I sent Jenny a book about the Mormon Group in Bountiful BC.
Jenny sent me: Letter from a Skeptic – a dialog between a man and his Dad.
Now, what made me stop on Jenny’s blog was that she wrote that she had only read 3 books.
I own a library in my home – 8 huge Ikea Bookcases.
Jenny won round one of the book Exchange – She Finished the Book that I sent her.
But I have not been able to finish the slender volume of 30 letters – a back and forth between a loving son and his loving Dad.
Because, when I read the first letters, in which these two Men told each other how much they loved each other and wanted to really talk about what mattered to them.
And those parts – about the family information – made me weep.
But the apologist portions – I couldn’t read – because – with all that love in the background and providing a context to understand the relationship between an estranged Father and Son……
I couldn’t handle all the lies that the son told his father – not about Christianity – I am nto an expert.
But about the lies the son told his father about how actual historians and actual science works – because…….
There is no academic or intellectually honesty in that book.
And I was bullied in my workplace – Federal Department 7 – by people who lied, diverted around truth and evaded any accountiblity or reality – to psychologically torture me.
I told everyone – when I was 5 – I told an adult pedophile to fuck off – and he got scared and left my family – except for the aunt he was dating – alone.
When I was 12, I told The Beast of British Columbia – that I had to leave, because my Mom was coming to get me – and he got scared and ran away from me.
So adult Nina – knows what predators and – liars – are the lowest form of predator.
So, I was really glad to know – that the Father of this story – told by his own son – died – BEFORE JENNY MAILED ME THIS BOOK
and I saw – all the lies and can’t read them – but, I was inspired – BY JENNY HERSELF – AND JENNY ALONE
because what I saw in the book – but more so in Jenny, in our private conversations…..of which, I shared my last letter – but not my final letter by any stretch……
Jenny – IF You know nothing else, please know – that you – way down south and far away from Canada – HELPED TO SAVE A LIFE.
So Jenny, from all my heart – you won round one of the book exchange.
But I think, I might have gotten, the better end of the deal.
I know what book I want to send you next. It’s a novel – called Mister God, This is Anna by Fynn
It was given the book when I was 17 and my younger sister and I spent the summer working at a hotel on the highway just outside of Banff, Alberta.
I have bought many copies of this book over the years to give to people.
The story is about a young man in his 20’s who finds a young orphan girl – it’s set in England between the 2 world wars or just after WWII – I forget for the moment.
Fynn takes Anna under his wing and shows her how to understand the world by playing in it – and Anna understands the world – sort of like how Dakota Fanning was 8 but had the emotional presence of a 35 year old actress – Anna is wise beyond her years, but innocent.
Most people think that this book is a Christian story – but Mister God is about Anna’s relationship with God – and her god is not the god that lives in churches, but is waiting to be discovered everywhere in the world.
To my mind, the book is the essence of naturalism – because, if there is a god or supernatural agency at work in the universe (and I mean if in the sense of considering the possibility is true) then it makes sense that to understand such a being, we need to study what we understand is the truest creation – which is the universe and earth, as a whole – not limiting ourselves to what some men wrote about how they codified their relationship with their creator – because seriously, any texts are limited to the understanding of the world at the time they were written.
We know a lot about the world and the universe – more today than 50 years ago, more than 1000 years ago – so why put an artificial limit on your relationship with god and try to shoe horn it into what ancient people understood about and wanted from their god.
Take the texts as examples of the types of interactions – let’s even say for the sake of argument, that every story in the bible is true or has enough truth in it for the message and meaning to be true, even if the details are fuzzy or lost in translation.
God is eternal and smarter than humans – so God has to limit it’s interactions to occur within the scope of what humans at any given time can understand.
Thus, more stricter rules in the beginning and fewer rules towards the end.
The people who believed that what they wrote was the inspired word of God – was God talking to them to the limit of their ability to understand and then apply what was revealed to them into the context of their society at the time.
So the question is now – if god talks to people and inspired them to write those texts – perhaps there’s a reason why god stopped interacting with people in as obvious ways – and god now talks to people in different ways – and that’s why people compose symphonies and literature and make science discoveries – because humans have become smarter and more able to understand the way of god – who is revealing a new level of communication – because frankly, organized religion has gone off message – they’ve done crusades, genocides, systemic molesting of children, consolidating wealth and power into the hands of people who embezzle and commit adultery and generally try to hold back both social and scientific progress.
I think that if you want to understand God, then you won’t find him in imperfectly written, translated, edited texts that have been written down and managed the document – and what I know from working in offices is that if a document is central to understanding that it has to be what’s called a living document – it has to be able to absorb changes and new information, and be adaptive to new technology.
If you want to understand your God, I think need to look to his creation not the texts managed by men – earth and people and the Universe – and the study of creation or rather of nature is what science is – observing, experimenting, peer review and a built up body of work that we understand how we’ve learned what we know and we have a proven method for gathering and evaluating data and we put the patterns of the data into ideas and combine them into theories that provide a working definition of a huge mass of information – and as new information is gathered, it reinforces what the theory is (and a scientific theory is not a best guess – it’s a best answer based on what we know and probability mathematics) theories explain the patterns that we see as a way to do quality assurance that the theory is robust enough to incorporate new data or the theory is down graded when new data changes the entire understanding.
As for me, I want to tell you that I actually love you with all my heart because you have opened up a whole new understanding and possibility for me.
I never experienced religion as an adult – so I understood the concepts, but not the emotional resonance, the emotional satisfaction that belonging to a church community or the emotional satisfaction and comfort that belief brings to people.
But I have that emotional satisfaction and comfort of belief (meaning acceptance based in understanding and experience) in my life but I also have intellectual satisfaction – something that I don’t think people who think inside a religion have.
