Saturday, 28 February 2009

Good Television

I'm really enjoying watching television at the moment [thanks to the purchasing of a PVR, oh joy, joy and more joy] in particular 'The Naked Archaeologist, Earth Story, Christianity: A History, Around the World in 80 Faiths, plus Being Human and Demons". I loved the way The Naked Archaeologist, Simcha Jacobovici, makes it all light hearted and asks the sort of questions I'd ask, and does not let the 'specialists' get away with with poor reasoning. See link below for info.
Admitted it's not for the more academic dudes but it brings fun to the understanding of the first five books of Moses and how they fit in, or not, with archaeological findings.

Earth Story (1998) presented by Aubrey Manning is both riveting to watch and informative to boot. If only they shown science like this in my school days, too many years ago now, I might have been more keen to learn about fossils and plants, geology and palaeontology, not to mention astronomy and physics.

Christianity: A History
Took a look at a historical aspect of Christianity from the personal perspectives of prominent people such as scientist Colin Blakemore (not Richard Dawkins for a change), Michael Portillo, Ann Widdecombe and war correspondent Rageh Omaar. What a breath of fresh air from programs such as the pathetic "Make me a Christian", which was done for all the wrong reasons. There was no real concept of faith and belief, just do and do not. That really would have worked for me - NOT. The arrogance and ignorance of the Spanish Inquisition comes to mind. Rant over.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Made Me Think (and some of my friends did too)

The Atheist Bus
I love “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” sign on some London buses - see BADIDEA in my sites of interest - because it says it all. If I was still an atheist I’d say what do you mean there’s probably no God? Is that so we don’t offend those who think there is a God? Surely it is agnostic to say probably? Does any religious person who believes in a God, or gods, say there probably is a God? Not many I think, though I could be wrong. They say there is a God.

The atheist bus, love the term, or rather the atheist advertisement banner on the bus, since buses, to my knowledge, are neither pro or anti God, is actually misleading. Why? Because a probable does not equal an absolute, for atheists there is no God, or gods. There’s probably no God - but there might be? Now stop worrying. Why should I stop worrying, if I was in the first place? Because there’s probably no God - but there might be. Who is worrying exactly? Are there really many believers out there who worry because they believe in a God? And are there really many believers out there who are not enjoying their life because they believe in a God? The people who seem to be worrying about it all are the atheists.

The banner might cause a few people to say I agree with that and get excited, or it might cause a few people to say I disagree with it, and get excited. Either way it makes people think; like Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code which caused such a furore, and this made people think and ask questions. For that alone I love the it (the banner not the Da Vinci Code).

Sunday, 22 February 2009


In reading the following from the EKKLESIA site (see link at bottom of quote and EKKLESIA link at bottom of blog page):

Churches condemn Westboro hate speech, but challenge remains
By staff writers 19 Feb 2009:
Six churches and Christian groups have spoken out against US anti-gay hate group Westboro Baptist Church, who proposed to picket in the UK on Friday. But some of them have been challenged about their own policies and attitudes to gay people.

The churches issued their statement after British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she had decided to prevent members of the Church from entering the country.
The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Evangelical Alliance UK, Faithworks, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, the United Reformed Church and Bible Society-funded thintank Theos said: “We are dismayed that members of Westboro Baptist Church (based in Kansas, USA and not associated with the Baptist Union of Great Britain) might picket the performance of The Laramie Project in Basingstoke on Friday."
The play is about the horrific 1998 murder of Matthew Shepherd, a gay student at the University of Wyoming, who died in a 'queer bashing' incident. The Westboro church, a fundamentalist sect largely comprised of members of one family, picketed Shepherd's funeral and announced that he was "burning in hell".

The group is well known for its "God hates fags" posters. It recently lost a court case in Maryland, when it picketed the funeral of a dead soldier, and was sued by his father. Mathhew Snyder's father won US $5 million. The church has been ordered to post bond of more than $500,000 in property, including the church building (which is also home to leader Fred Phelps Sr) and the Phelps Chartered law office building.
Shirley Phelps-Roper and Rebekah Phelps-Davis are also ordered to pay over $100,000 each by 30 May 2009. They plan to appeal.

The British church groups said today: “We do not share [Westboro's] hatred of lesbian and gay people. We believe that God loves all, irrespective of sexual orientation, and we unreservedly stand against their message of hate toward those communities.
They added: “Neither the style nor substance of their preaching expresses the historic, orthodox Christian faith. And we ask that the members of Westboro Baptist Church refrain from stirring up any more homophobic hatred in the UK or elsewhere.”

