A new interfaith effort: 9-19-2008
Commemorating witch trials: 9-22-08

Living with death: 9-20/21-2008

A time or two in the past I have mentioned the Rev. Forrest Church (pictured here), whom I've come to know at least a little. He's dying of cancer and he spent much of the early part of this year pushing himself hard to finish a book he wanted to write, a book that has a title -- unlike the title of some books -- that really describes what's inside, Love & Death: My Journey Through the Valley of the Shadow.


It was officially released just a few days ago, and I want to share a few passages from it with you this weekend as a way to honor Forrest and also a way to suggest that you and the people you know who are going to die (that's everyone, unless I miss my guess) might benefit from reading the book.

Forrest spent many years as senior minister of All Souls Unitarian Church of New York City. Because he's a Unitarian-Universalist and I'm a Presbyterian, we hold somewhat different theologies. But that doesn't mean that I can't learn from his experience and his careful attention to what he's going through.

For instance, I love this advice to those facing death soon:


"Take those who love you, one at a time, and sit down and ask them how they're feeling about your death. Then shut your mouth and listen. . . . Letting people grieve is simply another way to let them love you. It's not your fault that you are dying. Don't make it their fault that they are grieving. . . . Bless their tears. Tell them they mean the world to you. And before you know it, you will be crying, too, for them, for you, for the whole aching world."

I also like this:

" The peace of extinction is different from the peace of fulfillment, of course. Yet, whether to fulfillment or extinction, when God carries us home, it will be to a place of eternal rest. No promise is more comforting and none, for me, more certain."

Well, as regular readers of my blog and my column know, I write about death a lot because I agree with Forrest that none of us can understand our life if we don't somehow make sense of our death, nor can we understand our death if we fail to grasp the gift that our lives are.

* * *


Pope Benedict XVI says that Pope Pius XII "spared no effort" to save Jews in the Holocaust, and, thus, should be moved toward sainthood. That's a profoundly debatable proposition. And I would have felt much better about such a conclusion had it come from Pope John Paul II, the best pope the Jews ever had. For a view of Pius XII and the Holocaust from the Jewish Virtual Library, click here.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (My Saturday column this weekend is about religious conversion -- and some people paying scholarly attention to the phenomenon.)


adam harrison

There is much rememberance of the holocaust presented to us, but of the five or six times as many killed in the GULAGS by the officially atheistic governments of the past century there is hardly ever a mention.

I wonder why that is?

(for a good source, see the three volume series The Gulag Archipelago by the Nobel Prize Winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn.)

Joe Barone

Forrest Church is a UU hero precisely because of comments like that last one.

Joe Barone

When I was growing up, I was taught of "sins of commission" and "sins of omission." I couldn't help but think of the latter as I read the link about Pius XII today.

Just Thinking

I enjoyed the piece about salvation, Bill. There is often a sense of knowing that someone has entered into new life. That is what "born again" means: washing of forgiveness, and a renewed spirit through the indwelling Holy Spirit. "Born again of water and of Spirit." That is the way that Jesus described it. God breathed life into the first man, and He breathes NEW life into the "reborn" one.

Spirit is a word that comes from breath. The animating force that is life was breathed into man. The Greek word is 'pneuma,' from which we obtain the word pneumatic. Air is the driving force behind the pneumatic hammer, too. Notice the use of the word 'wind' in what Jesus describes:
John 3:5-8
"I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

Billy Graham described this well when he pointed out that you can't see the wind, but you can feel the effects of the wind. And so it is with anyone who has been reborn. You can't directly see it, but you can see the effects of the wind.

The moment that we start a life of sin is the moment in which God separates from us, and our spirit begins to die. Innocence lost. But there can be new life through washing of forgiveness and a new breath by the Holy Spirit.

IGGY - www.KCFreeThinkers.org

Just Thinking wrote
John 3:5-8
"I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.

Let's extrapolate on this, JT. A baby from China is adopted into a Christian family and is not baptized as it dies before.

I am positive you'll cherry pick another quote from the Bible that will prove the baby will go to heaven.

And I agree about wind, there is a lot of hot air/wind going around on this blog

Dolores Lear

Living with Death, has never been a sorrowful experience for me, because when I was a Missouri Lutheran Christian, I was glad for my family and friends, when they died, to go to be with Jesus.

All my family, relations, and friends, died from genetic sicknesses, not from a shocking experience.

Now I Know about the High Tech Science Human Species, that never Die, and Live Eternally in the Same Physical Body After Birth, on Planets and in spaceships.

They are called Supernatural Gods, Goddesses and Angels in Religion and Myth, by Humans without High Tech Science Knowledge.

Physical Human 'Death' began in Genesis, after Perfect Human Beings made Imperfect Humans, by Heterosexual Body Birth, which caused Misbred Genetics and Death.

