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)

Monday, December 31, 2012

The Garden of Eden

Now, there are a lot of parts of the old testament that I don't get, and I can honestly say that without reading the whole thing. But one of the most well known stories, is the origin of humankind, the Garden of Eden, and it is also my least favorite.
It seems to be the spring of the science versus religion debate. Not only does it blatantly contradict common scientific knowledge by saying the world was created in seven days and that the earth was created  before the sun, but it actually supports ignorance and demonizes knowledge.
For anyone who is not aware of the story, there are the two first humans, Adam and Eve, were created in a perfect world in the garden of eden. Then the serpent tempts them into eating the fruit of knowledge, which is also forbidden by god. They eat it and have knowledge, but they are cast out by god and have to toil in the world in order to survive.
Now, I understand that this might not be meant literally. I have heard many examples of how both the story and the actual creation of the world could have happened, but its not the inaccuracies I dislike as much as the moral. Its surprising that so many people I have talked to, when attacking the christian faith, have used the scientific inaccuracies of that story, instead of pointing out that it clearly implies that knowledge is evil and complete trust and reliance on god is preferable to independence and the knowledge to make decisions.
The defense to that argument is that reliance in god is preferable to knowledge and independence, and that this story is to show the humility you should show before god. But humility is different than complete dependence. And the trouble with relying and trusting completely in god is that no one has any idea exactly what god wants them to do, and a lot of people get it really wrong.
The bible is a good book, but large sections of it, as I've said before, seem to be fictional, almost like myths or stories that have been hugely changed through the eras. and I think that the story of creation is probably fictional.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


I've been reading to kill a mockingbird in school. Although I in no way dispute that it is a great work of literature, i do disagree with one thing, the emphasis put on the title. It is clearly said in the text that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird because they do no evil, only good. This is a direct metaphor for a trial that happens in the book, where a black man, Tom Robinson, is being wrongly convicted of a terrible crime, and could be sentenced to death, therefore killing the man (Metaphorically a mockingbird) who doesn't do hasn't done anything wrong. My english teacher, and entire class, have been discussing how the title is a great insight, and I don't understand how that works. No one has ever disputed that killing an innocent person is wrong. When the class is discussing the title, I am tempted to say "Well what if the mockingbird wasn't innocent?" I bet that would cause quite a bit of different discussion. Unfortunately, my english teacher has directly banned me from leading in-class conversations into digressions.

But what I said, about what if the mockingbird was really guilty, leads into a much more serious question of justice vs. mercy. I'm not talking about the death penalty (I think I've posted about that topic quite enough) but whether the law, be it regular rules, city ordinances or federal laws, be intent on punishing equally to the crime or less than it. I'm pretty sure any other regular readers of my posts know my answer, but let me explain why.

I don't know what justice means, but commonly when I discuss it with people, they use it interchangeably with vengeance. And it makes sense that someone who commits a crime should go to jail, but not because it's what they deserve, although deep down that's what I, and most others, feel. It should be because they need reform, or at least to be kept off the streets so they can't repeat it. That is the fundamental flaw with the death penalty (Sorry, it just came back to it). It is impossible for any kind of reform. You have to remember that these are people, and can't be generalized as good or bad. One or two hours of a life can't possibly be more important than a lifetime of others.

Often,  I've heard people, mostly christians actually, refer to "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth". This was, as I understand it, a jewish law, but seems odd that they use it because Jesus himself directly refuted it with the "If you are hit, turn the other cheek" quote. I think the reason that it is used is because it so strongly connects to our pathos, to think of ourselves as the ones who decide who is wrong or right, while not knowing that we have no idea about the reason the wrong was committed. But the upside to this is that hopefully if we have more open, less judgmental minds, others will consider this when judgeing us.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Symbols, part 2

Recently, I've been reading Angles and Demons and the sequel, The Da Vinci  code. The conspiracy theory basis seems somewhat weak, so I don't believe it, but some of the other things in it seem interesting. Specifically, the religious symbology discussed in it.
See, the main character is  a Harvard symbologist (Yes, I know that's not a word) so much of the book is about different symbols in our everyday lives. It got me thinking about how symbols affect our lives.
It's odd, especially, how symbols change. The Nazi symbol once had a christian meaning, and the cross, which, to christians, is thought to be a symbol of love, was once a form of Roman torture and would be associated with execution in Jesus's time. 
Particularly I feel like in the U.S., we are too sensitive to our national symbols. You aren't allowed to hunt eagles, which are just another bird, and every week at school I have to pledge my allegiance to an inanimate piece of cloth decorated with stars and strips.
To be honest, I don't think we should be so serious about symbols. All in all, they're just lines on paper.
Sorry that this isn't my best post, but right after I posted the first part, I got sick and then had a lot of other things going on.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Relgious symbols, part 1

Sorry about the last post.
Anyways, I have a good post now  to validate the last one.
Recently, I've been reading Angles and Demons and the sequel, The Da Vinci  code. The conspiracy theory basis seems somewhat weak, so I don't believe it, but some of the other things in it seem interesting. Specifically, the religious symbology discussed in it.
See, the main character is  a Harvard symbologist (Yes, I that's not a word) so much of the book is about different symbols in our everyday lives and
Sorry, I have to go. I guess this will have to be in 2 parts. The rest will be in another post tomorrow.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Selective memory

A couple days ago my parents told me I did certain things when I was eight or so that were really embarrassing. I found this weird because I don't think I would forgot something as bad as that. My moms explanation was "We all remember selectively".
I think that is really true, and kind of scary. We all forget things we did wrong that we don't want to remember. I wonder what else I don't remember.
If you look at it at not a personal but a societal scale, it's true too. People tend to talk less about wars they consider unjust, like the war in vietnam or Iraq, than wars that are considered just, like World War 2 or the union side of the Civil War (Although arguably, no war is just). And when you look at it from societies from a religious stand point, things get really interesting.
Take ancient Egypt for example, when I was in kindergarten in sunday school I learned that Egypt, it's many idols, and it's evil slavery were all unholy and terrible. However, in sixth grade (At a religious school) Egypt was referred too a great, industrious civilization. Each side seems to have forgotten about the other. Or Rome, for another example. I know priests who refuse to acknowledge Rome as a civilization because of Pontious Piolot, yet every time they vote they are entering into a Republic-style government that was partially developed by Rome. And those who praise Rome's government (Before it got all corrupt) forget that that government is the one that ordered Jesus executed.  
In my opinion, selective memory works best in positive light, and although it is slightly deceiving, it is necessary to having a functioning history book. If we take all the crimes of even the greatest civilizations, they look terrible. Forgetting the crimes of individuals in thinking of a society is the best way to remember, in my opinion. Of course, turning someone into a hero (By putting them on the $20 bill for example) who did terrible things shouldn't be done.
Sorry if this post was a bit off, I am running out of ideas.