Why Calvin matters: 5-21-09
More Holocaust denial: 5-23-/24-09

Organ-izing worship: 5-22-09


A few days after the pipe organ at my church had been removed and hauled off on a huge truck back and taken east for a major renovation, I spoke to a banquet of the local chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

And all of that has me thinking about the place of music in worship.

Well, in my Protestant tradition, the place of music is, if not central, quite important, and in churches such as mine, a pipe organ plays a vital role in creating that music.

As I told the guild of organists here, I'm the wrong Tammeus kid to be talking about this. My oldest sister, Karin, is a Juilliard pipe organ graduate and she plays and teaches in the Bay Area. But she doesn't write this blog and she wasn't the one invited to speak to the organists' guild, so I'll say a few words about all of that and she can read it if she wants to.

First, I want to tell you what you already can see from this photo (by Marsha Kirsch of our church office staff) of the sanctuary at my church when the pipes were being un-installed for shipping: Holy cow. What a complex instrument a pipe organ is. When disassembled, it fills a church. When assembled, it can fill a church with astonishing sounds.

I suggested to the organists that they remember that most of the people hearing their music are musically untrained. But the ignorance of an audience does not mean organists should lower their standards, only that they must be aware of the way what they produce is often received.

The lesson, I told the organists, is to remember that musical art is art only if it somehow speaks to the silence that lies at the epicenter of our souls, the silence that snuffs out words as inadequate intruders on truth.

Indeed, music is one of the best arguments I know that humans are not just physical beings but also have an equally real spiritual dimension. Wholly consummated music finds the cycles humming deep inside our vulnerability and resonates with the essence of our beings. It can give us new spiritual eyes and let us see new possibilities or, at least, renew old, moribund possibilities.

And for me, the pipe organ is a central source of such music. While my church's organ is gone, we're using both a piano and a synthesizer. They're fine temporarily. But I can't wait for our refurbished organ to return to us by the Christmas season.

* * *


Several years ago I heard journalist Asra Nomani speak to a small group of journalists in Washington, D.C., and then I read her book, Standing Alone in Mecca. She's a fascinating and refreshing Muslim voice who is seeking to bring change to Islam. The "On Faith" blog of the Washington Post is featuring this interview with Nomani in preparation for an upcoming documentary. Give a listen.



Susan, check out the Dover trial concerning the Discovery Institute. Eugenie Scott is one of my favorites. There are many more videos on the Dover Trial:

Eugenie Scott on ID, Creationism and Dover 1of7

JT said, “It is easy to jump to conclusions of "deterministic election" when you see a word such as "(pre)destined". But "predestined" simply means "destined ahead of time." One must always ask:
1. What destiny?
2. Ahead of what time?

And then went on and on about destiny and the judgment day. Check it out: May 21, 2009 at 2;15 PM

Misdirection, Jt. It’s a puppet show. Magic tricks. KC Shuffle.

The mental wizard is spewing bible verses to prove what? “To the praise of his glory.” He doesn’t even help the starving children of the world. His world. That is not a loving god.

JT said, “God changes those who become known to Him through Christ. The process leading to eternal life is the promised response of God to one who repents and accepts the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”

Some lordship. Sounds like a dictator who wants everybody to love him and if you don’t his wrath will take care of that.

Audio tape yourself sometime with all these bible verses – your interpretation - and then listen to yourself. Do you believe what you hear-?

The topic of Ireland was also on the front page of the Star yesterday. I read it on my lunch break. This is horrific! Even when it comes to trial these guilty people are hidden. Pathetic.

Peace For the Sake of Goodness Cole

Will Graham

In response to some of the posts about the "new" atheists, here is an interesting article by Charlotte Allen in the L.A. Times:


Dolores Lear

"The lesson, I told the organists, is to remember that musical art is art only if it somehow speaks to the silence that lies at the epicenter of our souls, the silence that snuffs out words as inadequate intruders on truth."