GOD the Unknown Creator of the Elements that make Life as we Know it, nor God our Perfect Human Ancestor Creators of Life on Earth, cause Death.

I now accept Death of my Physical Body, as my Elements returning to the GOD, that made the Living Elements. The Heaven of Religion.

I accept Death as a result of the Fall of Perfect Humans to the Heterosexual Body Birth Lifestyle, on Earth.

I will always be Part of GODs Elements, whether I am Alive or Dead at Earth's Judgement Day. GODs Elements, Unseen, are the Spirit Life of Religion, waiting for Rebirth.

Humans Know there is Death of Seen Physical Life. There has not been the Death of GODs Unseen Element/Spirit Life.

When GODs Elements Die, there will be No Seen or Unseen Universe Life as we Know it.

Just Thinking

Some more misconceptions to clear up for you, KCFreeThinker.

First, God holds you responsible for YOUR sins, not for someone else's. There are consequences of sin that affect others all the time. We've discussed that already. But that's different than being judged for those sins. There are locks on every door in this society and we all suffer because of the dishonest actions of others. And others will suffer because of ours, too. That's what people should understand. That's what the original sin did to us: perfection was destroyed, will not be restored, and everyone suffers. But eternal judgment by God is just, and it does not include judgment for sins that you did not commit. People are created in innocence, and those who have not sinned are not guilty. The soul that sins will die, not someone else.

Second, Baptism is not a requirement for salvation. Jesus did not use the word "Baptize," but instead spoke about "Born again of water and the Spirit." Very different. These are things that God must do for a sinner: 1. God must wash away your sins by forgiveness, because you cannot earn your way out of your sin. 2. God must give you new life through the Holy Spirit. Baptism is not required for this to occur. I know of at least one case recorded in the Bible where people received the Holy Spirit before being Baptized; in this way, God made it clear that He alone determines salvation, not man. However, Baptism carries definite promises (see Acts 2).

As I mentioned before, those who are seeking God with a heart to follow will find God. God promises that. Innocent life is not punished. And God does not create filth. He creates good people who fall.

adam harrison

It is hilarious to see Iggy making comments about hot air on this blog!

That said, does he understand context? Does he understand that born of water and spirit does not refer exclusively to baptism?

Of course he does, which means he is only here to derail. This should, of course, be no suprise to anyone who reviews the Dec. and Jan. archives and sees where he basically would love to see this blog shut down.)

What he fails to undertand, however, that the methods he was educated under, and which were employed for 70 years in the Soviet Union in an attempt to destroy religion...and failed...are most certainly not going to work in the United States. (Of course, he doesn't know that much about American history, and has never bothered to become a citizen even though he has been here since about 1992, but what the heck?! LOL)

IGGY - www.KCFreeThinkers.org

Just Thinking,

The wind doesn't blow wherever it pleases (it's a metaphor, not a fact, you do understand it, right?). Wind is a natural phenomenon, not a godly one. Wind is not alive, therefore it cannot be pleased in doing anything. This is just for starters.

For more logical fallacies of "water flowing out bellies" of Jesus' believers, please, visit http://www.KCFreeThinkers.org/wateroutofbelly.htm

When you understand that we one looks at your faith as well as other faiths from a bird's eye view, there is so much "reasonable doubt" that to a normal individual who is not bamboozled by dogma of religion or has critical thinking (which is clearly discoragned and disparaged in the bible) it looks nothing but hot air which you were trying to connect with "living" - just like Jesus was trying to connect "living" water with faith in him, but it requires that there is a scripture to which he refers that doesn't exist.

Untill then, it will be amusing to watch you to be an "Enemy of Reason" - check out http://www.KCFeeThinkers.org/enemiesofreason.htm

When you get the point why these delusoinal people cannot understand why hteir delusions don't work, then you will understand why you could not underastand whey your delusion doesn't work.

Or maybe not...


Thank you for the quotes about death. Death has been the great re-prioratizer in my life. In spite of the sadness that it has brought each time, I thank God because it has reminded me of what is important and what keeps me from living my life.

When I think of Jesus' quote, "Pick up your cross," this evokes the image of walking to one's death, taking one's last steps. When I take up my cross, what are my thoughts? What is most important to me at that point? The quotes cited above remind me that it's only love that matters, whom I've loved and the relationships I have.

Thanks again, Bill.

IGGY - www.KCFreeThinkers.org

Got this e-mail today and it reminded me of the Bible as a "reality based" spamming scheme.

See if you can guess why this e-mail "evokes image of" (as RichB stated about "cross") of spam.

Dear Account User,

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Thanks for using timewarner.net® Internet SM To prevent your Account from closing you will have to update it below before three days from now!

