Thursday, December 30, 2010

On the Deceptive Usage of the word "inerrant" by Christians

From the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy in the Bible


Article XIII

We affirm the propriety of using inerrancy as a theological term with reference to the complete truthfulness of Scripture.

We deny that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose. We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.

Looks like this is an unfalsifiable pseudoscience -- there doesn't seem to be anything they will accept as an error in the Bible, including the "reporting of falsehoods".

(I just wish I'd seen this years ago.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Love from Logos

[ A reply to Ryan, regarding the marriage of mathematics and metaphysics ]

The Divine Order, or "Logos" (500BCE version) would seem to include an important ontology, one that can be analyzed via information theory.

Specifically, game theory: The strategy for maximum benefit for all players in games of iterated Prisoner's Dilemmas is to "cooperate" with everyone but the "scorpions" in the game.

Like logic itself, this is a fundamental factor in how our universe operates. I've lately been calling this the "Golden Rule Ontology", and I think it has a profound influence in how we, and our universe, has evolved.

For instance, this ontology may explain how we have evolved a cooperative and (dare I say it?) loving instinct.

In other words: Part of the Divine Logos is "natural selection" for love to evolve in our universe. The source of love, then, is the Logos.

(brb, gotta hug my fiance, dog, & cats...)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

On The Deceptive Semantics of the Christian Usage of "God"

Quoting from Sweet & Viola's "Jesus Manifesto":

But the 'Good News' is that Jesus doesn't want us to be 'like' Him. He wants to share His resurrection life with us. He doesn't want us to imitate Him; instead, Christ wants to live in and through us. The gospel is not the imitation of Christ; it is the implantation and impartation of Christ. We are called to do more than mediate truth. We are called to manifest Jesus' presence.

This may be a fine Christian expression of piety -- but is it Holy?

I don't think so.

The Christian semantics revolving around their use of the terms "God" and "Jesus" and "Christ" demand the closest scrutiny, and a healthy dose of skepticism.

By my lights, a lot can be learned about the Christian point of view through a simple semantics exercise, substituting one word of theirs with another -- which they will _claim_ they regard as the same thing.

So substitute "God" where you see "Jesus", and with a little cleanup, what do we have?

But the 'Good News' is that God doesn't want us to be 'like' Him. He wants to share His eternal life with us. He doesn't want us to imitate Him; instead, God wants to live in and through us. The gospel is not the imitation of God; it is the implantation and impartation of God. We are called to do more than mediate truth. We are called to manifest God's presence.

This is Truth. I would have no problem expressing this very same redacted paragraph anywhere appropriate. But the sort of (so-called) "Orthodox Christians" that I hang out with will complain that this is a Gospel that excludes Jesus's particular experiences and sacrifices, and thus isn't Truth.

But that very reaction proves the lie that they bandy about as one of their "mysteries". To them, they mean "Jesus" as "God-the-Scapegoat", someone of a separate mind and experience that "God the Father".

(And for the nonce, I will set aside the matter of "God the Holy Spirit" -- but He is present in this article, just as surely as it is written with letters and punctuated.)

Getting back to the matter: when a Christian talks to a non-Christian, he will use the word "God" to mean -- in secret -- a very complex idea about the nature of God, what they call the "Holy Trinity". And since I am a fierce advocate of understanding, transparently, the precise semantics being used in such discussions, I think it is quite fair and just to ask Christians employing this device to define what they mean by "God", and examine what they say to that.

What you will find is the rationality of the discussion quickly degrades into a nonsense state, where a non-Christian will have to -- if only out of politeness -- allow the Christian his religious beliefs, as irrational as they may be. Because to them, the "Holy Trinity" is a "Mystery", meaning nobody understands it -- and any Christian who says they do is either lying or heterodox.

Some questions that arise:

...How many minds does God have?
...How many personalities does God have?

and if you wanted to get silly about it...

...Is God one being with multiple personality disorder?
...Did God sire Himself?

