Critical Thinking

A Poem on Skepticism

Because I’m about four years tired of both presumptuous God-haters and presumptuous ultra-fundamentalists who jump in with an agenda of schooling me on the flaws/absurdity/vileness of my personal beliefs, I thought I’d slow it right down today.

So, let’s have some free verse, so called. And maybe some butterflies and some quiet and unassuming wallflowers.

~~~

Just
because
you don’t like
my premises
does not
obligate
me to
address
yours.

If you
genuinely want
me to,
then
present a case
for
the reasonableness
of your
assumptions.

(Stop saying “of course.”
It’s not a magic spell
that makes you right.)

Without that,
I think
your ideas fail.

Feel free
to call me
rude
or
unworthy of your time
for being
a skeptic.

(No worries, I’m the moderator.
I’ll kick you out when I get tired
of the contrived hyperventilations.)

Feel free
to get
conveniently
distracted
from any case-making
by my
skepticism.

Just

don’t expect
me to be

conveniently
distracted

by yours.

~~~

I hope I’ve spoken slowly and clearly enough this time, and that this post will serve adequately as a standard reference point henceforth.

~Scienda

Every Natural Love

“I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all… How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

-Penn Jillette, proselytizing atheist

The Great Divorce

“But could one dare — could one have the face — to go to a bereaved mother in her misery — when one’s not bereaved oneself?…”

“No, no, Son, that’s no office of yours. You’re not a good enough man for that. When your own heart’s been broken it’ll be time for you to think of talking. But someone must say in general what’s been unsaid among you this many a year: that love, as mortals understand the word, isn’t enough.”

-C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

There comes a moment in a Christian’s life when one doesn’t want to be a Christian anymore. Very rarely is it for the sake of our own cherished, secret sins. No, those we justify, as Lewis has rightly noted elsewhere. We tell ourselves tales of how our own unrighteous thoughts and inclinations can’t be so very bad, for after all, we’re Christians.

No, the moment when one has a sudden urge to quit Christianity is in the moment of loss. Loss of face, loss of self-respect, loss of valuables or dreams.

Loss of loved ones.

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Why I Don’t Debate Politics and Theology

I’ve lived on both sides of the faith question–the skeptic and the believer. That’s been an education in avoiding bias confirmation syndrome, which in turn has been an education in reasoned argumentation.

This article from Mother Jones summarizes why I don’t like debating politics or theology, and why the older and wiser folks we know always say that Christian faith isn’t ultimately about logical reasons, even though they do exist.

Faith arises from a passionate desire for God’s personal intervention in one’s heart and life, not just the intellectual understanding of good, evil and the historical data-driven evidence for Christianity. Without that desire, evidence can easily be interpreted or assumed out of the question. And this holds for both sides of any issue.

“…these results are a fairly strong refutation of what is called the ‘deficit model’ in the field of science and technology studies—the idea that if people just had more knowledge, or more reasoning ability, then they would be better able to come to consensus with scientists and experts on issues like climate change, evolution, the safety of vaccines, and pretty much anything else involving science or data…”

-Science Confirms: Politics Wreck Your Ability to Do Math

I can’t force anyone’s heart desires. That never works on any level, with any subject, ever. It leads only to shame-based, pressure-based false agreement, or (which is probably more healthy and honest) overt destruction of relationship.

So I’ll write and discuss, and even express myself passionately at times. But there’s nothing to argue about here.

~Scienda

HT: Laurie M.

What did Dove sell me, anyway?

As part of the discussion on Real Beauty and what I’ve learned as a chubby chick,  Sheila Hollinghead said this:

I teared up watching the Dove commercial and here’s why. We are more than what we see in the mirror. The personalities of the women showed through, making them more beautiful to those describing them. And that to me is worthy of a tear.

To which I said: Yes. Absolutely, yes. I teared up too, and I watched it several times, including with my teenage daughter. It really does resonate.

The part that felt a bit funky to me was when the one gal said, “It’s so important…I need to be more grateful for my natural beauty.”

I watched it several times, and that bugged me increasingly with each viewing. I felt like something more subtle than the usual selling of discontent and insecurity was happening: I was being sold my own positive emotions, with the company’s products as a rider. But how? It doesn’t have the usual feel of marketing. They don’t even tell you to buy anything.

Or do they?

I’ve used Dove products since long before I heard of the Real Beauty campaign, because I have sensitive skin. So after a bit, I got to thinking about what’s in my bathroom cabinet. (more…)

Dear Mr. Mulcair: Go to Hitler.

I never blog about politics, and this is why: Welcome to my opinionated opinions. The wallflower is dead.

Fair warning: If you lean left and you still choose to read this, you might hate yourself in the morning.

On the other hand, you’re welcome to join the dialogue. I think this is important for reasons outside of its immediate context.

