Forget Gas Stoves—Why Are Pets Legal?

Standard

The Biden administration has recently floated the idea of banning all gas stoves.  Richard Trumka Jr., son of the powerful union boss of the same name and nepotistic selection for Commissioner of the CPSC, has made this proposal and cited potential long-term health issues (due to using them in homes without proper ventilation) as the reason.  Very quickly, in the typical hive mind far-left fashion, various state governors have followed suit and very soon we can expect that Democrats will once again be limiting consumer choices.

When qualifications are more about favors to political cronies than expertise.

This move is more driven by the current climate change ideological cult than actual concern for people.  And the climate change hysteria is primarily driven by political propaganda rather than true science.  All of which has an underlying goal of giving more power and control to a few billionaires (who meet in Davos annually) and own many of our elected (or selected) leaders.

Another hidden reason for why now could be to lower gas prices to make exports to Europe viable.  Currently the billionaire owned world government, centered in the US and Western Europe, is at war with Russia and must keep gas dependent countries, like Germany, from total economic collapse due to untenable energy costs.  This would be manipulation similar to how the Lyndon B. Johnson administration deceptively used cholesterol warnings as an answer to an egg shortage and price inflation.

Eggs: Then and now

However, as a thought experiment: If we were to assume this is honestly about public health and climate change, not some cynical move motivated by geopolitics and commodities markets, why start with gas stoves?

Why not start with pets instead?

In this progressive age of believe science and consumer protection, can we really continue to ignore the well-established risks associated with pet ownership and especially the health risks to children?

Cull the Biological Menace: Save the Children!

Anyone who has had to clean cat poo deposited on the living room carpet has learned a hard lesson.  As cuddly and cute as these furballs seem to be, they are basically walking, sneezing, crapping, and puking biohazard containers. 

At risk of a fact-check claiming that cats also vomit on tile and linoleum.

The Chinese, during the Covid pandemic, knowing that pets were vectors of human disease, euthanized scores of dogs and cats as part of their pragmatic response to the pandemic.  And it just makes sense.  Pets are super-spreaders, next to impossible to mask properly, being exposed to their feces and urine can be dangerous, and that alone is a reason to ban these incubators of deadly disease.

A person who, as a result of exposure to cat excrement, has suffered from Toxoplasmosis, will think twice about having a pet in their home. 

Then there’s the issue of animals attacking humans.  It is terrifying to be out on a peaceful walk and suddenly be set upon by a snarling beast and knowing how many die from dog attacks.  The President’s own dog has bitten several people, and this is okay?  Dogs alone account for 4.5 million bites a year and many of the victims are our most vulnerable.  Think of the children! 

If we are to save grandma by wearing masks and getting mRNA injections, why allow these disease carrying clumps of cells (with claws and teeth) that serve no practical purpose and fit the definition of a parasite?

Add to all of that the unnecessary carbon footprint of Fido and Fifi.  Feeding and watering millions upon millions of animals used for human entertainment comes at an enormous environmental cost.  Many popular pets are fed with meats, which is especially burdensome, and will accelerate global cooling warming very scary climate change.  We must do the right thing for the planet!

And, more importantly, why are we allowing this obvious menace to continue when there are alternatives?

Pet Reform: The Green Answer

In the spirit of progressive politics and Democrat party paternalism, l propose that we introduce common sense pet reform and ban all emissions producing pets and replace them with purring and barking electronic animals.  There would be no need for kitty litter or toxic carpet cleaner after the transition.   The green alternatives could be programmed to only knock over household items at a safe predetermined rate and will attack only those who our wise and tolerant revolutionary leaders call Nazis.

Only shoots insurrections wearing MAGA hats, not a threat to humans.

Think of how many lives may be changed or improved by removing this pet-stilence!

It would protect children from pet allergies, dangerous infections, cat-induced insanity (could this impact female voting patterns?), and prevent spread of other serious diseases.  Just the elimination of bites leading to emergency room visits alone would justify this as a cost-saving measure.  During the Covid pandemic we were told that saving only one life justified every new mandate.  Has that ethical math changed?

If it antivaxx to oppose boosters that have only been tested on eight mice or dare to resist the products coming from a corporation staffed by those who make a very bold display of their questionable ethics to a date, then it is extremely anti-science to be in favor of pet ownership.  I mean, how many more studies do we need for these Neanderthals who think animal ownership is a right to understand, right? 

Is there a reasonable argument against banning pets?

Who Determines Acceptable Risk and How?

The point, of course, is that we accept the health risks of pets.  Why?  Well, many have decided that the intangible benefits of a living companion outweigh the risk to their own health and also that of the general public.  Sure, we do have leash laws and liabilities assessed when people who have pets do not take proper precautions. 

And no doubt pet ownership will be the next stop for the climate change alarmists, like the very privileged Greta Thunberg, when their handlers tell them this is the scientific consensus.   I mean, they’re already taking steps against farm animals and telling us to eat bugs as an alternative, do you think they’ll stop there?  Not a chance, if they get their way on gas stoves, soon pets will be only for elites.  These professional Karens, the petty administrative tyrants running this country, can’t be satisfied ever.  There’s no reasonable compromise with them.

These bans in American politics stem from a Puritanical impulse.  It is the very same thing that was behind the Prohibition, this desire to control, often sold with some kind of apocalypse tied to it as justification.  Where it was once Johnathan Edwards preaching “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” the early American sermon delivered in a monotone, it is Albert Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” for this new secular version of the same old cult religion.  We all must do our penance and pay the ministers of this new era—it is hard work to keep the population in line and in perpetual fear of destruction. 

Al Gore knows as much about science as a Televangelist knows about theology…

Banning gas stoves isn’t driven by science anymore than witch-hunts or eugenics. Sure, it is rationalized by their own beliefs about cherry-picked data and the purported implications. But water can be made to look awful if a person wants to make that case. It is the midwits, with rudimentary understanding of all things, that have this mistaken idea that life can be free of all risk, completely safe, and strive for perfect pure solutions. They accept the ‘experts’ opinion uncritically as if it is Gospel and become the “sources please” zealots which make truly intelligent conversation impossible.

Risk can’t be eliminated. Removing one risk only ever creates another. That is the real problem with complex systems. Poke in one place, to fix this problem, and the unintended consequences of a prescribed solution can vastly outweigh the benefits. The noxious invisible gas that is more a threat than nitrogen dioxide is the ceaseless and incurable arrogance of those who think it is their job to save the world or manage the lives of others. We cannot risk anymore of what remains of our freedom to please their whims, they will consume it all in the name of protection.

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

C. S. Lewis

Politicians have long abused science as a means to gain power for themselves. It is what had, a century ago, inspired notions of superior race and now is what arms a new generation of young activists—indoctrinated by leftist parents, mass media and their government funded schools. It is no different from any other moral panic where critical thinking made someone an enemy of the sanctimonious mob.