Though I do live in the United States -- where the evangelical "Christians"
continue to make quite a nuisance of themselves -- I see the kind of
poisonous crap these self-identified "Christians" are up to throughout the world. And in attempts to have rational discussions with Christians who consider themselves more "moderate" or "orthodox" than the wacko evangelicals: I find that they, too, seem thoroughly indoctrinated in their particular beliefs, to the point that rational discussion continues to fade from the venues where they have encysted.

That all would be fine and good, if these "evangelical" or "orthodox" "Christians" would stop being such nuisances in politics, the public square, and in complicated theological discourses about the nature of God, and evidence for His existence.

This latter matter is a big-ticket item for me at the moment. It seems to me that any evidence for the existence of God the Eternal ends up getting hijacked to oar the slave galleys of their own twisted world view. Because Christians are happy to glom-on to such arguments in favor of the existence of God the Eternal -- but won't stop there, but try to jam these more advanced theological and philosophical matters into their peculiar three-headed mold.

And when they try to make this square peg of "God the Eternal" fit into their "Mystery of the Holy Trinity", rational discussion ceases.

Christians even have a name for when they take a perfectly rational idea, and try to fit it into their irrational framework.

They call it "apologetics."

God the Eternal is, and always shall be: with us and in us. And through us, God makes manifest the woven tapestry we call "reality".

Thank you for your time.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Repost of Facebook Note

Repost of a Facebook Note from May of 2009:

I've had it sitting on my profile for a while, my "religious views" reading "sort of Christian/Buddhist with zen practice, Monism, maybe some Alan's complicated". I thought that i'd explain that to anyone who cared...probably not many folks at all, my friends tend to be secular agnostics, or atheists.

But in a nutshell: I'm more "spiritual" than religious. And with good reason: nobody really knows what consciousness/self-awareness itself is, so how are they going to attribute that to someone (or something) outside of themselves?

We don't even have a test to determine if someone is self-aware. And as Alan Watts puts it: a lot of folks think the universe is "dumb". But, yet, here we are, and we do each seem to have a sense of "self", and a sense that we occupy the space right behind our eyeballs, with our bodies sort of hanging down from each of us. We can probably figure out, at least in our own cases of "self", that part of the universe is "smart", not dumb.

Along these speculations: I have a good friend up at the U. of Toronto who turned me on to the zen philosopher Alan Watts. And I think Watts was definitely on to some very powerful ideas; he explored the meaning, structure, properties, etc. of human consciousness from his own zen perspective.

Watts' ideas are fascinating to comprehend. One such idea is this: just like an apple tree "apples" (verbing "apples" to indicate producing apples), the universe "peoples". But there, his analogy breaks down: because an apple tree will eventually drop its apples...but *we* continue to be a part of the universe. He had a great alternate explanation of this: Keep your eyes on the rocks, because: Watch out! The rocks will eventually grow people.

But we still have this illusion that there is the "I", and the rest of the world external to that. And not only that, but that "I" doesn't always include our bodies, either. (We don't say "I am a body", but "I have a body" -- in other words, we regard our bodies as "meat puppets".)

Most folks leave these ideas to the philosophers, theologians, scientists, and whomever has the "job" of "figuring all that out". But I do think that each and every person has their own philosophy about how they regard the world, even if they can't articulate in words what that is. So a "philosopher" is someone who has taken the time to share their own philosophy with the rest of us supposedly self-aware creatures.

But that doesn't mean you have to accept it (or do anything with philosophy whatsoever) -- it just means they had some ideas that they thought important to tell us about (for whatever reason). "Theology", in this definition, just means you (probably) have "God" or "Gods" or "Goddesses" or "cosmic muffins" or whatever wrapped up in your philosophy. (God knows I do.)

With some encouragement, I'll probably write (again) how I went from the religion of my childhood, to religious critic (esp. the one I grew up with) in high school, then through many years of theological speculation (including discussions with a friend who had been kicked out of more seminaries that he could count), then through some transformative events that left me wanting to figure out just _what_ I believed, if anything...

...and from there, developed a philosophy based on some counter-intuitive principles of game theory. Said principles suit me fine, and seem to be "hints" of a kind of "Higher Order" that is as subtle in our universe as our own consciousness...and just as difficult to quantify.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Combatting a Particularly Nasty Strain of Idol-Worship

There's no easy way to break this to fundamentalists, so I'm just going to state my conclusion "bang" -- then, while the fundies huff and puff themselves into apoplexy, I will explain my reasoning through an appeal to conscience.

