A couple weeks ago, PastorItaly did a sermon on worship… worship music to be exact. It was a sermon that was critical of worship music as a form of entertainment and how he sought to reaffirm that the point of worship is to glorify god. The sermon was capped off with 3 worship songs, in which the final song really jammed out. The worship leader strummed hard on his acoustic guitar, the drummer was flipping out, and the whole sanctuary moved. I have to admit, even my own engergy was jumping.
After the service ended, I walked over to the soundboard to ask my friend SoulBrotha a question.
Me: Hey SoulBrotha, did you mess with the volume at all for that last song?
SoulBrotha: Nah man, that was all them.
So I shared with SoulBrotha an anecdote I heard on the Ask and Atheist podcast. Rich Lyons from Living After Faith and a former pastor was on, and he talked about his experiences at his former Church. Specifically he mentioned that there was a a specific point on the soundboard where, if he boosted the volume past that point, the whole congregation would erupt. The holy spirit would really move. It was a set point that had the same effect every time they crossed that volume threshold.
SoulBrotha was fascinated and we thought that we should try it out one day. We talked a little bit about all the factors that needed to be at play (confident musicians, certain anthem type songs). We didn’t exactly know what moments would be best, but that it was definitely worth testing.
Fast forward to this past Sunday, closing out the service, the worship team played “How He Loves” as played by David Crowder. This has a wonderful section towards the end that repeats the same phrase.
He loves us, oh how
He loves us, oh how
He loves us, oh how he loves
The band played it well, but the life was kinda missing. But, when that section came, I frantically looked over my shoulder, to get SoulBrotha’s attention. It didn’t take long for him to make eye contact, and I gestured to him that now was the moment to try it. With the largest smile on his face, and a nod of acknowledgement, he cranked the volume. The whole room got noticeably louder (almost distorted loud).
Our test had begun.
As I watched, more and more heads started nodding. More and more hands went up to the sky in worshipful submission. The worship leader strummed his guitar harder and more passionately. The drummer (who I never really liked since he was too timid) all of a sudden found himself immensely more talented.
The room erupted. I looked back at SoulBrotha to see if he was seeing what I was seeing and sure enough, a jubilantly shocked look was on his face. Our little test had worked and “the holy spirit” was really moving though the church. Even I was getting into it.
The song’s closing dials the intensity way back down. At that moment, I looked back to SoulBrotha and made a gesture to say roll it on back. He did a “smoooth” kinda motion with his hands and a smiling stank face to acknowledge the direction. As the volume receded, the spirit washed over all of us like a wave, and we all got a moment to catch our breath.
After we were dismissed, I excused myself from TiggerGal, who was going to pick up the kids, and ran over to SoulBrotha to congratulate him on a successful initial test run. I think we were both stunned at how well it went. SoulBrotha’s wife was next to him and commented that not only did the music feel really good just then, but she’d never heard the drummer play that well before.
As excited as I was, it felt a little strange that the congregation was so easily manipulatable. I’m sure SoulBrotha sees it as the Holy Spirit actually moving… but I, obviously, think different. All you need for the spirit to move is a drummer with balls and some loud main speakers.
This past Sunday’s sermon had a few words about doubt, and how it was okay for Christians to doubt. I thought this was a rather hollow sentiment because usually doubters are only allowed to have one resolution to their doubt: more faith. When doubt emerges, the common response from the Church is to encourage the doubter to pray more, or go to small groups, or read some apologetic books. The admonition is to do anything that will make the doubt go away. Everyone doubts, you just can’t doubt successfully.
So on Facebook, I posted this:
“It ain’t a true crisis of faith unless things could just as easily go either way.” – Thor Shenkel. It’s okay for you to doubt. But is it okay for you to doubt successfully?
I didn’t expect anyone to take the bait, but surprisingly, a guy from our Church did. Lets call him TruthSeeker.
TruthSeeker responded that God is, so doubt and faithlessness were meaningless. It seemed like there was some confusion over the point I was trying to make, so I clarified:
Here’s what I’d expect to see if a Church community was okay with someone successfully doubting (Scenario 1): Doubter expresses doubt to Pastor. Pastor encourages Doubter to seek out best arguments and evide…nce from all sides, as many religions as possible, and even atheist/skeptic groups; weigh the evidence; and go with the best conclusion.
