The God Question

Bible on bookshelf.jpeg

During my 4th period class today, I got asked one of my least favorite questions by one of my students: “Do you believe in God?”

It’s a science class, and I want us to stay on-topic. Discussing my views on the existence or non-existence of a deity isn’t going to help with that. I sighed, and said what I always say in this situation: “That’s a personal question, and I don’t answer personal questions.”

The students then remembered that I have a Bible on the bookshelf in my classroom, and concluded, on the basis of this single shred of evidence, that I am, indeed, a believer. (The Bible is there as one of many options for my students to read during their designated reading time, just before lunch.)

Since then, I’ve been to Amazon, and ordered an English translation of the Qur’an, which I will place on that same bookshelf — probably right next to the Bible. I wonder what my students will make of that? 

Calvin and Hobbes, and the Peanuts Gang: Describing Christmas in America

The cartoonists Charles Schultz knew, and Bill Watterson knows, an immense amount about the uniquely American way to celebrate Christmas.

wake-up.

Their work speaks for itself. no-money

I hope you enjoy these cartoons, and have both a Happy Christmas and Merry New Year.

calvin_xmas

Please buy the books with these comic strips. They’re easy to find on Amazon, and many other places. 

linus-assembly

Books make excellent gifts, not just for holidays, but at any time. Christmas is also a time associated with eating good food, too, of course. Calvin’s table manners are atrocious, of course, but his parents do try.

calvin

 

calvin-and-hobbes-family-dinner

Christmas Break, Winter vacation, or whatever you choose to call it gives us all time to be with our families and friends.

camping-with-friends

Santa Claus is also a big part of Christmas in America. Whether we like it or not, the same is true of capitalism.

financed-santa

flamethrower1

capitalism-interrupts

Reality often clashes with our ideals. That’s part of being human, in any season.

money

flamethrower0

charlie-brown-acting-like-calvin

flamethrower

An emotionally-charged phrase, “true meaning of Christmas,” is repeatedly explained, forgotten, rediscovered, celebrated, etc. — and, of course, we argue about it. We’re Americans, after all.

Sometimes, we also listen to each other. Other times, we don’t, even when we need to, and the opportunity presents itself. 

competition

grenade-launcher

christmas-tree

The holiday season is often rough on those of us who struggle with depression. These cartoonists tackled such issues head-on. However, they never claimed to have all the answers.

get-some-friends

if-i-get-a-present

santa-flambe

Happy Christmas, and Merry New Year, to you and yours.

charlie-brown-acting-like-calvin

show-and-tell

show-and-tell

Peace be with you.

lifestyle

mom-dad-santa-hobbes

cute-snoopy

lukewarm-tapioca

smack-susie

who-needs-santa-claus

loot

nap-time

marx-and-tv

One thing both comic strips have in common is a focus on children and childhood. Reading them can help one keep from losing the essence of youth, no matter what age one reaches.

mcdonalds-and-walmart

national-dog-week

xmas

Bill Watterson, Charles Schultz: thank you for sharing your ideas about Christmas, and life itself, with us, over the decades. I’ll let Schultz have the last word.

laugh-at-oneself

 

What Is Attempted Orthoism?

attempted orthoism

When the topic of labels for belief systems, life philosophies, and the like comes up, I find that I tend to become uncomfortable with labels which are also used by, well, anyone else. For this reason, I’ve named my own system “attempted orthoism,” which I will now try to explain.

First, I’ll deal with that elephant in the room: the Creator of the Universe, by any name. Does such an entity exist? Well, I simply don’t know, but I also realize that this could change. If there is a deity, and that entity chooses to make evidence of his/her/its existence known to me, I’ll pay attention to the evidence, and see where it leads me. This is, to me, given my present state, the only position that makes sense.

“Ortho-,” as a prefix, can mean “right” (as in a right angle), or “correct,” either one. The suffix “-ism” is used in words such as Catholicism, capitalism, materialism, socialism, Communism, Hinduism, etc. — the “-isms” are simply systems of belief and/or thought. The meaning of “attempted” is obvious, so if you put it all together, here’s what it means: I simply attempt to be correct. Less formally, I try do the right thing, in the various situations I encounter in life.

