April 23, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I am writing this on Easter Sabbath — the Sabbath during which Jesus Christ rested in the grave, dead to the world and to heaven, until he was resurrected early Sunday morning. I want to invite you to discover God on your own terms this Easter. By that I mean you should reason out for yourself who God is for you, why you believe in Him, and what that means for your life as you see it from this day forward.
It is vitally important that each person who calls himself a believer in God, or an atheist if you will, know exactly why it is they take that stance and how that decision has affected them. If they are just blindly going to church, and following a faith they believe only superficially, they will have wasted one of their most important faculties: that of free will. For I believe that faculty is a gift from God, and it was given to us specifically so that we may choose to acknowledge Him — or not.
To help guide you in your discovery of God on your own terms, I have selected three videos below that I’d like you to watch. These videos may be unsettling for some, but they are important, because for one thing, they will help distance your belief in God from organized religion (which I think is key in getting closer to God), and for another thing, they express the thinking of two very lucid people, who have synthesized for us the problems that arise when a church gets too big for its britches — when it gets big enough to pass laws, torture and kill people.
You may realize that I point my finger at the Catholic church, but I do not blame them directly, or say that other churches are better. Any one church that might have been in their place would have acted the same way; make no mistake about that. A rose by any other name would still have the same painful thorns. Once a church gets big enough to become an institution with worldwide influence, they will abuse their power. If absolute power corrupts absolutely, then the church is not immune from corruption, as history states in horrid details about every such church organization.
I often think atheists are the best people, in a sense. Whatever they believe, most of them have reasoned it out and have to live with their decision, day in and day out. They live their lives with the painful knowledge that they will end within the span of 70 short years, more or less, and they will be gone, completely, when they die. If they do something good, they do it because they think it’s right, not because they expect to go to heaven for it, or because they want to expunge their sins through it. If they’re decent people, and most of them are, they do it because it’s their nature to be so, not because their Bible tells them so, or their church commands it. If you’re being good or decent because you expect to go to heaven, I’ve got news for you — you probably won’t get there. God doesn’t want people who do things because they expect something back from Him. He wants people who do good and decent things because it’s their nature to do them. Therefore, I suggest we all start learning a thing or two from atheists.
I hope you’ve taken the time to watch these videos, and will take some more time this Easter weekend to think things over. May you awake one day soon with a newfound personal perspective on your faith, on God, and your life from this point forward.
March 5, 2011 § Leave a Comment
In 2007, I wrote to Amazing Facts, whose programs I watch and find interesting, to ask if they could start broadcasting them in MP4 format, so viewers could subscribe to them in iTunes and download them onto their iPods (iPhones and iPads weren’t around yet).
At the time, they were broadcasting on Windows Media Server technology, which meant they were streaming-only, and their website video content could only be viewed from a computer with an internet connection.
They wrote back to me, telling me they might consider my suggestion, but they had already invested in the technology they were using and they’d continue to use it for the time being.
In 2009, they switched over to the MP4 format for their website video library, which meant that all their video content would now be downloadable (not just streamable), and also playable on devices like iPods, iPhones, iPads and Apple TVs. I was glad to see that change.
Earlier this year, I was browsing the iTunes Podcast Library from my Apple TV, and found their podcasts listed there. I gladly subscribed, and now I watch them fairly regularly, right on my TV.
In case you’d like to do the same, here are a few links to their podcasts and feeds:
To subscribe to one of their podcasts in iTunes, you could search for it on the iTunes Store, or you could copy the URL of the podcast from their RSS Feeds page and paste into iTunes by going to the iTunes Menu >> Advanced >> Subscribe to Podcast, as shown in the screenshot below.
I also have a couple of suggestions for the Amazing Facts Web Team:
- Please be sure to preserve all old links or forward them properly. When you switched over from Windows Media to MP4, you didn’t forward the traffic from the old videos to their new MP4 equivalents. Links to your old programs, like this one for example, no longer work. There are ways to do automatic 301 redirects through code, so that you don’t lose existing traffic and also tell search engines about the change.