Here’s what I’d expect to see if a Church community was not okay with someone successfully doubting (Scenario 2): Doubter expresses doubt to Pastor. Pastor recommends small groups, apologetic books, one on one counseling, more prayer, so that their doubt can be resolved.
In Scenario 1, doubt is a process by which the best arguments are evaluated and (hopefully) the best one wins.
In Scenario 2, there is an expected conclusion and all efforts to resolve the doubt are done in a way as to always arrive at the expected conclusion.
What I see most often is Scenario 2.
If you’re talking about doubting the existence of God, and what the Truth is then that’s a different argument. In your Scenario’s, the Pastor’s role is to direct the person to the truth. There is only 1 truth, so to encourage you to examine all the versions of the untruth is pointless.
From there, I kinda realized where this was going. It’s the same issue I’ve been running into over presuppositions. I then wrote:
I guess the next question would be, how can one be sure that their “Truth” is the actual truth? You’re just as convinced that your God exists as I am convinced that your God doesn’t exist. I think your beliefs are untruths just as you think my beliefs are untruths. I can assert my beliefs as fact, just as you can.
I think my way of discerning truth is more effective than yours, and you think your way of discerning truth is more effective than mine. You think your evidence is more valid than mine, and vice versa.
So, how do we tell who’s right?
Partly rhetorical, part earnest. The conversation then went into what my beliefs are and how exactly I thought we differed in our standards of evidence and our ways to find truth. Somewhere along the way, I mentioned that while I had some reservations over whether Jesus was an actual historical figure, the research and debate behind it was kind boring to me. I’d tried to review the literature and the opposing sides, but just didn’t find it interesting. TruthSeeker jumped on this:
So you aren’t seeking truth are you?
You’re looking for proofs to sustain your preconceived understanding.
You’re closed to the truth.
That didn’t go over well with me at all:
Yes, Peter. By your definition, I suppose I am closed to the truth.
I thought he was just using a very narrow definition of the word truth, one that made truth the exclusive province of Christianity. He clarified:
Well if you claim to seek the truth, it simply isn’t genuine if you automatically reject exploring the evidence as presented. If all mainstream religions are void based upon your own premise, then you’re only seeking that which confirms your belief. I believe in Christ both as a tangible relationship and as a logical explanation in light of no better explanation.
He was actually referring to my beliefs that there was nothing supernatural. No ghosts or spirits or demons or souls. Nada. In my opinion, until it can be demonstrated (or even observed) that mental conciousness can exist outside of machinery, there’s no sense to assume that spiritualism is a better explanation to naturalism. And yes, I think the existance of the supernatural is a fundamental aspect of most mainstream religions. Take away supernaturalism and most religions are moot right out of the gate. It’s like quibbling about what color roof you want when the whole other 2/3rds of the house was swept away.
I completely failed to discuss this because by then I was too upset. I took his bait.
At the time, I also thought he was referring to my boredom with historicity discussions:
If you say… you’re not interested in the historical accuracy or authorship of the Bible, then how can you say you are seeking truth?
I tried explaining that boredom doesn’t equal a priori dismissal, that I actually tried reading it. It was just hard to get through so I haven’t made up my mind on the issue.
By then it spiraled out of control. TruthSeeker then switched to what he though were flaws in “Darwins Evolution religion”, but were simply strawmen that demonstrated that he didn’t know what evolution was.
The problem with Darwinism is modern science has undermined the basis for his theory.
Firstly if FROG wants to turn into a DOG it must shed the dna that makes it a frog and then acquire dna to become a dog. That’s impossible. No observed law of nature demonstrates this. In fact a frog’s cells only contain frog dna so aga…in where does the new information come from?Secondly, genetic mutations always involve the loss of data or corruption of data. Never has a genetic mutation been a positive thing.Thirdly, a species is wired to mate with its own kind. If a frog is looking for a mate, it would reject a dog as a potential mate. So how much ‘dog-ness’ would a mate accept before the new version dies out?Fourthly, Darwin said that by necessity every layer of the earth would have to be chock full of intermediate transitional fossils that clearly show the transformation from one kind into another. He was confident that the future would reveal that. 150 years later & no such evidence has been found.
