March 10

even Stefan Molyneux believes in miracles

I’ve been meaning for some time now to address some things Stefan Molyneux has said in his videos over the course of the past few years. Over the past year or so, I’ve listened to probably the majority of his videos – and there are a lot of them – dealing with anarchism, and I am very much in favor of what he advocates, as far as the politics goes. However, on the religious side of things, I am a Christian and Stefan is an atheist, and he tends to say things that don’t truly represent Christianity. Consequentially, he tends to look at everything in a very secular light, where he takes the possibility of miracles or anything that we might consider “supernatural” or “anti-scientific” completely out of the equation.

The reason I title this writing “even Stefan Molyneux believes in miracles” is because I think that no matter what your religious persuasion – Christian, atheist, whatever – there is one circumstance that you strictly cannot deal with outside of supernaturality – and that is, existence itself. Basically, there are three different cases to explain how we are here (existence):

  • matter was created by God (whom always existed)
  • matter always existed (implying infinite history)
  • matter did not exist and then did (conservation of mass?)

Any way you slice it, mere existence is “anti-scientific”.

Also, just as a side note – Stef likes to refer to God as a “square circle”, or an impossibility by definition, stating that He cannot be omniscient and omnipotent, and I take exception to that. His reasoning is that if God were omniscient then He would be all-knowing and would know His future plans, and therefore couldn’t change his future plans, meaning He would not be omnipotent. I think this is pretty deceptive and intellectually dishonest, and definitely not sound. If God had a plan and then needed to change it, He simply would have already known He was going to change it. It’s really pretty simple… it’s just a clever twist on the age-old “can God create a rock so heavy that even he cannot lift it?” paradox… just much less confounding and silly, and a bit more cunning.

Category: Christianity, religion | Comments Off on even Stefan Molyneux believes in miracles
March 8

RE: 10 questions that every intelligent Christian must answer

What follows is my logical, educated, and intelligent response to 10 questions I recently saw posed in a video critical of the Christian faith called 10 questions that every intelligent Christian must answer. As the questions attempt to approach the Christian “in spite of” their faith, I will attempt to approach the answers in the same manner.

Question #1: Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?

Though not constrained by them because of His omnipotence, God tends to work within the bounds of natural laws governing our physical world – in fact, there are solid cases for scientific (rather than “magical”) explanations for almost everything He has ever done, including Creation. Most occurrences regarded as miracles (at least, those which are detectable by humans) could be explained away by secular means – they are, however, usually extremely improbable by rational measures, and over a series of occurrences, are recognized as more than just patterns of coincidental, infinitesimally small “chance” encounters of good fortune by those who are not blinded by doubt.

Of course, before Jesus’ birth (in the Old Testament), God did reveal Himself in much more direct ways – however, because of Jesus’ salvation, God no longer had a need to physically manifest Himself in our world – Jesus paid the price for our sins, and God leaves the onus of whether to believe on us (at least, in a manner of speaking). And, during his time on earth, Jesus healed a leper and a blind man – both miracles of the same nature posed here – both well-documented, eyewitness cases.

Specifically regarding amputees, it is important to realize that God does not create miracles – at least in the modern age – that fly in the face of measurable, natural laws. This question is a clever twist on the age-old paradox “Can God create a rock so heavy that even He cannot lift it?”. It is not a question of God’s power or whether He answers prayer, but instead a deceitful manner of asking “can 1 = 0?”, and the answer is, of course not.

It is important at this point to establish a principle that can be applied to this as well as many of the rest of the questions going forward: it is up to God to decide how His justice is best done – in this specific instance, whether or not to grant our requests – since He is the perfect Creator and we are not, and much (perhaps most) of the time, what we think is “best” (our requests) are not in line with His perfect will. This can perhaps best be summed up in the quote, “God always answers our prayers, but sometimes the answer is no.”

Question #2: Why are there so many starving children in our world?

