Tuesday, July 31, 2012

1 Corinthians 4

The Ministry of Apostles

We should be regarded as servants of Christ, and therefore we need to be found trustworthy. But what is it to judge us? A person cannot judge us, it is hard for me to judge even myself, for I find nothing wrong with me. God is the real judge, he will shine a light on things which are hidden in the darkness.

Strange, he starts by saying that he needs to be found trustworthy, and then says that it is basically impossible for humans to determine who is trustworthy and who is not. He also seems to be focusing on the negative side of judgement, although that is probably due to the group he is addressing and the message he is highlighting.

I have applied these ideas to myself, but that was just for illustration, they should be applied to you as well. It is just as hard for you to judge yourself as it is for me to judge myself.

Good strategy. Apply the lesson to someone else first so the audience member can view it without bias, then say to apply it to themselves as well. Also, the idea that it is hard to judge is a good one, you shouldn't be quick to judge, whether it is judging other people poorly or yourself well. Although the message here seems to be not to do it at all, where I think a more reasonable message would be to tread lightly. Know that you will probably judge yourself too highly and others too lowly, and try to adjust accordingly.

You are all rich and we are poor, you are strong and we are weak. Some times we are treated poorly, and only return kindness. You have many guides in Christ but few fathers. I am your father in Christ through the scripture, please use me as a role model.

The message seems to be for the rich to not abuse their power and to treat the poor well. Again, good message. Although to be honest, it feels like I'm missing a whole thing here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

1 Corinthians 3

Divisions in the Church

You are infants in Christ, so I will feed your spirit with milk instead of solid food. When some of you say you follow Paul and other say they follow Apollos, are you not being merely human? Although you follow different people who follow God, ultimately you all follow God and that is what matters.

Seems to make sense, I guess one way to apply this idea is that different denominations should get along. My impression is that most do but some do argue with each other. As an outside it always looks silly.

If anyone is wise in this age, let him become a fool so he can become wise, for God catches the wise in their craftiness.

So being wise and crafty are the same? Also, the wise should become a fool to then become wise? I'm assuming the first wise is of the world and the second is wise about God or something. But the writing is terrible, is this a translation issue?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Why can't I do that on the Sabbath?

I used to live in a neighborhood that had a fairly large Jewish population, so on Saturdays there was usually a large number of them out walking around. One Saturday, I was out walking my dog listening to podcasts through my phone and I realized that if I was part of that community I could not do it as using electronics on that day would not be allowed. It got me thinking about what the purpose of the sabbath really is.

I had always understood the sabbath to be a day of rest, one day of the week where you are not supposed to work. That makes a lot of sense to me, everyone should get at least one day off a week, otherwise you burn yourself out and go a little crazy. Having it as a rule seems like a good idea. Also, having a specific day off rather than just having one day off a week is good as it will let people spend their day off together. It also seems like a good "for your own good" rule for the workaholics among us. So the general idea of it I like.

But then problems come in when it is taken to the extreme. As I said up top, I was simply listening to a show on my phone, and this would not have been allowed. This seems totally crazy to me, it is something I do to relax, it is something I enjoy doing, there is no way in which I would call it work. And yet, it would not be allowed on the day of rest. It seems to me that there has been a disconnect between the intention of the rule and the execution of it.

Another thought occurred to me, on the sabbath you are not supposed to drive your car or use your phone, what happens if there is some kind of emergency? Say your kid falls down the stairs or otherwise hurts himself? You can't use your phone to call an ambulance or your car to drive him to the hospital yourself. What are you supposed to do? I assume most people will just say 'fuck it' and do one of those things anyway, but according to Jewish law what are they supposed to do?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fear of Death

I have been thinking about death a fair bit lately and I realized that I no longer have a fear of death. I used to be terrified of dying, when I realized I haven't had that kind of fear in a long time it was a bit of a surprise to me. I have been trying to analyze the possible reasons for this and the only real credible one I can think of is my lack of religion.

When I was a kid, we spent a lot of time talking about heaven and hell. Good people go to heaven and experience eternal bliss and bad people go to hell an get tortured for eternity. We were the right religion, we believed in God, we let Jesus into our hearts, so we were going to heaven. I believed these things, so one would think that I would be comfortable with death, but I was not.