Sun News, Canada’s campy right-wing source of making libertarians look bombastic, reports that NDP national leader “Angry” Thomas Mulcair has once again failed to “serenity now.” This time, it’s about Christians working in foreign aid.

(more…)

Compassion, judgment, and whether the twain shall meet

I saw this quote float by on the interwebs not too long ago, and it gave me pause to reflect.

“Compassion can never coexist with judgment because judgment creates the distance, the distinction, which prevents us from being with the other.”

-Henri Nouwen

On the contrary, I think compassion and judgment are inextricably linked.

Part of the problem, of course, is the postmodern rewriting of the definition of “judgment.” The word has become laden with interpersonal static never found in its dictionary definition. Instead of referring to the exercise of insight and discretion, it has been co-opted to mean a self-aggrandizing attitude of false and undeserved moral superiority. If that were the true definition of the word, then Nouwen’s remark would be valid — it’s pretty hard to stir a dose of compassion into an attitude like that.

But the most compassionate thing anyone can do for another is to exercise insight and discretion.

Yes, it’s possible to verbally bludgeon someone with the brute force of one’s insights, and I have a limited tolerance for that kind of behaviour. But beyond questions of grace in speech, judgment is a grace.

Real grace enters with power and authority, however quietly.

It’s not mere honesty. Honesty can be honestly wrong. And judgment is something different than bluntness. It’s not made more or less authoritative by how it’s spoken, in and of itself, though finding the right approach for differently tuned ears matters very much.

As a grace, judgment must be inextricably bound up with truth.

But Nouwen is fundamentally correct about one of the potential side effects of judgment: It can create distance and distinction between us and its subject.

I should hope so. I do hope that the exercise of insight and discretion fosters distance and distinction between myself and my petty crimes against humanity. I hope it leads me away from those things. I hope it transforms my tendencies, my assumptions and the poor social mechanisms which have at times been my crutches.

It’s my goal that judgment should prevent me from being “with” those things.

The only time it should ever prevent me from being “with” a person is when they cling to wrongdoing at the expense of peaceful relationships: when they choose to go down with the sinking ships of life.

There’s a fly in the ointment there, because it’s extremely hard to find good people. I’d argue that’s because there are none. No one’s perfect. We’re all petty criminals in need of truth, insight, correction…judgment.

Perhaps the best we can do is to exchange insights, and to practice discretion. To make mutual commitments to painful truth.

In that sense, I have been labelled judgmental a couple of times, and folk are welcome to complain. But let’s be clear: it’s not for lack of compassion. It’s because of it.

~Scienda

Why you shouldn’t feel stupid about Facebook privacy policy hoaxes…and why it’s important

So you posted the useless, pompous-sounding Facebook Privacy Policy Notice, and now you feel silly? Okay. Let me tell you a story.

How You Got to This Place

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a man bought a printing press. But because he was busy running the printing press, or perhaps because he was more interested in the wonders of the rising mechanical age than the whimsy of making things up, he did not write books to print with his press.

He bought it because it was readily apparent that he could sell books, if he printed them. So he offered others money on a profit-sharing basis if they would send their writing to him.

He then talked to the general stores in many towns around him, and wrote letters to others, giving them lists of the books he had to offer their clientele. He became a publisher (packager) and distributor of other people’s content.

A long time ago, in the next galaxy over, the phonograph was invented. Something similar happened between those who realized they could make and sell recordings, but couldn’t sing worth a bent penny, and those who could sing like larks, but couldn’t tell a phonograph needle from a bent penny.

The idea of “media” is that it’s something that mediates between the creator and the consumer. These are the key components:

  • The creative expression
  • The physical package which carries the content, in single or multiple copies
  • The system which delivers the package from creator to consumer

That’s the basic need-to-know for all media and the weird stuff that happens with them. Including the medium of the internet.

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And Yet I’m (Still) Complementarian, Part 2: The False Dichotomy of Love and Respect

One of the problems in compartmentalizing theology is the tendency to take a train of thought so far that it goes past the end of the track. This can be done with eschatological claims that every event in the newspaper is a “sign of the times” (although false prophecy and divination are forbidden in the Bible), with allegations that Noah’s Ark bathtub toys dangerously undermine Christianity, or almost any religious hobby-horse.

And the same goes for gender doctrines. But there’s more at work here than the wrong tools for a job; there’s the pressure and presuppositions unique to North American society’s social liberty and its economics.

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Parenting Teens in the Christian Culture

If you read here regularly, you know I’m not a big fan of romance or happily ever after stories. But I do respect the hope that inspirational authors in the genre bring to the page, and the real-life emotional and spiritual issues they weave into their very rigorous story form.

So, when I came across a historical romance author’s post regarding a bad encounter with bad pseudo-romantic ideas, I had a vibrant discussion with the Fab Four (yes, all four, ages 16 down to 10) about our responsibility for what goes in our minds and hearts, and the life direction we choose as a result.  (more…)