These are some of the features of attempted orthoism:

  • The desire to hold positions on various issues which are correct.
  • The desire to do the ethical thing in all situations.
  • Honesty. Lies are not helpful in any effort to be correct.
  • The willingness to admit it when I do not know something, once I realize that I do not know it.
  • The refusal to reject the possibility that supernatural entities exist, in the absence of empirical evidence for their non-existence.
  • The inability to embrace a belief in any supernatural entity, as long as no compelling, empirical evidence is found that such a being does exist.
  • Respect of the rights of others peacably disagree, on these or other issues.
  • Maintaining high standards for evidence, and acceptance of principles. This means using and testing hypotheses, reasoning logically, and guarding myself from error with a mental shield: my skepticism. To prove something to me, a mathematical proof would be an excellent approach. If you simply want me to accept that something happens provisionally, until and unless new evidence arises to disprove it, then the scientific method is the way to go. I place a premium on logic, and reasonable arguments.
  • Refusal to accept emotional arguments, or arguments from authority, for the simple reason that such methods so often lead to serious error.
  • Re-testing previously-accepted principles, for we can all fool ourselves better than anyone else.
  • Reservation of the right to question anything and/or anyone.

This is not a complete list. Attempted orthoism is a work in progress.

My Answers to Facebook’s “Religious Views” and “Political Views” Questions

facebook

I don’t like to use terms I did not make up myself for things as important as questions such as these, and so I don’t. Attempted Orthoism rests on a foundation of skepticism, which is a metaphorical lens I try to apply to everything. Skepticism is, of course, essential for anyone who works in science and/or science education, and I am a science teacher. This is why science plays a role in both definitions above.

Bible Hub: A Website Review

http://biblehub.com/

bible hub

Whether one is a Christian, or not, we should all be able to agree that the Bible is an important book, and that greater understanding of it will benefit anyone who lives on this planet. There are, after all, well over a billion people, alive today, living in families which try to use the Bible as a guidebook for life. (As an aside: is it also true that anyone on earth can benefit from improving their understanding of the Qur’an? Of course it is — and for exactly the same reason.)

Before today, I had never encountered a website which serves that purpose — greater understanding of this important book we call the Bible — with the purity of Bible Hub. I found it by accident, while discussing, with my wife, the original languages in which the Bible was written: Hebrew for the Old Testament, and, in the New Testament, an ancient form of Greek — plus one important sentence (depicted as the last pre-death-and-resurrection words spoken by Jesus) in Aramaic. The New Testament was not written for an audience which understood Aramaic, so the books of the Bible which include this sentence (Matthew and Mark), as originally written (as far as we can tell), follow the Aramaic words of this sentence with a translation into the same form of Greek (Koine, or the ancient Greek of the common people, as opposed to the ruling class) in which the rest of the New Testament is written. The influence of Greek culture (which could have spread along with the Greek language) could only have affected the New Testament, not the Old Testament, for historical reasons. The two of us were discussing the possibility that the absence, then presence, of a Greek influence might help explain why the Old and New Testaments are so radically different from each other. For quite some time, though, I became sidetracked by my inability to remember the last words of Jesus on the cross, in Aramaic, and I decided to investigate that topic more closely.

I do not read Greek, so I have read the words in this important New Testament sentence (“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”) only in English translations of the Bible. I simply used Google to do a search for this sentence — and that’s how I found Bible Hub.

On the two pages at this website related to the verses I was researching, the first thing I found was an amazing variety of English translations of each verse, clearly labeled, including many translations of which I was previously unaware. Navigating to other languages is easy, at the upper right. Below the numerous English translations, there is commentary, but it is clearly labeled as such, so that no one will confuse the commentary with the various translations of the verses in question. If one wants to read sermons related to a given verse, there is an easy-to-find link provided for that purpose, but it is easier, of course, to not click on a hyperlink than it is to click on it.

My favorite feature of this website, by far, is that I was able to get the information I wanted quickly, without anything at all telling me how to interpret what I read. At Bible Hub, the default format is to let readers interpret the various parts of the Bible for themselves. For that reason, in addition to other features described above, I give this website an A+ grade.