Confirm Your Account Details

Zip Code:
You will be sent a confirmation letter from timewarner.net customer service after our upgrading Thanks for your understanding.
Customer Service Warning!!! Account owner that refuses to update his or timewarner.net account before five days of receiving this warning will lose his or her account permanently.


IGGY - www.KCFreeThinkers.org

Back from the grave
by Guardian
Back from the grave
Research on near-death experiences is unlikely to find evidence that human consciousness can survive without a brain

Just Thinking

More misconceptions to clear up, KCFreeThinker.

First, imagine a large, nearly frictionless billiard table with many balls bouncing around and colliding, nearly colliding, etc. Are you really going to be able to predict where everything is after a few days? Then imagine changing the position or speed of just one of those balls a tiny amount and starting over. Imagine how much of a difference you'd see after a few days. Just a small inaccuracy in measurement can mean the difference between a collision or a near miss.

The Butterfly Effect: the wings of a butterfly causes a tornado somewhere else.

Now imagine air molecules in a box. First, understand it is not possible to accurately measure the position and velocity of the air molecules at the same time because of the uncertainty principle. So right away your predictions are doomed to failure. But the real PHILOSOPHICAL problem comes when you add effects of quantum mechanics. Whenever you measure or interact with a system, you almost always introduce randomness into the system, and though the changes may seem insignificant, those small changes can cause huge changes (Bufferfly Effect) down the road. You just don't know.

The world is NOT deterministic, KCFreeThinker. Things are not machine-like. Probabilistic Quantum theories of randomness replaced deterministic science over a century ago. It is believed IMPOSSIBLE (not just unlikely) to predict which random path will be taken; only the odds of a certain thing happening can be known. IF something dictates the exact outcome, it is NOT science. :) And, as I mentioned, those small UNKNOWABLES impact the winds and the seas!

When your philosophy depends on Physics, FreeThinker, as least make sure you understanding is current. Your delusions of determinism are outdated by well more than a century. Where have you been?


Once again, adamh, go read a book and become familiar with the subject matter before you start spouting your ignorance for the world to see. Atheistic nation
=/= in the name of atheism. Since you want to play that card, shall I mention things like the Crusades for you? Yeah, yeah, I'm sure you'll spout something about defending Christians, but there's a fine line between defence and offence. Either way, this argument does NOT prove your god or any other god. Just because something "feels uncomfortable" for you, does not make it wrong.

adam harrison

JT, your response to KC on Sept 19 at 4:29 p.m. was devastating.

You totally debunked him, and he didn't even try to respond.

Your detailed responses today make it clear to anyone that he is not even responding to those but just posting spam.

And it will be clear to them that he has been debunked, and totally outclassed.

Not too impressive a start, "kc" for your new atheist recruiting drive. (And that's what it is; some of you may have noted that his presence here picked up again about the same time as the billboard appeared.)



adam harrison

Lance, you have already mentioned the crusades. If Christians are responsible for them, atheists are responsible for the Gulags.

You can't have it both ways, skippy!

(And by the way, YOU go read a book on Constitutional Law; secular most certainly does NOT equal atheistic.)

Just Thinking

So, reiterating, KCFreeThinker,

The choice of the wind as a metaphor for Spirit is excellent. Science does not fully determine the action of the wind. It cannot, and it does not. Not just because we cannot measure accurately. The world is NOT deterministic. All the laws and equations of science taken together do not and cannot fully determine what will happen!!! It's a fact that you must accept, KCFreeThinker. Your God of science cannot crowd out my God of Heaven. There is more required to describe this world than what science can EVER provide!

We can think of the world as incomplete and human beings as making choices left open to probability. This is entirely consistent with modern science. It is perfectly consistent to think of a spirit in each of us that has free will to change our course. Of course you would reject it, but your god of science was forced to make room for it. Wind is one of those things that is incompletely described by science. Just as the actions of the Spirit are not determined by laws of science. Actually, KCFreeThinker, wind is one of many very interesting, wonderful metaphors for Spirit.

Your old god of science did not allow this 500 years ago, when science was less mature and people thought that everything was completely deterministic, with no room for free will. But nature revealed, through basic experiments, that it is not consistent to believe that science is deterministic. NOT CONSISTENT. Scientific thought was FORCED to change. Scientists were FORCED to allow for outcomes that could not be determined by scientific laws or equations.

I know this must be deeply disturbing to you, KCFreeThinker. The God of Heaven forced your puny god of science to get his mind right on this issue. :)

Joe Barone

What a wonderful post. I agree. We can never be reminded enough of the importance of this moment in our lives.

I especially appreciated your profound take on Jesus' "Take up your cross and follow me." I hadn't thought of it in exactly that way.

