Monday, September 30, 2013


Our third grade teacher at Battle Creek Academy warned us to keep our eyes closed during prayer because sometimes our guardian angels became visible during prayer and shone so brightly that we could be blinded.  I believed her, sort of.  Then one day I opened my eyes during prayer because a couple of the other boys in the class were jostling each other and making noise.  There were no angels--at least visible--and no blindness.  Moreover, it was pretty obvious that these boys had regularly had their eyes open in the past and they didn’t seem to be having any vision problems because of it.  I don’t think that affected my religious faith at the time; I was only in the third grade.  But it did affect my confidence in what my teacher told me, which was more important, perhaps.


For many of my Christian friends, the central message of Christianity is all about how we conduct ourselves in this life rather than how to get to the next.  If that is the case, then perhaps I have been creating a straw man in lampooning Christian notions of heaven.  If Christians are not concerned with heaven, or at least the idea of heaven that I was taught, then perhaps my criticisms have been unfair.

So I decided to do a bit of research into Christian beliefs, both in terms of what are the official doctrines of the major denominations and in terms of what individuals who describe themselves as Christians actually believe.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Recently a friend wanted to comment on my blog by posting an article written by a Seventh-day Adventist theologian.  I always welcome comments on the essays that I have posted to this blog, as long as they are germane to an issue that I may have raised in the essay.  Ordinarily, I would prefer that comments not include articles written by third parties, except as links.  I did take a look at the article that my friend wanted to post and decided that it raised, even if tangentially, a number of questions in my thinking that I felt might be interesting to discuss.  So, first of all, here is a link to the article, which was written by Graham Maxwell back in 1987:

Friday, September 20, 2013


I’m sure things have changed now, but 60 years ago attending our Seventh-day Adventist church was a dress-up affair, and even small boys like me were expected to wear a jacket and tie, if not a suit.  Everyday school clothes weren’t an option.  Our family was poor and I was the only boy, so all of my clothes were either bargain basement or secondhand castoffs that my mother purchased for pennies at rummage sales.  I don’t remember all the various outfits that I wore, of course, but I do recall one brown suit that had missing buttons.  My mother had jars of random buttons of all kinds--color, composition, size, and shape--and she had found some that were “sort of” like the remaining ones of my suit.  “No one will notice,” she said.  But of course I noticed and what made matters worse was that she had sewn the buttons on with thread that bordered on orange.  Was she colorblind? 

Thursday, September 19, 2013


When I began this blog a while back, I had two primary goals.  First, I was looking simply for an outlet to express myself regarding my beliefs, particularly concerning skepticism and religion.  Second, I wanted to explore the reasons that I arrived at those beliefs.  I felt that by writing about my beliefs and my personal journey, I would come to understand better what it is that I believe and the events that led to my adopting those beliefs.  I was also hoping that others would find reason to comment on my little essays and that those comments would help to clarify what I believed and perhaps even lead to refinements to those beliefs.  At the least, I was hopeful that the overall process would help me to be more articulate in saying what I was thinking.  My tertiary goal, if you will, was that I would have the pleasure of discussing my views with others, whether or not we were in agreement.  And, finally, I had the (perhaps fond) notion that on occasion someone would actually acknowledge that I had expressed one or more valid points.  Hmmm . . . .

So how have things gone? 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


I’m not terminally ill.  I don’t have a fatal disease.  But I know that I am going to die and I am confident that this life is “it.”  There will be no second volume.  So from time to time I think about those things I would like to accomplish before I die--a bucket list.

One question I have asked is whether an atheist’s bucket list would differ from a Christian’s. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Among my all-time favorite TV ads was one that came out at the time that the technology was developed that allowed the viewer to pause and then resume live TV.  The technology  seemed amazing at the time.  The ad featured a football fan watching a game the outcome of which was coming down to a last second field goal.  The fan put the screen on hold just before the field goal try, ran to his church to pray, returned home, resumed action on the TV, and watched his team score the winning field goal.  

The ad was great on a number of levels.  The acting was first-rate.  The technology, now routine, seemed almost, well, “miraculous” at the time.  In addition, the ad raised, at least superficially, a number of puzzles about the meaning of time: Did the prayer in fact occur before or after the field goal?  And finally, the ad addressed the question of the efficacy of prayer.  And that is what I want to talk about.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


I just reread the story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2-3).  It’s pretty straightforward, really.  God created Adam and Eve and set them up in the Garden of Eden.  He gave them only one rule: They could eat of anything in the garden, except God forbade them to eat of one tree in the center of the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Eating from that tree would be considered disobedience to him.  Here they were in paradise--no pain, no problems--perfect people in a perfect place.  All they had to do was remain obedient to God’s one requirement.  The test seemed pretty easy, frankly.  And presumably they knew that God was the creator and that without him, they would not have existed.  Even so, they failed--and miserably--first Eve and then Adam.  So God kicked them out of paradise, and there’ve been problems ever since. . . So the story goes.

Monday, September 2, 2013


For most Christians, Heaven is a big deal.  Otherwise, what is the point of “salvation” anyway?  After all, in this life we are sure to encounter disappointment, failure, heartache, pain, suffering, and certain death.  Oh, sure, there are the good times too, but realistically it’s a very mixed bag and it always ends badly.  The Christian may rejoice in God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice, but what would be the point if in the end there were nothing after this life?