"Sola Scriptura" is idol-worship of ancient texts.

A well-meaning fellow explains this thusly: "One thing that Sola Scriptura insists on is that only God is holy, all of humanity is not."

The only way to make sense of this statement is to accept your well-poisoning that "Scriptura" is "God".

At best, this is an error, and a circular argument. At worst, it illustrates exactly what I'm saying now: This is idol-worship.

Also, they apparently conflated "Sola Fide" with "Sola Scriptura", and overloaded "holy".

Indeed, this is something that needed to be brought up sooner or later anyway, so might as well bring it up now:

"One thing that Sola Scriptura insists on is that only God is holy, all of humanity is not."

Only if you overload "holy" to mean "perfect", in a classic black/white fallacy.

But in the real world -- where reasonable people live -- this is a greyscale: People are "more holy" and "less holy", not "holy" and "not holy".

And I'm telling you right now, that someone defending Genesis 6:6-7 without question is less holy than someone whose conscience is disturbed by that exposition.

Can you understand why to be fettered to this ideology is slavery to some pretty rotten ideas?

God is beyond human comprehension -- even if you say an author is "inspired!", God is still beyond his or her ken!

And this is why Judaism evolved beyond idol-worship, your "Ark of the Covenant", Asherah, tablets of the 10 Commandments, etc: because someone can come along and smash your graven image...and then what are you left with?

But: God, the Creator, abides -- not because of holding a text, or an ark, to be "sacred": but _despite_ the horrible things the so-called "fundamentalists" say about God!

Genesis 6:6: And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

RIIIIIGHT. Which is more likely in this case -- that God was caught off-guard, as the text implies...or that this is a legend about God, not to be taken literally?

Genesis 6:7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

"Man" means Humanity.

Including the babies.

Yes, dear fundamentalist, "Sola Scriptura" readers: The God _you_ worship (paraphrased): drowns babies because their parents caught Him off-guard.

That is not God, the Creator, that you worship: but a libelous legend about God that you hold to be "inerrant": thanks to your ideas of "Sola Scriptura". This is a graven image: an idol, a golden calf.

The Calvinist response to this is absolutely absurd and ridiculous: that God killing the babies in Gen 6:7 is not to be held to our quote "human standards" unquote of morality.

Yes, friends: These Calvists are called to live by their "Perfect Example", whom they find in Jesus Christ -- but we are to ignore the Example set by God's alleged previous dealings with humankind?

Ladies and gentlemen: If that is what it means to be a "True Christian" -- to ignore our consciences when evaluating a supposedly sacred text -- then count me out!

Because you self-proclaimed, alleged "True Christians" are shackled to a golden calf: the idol of this bronze-age doggerel that you proclaim to be "inerrant".

I do not say this lightly, nor with any amount of enjoyment -- but only, because somebody has to say it: It's this kind thinking, around this fundamentalist "Sola Scriptura" idol-worship, that is responsible for centuries of abject pain and misery.

And I am long past the age where I would feel good about such a proclamation. I write this with no pride or hubris, but as an absolutely wretched human being, miserable with heartache, to the point of pain and nausea.

God is so much more greater than any human being can write. I know this from personal experiences -- experiences that if I were to relate, very few reasonable people would understand or believe. Even I don't understand these experiences fully, and sometimes I believe that maybe I'd gone off my cams, rather than trust the evidence of my senses.

The Bible is a holy text, to be sure -- but inerrant? No: that is idol-worship, and anyone saying otherwise deserves scorn and rebuke.

If you have comments regarding this post, please post them here...but for now, I'm not going to look at comments, but will be with my loved ones, watching the sunrise.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Appeals to Human Conscience Not Considered Harmful

In discussions on Facebook, I have appealed to conscience several times. This has been met with the accusation of "special pleading".

But the human conscience would seem to be more reliable to Christians than others would posit.

Some people naturally obey the Law's commands, even though they don't have the Law. This proves that the conscience is like a law written in the human heart. And it will show whether we are forgiven or condemned, when God appoints Jesus Christ to judge everyone's secret thoughts, just as my message says.


Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

So let's not have any more hand-waving about the human conscience. I'm not talking about quibbling points of conscience -- I was talking about infantcide.

Unless someone's conscience is damaged, they know infantcide is evil. Therefore, if a so-called quote "scripture" says that such was done at the command of God, we know there is something suspect with the text.

Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword.

I maintain that God would not order such a thing, and that it is absurd to defend infantcide (if it did, in fact, even occur) -- or defend the text, which we know to be defective because of this absurdity.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Advice to Rational Philosophers (who may happen to be Theologians)

The Journal of the Society of Christian Philosophers is _Faith and Philosophy_, on whose web site appears an article by Alvin Plantinga, "Advice to Christian Philosophers".

The gentleman's article is flawed. Because of circumstances, his article becomes the jumping-off point for my own advice. Dr. Plantinga writes:

Many Christian philosophers appear to think of themselves qua philosophers as engaged with the atheist and agnostic philosopher in a common search for the correct philosophical position vis a vis the question whether there is such a person as God. Of course the Christian philosopher will have his own private conviction on the point; he will believe, of course, that indeed there is such a person as God. But he will think, or be inclined to think, or half inclined to think that as a philosopher he has no right to this position unless he is able to show that it follows from, or is probable, or justified with respect to premises accepted by all parties to the discussion-theist, agnostic and atheist alike. Furthermore, he will be half inclined to think he has no right, as a philosopher, to positions that presuppose the existence of God, if he can't show that belief to be justified in this way. What I want to urge is that the Christian philosophical community ought not think of itself as engaged in this common effort to determine the probability or philosophical plausibility of belief in God. The Christian philosopher quite properly starts from the existence of God, and presupposes it in philosophical work, whether or not he can show it to be probable or plausible with respect to premises accepted by all philosophers, or most philosophers at the great contemporary centers of philosophy.
So in terms of modern philosophy -- with our modern understanding of epistemology -- the gentleman thinks it "quite proper" to putting the cart before the horse. His paper, in my view, should be titled "Advice to Christian Theologists" -- because his advice, thus outlined, does no scientific good for philosophy in general -- Christian or otherwise.

Now, I happen to hold the position that there are very good reasons to believe in a God -- reasons which, alas, would never be admitted as "scientific" by modern epistemological standards. If I'm reading Dr. Plantinga right -- and please, correct me if I'm wrong -- it would seem that the gentleman is advising against any philosophical discourse about the possible existence of God for his audience, whom he calls "Christian Philosophers".

I think we human beings would benefit from much more rigor in this discussion: by my lights, too much of it has been weasel-worded into unproductive semantics that do more to hide one's own motivations that honestly express ideas. To me, a "philosopher" who argues her points with the a-priori position that God exists, is better termed a "theologian".

Because otherwise: If one were to rise in support of the philosophies attributed to Jesus Christ, without discussing the _theology_ of Jesus, then how would we term such a person? Can we agree that such people could be called "Christian philosophers", even if mainstream Christianity doesn't consider them "Christian" by their standards?

If you accept my definitions of "philosopher" -- "Christian" or otherwise -- as well as "theologian", then I daresay we've managed to find the title of a most interesting paper, which one might call: "A Philosopher's Defense of Theism." Because it seems to me that that is as close as one can get to theology in today's English usage and epistemology.

But if a Christian philosopher decided to defend her philosophy with rational existentialism? Those ideas would be beneficial to all philosophers, regardless about what the believe about the theology of Jesus.

My next article will be "An Existential Defense of the Golden Rule".

The Prisoner's Dilemma problem in Game Theory is discussed in terms of the very fabric of the Universe: the strategy for maximum benefit in multiple iterations of Prisoner's Dilemma's is -- counterintuitively -- cooperation. This ontology is explored in terms of the Golden Rule.

Scott Doty

Santa Rosa, California


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Regarding the "Golden Rule Ontology"

I had been making two assumptions when developing the idea of an ethics based on the apparent existential ontology of the "Golden Rule" being part of our universe. Underlying my previous discussions were three ideas:

The first is a reason to have a system of ethics in the first place; the second is -- having decided that a system of ethics is a good thing to have -- why that would be done within a scientific framework; and then finally deciding on that, how exactly it would be done.