IGGY - www.KCFreeThinkers.org

Just Thinking,

I agree with you on many aspects of science you have gone over - this is main stream science. However, there have not been too many research papers published involving Space Daddy Yahweh in phisics, cosology, quantum mechanics or string theory to the best of my knowledge - if you can point out any where "supernatural forces" outside of natural world have been invoked (surely if they have they have been referred to as "unknown" or "detectable but not observed directly" - like dark energy or matter) or any other god and the debate about him is unlikely to happen.

Your idea of god "causing" natural phenomenon that science cannot explain yet or could not 500 years ago is the cop out and this is where you are missing the point.

Immediately, when you invoke science the number of quotes from space daddy or Jebus scriptures falls off - only metaphors are being used.

Your quiet and somewhat cultish confidence in god is amusing and on the ohter hand are deceptive and misleading because it cannot be proven that your space daddy is doing all of this - i.e. practicality of your delusion remains to be seen unless you invoke without him all morality collapses, etc. - regular religous garbiage.

The same Intelligent Design gobbledy gook is being used by Discovery Institue to push "irreducible complexity" which has been debunked again and again - by Kenneth Miller as a practicing Catholic as one example - check his 2 hour lecture on YouTube.

If you can produce to anyone a formula where god is included we can talk.

Untill then, you will remain like these waterdowsing folks who are baffled when properly tested that they cannot find any water.

I cannot wait for your next installment and demonstrating the god of heaven through a single formula that has been scrutinized by a scientific concensus, JT.

a theist


"Space Daddy Yahweh in phisics, cosology, quantum mechanics"

including Iggy's misspellings.

Bill, I thought you banned this idiot.

a theist

KC (Iggy),

Why is it so important for you try to take away other's hope?

Just Thinking


I see that I must explain more to you. You've COMPLETELY misunderstood. And I understand that is because you don't understand science. You quote a few other people, but you haven't read and tried to understand science for yourself. It's the same problem with Christianity. You haven't read or tried to understand Christianity for yourself. You glom onto quotes by others, and that's the extent of what you are capable of understanding.

You probably don't understand what 'determinism' in science means. Determinism means that if you know enough information at a given time, then you will know everything that will happen in the future. Newtonian mechanics is deterministic. You have Newton's laws, and if you know the initial positions and velocities of the particles at a given time, then you can, in principle, know everything that will happen afterwards. Determinism says that the future is completely 'determined' by what is happening now. There could be no free will in such a system without interfering with the laws of physics. Only one thing can happen in the future.

Modern physics is NOT deterministic. You can know everything about a physical system at this point in time, but as soon as there is measurement, then randomness is introduced. Science cannot tell you which randon path will occur. This cannot be predicted by science, or there would be only ONE possible outcome. But there are often INFINITELY many possible outcomes after a measurement. Only the odds of a particular outcome is knowable. IF there is something 'determining' the outcome, then it is NOT SCIENCE. That's REALITY, KCFreeThinker, backed up by experiment, and currently accepted by Physicists as TRUTH. Your blustering, name-calling and meaningless babble is NOT accepted science.

You are ignorant of modern science. This has NOTHING to do with ID.

a theist


Open the posts for December 1,2,3 and note that "space daddy" is an Iggy term. KC is Iggy and you stated that Iggy was no longer allowed to post.


Just Thinking


Something that you have missed about the science daddy you worship is this: science daddy cannot predict everything that will happen in this world. Science daddy doesn't know everything about the future! I know this is shocking, so read VERY carefully and learn some Truth about mainline Physics. This is modern Physics and it is shocking to those who live in ignorance of science.


Modern physics is designed to accomodate this FACT: IDENTICAL experiments peformed under IDENTICAL conditions can yield DIFFERENT outcomes each and every time!!!

So it is not possible to scientifically predict the outcome of such experiments. Indeed, if such a prediction were possible, then there could be only ONE possible outcome, because everything you can possibly measure is identical. (Think very hard about this or you won't get it, KCFreeThinker.)


Science cannot address this issue. Any explanation would be beyond the natural, i.e., supernatural. So scientists must shut up at this point. Science cannot deny that something is 'determning' the outcome; nor can it confirm that something is 'determining' the outcome. But science can say that IF something is 'determining' the outcome (big IF), then that something cannot be characterized by physical measurements (i.e., it must be supernatural). (Again, you'll need to think hard.)


Why? Because things can happen differently each and every time even though they are identical from a scientific perspective. Everything you can possibly measure is identical each time you perform an experiment, and yet what happens can be different each and every time. So what happens in this world cannot be fully described by science. Science is necessarily incomplete in its description of physical happenings.

adam harrison

Your reponses to KC Iggy are right on point, JT.
You have thoroughly debunked EVERY point he tried to make, and in fact have debunked even his arbitrary basis for making the assertions he does.

And what does have? Ridicule and ad hominems and terms like "space daddy."

I would think he would be embarrassed by now, because he has been checkmated!

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