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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is The Kingdom of God Heaven?

Here is a bit from 2 Corinthians 5, which is this Sunday's scripture.
Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. . . . Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
An eternal house in heaven. It sort of reminds me of Psalm 23:6, "Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."

A generation or two later Mark and Matthew wrote about the Kingdom of God. Here is sort of a run on of quotes. First from Mark:
"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" 1:15; He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables." 4:11; He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground . . . 4:26; 4:30 (like a mustard seed); And he said to them, "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power." 9:1.
Now Matthew:
"But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." 12:28; "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." 19:24; Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him." 21:32; "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit." 21:43;
There is some mention of entering the Kingdom of Heaven for sure. And, without quoting them I think there are ample passages suggesting that Jesus and his followers believed in an afterlife. But, does it sound like the Kingdom of God is describing Heaven or the afterlife?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Direct Observation

How much do we know about our world from direct observation? Consider a pretty basic law at work all around us all the time. Newton's first law of motion is that "a body at rest stays at rest, and a body in motion stays in motion, unless it is acted on by an external force." Doesn't this contradict what you have directly observe--that is, things in motion eventually come to rest.

At some point in high school you learned that when a body moves over any surface there is a force that action opposite to the direction of motion. That force, which we call friction, is different for different surfaces and proportional to the normal force against the surface. So the heavier the object, the higher the Force of Friction, but if you put the body on an incline, the Force of Friction decreases. By the way, while you are pushing on an object that doesn't move, the force of friction increases exactly to keep pace with the force you are putting on the body. (How does it know to do that?)

Anyway, friction is also why things in motion tend to come to rest; there is a force acting on them. Or so we've been told. Which is my point, do we directly observe Newton's first law, or is it a convention we learned? Do we, everyday folks, have any reason to feel any more certain about it than people from the Dark Ages had to feel certain that if you knocked on wood it would scare away the fairies that caused bad luck?

And this isn't even talking about carbon dating or evolution or red shift; it's about what really happens when we push a box across the floor.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Did Operation Rescue Murder Dr. Tiller?

Christian fanatics have a history of carrying out terrorist attacks in the United States. Here is a chart that catalogues the terrorist attacks between 1989 and 2004. They include murders and bombings. The Oklahoma City bombing was not related to the anti-choice element, but was a Christian fundamentalist attack on the United States.

The man in custody for murdering Dr. Tiller has connections with Operation Rescue, but we don't know how significant they are or who at Operation Rescue ordered the hit. Obviously, with the history of terrorism from the Christian fanatics it is a threat to our national security if there is a surge in violence.

Question: Should we use enhanced interrogation techniques on the man in custody for murdering Dr. Tiller until he names names at Operation Rescue? If we did, is there any question that he would eventually name names?

Of course, torture works, which is to say torture makes the victim tell you what you want to hear, so, of course he would name names. It wouldn't relate to whether Operation Rescue had anything to do with his crime, but he would give names.

Also, I wonder if it is unfair of me to lump all these attacks together like they are the same thing.

Also, I wonder if it is fair to paint all Christian fundamentalists with the same brush as the domestic terrorists.

Where else?

Where do secularists or non-practicing religious adherents go to focus on being better people?  Attending religious services gives members an opportunity, at least once a week, to focus on the question: How can I be better?

I think there is an answer to this question; it is not rhetorical.