This is the last post of my blog series around Stephen Mattson’s post about the misconceptions about Christianity.

 Christianity is Illogical and Anti-Science

Christianity is often stereotyped as being anti-science, anti-academic and anti-intellectual. The reality is that many Christians embrace science and the exciting discoveries that it includes.

Additionally, many believers aren’t opposed to doctrines that heavily involve scientific data and research: evolution, global warming, healthcare research and environmentalism.

To be a Christian is to embrace knowledge, critical thinking, innovation, new ideas and the truths they reveal.

There is a segment of today’s Christianity called fundamentalism that the above label typifies. They stubbornly insist that the Bible is absolutely literal in all regards and is 100% the final and absolute word of God. Many of these folks are very anti-science. They seem to insist that you check your intelligence at the door when you come into their churches. I could go into a long and nuanced response to these beliefs but this particular post is not an appropriate place to do that. If you are interested in the detail browse through my blog over at RedLetterLiving.

A majority, I hope a large one, of us Christians see the Bible as containing God’s words and directions for how to live our lives. To us the Bible itself tells us that Jesus said he would give us more knowledge of life as we are able to understand it.  We think that our continuing scientific discovery is one way that God is making that happen.  I suppose it would have been possible for Jesus to talk about DNA to his first century followers but they certainly would have thought he was insane.  It was not until twenty centuries later that we were ready to receive this type of message.

Francis Collins, who was the leader of the Gnome Project that did the first mapping of human DNA wrote a book entitled The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief about scientific discovery and Christian beliefs. It is well worth the read if you need any convincing that God continues to give us knowledge of the universe.

Sadly there will likely always be a population of Christianity who stick to very illogical and anti-science beliefs. They simply fear the consequences  and perceived uncertainty of believing otherwise. But most Christians do embrace knowledge, critical thinking, and innovation. We take the messages of God seriously both those found in the Bible and those given to us through scientific and other discovery.

NYC…. The Vendors…

July 19, 2014 — 1 Comment

This a continuing pictorial post on our visit to New York City recently.  One of the things that got my attention was the number of vendors on the streets selling almost everything. Here are some pictures. Click on any picture to bring up a larger gallery view.

 

 

This is a continuation of my Friday posts about the book “Yin/Yang and American Culture” by Kim Eun. It is a book well worth reading about the differences between America and much of the rest of the world. This post is about remaining active in our senior years.

Old PeopleAlthough America is criticized for its youth-oriented culture, American elders enjoy more productive lives than their Asian counterparts do. From working as independent consultants to serving as volunteers, American elders can retain their zest for life….

In contrast, many Asian elderly expect to stop learning at a certain age. It is rare to see an elderly person visiting a library unless he or she was a scholar. The typical mentality for Asians over fifty-five is, “I’m old, so what is learning for?” Opportunities for elders to lead productive lives or use their energy in positive ways are limited in Asia.

Unlike in America, it is difficult in Asia for senior citizens to get jobs at restaurants, grocery stores, or elsewhere. In Asia, even the volunteer organizations do not appreciate the services of elders. In the United States, an eighty-year-old man who opens the door for patients at a hospital is one of almost 445,000 retired seniors who do volunteer work. They serve their community as public park guides, library storytellers, and literacy mentors, among many other roles….

Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 1062-1094). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

This topic rather surprised me in that I always thought that the elderly in Asia were treated with greater respect than in this country. The author did go on to say that if the elder “earned” respect then it is generally given. I don’t know how that works though. How much is enough for earned respect?

I am very thankful that in America elders can and generally lead very productive lives. I have been retired/semi-retired for going on to fifteen years now and I can honestly say that I think as far as my contributions to society go I have been much more productive during these years than I ever was during my “working” years. Of course it also follows that, despite all my growing aches and pains, these years have been the happiest of my life.

The quote above says that about half a million seniors do volunteer. But remember that this book was written in 2001 and that number has increased substantially since then.  Ms. Eun says further in her book that many Asian elders don’t bother to take care of themselves during their senior years. It seems that all they do is wait to die so to speak. How sad is that? Almost as sad as a woman having to cover her entire body when she goes out in public so that men won’t see her.  :(

I certainly appreciate that things in America are better for us seniors than they are in Asia….