Fundamentalist Anti-fragility Training

Standard

Years ago my mom decided to stop in at the local public elementary school.  Impressed, after talking to the staff, my parents sent my older sister there and soon I would follow—along with the rest of my siblings.

This might not seem strange to most.  But, for a conservative Mennonite child this was highly unusual—or at least in the past few decades.  It bucked the trend of religious parents, afraid of secular influence, pulling their children out.  Private schools and home schooling becoming the preferred ‘safe’ options.

Anyhow, maybe as a result of my positive experience, or from inheriting my mom’s genetics, I have always thought differently than my peers.  That is to say, for better or worse, I stood apart from both my public school and Mennonite peers, basically a third culture kid or non-conformed in both settings.  So, when I had to consider where to send my own children, public school was not something I feared.

This post is not saying that everyone should follow in my footsteps nor suggesting that every child should go to public schools.  No other situation is exactly the same as mine, some schools are better or worse and every student different.  My intent in this blog is simply to give an explanation of what is now unthinkable to most fundamentalist Christians.

A Stranger in a Strange Land

Public school did not mean assimilation for me.  My religious identity was always visible enough for me to be given nicknames like “Micro Mennonite” or basically any Amish sounding name my classmates could come up with.  The small things, like wearing pants in the hot weather or the side part of my hair were enough for some to take notice.

I was sometimes subjected to what could be called microaggressions.  As in I had one or two classmates who would inform me what I should or should not do, as a Mennonite, and this often included the idea that we did not pay taxes or the assumption that we needed a horse and buggy for transportation.  This kind of banter was mostly benign, or at least taken that way, but still served as a continual reminder of my outsider status.

The end result is that I seemed to have a stronger Mennonite identity than many of my religious peers.  I learned, at a young age, that I was different and it was okay to be my own person.  I was never ashamed to be Mennonite nor stopped from following my own conscience so far as things like pledge of allegiance (I always stood respectfully) or abstaining from other activities that went against my cultural standards.  

A child private or homeschooled does not truly know, first hand, the alternative to their own community and home.  It is easier for them to believe that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence and many of my religious peers did jettison the indoctrination they received in a pursuit of the prevailing culture.  But, being the witness of single parent homes, the chaos of the world and consequences suffered, it made me more thankful for what I had.

Exposure made my home more desirable, it also made the failures of parents my community feature less prominently in my mind.  There were many who, raised in the  religious cloister, became disillusioned with Christianity as a result of their overbearing dad or as the result of school administrators showing extreme favoritism.  Had the same thing happened to them in public school, had they been bullied or abused there instead, at least it would not come in direct conflict with their walk of faith.

No, certainly we don’t want to put children in a harsh environment so that our own home or community contrasts favorably, but some healthy perspective is good.  Not taking for granted the food or shelter over our heads by being a little exposed and feeling some hunger pains for home is not a bad thing at all.  A big benefit of my public schooling was appreciation for my heritage and a strong desire to preserve the Mennonite culture.  I could not afford to be myopic or ignorant, throwing out tradition recklessly because it didn’t suit me.

I had to weigh things more carefully rather than react and throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Many of my religious peers have this feeling of having missed out and some had to learn the hard way from their own experiences.  

Walk In Faith, Not Fragility!

Conservatives love to laugh about the ‘woke’ and their safe spaces.  They are very quick to ridicule those families still wearing face masks and call people snowflakes for their sensitivity.  The great irony is that many of these same people withdrew their children from public schools, decades ago, because they “took God out of the schools” by ending prayer led by state employees.  The reality is that it isn’t just the fringe far-left that tries to hide themselves and their children from all contrary opinions.

You may work where your employer doesn’t lead prayer, can you handle it?

The problem is that without challenge there is no growth.  Yes, part of the job of a parent is to protect and yet it is equally important to prepare a child for the real world.  I know, I know, someone out there is saying right now, “he’s saying to throw my precious darling to the wolves!”  And then we wonder why, with that kind of attitude, when we assume all of our neighbors are dangerous predators, we are not more successful reaching them with the Gospel?

Jesus, our Lord and Savior, and example to follow, had no problem detouring into the Samaritan lands nor with standing on his own two feet with elders as a child.  And I, likewise, had no difficulty standing toe to toe with my high school biology teacher or with seeing through leftist propaganda even back in elementary school.  I remember scoffing, even then, at the blatant manipulation on Earth day or that faulty “haves vs have nots” construction of my fresh out of university social studies teacher.

Hint to the homeschoolers: Your neighbors aren’t demons and your children aren’t little saints either.  In fact, many of my younger home or privately schooled religious cousins were doing drugs, drinking hard and partying, even sleeping around, long before I had so much as a sip of alcohol.  As Jesus said to a prior generation of contamination obsessed religious people, according to Mark 7:14–23:

"Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them."  

We can’t save our children by sheltering them.

I know, but what about the “groomers’ and the brainwashing?  No, I’m not going to say it is all hysteria.  Indeed, the far-left is targeting children, they’re making no secret of their agenda and it is cause for concern.  We see all of those sensational headlines of abuse and it is easy to be full of anxiety and fear about this.  But, for perspective, there are over 3,800,000 teachers in the United States and the vast majority are simply doing their job.  Some extreme example, from an urban hellhole or California, is not representative of the whole.  Yes, your child going to a public school will be exposed to other perspectives and yet why would they choose lies over the truth?

It is no coincidence that the greatest Biblical examples of faith are those, who as children, faced pagan influence.  Moses, trained as an Egyptian, was bolder than his other Israelites and faced down Pharaoh.  Daniel refused to bend to social pressure, a Jewish child in the Babylonian court, and stands as an example of faith.  And who can forget that trial by fire of three young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who would not bow to the statue of the powerful Nebuchadnezzar II?

It is so strange that fundamentalists can read these stories to their children in their Sunday school classes and then be terrified by the thought little Johnny being away from them for a few hours a day.  It makes me wonder if they truly believe these stories are true.  Maybe they do not think that the God who called Samuel as a child or emboldened young David to slay a giant is still capable of the same today?  Apparently they think God is getting weak in old age and only they are able to save their children from the world? 

In the World, Not of the World

Part of the problem with the fundamentalist “purity culture” mindset is that they believe that Holiness is achieved through means of physical separation.  Many parents think that they will keep their children safe from harm by keeping them in their protective enclave and away from all other influence.  But, the truth is, if Adam and Eve could fall even in the garden of Eden, why would we believe that the serpent can’t find it’s way into our own homes and communities?

For as much as my religious peers would try to keep evil out, pulling their children out of even the church school to guard them from the influence of other Mennonite children, it is no defense from the most dangerous sin of all which is pride and this accompanying idea that we can be fully righteous by our own efforts.  But, in the economy of Jesus, it is better to be the woman caught in adultery or thief on the cross who repents than the rich young ruler who kept the law perfectly yet isn’t able to live in faith.

