Friday, June 27, 2014

A FEW THOUGHTS ON EINSTEIN AND RELIGION

As with a lot of people, growing up I considered Albert Einstein one of my intellectual heroes.  So I found an article by John Marsh regarding Einstein’s beliefs about religion thought-provoking on a number of grounds.  Marsh’s basic thesis is that, contrary to what noted atheist Richard Dawkins has written, Einstein was a deeply religious theist.  Hmm . . . I have read at least three biographies of Einstein, and all of them take the position that he was essentially atheistic.  Here are my thoughts on the Marsh article.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

I COULD WRITE A BETTER BIBLE THAN GOD

I’m an early riser and a regular at my local Starbucks.  The baristas start pouring my coffee as soon as they see me walk through the door.  But I’m not the only regular.  Among the others are a couple of small groups of middle-aged men who I see almost weekly.  The men are generally studying books together.  I have never wondered what they are studying, because I already know: They are studying the Bible.  And they are very serious about it.  They pore over verses, sometimes making notes or consulting other reference material, conferring with one another.  I also know that these little study groups are not unusual.  There are groups, large and small, everywhere that regularly get together for Bible study.  And of course there are millions of other Christians who study the Bible on their own, as a daily devotional.

I believe that for many Christians the Bible is a—and in many cases the—primary source they look to for an understanding of their lives and their world.  The Bible is a massive book.  With nearly 800,000 words, it’s the size of 12 average-length novels.  So there’s a lot to work with.  And, in some ways at least, the Bible is diverse.  It was written by 40 or so different men over a time period of perhaps 1,200 years.  It includes a collection of traditional stories, genealogies, history, prophetic writings, poetry, biography, and philosophy. 

But how good is the Bible really for how it is viewed by the millions of Christians who study it regularly—as a fundamental source for making sense of the world, for coping with the human condition?  If one assumes, as many Christians do, that the Bible was inspired by God to serve as life’s guide, not just for the time it was written but for all time, how well did God do?  My conclusion is, frankly, not very well.  In fact, I think I could have done a much better job.

Monday, June 2, 2014

DIFFERENCES IN SCRIPTURAL INTERPRETATION

Over the past year I have had a number of “dialogues” with my Christian friends about religious faith.  One thing that has surprised me about these conversations have been the wide differences of opinion among Christians in what they believe.  To illustrate this point, I thought I would summarize some of those differences with respect to a few fundamental Christian beliefs.  And, yes, each of these is a firm and sincere belief espoused by one or more of the Christians with whom I have discussed these matters.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A MATTER OF LUCK

As a young man, a friend of mine had a gambling problem.  Shortly after his 21st birthday and not into college, he took the Greyhound to Las Vegas and proceeded to wipe out his savings at the roulette table.  That summer I was living in L.A. and my friend, now broke, made his way there and asked if I would loan him some money so he could return to the roulette tables.  He insisted that he had finally figured out how to win and it would just be a matter of time until he could repay me on his way to becoming wealthy.  When I explained to him that winning is, in the end, just a matter of probabilities and that those probabilities inexorably favor the casino, particularly in roulette, he replied that those odds didn’t apply to him, since he was “lucky.”  There was no loan.