2014-06-28_11-29-19“My hair is arriving at a sort of a blend that it deserves respect if nothing else. A graying head is a mark of respect in any land…” – Will Rogers, 18 November 1934

I don’t know a lot about the year 1934 but I kind of expect it was different than it is here in the 21st century. When I think of that year, which I guess was a measly twelve years before I was born, I see Walton’s Mountain with multiple generations living in the same household and everyone respecting Grandma and Grandpa Walton and constantly seeking their wisdom on life’s issues. I’m not sure this multi-generational household  was by choice or necessity since the “Great Depression” was in full steam about then but that doesn’t really matter.

Anyway, from what I can see with my graying head it doesn’t get me much respect in today’s world. It won’t even get most young people to hold a door I am following them through. It certainly didn’t get me seat on a crowded subway.

It seems that most corporations now days want to get rid of all us old folks so that can save some money by hiring young kids at a fraction of the salary.  They just don’t seem to have much respect for our years of experience. They now see us as a liability.  But they see everyone except maybe their owners as liabilities so maybe that doesn’t apply here.

I’m just not sure that my “hair blend” buys me as much now days as it did in Will’s.

2014-07-05_11-00-20A stagnant economy has undoubtedly put a lot of financial stress on the middle class. And that is bumming out America’s 1 percenters. “Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society,” entrepreneur Nick Hanauer wrote recently in Politico, in an open letter to “my fellow zillionaires….

“If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us,” he writes. “One day, somebody sets himself on fire, then thousands of people are in the streets, and before you know it, the country is burning. And then there’s no time for us to get to the airport and jump on our Gulfstream Vs and fly to New Zealand.”…

The economic trends Hanauer identifies are, in fact, real problems. America as a whole will suffer if the fortunes of the middle class don’t improve. There are solutions, however, and they’ll probably materialize in the usual American way — right before disaster strikes. It’s nearly inevitable there will be government spending cuts and, yes, tax hikes, when the government’s finances become unsustainable, which could take a decade or more. When it happens, the politicians in Washington will find ways to spread the pain around and America will muddle through. The rich will have to pay more, but they’ll still be rich. And they still won’t have to worry about pitchforks.

SOURCE:  The rich can stop worrying about a middle-class revolution | Daily Ticker – Yahoo Finance.

This is an interesting article about the words of a rich guy and the income inequality.  If you want to skip the commentary and go to the original article click here.

I think to some degree Mr. Hanauer has it right. He talks about things that need to be done to stifle a possible revolution against people like him and that includes returning to pre-Raegan tax rates for his segment of society. We as a country have at least in the past  been able to avert crisis right before disaster strikes but I kind of think if we count on that strategy working every time we are might be in for a severe disappointment.

It might appear otherwise from some of my posts  but I personally don’t have anything against rich guys, at least those who earned their riches themselves. I do have a certain degree of disdain for those who came by their wealth through the work of others, even family members. To me that is unearned income and should be very thoroughly taxed as such.

People like Bill Gates become rich by discovering a “better mousetrap”. He gave us a means to quickly advance our business technology.  I grew up near the Army Finance Center at Fort Benjamin in Indianapolis. The building was a huge complex. It took hundreds of thousands of square feet of desks for thousands of workers to process and pay military wages. Today, thanks to Mr. Gates and others that task is now handled by a mere handful of working using computers. Mr. Gates deserves every penny, minus taxes of course, that he earned.

 

 

2014-06-29_08-08-44

1. You will spend your life chasing a net worth number you think you will make you happy, but never get there.

People talk about their “number,” or the amount of money they think will make them happy and content. I’m convinced these numbers are what most people live for.

But they’re dangerous. People are bad at forecasting almost everything, but trying to predict how you’ll feel in the future is a whole different level of delusion….

2. A lot of what you know is wrong, incomplete, distorted, and subject to revision

There’s a bias called the “end of history illusion.” It says that people think changes in taste, new ideas, and learning in general occurred in the past, but today we’ve got it all figured out.