They say more is caught than taught.  We can say we believe “greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world” (1 John 4:4) and that God is our strength, but our actions betray us.  The conservative Christian retreat from the public sphere is pretending that if they ignore the deterioration somehow the problem will go away.  They are training their children to be cowards, afraid to effectively confront the culture or fully contend with the reality that they’re losing ground.

It is true, a Christian is not to be of this world and yet this is all about the spirit in which we are approaching life.  The exact phrase “in the world but not of it” is not in Scripture, but we also see where Jesus didn’t avoid people simply because they were Samaritans, tax collectors or others that his religious peers carefully avoided.  Unlike the parachute in ‘missionary’ compassion of today, he spent his time amongst his own people, rubbing shoulders with the unwashed masses and even being touched by a woman made into an outcast for her illness.

If we go out in strength, trusting that God is still able to protect us and our children from the teeth of lions, we would possibly see the change of culture that will make the world a place liveable for a Christian.  But right now we’re teaching our children to be weak and, when the world finally does come to snatch them from the safety of their homes, many will be fragile and unprepared to stand.  This is why so many get caught in the false social justice Gospel, they weren’t properly trained to identify the counterfeit.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

(Proverbs 22:6 KJV)

Why would I send my son into the lion’s den?

Because Daniel continued to pray, despite the risk of severe punishment, and precisely as a result of his childhood faith and learning to resist peer pressure at a young age. 

Contrast that with the religious experts who had rejected Jesus for the unclean who he mingled with. Or with Israelites who prospered in their own promised land, absent of persecution, and only went through the religious motions of faith in God. They voluntarily brought idols into their homes and folded before their enemies. 

Complacency is a bigger threat to a Christian’s child than lions. 

We should not teach our children to run from the giants of our time or they’ll become king Saul.

Instead we should be helping them polish those giant slaying stones and trust God.

Christmas Without A Doubt

Standard

One remarkable thing about being a father is the perspective it gives on my own doubts of God.  While out shopping Y-dran would come across the perfect Christmas gift, he had to have, and then persistently remind us not to forget.  His need for control over what he got really could take away from the whole joy of giving and was a matter of his trust.  He is not sure of my ability or will to give him what is good.

Good Gifts 

Jesus used the analogy of a parent giving to their children to describe God’s disposition towards His creation:

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

(Matthew 7:9‭-‬11 NIV)

It is fun to see a child’s face light up when they receive a gift and it is likely because of this kind of feedback that we are so happy to give.  A good father wants to satisfy all of the needs of their children. They want to give them the best and would never torment them by giving them bad things.  It is especially easy for me to give to Y-dran as a reward for his helpful spirit.  I would give to him regardless, but it is much easier to give when he is being helpful or well-behaved.  I’m reluctant to give anything when he has an entitled attitude or makes demands.  I mean, I really don’t want to raise a son who can’t wait or ever hear the word “no” the first time.  Teaching him what is right is the best gift I can give.

My Father’s Son?

Just months into being a father I can see my own dad coming out and I don’t like it.  It is far too easy to greet inquiries with annoyance and not give the attention a child needs.  He really does know when I’m not making him a priority in my life.  Sure, we will remind him that we put the food on the table and shelter over his head.  However, to be honest, a very small portion of my income goes to him and I would need shelter for myself even if I did not have a family to care for.  And the truth is that I can be thrifty with money to the point of miserliness.

I have been at war with myself since bringing Y-dran into my life.  I’m really trying to be rid of the old man that lives in me, the one who makes others feel inadequate, that sees the financial bottom line as more important than family time, and to be the father who is truly self-sacrificial and involved in a meaningful way rather than merely playing the role.  But the reality is that the apple does not fall far from the tree and I am my father’s son.  I will need to battle it out with my own selfishness and self-righteous defense mechanisms.

Stepfather of Jesus

To some, the idea of raising another man’s son might be a deal breaker.  There was a story from earlier this year about a 5-year-old boy, in China, left behind at his kindergarten after the man raising him as a son found out that he was not the biological father.  

Joseph deliberated the same thing when he found out that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was pregnant:

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 

(Matthew 1:18-19 NIV)

Jesus, according to the Jewish writings of the Talmud, was an illegitimate child, the bastard son of a Roman soldier, and Mary a whore.  And Joseph, prior to a special visit from angels, would have every reason in the world to assume the same.  Even after being assured that the child was of the Holy Spirit, the stepfather of Jesus would no doubt have had to face the whispers of the scandal.  The angel didn’t visit his entire village to tell them and this was not like our times either when it is out of wedlock pregnancy is common.

Fortunately, for me, I’ve not had a struggle with the prospect of being a stepfather and, if anything, it was the prospect of being Y-drans father that kept me from giving up on the relationship after over three years of being apart and waiting.  It is one thing for two adults to break off their own romantic engagement, quite another to leave a boy who already calls you “daddy” behind.  I was willing to fight for the opportunity to earn the trust and love of Y-dran.  If anything, he was the best reason to marry his mother.

Our Father in Heaven 

Many social conservatives tend towards the harshness of a Chinese man who abandoned a toddler for not being his own. But this is not an attitude that is reflective of God:

He is a father to the fatherless and an advocate for widows.  God rules from his holy dwelling place.  God settles in their own homes those who have been deserted; he frees prisoners and grants them prosperity. 

(Psalms 68:5-6a)

Joseph, in taking Jesus called “the son of Mary” by skeptics in Mark 6:3 (an interesting word choice to say the least) as his son was reflective of the fatherly love of God.  Joseph shouldered this wrongful disgrace the same way that God, despite being Holy, is willing to bear the weight of our sin and even call us his own children.

If a man knows the significance of this, of St Paul’s declaration that believers become the sons of God by adoption (Romans 8:15; 9:26; Galatians 3:26) would he ever deny any child an opportunity to have a father?  

There is a sense in which we get back what we give, that there is reciprocity or a kind of karma.  If we are like the servant who buried his talents in fear or the one that refused to forgive another a debt after being pardoned, we will get the unpleasant or judgmental side of God.  We will get what we expect or demonstrate in our own actions.  Therefore, if we want grace for our own sins, to call God our Father, then we must put that old man to death, and be a father figure like the father we never had.  No one had a perfect earthly father, some have been abandoned by the man who should have been that man, but we can all be that source of structure, stability, and abiding love if we choose to be like our heavenly Father.

Why Believe In Sky Daddy?

One of the most intriguing things about the world that we are in is its symmetry and scalability.  There are repeating patterns, from the Nautilus shell to the spiral arms of the galaxy, that are amazingly paralleled in the language of mathematics and yet we really know nothing.  Science is not about knowing, it is only ever about probabilities, we can expect certain things based on prior observation.  And, in that light, the phrase “on earth as it is in heaven” can take another meaning.

