I’ve been spending some time in the first two chapters of Genesis over the last few weeks as we make our way into a summer worship series on creation. And one cannot read very far in the literature about the first two chapters of the bible without at some point encountering the predictable, tendentious battles between evolutionary naturalism and creation, science and religion, etc. It seems to me that those who get the most excited about these issues often quite badly misunderstand either the nature of science or the nature of religion. Or both. And this tends to lead to a considerable amount of heat and not a great deal of light being generated in public discourse on this issue. Read more
This has been a week of some pretty spectacular spring weather in our neck of the woods. Violent thunderstorms, torrential rains, hail, wind… virtually every night has witnessed the pyrotechnics of heaven. Today there are declarations of states of emergency, flood warnings, and evacuations across southern AB. It’s been a pretty incredible few days.
After last night’s storm—which was the most violent one of the week, by far—I heard someone remark about how this kind of weather is evidence of the power and glory of God. I somewhat sullenly bit my tongue. Perhaps it was because I spent part of last night trying to stem the tide of water that was flowing into my basement bedroom and scrambling to rearrange furniture. Perhaps it was because I spent another, much later part of last night teetering on a rickety ladder, trying to unclog my eaves troughs with frozen fingers in the blinding rain and darkness split open by periodic flashes of lightning. Perhaps it was because all this rain is wreaking havoc with my soccer season! Whatever the reasons, there were many things going through my mind during the storm last night, but mouthing paeans to the God of creation for his wondrous displays of power and glory was not among them. I was mostly just wishing someone would turn off the tap. Read more
Based on my own entirely unscientific observations, it seems that there is a burgeoning market for “recovering pastor who saw the godless light” stories these days. The genre is familiar enough by now, right? Fundamentalist pastor grows up in the church, uncritically swallows the whole religious package, devotes x number of years to serving as pastor in [insert small Bible belt American town here], gradually begins to have doubts, finally has the courage to leave his (it’s almost always a “he” so far) faith behind, is persecuted, scorned and rejected by his townsfolk and former parishioners still imprisoned by the shackles of fantasy and indoctrination he has so recently (and heroically) shed, and eventually staggers into the warm and compassionate embrace of this or that atheist group devoted to helping recovering clergy. And then, for the triumphant finale, our hero embarks on a life of spreading the good news of atheist liberation on [insert motivational speaking tour here] amassing inspiring (de)conversion narratives of other clergy that he has “helped” along the way. It’s not a bad gig if you can get it. Read more
Last week, I found a message from a reader of this blog buried off in some dark corner of Facebook-land that I hadn’t noticed for at least a month. It was a message that was both encouraging on a personal level, as well as provocative in the best sense of the word. As it happens, the powers that be in Facebook have thus far prevented me from responding to this message. Every time I try to reply, I get a message telling me that I cannot do so due to some setting in one of our accounts (I don’t have an email address for the person who wrote to me, so I’m at the mercy of Facebook). Rather than wading through the labyrinth of Facebook’s privacy settings, I decided to do the only rational thing and simply write a blog post in response :). Read more
Our daughter belongs to a swim club, and swim clubs mean—hooray!—fundraising. Bingo, specifically. I have discovered that one of the (very few) benefits of spending five hours at the Bingo hall on a Thursday evening is the opportunity to catch up on a bit of reading (I was the “pay runner” last week, which meant that I basically sat around waiting for people to yell, “Bingo!” before springing enthusiastically into action). Last Thursday, I brought along a book that had regrettably slipped to the bottom of the veritable mountain of unread books on my desk—Jim Holt’s Why Does the World Exist? Read more
So, this one has been making the rounds in the social media universe… Apparently, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has “defeated” the world’s leading atheist evangelist Richard Dawkins in a recent debate at Cambridge University. Quite handily, in fact—324 votes to 136. The resolution under discussion was “religion has no place in the 21st century.” Apparently it still does. Rowan Williams has saved the 21st century… or at least the day. We can all take a deep breath and relax. Religion will be around for a while.
It’s Monday morning, the kids are back in school, my Christmas flu finally seems to have released me from its miserable grip. A New Year has begun, and life is back to normal. A couple of miscellaneous topics and ideas for a Monday morning, then. These have very little to do with one another other than that they have been collecting dust either in my brain or in my “drafts” folder over the past little while. If this comes across as a rambling mess, or a series of incoherent rants, well, I blame on the accumulation of weeks worth of flu medication which has undoubtedly scrambled my brain. Read more
Have you ever thought about how utterly weird the Christian message about Jesus is?
The hope of the world, Christians claim, is a crucified Jew who was born of a virgin over two thousand years ago, lived a very peculiar and provocative life, taught and modeled a bizarre mixture of love, compassion, and peace alongside jarring and bewildering words of judgment and warning, was executed by a predictable combination of religious and imperial power while simultaneously paying the price for human sin and absorbing the evil of the whole world, cheated death (so his followers say) by rising from the dead, and claimed, in this whole package, to be the fulfillment of the very old, strange story about a very strange group of people whose mode of relating to God scarcely resembles anything we would recognize or welcome today.
