Monthly Archives: January 2011

4 trips around the sun

Well, since my birthday is tomorrow, I figure I better put up something about my little one’s birthday, now two weeks past.

Here are some videos of her special birthday circle at school, and her princess party:

When I’m not hopped up on cold medication, I’ll be back to describe the joys of being a tomboy mama with a princess daughter!

on personal experience

You know, there’s one question that I wish I could have asked Craig — but first, some background: One of Craig’s 5 or 6 arguments for God’s existence is the “personal experience” of God that a believer has.  In fancy theologian talk, he calls this the “self-authenticating power of the Holy Spirit” — ie., the Holy Spirit is true because the Holy Spirit tells me its true. (yes, very circular reasoning)

I wish I had asked Craig to explain how I had this Holy Spirit experience back when I was a believer, and yet later came to reject my faith.

I suppose it’s not a very nice question to ask, because I have a feeling his answer will make him look like a jerk.  My guess is that if I were to ask Dr. Craig my question, he would have to say that I was never a true believer in the first place — otherwise, I wouldn’t have rejected Christianity.  Either that or I must have committed some kind of huge sin that broke this connection I had with the Holy Spirit.

And he wouldn’t be the first person to say or imply that about my past.  I suppose it’s comforting to some people to just believe I was never a true Christian(TM), rather than face the reality that someone can go from being active in a loving relationship with a personal god to being in a place where she doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of a god.

At last week’s debate, there was a section on the audience response card where you could put your email address down to have someone from Campus Crusade for Christ contact you to have a conversation on how God is personal and able to be known and, if so, what that is like.  Being who I am (someone who loves dialoguing about belief), I filled out the box to be contacted.

Tonight I received a very eager email from a student who is offering to take me out to coffee to talk about these issues.  There’s a part of me that thinks it would be great fun to be on the receiving end of such a talk, and I wonder why.  Maybe it’s because, looking back, I wish I had a coffee discussion with an atheist who could kindly ask me questions about my faith that I never thought of before.

Don’t misread me, I’m not out on a deconverting mission here — but part of me wonders what good I can offer in not backing down from interacting with believers, even in my godless state.

grrrl meets apologist

me & William Lane Craig

Earlier this week I attended a Campus Crusade for Christ sponsored debate, “Does God Exist?” — featuring rock-star apologist William Lane Craig and fellow Saskatoon atheist George Williamson.  It was a rematch of an earlier debate they did in 2007 (YouTube).

In case you didn’t know this about me, I *love* listening to debates. It’s not at all uncommon to find me listening to a debate while I’m doing my housework (here’s the best site to find debates — I probably have 80% of them on my iPod).  I love listening to debaters set up their arguments, and love even more the spur-of-the-moment interactions between both sides during cross-examinations and Q & A periods.

The one Christian debater I’ve heard the most is Dr. Craig — I’ve heard him so many times that I can even cite all 6 of his arguments.  It was quite the treat to not only see him in person, but on Friday morning I had an opportunity to share a cup of coffee with him and fellow apologist Michael Horner! (along with a few other of my atheisty friends)

What I learned from my Craig encounter (in no particular order):

