Monday, August 30, 2010

The Problem with Hell


I've always figured that if there is one thing Hell is not, it's the classic depictions such as Dante's Inferno (the same applies to Heaven, for that matter).



I thought C.S. Lewis' "The Great Divorce" was a very interesting look at the concept of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. His idea of Hell as utterly insubstantial (while Heaven is the absolute reality), brings a different way of thinking about what it is.



There are some questions that can't be easily answered. Is it God's failure when people go to Hell? Should a loving God shield us from consequences with no change (repentance) on our part? How much do we take the Biblical words regarding Hell literally? Much of Jesus' words regarding the afterlife were spoken in the context of parables, so what exactly was his point in those cases? In several cases, Jesus talks of those separated from God as being burned up, so can that be taken to mean Hell is just the complete end of existence for those not entering Heaven?



While I would like to believe that Jesus' actions were able to protect everyone from Hell, it is difficult to avoid the scriptures telling us that there are those who will end up there.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The LEAST Educated Cities In America (PHOTOS)


Being from Fresno, and raised in California's Central Valley, I'm not at all surprised to see several cities here come up on the list (Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto, Stockton). I have a higher education degree, but the area's economy is heavily based on agriculture, since it has some of the richest topsoil in the world. Ag jobs don't pay a lot, so they are going to attract and hold people with relatively little education.



Unfortunately, this area is an oft-ignored part of the state, despite the huge amount ag contributes to the economy. We have some of the poorest areas in the country.



However, keep in mind that less educated does not mean stupid or lazy. Farmworkers in particular are some of the hardest-working people I've ever met. They have to be, since they typically get paid by how much they get done, and not an hourly wage.



There is a massive immigrant population here, mostly from Mexico and Latin America, but also Southeast Asia and elsewhere. This brings unique challenges. The children of these immigrants often have a difficult time straddling the conflicting cultures of their parents and the U.S. It's not as simple as just getting them schools and libraries, though more attention there wouldn't hurt.



Still, it's also important to recognize that, even if everything was done right (and it currently isn't by a long shot), this will always be a low-education area of the country.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Controversy in Wisconsin

Good story, Mr. Wallis. Despite the horrible things said, I'm glad that you and Mr. Lenz stuck things out with humble truth. That's what it will take, I believe: polite but firm truth, even in the face of dishonest attacks. Some will refuse to change their minds, no matter what (in the face of facts, one such man recently told me that he doesn't believe any news/information organization, but only what he "feels in his heart"), but that does not change what our response should be.



Most people find it difficult to stand up to this kind of behavior, but it must be done. Jesus frequently confronted those of his day who clung to falsehoods and hypocrisy, and he is the model those of us who call ourselves Christians ("Little Christs") should follow. If we don't, the hoaxes and lies persist and grow, lacking firm opposition. The people behind them come to be seen as the majority, and believe they represent that, when, in fact, they are simply the loudest.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Are YOU The Source of Our Nation's Growing Intolerance?


As a fairly opinionated political moderate who enjoys discourse, I've had very similar experiences with both those on the right and on the left over the past 6 years or so. In both cases I've been assumed to be of the opposing political belief system, and subjected to abusive statements without cause as a result. Most recently a conservative told me to "fall off a cliff" when I pointed out some factual errors, but I've had similar experiences in the past with more liberal folks, and not just from the US, either.



Some have insinuated that I was being dishonest when I expressed opinions not in keeping with one party line or another, believing no middle ground could possibly exist. In reality, I have found that the warfare has left a large no-man's-land, in which many moderates have chosen to go underground rather than receive fire from both sides.



Personally, I dislike the word "tolerance," which implies too much passivity for me. I feel a more active virtue, such as respect for those we find ourselves in disagreement with, must be used to counteract poor behavior. We must each find and recognize the value in dissenting opinions, even when we disagree with them, not simply tolerate them.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why can't arguments be more fun?

I had to unfriend a person on Facebook for the first time recently. She was fairly conservative, and tended to post things of that nature. Me being... well... me, I would sometimes dispute some premises, facts, or conclusions, resulting in an argument. From my perspective, it's all in good fun. Unfortunately, it eventually became apparent that she did not share this view (yeah, it took me a while to realize how bad it was, even with my girlfriend getting annoyed with me, between it being the internet and that I can be somewhat oblivious to these things).

