Class Warfare Blog

November 9, 2018

#8 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A week or so back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #8!

  1. Miracles and Spiritual Encounters Craig Keener wrote a two-volume work describing the many documented miracles in modern times. While God may not always perform a miracle in every circumstance, a good deal of evidence suggests that God has performed miracles throughout history. Added with the many spiritual encounters people have had with the divine provides an added case that God does indeed exist.

I am getting a little bored of the “preaching to the choir” attitude involved with this list. He should start each of these with “We all know …”

Of course there are myriad documented miracles. People claim miracles, then they write about them or others do. (You can find new ones on the Internet, so they must be true!) The Catholic Church has a formal process to certify a miracle as being authentic. Considering some of the miracles authenticated to get Popes beatified, the process can’t be too rigorous.

Documenting a miracle is simply the recording a story. Verifying it is a whole ’nother thing. Whether the stories are delusions, fictions, or valid recollections is always something to be determined. (There are people who claim they have been abducted by aliens and “probed.” Are those stories believable?) To my knowledge, there has never been a verified violation of the laws of physics or, really, any other science for that matter.

The label of “A Miracle™” is slapped on an activity willy-nilly, but until I see someone who has had a leg amputated and the leg restored, I will remain skeptical of all such claims. (Why does God so hate amputees?)

Spiritual encounters … ah … yeah. Encountering a spirit or a ghost seems a bit far fetched. (And don’t give me any grief regarding the use of the word ghost; I grew up hearing the phrase “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost” over and over.) People claim to be spiritual but that term is almost undefinable or at least it means vastly different things to different people. (And I lived in Marin County, CA for years so I have a great deal of first hand experience!)

I don’t dispute people’s personal experiences, I dispute their interpretations. Every time someone has a personal experience of the type referred to here, they attribute it to the god they worship. So, Muslims say it is Allah, Christians say it is Jesus, the Ancient Greeks had a great deal of discretion as to which of their many gods was trying to communicate with them. There was, of course, a cottage industry of people who, for a fee, would confirm which god was involved. Some people claim that an overwhelming feeling of goodness was perceived. How do they know it wasn’t Satan faking it to get his foot in your spiritual door?

When I was in college, my thyroid gland decided to dump all of its hormone into my body at once. On the basis of that event I had a couple of months of fairly unusual feelings. Initially I was hyperactive and felt I could do anything. I’d wear teeshirts and shorts in cold foggy weather. Later I became rather slow and lethargic. I got good medical advice (from Kaiser Permanente by the way) that I should just wait. The doctor said, it messed itself up, it may just correct itself the same way … and it did. If I were a more spiritual/ghostial person, I might have spent many introspective moments trying to interpret the “messages” I was receiving. Instead, I went to class and continued to play basketball (weighing finally twenty pounds less than when I started the season).

I do not think subjective experiences are among the best reasons to believe. Their interpretations show none of the patterns we expect from real phenomena. But people will still go to the hospital and have an operation and be cured of cancer and then thank their god for a miracle. Instead, I think they ought to thank the doctor and her team and the university that trained her, and the government support that enabled that treatment. That was no miracle. That was modern medicine … performed by and for humans.

February 20, 2018

Two Responses—Which Would You Choose?

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 8:45 am
Tags: ,

In an article in today’s NY Times (Doctors Said Immunotherapy Would Not Cure Her Cancer. They Were Wrong) there is a report of an unorthodox cancer treatment and cure:

“No one expected the four young women to live much longer. They had an extremely rare, aggressive and fatal form of ovarian cancer. There was no standard treatment.

“The women, strangers to one another living in different countries, asked their doctors to try new immunotherapy drugs that had revolutionized treatment of cancer. At first, they were told the drugs were out of the question — they would not work against ovarian cancer.

“Now it looks as if the doctors were wrong. The women managed to get immunotherapy, and their cancers went into remission. They returned to work; their lives returned to normalcy.