  • It was so fun to be able to talk about anything and everything with an articulate believer.  There haven’t been many opportunities where my questioning was welcomed.  There weren’t any heated discussions, just exchange of ideas.
  • Despite how smart he is, I think Dr. Craig is out of touch with many contemporary issues and their implications in the world today.  For example, he’s very quick to be dismissive of the “new atheism”, and labels it as only a “pop-culture” phenomenon.  I’m never impressed by a snobby scholar attitude (and don’t get me started on people who brandish their PhD diplomas).
  • The best part of our discussion was when we started talking about morality. I love talking about real, concrete issues — which means talking about moral/ethical dilemmas are more up my alley than discussing the ins and outs of cosmology.  Cosmology doesn’t affect me in my day to day life.
  • What I found the most interesting in our conversation about morality was noticing how uncomfortable Dr. Craig got when we starting applying morality to situations — he complained that his area was “meta-ethics” and not “practical ethics.”  This really shocked me, as I find practical ethics *so important*, and waaaaaay more meaningful to discuss than vaguely pontificating about loosely-defined “objective morality” and supposedly “cosmic” implications.  I asked Dr. Craig to give me an example of an objective moral value — I didn’t get one.
  • At one point, Dr. Craig was dismissively (he’s very good at being dismissive) talking about the ethical theory of consequentialism.  He gave an example that was meant to be horrifying to us to hear — he said, according to this theory, if raping/torturing a little girl would bring more good to society, then you would be morally bound to do such an atrocious action.  He wanted us to be repulsed by such an idea — and it is repulsive!  But I interjected that if Craig’s God were to issue a divine command for him to rape/torture a little girl because God deemed it morally “right,” Craig would have no choice but to follow it — according to the ethical guidelines that he’s under (read: Abraham’s command to sacrifice Issac).  And I find that equally repulsive, if not moreso that a supposedly personal God could make such commands.  Craig conceded (as much as he could — which is to say not much) — but he also made the point that it would be “logically impossible” for God to command such a thing. (?)
  • Ultimately it comes to Craig’s system of morality, I don’t trust God as much as he does.  I also don’t buy into Craig’s forced dichotomy of objective morality vs. nihilism.
  • Another interesting part of the conversation came up when we started talking about the character of God, especially as portrayed in the Old Testament.  Here’s where the theological contorting really starting taking shape.  First Craig tried to diminish the genocidal acts by saying that God really commanded the Israelites to “drive out” the Canaanite residents — and then only killed those left behind.  Later Craig mentioned that there’s no evidence that women and children were killed, and that it was mainly soldiers who were brutalized (not sure where he’s getting that claim from). And there were several other excuses given, but his main premise — God can take life, because he has given life — I found terrifying enough on its own ground.  (and again, here’s another example where Craig seems very willing to hand over his own volition/judgement over to God, something that I don’t think I’m able to do)
  • At one point in the conversation (I think it was in the midst of the ethical dilemmas), Michael Horner just sighed and said he didn’t know an answer to our questions.  AND I LOVED THAT.  I didn’t love it because I felt like I “scored” a point by stumping the apologist, but rather because it showed a moment of vulnerability and honesty.  As much as I enjoyed Dr. Craig, I didn’t see that side of him in our conversation.  The most he would concede would be to say “Well, I’ve struggled with that …” and then continue to give a definitive (to him) answer.
  • Toward the end of our chat, the apologists asked if there were any remaining “burning questions” left for us to ask — I, of course, took that segue way into asking about hell.  And that was when Dr. Craig told me that I should “come back into the faith.”
  • Dr Craig thinks that if you have a “open mind and open heart , you will come to a belief in god” — which is a really interesting statement to unpack.  This statement implies that someone who is skeptical of Christianity’s claims has a closed mind and heart.  My mind/heart isn’t closed,  I’m just not willing to assume God is there and then go looking for him, essentially turning off my critical faculties.  It reminds me when some  Mormons once asked Jerry and I to pray, just to “try it” and see if we felt god.  Ummmm, no thanks.
  • As much as I want to be impressed by Dr. Craig, I left our discussion thinking his faith rationale is pretty simple.  In many ways, I think it just boils down to an elaborately-structured ‘God of the Gaps’ argument, which is an explanation I’m not content to settle for.

Looking back on the whole experience, I’m really glad I had this opportunity to sit and chat with 2 prominent apologists.  I want to think that I’m always open to hearing good arguments that could persuade me to change my mind — but that said, even if I could be persuaded into conceding a deistic or theistic god exists, I’m not sure if I would be so apt to fall into line to worship him/her/it.

My hesitancy isn’t because I’m angry with god, or that I’m too selfish to let god into my life.  I just honestly don’t see how I need a relationship with such a being.  Maybe one day my mind will change — until that time, I’ll keep a lookout for him/her/it — but I won’t stop asking hard questions and I won’t settle for cliched answers.

p.s. In case you want a taste of what Dr. Craig sounds like in conversation, here’s a clip from his trip up here to Saskatoon.

p.p.s.  If you want to hear my favorite debates featuring Dr. Craig, check out these:

  • My very favorite: Craig v. Shelly Kagan, Yale prof.  The debate was “Is God Necessary for Morality?” — which means Craig was off-script!  And he loses the debate, I think.
  • If you want to hear Craig’s 6 proverbial arguments in action, you should listen to his debates with atheist Austin Dacey.  These two debates (2004 & 2005) are the best tackling of the subject, and Dacey offers the best opposition to Craig.
  • Later this spring, Craig is slated to debate both Lawrence Krauss (the physicist) and Sam Harris.

of old friendships and even older movies

Last night I watched Sunset Blvd for the first time with one of my favorite people in Saskatoon, my gay boyfriend Todd.  Todd is one of my longest, dearest friends in the city, and we spent the evening reveling in over-the-top drama queen action (and that was even before we turned on the movie, haha).

Seriously, though, I’m very happy to have friends like him in my life.  Todd, if you’re reading this, (and I know you are) — I love ya more than old movie actresses love their cigarettes.  You’re the best.

What she said:

O, I believe
Fate smiled and
laughed as she came to my cradle
Know this child will be able
Laughed as she came to my mother
Know this child will not suffer
Laughed as my body she lifted
Know this child will be gifted
With love, with patience and with faith
She’ll make her way, she’ll make her way

from “Wonder”
by Natalie Merchant

I found this quote while researching passages to include in a baby welcoming ceremony — and it’s just perfect.  I’ve always liked Natalie Merchant, but now whenever I hear this song, I’ll think of my Emma.

Love the video, too. Grrrl power!

[is this thing on?]

Time to hop back on ye ol’ blogging wagon again — I really do miss this space.  Back in my blogging heyday, was a place for me to really process how I felt about personal, political, and religious issues.

Today, between my Twitter feed and FB postings, I’m finding myself too diversified in my social media outlets to pay much attention to this space.  And that’s a problem, considering that so much of the Twitter and Facebook world are about short-attention span reflection, rather than a spacious exploration that a blog post allows.

