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Posts Tagged ‘Christianity

Is there a “right way” to pray?

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A picture of Pisgah Baptist Church in Four Oak...
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My first inclination is that “the right way” is what the right wingers are all about and Pew Research surveys continue to offer us metrics about the pervasiveness of belief in a personal God and the practice of prayer in the US. I’m sure if they did their survey in Canada that the numbers for BC, Alberta, Sask and Manitoba would look the same as those in the US.

But the NY Times has this way of “printing “news” that is fit to print” do they have a magazine essay about learning how to pray in Brooklyn NY. Here’s an excerpt from that essay:

But I am in a small minority, at least in the United States. According to a recent study by the Pew Forum, 75 percent of Americans report that they pray at least once a week. Interestingly, only 39 percent attend a worship service once a week or more frequently. Steven Waldman, the editor in chief of, says he thinks this gap means prayer in America is becoming detached from traditional denominations. “In a way, prayer has become its own religion in this society,” he told me. “People pick and choose. They want to be their own spiritual contractors.” This tendency toward do-it-yourself spirituality affects every denomination. According to Waldman, there is a widespread phenomenon of Protestants burying plastic St. Josephs to help them sell their homes. Some Orthodox Jewish rabbis recommend the Lord’s Prayer as a pathway to spirituality. Jesuit retreats routinely incorporate Hindu and Buddhist techniques of meditation. And for those who can’t find what they want among the traditional brands, there are personal trainers known as spiritual directors.

Let me be clear about my own beliefs. I think prayer is childish and but it could have a significant Placebo Effect and that could be good, even for me! But let’s face it all this God talk is indulging in wide spread fantasies about “underlying truths”. So I’m willing to consider the benefit of the Placebo Effect, but fantasy is 99% bunkum and cant!

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A persuasive analysis of Robert Wright’s “Evolution of God”

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Robert Wright (journalist)
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I have said before that I have a lot of time for Robert Wright‘s views about religion, evolution, gaming and politics. So I naturally took the time to read this review of his latest book. Since the reviewer is a professor of philosophy it is not surprising that he has distilled an essence of Wright’s approach to explaining our attachment to the God principle.

For me the last three paragraphs of this review evoke that wise distillation of Wright’s thinking and my own:

If every amazing explanation needs to be explained, and God is sufficiently amazing to explain natural selection (which is amazing) — then what explains God? Clearly something has gone wrong: Indeed, this whole approach to thinking about explanation is completely wrongheaded. A successful explanation banishes one’s bewilderment by dissolving what was previously inexplicable. There is, in the case of a successful explanation, no residual bewilderment, nothing remaining to be explained. If an explanation has failed then one is justified in seeking a further or more complete explanation. But it makes no sense for one, having been offered a successful explanation, to shake his head and say: “How incredible! What an amazingly successful explanation! How could there even be such an amazingly successful explanation? What could possibly explain that?”The point of evolution via natural selection is that it needs very little to get going — even though it can have amazing results, and produces things that appear to have been deliberately designed, the nature of the process is that it does not involve conscious design, nor does it itself need to have been designed or deliberately set in motion. That is why it is a successful and powerful explanation. So to treat its amazing success as evidence for some sort of designer is exactly the wrong conclusion to draw from it. Ironically, what it shows is that one did not really grasp what made the explanation so amazingly successful in the first place.

Though they are profoundly philosophically confused (I resist the cynical impulse to write “Because they are profoundly philosophically confused …”), reconciliationist positions like Wright’s are increasingly popular these days. Perhaps this is, in part, a mark of progress: Even in so religious a country as the United States, fewer people now find it possible simply to write off science so as to preserve their religious views, and so more and more are perhaps searching for some kind of livable compromise. Moreover, supporters of reconciliation are correct, in a sense, to say that there is no in principle conflict between science and religion. The early modern scientists were, for the most part, religious men; they expected the results of their researches to help solidify and confirm their faith. As it turned out, though, they were wrong about what science would tell them, and us, about the world. It is not, then — as religious opponents of science sometimes claim — that an anti-religious bias is built into the very methods of science, and thus presupposed (as, it is often put with a sneer, a kind of faith). The anti-religious bias, rather, is built into the world itself; all that science has done is to discover and reveal it. Even assuming that it is worth achieving, the reconciliation of religion and science will not easily be achieved.

So my own sense of a personal anti-religion bias is the result of it being “built into the world itself”. Somehow that notion makes me feel more comfortable with my own views about religion and science.

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2009/07/15 at 09:06

Can atheists be as “nice” as evangelicals?

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American Atheists

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Paul Bloom in Slate ends his essay on this note:

The sorry state of American atheists, then, may have nothing to do with their lack of religious belief. It may instead be the result of their outsider status within a highly religious country where many of their fellow citizens, including very vocal ones like Schlessinger, find them immoral and unpatriotic. Religion may not poison everything, but it deserves part of the blame for this one.

It’s some of the religious who are the real nasties!

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First time I have heard of this “word”, soulgasms

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Sarah Palin - Dead Grizzly

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From the London Literary Times Supplement:

October 29, 2008

Soulgasms of the Christian Right

A revolution in American sex, and its Evangelical regulators

The Christian Right, as both Dagmar Herzog and the Republican nomination of Sarah Palin make abundantly clear, is not anti-sex. “We are the ones with the babe on the ticket”, gushes the conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. “Run to the arms of your prince and enter your dream”, advises the author, media star and abstinence-before-marriage advocate Lisa Bevere in her book Kissed the Girls and Made Them Cry, on sale at Palin’s old Pentecostal church in Wasilla. Evangelical conservatives have outflanked their enemies: “Christian sex”, and not what the revolutionaries of the 1960s had to offer, turns out to be “the most amazing sex on God’s Green earth”.