The other side of this coin is that bad people go to hell. When my church talked about how bad hell is, they usually focused on rapists and murderers, people who it is easy to accept that they are getting justice. On the other hand, during other times, the pastors would talk about how we are all sinners and all deserve to go to hell. But through the grace of God, we get to go to heaven anyway when we accept Jesus.

So I have this rolling around in my head. I have been told that I deserve to burn in hell forever. I am a bad person. There is a loophole that lets me get into heaven anyway, but the message is there, I am a bad person and I deserve to be tortured. I lived in a fairly strong cultural bubble growing up, but I was vaguely aware that there are other religions with other rules out there. What if our version of Christianity is the wrong one? What if what we are doing to get into heaven isn't quite right? What if I die and wind up in hell? I don't think these questions were ever fully formed in my mind, but the ideas were there under the surface.

I think my fear of death was always really a fear of hell. Now that I don't believe in hell, there is no reason to be afraid of death. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to die, I'd like to live as long as possible. And I am not looking forward to the process of dying, many ways of dying can be very slow and painful. But in comparison to being tortured forever, there is nothing to be afraid of.

Friday, July 27, 2012

1 Corinthians 1 & 2


Paul is called to a church in Corinth

This book is about Paul too? Ok


Give thanks to God, your speech and knowledge will be enriched.

I think this is just more introduction

Divisions in the Church

Paul says that he has gotten reports that the people of this church are divided, different people say they follow different leaders. Paul then says that he is disappointed in them and he is glad he has only baptized a few of them so no one can blame him.

Seems a bit harsh.

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

God will destroy the wisdom and power of people. God's wisdom and strength is greater than mans. Jews demand signs and Greeks demand wisdom, but we preach the crucifixion instead. Look around in the crowd, many of you are not wise or strong, but God has chosen you to shame the strong and wise who have not been chosen.

This section was hard to summarize because it is hard to follow. It appears to me that it is some kind of a pep talk. It doesn't really flow together very well. I do find it interesting that he is telling his crowd that they are chosen but simultaneously insulting them. I guess you have to work with what you have.

Proclaiming Christ Crucified (ch 2)

I did not come to you with wisdom, but with just the story of the crucifixion of Jesus. I was with you in fear and weakness and I came to you with a demonstration of power so that your faith will be based in the power of God rather than the wisdom of men.

I think he just called them stupid again.

Wisdom from the Spirit

We do impart wisdom to the mature, although it is hidden wisdom from God, not from the rulers of this age. The rulers of this age do not understand this or they would have not crucified Jesus.

There is certainly logic to that, although it really only applies to those in charge of the place he was crucified, you can't really put that on anyone else.

No one understands the thoughts of God except God himself, but if we listen to our spirit, we can understand the lessons God is trying to teach us.

This is a little confusing to me, it seems to be saying that it is impossible to understand God, but then it is also saying that if we listen to ourselves we can understand God. I guess it is a little more subtle than that. We can't understand God completely, but we can understand things he is trying to tell us or something. Perhaps this is the origin of fighting contradictions by saying things like "you can't understand God".

"Natural people" cannot understand God because he is spiritual.

This seems like a way to separate them from the people who don't believe like they do. If someone disagrees with you, it's not that they came to a rational decision different from yours, it is that they are not "spiritual people" and they simply don't understand. Seems like an effective way to keep from losing converts, make them feel special and put a barrier between them and anyone who might challenge their beliefs. 

v15: "The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one"

Wow, this is pretty clear, we can judge you, you can't judge us. I'm not even sure what to say, it is ludicrous. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Romans Overview

As I have explained in the past, one of the reasons I am doing this blog is I am curious to see what kind of messages one might get from reading the bible. What might one learn as a take-away. Here is my quick summary of the good and bad from Romans.

The Good

3:3-4 intention matters

9:3 Be willing to make sacrifices for the benefit of others

12:5 Work together to make a strong society

12:9-21 big list of good ways to act toward one another

13:8 Love your neighbor

14:1-12 don't judge each other

14:14 nothing is bad unless you think it is bad

15:2 Be good to each other

The Bad

1:26-27 Being Gay is bad

1:29-32 Many things deserve death, including gossip and being envious.