The silence at the epicenter of our souls, is not different in any religion. How we reach this Center of our Being, is different and still the same, in Man-Made Religions, with Temples made by Human Hands.

This Human Lifestyle is about Worshiping God a Higher 'Being', in our Image, not Serving Life on our Home Planet, with Free Will for All Human Souls.

How many Masters/Haves and Slaves/Havenots Souls, are there on Planet Earth?

Humans on a Planet cannot be Equal Souls, until they Die and go to Heaven? Is Body and Soul different?

In Genesis, Male and Female were Created Equal Genetic and Physical Adult 'Body and Soul' Clones. When did the Male become Dominant over the Female and Reproduce Children Souls?

Or, did Humans Reproduced like Animals, and there never was Perfect Adult Humans Souls on Earth, as stated in Genesis and Myth?

Why was this Fairy Tale about Perfect Humans, handed down from Human Generation to Generation?

Humans again have the High Tech Science, like 'in the beginning', to Clone Life.

With High Tech Birth and Regeneration of our Bodies, and with Spaceship travel, Humans can have Eternal Physical Life, After Birth, on Planets and in Spaceships.

GOD is the GOD of the Visible and the Invisible Life Species. Eternal Life is for Visible Living Purebred Adult Humans, and Invisible GODs Elements.

It is up to the Human Species if they have Generation Body Birth, Death, and Rebirth.

Or, with High Tech Science, have Eternal Human Life After Birth, on Planets and in Spaceships.


Thanks to all who answered my question yesterday. I am still giving the subject a great deal of thought. Although most every answer indicated that seeing a Christian drink alcohol (but not drunk) would not cause them to be seen as hypocritical or of questionable Christian character, I did find a survey that showed that 14% of people do see even one drink of alcohol as a sin.

The Bible does not specifically say that God does not want us to drink even one drink of alcohol. But one of the Scriptures cited yesterday actually implies abstinence rather than discourages it. Paul instructs Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach. That he had to tell Timothy to do that indicates that Timothy was intentionally abstaining from alcohol, and Paul, rather than tell him to get over it, told him alcohol does have a legitimate medicinal use.


Bill, what a fascinating interview with Asra Nomani! I definitely want to read her book now. And to learn about her vision of Islam. Maybe then I'll understand why my old neighbor has kept converting back to Islam.

It was interesting to read how one commenter on the Washington Post article accused Ms. Nomani of "advertising of her illicit behavior of having a child out of wedlock" -- I guess meaning that even talking about it is "advertising?"

I guess when you consider that 100 years ago in America, it was taboo for pregnant women to even be seen in public, it isn't so weird that people are saying things like this today, and even criticizing me for talking about breastfeeding. That "woman stuff" is just too tough for mixed crowds to stomach! Never mind that we were all born of women!

I like what you said here: "Indeed, music is one of the best arguments I know that humans are not just physical beings but also have an equally real spiritual dimension." For me, playing the radio is one of my favorite things about going somewhere in the car. I will often take the long way somewhere, i.e. driving across town intsead of getting on the interstate, just to have more time to listen.

And my husband is a real music guy. Always keeping up with what's new and bringing a variety into our home and lives.


Cole, I enjoyed listening to your Eugenie Scott video. It makes no sense to me that some Christians feel so threatened by Evolutionary theories -- I guess it's because a literal interpretation of the Bible is crucial for their brand of Christianity to continue.

Will, I read that L.A. Times article you linked to. Ms. Charlotte Allen starts off by saying: "I can't stand atheists -- but it's not because they don't believe in God. It's because they're crashing bores." Reading her article, I couldn't help wondering -- what did Atheists ever do to her? What is she whining about?

Seriously, I think you may have linked to the article just so you could accuse me of "jumping to the defense of Atheists." Though I don't think Atheists really need my defense, I will say that the article was just pretty hate-filled and stupid. I know, I know, that's your perception of every. single. word I write here, because I have the gall to criticique parts of my upbringing and the religious training I received.