(And as you can see above, underpinning my reasoning for having ethics is the definition of "good"...)

A discussion on the Facebook group "Faith Interface" with a Mr. Peter Grice brought this to light, and resulted in his disucssion of how we justify ethics (and/or morals). He posits a "presumption of [objective] morality" when talking about naturalism -- a thorny problem in naturalist philosophies. I myself subscribe to a theistic source of conscience (as seen in previous blog posts), BUT...

I wonder if we do better with a more complicated theistic justification, when a simpler one might do: sort of an Occam's Razor of supernatural presumption, when attempting to find the basis for our innate sense of right and wrong.

It's tough to examine our own conscience, our "moral compass", since it would seem to be part of our consciousness. And the source of _that_ remains very elusive.

I forget where I first read some cosmologist's idea that consciousness would be found to be more fundamental to the universe than we currently regard it. At a most basic level, we regard the universe as "I" and "everything else". So to consider ourselves as part of that "everything else" would be to rebel against the very situation we ordinarily perceive -- even though that "everything else" includes other people with other minds, that (we assume through shared experience) regard the universe in the same way we do.

Indeed, some naturalists seem almost embarrassed that self-awareness should exist at all, much less arising from some of the fine structure of the universe. So when Clayton talks about the non-determinism in QM, he's talking about effects -- such as wave function collapse -- that would seem to be affected by an observer. But if the observer's consciousness is somehow part of of the experiment, that leaves us with another kind of "non-determinism": the observer's own mind.

So my first point is this: We aren't talking about an either/or, but a gray scale of naturalism vs. supernaturalism. So the preposition of "least supernaturalism" -- that things tend to happen by natural processes: given two explanations for a phenomenon, the one with the least amount of supernatural influence is more likely to be the correct explanation.

Meanwhile, the lessons of AI research -- as well as all cognitive sci. -- is that our minds are very enigmatic things. If people take the time to consider their own consciousness, we can't help but intuit our own minds as "supernatural". Some Cog. scientists think our minds are simply the emergent properties of our brains -- but that doesn't explain where the "I" that we all have comes from.

So, I propose that the ultimate least amount of supernaturalism we must necessarily regard in our universe is determining the source of the "'I' mystery". So if we can incorporate that _source_ into justification for having a system of ethics, it should (if I'm right) follow the principle of "least supernaturalism".

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Scott Doty's Religious Autobiography

The following is a kind of "religious autobiography", for those wondering where I'm coming from. Sent to Americans United for the Separation of Church and State Associate Director for Religious Outreach.

My Religious Autobiography

My mother is a very devout Roman Catholic, and I was baptised and raised within that religion. This included being an altar boy, attending summer camp, and other activities sponsored by the Santa Rosa diocese.

I did attend public school, however, and in 1983-85 attended a high school that offered access to their new computer lab for interested students. I attribute a great deal of my critical thinking skills to the learning of software logic, as well as exploring and creating new software systems. This included my Advanced Placement courses in Computer Science and Mathematics in my senior year.

Meanwhile, during this late adolescence, I was attending a course intended to prepare us church youth for the RC Sacrament of Confirmation. It was here that I applied my critical thinking skills to ask some skeptical questions of the Church -- questions that neither the (lay) program leaders nor their religious advisor (a priest) could adequately answer. The result: the priest recommended that I drop out of the Confirmation program, and this was conveyed to me through the lay program leaders. (I never did meet with the priest.)

Over the years leading up to this, my mother had been more and more religiously minded, which (due to its affect on our family) I consider having become obsessive, even morbid. So at the age of 17, when my parents separated, my mother was afflicted with psychosis, exacerbated by her religious fears. The result: days later, she had a paranoid psychotic episode, for which I was finally able to get her to an acute psych ward for treatment. As sheltered as my upbringing was, the decision to take her to the hospital was difficult, requiring a kind of adult thinking that hadn't been any part of my life before. I was very happy when my father finally arrived at the hospital, who was very supportive in allaying my doubts and fears about my decision-making.