The idea of God is ridiculed today and for good reason.  Many who claim to believe in God are completely petty and selfish people, quarreling over buttons on blouses, divided by political ideology and denomination, and full of self-righteousness or pride.  If God exists, then why do Christians live on their own strength and without faith?

It could be that our Father, God, is some kind of invention or an imaginary stand-in used to represent an ideal.  In other words, an Uncle Sam or Rosie the Riveter type of character there as a special example to bring out our best effort.  We know well today that people can believe almost anything, we have those who pretend to be animals and others who take on identities that do not match with the physical reality of their bodies.  So with all of this absurdity on display around us is it not possible that our traditional beliefs could be delusional as well?

Could God be the perfect dad to make up for the deficiencies of our own dad or provide us with a measure of security when our own father dies?  Or a Santa character, watching if we’re naughty or nice, and a manipulation tool used to keep children in line?

Speaking of Santa…

The Real St. Nick 

The Orthodox celebrate St Nicholas.  He is not a fat and jolly man dressed in a red suit who lives in the North Pole with elves and a sleigh pulled by reindeer.  He was a bishop, in Asia Minor, who drop bags of coins into the window of a home at night to help a poor father pay the dowry for his daughters and rescued three girls from prostitution.  So, he gave gifts, and yet he wasn’t giving trinkets to satisfy the demands of spoiled children.  No, he was a man led by Christian compassion and making a difference in his time.

How a holy man becomes the guy crying out “ho ho ho” is truly beyond me. 

A centuries-old game of telephone, I suppose? 

But it does show us that there is something that is real behind even this most distorted and commercialized image.  In other words, the atheist using the myth of Santa Claus as a reason to dismiss God is ignorant.  The myth is based on truth.  Many have rejected only a false image or caricature of God.  They run with “the man upstairs” kind of trope, but the God of Scripture is beyond comprehension and not a mere man.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

(Isaiah 55:8‭-‬9 NIV)

Many simply have the wrong concept of God.  They ​​have rejected the deity of their hypocritical parents or that of judgmental religious fundamentalists and the guy on television always asking for donations.  They see God as the petty tyrant, always out to get in the way of their enjoyment of life or trying to destroy them, and not the Creator who is good and loves mankind.

Daddy Doesn’t Love Me

It doesn’t take long, as a parent, to realize that children need some guidance for their own good.  If Y-dran were left completely to his own devices he would spend his entire day watching mindless content.  The tablet wars have been raging in our home as we try to reign in the entertainment monster.  And that is the worst part, while sucked into the vortex he changes from attentive and helpful to a different child.  This morning he became extremely upset after the WiFi doesn’t keep up with his media demands.

Y-dran may believe that we limit his time and that we refuse to get a better home internet plan because we don’t care.  But what he doesn’t realize is that the tablet is a parent’s easy way out.  If we actually didn’t care we would just let him play or watch endlessly and without any restrictions.  Sure, the end result would be a young person not prepared for success in life, and yet we would at least temporarily spare ourselves of the need to deal with his temper tantrums, right?  Of course, we are thinking of his long-term good which is why we deny his access despite his current wishes.

We can see unanswered prayers as neglect or we can believe that our not always getting what we want is truly the benevolence of our Creator who sees beyond our very limited perspective.  I mean, maybe there is no God, or maybe God is malicious and mean like some contend, but how will either one of those beliefs help us to do better in our life?  I believe in the Father who gives good gifts to His children because that’s the father that I want to be—even when they don’t understand my rules or appreciate my love.

The Appearance Of Evil

Standard

There was an incident, years ago, that pretty much perfectly encapsulates the difference between rules-based religion and Christian love.  I was in a wedding party, the reception had started and then, abruptly, the parents of the groom got up and left.  As it would turn out what had caused them to leave in a huff was sparkling grape juice. 

No, despite their being part of a teetotaling sect, the problem was not that they thought it was alcohol in the bottles.  They knew it was only grape juice as it had been cleared ahead of time to prevent issues.  So what was the problem?  The servers didn’t get the memo, they poured directly from the bottles, which looked like wine bottles, and had committed a ‘sin’ of creating the *appearance* of evil:

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.

(1 Thessalonians 5:21‭-‬22 KJV)

Of course, the absurdity of those who claim to follow after Jesus whose first miracle was to turn water into “good wine” at a wedding in Cana being completely opposed to drinking is bad enough.  But for them to go even further and get hot around the collar over grape juice because of the container it was poured out of is astounding.  Ultimately they were more worried about what people thought than they did sharing the joy of their son and new daughter-in-law.

I’m not sure if there has been any regret and repentance since, this post is not about this couple or a judgment of their salvation.  But it is a prime example of being more focused on what others think, or remaining within the rules of a religion, than showing love.  

Even if drinking alcohol were truly forbidden, which it is not, there was no alcohol involved at this reception.  The real concern was how it appeared to their peers.  But the worst part is that this isn’t at all what 1 Thessalonians 5:21‭-‬22 is talking about.  Other translations have it saying “reject every kind of evil” and thus is not about how things look.  So these parents were in the wrong on multiple levels and, for all I know, may still feel completely righteous about it.

False religion is all about maintaining outward appearances and at the expense of the command of Christ to love.  It relies on rules that stem from misunderstanding of Scripture or ignorance. It is application always void of the spirit of the law even when they are supported.  It is the very same thing Jesus encountered with those who pridefully clung to their own ‘Biblical’ tradition and were offended by Him.

My First Two Weeks Of Fatherhood

Standard

My decades of being single came to a rather abrupt end on November 3rd.  Two people, a mother and son, arrived at JFK after a trip around the world and our lives will never be the same.  

A few years ago, I was worried about how it may be to be a stepfather and hoped Charlotte’s son, CJ Y-dran, would accept me.  One day, soon after this thought, and out of the blue, Y-dran told his mom he had something that he wanted to ask me.  

The voice on the other end of the video call gave me the assurance that I needed:

“Can I call you daddy?”

Crazy, right?

More amazingly, after I told him he could, he asked if we could pray together.  That was, of course, another request granted and the whole thing a wonderful confirmation.  But, that said, it is one thing to be called “daddy” and another to be a good father.

CJ Y-dran is now ten years old.  

A Crash Course In Parenting Begins

Saturday, after our arrival together in central Pennsylvania, we visited Ed and Judy, my aunt and uncle.  Ed surprised us with an early Christmas gift by getting Uriah’s bike out and offering it to Y-dran.  

It was fun to see a young boy’s face light up in amazement.  Y-dran rode around happily while we all enjoyed the unseasonally warm weather.  Later we were able to secure the bike in the trunk of my car and then brought it home.

It was the first Monday back to work after the trip to the airport and I was just settling in for the day when a message notification popped up.  It was Y-dran.  What did Y-dran want at this early hour of the day?

