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Five Things for which I Am Grateful Today

  1. I am thankful for the friendship that I share with my wife. This may sound kind of pathetic, but so be it. Lacey is my first real best friend.
  2. I am thankful to be able to watch my children grow up, to share in their joys and pains. The experience has made me a more selfless, more caring person. It’s hard to overestimate how much of who I am now is a result of them.
  3. I had a sore throat for a few days this week. Nothing too horrible, just enough to make sleeping uncomfortable. I would remind myself that the pain that I felt was a good sign that I was still alive. Sometimes this trick would work, and instead of focusing on the pain, I would focus on how grateful I am to have my turn in the sun. I’m happy that my turn isn’t over yet and thankful for aches and pains to remind me how lucky I am.
  4. I am grateful for public libraries. Money is tight, and so is space in our humble house. Thank goodness for the public libraries that support my learning habit when I can’t buy books.
  5. Thank you to all those who have sacrificed in the defense of my liberties. The road to human liberty has been long and there is still a journey ahead. Progress has only been made through the sacrifice and strength of others. I live freely because of those others who have sacrificed for our freedoms.

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Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis (XDR TB) is a multi-drug resistant form of tuberculosis that is a growing source of concern throughout the world. The Big Picture has photos of sufferers of XDR TB by James Nachtwey who wants to raise awareness of this disease.

Life and health seem so fragile.

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God’s Away on Business

It’s hard to sort out the reasons and the sequence of my loss of faith. In the afterimage of my memory, it looks like a single explosion rather than an evolving realignment of ideas. The epicenter of that explosion is God’s silence. In my darkest hours, prayer produced no succor. I was left alone to struggle in pain and doubt.

Some may excuse God’s absence by saying that I shouldn’t expect answers exactly when I want them, that they arrive in the Lord’s own time. That’s not good enough some times. If I’m on the verge of forever losing my faith in God, then getting back to me tomorrow isn’t soon enough.

Others may say that God sometimes answers prayers negatively. Answering “no” or offering only silence to the plaintive question “Are you there?” shows either a twisted sense of humor or a heartless disinterest.

Maybe God is trying to teach us something we might wonder. That might be reasonable when someone just wants to know that someone is watching out for them, but when a child on the brink of starvation in Africa cries out to God for food, or a sex slave loses all hope of escape from the endless rapes that have become her life, my heart tells me that no amount of learning can justify such gratuitous suffering. God will strike a man dead for violating the sanctity of the Ark of the Covenant with a well intentioned touch (2 Samuel 6:6–7), but he won’t lift a finger to protect the holiness in the heart of innocent children? I ask you to judge which is holier and more deserving of protection.

Wo to the God who offends these little ones (Matthew 18:6). May a millstone be hung from his neck, and may he drown in the depths of the sea.

If God wanted to teach me to have compassion, then his plans have gone slightly awry. Not only has my compassion for suffering increased, my hatred for any deity who would put us through such torture has caught flame. It has shown me that whether or not God exists, he can’t be bothered to help us. We are all we’ve got no matter how we answer to ourselves the question of whether God lives. In our darkest hours, we can only look to each other.

If I die and unexpectedly meet God, I’ll have a choice word or three for him, spit in his eye, and cheerfully go to Hell where all the compassionate folk take up residence far from that insufferable tyrant.

(music videos via mind on fire)

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Original Sin

[This was originally part of a comment on a post about original sin at The Slapdash Godliness of a Good Girl.]

We can blame Augustine of Hippo for the idea of original sin. As such, it is one of the most hellish inventions of mankind.

Let me recap. God wanted to show everyone how infinitely loving he is, so he created Adam and Eve and put them in a paradisaical garden knowing that they would break his rule about eating of the fruit one particular tree. When they broke his rule (just like he knew they would), he cast them out of paradise into a torture chamber inhabited by a malicious demon he refuses to rein in. Adam and Eve and all of their children suffer at this demon’s hands. He creates earthquakes, floods, plagues, famines, pestilences, and all manner of suffering to punish Adam and Eve’s family for the time back in paradise when their first parents dared to eat that fruit that God tempted them with. Before the demon can do this, however, he must get God’s approval to make sure that no one who believes in God’s love suffers more than necessary, such are the protocols of the heavenly bureaucracy. Satan is on God’s payroll, doing all the dirty work God doesn’t care to do.

Millions upon millions upon billions of people are tortured and killed in this torture chamber with God’s approval. God’s sense of justice demands that God punish all of humanity for Adam and Eve’s sin of which they had no part and for choosing evil themselves, just as he created them to do. He couldn’t show his love if people didn’t suffer, so his plan from the beginning was to create humanity in such a way that they would certainly sin, torture humanity when they sinned according to his plan, and come to their rescue.

Seeing his plan was going well (what with all the suffering and dying going on), it was time for God to show his love, so he took on a mortal body. After being tortured for a day or two, he gave up and died. (Or even worse, he tortured and killed his own Son to make up for his own actions.) This made God feel better about the suffering of all the billions of people who he’s banished to his torture chamber.

If God let all those tortured souls live forever in paradise, it would probably make up for all his hellish sadism. Yet he still put a condition on humanity’s relief from suffering. They had no choice to come to this nightmare chamber in the first place. He never asked them their preference beforehand, yet they bear the final responsibility for getting themselves out. They must first believe—while still being tortured—that he loves them. Not only that, they must love him in return. Anyone who can’t muster the credulity necessary to believe that, anyone who doubts his love in the face of all his sadism, anyone who doesn’t thank him for the chance to suffer and die at his behest will go on suffering forever in an even worse torture chamber reserved for the skeptical and the ignorant.

God sounds like one hell of a cult leader.

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I’ve decided to work through the Simple Living Manifesto, a list of 72 ideas to help simplify. I began with step one: make a list of my top 4-5 important things. I reflexively began to rattle off: family, work, school, and so on but stopped myself. Are those really the most important things in my life, or are those means to an end? I paused and tried again.

Throughout the day, I pondered on what my most important things are. I finally came up with this list:

  • Life—the survival and propagation life
  • Knowledge—learning the truth
  • Peace—contentment and satisfaction
  • Compassion—suffering with others and working to alleviate the unnecessary pains of life
  • Love—to love and be loved

I value these things. I can’t justify why, but I don’t feel any need do so. I just want them. Perhaps I value those things just because I’m human.

On to the next steps: evaluate my commitments and my time. Everything I do should support those goals.

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