just showed on Friday's Oprah. It was a segment on the polar bears filled with global warming statements both in the video and from Oprah.

I'll be very disappointed if they turn the show into a political platform, especially for bad science. If you watched the video from the previous posting, or have done your own research and seen the evidence of weather patterns over the past several 100,000 years: truly we've had an impact on our environment, but it pales compared to the impact the Sun has had on this planet.

Ice core samples taken from Antarctica and from the NGRIP & GISP2 in Greenland have provided many insights into the weather trends, especially since the last ice age.

Personally I hope that the show simply shows the reality we live among rather than be used as a soapbox. On the other hand, I'll be sitting front and center - and controlling the remote to be sure :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Global Warming?

While I believe that we Americans are silly in our dependence on foreign oil, and that we are way too dependent upon our individual automobiles for our daily commutes, I also find the current "debate" about "global warming" much too sensational and biased.

Here are a couple of balancing statements shedding some light to the other side.

Update: Meh - both the videos have been removed.
BBC Video, NYTimes

Friday, March 02, 2007

Debt Elimination Scams

Legal ways to wipe out debt without paying for it? Don't believe it. Even if true, it would be wrong. See my writeup in my Biz blog.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Travolta: Scientology could have saved Anna

By now, even if you're not a star-gazer you've no doubt heard of the death of Anna Nichole Smith. Travolta (drop the 'T') has come out stating that Scientology could have saved Anna. Oh brother. Nice - and easy - to speculate now that she's dead. For all that matters, a good 12-step program could have done wonders for her - or being lost on an island for a few months with just a soccer ball for a friend.

It is so easy to speculate as to what could have saved poor Anna now that it's too last to test his theory. Narconon has also been discredited and criticized by experts in the field. What is clear is that she's gone, but the scrambling after money and control of her estate and name will continue. And, if Travolta's comments are any indication, people will continue to use her as a spring-board to promote all sorts of oddities.


Update: Not to sound callous, but it didn't save his son.

Ah, Springtime in Georgia

True to form, it's the end of Feb and the flowers are popping up, trees starting to bloom and we're enjoying sunny days in the upper 60's. I'm a sunshine sort of person - don't like cold and dreary. I guess that's why I really didn't enjoy Michigan much.

Funny how people are just more pleasant as the weather becomes nicer. Funny how hard it is to get work done, also. Speaking of getting work done, though, check out the progress on the personal finance site I'm working on. It's coming along nicely. You can create a user (important first step!), setup your monthly budget and enter planned expenditures. Already you can visualize your future with balance projection and monthly spending breakdown charts. Update: for my own personal finances I took a job with Siemens instead :)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

So, if that's wrong...what is true then?

There is a phenomenon that I've observed. When you have a radical paradigm shift after leaving an environment like Adventism or some other closed culture where you are taught ideas that are later refuted, something clicks inside our head. The person one day stands back and looks at the world and pauses, and asks, "So, which part of what I believe is real and true and what else might be wrong?" If X idea was totally unfounded and has been proven to be false, what about Y or Z?

This leads some to question Christianity, the Bible, and even religion in general. This can be especially troubling, when in the process of attempting to honestly understand what is real and true, the searcher is presented with something as fundamentally flawed as the age of the Earth. If one grows up in a fundamentalist community – which Adventism is – they are generally taught that the age of the earth is somewhere between 6,000 to 10,000 years old. We were also taught that carbon dating schemes were flawed and that Darwin was the anti-Christ. Yet when the mass of the scientific community, through a variety of radiometric and other dating methods, all come up with an age for the Earth greater than 10,000 years (conservative ice layer counting methods show at least 50,000 years) one begins to not only doubt the conclusions of their fundamentalist community but the methods of deriving truth.

This brings the honest and earnest searcher back to some very fundamental questions: How do we think? How do we know? How do we know that we know? (Epistemology) How can we be certain? What is the role of faith when faith has proven to cause so many problems in this world – our present "war on terror" is really a war between warped faith and our own perception of what is right and what our role in this world should be.