“I cen not bike naw”

“Becos momi not let me”

“Lets pot it back to ante”

“I can not yos it”

Uhoh.  

Unwittingly, having missed some details he had included, namely that he was allowed to ride albeit only in the yard, I answered him exactly as his mom did and said he could ride in the yard and only in the alley after I was home from work.  So it was great to be on the same page with his mother.

The Knife At School Incident

Y-dran found a small Leatherman-type tool in my utility drawer and was fascinated. He wanted to whittle away at the banister, which was immediately discouraged, and directed to a cardboard box to satisfy his stabbing need.

Boys love tools and especially tools used as weapons.

The blades on this multi-tool were too small to be lethal and yet were enough to keep a ten-year-old’s imagination captive.

But, when I discovered this tool in his backpack after coming home from his fourth day in school, I very quickly gave a stern warning to never ever bring a knife to school. I took the tool and returned it to the drawer to emphasize the point.

It was around nineteen hours later, at my desk during lunch, when I got that dreaded phone call from the school office. It was the principal. He told me Y-dran was in his office and went on to say how my son was displaying a knife to classmates.

The irony of this situation struck me. I had bought a house and moved across the river, in anticipation of Y-dran’s arrival, and the thought of him being expelled in the first week was not one that I had entertained until this moment.

Making matters worse, when confronted by his teacher about this, Y-dran, thinking he was helping himself, he tried to justify carrying the bladed instrument and claimed it was for self-defense.

In his defense, his citing potential “kidnappers” as a reason to be armed is not completely without cause. In his home country that is something that parents are concerned about given stories of human trafficking and thus part of his own thought process.

However, this explanation was also more incriminating than had he just kept his mouth shut or said he just thought it was a fun thing to play with. Never give away intent like that! /Facepalm

Fortunately, while having a zero-tolerance policy, they didn’t do like they did to a co-worker’s grandson, also a 5th-grader, who was not only expelled from his elementary school but was also fined and had a court date—all for having a knife discovered by other students rifling through his backpack!

Lord have mercy!

The real dilemma for me, after learning that this wasn’t going to be taken further than reprimand and confiscation of the tool (which I told the principal to dispose of rather than hold for me to retrieve), was how to handle this at home.

I wasn’t sure that I should involve his mom or just take him aside and tell him that I would keep his secret so long as it didn’t ever happen again.

Thankfully, returning after work, I didn’t have to decide. Y-dran had already confessed to all believing that I would eventually spill the beans on him anyways.

I really need to teach this kid how to read the room better.

What Have I Learned About Fatherhood?

The first thing I have to come to terms with is that I’ll make mistakes. Right now everything has been so new and uncharted that there is no way for me to map my progress.

He is a handful. He weighs as much as I did when I graduated from high school and has the tenacity of a rabid gorilla too. He just does not stop when he gets going. But then he’s also appropriately gentle with younger children and, despite some wildness, has a great heart underneath it all.

Things have gone relatively well so far.

Still, I keep thinking of the verse:

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

(Ephesians 6:4 NIV)

The KJV may say it better using the words “provoke not your children to wrath,” but what does this Biblical commandment truly mean in practical terms. Does it mean I give him everything he wants to keep him from being angry or upset? What exactly is the training and instruction of the Lord?

Y-dran can be very persistent. When we’re out shopping he seems to feel entitled to a sugary drink or whatever else he can grab from the shelves. What he does not realize is that this constant pestering, needing to even be in control of what gifts he gets at Christmas, really takes the joy out of giving and makes us less likely to oblige the request.

I suppose there is no systemic or cut-and-dried answer to these things. It isn’t about balancing either. It takes wisdom, and putting them first (that doesn’t come easy), to gain and keep the credibility required to guide a son. Children see our inconsistencies. He will tell me if I look at my cell phone at the table or forget the prayer before we eat. He’ll know if I care about him or not.

Maybe the more important thing is to realize that I don’t know what I’m doing and can only do my best. My success or failure as a parent will not be a product of my perfection. I mean, even if I could check all of the right boxes and make no mistakes, that does not mean he’ll be reasonable or accept that as enough, right?

I’ll try to be consistent, to give him the best opportunities and all the good for him that I am able to do. But, ultimately, I’ll fail as a father if it is all about my own effort. In the end, I can only depend on the grace of God (generous uncles and lenient principals) to even have the slightest chance.  Otherwise, I’m already well over my head without any hope. 

The Token Converts

Standard

Years ago I had a nemesis. My counterpart positioned himself as a white knight type of character and was basically there to harass anyone too fond of the religious tribe I was born into. He knew the group, he had been a convert and was now an ex-member, who classified us as “an ethnic church” dismissing what we said about our conversion experience.

Now that I’ve left the group there is no reason to continue to guard the ideas left behind and that includes the notion that my own participation had been completely a choice. There are doctrinal reasons for this denial of the obvious. I mean, if you believe that conversion is a personal choice, a rational and unbiased conclusion, then it really gets under your skin when someone says that you’re more or less a product of a religious culture.

We were, in our own eyes, a sort of remnant church. And then also had to deal with the awkward reality that many, like us, were so inbred that they had distinct genetic disorders. And, unlike our radical forbearers, we had no cultural relevance besides being the quaint old fashioned people who dressed like it was the 1800s and called this non-conformity to the world. So, obviously, the fact that everyone who shared our views happened to be genetically related was the source of cognitive dissonance.

It is for this reason that converts, the more exotic the better, were clung to and even given special treatment. We would say it was out of Christian love and yet some of this had to do with our own insecurities. They were our validation. They were the proof that we were more than just an ethnic cloister, more than a bunch of cousins of a particular European heritage claiming that our own brand of religion represented something universal and relevant to the times.

Those who come into this group, visibly from the outside, are often treated both with mistrust and also with a special adoration as well. They can never be fully accepted, they’re always both more and less than equal, coddled or spared normal rebuke from some to keep them from leaving, and yet also can sense that they’re just the tokens being used to prove a point rather than being treated as people. Sure, they may form real friendships with some, but they themselves are often misfits from whence they came and still remain stuck in no man’s land.

Now that I’m in a church that both spans continents and is mostly converts locally, I don’t have as strong an urge to collect tokens or evidence that I’m not just a product of my ethnocultural roots. I mean, sure, I still want to be right. But the pressure to bring the Gospel to all people is off my shoulders. The Church didn’t take long to spread into Asia or Africa, early Christians didn’t dress like Europeans from a generation ago either, there may be some times to chase down Ethiopian eunuchs in their chariots, and yet there’s also a time to acknowledge that the fullness of the faith has never left Africa.

Evangelicals, of all stripes, have this desperation for relevance. They think that they will win more converts by being more cosmopolitan, and by painting a picture of superficial diversity and inclusion, but Jesus said that his message would make the world hate us and even divide families. If we have the truth, if we know the truth, we are no longer bound to ethnic quotas and, instead, simply love people, especially of the household of faith, as we are commanded. Jesus preached to his own tribe first, his converts were mostly other Jews, like him, and that was perfectly fine.