Because of Satan’s choice to turn against God and his subsequent fall from God’s grace, sin exists. Because Satan deceived humans who in turn chose to turn against God, sin was introduced into the world. Because of the existence of sin, there is pain and suffering – including starvation. In the absence of sin, nobody would ever suffer, including children. However, God does not promise His children the absence of sin in this world, but instead, after it is gone, along with its pain and suffering. It is important to note that the Creator is the only entity among us qualified to judge His own justice – for as the Bible teaches in Romans 9:21, “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”

The asker implies that if God existed, He would answer the prayers of all who pray for an end to child starvation. But as we established earlier, God always answers our prayers – but sometimes the answer is no, for the reasons we’ve just set forth. It is important to realize that the reason many children in our world starve is not because God makes them, but because Satan does. This in no way belittles the very real and distressing fact that there are are children suffering even at this very moment – but Christianity, via the Bible, teaches that it is not this life that matters or that will be remembered, but the next.

Question #3: Why does God demand the death of so many innocent people in the Bible?

The issue here is in the presupposition of the question – that everyone is “innocent”. The Bible in fact teaches that all men are born in sin, and therefore guilty before our perfect God. The Bible verses specifically quoted pertain to commissioners of particular sins for which God has specified a penalty – however, these penalties are issued in the Old Testament. Christ’s death changed everything. Because Jesus paid the ultimate penalty for our sins, we are no longer commanded to issue such penalties upon others, in accordance with grace – however, ultimate justice will be God’s.

Question #4: Why does the Bible contain so much anti-scientific nonsense?

Again, the question makes an errant presupposition – that all of the events which it subsequently refers to are “anti-scientific”. The first in question, Creation, is of course supernatural. However, did matter itself not come into existence “supernaturally”, no matter what the source? Either matter always existed (implying infinite history), or matter did not exist and then did (conservation of mass?), or matter was created by God (whom always existed). Any way you slice it, mere existence is “anti-scientific”.

The asker then makes a number of claims without evidence and which he could not know – and, in fact, specifically contradicting actual testimony from the Bible. The claims in question are “The Flood”, “Jonah and the Whale”, and “the Creation of Adam”. There is actually a significant amount of scientific data supporting The Flood. It is not impossible that a man lived inside a whale for days – it may be considered a miracle, but even at that, the story never contradicts any natural laws. The Creation of Adam goes along with Creation, above.

Question #5: Why is God such a huge proponent of slavery in the Bible?

From the first two verses the asker refers to in support of this supposition, we can understand what he is implying. Said verses are:

20 “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, 21 but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.

Exodus 21:20-21

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Colossians 3:22-24

The first thing we must do is address the fact that the asker is being intellectually dishonest. Nowhere in these verses is God portrayed as “a huge proponent of slavery”. God is simply addressing the reality that, because men are of sinful nature, slavery exists. Therefore, because of sin and slavery, God commanded that the masters show justice even towards their slaves, and that even the slaves be joyful in all that they do, because they do it not for their masters, but for God.

Question #6: Why do bad things happen to good people?

If there was any person whom “bad things” did not happen to, we would say that person has “a perfect life”. God does not give “good” people – or even His children, Christians – a perfect life, and as sinners, we are not worthy of such. Even Christ, the only man who ever walked the earth without sin – a perfect man – endured a life of much hardship, culminating in an extremely painful death. In fact, to suppose that bad things should never happen to good people would be to imply that good people should never die.

Christians do not believe that only good things will happen to them – in fact, the Bible teaches that because of their faith, Christians will endure much hardship and persecution. One must look no further than Job, whom God calls “blameless and upright… the greatest man among all the people of the East.” (Job 1:1-2). Because of his great faith, Job endured a series of trials and tribulations, carried out by Satan, that left him a broken man – however, because his faith did not falter, God rewarded him many times over.

Faith in God does not magically make good things (in the worldly sense) happen to anybody. Faith in God, though, allows us to deal with the bad things with the knowledge that His will is being done and through it all, He will be praised.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

Job 1:21

Question #7: Why didn’t any of Jesus’ miracles leave behind any evidence?

As mentioned earlier, Jesus performed miracles such as healing a leper and a blind man. This is fact was empirical evidence; the leper overcame leprosy, the blind man overcame his blindness. It is unclear what kind of evidence the asker requests; no, Jesus did not miraculously create a timeless art piece to endure all generations, but to require the such is a bit silly. Frankly, Jesus has nothing to prove to man – dying on the cross for our sins was quite enough.

Question #8: How do we explain the fact that Jesus has never appeared to you?