3:23 We are all sinners (I know everyone won't see this as bad, but this is my list)

4:5 faith is all that really matters

8:10 we all deserve hell but Jesus saves us

8:17 encourages persecution complex

11:7-8 God messes with free will

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Romans 16

Personal Greetings

He offers his servant to whoever he is talking to and then makes introductions to a bunch of people.

Final Instructions and Greetings

Keep your distance from those who would create obstacles for you.

This seems like good advice to me. I've definitely stopped hanging out with people in the past who always seemed to cause problems.

I rejoice in your obedience.

Obedience is an interesting thing. It is really important in some circumstances. But it can also leave you vulnerable. If you are just following someone else's lead, you can wind up working against your own self interest. So obedience is only a virtue if it is coupled with the ability to determine who should be trusted.

I want you to be wise to what is good and innocent to what is evil.

This is interesting too. It sounds good at first blush, "know about good things, ignore evil things". Sometimes I'll read a disturbing news article and wish I hadn't read it. I often won't share the story with my wife, why have that garbage rolling around in her head too? In that way, I can see how being ignorant of evil is a good thing. On the other hand, it can leave you vulnerable. If someone is trying to scam you, they will have a much harder time if you are familiar with the tricks that are employing. 


An ancient secret has finally be revealed, obedience and faith are the most important thing.

I think my comments above reveal my thoughts on that.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Romans 15

The Example of Christ

Follow the example Jesus laid our for us. If you are strong, help the weak. Be good and encouraging to your neighbors.

This is good stuff. I know there are many Christians who focus on these parts of the bible. I don't really have much to say about it. Cheers!

Christ is the Hope of Jews and Gentiles

Anyone can follow Jesus and be saved.

Good recruiting call I suppose.

Paul the Minister to the Gentiles

Paul's goal is to minister to the gentiles and he will only speak what has been told to him through Christ. He will say what Christ wants him to that will bring gentiles to obedience. He won't necessarily build on the foundation of others, but instead he will work from the ground up for this group of people.

This is basically the problem isn't it? You tell different stories to different people, it works until you put all of the stories together. It makes me think of politicians. Before national news and the internet, they could get away with saying contradictory things all over the place. Now those things get pointed out (although no one seems to care much, so they still get away with it I guess)

Paul's Plan to Visit Rome

Paul has done all the work he can in those regions so he is coming home. He talks about some poor saints who should be doing better now, for if the gentiles are being converted they are giving the saints money.

I don't really think this was the driving force behind what Paul has done with the gentiles, but it is sure easy to read it that way. And it also seems clear that this idea was in his mind while he was doing it. Follow God and give us some money.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Romans 14

Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another

He says a few times that you shouldn't judge each other. Another person's relationship with God is his business and you shouldn't judge them for it. If 2 people have opposite ideas and do opposite things, they are both still doing it in honor of the lord.

This is clearly a good message, don't judge each other. Unfortunately, it is a very difficult command to follow, we judge each other all the time. Although I guess there is a big difference between a reflex judgement of another person and actually doing something about it. If the ideas in this verse were to keep someone from acting on their judgmental gut reactions that would be great.

Do Not Cause Another to Stumble

The title of this section, and what the general theme seems to be is really good. The idea of "don't cause another to stumble" sounds really good, don't cause someone else problems with your actions. I like that. 

However, the delivery of this section has me a bit baffled. The language is all centered around food. Example: v20 "Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God." and v15 "If your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love."

Sometimes the ability to eat is used as a metaphor for wealth in general, for example "someone's gotta put food on this table". So perhaps this section is using food in this way. If that is the case, the above verses I mentioned make sense "Do not, for the sake of [wealth], destroy the work of God". "If your brother is grieved by [how you make a living], you are no longer walking in love." This makes sense to me I think the section holds together viewed from this prism. Does this sound reasonable to anyone else? Is there another way to look at this that also makes sense?

There is one other thing in this section that caught my eye.

v14 nothing is unclean by itself, but if you think it is unclean it is unclean for you

This seems totally crazy to me, basically, anything goes as long as you think it is correct, however, if you suspect something is bad then it is for you. This seems to have some far reaching implications. For example, shouldn't most gay people be fine? As long as they don't see what they are doing as wrong, it isn't wrong. According to this verse, gay sex is not unclean by itself, however, if you think it is unclean, then it is for you. Blasphemy against the lord should be okay for me, I don't think God exists, therefore I don't see calling him names as "unclean" so for me it is fine. Obviously I have taken something out of context or misunderstood something. I'd be curious to see how a christian would explain this verse.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Good Question. For my answer, read all of this stuff

I have had this happen a number of times. I will be reading a blog post from a Christian and something piques my interest. I will ask a question about it hoping to start up some kind of a conversation. The response I get will simply be a reference to a bible verse, another blog post, or sometimes a book. This drives me absolutely crazy.