What Does IQ Measure and Why Does This Matter?

Standard

There are many alt-right types who use IQ statistics to distinguish between groups of people, and yet they themselves do not seem to grasp statistics or even understand what IQ actually measures. They suggest their own lack of intelligence through this. And, given that their use of IQ is most often directed at those whom they deem to be inferior races and is what makes them feel superior, this is deliciously ironic.

Yes, certainly IQ does matter. But it matters in the same way that hitting a golf ball and bench pressing do as being a measure of overall athleticism. Sure, it does differentiate natural ability for those with equal training, and yet says very little about the inborn abilities of those coming from vastly different circumstances. In other words, I can out bench many bigger men who never saw a gym. But not because they couldn’t outperform me if they put the same time in. And, likewise, the kind of intelligence that IQ tests measure is built on practice.

So, basically, without a multi-variant analysis, the results of IQ tests tell us very little. A person can score high because they are genetically gifted. They could score high because they had a stable home, good nutrition, and high-quality education. And, like Koreans getting taller on average, lower average IQ today does not mean the same will be true tomorrow or if all circumstances were equal. In fact, IQ tests are increasing generation by generation, this is called the “Flynn Effect” and not necessarily a result of people actually getting smarter than their grandparents.

No, IQ tests tend to focus on a kind of abstract reasoning that has no practical application for prior generations or those who are raised outside of an advanced economic system. My ability to reason through engineering problems may unlock earning potential in a very controlled environment and yet doesn’t mean I would survive a day in the Amazon basin or on the streets of Rio. So this assumption that my test scores prove something about my superiority is basically nonsense.

Sure, not everyone has the mental capacity to solve differential equations. But that doesn’t mean everyone who couldn’t solve them prior to Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz was an idiot.

The really crazy thing about racial supremacist mid-wits (or at least those who I know of European ancestry) is that they will so often make fun of the pointy-headed intellectuals (those who outscore them in IQ while lacking street smarts) only to turn around and use IQ statistics to create a racial pecking order. I mean, if IQ is a reason for some to rule, why do these same people turn to wild conspiracy theories to explain why many Ashkenazi Jews are disproportionately more successful (academically) and in positions of power or influence? Why not just assume they are the next stage of human evolution?

The truth is culture and environment have a large part to play in our development. What is prioritized in homes and communities can make a huge difference in outcomes. If my dad was an attorney and I was sent to a prep school, I would probably be more likely to score higher and go further in pursuit of a professional career. Alternatively, if I was raised in a place where everyone was obsessed with track speed and achieving celebrity status, I doubt I would’ve grown up playing with Legos or visiting various museums with my parents. My own 97th percentile IQ was likely built on experience as much as anything else.

Lastly, it is worth noting that outliers do not tell us a whole lot. Interestingly enough, men are both smarter and dumber than women and this has to do with standard distribution or how the bell curve works. What this means is that there can be more or less diversity within categories. Or, put otherwise, some Kenyans being excellent long-distance runners doesn’t mean all are and this superiority of some Kenyans will tell us even less about those on the other end of the African continent. Too often we look at the cream of the crop (or bad actors) as an indication of the whole and yet group statistics never tell us about individuals.

Lost in the Technicalities

Standard

There are many things in life that depend on a smell test or an intuitive sense.  When the religious hypocrites brought a woman before Jesus the legal prescription was simple, she was caught in sexual sin and deserved death according to the law of Moses.  They knew of his compassion for sinners and had hoped to trap him.  If Jesus spared her he would break the law, but if he condemned then he would be just like her judgmental accusers.

What happened next in that narrative totally upended their simplistic conception of the law and application.  To them, it was all very black and white.  They were very thorough in defining the limits, of their legalism, and this adulterous woman fell well outside the bounds of any gray area.  But Jesus defied them.  We don’t know what he wrote in the dust at their feet, but we do know that Jesus, in response to their demands for an answer, told them “let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” and that after this they left one by one.

Growing up in a fundamentalist sect, in the shadow of purity culture teachings, it was always about meeting expectations.  If only you could follow the rules, then you might be accepted, then her dad (or your own) would be pleased and no longer harbor those often unspoken negative opinions.  Sure, maybe those in this culture knew better than to be as open about their disapproval, like the men accusing the woman, but they still miss the point and will attempt to explain away the full significance of what Jesus did.  To them, the goal is to be undefiled enough to cast the first stone.

Those blinded by a legalistic mindset only comprehend the letter of the law without ever understanding the spirit or true purpose behind it.  When they are not onerously enforcing the technicalities of their own  (often errant) interpretations of Scripture then they are carving out special exceptions for themselves and in all circumstances are missing the spirit or intent of the law. (Romans 2:29, 2 Corinthians 2:4-18) They see the law as a means to gain God’s favor or as means to gain rank on their more sinful neighbors rather than what it truly is.

First of all, the law was not established for Pharisees past or present to play morality police.  Yes, we’re told to work out our own salvation.  We need to confess our sins and admit our falling short as often as we do.  But it is the role of the collective body of the Church to apply the law to others and not our own.  In other words, we should stay in our lane, and use the law for introspection rather than as a hammer to beat over the head of our neighbors.  Our obligation to others is to do as Jesus said and learn the meaning of the phrase, “I desire mercy not sacrifice.”

Second, the law isn’t just an arbitrary set of rules to prove our worthiness to God.  No, it is rather something established for our good and as a protection from harm.  As Jesus said, the Sabbath was “made for man” and not the other way around, which is why he let his disciples violate the rules.  In other words, the law is very practical, for our good, and can be bent when need be.  Sure, we may not always understand the reasons and thus we should obey even when we do not, but there is always room for exception.  This is what freedom in Christ entails—the ability to live by the underlying intent rather than only by the technicalities of written codes.

Those in the construction industry know about building inspectors who are ‘by the book’ to the point of being ridiculous.  It isn’t actually making anyone safer.  These types often lack hands-on experience, seemingly even basic comprehension of what makes a structure work, and they just make life harder for everyone.   They can be technically correct, according to line three of page 395 of the code book, while still being clueless and unhelpful.  This kind of expert has the letter of the law and lacks the spirit. This is to say that they have useless knowledge that makes them feel qualified when, in reality, those in the field know better.

And religious fundamentalists all end up like these building inspectors, hung up on details and never adding any real value to the project. They condemn everyone around them, in violation of the commandment of Christ, while they themselves have a beam in their own eyes. They think they are moral people because they can follow a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” and yet fail to comprehend the meaning of “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Indeed, we may not allow our children to cross the street without permission, it may also be jaywalking to cross in certain areas, and yet would the legal statute matter if there was an urgent need to cross?

