Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Bible is a Masterpiece

This is something that I hear Christians say a lot, and Atheists will say it a lot as well. They will say that the bible is this amazing book, Christians will urge you to just read it and you will believe, atheists will often say that while it isn't true or anything, they will often concede that it is a great book.

This is so often repeated, I just assumed it was true for years. When I was a Christian I was still a kid and I hated reading in general, so I obviously hated reading the bible. I would read a verse here and there for sunday school, but I never read through the book. I would hear how wonderful it was and just took it for granted. I assumed it was true for years, and I even remember having a touch of trepidation when I started this blog and my bible reading project. I "knew" that the bible was this amazing book and I was afraid that I wouldn't have much to say about it. I really didn't want to just skip over the good bits and harp on the bad. I really wanted to highlight both the good and bad and just see how things stack up. But what if there is hardly any bad to write about?

This fear was allayed pretty much immediately. I very quickly found myself worried that I was being too negative and I was having trouble finding much good stuff to talk about. I wanted to be fair, but I could barely find anything good to talk about. Even the things that people usually found as a good thing, I had something bad to say about it. A lot of the things that I recall being praised when I was in church were based on the idea that we should be obedient and faithful, both of which I consider a negative rather than a positive.

For a while, I figured that most people who talk about the virtues of this book are like I used to be, they take for granted that it is good because everyone tells them it is, but they haven't read it themselves. This makes sense for your average Christian, at least for the Christians I have known in my life, very few of them ever actually read their bibles (beyond a few verses here or there). But there are obviously some people who have studied the book intensely and still find it an amazing book. What is the deal with them?

Ever since I started reading Genesis this thought has been in the back of my mind. I know that this book has been studied and revered for thousands of years, and yet I find it to be really terrible. I try to look at it from every angle I can think of, but I really find it awful. I really have trouble understanding how anyone can actually read this thing and find anything redeeming about it, let along call it a masterpiece. But I know people do, so I would like to get in their head and see how they see the book and how they can possibly see it as a good thing.

So I was very happy recently to see an episode of atheistically speaking on my podcast app where Thomas is talking to a Christian about biblical interpretation. They spent some time talking about how the bible is a "literary masterpiece". I was very excited when they started talking about it, and yet I thought the Christian's arguments fell completely flat. It really seemed like he had decided it was a great book ahead of time because he is a Christian and then he was trying to justify it. He even said that he didn't think he expressed himself very well and did an episode of his own podcast to clarify, but I still didn't think his argument was very good.

I still really do want to find a good explanation as to how someone can see this book as good. I have so far failed to find something that I really find acceptable. Don't get me wrong, I doubt I will agree in the end, but I have a hard time even seeing how someone else can even think that. I'd be happier if I could say "I see your point but I disagree" rather than what I have now which is just confusion. To be fair, I have been very busy with work and family for a while so this whole project is on the back burner and I haven't done a proper look for various justifications, but I have definitely been on the lookout.

Hopefully once I have some time to get back into this stuff, I can find some interesting arguments.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Desperation, Prayer, and the Lottery

I was recently listening to a podcast about the power of prayer (It was geeks without god if I recall correctly). One of the things they said that stuck in my brain is that a lot of people pray as an act of desperation. They feel like they have no other options and praying at least feels like they are doing something. Perhaps they are stuck in a situation that they don't like and they don't see a way out of it, so they pray that things will get better.

source: wikimedia
Often when I see atheists talk about this kind of thing they will say things like "why waste your time praying, why not do something useful instead?" While I agree with this sentiment at times, there are also times when I don't think it is appropriate. Let's say for example someone is working a lot of hours and still just barely getting by. They are trying to get themselves out of the situation, but they are just treading water. If they do a little praying before they go to bed, or while they are commuting, or whatever, I don't see the harm in that. And it could give them a little hope to get them through the day. As long as they are also trying to get things better as well, why not? (If they are instead "leaving it up to God" and just sitting back waiting for things to get better I see it as destructive, but let's assume this is someone not in that situation)

I was thinking about my own current situation, I am currently working a ridiculous number of hours. I work most nights after my son goes to bed until about midnight, and I am pretty sure I haven't had a single day where I didn't work at all in about 6 weeks. I'm probably hovering at about 80 hours a week with no end in sight. If I'm being honest with myself, it will probably pretty similar to this until June. (next year will be better as I can reuse a lot of my teaching materials, but this year I'm building 2 classes from scratch on my own and another with a team of 3 others). I really love my job, but this workload is fucking nuts.

Sometimes I feel pretty pushed to the limit and it can be a bit depressing. As a mathematician, I feel somewhat embarrassed about this, but I will occasionally buy a lottery ticket. I have calculated the odds, I know I am not going to win, but it is fun to think "what if?" As I said, I love my job I'm just overworked. I would love to work half-time, so I could still do it but I could do other things that I enjoy as well. The point is, I see a parallel with the prayer, it really is a fantasy I am allowing myself to have as an act of desperation. In the case of prayer, they are imagining that God is going to make things better, he is going to help them into a better situation. In my case, I'm just imagining being able to buy myself into a better situation. I think the parallel is interesting.
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