If I am starting a conversation with you, I would like to hear your opinion on things. Don't get me wrong, references are great, but why not explain to me why that reference is valuable. "You should read bible verse X" is unacceptable. "You should read bible verse X, I think it answers your question when it says..." is a good answer. If you want to give me a reference to back up your opinion that is great, but it shouldn't be all that I get.

Worse yet is when people refer me to a book. On several occasions I have had people respond to a simple question with a link to a book on amazon. It is not reasonable to expect me to read a 300 page book to answer a quick question. For some reason people seem to do this a lot with CS Lewis books. And again, a reference to a book is not a bad thing, it just can't be all I get. A really good answer can be something like "[Author] explains it much better than I can in [book], but the basic idea is [clumsy answer]." It doesn't even matter if your answer isn't as well refined as what is in the book, that is one of the great things about 2 way communication, if something is confusing I can ask further questions and we can iron it out. If you answer my question by linking to a book, as far as I am concerned you are simply shutting communication down.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What Are You Assuming?

During this last week, I have been involved in a fun discussion about infinities over on Cross Examined (Part 1, Part 2). We spent a lot of time discussing whether or not it is possible for there to be an infinite amount of time in the past. Another commenter claimed to have a proof that an infinite past was impossible, and I said his proof was flawed. Ultimately, I think the flaw came down to a hidden assumption that he didn't realize he was making.

This got me thinking a little bit more in general, how often do we do this kind of thing? We come across so much information all the time that there is no way we can process it all properly. How many decisions do we make based on assumptions and ideas that we haven't thought about in a long time, if ever? How often do we get so used to our point of view that we forget to consider and important part of things? If viewed from a different angle perhaps we can find a better solution. Or at the very least, we can see that someone who disagrees with us is being reasonable and logical, they just came to a different conclusion because they have different starting assumptions.

A good example of this is from earlier in the week in the section "A Living Sacrifice" in Romans 12. As often happens, when I read it I found a negative side to the scripture. I can see a potential harm in "giving yourself over to the lord" when there is no lord there. If you think God is talking to you but you are just talking to yourself, you can potentially justify some pretty terrible things. Furthermore, it will be hard for your mind to be changed once you think your idea is backed by God. But this negative view is based on the assumption that God is not real (or at least the idea that he might not be real). But if God was real, then this action actually makes sense. Different conclusion from the same data because of different starting assumptions.

This is why I think it is so important to try to have discussions with people who you disagree with. At the very least, we should be trying to understand each other's points of view. If we can really get to the heart of the matter and figure out the underlying ideas we have a better chance of convincing each other of things. This is good whether I convince you of something or you convince me of something. I'd love to convince you I'm right about things, but I also want to know when I'm wrong. But even when nobody changes their mind, if we at least understand each other it will reduce the thoughts along the lines of "well he's just stupid". And I think that is good for everyone.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Romans 13

Submission to the Authorities

God is the ultimate authority, and no one can be in authority except by God's will. Therefore you should submit to whoever is in authority for suffer judgement.

Different people in power do opposite things, this doesn't even make sense. Also, what about when laws go against the bible? This is honestly baffling.

Fulfilling the Law Through Love

The rule "love your neighbor" encompasses all of the other commandments, so that is all you really need to do.

This seems to be basically saying that the golden rule is the most important thing. Care about each other and all of the other good stuff should follow. This idea is great. I don't really have much else to say here, good stuff.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Romans 12

A Living Sacrifice

Offer your body up as a living sacrifice to God. Let your mind be transformed by God and you will know what is right.

As a Christian, I found this very good advice. God is out there, just open yourself up to him and you will become a better person. He will change your mind when you are wrong and reinforce your ideas when you are right. What could be better.