- You may want to think about the oEmbed protocol as a way of allowing people to embed your video content on their blogs or other websites. I wrote to you in 2009 to let you know your embed code was unnecessarily complicated and long, and I see that you haven’t yet addressed that issue. I still cannot properly embed your videos on my WordPress blog. oEmbed would be a perfect solution, as I would only need to copy and paste the direct link to your video page, and it would automatically show up on my website. Alternatively, you may want to think about uploading your video library to YouTube (which now allows videos longer than 10 minutes). YouTube already supports oEmbed for WordPress and other site platforms.
June 26, 2010 § 5 Comments
One of the things I keep hearing is that I ought to turn the other cheek when someone does me wrong, because I’m a Christian. That I ought to love a bad person and make amends for him or her, because that’s what God would do, and that’s what we’ve been told in the Bible.
Really? I don’t think so.
Only a superficial reading of the Bible, or as most Christians do, a non-reading of the Bible, coupled with what a minister or priest or preacher once said, lead to that sort of understanding.
A Christian in doubt need only consult his or her Bible to see how God deals with the wicked, in both the Old and the New Testaments. Even Jesus Christ, while on Earth, didn’t waste His time with the wicked. Look through the Gospels to see how he dealt with the pharisees and the moneychangers in the temple. And see His instructions to the disciples regarding the cities that would not listen to His message.
Why then do pastors keep clinging to the same clichés when it comes to Christian behavior? Perhaps they love the touchy-feely message of the New Testament, which would be a wrong reading of the gospels. Perhaps they’re not comfortable with judging others. Perhaps they themselves are superficial and haven’t taken the time to read through the Bible properly. Who knows… What I do know is God doesn’t waste His time with bad people. Jesus condemned their behavior constantly, berated them, judged them and warned them to change, then left them to their own devices. Remember free will? It still applies, for both good and evil.
What then of turning the other cheek and all the rest of it? Yes, we ought to, when it’s someone we love, or when it’s someone who we see is trying to lead a good life but has stumbled, someone who’s made a mistake but wants our forgiveness. Jesus constantly forgave His disciples’ shortcomings and glaring defects, because they were trying to obey Him, and He wanted to work with them. He went into Matthew’s house (the tax collector) because he wanted to be good in spite of his bad lifestyle. He associated with good people, stayed with them, spent time with them, but only tolerated the bad ones, or eliminated them from His daily walks altogether.
Some might say we don’t have His insight into the human soul, so we can’t tell who’s truly good and who’s truly bad. Perhaps, but I don’t think He’d begrudge us if we eliminated someone from our lives who is constantly gossiping about us, or making things up about us, or lying to others about us, or lying to us. And He’d definitely not mind if we had nothing more to do with someone who’s tried to cause us harm, physical or financial or some other kind. It’d be foolish of us to continue to associate with those kinds of people, both from a worldly and Godly point of view. You can keep turning the other cheek to those people, and they’ll keep on slapping you. They don’t deserve our kindness, nor our time, nor our consideration.
Keep this in mind the next time someone says you ought to turn the other cheek… And if you don’t believe me, search your Bible.
March 12, 2010 § 2 Comments
This is an illustrated story with a powerful message, and it explains why we each have our cross to bear, and why we need to keep going even when it seems too heavy. I got it via email a while ago and I don’t know who the author is. I’d love to give credit, so if anyone knows, please let me know in the comments below.
March 2, 2010 § 2 Comments
Akiane Kramarik, a self-taught 15-year old girl, started having vivid dreams of heaven at the age of 4, and soon started to paint what she saw in her mind. The results are amazing, and they’re even more remarkable given that her family were atheists and had never talked about God in their home. They reveal a world beyond our imagination, and a vibrant, growing talent.
She was featured on CNN at the age of 12, as you can see below, and she was interviewed by Oprah when she was 10. She has received numerous awards and prizes, and she will likely receive more, as her talent continues to improve with age.
February 18, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Mary Ann Brussat wrote in “Spiritual Literacy”:
“People go to religious services and yet continue to pollute, take excessive profits, encourage wars, oppress, foment political division, maintain racial injustice, and promote their own moralistic agendas at the expense of a deeply moral responsiveness to a world in trouble.”