At a more basic and focused level the Christian who has left, or is seriously questioning Adventism starts wondering what they should believe and how they go about arriving at truth. This is one of the most serious issues with the dishonesty of Adventism and other flawed systems of belief that persist in a self-preservation mode. When what they insist is true is shown to be false everything else – even truth – is questioned. For those of us unfortunate enough to have grown up in fundamentalist environments, we discover as adults that we were never taught as children how to think and arrive and truth, but rather were simply feed someone else's version of "truth". (Think Mormon, Islam, Hindu, LSU fans – why are they what they are? Because they were brought up to believe it.)

While I don't have an answer that is a panacea I do have a suggestion. If we (as Christians) are to start over in our quest for truth we have to walk back through history. There was a guy named Noah, and one named Abraham and one named Moses. These guys all claimed to have met, talked with and followed a God who simply called himself "I am" (a philosophically perfect description for God). Following their generations we arrive at the conclusion that they all were looking forward to some event – to someone. About 2,000 years ago it is said that that event happened and that someone came. Our search for truth must start with that event and with that someone. If the story about that event is wrong and that someone was not who he said that he was then it's all a lovely story. However if he was indeed who he said that he was – and more importantly if his mission and his accomplishment is accurate, then the importance is greater than discovering the age of the earth.

It seems to me that it is understandable and profitable to stand back and gaze thoughtfully at the world and ask, "What is true?" But it seems that our search must have a starting point – a reference point – in order to produce accurate conclusions. Science can tell us what they see; it can not tell us what truth is. Hollywood can delight our senses; it can not soothe our souls. America can "win" a war on terror; she can not solve the sin problem. If there is an ultimate truth and an ultimate being, he exists outside of and apart from us (he can not be found within as Buddhism teaches); a good starting point is to look again at the man and the claims of Jesus Christ.

Oh, and the age of the Earth? Who cares? In no place does the Bible set an age for the Earth – nowhere. Theologians (cf James Ussher) have added up the time periods documented in the Bible and have derived an age for the Earth. They have come up with a dating method; any serious study on the various methods for dating the Earth will mention the Biblical methods. Yet, when crosschecked with the other methods there is a huge difference. Christians, then, naturally conclude that all the other methods are flawed since they go "against the Bible". But do they contradict the Bible or do they contradict our interpretation of the Bible? Indeed, no where does the Bible define the duration of time between creation and the Fall. That period could have easily been thousands or even millions of years. And Genesis 1 says that the spirit moved over the waters of the deep – where did the waters come from and upon what did they sit, and for how long had they been sitting before God decided to stir them up and create us? So, is it the Bible that speaks error or is it our traditional and fundamentalist interpretations that have been culturally and traditionally handed down?

Indeed, if Genesis 1 doesn't say what we've thought the consequences are insignificant; If Jesus doesn't say what we think he says, however, Christianity has built its house on a sandy flood plain. More important than the age of a rock is the question of the solidity of the Rock we base our faith upon.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Letter from a reader

The following is two emails posted together, with the writer's permission. It is, unfortunately, typical of a lot of people who still find themselves in Adventism.
* * *
Dear Curtis:
God Bless You. I have been reading your blogs for several months now. I was baptised into the SDA church almost 15 years ago. I converted for my wife who is a 4th generation SDA (her ancestors in Indonesia were converted by missionaries about 100 yrs. ago). I remain in the SDA church only for my wife's sake as it would break her heart if I left. My experience has been primarily in Indonesian and Filipino SDA Churches which are very conservative and probably the way Caucasian American SDA churches were in the 1940s.