However, Jonathan Bartley, co-director of the religion and society thinktank Ekklesia, says that a more self-critical approach is needed by Christians.
Bartley commented: “It is welcome that a number of churches and evangelical groups have made a public statement and joined the many others who are opposing Westboro Baptist church-style hate speech. But it is relatively easy to issue statements against extremists, distance oneself, and condemn them. It is more challenging, and uncomfortable, to acknowledge what one might have in common with those we find abhorrent. But that is what the message at the heart of the Christian faith requires."
He continued: “This is the real challenge that Westboro Baptist church presents. And among those who have condemned Westboro are some who preach rejection of faithful gay relationships, who deny their baptism and Christian ministry, and who refuse their wisdom. Some have attempted to negotiate opt-outs from equalities legislation so they can themselves discriminate against lesbian and gay people in employment and in the provision of goods and services. The Evangelical Alliance in particular removed the Courage Trust from its membership when the Trust made a Christian commitment to affirming lesbian and gay people.
Concluded Bartley: “The six churches and groups have said with one voice: ‘We believe that God loves all, irrespective of sexual orientation’. We invite them to reflect these words in their actions.”

I have to say I agree. However, The Wesboro Baptist Church is only expressing its anti homosexual attitude openly and very physically, rather than hiding behind a nice set of 'inclusive accepting' statements some churches use but do not really believe or agree with. Such as "We include you but you're one of 'those' people and not nice. If you change by ideally going straight, that is becoming and behaving in a heterosexual manner, or by being celibate but accepting homosexuality is wrong, the same as sex outside wedlock is wrong, but we won't enforce that one on to too many of our young people, they might not feel able to join us, but you have NO CHOICE, because you can't get married or take steps to be committed to someone of the same sex, oh damn there's the dratted Civil Partnership Act, but we'll ignore that, that's ok. If you have treatment and get cured you'll be saved, because then Christ will accept you, oh sorry we'll except you, same thing".
Of course I am being harsh and a slight tongue in cheek here. But I've heard those things and I still hear those things.

I welcome Bartley's comments, but there is another side to the ‘We believe that God loves all, irrespective of sexual orientation’. In coming to Christ one does change. And those churches expect to see those changes in believers. It's not a come as you are and leave as you are thing. It's a come as you are and be changed by the Holy Spirit as you learn about Christ, come as you are and let Christ into your life, come as you are and you will be changed, not because we, as a church make you change, not because you are bashed with the Bible and told there you are, now you have to change, but because once you come to learn and eventually know, not just about Christ, but to know Christ personally you can't help but change. It happens. I know because it happened to me.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Looking At Where I'm Standing (1)

I have been fortunate enough to have had a good education, progressive work and career experiences and the opportunity to meet and associate with a vast range of people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. This experience means that I have had to see the 'other side' of a situation, viewpoint or lifestyle. I mentioned my involvement with trade unionism, but my later years were involved with an organisation that revolved around working with people in group settings or on a one-to-one basis. In my musings I've thought back to the many character and personality traits I have met. Some have been brash and ego-centered, some shy and insecure, some wanting to know more about a situation, some happy to just go with the flow of things, some not wanting to know anything different from what they thought, some wanting to persuade me to see things differently, for whatever reason, and others did not want to participate in any event (worthwhile to them or not as the case might be). To me that was, and is, human nature.

Driscoll (and others like him) want us to behave in a certain way and believe in certain premises or prerequisites. So does Dawkins. But their prerequisites and suppositions are very different. And the arguments for an against such prerequisites and suppositions can become both heated and personal. So much so that each personality has not just their own premises adhered to by 'believers' but those 'believers' become infatuated with the personality, rather than the suppositions they are espousing. I've fallen into that 'trap' more than a few times and have had to reflect on what I've said about understanding the other side of the situation or argument, not just about right and wrong, not just about power struggling and power manipulation, one-upmanship and personality trait, but about seeing where the other side ‘came’ from. The probability of their argument at least.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

A Stance of Difference?

Mark Driscoll and Richard Dawkings

In looking at the so called 'cussing pastor' Mark Driscoll, he of Mars Hill Church Seattle USA, and at Richard Dawkins, doyen of most atheists, if not all scientists as he’d like to be, I noticed that they are very much in the same vein as each other.

Driscoll’s personality is audacious, brash, sarcastic, opinionated, and brusque, which I think he enjoys as being seen as such. And it seems this style is self-serving as he is thus able to say powerful and perceptive things in a way that makes others sit up and listen, whether they agree with him or not. It’s his personality that is on show though, not necessarily the word of the bible. One commentator of Driscoll thought that the truth of what Driscoll says is “immediately obvious”. Actually it is not. It is the gospel seen and used by Mark Driscoll, and not necessarily the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, that is seen and heard by those listening and watching. There is much that Driscoll ignores from the gospel because it does not suit his stance on things. That’s ok with me, because the one good thing about modern day media is that you can turn it off if you don't like it, or walk out of a service if it's not to your liking. Driscoll's personality style leads me onto Richard Dawkins, in whom I see the same behaviour pattern.

Dawkins too is audacious, brash, sarcastic, opinionated and brusque. And he too, like Driscoll, seems to enjoys being seen as that way, with this type of style serving him just as well in his rant against those of a religious nature, and those who disagree with him on his version of ethology - the study of animal behaviour and a branch of zoology - and evolution biology - a sub-field of biology concerned with the origin of species from a common descent and descent of species. Dawkins is also able to say powerful and perceptive things in a way that makes others sit up and listen, whether they agree with him or not. But once again, like Driscoll, its his personality on show, especially when speaking about religion, and sometimes also when he talks about science outside his field. The truth of what Dawkins says is, like Driscoll’s truth, not "immediately obvious".