In fact if every species that has ever… existed is the result of such evolutionary changes there should be trillions of fossils. As yet, not one single species can be demonstrated to have evolved.
Fifthly, irreducible complexity rules out the incremental forming of complex organs. Components that require all the parts in order to function cannot function when incomplete. The species would die out. If arms become wings there has to be a point at which the apendage is no longer useful as an arm or wing & that would cause detriment to the species.
Electron microscopes have revealed the complexity of cells, & they are also irreducibly complex.
And by then I was so pissed off that I got snarkier and ended up offending him.
You have “Darwinism” and evolution all wrong. It’s true that a frog going to a dog by shedding dna is impossible. No modern animal can change into drastically differ…ent modern animal. That’s not what evolution says. That was never what evolution said. Pokemon maybe, not evolution.
Evolution says that frogs and dogs share a very distant common ancestor that diverged in development millions of years ago. Some of that ancestors descendants eventually became frogs and some of those ancestors eventually became wolves (which we then domesticated into dogs). And some of those ancestors ended up becoming other modern day animals. That’s what evolution states.
Second, here’s an example of a genetic mutation being a positive thing: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14094-bacteria-make-major-evolutionary-shift-in-the-lab.html Natural selection displayed in the lab, where bacteria mutate to be able to metabolize citrate.
Third, yeah that’s what the definition of a species is. Again, Darwin never said that one species mates with a second species to make a third species. I have no clue where you got that, but that’s not evolution. Natural selection (a mechanism by which evolution works) creates variations in offspring through the passing of genes. Each successive generation is a little bit different. So drastic changes take millions of years.
Fourth, show me where Darwin said that. Not only that, but part of the implications of evolution is that every fossil is a transitional fossil, just as every animal is a transitional animal. Us humans, we’re transitioning too! Millions of y…ears from now (if we’re still here) we’ll probably be very different. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what transitional means in the scope of evolution.
Fossils are actually quite rare and we’re lucky to have them. The funny thing is, if we had more fossils, it would have been harder to discover evolution because all the species would have blended with each other and we wouldn’t be able to tell the subtle differences!
Fifth, irreducible complexity is also quite ridiculous. Think Voltron. Combined all the lions produce and awesome force, but separate the lions are still functional, just with job duties different from Voltron itself. Not only that, but Darwin himself described the possible evolution of the “irreducibly complex” eye: a patch of cells that are light sensitive increasing in sensitivity, forming a pit, hardening mucus, etc. It’s actually pretty easy stuff to an unbiased mind.
So we concluded the conversation in a whimper.
Like I said. No argument here. I’m just a deluded christian who is really an ignorant simpleton which is where these discussions always end up. Atheists are so much smarter & way intellectually superior.
I ended up not feeling very good about the convo, particularly how I let myself get baited and lose my cool. It was a really frustrating discussion since he used a kinda scattershot approach: ask a whole bunch of questions in succession and simply move on if I got him in a corner.
He made reference to two things that he claimed Darwin said that would show that evolution was wrong, and yet he didn’t provide quotes when asked. He just moved on.
I talked about how I viewed beliefs as “anticipation controllers” dictating what I should expect and shouldn’t expect to see, followed by a long list of specific things that I would expect to see that would make my beliefs false. I asked him if there was anything that would convince him that Christianity was false. No response.
He hammers me on my boredom with the historicity argument, saying that if I don’t follow it through I’m not really seeking truth and yet I can tell he’s probably never read anything about evolution. Or if he did, it doesn’t seem like never read anything from the opposing side.
Clearly his definition of truth is different from my definition of truth. Here’s what I go by:
1. the true or actual state of a matter: He tried to find out the truth.2. conformity with fact or reality; verity: the truth of a statement.3. a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like: mathematical truths.
In your Scenario’s, the Pastor’s role is to direct the person to the Christ (truth). There is only 1 Christ (truth), so to encourage you to examine all the versions of the unChrist (truth) is pointless.How about this…most Atheists I have encountered have no desire to seek the Christ (truth).I wonder where we disagree on standards of evidence & appropriate methods of discerning Christ (truth).So you aren’t seeking Christ (truth) are you?
You’re looking for proofs to sustain your preconceived understanding.
