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So I’m about a quarter of the way through The God Delusion, and I should go ahead and get this out of the way: Yes, Richard Dawkins is a meanie head. I’m sure that I would be remiss in my review if I didn’t acknowledge it. That does seem to be the primary complaint against his book by most reviewers, and it’s true. He never once says “with all due respect” when objecting to non-science making scientific claims. And it’s extremely difficult to have a Theistic God and not eventually make a scientific claim, because Theistic Gods tend to meddle, and when they meddle they change the universe in ways we should, at least in theory, be able to detect. And if we can detect it, we can apply science. If it’s impossible to detect the meddling, then God looks pantheistic, which is the one kind of religion that Dawkins is OK with. Obviously I am too, and on these points Dawkins and I would likely only disagree on terminology, shades of meaning, and around the periphery. I’ll see as I continue in the book.

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This is my fourth and final part of my review of Mere Christianity. If you’d like to skip the somewhat long-winded first three parts, this also has a good summary of my thoughts on the book and could be read alone (and is the shortest to boot).

For a book that I don’t think adds a lot of value, I spent a lot of time on it. I did that because it’s one of the most common books I’ve seen used to try to convert people, and as a self-proclaimed rational argument, it is such a bad argument. It is so lauded by those who agree with it that I feel it needed a thorough discussion.

But now I think I will move onto some books that I actually think are valuable. Most likely Bart Ehrman’s The Lost Christianities, which is one of the first books a seeker should read if interested in the early history of Christianity, the rise of the proto-Orthodox, why the Canonical Gospels are the best historical records we have about the life of Jesus, and yet why they are still terrible records.

I always knew I would write this here, but I thought it would be much later. A dear friend said something, though, and I felt I should say something in response.

I can offer reason and hope, but I cannot take away fear. And in love, I cannot ask others to ignore it. Fear is very real, and the most powerful defense human ideas have evolved to protect themselves. Do not listen to that. Do not question that. Do not think that. Or. Else.

I cannot promise that Hell is not real. I cannot promise that you will not some day stand before Allah or Jehovah or Osiris. That you will not suffer Ammit or Tartarus or Niflhel. A hundred gods stand before us and say, Worship me or I will torture you. Follow me or I will abandon you. Only me or I will cast you out.

Forever. Let us be clear what is on the line if we’re wrong. Perhaps we will be lucky and we will only be reborn a toad. But perhaps we will eat from Zaqqum for all eternity, burning our guts like molten brass. I am quite certain more people today believe I will spend eternity in Jahannam than in Hell. On which square do I place Pascal’s Wager? Read the rest of this entry »

I know you were all breathlessly waiting… My thoughts on Book Three of Mere Christianity are now up. I don’t have a lot to say about Book Four, a lot of it is more of the same, so I’ll use that to sum up a bit and discuss how I see Lewis’ work used by the faithful.

It’s amazing how things come together at the same time. I was sent a very interesting study today by a new friend and began an interesting conversation with an old friend. They started in different places, but now they have collided. First the study.

The second part of the Pew Forum’s US Religious Landscape Survey came out today. Really incredible stuff about the nature of belief in America. What struck me more than the study, though, was the reporting of it. Here are three different headlines about the same study:

San Francisco Chronicle: “Study finds contradictions among Americans’ religious beliefs” American faith is poorly considered.

Associated Press: “Religious Americans: My faith isn’t the only way” So American faith is tolerant.

Los Angeles Times: “92% of Americans believe in God or a universal spirit, Pew survey finds” Subtitle: “Californians, however, are less likely to consider religion ‘very important.’ Of the 36,000 people surveyed, 42% said they think Hollywood is the corrupting influence.” American faith is sound; nothing to worry about. God is in His Heaven, and California is going to Hell.

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Another Solstice come and gone. Blessed be the sun. Here in the American South, we’re entering his time of power. The days may be getting shorter, but soon the heat will be upon us. Marking the times of year brings us back to the Here and the Now. Our modern life hangs timeless, without location. I hop on a plane and see a friend three thousand miles away. I chat with another friend half way around the world. I write these words and they might be read tomorrow or a year from now, in the summer or in the fall. There’s a lot that is good about that. We shouldn’t cast that aside. 

But there is a lot that is good about rooting ourselves in the moment, in our own space. The Earth reminds us of this when we eat out of season. Yes, you can have your asparagus in December, but doing so is its own punishment. You can get your tomatoes from another hemisphere, but would you know what they were blindfolded?

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I’ve posted the second part of my four part discussion of C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. I will try to make sure my commentary does not exceed the length of the book.

I’m kick starting this blog with some content I’ve posted earlier reviewing Ayn Rand and Objectivism. Keep an eye on the Pages section as things come over on Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. You’ll also see old blog posts showing up as I bring some specific entries from my old journal here.

A theophany is the physical manifestation of God. And so I hope Pantheophany can be a small exploration of God’s manifestation as the universe, and us, and everything else we see and know. I have a strong interest in religions and faith, and a particular fascination with early Christian history. As possibly the greatest single world influence of the last millennium, I think it important to understand Christianity’s first millennium. I’ll also discuss other world views here, from Buddhism to Objectivism to my own, often in the form of book criticisms and maybe the occasional sermon. Pantheists and pagans need more sermons. It’s far too easy to become complacent without being challenged from time to time.

For now, I’ve posted the first of four parts of my criticism of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. Anthony Burgess called Lewis “the ideal persuader for the half-convinced” and I agree. If you already basically agree with Lewis, you will find him comforting. If you don’t agree with Lewis at the beginning, however, it won’t be this book that convinces you.