(Sidenote: My mother, thanks to ongoing treatment, has conquered the symptoms of her diagnosis of schizophrenia -- she is a wonderful person: loving, balanced, and tolerant of her adult children's life choices. I love her dearly.)

Fast forward to 1986: After a semester at Santa Rosa Junior College, I moved to live with my father and his family in San Franscisco, attending a semester at the city community college. After that, I enlisted in the United State Coast Guard, serving 4 years and three months active duty. My rating is now known as "Telecommunications Specialist" -- but at the time, it was called "Radioman". And in 1991, I was released from active duty as a Petty Officer, Second Class. Throughout all this, I was in a state of religious apostacy, though I held to my religious upbringing.

My stint in the USCG left me with a strong desire to help others, but also ignited a fierce passion for learning. Returning to SRJC in 1991, I attended courses in the sciences, including Astronomy and Archaeology -- even a course in Old Testament scholarship. But my strongest passion was for systems and network engineering, as I worked at SRJC's Computing Services to network the campus. 1991 was also the year that SRJC got their first Internet connection -- an event that, for me, was absolutely breathtaking when I realized what we had.

And so, Internet access expanded my learning capabilities so much, that I embarked -- without realizing it -- on a long journey of non-traditional education covering Astronomy, Philosophy, Physics, Theology, and Information Theory: including Queue Theory and Game Theory. The focus for all this learning was both the systems and networking careers that I continued...but also, discussions on the Usenet, a world-wide discussion system that still exists today.

Survival in Usenet discussions includes a healthy knowledge of critical thinking, as well as polemics -- a fact of life that has carried over to many of today's online forum discussions. This is also where I develop (and discussed) my scientifically skeptical philosophy, including reading books recommended from various Usenet FAQ's and discussions.

This narrative has grown long, so I won't go into my involvement in a number of First Amendment issues that arose at SRJC during its telecommunications "growing pains". But I will mention that I left their employ in 1995: partially because of a First Amendment issue, but also due to our company -- -- having grown enough that my attentions were needed full-time. That workload grew in intensity until 1998, when I burned-out.

After a period of recovery, I then continued the same workload for another two years, at which time I again "burned-out" again in 2000. I say "burned-out" in scare-quotes, because the actual event that led to a re-evaluation of my life -- including my religious life -- was, in thought, an epiphany; and in physical effects, was a kind of seizure in which I did not lose consciousness. I don't think about it much anymore, but I continue to be baffled about what exactly happened that morning -- but the result was a period of spiritual renewal, within which I underwent many religious experiences that cemented my faith in God. This included my first confession, in over 10 years, with the only Fransciscan priest in the Santa Rosa diocese -- a selection I made after much wandering in local parks, "walking quietly in the woods", and marveling at God's Creation. I'd also attended mass at a local RC parish, which I must say was a much more loving environment than the cold, stark parish that I'd grown up in.

Today, I am semi-retired, and have spare time that I fill with political, religious, and technological discussions online. I am a person: a particular nexus, the confluence of all these experiences and ideas -- and subsequent discussions therefrom -- which forms a healthy life of continuing non-traditional education. And as an advocate for human rights, I consider the First Amendment one of the most important restrictions on human government that the world has ever known.

And though my "first passion" is open source software and systems, I discuss my religious ideas online, too. A lot.

I have discussions with atheists, usually from the standpoint that their disgust for religion is warranted, if they only consider the ugly and aggregious statements and actions of religious extremists.

I have discussions, too, with a certain set of Christian apologists: which lately has been more about ecumenism and tolerance for other religions.

I guess, in a way, I'm a kind of "Unitarian Universalist apologist", advocating something I call "Rational Theology".

But back to the First Amendment. It seems like an easy idea: we need to keep human government secular, because it is impossible to equally protect the religious rights of everybody, if any one religion is favored by government. It is also odious to a free people to tax them to fund activities to support a religion that they don't subscribe to. This is rational, and rational people find these to be good ideas.

But religious extremists aren't rational.

So I continue to support the good work you all do at, and I'm proud to be a member. I've signed up for the monthly auto-donation program -- please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help.