You’re closed to the Christ (truth).
Everyone starts as a doubter until an event, a revelation or aquired knowledge brings assurance that Christ is the Truth.
You are, by occupation, a campaign manager, and you’ve just been hired by Mortimer Q. Snodgrass, the Green candidate for Mayor of Hadleyburg. As a campaign manager reading a blog on rationality, one question lies foremost on your mind: “How can I construct an impeccable rational argument that Mortimer Q. Snodgrass is the best candidate for Mayor of Hadleyburg?”Sorry. It can’t be done.“What?” you cry. “But what if I use only valid support to construct my structure of reason? What if every fact I cite is true to the best of my knowledge, and relevant evidence under Bayes’s Rule?”Sorry. It still can’t be done. You defeated yourself the instant you specified your argument’s conclusion in advance.
…because Hell doesn’t exist.
Despite this, my Facebook feed was quite active with comments of shock and dismay at the breaking news that Casey Anthony was found not guilty of murdering her daughter. A lot of the comments were religious in nature. Here are som e examples:
There is a special place in hell for unpunished murderers. Your justice will be a fiery one, bitch!
bitch will BURN IN HELL FOR WHAT SHE DID TO THAT BABY!! Sooo sick and sad and PISSED…WTF was the jury thinking?? If she didn’t do it then how the hell did that baby get in the swamp with duct tape on her face while her mama was in the “hot body contest” and partying it up?? UGH!!
Don’t worry Casey, God knows the truth and that’s all that really matters.
all i can hope is that there is such a thing as karma.
God has a much better plan than jail for the murderer, whoever that might be!
To all Floridians currently discussing the big court case: We are all depraved, sinful people and in need of salvation; both love and justice that we perceive through our flesh lenses in this place are not ultimate and Christ is still on the throne because he has already defeated sin and death.
That last one just seemed opportunistic. There were some milder comments as well:
Remember: Not Guilty does not mean Innocent.
The thing I love out our justice system is that the burden is put on the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crimes committed before the court based on lawfully obtained evidence. The media loves to inject their opinions and verdicts for sensationalism (Richard Jewell case) without concern. Speculation is not evidence. Testimony and tangible clues are.
too much anger and idiocy on my feed this past hour. why not take a look at all these people who were wrongly convicted and spent years in prison based on circumstantial evidence and FEELINGS?
I hadn’t really followed the case, but I did notice the visceral reactions people had with their feelings of injustice. Life isn’t a story that wraps up nice and neat, or has some overarching narrative where the bad guy gets it in the end. Often times there is no justice or fairness. The god comments seemed to reflect that vibe the most… at least if man’s court can’t provide justice, god will.
But no, it won’t. Because there is no god. There is no storyteller who has some big plan. There’s just… this. So I wrote this:
A lot of talk about “hell” and “justice” on the FB. So I take it that forgiveness is out of the question?
And I got some pretty interesting responses. Some of my atheist friends were clearly just as angry as my Christian friends. They didn’t invoke god as some final arbiter, so they may have felt even more cheated of justice. Some thought forgiveness was nonsense. So I replied:
Yeah, why not? This kinda reminded me about the Amish school shooting back in 2007. Everyone thought the Amish were nuts to forgive the murder. They had largely faith based reasons for it, but I really do think the psychological benefits pan out. Haven’t we grown out of “eye for an eye”? And if not, isn’t it about time that we do.
And one of my Christian friends added some really great feedback.
“Forgiveness” and “justice” are 2 separate issues. I think people wanted to see justice and they are improperly expressing their anger with hate. … that’s my 2 cents anyway :)
I am as sick as you are… really. But I do think that justice and forgiveness can co-exist. Also-I do not think that she will ever be free… when she is released, where will she go? She will be in danger of being attacked in Orlando. She …has shredded her family into pieces, to save her own skin. In a way, she has completely administered justice unto herself. It may not be what we wanted to see, but she will not be “free”.P.S…. I think that we might be confusing “forgiveness” with “grace”. Grace is choosing to withhold justice. Forgiveness is choosing to give up retribution , anger, and revenge. Forgiveness is choosing to Love and respect someone despite what they have done to you, and justice may or may not have been served. (Okay okay…. that’s my 50 cents! Hahaha. Im done.)