Friday, May 17, 2013


So I can often be accused of "Preaching to the choir". Most of my posts are politically liberal and somewhat religious and are read by moderate liberals who are somewhat religious. So today I'm going to write a post about which I know a lot of people will disagree with me.

Often when I am in a discussion during a conformation meeting, one of the questions is "How do god or Jesus help you in your own life?" I always get bugged by that, partially because it always gets the exact same response from the people in the discussion (He calms me when I'm stressed out, he tells me to work hard) and partially because it seems kind of a stretch to think that the almighty creator would listen and help with small, trivial problems while ignoring the world's much more serious problems.

These discussions always link back around to prayer, and instruction by the leader on how to pray correctly. Of course, there's the obvious point not to pray for something evil or completely unnecessary, but they always underline the fact that if you pray, god will answer, and if he chooses not to act it is always because not getting what you prayed for is for the best.

My problem with that is that it is nearly impossible to imagine that kind of philosophy flying with someone who lost a family member who prayed would survive, or underwent some other catastrophe.  Whenever I bring this up, someone in the group discussion always says "Well, imagine how boring life would be if there were no problems." I understand the theoretical thinking that immortality and limitless wealth would cause long term unhappiness, but it's hard to apply that fantasy with the realities of life.

Because of this I have concluded that praying doesn't work. I don't think that god can influence things that most people consider random because, in actuality, nothing is purely random. If you pray that a college will accept you, you assume that since you have applied it is out of your hands and into those of god, when really it's in the hands of the admissions board. Even something as unpredictable as how quickly a disease spreads is not up to chance but up to how the virus works and how good your immune system is.

The problem with this theory if taken too directly is that it pretty much undermines all reason for being a christian in the first place. Other than the concept of the afterlife, by saying god doesn't intervene in the actions on earth is more or less a belief in deism (The belief that god created the world, then left it entirely). But I didn't say that god or Jesus or the Holy Spirit didn't intervene in the actions on earth. I said he (Or they) don't do it directly, or on command. I think it mostly happens through the mind, not the body. Examples of god speaking to someone through their minds, not through a miracle or answering a prayer, exist a lot in our world. The founder of Feed My Starving Children, which is one of the largest charities in the world, which donates millions of meals to over seventy countries, said that he was spoken to by god to start the charity while on a mission in Honduras. Martin Luther King Jr. cited a moment when he was spoken to by god as well during the Montgomery bus boycott.

It doesn't have to be through prayer, either. I think that a lot of people attribute things they do to their conscience urging them, when really it's a form of subconscious communication, a form of prayer in which no miracles are given. In addition, I think it's wise to note that a lot of people do the opposite, using the name of god to justify their own actions, even if those actions are terrible.

So this brings me back to contradicting myself. I suppose I actually believe in what I initially was annoyed by, the thought that god was in our own lives when we (By which I mean affluent people not presently suffering a crisis) really don't deserve it compared to the suffering of others. As well, the two things that were common responses to what god does (To calm you and convince you to work harder) are actually the kinds of advice that it seems god would give. In discussions like that, only one or two people ever say that god actually gives them whatever they ask for, and they're usually not serious. Perhaps I'm just restating and opinion a lot of people hold but don't vocalize, and I'm preaching to the choir yet again.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What should be taught in schools?

I come from a very academic family. Since both my parents are teachers, in the morning everyone goes to school and everyone gets summer off. And since my family is academically geared, I think about school a lot. And often, in math or science class, I find myself wondering the same question that most students have thought at some point "How does this at all pertain to real life".
This question is based around a basic philosophical concept. Assuming no aliens exist, if something is not perceived by humans, it may as well not exist. If I draw a card from a deck of cards but keep it face down and no one ever sees it, the card may as well be blank, and for all practical purposes, the suit of the card does not exist. On that same line of thinking, if humans will never be able to travel outside our solar system, why should I learn about how the universe is so intimidatingly large. And, if you critically look at every fact in a textbook, most of them would only be useful to someone with a very specific job. This is an apathetic look on the world, but one that is surprisingly common in school.
Most people would agree school is intended to educate children and teens with the skills they need for their life and career. But aside from basic math and reading skills, there are few things taught in schools that everyone absolutely has to know. The most necessary skills for later life that I can think of are the ones taught in world languages and home economics, and still most of America only speaks english and tons of people can't do their own laundry. Language arts is useful for writers and government for politicians, but not everyone is a writer or politician, so why should everyone be required to learn the skills required for one. My math teacher himself has said that the most practical application of learning math is getting a job as a math teacher.
But if thats true, why has it been shown that scores on vocabulary tests of words that no one uses correlates almost directly to someone's income, or that it is almost impossible to get a living in the middle class if you never learned algebra in school?
Because, although school may not be a direct preparation for every possible scenario, it does help people My math teacher from seventh grade put it best once "School doesn't always prepare you for getting a job, but it imitates life with a job. You probably won't use the formulas I'm teaching you twenty years from now, you probably won't even remember them, but the time it takes to memorize them will teach you the need to do work. For example, this summer, I had to learn how to make webpage for my class. And I wouldn't have had the work ethic to spend the hours on it had I not had to memorize similar things in school." And, all things considered, every class doesn't train you for every career, but some skills needed for some careers are covered in most classes.

Now that thats cleared up, can I please learn physics from this century (See the video above)