I want to leave the SDA church for the same reasons you did. I don't buy EGW's nonsense. In fact, I consider the Investigative Judgement to not only be non-Biblical but blasphemy against God and slapping Christ while he is on the cross. I also despise the Sunday Law doctrine which is not only absurd on it's face but foments intolerance toward other Christians. I have been somewhat vocal about my views to the point where the pastor of my Church threatened to disfellowship me if I persisted. My crime amounted to me e-mailing him that I believe in the immortality of the soul (it's what separates us from the beasts), Christ IS our Sabbath, EGW is NOT a prophet, the Investigative Judgement and 1844 time setting were hideous and egregious errors and the Sunday Law teaching is ridiculous and borders on being hateful toward other Christians.

I don't blame my wife. She was indoctrinated into this since she was a baby. I just keep on loving her as Christ loves the church and am waiting on the Lord to give me relief from this situation. It is very hard going to a church Sabbath after Sabbath that I no longer believe in and I can't even sit through Sabbath School anymore as it is 80% EGW and 20% Bible in the quarterlies. I would like to continue to keep the Sabbath(out of love for God only, realising it's not necessary for Salvation) and would prefer to attend a Messianic Jewish Synagogue(I actually tried one and LOVED it but my wife didn't she thought they were a bunch of "hippies").

The SDA obsession with the end of the world is depressing. Christ WILL come again but the time is NOT for us to know. Why can't we have a good life on this earth while we're preparing for the next. It seems like the SDAs HATE this life and dwell on their nihilistic nonsense. But I love them anyway and have nothing against them, but they can be very annoying at times.

I have a friend at my Church who converted from Catholicism to SDA(for his wife). He mentioned to me all the years he was a Roman Catholic he NEVER heard the Catholics say anything bad about the SDA church, but the Catholic "bashing" in the SDA church gets kind of tiring. By the way, I was a "New Ager" and especially into the Baha'i faith before I converted.

I'm getting ready for church. But tomorrow I am sneaking off to a Methodist Church where I will really be fed spiritually. I'll have to remember the bring a good book thing for SS and Church. I tell you the truth I feel like Sabbath School is a waste of my time. It's way more EGW than Bible. And the sermons are EGW, Sabbath, Sunday Laws, End of the world, where's the gospel? I am so glad I am going to Methodist Church tomorrow where I will hear nothing but gospel.
I feel there is some hope, my wife doesn't seem to buy all of the SDA stuff and I think while she calls me a "rebel" she actually agrees with me and doesn't want to admit it. Because in her culture, you do not change the religion you were born into I think she remains SDA more out of a sense of "duty" more than anything else.
I'll just smile and make the best of it. It does make me angry when SDAs tell me if I leave the Church I will become an atheist. NO WAY I will ALWAYS believe in God and now that I have a true understanding of the Gospel I believe in Christ MORE than I EVER did. And I have mentally and in my heart left the SDA church I only go there physically against my will.
Have a wonderful day.
In Christ,

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Freedom of Religion = Right to be Dumb?

Let's face it: politicians have been practicing this ever since politicians realized that it worked. It is the practice of publicly and boldly implying a half truth about your opponent. In this recent case Scientology is striking at psychiatry by implying that it, or its drugs, is responsible for crimes. The half-truth is that people who have a pattern of doing crazy things are given drugs in an attempt to either calm them down by suppressing certain mental patterns, or by increasing say the level of serotonin to keep said person smiling. When the drugs either fail to work as hoped, or are not taken as prescribed, they are blamed by another group of crazy people - Scientologists.

Is it any wonder that some people simply shake their head at religious people? Does religion abuse its rights, especially in this country, by saying things that are false but difficult to disprove? Cults, and those sects with cultic tendencies, make truth claims that are esoteric and difficult to disprove because of the element of truth that they embody. They take something that is either truth, or appears to be true, and twist it into a form that is both false and dangerous - and difficult or tricky to disprove. Take, for example, the fight over the Ten Commandments. Who wants to lead the fight against Church leaders who publicy proclaim that God is mad at America because we've removed the Ten Commandments from our public buildings. It's like fighting against God.