So they get it and love it!

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Does this mean that

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Pontifical Gregorian University

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Vatican authorities regarding philosophy have determined that Creationism and ID are not “rational philosophy and theology”, whatever that means!

Catholic News Service reports:

Speakers invited to attend a Vatican-sponsored congress on the evolution debate will not include proponents of creationism and intelligent design, organizers said.

The Pontifical Council for Culture, Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University and the University of Notre Dame in Indiana are organizing an international conference in Rome March 3-7 as one of a series of events marking the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species.”

Jesuit Father Marc Leclerc, a philosophy professor at the Gregorian, told Catholic News Service Sept. 16 that organizers “wanted to create a conference that was strictly scientific” and that discussed rational philosophy and theology along with the latest scientific discoveries.

Unlike too many light-headed politicians in the US, Canada and the UK, the Vatican, or an authoritative part of it, considers Creationism and ID to be “irrational”. Now that has a heavy sound!

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2008/09/27 at 09:27

I have been hearing about disturbing emails about Obama

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US Senator Barack Obama campaigning in New Ham...

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But I have never read an authentic version. Thx to Sean Carroll at Cosmic Variance here’s what one version reads like:

Dear friends:

Barack Hussein Obama has taken the nation by storm. From obscurity, with zero executive experience, or much of any kind, he has vaulted into the position of Presidential frontrunner. It is stunning. On the surface, it appears attributable only to his eloquent oratory and his race. But an invisible factor may be a strong spiritual force behind him, causing some people to actually swoon in his presence.

I have been very concerned that he has publicly said that he does not believe Jesus is the only way to heaven. This makes both the Bible and Jesus a liar, and it means that Christ has died in vain. A person cannot be a true Christian who believes that there are other ways of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life with God. Only Jesus has paid the price for that.

Therefore, there is, indeed, another spirit involved. And this spirit has come into our national life like a flood. Last week at Obama’s acceptance speech, that spirit exalted itself in front of a Greek temple-like stage, and to a huge audience like in a Roman arena. Omama was portrayed as god-like. His voice thundered as a god’s voice.

At the end, Democratic sympathizer Pastor Joel Hunter gave the benediction and shockingly invited everyone to close the prayer to their own (false) gods. This was surely an abomination, but it was compatible with Obama’s expressed theology, and Hunter’s leftist leanings.

God was not pleased.

And God says, “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him” (Isaiah 59:19).

Enter Governor Sarah Palin. With incredible timing, the very next day, Sarah Palin also appeared out of nowhere. Her shocking selection as John McCain’s running mate stunned the world and suddenly took all the wind out of Obama’s sails.

We quickly learned that Sarah is a born-again, Spirit-filled Christian, attends church, and has been a ministry worker.

Sarah is that standard God has raised up to stop the flood. She has the anointing. You can tell by how the dogs are already viciously attacking her. But they will not be successful. She knows the One she serves and will not be intimidated.

Back in the 1980s, I sensed that Israel’s little-known Benjamin Netanyahu was chosen by God for an important end-time role. I still believe that. I now have that same sense about Sarah Palin.

Today I did some checking and discovered that both her first and last names are biblical words, one in Hebrew the other in Greek:

Sarah. Wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac. In Hebrew, Sarah means “noble woman” (Strong’s 8283).

Palin. In Greek, the word means “renewal.” (Strong’s 3825).

A friend said he believes that Sarah Palin is a Deborah. Of Deborah, Smith’s Bible Dictionary says, “A prophetess who judged Israel…. She was not so much a judge as one gifted with prophetic command…. and by virtue of her inspiration ‘a mother in Israel.’”

Only God knows the future and how she may be used by Him, but may this noble woman serve to bring renewal in the land, and inspiration.


The author, Jim Bramlett, was formerly an associate of Pat Robertson, and more recently has been kept busy recording angels singing.

Who are these bigotted people who presume to speak for God, eg “God was not pleased”? They claim to be Christians but fail one major test of their Christianity, that of humility in their belief and thoughts. I can only cringe in the face of this kind of blatant hypocrisy.

As far as Sarah P is concerned I won’t go there. The ground shifts to much, too often!

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2008/09/19 at 12:20

More about short term evolution from Olivia J

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This Gutenberg Bible is displayed by the Unite...Image via Wikipedia

Olivia uses her NY Times Science blog to expand our understanding of how evolution has operated in the long and now the short term.

Meanwhile Creationists are stuck in their own biblical time warp. Their stories do seem repetitive and forward looking whatsoever.

It isn’t so much their insistence that God did it all because that’s what the Word of God says. For me it is more that their vision of God is never changing, while all about humanity is ever changing!

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2008/07/23 at 08:28

Does this mean that the Word of God wasn’t quite that?

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The Resurrection—Tischbein, 1778.Image via Wikipedia

Nothing seems to be simple about evidence that the Word of God is just that! Is the latest about the resurrection of Jesus just another loose end, or is it another example that the Word of God is a longer and slimmer “vein of gold” than is suggested by the Bible?

I guess when it comes to clearing up the sources of the Word of God things look like they get murkier and murkier. When will scholars and scientist’s leave well enough alone so that we can get back to simple acceptance that the Word of God just IS, or isn’t?

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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2008/07/08 at 09:23