The truth is we’re always learning how wrong we were in the past…..

3. People are less impressed by your success than you think

Most people in the developed world are about as comfortable and safe as they’re going to get in their lives. Their incentive to get richer is to impress other people.

But while people spend their lives trying to impress their friends, a trait they find most attractive in those friends is humility. Few of us ever connect these dots….

SOURCE: Unfortunate Realities You Should Get Used To.

The folks over at Motley Fool have struck another chord with me. Here is a post about worrying on your wealth. Let’s take them a number at a time.

Number 1 – I don’t think I have ever spent any time chasing my net worth number. Money has just not been an important a topic with me. But of course that is probably because I had a fairly good career path and put away enough to now be comfortable. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not some closet millionaire but I am pretty sure I have enough to last out my years.

Yeah, people are usually very bad at forecasting anything. I am a planner at heart and of course most of those plans change because of circumstances. Nothing ever goes as planned. The ability to adapt is what is important.

Number 2 - I don’t know how many times in my life that I figured that I now had all the needed knowledge of life. Of course that was, and will continue to be, just naive thinking. I am still learning many of life’s basic lessons when I was sure I would have it all figured out by now. Learning how wrong we were in the past, how true that is.

Number 3 - I am a contrarian and in this regard because I am just not impressed with the wealth of a person. At least in monetary terms.  Personally, trying to impress others with wealth is way way down on my radar screen and anyone who IS impressed by wealth is usually not going to be much of a friend of mine. Humility  and how you treat others is way further up there for me….

Hope vs Cynicism…

July 14, 2014

2014-07-09_08-34-43WASHINGTON AP — To hear President Barack Obama describe it, there’s a creeping case of cynicism setting in across the country, leading Americans to suspect that not only is Washington broken, it’s beyond fixing.

If that line of thinking continues, it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy with dire long-term ramifications, Obama says. If compromise-minded Americans get so frustrated they just tune out, lawmakers will feel even less pressure to work together for the good of the country.

SOURCE: How ‘hope’ became Obama’s fight against cynicism – Yahoo News.

Hope vs cynicism? Of course everyone wants to be on the hope side of that choice. But in order to be there we must be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, someday I “hope” we get over all this extreme partisan bickering and get back to a healthy dose of compromise. I really hope that but I am very doubtful that will happen until we run off the cliff so to speak.

I dread the possibility of a totally Republican controlled government. To me that would mean abandonment of almost everything I hold dear. All brother’s keeper issue would be flushed down the toilet. We would likely become a nation intolerant of any religion except Christianity. The rich would get even richer while the poor were left to the scraps of the table.

No, I don’t see a lot of hope on America’s horizon. I have maybe another decade on this earth and I “am” hoping that we can hold it together for at least that long so I don’t have to see the consequences of going down the tube. It won’t be pretty. But I still hold out hope that we can, like we have done several times in the past, get to the edge of the cliff and then manage to step back instead of forward.  We have had a good run of luck in that regard but as always luck, however you want to define it,  eventually runs out.

I am holding out hope that someone will come along to lead us to a better way. I am now convinced that the black intellectual person currently in office is despite his hopeful rhetoric is unable to do that. Maybe there were just too many prejudices in his baggage to ever make that possible? Hillary is part of the problem in this area due to her own baggage. If she is elected the Republican establishment will likely get even more stubbornly in opposition than it is now, if that is even possible.

Just give me a slight glimmer on the horizon and I will try to grab onto some form of hope. Just give me a glimmer….. please…..

The Community is Morally Superior

Christians are sinners just like everybody else. If you’re expecting a perfect utopian environment of honesty, generosity, kindness, respect and inclusive love within Christianity—prepare yourselves for heartbreak.

Churches, Christian organizations, spiritual leaders and the people representing Christianity will eventually fail you.

Christian communities are far from ideal. Many enter churches assuming that everyone is going to be supportive, wonderful and your new best friend—but the reality is harsh.