Neither Dawkins or Driscoll leave room for the greys with their black and white arguments. Which is a shame because they both have the ability to open up their subjects to an audience that is fed up with black and white and not only see grey but colour as well. But then they wouldn’t be Mark Driscoll and Richard Dawkins would they?

Monday, 9 February 2009

From Where I Stood

As a Christian I've come to view things from a perspective that is Christ centred but not necessarily 'church' centred or 'church' organisation orientated. I've come away from an exclusive and narrow view of Christian belief to a more inclusive and broader view of Christian belief. In coming to this point to say that it has been taxing, tiring and frustrating would be an understatement. I've lost friends and associates through both my belief and my disbelief. But I have not always been a Christian.

I was an atheist with agnostic tendencies. What you could not touch, see, hear, smell or taste did not exist. What you thought and therefore what you believed was in relation to the above senses. No supernatural or otherworldly phenomenon existed. If people thought it did it was all in their minds. There was no absolute right or wrong, you did what you wanted to do provided it was consensual. A lot of people add “and provided it did not hurt anyone”. But you can not add that last sentence with ascribing to a right or wrong. It would be nice (for whom and why be nice if being nice prevents you from doing what you want to do with whom ever you want to do it with for whatever your reason for doing it is) if you did not hurt anyone by your actions. But you want to do it any way so you do and it hurts some one. Some one does the same thing and it hurts you. Do you say oh well that’s life? Or do you say that’s not right? Be truthful, most of us would like to say oh well that’s life, but in fact we say that’s not right - even if we say to the outside world that’s life , we are hurt and think that’s not right. That’s where thinking comes in. That’s where belief comes in. Not all societies think alike. Not all societies have a ‘human rights’ agenda. I could go on. But from the above I came to think differently. Initially my thinking differently came from work experience and, wait for it, trade unionism.

Forget the media and capitalistic view of trade unions. Go for why they came about, what they did for the work force - holiday and with pay, overtime pay, sick pay (for some work forces) and maternity pay with the right to come back to work (though at the beginning many unions were as misogamist as the work places and management (and ownership) structures - and then look at how power corrupts and at why people want to hold on to that power. For me trade unionism gave me the ability to ask questions of my employer, to ask for safety to be implemented, for the right to be respected as another human being who was providing something for not only the employer but the community as well. With out workers (however and whichever way you define workers) you do not get production. Without workers you have no one to manage. For me it was a move away from fear induced employment to rights induced employment. The main thing however it did teach me, and maybe I was lucky to be involved in a progressive ground-roots union branch, was to understand the other side of the situation, not just about right and wrong, not just about power struggling and power manipulation and one-upmanship, but about seeing where the other side ‘came’ from. If you could not grasp their argument, then how could you argue against it? How could you articulacy and intellectually challenge the argument, or policy? And how could you, therefore, be taken seriously?

From Unionism to Christianity?
Not quite, but being able to see the other point of view (however obtuse or incomprehensible) made me realise that most people have an agenda within their ideology. Be it to coerce you into believing or thinking something or to try to get their own way, through negotiation or threat. An employer of mine would use the threat of mass unemployment to try to make be obey his wishes. If I did not like it I could be replaced. Indeed I could, we are all replaceable, but at a cost of retraining, team integration - it takes time for a workforce to adapt to new people and their ways, and cost of advertising said job vacancy in the first place. It was not that I was not sack-able or replaceable but that the threat was both obtuse and infantile, as well as unproductive and uneconomic in reality. Knowing the reality of a situation is important. Understanding the agenda behind a situation, theory or practice is important. Knowing what to do with such information and how to use it is more important.

This is where I stood. Both in my secularism and in my agnostic-atheism. What changed? I learnt more. I learnt through books, television, people and situations. I’ve always questioned things, read about things and learnt to form an opinion about most things. If I did not know anything about a set subject I wanted to learn more. Not to totally comprehend it, but, at the very least, to understand an overview of the subject. I remember asking someone what they thought of Margaret Thatcher - this was in the eighties - they said they did not know her so they had no opinion. So I asked if they knew of her. They did. What I asked, in view of them knowing of her and about her, did they think of her or of her policies. Their reply was that politics had nothing to do with them so they did not think about it and therefore did not have an opinion. In their next breath they decried the cost of living and the increase in house prises. Connecting the two did not occur to them. In able to have most questions (if not all) answered you have to find the right connection. That’s how I connected to Christianity.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

From Where I Stand

In a moment of rashness I decided to unleash my thoughts onto the ever evolving and ever re-volving Internet via a blog site.

From Where I Stand is a view point that is related to a number of issues from the sublime to the ridiculous and all poles in between!

I've found that from Dawkins to Driscoll (they're not poles apart from each other as you may think) and from Thatcher to Obama there is something to learn and something to chat about.

My starting point is from a Christian eye, with a secular bent and a twist in the tale. What's the twist? Read on, and as you do you'll find out.

Join in, have fun, chill out and blog away with me.