Deconversion: A Response – Part 2 (Prayer)

I got some Christmas gifts early this year — we wanted to open gifts with my mother-in-law while she was in town helping us adjust to life with the new baby.  One of the gifts I received was this neat-looking credit-card-sized multi-tool from my Amazon wishlist.  Though I could discern on sight how to use most of the elements of the tool, there were a few that baffled me, so I swallowed my man-pride and actually took a look at the instructions.

There was one problem, though:  The instructions were all in Chinese.  I couldn’t read them.

I went to the product’s Amazon page, and lo and behold one of the pictures was a key that showed the uses of each element (though now I have to go figure out how to use a “direction auxiliary indication”).  Out of curiosity, I proceeded to read some of the reviews, and I noticed that many who had received the tool had the same problem that I did with the instructions.  What struck me the most about these particular reviews was how many users gave the product a negative review based solely on their inability to understand the instructions.  Ironically, in leaving their review, they had to visit the very page where I was able to discover clear instructions, so they could have easily overcame the linguistic difficulty, just as I had — and yet, their entire opinion of the efficacy of the tool never ventured beyond their inability to understand how it was meant to be used.

Isn’t this exactly how so many people base their opinions on the inefficacy of intercessory prayer?  Once they realize the tool doesn’t work they way they thought or assumed it did, they give the whole system a negative review and state that “it doesn’t work.” (more…)

Well, It’s Official…

I’m officially a father — to a beautiful, healthy boy.  The past three days have been a whirlwind, as I’m sure many of you know from experience!  Though my preoccupation with my family affairs has not kept me from thinking of this community and those I’ve come to love and admire in it — I really do think we have a special thing going here, and the caliber of people whom this blog attracts continues to astound me, truly.  I am loath to have to take a break from engaging with you all, and perhaps I shall still be able to post here and there — though I find it difficult to type with a little one in my hands, I certainly have much time to read and think. (more…)

Deconversion: A Response (Part 1)

About a month ago, Nan shared the video below in a comment.  The video is the first in a series by YouTuber Evid3nc3, where he explores his prior belief in Christianity and examines the various components of his deconversion.

I had seen this video and a few others in the series before, and I remember being impressed — it is, in my opinion, a very well-done series.  However, I think some of the points the gentleman makes warrant response.  So, I would like to begin a series of my own in response to each video in Evid3nc3’s “Deconversion” series — not to attack the author in any way, merely to respond to his points from my perspective.  The author’s main motivation in this series seems to be sharing his own personal story, and I highly respect that approach (more on that later) — I’m certainly not interested in undermining the author’s personal experience, or minimizing the impact of certain events in his life that led him to adopt his current beliefs.  I shall try my best to approach this series as though I were discussing with the author face-to-face, rather than attacking him or sniping his ideas from the security of my computer chair. (more…)

Objections to Christianity: Who Created God?

I’m going to borrow an illustration I heard John Bevere use once (which he probably borrowed from someone else — there is, after all, nothing new under the sun, is there?).  I’ll be paraphrasing, of course 🙂

Have you ever watched a particularly poignant, well-crafted movie?  One that methodically and artfully sets you up with an hour and fifteen minutes of pathos for that one heart-wrenching moment at the plot’s climactic moment?  When that moment comes, your eyes start welling up, your breathing becomes a little shallower, you move to the edge of your seat — you feel the strong empathetic connection to the characters in the movie.  You almost can’t help it.  Unless you’re a sociopath — c’mon, would it kill you to show a little human emotion now and then… dad…?

Just kidding, my dad’s great.  Anyway, imagine your roommate walking in right when the big climactic moment occurs — he’s never seen the movie before, and so he’s missed out on all the exposition and buildup.  He looks at the characters on the screen, looks over to you bawling your eyes out on the couch (mostly obscured by your tissue-box fort), and scoffs, “What’s with you?  It’s just a stupid movie.”

First of all, your roommate’s kind of a jerk and you should probably consider moving.  (Then again, he does pay the rent on time, and his mom is friends with your boss… I guess he’s not all that bad.)  But, really, the illustrative detail is the difference in how the two of you view the movie in that moment:  You have been taken on this hour-long journey preparing you for this scene; you connect with the characters, their stories touch you, you empathize with their plight and take on some of their pain upon yourself; your roommate, on the other hand, couldn’t give two figs about the characters, doesn’t connect with the moment, isn’t compelled in the least by the scene unfolding on the screen.  Why?  Because he’s missing the context of the scene. (more…)

Microscopic Machines

It used to be that one could look at something that had the appearance of design and reasonably infer that it was probably designed. Now, it seems more in vogue to look at something that has the appearence of design and vehemently deny that it was designed at all. I’m as open-minded as the next guy, but I’m not so sure this new approach to inference is superior to the previous one.

Let’s look to biology, as a case in point. The appearence of design is apparent even to someone as metaphysically skeptical as Richard Dawkins, who wrote in The Blind Watchmaker:

Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.

That’s all well and good, but I’m a visual person — so to illustrate this point further, I’ve corralled a couple of videos that illustrate just two of the functions our cells carry out every day: (more…)

Biological Conspiracy Theories

Hello again, all.  Apologies for being rather inactive these days — by way of explanation, I took another trip to visit my dad in Oregon (we’re trying to fit in as much family visits as we can before the baby arrives!), and I’ve been pouring my creative energies into various other projects; so I’ve had little impetus or time left over to blog, or at least to blog well.  Generally I prefer to wait until I have at least a snowball’s chance of putting out sound material rather than just merely keeping the ball afloat by throwing out garbage — if I do write garbage, I at least want it to be thoroughly well-thought-out garbage.

Today, though, I’m choosing to shrug off this analysis paralysis and work out an idea that’s been brewing for a little while.  It centers around this kick I’ve been on lately regarding Harmon’s idea about “inference to the best explanation,” and how that applies to competing theories to explain religious phenomena.  From my perspective, when it comes to personal experiences that seem, on a prima facie level, to be supernatural in nature, there are basically two main theories that attempt to explain what is actually going on:

  1. There is, in fact, a supernatural world that sometimes intersects and affects our material world, or
  2. Such experiences begin and end with the functions of the human brain, and can be best explained with methods such as pattern-seeking, confirmation bias, etc.

Drawing from my own experiences as a case study, I’d like to explore these two competing theories. (more…)

I Never Trust Jesters

When I go on vacation (as I most recently did — went out to Mississippi to visit my sister and her husband), I often feel like I could use a second vacation to get back on track with life, one where I shut myself in a room for three days with a stack of Orson Scott Card novels and bolster my opinion that Bean’s character is far superior to Ender’s.  And, perhaps, if I had a more freelance profession like a writer or a life coach or a juggling instructor I could make room in my schedule for such detox — but, alas, as I have neither the education nor the experience to hack it as teacher-to-the-juggling-stars, I’m stuck for the time being as a government stiff in front of a computer, compelled by limited PTO hours to jump back into life’s routine without a running start.

I got back into town on Tuesday after being gone for 8 days, and I still feel like things aren’t quite right yet.  The last thing on my mind the past few days has been formulating thoughtful arguments for the explanatory merits of the Christian faith.

So, to kick-start the intellectual juices and overcome this bout of writer’s block, I’ve decided to ease back into my blogging routine with something a little… lighter than my usual fare 🙂 (more…)