On top of all this, his rag-tag band of followers subsequently tramped all over the known world proclaiming that this Jesus was (presently) alive and well, thank you very much, that his kingdom was at hand, that his church was called to invite all people to follow him, and that he would one day return to as the judge and Lord of history with the keys to eternal life.
Um. Ok. Read more
Last night was spent at a local theology reading group hosted by a philosophy professor from the university in town. It’s an eclectic mix—a few professors, a chaplain (who was gracious enough to invite me!), history and philosophy students, Mormons, atheists, agnostics, and a handful of other positions on the way to or from faith, no doubt. The discussion was freewheeling, lively, and very stimulating. I spend a lot of time in “churchy” circles where I am supposed to be some kind of “authority” or, ahem, “expert.” It was nice to take that hat off for an evening and just explore some interesting questions with others. Read more
Why do people believe and behave as they do? Especially people who believe and behave differently than we do. Or who believe and behave in ways that we think are dangerous, imprudent, confusing, stupid, or just plain irritating. There are so many people who believe such strange things, after all. Why? Read more
Regular readers of this blog will know that the subject of my masters thesis a few years ago was the rise of “The New Atheism” (the late Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett) and that I interpreted this phenomenon not as the inevitable triumph of scientific rationality over superstition (as many of the authors were fond of claiming) but as a form of protest atheism against the evil in the world and against a God that they expected better from.
One of the books that I have been looking forward to reading for some time is Marilynne Robinson’s recent collection of essays called When I Was a Child I Read Books. Happily, a little brown package arrived in the mail today! I have enjoyed Robinson’s fiction immensely (Gilead and Home obviously come to mind), but haven’t had a chance to read her nonfiction just yet. I am very glad for the opportunity to correct this regrettable deficiency. Read more
Alain de Botton has been in the news a lot recently. His Religion for Atheists has garnered considerable attention, whether from atheists who think he is entirely too appreciative of religion or from religious folks who think he is rather selectively and inconsistently describing and accessing their traditions. In the last week alone, I’ve come across no fewer than ten reviews, articles, and interviews trying to make sense of his strange (to some) project of trying to take the best parts of religion and use them to construct a more meaningful secularism. Read more
The secular world is full of holes. We have secularized badly.
These words come near the beginning of Alain de Botton’s recent TED Talk called Atheism 2.0, and preface what could, I suppose, be categorized as an atheist’s best attempt to affirm the positives of religion and attempt to incorporate these positives into a more well-rounded and satisfying secular worldview. For de Botton, while it is transparently obvious that supernatural beliefs are false, it is equally obvious that religion confers many benefits upon its adherents—benefits which are inaccessible, or at least less easily attainable, to those who reject religion. Read more
“They must not believe in God.”
These words from my daughter came after a conversation we had been having at bedtime about someone who she had heard yelling at their baby. For her, it was clear: someone who believed in God simply would not do something as monstrous as scream “shut up!” at an infant. People who believe in God don’t do such things, after all. Right? Read more
This morning, I read of Christopher Hitchens’ passing and felt very sad.
I did not know the man personally, of course, nor did I share many of his convictions about the world. Indeed, Hitchens spent a good deal of time and energy (articulately and entertainingly) attacking some of the things most important to me. But today’s news really hit me. It was kind of like hearing that a friend had died—or at least a distant cousin that you once stayed up late into the night having an intense conversation where you both got really worked up and ended up simply having to agree to disagree! Read more
I’ve been tracking the evolution of the blog Wondering Fair over the past year with great interest, not least because of the excellent writing and theological engagement with culture that it contains. I have appreciated the diversity of voices, the spectrums of issues raised, and the overall vision of a safe and interesting place to talk about the things that matter most to us. René has really done a great job in articulating and implementing a vision for constructive and stimulating conversation about faith, God, and truth in a post-Christian world that is often suspicious about these very things.
Not surprisingly, when I was asked to be a regular contributor to WF, I leaped at the opportunity. Read more
Now that I have started to jog periodically, I have done what all good joggers do: I have created a playlist on my iPod full of bone-rattling, heart-pounding, anthemic rock songs to provide the requisite boost of adrenaline and inspiration once the legs start to feel like jelly, the breathing gets laboured, and the going starts to get pretty rough. For me, this takes place after about half a kilometre or so.
One of the tracks on my playlist is a song called “Nietzsche” by The Dandy Warhols, which contains the following lyric:
I want a god who stays dead
not plays dead.
It’s a fascinating line—one that could allude to any number of points and experiences on the psychological/spiritual/philosophical landscape in postmodernity. God is dead, but God won’t away. We want nothing to do with God, but we can’t live without meaning and the hope of redemption. We cannot escape the shadow God casts. Read more