The problem, as I see it, is if God doesn't exist this is very dangerous. If there is no God, then what is prayer? It is simply thinking on your own. If you have some crazy idea and you pray on it, and after praying on it it still seems like a good idea, then it suddenly has God's backing. How much harder will it be now for your mind to be changed? 

The crazy thing is, if God is real, and he is good, and he actually communicates with us, then this seems like a pretty good thing to do. Suppose you have some moral quandary, who better to ask than the perfectly good, all knowing God?

One last comment here, just the language being used, offer your body up as a living sacrifice to God. This seems like a good answer to the question of "Even if God isn't real, what have you lost by following him?" This often comes up when discussing pascal's wager.

Gifts of Grace

We should not think too highly of ourselves, but be happy with the position we are in through faith in God. We all work together as parts of the body of Christ. We each have different gifts and we should play to those gifts.

This generally seems like a good way to build a society. If you are naturally a good teacher, be a teacher, if you are naturally a good leader, lead, etc. If everyone plays to their strength we will have a stronger society in general and we will all be better off.

The first part about not thinking too highly of ourselves, to me that can be taken a couple ways. My first thought when reading it was something along the lines of "don't be an arrogant prick". Don't think you are better than everyone else basically. This seems like a very good thing to me. People who think they are better than  they are can get quite annoying. 

On the other hand, it also seems like it could be seen as something to keep the common folk in line. If you have a menial job that you hate, the message might look like "that is where God put you, know your place and keep doing your job." I don't like this at all. Not that there is anything wrong with having a menial job, but it's always nice to imagine you have the possibility of moving up in the world.

Marks of the True Christian

Basically a big list of good things to do, love each other, help each other out, these sorts of things.

Something I found interesting is it includes to try to be peaceful with everyone, and to never avenge yourself and let God be the one who is vengeful. Instead give your enemy food and drink when he is in need. Perhaps I am just showing my bias here, but it seems that this message is pretty anti-war. And yet it seems to me that in america at least, a great many Christians are pro-war.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Romans 11

The Remnant of Israel

Paul claims that God has not rejected his people. He recalls a time when Elijah said to God that he was the only one left worshiping him and his life was in danger. God replied that there were 7000 men that he had in reserve. Now is similar, God has a remnant of the old being pushed into the new way by grace. It also seems to be saying that those who are not pushed into the new way are having their hearts hardened.

Honestly, I had a bit of difficulty understanding this passage, so if anyone thinks I got something wrong please speak up. It basically seems to be saying that some people are staying with the old ways and some are coming to the new way, which is fine. But, it also seems to be saying that those who are staying in the old way are having their minds manipulated by God. That part I don't like at all.

Gentiles Grafted In

Paul talks of adding Gentiles into the fold. He uses a metaphor of a tree. Unbelieving Jews are being pruned out and gentiles are being grafted in their place. Then he warns the Gentiles that they must not become arrogant. God has cut off others, so if you go bad you can get cut off too. But don't worry, it is always possible that God will graft you back in again in the future. He also mentions that God has mercy for you but severity for those who have fallen.

This was strange, I guess because there is so much talking in metaphor. Basically it seems that Paul is expanding his ministry and justifying it. Although again, it does has it's logic to it. If he is spreading the glory of God (in his mind) why not spread it to as many people as possible. I wonder how people square the omnibenevolence with the severity for those who have fallen.

The Mystery of Israel's Salvation

By saving the gentiles, we will also save all of Israel.

That sounds good I suppose.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Romans 10

The Message of Salvation to All

Moses wrote that righteousness is based on the law (works), but in Christ righteousness is based on faith. Everyone who believes and calls on the lord will be saved. But how can people believe if they have not heard the story? We should all go out and tell everyone the story of Jesus.

This is interesting, as with much from Romans, this idea was very strong in the church I grew up in. Thinking back to when I was a Christian, I loved this message. Everyone can be saved is a great message, and if you can talk to someone and save them from an eternity of torture of course you should do it.

Looking at it now, I do still like the inclusiveness in this message. The idea that certain people are not eligible for your religion because they are not in a special group sounds bad to me, and this is the opposite of that. 

On the other hand, everyone being eligible to join is only important because the flip side is so terrible. If not being part of the religion isn't to spend eternity getting tortured, would it even matter if you can't get in? Along that train of thought, the whole idea of salvation is interesting, what are we being saved from? I've heard Christianity described as giving you the disease only to give you the cure, the good part of this message seemed to be tainted by that.