With all due respect to the asker, this question appears to be simply a misunderstanding of the Christian faith. Christians do not believe that Jesus is still on earth or that he “appears” to people here and there. Jesus lives at the right hand of his Father, God, in Heaven, where he will stay until his return.

Question #9: Why would Jesus want you to eat his body and drink his blood?

Some religions – Catholicism being the major one – believe that the bread and wine of Communion literally “become” Jesus’ actual body and blood. This belief is known as transubstantiation. However, we must make a distinction between Catholicism and Christianity, as the former does not believe in salvation via Christ’s sacrifice and God’s grace alone, but alongside works.

Most Christians believe that Communion is symbolic instead of literal. However, either belief does not necessarily make one a Christian or not. Jesus said “This do in remembrance of me.” What is important is simply that Christians follow this command in taking Communion.

Question #10: Why do Christians get divorced at the same rate as non-Christians?

Let us first establish a truth that can be applied to people who commit all sorts of sins, but whom call themselves Christians. The Bible plainly states that some who outwardly call themselves Christians are in fact not:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Matthew 7:21-23

The Bible tells us the difference between the wheat and the chaff:

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

Psalm 1:4

And the Bible implies that faith without works is dead:

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

James 2:14-17

So we know that some who live in sin yet profess Christianity are hypocrites and in fact remain dead in their sin. Yet there are still many true Christians who still fall to sins such as divorce every day. How can that be? Well, we have already established that no man is perfect, including Christians. We are all born of a sinful nature and while the Christian faith redeems us, it does not change our outwardly worldly nature. Christians are still exposed every day to the same sins, the same temptations, the same struggles as the unbeliever.

But, even after all that, we know one thing: Jesus’ sacrifice and God’s mercy is greater than any sin that any man could ever commit. God knows that no man can or will ever live up to His perfection. But in His infinite love, He has given us only one requirement in order to partake of eternal salvation: believe. If we do so with a true heart, He will never leave us, and though we will continue to stumble every day, we know that He will be there to pick us up again and again and again.

Conclusion

I hope that this has cleared up the Christian response to these questions. Please leave any additional comments below!

sources:
  1. http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/what-is-the-biblical-evidence-for-original-sin
  2. http://www.ministryhealth.net/mh_articles/016_principles_of_suffering_outline.html
January 31

the top 10 Firefox extensions

what follows is a list of the top 10 Firefox extensions I use, in no particular order.

Firebug

Firebug is a tool I use every day as a web developer. This isn’t meant to be a power users-only post, but there’s no way to get around it – Firebug is the most valuable extension (MVE!) I’ve ever used. I use it for non-web development tasks all the time as well – for example, if you get to know how to use it well, you’ll be able to do some light hacking like getting around javascript timers on DMV driving class websites ;)

Xmarks Sync

Xmarks Sync is clutch for anyone with more than one computer that hates having disjointed bookmarks. Xmarks allows you to sync your bookmarks between multiple machines, saving a ton of hassle. It was in peril of being shut down, but luckily it was recently bought and will continue as a freebie.

Form History Control

Form History Control allows you to see all of the saved form entries in your browser. It is useful for managing/deleting saved form information which you may not realized Firefox had saved, but which could be detrimental if it fell into the wrong hands (such as credit card numbers, etc).

DownThemAll!

DownThemAll! is simply a download manager done well. I sometimes have issues downloading from sites like rapidfire, however, that tends to be on the site end, not on this software. Useful if you download big files that need to be paused and continued.

HTTPS Everywhere

HTTPS Everywhere is one of my favorite extensions because it treats a growing internet problem: stolen credentials. Many sites have a secure https option, but do not default to it, such as Twitter (and, just recently, Facebook). This extension will check to see if the site you’re visiting has https (or SSL), and if so, redirect you. No more stolen login information when you login from Starbucks.

StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon simply assists in finding interesting new websites when you’re bored. A simple interface and sure to send you somewhere cool after a few clicks.

ReminderFox

ReminderFox is a to-do/checklist manager. Nothing fancy, but it gets the job done!

Screengrab

Screengrab allows you to take screenshots from your browser in a number of different formats. Most machines have fullscreen capture built-in, but Screengrab allows selections, which is a timesaver.