True, psychiatric drugs might be like mini nuclear bombs - area of effect rather than precision. And it is also true that the drugs themselves can cause problems. But they do tremendously for the many people who suffer from mental disorders that if left untreated can be life threatening. To suggest that these drugs are responsible is irresponsible and a throwback to a dangerous era where emotion and religion ruled over reason and truth. Scientology? They need to exercise their right to remain silent for a change.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Drowning in dumb

Well, actually the subject is on drowning in debt, but I like my title better. I'm talking about a recent 20/20 special on the subject of basically how dumb we Americans have gotten about our finances. (I hear my non-American readers chuckling in the background). The program aired last night (Friday Jan 20) and is entitled "Flat Broke: Begging And Borrowing In America". I'd highly recommend it.

Over the past year I've been researching and working on a web-based software to help manage cash flow and eliminate debt. An interesting experience got me thinking along these lines: several years ago the start up that I worked for was not doing well. They had already had three rounds of layoffs (etc - typical start up story). I decided we needed to be debt free. We didn't have much debt since we drove old/paid-for cars, but still had around $12k in credit card debt. So my wife would get one of the bills and ask how much to pay off. I'd generally just guestimate: "How much is it? 4000? Ya, pay half." One month I got a little too aggressive and we almost didn't have enough cash left for the next-month's rent. The difficulty, I found, was in aggressively paying off the debt while maintaining sufficient cash available to meet other short-term and longer-term requirements and goals. More on the software later.

The question I pose is this: given the many things that the Bible speaks regarding debt, and given the mental and spiritual torture that many experience while drowning in dumb, er, debt, is it wise to following the currently popular financial formula? If the borrower is slave to the lender (ah, priceless), then isn't the path to freedom obvious? Check out the 20/20 program and check out my friend Dave Ramsey while you're at it. In debt? This is the year for freedom.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Anti Anti Baptists?

It seems to me and a lot of other people that Baptists are just against everything. Now Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton (yes, you heard that right) are joining forces to attempt to fix the image problem that Baptists have gained by being against everything.

"Regrettably, the word Baptist has become synonymous with an anti-everything posture. Anti-women, anti-public education, anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, anti-Disney. The perception that the Southern Baptist Convention represents all Baptists is one reason we met in Atlanta to plan a celebratory gathering that will reshape public opinion about Baptists."
Yup. But the same is starting to be said for Evangelicals in general. With the narrow and staunch stance of the likes of Dobson and Robertson on abortion and homosexuality, it's no wonder we are known as a bunch of angry activists trying to force an agenda that many don't care about.

Ponder this: If Jesus said we'd be known by our Love, does this mean that we today are simply misunderstood or not what He intended?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Happy New Year

As that famous philosopher Yogi Berra quipped, "It's deja vu all over again." Of course, he's also credited with "When you see a fork in the road--take it" which provokes all sorts of deep thought and possibilities. But it's another new year again. It seems just yesterday that Libby and I were at a neighbor's New Year Eve's party watching the host working on her first hangover of the year. This year was much more tame as we and a small group of friends bemoaned how awful Dick Clark sounded for a guy who looks 27 still.

So what's this year going to bring? We've already discussed Pat Robertson's prediction, which prompted a "no duh" reaction from a friend. Terrorism? In 2007? Ya think? Tough call there Pat. But what else? Will the Democrats actually do something or just enjoy the Country Club membership like my party did? Will oil production peak (has it already?) or will hybrids save the day? Speaking of oil, will Americans finally start to understand the effects of a large nation who soaks up so much oil that it drives up the price and spews pollution into our already choked atmosphere? Yes, I'm talking about China and as they catch up to us and remind us of how we've been; will we finally start to take notice of the practice and change our wandering ways? Is this the year we dump the large SUV, not because we can't afford to drive it, but because we simply want to be more energy responsible?