The other part of this is the 'go tell everyone' thing. I guess it makes sense. If you really believe the story the right thing to do is to spend as much time as possible telling it to anyone who hasn't heard it isn't it? That's not to say you should proselytize every minute, if someone is not interested you accomplish nothing by badgering them. But if they haven't heard the story or if you think you can convince them of it you should try right? I've gone through periods of time when I was really against this kind of thing, but I think that was born out of anger more than anything.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Romans 9

God's Sovereign Choice

Paul wishes he could sacrifice his place in heaven so that his brethren would make it there in his place.

A very noble desire. If everyone cared about others to the point they are willing to make sacrifices of themselves for the benefit of their neighbors the world would be a much better place. This is good stuff.

This is obviously not the way it works however. We cannot give up our spot for others, and more to the point, there are many people who do not make it to heaven. So Paul asks whether there is therefore injustice, to which he responds that there is not. God can have mercy or compassion on whomever he pleases, and he will also harden whomever he pleases. Paul then posits that someone might ask if this is unfair because no one can withstand God's will, to which Paul responds that it is up to do with us as he pleases in the same way as it is up to a potter to make one vessel for a righteous use and another for a dishonorable use.

In my opinion, Paul points out a very good question here and then doesn't really have a good answer for it. Are things fair and just? It doesn't appear so because some people receive mercy while others have their hearts hardened and are thrown into hell. Paul's response is that God created us and therefore he can do whatever he wants with us. I find this answer unsatisfying to say the least.

If I put on my Christian hat and try to defend this idea, I suppose I would say that the world is complicated and we can't know all of the details. Perhaps it is impossible to set things up in such a way as everyone goes to heaven. Furthermore, it is possible that by hardening one person's heart and dooming him to hell, many others are saved. God is looking at things on a different level than us so we can't say he is doing a poor job.

I don't think these answers are very good, but it is all I can really think of. They are in fact, some of the earliest ideas that I questioned as a child and I was never satisfied with the "God made us so he can do with us as he pleases" answer.

Israel's Unbelief

Paul points out that Israel tries to achieve righteousness through works (the law) and the gentiles try to receive righteousness through faith (Christ). He says that Christ is the end of the law and that righteousness is there for anyone who believes.

He basically seems to be saying that it is unfair for Israel to have to do works to be saved when gentiles don't, therefore everyone can be saved with mere belief. He also is again saying that we can get rid of the law, but that goes against what Jesus said. At least I think it does, I still don't really understand what it means for Christ to have "fulfilled the law".

If I put on my Christian hat again, I guess I would have read this passage as a really good thing because at the time I believed, and it is saying that I don't need to worry about anything, I have gotten into heaven no matter what I do from here. Looking back on that thought from my current perspective, I view this as a negative.

**disclaimer: When I put on my Christian hat, I am trying to view the passage as I think I would have when I was a Christian. I am certainly not saying this is how all Christians view it. If you have a different take on the Christian view please feel free to share.**

Friday, July 13, 2012

State of the Blog

Hello everyone. We have successfully driven across the country and our new apartment is set up enough that I am ready to start blogging again. During the drive I had a lot of time to think and have thought of a few minor changes I want to make to the blog and figured I'd let you all know what I am thinking.

First, the bible verses will largely stay the way I have been doing it, 1 chapter each weekday, summarize the verse then add my comments. I had an idea that I wanted to add to it, which is to try to add what my thoughts would have been on the verse when I was a Christian, "putting on my Christian hat". I'm not completely sure how it will go, but I like the idea and will try it out for a little while. The biggest problem I can foresee is that I will potentially be making a Christian straw man. The only thing I can think to defend against this is to make it clear that I am not saying this is what all Christians would say, just what I would have said when I was a Christian.

For Saturday and Sunday I will pretty much just do what I have been doing, that being whatever random topics I feel like talking about. Usually this will probably be topics that have come up in the previous week in comments on either my blog or someone else's. 

I also really like the idea of doing a "this week in congress" post each week. I briefly mentioned something like this here, and the more I have thought about it the more I like the idea.

A few people have asked me if I am thinking of going through another book like I did for "The Problem of Pain" and for "Is God Just a Human Invention". I might do that at some time in the future, but not for at least a while. I would want to find a book that seems thought provoking or at least have a group of people ready to have interesting discussions on the topics in the book. 