YSlow

YSlow is another developer tool that tells you why your site is loading slow. Of course, my site loads slow, but that’s just because I’m too cheap for a new server ;)

Extended Copy Menu

Extended Copy Menu is probably the simplest of these extensions, but also one that I use most often (now that Copy Plain Text has died). In trying to be efficient, I am constantly copy/pasting text between web pages. I usually end up having to paste into a plaintext area (like the URL bar) and then re-copy/paste so that I don’t get the text formatting along with it. Now? Problem solved :)

What are your favorite extensions? Let me know in the comments!

Category: geek, top 10 | Comments Off on the top 10 Firefox extensions
December 7

Wikileaks: good or bad?

the issue

Julian Assange, the man behind Wikileaks, has recently become a household name – but does he garner fame, or infamy? My first instinct was the former – that Wikileaks (or “WL”) is a “good” thing – but, like any levelheaded political enthusiast should, I decided to take a closer look. Assange has been under attack from the “right” AND “left”, an honor not often bestowed but currently shared by the TSA. Huckabee has called for his execution and Gingrich calls him an enemy combatant, while Obama wants him for espionage and Clinton charges him of “an attack on the international community”. But is there logic and reason behind these flurries of words, or might they be passionate but reckless verbal assaults?

The prevailing charge against Wikileaks is simply that it endangers American and other lives. One would presume that the released documents list names of individuals who would be compromised should they become known to the “enemy”, whoever that may be at the time. However, upon researching, one finds that before being leaked, the documents are first redacted – that is, sanitized of such personal information as specific names. How then does Wikileaks put lives at risk? According to the Pentagon, at least in August: “We have yet to see any harm come to anyone in Afghanistan that we can directly tie to exposure in the Wikileaks documents.”

How, then, can the faces of media outlets make such cursory claims? The answer, of course, is that journalism has become a lost art, at least in the mainstream. High-ranking government officials, too, should be held to a higher standard before lashing out – but at this point in our governmental discourse, we know standards have gone out the window. But never fear, there are some of us remaining out in the Inter-ether who’ve retained the skill of objective and impartial research and reporting, and thus I present “the rest of the story”.

the rest of the story

The most recently-released cables, known as “Cablegate” – while flushing out most of the newest media hype and backlash – are in reality little more than a PR embarrassment for the US, for the majority. However, there is evidence of at least one critical document which was leaked: a list of facilities ‘vital to US security’. To quote the article:

There are obvious pieces of strategic infrastructure like communications hubs, gas pipelines and so on. However, other facilities on the list include:

* Cobalt mine in Congo
* Anti-snake venom factory in Australia
* Insulin plant in Denmark

It is not clear whether the document reveals exact locations of these sites, or merely that they exist. However, let us assume the worst. If the document reveals exact locations of sites ‘vital to US security’, let us ask one question: how was such a document made so accessible to so many with low-level federal clearances? Anyone who isn’t a felon or a raging alcoholic can relatively easily get a ‘secret’ clearance; I’m pretty sure I had one to work for VDOT during a college internship. The highest clearance level of any of the leaked documents was ‘secret’. Nothing was ‘top secret’ or ‘classified’. If such information is so critical… why not?

the conclusion

The reason people are so scared of Wikileaks, particularly the higher-ups in the administration, is because it makes clear on many levels the incompetence of the federal government. It causes embarrassment, and it is easier to band together against a fall guy like Assange, than admit that our own government is vulnerable and, at least to an extent, incompetent regarding such things as potentially important to our national security as “state secrets”.

For the civil liberties-minded among us, the Wikileaks have led to many positive outcomes, such as this headline: UN urges US and Iraq to probe Wikileaks torture claims. There is an old Latin phrase: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” which translates to “Who watches the watchmen?” Watchdog expose’s are often controversial, and while Wikileaks may cause the US gov heaps of embarrassment and pain, the common US citizen must exercise careful deliberation and weighing of all sides (there are more than two here) before joining behind mouthpieces like Huckabee or Gingrich, grabbing the pitchforks, and yelling “kill him!” in common mob mentality. Nobody throws the ‘traitor’ card when other ‘journalists’ convey important leaked information from ‘inside sources’ in the government. There is no principal difference here; only scale.

the moral

In this electronic age, if one document gets into the wrong hands, it can never be taken back. And where one site gets offed, ten more will pop up. Claiming that Wikileaks should be shutdown (or worse) is akin to Senator Jay Rockefeller’s claim that the “Internet should have never existed” because of the high amount of hacking attempts on high-profile DoD databases every day. If DoD databases are vulnerable, take them off the Internet. And if government documents are vulnerable, restrict access to them. But, fedgov, don’t push your intel failures onto a scapegoated watchdog website. That’s Wikilame. WIKILAME.

