Speaking of faith, science, and science fiction

One recent episode of the radio program Speaking of Faith is an interview with paleoanthropologist, fiction author and person of faith Mary Doria Russell. She is a fascinating person. During the interview, she described her Catholic upbringing, how she became a humanist for two decades and has most recently converted to Judaism.
During the program, host Krista Tippett mentioned that Ms. Russell had described herself as an ‘agnostic Jew’ and asked her to elaborate on that. Ms. Russell answered, “The God that I almost believe in is the Jewish God” and went on to explain why she feels Judaism best reflects her own view of God. I love that quote!
After listening to the podcast of this interview, I immediately went and bought two of Ms. Russell’s novels: The Sparrow and A Thread of Grace. I’m reading The Sparrow now and liking it so far.

A beautiful theology

From an interview with Kate Braestrup, Unitarian Universalist minister and chaplain to Maine Game Warden Service*:

The longer I work and live, the simpler my theology gets . . . Fundamentally, it still comes back to that God is love . . . If nothing else–and that’s a big if–God is that force that drives us to really see each other, and to really behold each other, and care for each other, and respond to each other, and for me, that is actually enough.

The first part especially resonates with me. When I was younger, I was constantly worried about whether I could express a coherent personal theology. But now that doesn’t bother me so much. My personal theology is pretty much just the Golden Rule, and I’m okay with that. I don’t sweat the rest of it.
* That quote is about 31 minutes into the podcast of this interview.

‘Great Pumpkin’ spirituality

From Fred Clark’s latest post on the novel Left Behind:

What really matters to [authors LaHaye and Jenkins] is whether or not Buck “truly believes” — whether or not he is, like Rayford, passionately sincere and sincerely passionate. My Calvinist brother calls this “Great Pumpkin” spirituality — the idea that our sincerity, rather than God’s grace, is the decisive factor. I’m very much not a Calvinist, but I agree that such Great Pumpkin spirituality makes no sense. Jesus’ parables are filled with characters begging for forgiveness for the most selfish and venal reasons imaginable, yet that never matters in those stories.

Jesus Made Me Puke

Rolling Stone sent a reporter undercover to an Encounter Weekend sponsored by Pastor John Hagee’s Cornerstone [Mega]Church in San Antonio. Although I don’t care much for the flippant ‘those-wacky-christians’ tone of the article, the reporter does make some interesting observations about the brainwashing aspects of his experience. Scary stuff.

By the end of the weekend I realized how quaint was the mere suggestion that Christians of this type should learn to “be rational” or “set aside your religion” about such things as the Iraq War or other policy matters. Once you’ve made a journey like this — once you’ve gone this far — you are beyond suggestible. It’s not merely the informational indoctrination, the constant belittling of homosexuals and atheists and Muslims and pacifists, etc., that’s the issue. It’s that once you’ve gotten to this place, you’ve left behind the mental process that a person would need to form an independent opinion about such things. You make this journey precisely to experience the ecstasy of beating to the same big gristly heart with a roomful of like-minded folks. Once you reach that place with them, you’re thinking with muscles, not neurons.
By the end of that weekend, Phil Fortenberry could have told us that John Kerry was a demon with clawed feet, and not one person would have so much as blinked. Because none of that politics stuff matters anyway, once you’ve gotten this far. All that matters is being full of the Lord and empty of demons. And since everything that is not of God is demonic, asking these people to be objective about anything else is just absurd. There is no “anything else.” All alternative points of view are nonstarters. There is this “our thing,” a sort of Cosa Nostra of the soul, and then there are the fires of Hell. And that’s all.

Even more idiocy

What other kind of guide is there for intelligent design?
Here’s the publisher’s description of the book (emphasis added):

Intelligent Design is one of the hottest issues facing parents and educators to day, but it can be hard to separate the facts from the heated rhetoric. This expert and objective guide gets to the bottom of the questions: What is Intelligent Design? Should it replace or complement traditional science? What’s all the fuss about?

  • Explains the terms, the controversy, and the involvement of the American courts
  • Indispensable guide for concerned educators and parents
  • Written by an expert in the field

Science and mystery

In his latest essay in The Christian Century, Gordon Atkinson explains why we need both science and mystery. As usual, Gordon expresses my sentiments more eloquently than I ever could:

Some people see the boundary between mystery and science as a battleground with barbed wire and trenches on either side. But I think that the place where our searching and empirical minds meet the mysteries of the world is the realm of worship and poetry. Before Adam and Eve, the world was chaos, like a vast unconscious mind with no boundaries and no definitions. The world itself hasn’t changed, but our human perspective is continually solving mysteries and creating new ones as fast as we can.
Our love of answers has always been nicely balanced against our penchant for awe and worship. Reality is both a thing to be conquered and also something to be worshiped. This is the human way.
I wonder when it was that science and religion stopped seeing each other as ancient twins of the human mind and started seeing each other as competitors. While I and others like me slog it out in the worshiping world of mystery, brother scientist is observing, collating and solving mysteries as fast as he can. I don’t want him to stop. I like the way he slays ancient gods. What I want is for us to embrace each other and walk though life together. He can solve old mysteries and I can celebrate the new ones.

Build-A-Bear is the antichrist

Today, a coworker who has young children was explaining to a childless coworker how Build-A-Bear works. This reminded me. I’m surprised that wacko right-wing Christians haven’t started a campaign against Build-A-Bear (I didn’t find any such thing on the Google).
In the process of making a stuffed animal at Build-A-Bear, the child does the following:

You select a heart – a Build-A-Bear Workshop trademark. Then you warm it in the palm of your hands, make a wish, and put it inside your new furry friend. This magical moment brings your furry friend to life and creates an unforgettable memory.

Sounds an awful lot like playing God to me.