Let me make it clear: I didn't unfriend her because of any animosity on my part, nor that I tired of attempts to convince her of my position. She seems like a genuinely decent person, nor is conversion to my side the point (it was apparent early on that was unlikely, anyway). No, the problem was that I was unnecessarily upsetting her, a fellow follower of Christ. I have a hard time keeping my opinions to myself when I see something I disagree with, so it was best just to take away that temptation.

I have continued to receive emails listing replies to some posts I commented on, despite no longer having the ability to see the actual page. I had to raise an eyebrow when one person felt I was a "libtard and provocateur" that should "fall off a cliff." Really? The post I had replied to in that case had some historical inaccuracies I pointed out (keep in mind I consider history important), and for that I should die? Was pointing out that some facts were wrong really that bad?

Truthfully, I don't really understand why differing opinions upset people. I know it's common, and I try to be understanding of their feelings, but it doesn't really make sense to me. Provided there's no ad hominem, bigotry, or just rudeness involved, why would it be upsetting that someone's beliefs are different, even wrong? They are ideas, not people, and I believe people should be the priority.

There's the part of me that wants to blame all this animosity between the liberal and conservative sides over the last decade or so on pundits like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, but honestly it's been going on a long time. If you look at the history books, politics has always produced bitter feuds. In the early days of the USA, the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr is a good example.

Something in human nature just creates a lot of fear, anger, and hate over opposing beliefs. My best guess is that many people consider their beliefs vital to their person, and having those challenged, even by someone who simply says they disagree, threatens their worldview, prompting an angry response, rather than thoughtful debate.

Perhaps there's a remnant of tribalism behind the animosity as well. By disputing their tribe's view of the world, I'm marking myself as a member of a rival tribe, and therefore to be hated. In that case, the ideas aren't even that important. They are only identifiers. What really matters is that I have been identified as one of "them." It would explain why, in multiple cases, statements I've made that were inconsistent with views stereotypical of the opposing tribe I was accused of belonging to were either ignored or discounted (sometimes I was accused of outright lying). From a tribal view, there are few gray areas when it comes to affiliation, people are considered either one of "us," or one of "them."

In this particular situation, it's not that big of a deal. It is a little unfortunate that I have gotten this kind of thing from both ends of the political spectrum, but I'll walk away from this with a little head-scratching and a shrug, as I've done in the past.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Glenn Beck to Jesus: Drop Dead


While my initial reaction was outrage, I've decided to focus more on the humor of being called a CommuNazi (might as well make up a word for a made-up political combination). I've been mentioning that I've had the urge to put myself in a concentration camp, and being communist and nazi at the same time would apparently explain that.



Glenn Beck's astounding ignorance of Religion, Political theory, and History make for a completely absurd set of statements. Given his claim to be a researcher, he should know better, but of course, he doesn't want to. Beck would rather be ignorant than knowledgeable. If he obtained actual knowledge, it might interfere with his ability to make wild claims and bizarre conspiracy theories without apparent cognitive dissonance. Of course, this is all assuming the best of him and that Beck isn't simply lying in order to manipulate others ignorant of these things.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Memo to Obama: Moving Forward Doesn't Mean You Can't Also Look Back


Most of these calls for a public investigation of the Bush administration are from people who have something to gain if it is productive (mostly a personal boost to their ego from being right), but nothing to lose if it is not. I think Obama recognizes that there are some very big political risks to himself that come with attempting to investigate, and possibly prosecute, the former administration. Last I checked, he has a lot of goals for his presidency, and pursuing Bush could jeopardize every one of them. It risks becoming a huge mess that would dominate his presidency, overshadowing everything and further alienating people he may need to work with.



I'm inclined to believe he's taking the right course at this point. Perhaps he may set up an investigation, but it should be as low-key as possible, and not the media circus we saw in the Clinton years. Attempting to prosecute Clinton cost the Republicans in the 1998 congressional election, and Obama knows better than to repeat history with a similarly sloppy move, IMO. I think he should continue to dodge the question, and set up a very quiet preliminary investigation to decide if something more public might be a good move.
About Dick Cheney
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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I'm a Christian and political moderate (I tend to be more liberal on core issues and more conservative on the hot-button ones). I have a B.A. in Biblical and Religious Studies and Philosophy.