This is the seventh post on the misconceptions about Christianity as reported by Stephen Mattson. It should be obvious to any of you who have been following this blog series here at RJ’s Corner that Stephen lets us know that as far as he is concerned Christianity is a messy business. Given my life’s experiences I totally agree. The way we humans have put Christ’s church together I’m sure is full of errors and misconceptions. Given that none of us are without sin and that most of us seem to stubbornly cling to a small fragment of Jesus’ words and somehow treat it as the total truth nothing else could have happened. We just can’t seem to get our minds around the total concept of Jesus. Does that mean you should give up on all this Christian stuff because it is so tainted? Absolutely not..

Here are some final words from Stephen to wrap up this post.

Churches, Christian organizations, spiritual leaders and the people—and things—representing Christianity will eventually fail you. It’s going to happen, so prepare yourself for the inevitable letdown.

Becoming a Christian doesn’t make you any better or more valuable than anyone else. Many falsely believe that identifying as a Christian elevates them above the rest of humanity—self-righteously judging, alienating and condemning others.

Ironically, Jesus says being one of His followers requires extreme humility and meekness—not necessarily attractive qualities within today’s society.

Overall, Christianity is filled with many wonderful blessings, and there will be times of happiness, peace and encouragement. But we need to be careful not to stereotype our faith and turn it into something it’s not and was never meant to be. Christianity is complex and doesn’t fit into a neat compartmentalized formula—it’s time we stop treating it like one.

NYC… Architecture….

July 12, 2014

One of the things that amazed me about my recent three day visit to New York City was the architecture. I have always been fascinated by the myriad of building in this country and NYC is probably the best of the best.  I won’t bore you with more words here.  Instead this post is almost all about the pictures.

Click on any picture to see an expanded gallery view:

 

A few months after I came to America, one of my American friends showed me a picture of her sister. “Isn’t she precious?” she said. I was taken aback ; her sister had Down’s syndrome. On another occasion, when I first met my new neighbor, she revealed that she had a mentally retarded son who was sixteen but had the mental capacity of a five-year-old. I admire Americans’ openness about disability….

In Asia, the disabled are treated as less than fully human… Mental retardation or physical disability is a stigma to a family, partly because of the influence of Buddhism. According to Buddhism, life is a series of causes and consequences, and a person’s disability may be punishment for having behaved badly in a former life or for having a cruel ancestor. Thus, family members with mentally retarded children are often ashamed and rarely tell others about them. An elementary school classmate of mine in Korea had a handicapped brother. Whenever I visited her house, her mother put him in a bathroom or somewhere else where visitors couldn’t see him. Thirty years later, public perception of disabilities in Asia has not improved much. Even in Japan, the most industrially advanced and urbanized society in Asia, disabled people face discrimination, humiliation, and inconvenience every day.

Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 810-820). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

This post of course is going to get rather personal with me. Being deaf I have experienced prejudices in my life even in the U.S. but it has probably been very minor compared to those in Asia.  America was not exempt from the description above, it is just that we for the most part conquered that phobia years ago whereas Asia has yet to approach it.

Almost anyone who doesn’t know me and approached me as a deaf person automatically assumes several things. The one that gets to me the most is that I am less intelligent than most. Even though the saying “deaf and dumb” is pretty much a thing of the past the thought still flourishes among many. The second thing is that since I am deaf I am not worth the effort to get to know me. Many simply write me off as a possible future friend.  I must admit that these feeling are not limited to just those of us who are deaf. They also apply to many who are handicapped in other ways. A person in a wheelchair is for the most part ignored by most.  I personally make a diligent effort to make eye contact and greet everyone I come across who is handicapped.

I can’t imagine the obstacles put in front of people with handicaps in Asia. To be put into a virtual closet away from family and friends is shameful to me. Asians need to get over the idea that mental and physical handicaps are God’s punishment for past actions. At least for Christianity Jesus tells us very directly that that is not the case.  Stigma is hard to break in any culture. I am at least grateful that we have done a better job in this area than our Asian brothers and sisters. But haven’t we found that to be true in so many areas in this yin/yang study?