Politicians and lawyers can find ways to be technically ‘legal’ while also immoral or violating the principle of the law. They can also point out when others do what is right when it is technically illegal or when others fail to dot an ‘I’ or cross a ‘T’ as is required. But they fail to apply the law correctly because they miss the actual intention or purpose behind the law. They do not know the Jesus who makes even our righteousness seem like filthy rags and are trying to earn God’s favor instead.

This is to be lost, like the rich young ruler, who was still trying to save himself through his own works. You can do everything right according to the Scripture (or at least your own understanding of the writing) and still be lost. You can do everything wrong and still be saved. This is because we always depend on the mercy of God rather than our ability to be perfect.

The Cooperative Alternative

Standard

There is an intermediate step between our own lonely individualism and some sort of wonky religious or hippie flower child 1960s-style communalism.  There is plenty of room in between the extremes.

My thoughts about this ideal were sparked again by my interactions with a young woman, on the anxious left-wing activist side of things, thinking to declare as a philosophy major, who wanted me to check out some websites about cooperatives.

While I do not embrace the full package of left-wing ideology, I do see the huge deficit of viable communities and the economic forces that are behind this erosion.  We have traded the mom-and-pop stores downtown for the corporately owned big box.

This is as unhealthy an arrangement as the mass-produced junk food many Americans choose.  And yet, if you question this regime of suburban sprawl and consumerism, you’ll get a response similar to the dialogue, in the movie Idiocracy, when Joe suggests using water rather than Brawndo, an energy drink, for irrigating the crops:

“Community, like a cult or Jonestown?”

If you bring up the word commune there will probably be a strong visceral reaction on the part of conservatives.  There is this delusion of independence, a crucial component of the American cultural mythos, which is what drives many to trade community (and potential for their greater success) for a payment plan.

Whereas a generation or two ago, there was the church and social clubs to provide some level of mutual support, now we have a class of some who make it and others who are an unforeseen circumstance and paycheck away from dependence on welfare programs.  We have traded flesh and blood relationship for faceless state or corporate bureaucracy and a truckload of paperwork.

The current system is so woefully inefficient that we’re probably working twice as hard for half the rewards.  Governments, banks, and big corporations are profiting massively by keeping us divided up and dependent on their systems.  Many believe that they are free because they can watch smut or own a deadly weapon, but they’re really slaves to debt and tossed about by entities that have no actual concern for their well-being or wellness.

But, despite their slavery to this system, the moment you suggest that they consider an alternative, working together with those of like-mind towards a common goal, there is strong resistance.  I mean, how dare you suggest that they give up their own property (that the bank owns anyway) or learn how to share anything?

Reducing the friction of commerce…

The reality is, unless you live alone on your Alaskan homestead, you are dependent on other people.  And my thought here is that we should be more intentional about this and choose what makes the most sense.  

The idea of a cooperative is basically to remove the dead weight of a business and distribute profits more evenly amongst the employed.  It means that all involved in the enterprise share in both the risks and the rewards.  Instead of paying interest to banks or making dozens of taxed transactions, all of this cost can be eliminated.  What it all means, in the end, is working less for more in return.

For example, instead of everyone buying their own lawn mower or hiring someone, why not have one person do this for the community and earn credits?  

My own vision is a mix of both cooperation and autonomy, which is negotiated between the members and the group.  There would not be everyone living in some kind of compound or anything like that, everyone could have their own residence.  There would simply be more shared space for all, fewer redundancies, and potentially more access to costly tools or equipment.

The economics of this kind of cooperative arrangement is so superior that once it was started it would vastly outpace those trying to do it on their own through the currently conventional means.  Ever wonder why so many motels and gas stations are owned by immigrants?  It is because they are financed through their ethnic communities and have eliminated the friction of interest.

Americans, by contrast, always seem to see everything as a competition.  They’ll buy the biggest most ridiculous SUV, they truly can’t afford, to keep up with the Joneses and the only real winner is the financer of this silly display of excess.  We would rather sacrifice our time so that the boss can get his hunting land or an executive makes their bonus than give up this faux image of self-reliance and work together.

Finding our commonality…

A successful cooperative arrangement does require some sort of connection or common purpose to unite the individuals.  In the early Church, their having “all things in common” was a byproduct of faith and a commitment to Christ.  The ideological left, on the other hand, begins with a different moral premise and that is the abolition of private property or Capital.  In both cases, there is a shared identity that is the glue.

That is the biggest roadblock in the rapidly atomizing West, where Protestantism has led to a proliferation of denominations with competing claims and now the dissolution of a shared or universal purpose.  Everything is about us now, about our own opinions and wants, to the point that many marriages end in a protest called divorce.  We can’t sacrifice anything in the present, even if our greater integration as a whole would be better for us in the end.

But there is a huge potential upside.  If we could find a way to look past ourselves for a moment and understand how cooperation is a means to reduce friction or cost.  However, the real need is for more people to let go of this delusion that they are better off on their own and that security comes only through money in their bank account.  The absurd part is that we already do lend our time to many people, for a wage,  their services, or whatever, and would do better to choose better partners.

If there was a way to make cooperative arrangements more palatable I would.  The real problem is that anytime we gain the slightest advantage over our neighbors we would rather keep it all for ourselves.  Many cannot see past this pointless competition and appreciate the great gain of voluntarily distributing costs or sharing responsibilities. Perhaps this is why we can’t have nice things?  I know it is why so many are lonely and discontent. They are looking in the wrong direction for fulfillment.

There are always tradeoffs for every arrangement. And yet there are also things that we are biologically wired for and denying them is to our detriment. We are social creatures. We have a neurological reward system built around having positive meaningful interactions with other people. The economic benefits of greater cooperation, at a local level, would be enormous and the social benefits even greater.

God, Suffering and Salvation

Standard

I have complete sympathy for atheists and agnostics.  I’ve wrestled with questions my entire life and whether or not there is a God is always one of them.  But the one thing that I can’t understand is being angry about human suffering, from a rational basis, if God does not exist.  If there is no ultimate good, no greater purpose or meaning to life, on what basis do we make a moral judgment about suffering?

Okay, let’s back up a second.  I’m here at my local establishment drinking another Long Island, one of many since the death of Uriah, and it hasn’t given me an answer as to why he would die of cancer at twenty-four.  The medical diagnosis is simple enough.  He had cancer.  The aggressive kind.  It started with the lump on his ankle during boot camp.  I still have the picture on my phone taken out of morbid curiosity and never dreaming it was a death sentence.

Uriah and I, despite our difference in age, got along in a way that only cousins do.  He was like me.  We didn’t simply accept those easy cliché answers.  He was someone who was both determined and also full of doubts.  He was also the six-foot tall and better version of everything I ever was.  The best part was that I could claim some of his success for myself given that I had encouraged him to continue his college education, telling him that it was better to keep going than to live a life of regrets.

