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.
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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,