What’s worse, those people often use religion as a badge of honor in their own materialistic quests for power, glory or money. That’s not the kind of religion and those are not the kind of people I want to know. And on top of all that, they’ll think themselves righteous. Instead of focusing on the intended spirituality of religion, they focus on theology and fundamentalism, as if those are God’s saving graces. They go through rituals forgetting the meaning of the word, which is “correct action”, not compulsion. Instead of experiencing God in their lives, they focus on devotional discipline, legalism, righteousness by works, and moralism.
They end up leading tortured lives, committing acts that create pain and suffering for others, all the while thinking they are bravely bearing their crosses and achieving righteousness, oblivious to the wrong path they’ve taken a long time ago. Yes, it is possible to lead that kind of a life, and as the Bible teaches, “by their fruits ye shall know them”. They may think they’re doing God’s work, and doing the “right thing for this country”, while they’re paving a quick way to destruction for all involved in the mess they’ve made.
I don’t even need to mention names, because you can quickly spot those people using the criteria outlined above. Many of them are prominent politicians, authors, pastors and TV show hosts, and they’re all doing their darnedest to achieve their misshapen, defective goals without regard for true morality and the rights of others. They’re “moralists”.
Robert J. Ringer described what he called “the Absolute Moralist” as:
“… looking deceptively like any ordinary human being, who spends his life deciding what is right for you… If he believes in Christ, he’s certain that it’s his moral duty to help you ‘see the light’. In the most extreme case, he may even feel morally obliged to kill you in order to ‘save’ you.”
Yes, folks, we have many deranged and prominent people like that in this country of ours.
Quotes obtained from a wonderful book which you should read, called “The Art of Serenity” by T. Byram Karasu, MD.
February 6, 2010 § 1 Comment
Let’s do a little Bible math. We’re going to put a few knowns together with an unknown to see if we can get a logical result, not the horror story stuff churches have spread around for centuries.
Common dogma: Man + Sin = Death + Hell (Brimstone, Eternal Torment, Fires, Wailing, Etc.)
Common sense dogma: Man + Sin = Death (see below for explanation)
In both cases, there are a few givens that must be noted. The funny thing is they apply to both cases equally.
| The punishment for sin is death, as the Bible plainly states it. What happens after death is the subject of much imagining, yet the Bible also plainly states that the dead are dead, for good.
| Jesus died for our sins, as the Bible also plainly states it.
Now let’s elaborate on the logic behind the conclusion pointed out above. The solution can be found, as with other Bible questions, in the life Jesus led while on earth, and in His death. His life was a model, a perfect example of the close relationship, the oneness that man can achieve with God, and His death was the perfect sacrifice for our sins.
→ If Jesus died for our sins, then the complete punishment for sin must be death.
If the punishment for sin is death, and if Jesus died for our sins, then permanent death, not hell, is what we, too, can expect if we die as sinners. If we are Christians, we must accept that conclusion as true, or we put at risk Jesus’ sacrifice for us. It means we don’t really believe in Him, as He asked us to do. You see, if we believe extra punishment, like hell fire and brimstone, is needed beyond the sinner’s death, then Jesus didn’t really atone for our sins.
That’s because, as we all know, He died on the cross, was buried the same day, and was raised back to eternal life on the third day. Nowhere in the Bible will you find a mention of Jesus burning in hell for our sins while in the grave. Therefore, if Jesus’s death was enough sacrifice for our sins, and keep in mind He was carrying the full load of sins for all humanity, then the complete punishment for sinners must be death.
Let me state this again so it registers with you. It’s a crucial part of our Christian faith that Jesus died for our sins and paid in full for them. If he did, then the punishment for sin must be death and death alone, not eternal torment, or brimstone, or the devil with a pitchfork turning you over in the fire.
If the latter were the punishment, then Jesus didn’t really die and atone for our sins, since He didn’t partake of the real punishment. And that can’t be, since it’s one of the cornerstones of our Christian beliefs. Do you see how the wrong dogma falls apart when you think about this?
If you’d like to have it explained in more detail, watch this video called “The Lake of Fire“.