I'm going to get back to my regular schedule starting monday, hope to see you then.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Out of front loaded content

As many of you know, I am in the middle of a move. I have now run out of front loaded posts. I figured I could do a few more here and there, but it didn't happen much. There will be at least a few days before I post again, and it could be a lot if there is a delay getting my apartment set up.

See you soon.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Great "Free" Books

I have recently been taking advantage of the kindle owners lending library, if you have amazon prime and a kindle you get 1 book a month for free. I've pretty much just picked books at random and have found a few books that I have really enjoyed, I figured some of you might also be interested in what I found.

Metagame: This book takes place in the future and everyone has various kinds of implants which access your brain in various ways. One thing it can do is put an overlay on everything you see so that your environment can become the background for a kind of VR video game. Imagine playing WoW where your apartment building looks like a kind of dungeon to you. On the other hand, you can take control of various things around the world to accomplish tasks and make money. It's basically the gamification of everything. On this really interesting and fun backdrop, the book has very compelling characters going through a fun and interesting adventure. I highly recommend this book.

The God Delusion: I actually listened to this book while I was commuting a few years ago, but while browsing recently I saw that it was on the lending library and figured I would add it here. If you've never read it, go check it out.

Everywhere But No Place: Prisons are full. In an effort to make each prisoner take up less space, and to do a better job of rehabilitation, prisoners in an experimental prison are put into virtual reality tanks. This story follows a guy who committed murder in a botched bank job and gets put into the pilot program. During the story we discover many things about the worlds that are created for the prisoners and the AI 'hosts' who control the world. I'm currently about half way through this book and I am enjoying the hell out of it.

Half Way Home: Humans colonize the galaxy by sending out an AI colony ship and a bunch of embryos it will grow once it gets to it's target planet. On this planet, something goes wrong. The people wake up half grown and half trained and they need to deal with a very big problem. [D'oh, looks like this book has been taken out of the lending library since I read it, still worth a look although you'll have to pay 3 bucks]

Thursday, July 5, 2012


I have recently been thinking about one of the reasons I started this blog, namely making a difference in my own small way. I love the idea of having conversations with people and perhaps even changing someone's mind every once in a while. This doesn't have to be a huge change (although if it is that is awesome), simply having a good conversation and making someone see a small point in a new way is what I am going for. This of course goes both way, I feel I have benefited quite a bit from the various conversations I've had since starting.

So anyway, I have been thinking of this idea in relation to politics lately. The most frustrating thing about politics to me is that I feel helpless to really do anything. I vote, but it doesn't really feel like it matters. I recently watched a video from a guy in local politics who said one thing that affects him is when voters send in their opinions, especially if there is a personalized message with it. It reminded me of a website I had played with very briefly during the whole sopa/pipa fiasco at the end of last year.

The site was popvox. It is pretty cool, you can look up any bill in the senate or the house, and if you have an opinion you can click oppose or support, you can also write a personalized message if you wish. Then if you put in your address, it will automatically figure out who your congressmen are and send your message to them. I have gotten messages back from them, so I know they are seeing it (well, realistically someone on their staff has seen it, but it's something).

I am still just checking the site out, but I have found a few neat things. First, there is a screen where you can look at all of the things you have weighed in on and how often your congressmen have voted along with your wishes. So when it comes time to vote, you should be able to go to this screen and see how closely the person in office matches you. If they overlap a lot, vote for them with confidence, if not, vote for the other guy. Also, when you move (which I'm in the middle of right now) it shows you how your new congressmen voted on all of that stuff too, an obvious feature, but it seems to be executed well.

Another thing that looks cool, there is a list of all of the bills that will be looked at in the upcoming week. So it looks like you can quickly scan through those at the beginning of the week and weigh in on the things you care about fairly quickly. I haven't had the chance to check this out in detail yet, but I have signed up for update emails and I'm optimistic about it.

I don't want to get too ahead of myself, but I would like to make posts about these bills semi-regularly. Perhaps just whenever I see something coming up that I think is really important, perhaps I can do a weekly post about it and talk about the week ahead. At any rate, I love the idea of following what is going on in congress a little bit better and letting them know we are watching. I figure this can only help things. I also love the idea of having a conversation with you guys about it.