Scott Doty

Santa Rosa, California, 2010-01-28

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bob Coy's Errors Regarding "COEXIST"

So after a few posts on this blog -- including some posts to Twitter -- I connected with @TheActiveWord, from which come the prosthelytizing views of one Pastor Bob Coy.

It's been an interesting week or so, seeing the views being broadcast from the Twitter handle, mostly using YouTube as a video medium...but alas, the one time I addressed them with criticism, they failed to engage in the conversation.

Then I came across another of Rev. Coy's unconscionable vlog posts, for which any rational American Patriot would have some pointed questions.

Here is the video, regarding the popular "COEXIST" bumper sticker:

The most obvious error that Rev. Coy makes is regarding any scriptual text as the literal "word of God." This Biblical literalism we see here in our United States remains one of the most unAmerican and, indeed, poisonous viewpoints to our God-given religious rights, protected as they are in our secular democratic republic.

Specifically, Rev. Coy engages in the logical fallacy of "false choice": He claims that since only one of these scriptural texts he mentions "must be right", and that they would seem to be (he claims) mutually exclusive, that the whole "COEXIST" idea is without merit.

Of course, Rev. Coy is free to employ logical fallacies in his arguments -- he just shouldn't expect rational people to accept such arguments.

Because, in fact, the idea without merit in this discussion is Rev. Coy's idea that any scriptural text is the literal word of God. Such a view finds very little traction in academia or mainstream Christianity -- a fact that Rev. Coy will either ignore or deny vehemently, depending on how much he wants to appeal to his fellow extremists.

Meanwhile, American Patriots might want to compare and contrast Rev. Coy's views with the Human Rights protected by our U.S. Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

And thank God for the First Amendment: I personally believe that our God-given right to religious freedom cannot be protected adequately in any nation with a state religion. Toward this, I strongly support the Rev. Barry Lynn's organization, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

In conclusion: The "COEXIST" bumper sticker is a clever, American, and meritorious meme that deserves the widest dissemination in our Marketplace of Ideas -- whereas the Rev. Coy's criticisms thereof defy any sense of reason. My advice to the Rev. Bob Coy is to de-radicalize his thinking with more theological scholasticism.

(He can start by recognizing that the Torah is the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Christian Old Testament. Oops.)

That's my story, and I'm sticking with it.

Scott Doty
Santa Rosa, CA, 2010-01-17

Thursday, January 7, 2010

On the Nature of the Holy Spirit

I once had a discussion with a Franciscan priest who had been part of ecumenical activities of the RC church. In a nutshell: he had "co-prayed" with Buddhists.

At one point, I brought up my idea that the "Big Self" of Buddhism could be equated with the Holy Spirit. His eyes got very wide, then he changed the subject.

At the time, I had this idea of God being "a force"...not quite like "the Force" of the Star Wars Jedi, but "something out there".

But "force" is a part of the Universe -- the expenditure of energy (part of the Universe). And matter is part of the Universe, too, as well as space and time itself.

So we know what God isn't -- he is outside of His Creation, something that we can't even begin to fathom.

Meanwhile, some physicists think consciousness itself may be more fundamental to the Universe than we think.

And we have an idea in Eastern theology of "monism", vs. the (mostly) "dualism" of Western religions. Buddhism, for instance, is older that Christianity, and has this. Monism is the idea that all sentient beings are part of God.

The doctrine of an Eternal God the Creator also being part of some aspects of His Creation is a very appealing one, and I think Christianity neatly synthesized those monistic elements into a doctrine of "God-the-Father"+"God-the-Holy-Spirit" being God, period. The contemporary doctrine being dualism, I think this is as close to monism as they could get w/out being laughed out of the public square -- or worse.

(Remember, dear trinitarians: it wasn't until over 300 years after Jesus' birth that His divinity was canonized.)

So I refer to the Holy Spirit as "that Divine Spark in all of us" -- something fundamentally part of our consciousness, particularly our conscience. But that's just pretty language -- a "spark" is still more energy, and the Holy Spirit isn't energy, being part of God.

Instead, I see the Holy Spirit as being something very fundamental to the very fabric of the Universe, and that part of us that gives rise to free will with a guiding, God-given Conscience.