Important Links

  • http://sowhyiswikileaksagoodthingagain.com
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11882092
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11632839
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11923766
November 17

TSA: Tolerated Sexual Assault

Over the past week, more than ever before, public outcry over the TSA’s “naked body scanners” – also affectionately called “porno scanners” – has been LOUD. This, along with the TSA’s increasingly physical searching/groping procedures, has led some to give the agency new nicknames – my personal contribution is “Tolerated Sexual Assault”. But, as with any liberty-vs-security issue, there are always those on the other side of the fence. Here is a look at some of the more “security-minded” arguments, and their common-sense, liberty-oriented counterparts.

I’d rather submit to these invasive security measures than be blown up by a terrorist! How about this: you and yours get on a separate plane with no security, I’ll do whatever TSA says and get on a different plane that has been properly vetted for explosives, and I’ll make it to the other side. Hope you enjoy dying by fireball!

That’s what I’d like too! Well, kind of. Realistically, the airlines themselves ought to deal with security and let the people choose which level of checks they’d like. But we all know that won’t happen anytime soon. Anyways. They did it my way for 50 years and it was an issue once in the US because the TSA lapsed on its job and let multiple alleged “known terrorists” on planes. My line can have bomb sniffing dogs and metal detectors, your side can have porno radiation scanners and Tolerated Sexual Assault (TSA), and I’ll see you on the other side – albeit more quickly and comfortably, and with my dignity :)

This whole “porno scanners” thing is way blown out of proportion. All I saw in those images were gray blobs.

Some of the images aren’t that bad, but do a Google image search for “naked body scanners” (might have to turn safesearch off, LOL) and you’ll see what the majority of TSA agents are seeing (and are able to save). Here’s a link to an example of the naked body scans – WARNING, NSFW. Not to mention the fact that the scanners give off radiation and the long-term effects are unknown and untested. Plus, anyone serious about getting bomb material onto a plane will insert it inside themselves like Paris Hilton and her drugs. The porno scanners can’t even detect that. It’s a false security blanket.

Okay, so I see your points, but I don’t mind letting Big Brother see me naked if it means I’ll be travelling safely. What’s the big deal?

Let me mention a few more things you may not have considered:

  • the naked body scanners store naked pictures of minors. that’s illegal, child porn.
  • Muslim women can object to the scanners and the Tolerated Sexual Assault can only check them from head to neck, on religious grounds…… kind of defeats the purpose, no?
  • pedophiles, perverts, and people with superiority complexes jump at these type of jobs. it legalizes their illegal fetishes. not for me. do you really want some random guy looking at your wife/girlfriend/daughter naked?

At this point, I hope it is becoming clear that the whole thing is clearly just ripe for abuse and poorly thought out. And if that wasn’t enough, well, just today this story came out: Tolerated Sexual Assault agents will put their hands down your pants for free! You don’t even have to ask.

But isn’t it a national security risk anyways? Couldn’t a hijacker with a bomb take the plane and fly it into a building like they did on 9/11?

No. Unbreachable/impenetrable plane cabin doors have been installed on all commercial aircraft and are mandated to be locked for the duration of the flight – as they should have been before 9/11 ever happened.

Whatever. TSA is going to porno radiation scan and grope you, get over it. If you don’t like it, don’t fly.

That’s nonsense. I could make the same argument: “Security isn’t going to invade every inch of your privacy anymore. If you don’t like it, don’t fly.” But that’s not a fair or rational argument, either. The truth is, we’ve got to find a middle ground that does not breach our right to privacy as defended by the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, as well as our right to travel. I’m all for a reasonable solution – that’s why I want to leave nudity, groping, and radiation out of it.

Category: 9/11, politics | Comments Off on TSA: Tolerated Sexual Assault