Speaking of apathy, what about the average Seventh-day Adventist? Will this be the year that all the Adventists who know there is "something wrong" finally "search the scriptures to see if these things are so"? Those who who are too busy, comfortable or afraid: will they (you?) finally take a step back and look at the evidence that has been presented and decide once and for all what they should believe?

So, will this be a pivotal year of change, or will it simply be deja vu all over again? I guess that is up to us. One thing is clear: just like our oil will
eventually run out and our cars will sputter to the side of the road, ultimately we all will understand the truth about God clearly. Some possibilities?
  1. There is no god. We die and our life was all that we had. In this case the good and the bad we do leave their impact for better or for worse. (A happy, positive Christian with faith in a good God almost always impacts the world for better.) I'm not betting on this option, by the way. Update: Leaning this direction due to total lack of evidence and a strong case against religions of all type.
  2. Adventism is true. But in this case we have to define "Adventism". Is it what they believed from 1840-1855 or what they developed after 1855? Is it what was taught by Ellen White or simply what the church matured into and the current statement of belief? Is it the bland, watered down version modern Adventists adhere to or the sharp extremes "historicists" insist upon? If correct, it calls upon Adventists to dedicate 100% of their time and resources to warning the world with the "3 angels" messages. Living in the antitypical "Day of Atonement" has a price - a steep price.
  3. Adventism is false. Then it is dangerous to remain in it. Like the Mormons, though you may have many family members and friends who are Mormon, if your church is teaching a false gospel Paul insists that they are accursed. To remain is to continue to support, promote and breath deadly error that steals the soul of life-breathing oxygen of the truth in Christ.
I know many will look for other options relative to Adventism.
  • It's mostly true, but there are some problems.
  • It used to be more cult-like and had many errors, but we've steadily dropped them. (I'll check back with you in another 150 years and see how you're doing.)
  • No denomination is perfect - they all have their errors. I mean, what's with this "Left Behind" and double predestination stuff? (And speaking in tongues, praying to Mary, holy laughter, gems from heaven, and what's up with Benny Hill - er, Hin?) At least Adventists are not as bad as all that?
And it goes on. But the question in 2007 remains: What is truth? Specifically, are Adventisms unique truth-claims in fact true?
  • Must we keep the 7th-day Sabbath in order to avoid the mark of the beast?
  • Did Christ end the gospel dispensation, close the door to and leave the Holy Place in heaven and open the door to and enter the Most Holy Place in 1844?
  • Did 1844 begin the Day of Atonement? Are we currently living in it?
  • Was Ellen White in fact a prophet "just like Jeremiah"? Is she credible and to be believed and obeyed above my own judgment of scripture? Does her "borrowing", strange memory, strange early behavior matter?
  • Is Daniel 8:14 and Daniel 7 linked to Lev. 16 such that it teaches 1844 began the investigative judgment in heaven and the start of the Day of Atonement.
  • etc. etc. etc.
Is 2007 Deja Vu all over again? Or is this the year that Adventists decide to be honest with themselves and motivated to either fully understand and admit what Adventists believe and stand for, or discard the errors and walk more fully in the power of the true gospel?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Now *this* is scarey

No, I'm not talking about his predicted terrorist attack...I'm taking about him. He's fruit loops. A nutty bar. Kuku for cocopuffs. Yup. Monsieur Pat Robertson. (separated at birth?)

In one corner of the ring we have guys with bombs telling us god told them to blow stuff (Americans and Jews mostly) up. In the other Pat telling us god is telling him stuff like impending terrorist attacks and insightful tidbits about American foreign (feigned?) policy. The sad thing is that all his 70+ year old viewers are scared to death now of this year now.

I guess I had my fill of "god told me" growing up so when I hear this guy rambling I just yawn and shake my head...Some Christians are just disturbed...Did we not learn anything from William Miller and company? Or Chicken Little?

Update: Guess I'm not the only one cringing.