So here I am.  And I promise to give a good effort to allow myself reflection time here — so the handful of you who are out there, and still check me out, thanks for sticking around. (and yes, thanks to even you spam-bots and occasional trolls who try to post your “thoughts” here)

Now for the infamous “catch-up” bulleted list post of what I’ve been up to:

  • I’m an auntie, again!  Welcome to the planet, baby Charlie.  My sister is now fully adored by 3 men in her life, and I can’t wait to meet the new little one.  My mom is up there helping her adjust to being the mama of two — I can’t imagine the changes she’s facing.  I’m almost 100% positive that I’m going to remain a mama of ONE very busy little grrrl.
  • Speak of the devil, Emmalee Anne is turning FOUR on Tuesday.  At once it feels hard to believe she’s already that old.  Then again, this whole year has been one of infinite changes — she’s now in school 5 days a week, she’s capable of holding full conversations with us (over all sorts of topics), and she is so tall that she’s often confused for being much older than nearly-four.This past holiday season was so fun to be a parent — Emma loved singing carols, got a kick out of the Grinch (her singing the Whoville songs was PRICELESS), and she was so fun to watch open presents.She’s definitely her own grrrl, which is both cool and horrifying to witness, as a parent.She’s *completely* enamored with the old-school Disney “Sleeping Beauty” film, so much so that we’re having a “Princess Party” for her next weekend.  I joked on Facebook the other day that this must be my karma for being such a tomboy growing up! (I was the girl who wore jeans underneath her Sunday dresses) — but, despite my misgivings over shopping in the “pink” aisles at Toys R Us, I’m very happy to be the mama of Miss Emmalee.  She’s shaping up to be one pretty cool kid, despite her mama’s efforts!
  • I’m halfway done with the online correspondence Celebrant course I’m taking this year.  Starting in February, I’ll be specializing in Ceremonies for Families and Children — and I’m very excited to dive into it!  Turns out there is another Celebrant-in-Training in the area, and I’m hoping the two of us can take Saskatoon by storm in 2011.  Stay tuned, because I’ll write more about what I’m learning, hopefully soon.
  • Speaking of being involved with families and children, the group I help facilitate, the Saskatoon Secular Family Network, is doing really well in its second year.   We had a successful December gathering, and over the last few months, a few of us mamas have been getting together to discuss a book on parenting.  It’s been great to find support in other local parents, and I’m excited to see what the next year will bring.  A quick preview: right now we’re in the process of planning a “science day” on Darwin’s birthday (February 12th), and there’s already talk of another Camp Hoodoo this summer!
  • The other group I help coordinate, Café Apostate, is also doing really well.  Last month we had a great turnout at our meeting, including someone of a Hindu background!  I’m very happy to be a part of such a group, and to see what a difference it’s making for the people who come out to our events.
  • While I’ve been neglecting this poor blog space, I have been contributing to other sites on the ‘net.  I’m still a member of the Canadian Atheist team, and I’m now helping administrate the Parents Beyond Belief site as well.  I’m very excited to be active in the atheist/secular humanist/freethinking community.  I recently renewed my CFI Canada membership, and I’m also now a member of the Freethought Association of Canada.  2011 will probably see me getting even more involved in these atheisty efforts, as they are part of my passion!
  • In news that may surprise a lot of you, I’ve been going to a type of “church” lately — though I don’t call it such. I’ve been getting more involved with the Unitarian Centre of Saskatoon.   I’m still very much a nonbeliever/nontheist, but I love the ethics of the Unitarian system, and I think having Emma involved with their “religious education” system will be such an asset in her growing up.  It’s a comparative approach to religious systems, and I’m excited to have her learn about different ways people celebrate and try to make sense of the world — I may be an atheist, but I wouldn’t exactly call me an anti-theist (unless your religious ideology is harming human rights).  I still laugh about how one of my (former) religious friends in Saskatoon once referred to the Unitarians as having a “dark presence” — if anything, these people are some of the nicest, most genuine you’ll meet.  I’m glad to call some of them my friends!
  • In terms of my latest reading kick? I’ve been a little obsessed over reading about ZOMBIES.  In just the last few months I’ve read: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (along with its prequel, Dawn of the Dreadfuls), World War Z, Zombie Apocalypse, and most recently: The Walking Dead graphic novel series.  I’ve also been enjoying all the George Romero flicks — Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead (my favorite!), Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead … If you’re curious why I’d be into such horror subject, you should listen to this interview on CBC’s Q with George Romero, and you’ll get a taste of why I’m so into it.  (hey! That would make another good post for me to write, wouldn’t it?)

That’s probably enough of a catch-up, if you’re even still reading these rambles.  There’s much going on in my life these days, but for the most part, it’s good.  While I miss my family in the States, I have some amazing friendships here in Saskatoon to take their place.  I’m content in my job, and I’m looking forward to the next steps of where I may go in my upcoming Celebrancy side-career.

Thanks for not giving up on me and my long blog-silences. Rest assured I’ll be back soon with some kind of rant about religion or politics that is bound to piss someone off. :)

I really miss blogging.

Anyone still out there?