Apologies to my international readers :)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Romans 8

Life in the Spirit

If you live in the spirit, you are free from the law of sin and death. If you set your mind on the spirit you will be free, but if you set your mind on the flesh you will not be able to please God and you will die. If Christ is in you, your spirit will live on eternally even though your body is dead from sin.

This seems to basically be the message that most churches seem to have today. That we are doomed to hell except through Jesus Christ. We all deserve hell, but through Jesus we can be saved. This idea is something that I find pretty disgusting.

Heirs with Christ

We are not heirs of slavery, but heirs of Christ. You have been adopted by God through the spirit.

That sounds pretty good.

...heir of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may  also be glorified with him.

Hello persecution complex.

Future Glory

The glory that we will see in the future will not compare to the suffering we have come across so far. Also, the spirit of God helps us when we have weaknesses.

This is pretty good. Glory is ahead of us and we will get help when we need it. It will give people hope. 

God's Everlasting Love

God loves us so much that he sacrificed his son. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

The only thing I can think to say here is fairly snarky. That the 'sacrifice' doesn't seem that big as Jesus was resurrected and is now at the right hand of God.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Romans 7

Released From the Law

The law is binding for a person only as long as they live. For example, a woman who lives with a man other than her husband when he lives will be an adulterer, but if her husband is dead she is free from him.

This sounds pretty reasonable.

Now that we have died through Christ, we are released from the law.

This is interesting, it seems to be saying that we don't need to follow the laws of the old testament anymore. Am I reading this correctly? What about when Jesus said not to even bend the least commandment? That was when Jesus was alive, after he died does it make sense to reverse the message? Jesus said "I have not come to abolish them [the laws] but to fulfill them". I am not sure what it means to "fulfill" the law, but he did specifically say he did not come to abolish the laws. It seems like a stretch then, to say his death abolishes the laws. This certainly looks like a contradiction to me. Thoughts?

The Law and Sin

"If it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet."

This is an interesting idea, but I would argue that we all covet, it's just that with their being a rule against it we have a name for it. 

I want to do good, but there is evil within me which wants to do evil. God is now within me helping me do good instead of evil.

Seems like the author of this is just a really conflicted guy. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Romans 6

Dead to Sin, Alive to God

By being baptized in Christ, we are baptized into death, the death of sin. Therefore, don't let sin reign in your mortal body, focus on God.

Or something like that, it's poetic but basically seems to say "don't sin, focus on God"

Slaves to Righteousness

You can be either slaves to sin which leads to death, or you can be slaves to obedience, which leads to righteousness. You should be slaves to God.

What a strange way to put it. This is a letter to try to convince the Romans right? Is it persuasive to say this?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Podcasts I like

I am in the middle of a long trip and need something quick and easy to post. So I figured I'd post a list of the podcasts that I like.


Ask An Atheist: Call in show, although they usually just do prepared topics

Culture Wars Radio: I'm new to this one, but he talks about atheism and politics it seems

Godless Bitches: A podcast about feminism and atheism

Reasonable Doubts: Atheist radio show, not really sure how to expand the description on this one :)

The Atheist Experience: public access radio call in show from Austin. These guys are a large part of what inspired me to start this blog

The Non Prophets: Atheist Experience guys talking about atheism without calls


The Adam Carolla Show: Basically a morning radio show in podcast form, except actually funny. Warning, there is no censorship here


Planet Money: They talk about economics in a very simple, easy to understand way. Very well produced program.

Econtalk: More long form economics discussion from a college econ professor. Really interesting but a little dry. I think it is great but I have to be in the right mood for it.


The Weekly Weinersmith: The guy from SMBC talking science with his wife. She studies parasites so that comes of a fair bit...awesome

The Titanium Physicists: A couple physicists explain a difficult physics idea to a non-physicist. I really like the format.

Skeptics Guide to the universe: skepticism and science. My favorite thing they do each episode is "science or fiction" where one guy gives a few science stories and the other people have to guess which story is fake.

Variety? (not sure what to call this category)

This American Life: Great Stories each week

Radiolab: Similar to TAL, not as good but I still like it a lot.


I already have more on my list than I can really keep up with, but if you know of another podcast you really like feel free to add it in the comments.
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