The tale has befuddled scientists, who are struggling to understand why the drugs worked when they should not have. If researchers can figure out what happened here, they may open the door to new treatments for a wide variety of other cancers thought not to respond to immunotherapy.”

So, there are two common responses to these events:
(a) declare them to be miracles, and
(b) scramble to understand why the drugs worked when the scientists involved had no reason to think they would.

Which of these would you choose? Which of these has future benefits? Which of these helps us make sense of our world?

December 26, 2016

Holiday BS

At one time there were but three professions: medicine, the law, and the clergy, that is, to be called a professional one had to be a medical doctor, a lawyer/jurist, or a priest/minister/etc. Apparently the expansion of the ranks of professionals has diluted the ranks of these worthy occupations, especially the clergy.

In a N.Y. Times column (Humanizing Jesus, 12-23-2016) by Peter Wehner, the author makes the somewhat offhand remark, quoting a clergyman:
The Incarnation also underscores the importance of relationships, and particularly friendships. The Rev. James Forsyth, the winsome and gifted pastor of McLean Presbyterian Church in Virginia, which my family attends, says friendship is not a luxury; it is at the very essence of who we are. The three persons of the Christian Godhead — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — speak to the centrality of community. When we are in a friendship, according to Mr. Forsyth, we are ‘participating in something divine.’

Now, conflating the Incarnation and the Trinity aside, friendship is not something I would ever denigrate, but “The three persons of the Christian Godhead — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — speak to the centrality of community”? WTF? This is another instance of Christians seeing a parade going by, rushing to the fore, and then claiming they are leading the parade.

The Trinity are not a community. This is not three separate individuals that form a committee/group/barbershop quartet (–1)/etc. This is a little like claiming Batman and Bruce Wayne or Superman and Clark Kent are having a meeting. Is this … clergyperson …. claiming that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are friends? OMG!

This does not speak well of the scriptural erudition of the “winsome and gifted pastor of McLean Presbyterian Church in Virginia.” It also doesn’t speak well for Christianity, peddling such obvious BS. Christianity’s messages are not at all warm and fuzzy. They are not reassuring. They are threatening. We are told to abandon our parents and siblings and to follow Jesus instead. We are told that many priests don’t belong in Heaven (“I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.”) We are told that murderers and rapists do belong in Heaven, etc.

And, instead of delivering this core message, clergymen focus on questionable warm and fuzzy occurrences, like the miracle at the wedding in Cana (also mentioned offhand in this piece), at which Jesus is supposed to have transformed water into wine. If you can recall the circumstances, Jesus and his mother were at a wedding and disaster struck, the hosts ran out of wine! The wedding traditions of the time called for a wedding feast for all of the guests, including unlimited food and wine. To run out was very embarrassing. (Why embarrassment was a valid reason to perform a miracle and many other more important events were not, is puzzling.) In any case, Jesus goes around pouring water into the guests drinking vessels and when they taste it they are at the minimum wondering what the heck was going on. Jesus simply looks them in the eye and asks “It is good wine, no?” (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know what I mean). All of the guests would quickly figure out what he was doing and go along to prevent embarrassment to the hosts. Any charismatic person could pull this off. Heck, I could pull this off. Yet, a miracle has occurred! (I imagine this started off as a very good story, told sotto voce to one’s intimate friends, but that story had legs and, of course, got embellished. A good story should never be hindered by details.) In any case, this “miracle” was used as an example in this article of “There was joy and purpose to be found in the commonplace.” And, I suppose, great fun in casting demons into a herd of wild pigs, and … oh, well.

I remember at the funeral of an uncle of mine, an avid golfer, that the presiding clergyman claimed that my Uncle Bob was up in Heaven playing golf at that very moment. And, I thought “Wouldn’t the sand traps fall through the clouds?” and other uncharitable thoughts. I understand being a BS artist (I am a bit of one myself) but to do so as a official representative of a very large organization is appalling to say the least. (Are you listening Donald Trump?)

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