Because your experience of the world in this age of humanity, in your lifetime – the world you live in is very different from the bible world – although, the nations of the Bible haven’t seemed to change very much since those times – your understanding and experience of the world does not come from the bible – it comes from you living your life.
And you already know that the world we share is more complex and nuanced than the bible writers could have imagined – and this being the case, a lot of what’s in the bible is not relevant to moderan life. Most Christians ignore the old testament while that’s the part that Jews stick with and Islam is a rewrite of the same texts and put in a different social context.
These three religions – Judiasm, Christianity and Islam are called the Abrahamic Religions – a sort of trilogy covering the same material.
The other religions of the world – which more people of the world follow than those three combined – are based in very different traditions and very different understanding of the world.
But they all come down to the same basic lessons – be good, compassionate and honour creation.
So why get hung up and argue over the differences of ritual and ceremony and modes of worship if as the inter-faith committees claim, it’s all going back to the same god?
If that’s really the case, then the only conclusion is that the form or format of worship is less important to God than how you are in the world.
If that’s true, then keep what works for you personally and don’t get involved with the bits that you can consign to – that was an earlier and less enlightened time – slavery and inequality isn’t okay.
Now, I don’t mean to get political on you – but – I’ve spent the last five years on line, trying to figure out how to get to talk to a Christian in more than the Yes/No A/Theist debate and you are the first one in all that time and out of hundreds of Christians that I could really talk to and you have amazed me – because you are what people keep telling me what Christians are – but you’re the first one that I could believe all the good things about.
Because you shared not Christianity with me – because I already got that concept – you shared with me what it means to be Christian to you and that I didn’t understand before.
And more important you want to understand why people resist or refuse Christianity when it’s such a force of goodness in your life that you want to share it.
But you are taking the time to understand why people resist or refuse – and that’s what learning how other people have experienced Christianity does – it allows you to understand what it’s like for non-Christians to experience Christianity and when you learn that why – you will understand why we can very happily live without it – but that doesn’t mean that you have to you – it just means that you get to live with it in your life – but, be capable of interacting with people who don’t as being legally and socially equal to yourself without judgment of their lives – because as we recognize that you have the right to what you believe and think about the universe – so too are you recognizing that right and entitlement to believe and think what we want
And then the conversation is no longer who’s right and who’s wrong (aka Zero Sum) – but rather what you think and what I think, what’s in common and what’s different – and that’s an interest based conversation where right and wrong do not enter into it and the rules of our engagement are the rules of our society – secular civil democratic basis of interacting with each other – the way it’s supposed to be in society,
Not one group imposing their ideas over top of the law of the land or worse, instead of the law of the land.
Jenny sent me Letters from a Skeptic by Dr. Gregory A. Boyd and his father, Edward K Boyd.
The book is a collection of correspondence between father and son, with the son being a Christian apologist and the father a skeptical unbeliever.
My first thought was to consider the book as just the material between the covers – find out what the relationship was – because, by the end of the correspondence, the father becomes a Christian.
The book was published as a guide to teaching Christians to communicate with the unbelievers within their circle of family, friends, maybe coworkers – people that you physically know.
Within that limited context, I did not expect the father to be an actual non-believer and skeptic, because most believers of these sorts, do not encounter actual skeptics. They encounter people who’ve been exposed to the religion as a given in childhood, but who have, over time, become disenchanted, disengaged and distant.
Which is a very different thing than a person who arrives as a realization that the premises upon which religion is founded, are baseless, unproven and no different than Santa Claus or Scientology.
I refer to Scientology in the sense that it’s origins are well documented – it was invented by L Ron Hubbard to make money and provide a universe for his science fiction writings to exist with.
In many ways, Xena the Warrior Princess can show us how religion works.
If you removed the gods and goddess characters from the Xena and Hercules shows – most of the episodes would remain unchanged – both Xena and Hercules lived their lives and carried out tasks based in the needs of the people in front of them.
They helped villages from being destroyed by warlords, retrieved stolen property and generally went around protecting people from harm.
If those programs only showed these episodes, they would still have been fun adventure stories – Xena and Hercules lived their lives based in the realities of their world and environment – despite the very real evidence that they had that the gods existed – Hercules being a half-god and both being able to talk to and interact with, the various gods.
But what if us as the audience didn’t get to see the gods or goddesses – we only saw what was evident in the world – characters who are then carrying out anything as being the will of gods or goddess then have some explaining to do about why they are sacrificing children or virgins….
And this is where the rubber meets the road with anyone who lives, not as if their religion is one possible one of many explanations, but rather as if their religion is the only possible explanation.
Which is why believers rely on Pascal’s Wager and binary restrict the options as either they are right or they are wrong – and they won’t accept they are wrong.
By getting dragged into the discussion on their terms, we have already lost.
Which is why the discussion has to change to being their terms.
So, the conversation can’t be religion vs science – but rather – religion vs naturalism.
Naturalism being the reality that the rest of us live in, science which is the study of nature, philosophy which is the study of the nature of existence, arts which is the study of humanity and how we interact with the components of our society and history.
We need to engage the religious and bring them into the natural reality in a way that allows them to keep their religious reality bubble inside them, but nested within an awareness of the natural world – being socially capable of functioning in a complex society with diversity and range of behaviours within a modern secular society.
Anyway, that’s the context that I am reading the book in.
I will go over the letters and discussion in future posts.
Jenny, from A Religious Experiment, and I are doing a book exchange.
I happened upon Jenny’s post in which she talks about exposing herself to other viewpoints.
So, we agreed to an exchange of books, rather than just referring each other book titles, to make it more interesting – and we’ll be reviewing the books on our respective blogs.
I am sending Jenny: The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in a Polygamous Mormon Sect [Hardcover] Daphne Bramham