Watching Uriah sacrifice a leg only to have the cancer be found in his lungs a year later. It was a gut punch.  I think I stopped praying, at some point, because I just knew what the prognosis was.  

The hardest part, however, is that Uriah was not the first of his family that I had to carry out of the church on a cold winter day.  His parents had already lost one of their children to a seizure disorder.  His two other siblings are severely disabled and will need constant care.  Judy, his mom, is an incredible woman and has extraordinary faith.  Ed too has great strength of character.  And neither of them wastes any time feeling sorry for themselves despite losing the one healthy child they had to this terrible disease.

Where was God?

When my little Saniyah died, unexpectedly, it was a really big struggle for me.  It took me years to get my feet back under me again, spiritually and emotionally speaking, and I had both doubted my own faith along with the existence of a loving God.  The death of Uriah, along with my disappointments with those whom I put my trust in, and my long wait for Charlotte, have really tested me the past few years.  But, I have those who need me to be strong this time around and, for this reason, have had to push back against falling into despair again.

Nevertheless, I totally get why someone who has encountered suffering in a personal way is angry and denies the existence of God on this basis.  I mean why would this kind of pain and loss be allowed if there is an all-powerful good in the universe, right?  Why would God not intervene and stop this all rather than let us go through such terrible experiences?  It doesn’t make much sense, does it, that we should be left so lonely and struggling if God is good.

However, if we eliminate totally God from the equation, then we dismiss religious morality and must acknowledge that there is nothing written in the fabric of the universe that says our existence entitles us to good feelings.  I mean, as far as evolution goes, pain is more or less a survival tool, a feedback system to tell us what to avoid.  Feeling sad about the death of a friend or family member is, by this logic, a malfunction. 

In this harsh environment, where everything is out to kill us, why would we ever expect anything more than suffering?

The moral reasoning that makes this bad, if you are truly an atheist, is nothing other than a construct.  In terms of pure biology, it is good that fire hurts or we might burn our arms off.  That is pain for a very practical and utilitarian purpose.  Undeniably good if there is such a thing.  But what reasonable good is there in mourning those already dead?  No point in crying over spilled milk, right?  A totally rational being would simply move on to the next social resource and not be so attached or sentimental.

Being upset over suffering and death, if there is no God, is irrational.  And, if there is a God, like that of Christianity, then suffering and death are exactly what we’re promised in this life.  Sheesh.  Did you read the story of Jesus and how he was betrayed, beaten, and then unjustly killed in the most brutal fashion all as part of a redemptive plan?  If you actually believe in eternity then why be angry about a few years living out this rich narrative we call life? 

At the very least, how can we judge anything, especially a fictional character, on the basis of a moral standard that doesn’t exist? 

If there is no God, then there is no basis for morality either.  That too, including the idea that suffering is bad or pleasure is good, is entirely a construct.  Pain is good in some circumstances, it protects us from injury and causes us to change behavior in ways that are beneficial.  In other words, without the discomfort of hunger or thirst, we would not correctly prioritize our life.  Pleasure can be bad when it makes us eat too many donuts and become diabetic.  So how does one truly know that their own interpretation of these signals is the correct one?

From what I’ve observed in myself and in others, unbelief stems from disappointment when things do not go as expected.  It is about who is in control.  We can cling, in our own arrogance, to this notion that the universe should bend to our will.  Or realize that our own perceptions, based on senses which are not very reliable and a brain prone to making mistakes in judgment, are not infallible or ever actual truth.

The thing is we only ever know if suffering is good or bad if it is properly contextualized if we understand the end.  For example, feeling the burn of exercise is good pain because it is what accompanies muscle development and so we embrace this.  So what is the real context of our life?  To what end, or for what reason, did we become conscious?  What is behind this ‘accident’ if it is one? 

How do we contextualize our existence enough to judge what is good or bad?

If there is such a thing as an eternal reward, that would change the calculus, right?  It would mean that all pain can be gain, and all suffering can draw us closer as much as it drives us away because defining the moral character of any experience depends on the end.  I am willing to subject myself to many hardships if the reward is big enough.  No, this doesn’t take away the question of why we must go through here to get there.  But seeing past our immediate feelings is pretty much the only way to make progress.

Angry is a feeling, not a guide for life…

I was at this time living, like so many Atheists or Antitheists, in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.

C.S. Lewis

People don’t walk away from Christianity for rational or scientific reasons.  Sure, they may guard their emotion-based unbelief behind a wall of post hoc justification.  But the reality is that they’re upset about something.  They had expectations and are now disappointed and acting as wounded people do.  It’s just strange that anyone at all Biblically literate would suddenly lose faith over our suffering when that’s literally the only we’re promised in this life.

What really doesn’t make any sense is why anyone would rather suffer with no hope at all of eternity.  If God is dead, then nihilism is the logical next stop and that life has no real meaning or purpose.  But the suffering does not go away simply because we’re angry at the giver of life.  No, it will only intensify and become a spiral of despair.  Our salvation is in our understanding that, smart as we may think we are, we’re truly quite ignorant and even our most ‘concrete’ reality is not real:

The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you. 

Werner Heisenberg

For those who don’t know who that is, Mr. Heisenberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, in 1932, for the creation of quantum mechanics.  Materialism, despite the zombie corpse of this thing staggering on, died with the discovery of things in defiance of this entirely too simplistic conception.  Sure, this kind of physics is well-beyond most, but it does support a notion of reality that requires a Universal Perceiver (as described in this article) and we could call that God.

So, if you’re actually serious about science, then the hard science of physics is the place to start and, with its mathematical origin and proofs, is much less likely to be clouded by emotion one way or another.  We can’t run from God.  But we may need to leave behind the baggage of our own misconceptions and learn the value of true repentance.  Maybe Uriah died, and went to his reward, so some of us would have our flawed thinking broken and seek our salvation in Him?

Maybe some of us are just too stubborn, or too needing of control being in our own hands, to admit we can’t save ourselves?

I’ll tell you this.  The universe, without God, is an infinitely dark and lonely place.  It is that starring abyss of which Friedrich Nietzsche warned, the existential horror H.P. Lovecraft describes.  Highly intelligent men, both of them, and understood the implications that come with true unbelief in God.  You will not escape your suffering simply by denying that the Divine all-powerful good exists.  No, rather you will just remain in that hell of your own creation.

Postscript: Questions Remain

I still grieve Uriah, as I do Saniyah, uncle Roland, and others that seem to have been taken before their time. I’ve long struggled against sources of trauma much more basic, the lack of unconditional love in the church that could make up for my shortcomings, and much of that is unresolved. At the time of my writing, the impossibility is something yet to be fulfilled. I do not have answers for any of this nor do I expect to. I’m not the arrogant kid who argued with his high school biology teacher, not a Bible-thumping fundamentalist at all, and yet must believe.