I think we can agree that the human part of Jesus was a man of great Conscience, filled with the Holy Spirit -- and he was crucified because of it.

Michael Servetus was also such a man of Conscience. He, too, was filled with the Holy Spirit -- and they burned him as a heretic.

Then there are the people in the world who do evil...even in God's name. They've lost touch with the Holy Spirit (or never listened to Him to begin with) leaving them utterly without moral compass.

And finally: some denominations depend on certain behaviors -- such as glossolalia -- as "proof" of being caught up with the Holy Spirit. Folks of this persuasion might be interested in the book "Battle for the Mind":

Scott Doty


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Christian Way

The Christian Way

In my "Advice to Rational Philosophers (who may happen to be Theologists)", I said that my next article would be "an existential defensive of the Golden Rule."

But on further reflection, that may be jumping the gun. A "great need" has arisen for explaining to the more staunch "orthodox Christians" why the Golden Rule is so important, along with the First Commandment.

Why are the important? Because Jesus said that the Old Testament all hung on those two commandments.

Jesus also said this is what one needs for eternal life.

Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. "Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?" He answered, "What's written in God's Law? How do you interpret it?" He said, "That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself." "Good answer!" said Jesus. "Do it and you'll live."
(Luke 10:25-28 - MSG)
These synoptic verses embody, in very plain language, the essence of Christian Soteriology. Furthermore, Matthew adds the idea that "everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from" these commandments.
Jesus said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them."
(Matthew 22:37-40 - MSG)
Even further: we have very good reason to believe that Jesus was being very precise with his language, since he was talking to a religious scholar -- that is, a "Sharia Lawyer" -- who was trying to trip him up. As an aside, we do know from history[1] that the Pharisees weren't necessarily the bad guys they seem in New Testament...but since they have come to be associated with the evils of a lawyer-esque approach to religion, I will refer to them as "New Testament Pharisees", or NTP's.

There are NTP's today, who profess to be "orthodox Christian" -- but do not live by the two commandments Jesus said were the necessities for eternal life. And ironically, there are people who profess other religions who do live by those two commandments -- and at the risk of offending them, I will say that they live a life sanctioned by the essence of Christian Soteriology as outlined above. I hereby say that they live "in a Christian Way".

Isn't that nice? Sir, it is pie...but if it were in the power of the NTP's of the world, they would burn me as a heretic.

Don't believe me? Let's discuss for a moment about what isn't a part of the Christian Way:

  • Baptism -- infant or otherwise
  • Tithing
  • Belonging to any religion in particular, Christian or otherwise
  • Attending church every Sunday, or on "holy days of obligation", or what-have-you
  • Diet
  • Circumcision
  • "Receiving Holy Communion" or "Taking Offering", or whatever
  • Believing in miracles one cannot see, such as those of Transubstantiation, or Consubstantiation, or other human doctrines
  • Believing in (yet another) physical Resurrection and Assumption into Heaven
  • Believing in (yet another) Virgin birth
  • Believing in any particular (or even "mysterious") aspects of God, including trinitarianism.
  • Murdering so-called "heretics"
Many of these practices don't conflict with the Christian Way -- but they are human inventions that confound the very essence of Christian Soteriology. Further: to put it nicely, it does a disservice to Jesus' message -- the Gospel, the Good News -- to claim that any of these listed items are necessary for Christian Salvation.

Final discussion

I linked above to the Wikipedia article on Michael Servetus, whose entry I came across while reading about Unitarian Universalism (UU). It would be interesting to compare & contrast Calvin's attack, and subsequent conspiracy to murder Servetus: with the kind of outrageous, hateful, and erroneous actions undertaken by the modern "religious right" here in our United States.

And that "religious right" -- these New Testament Pharisees -- will no-doubt question what Jesus meant by "God", "Love", and "Neighbor" in the verses I've quoted...and in doing so, they will be tearing apart the very Good News, the Christian Way, that Jesus spoke -- and which they largely ignore.

Scott Doty

Santa Rosa, California

2009-01-06 - Feast of the Epiphany for some.

[1] Citation from "Isaac Asimov's Guide to the Bible, Vol. 2 needed