In your (or maybe J.T.'s) book, looking critically at the past is tantamount to "whining" -- unless I guess the person was raised by Atheists, LOL.

adam harrison

Speaking of the Charlotte Allen article in the LA Times, the new atheists might get a kick out of Christopher Hedges's book: When Atheism Becomes Religion.

He demonstrates that "fundamentalists" inhabit both sides of the fence, Theist and Atheist, with the Atheists Fundies telling people to "shut up" and keep their beliefs to themselves.

Hedges is very liberal, and opposed the Iraq War while Hitchens and Harris could not get enought of killing Moslems.


Just Thinking

Cole, I understand that you want to be able to determine what is "good." You've said that many times, and you want others to conform to that standard of "good." You want to be God and you want others to follow you in that. It angers you that people won't follow you. It angers you that we won't declare your worth-ship.

If people wanted to follow your lead, Cole, and learn "goodness" from you, then you would understand that, in contrast to your statement: "Some lordship. Sounds like a dictator who wants everybody to love him and if you don't his wrath will take care of that." You're the one that comes off sounding like the dictator. You can't stand the idea of people following God, and your wrath begins to show when they won't follow your lead. You insults continue, "Misdirection, Jt. It’s a puppet show. Magic tricks. KC Shuffle." It's funny that you can't hear yourself. Perhaps you need to "Audio tape yourself sometime" as you advised me. You want to be the shot-caller, but you can't, Cole, because your notions of "good" have time and again fallen way short.

God is worthy of being followed, unlike you, Cole. And it's a *good* thing that He promises to help people root out the evil in their lives when they commit to following Him. That's what those who want to the follow Him *want* to happen. If can't stand following the lead of God, then you still have this life. You expect to perish after that anyway. It's up to you. If you don't want to live eternally with Creator God who alone sustains life, then who is going to sustain your life? Your existence will end after Judgment Day, in the second death when you are destroyed.


I just found another great Washington Post article on Asra Nomani. Many (including myself now) see her as the Rosa Parks of Islam. I think she's a truly amazing person, and very brave to keep doing what she's doing in the midst of all the death threats, not just against her, but against her family as well. And, of course, there is some very harsh criticism coming from the Moslem community.

I.e., Mohammed Ashraf, responding to a post on SABBAHBLOG criticizing Ms. Nomani, suggested what he thought would be a "better" title for her book --

"Standing Alone in Mecca
But Oh! Sleeping Together in Karachi" --

And talked about what an uphill battle he thinks Ms. Nomani will have since Moslems take such pride in the modesty and chastity of their women. And now I'll post a link to the Washington Post article, and also to the critical blog post in case anyone wants to see it.



Just Thinking


OBEDIENCE REQUIRES DEVOTION OF OUR FULL BEING, which requires loving relationships with God and others along our individual journey. God wants us to commit heart, mind, emotions, and will to following Him, not just commit to rote law. And He expects us to lovingly consider our neighbor, too: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind." "Love your neighbor as yourself."

It's interesting to see how different people keep a clear conscience toward God and toward others. But we cannot always extrapolate from ourselves to others.

What is sin for one person may not be sin for another. Even though it may not be sinful for one of us to drink, it may be sinful to drink around someone else. For some it is a sin to drink anything at all. Rote rules don't cover everything for everyone.

Romans 14
Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on DISPUTABLE MATTERS. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Paul indicates that conscience is critical: "So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." But he notes that conscience is not enough: "My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me."

God wants everything.

adam harrison

You know, what I find amusing about all the atheists posting here is that they spend so much time on Bill's blog while they have abandoned the KCFREETHOUGHT ATHEIST FORUM.

I think that says something.

Just Thinking


More of Romans 14 pertains to your question about drinking. It delights me to quote Scripture here, even though it makes some SIZZLE. :)

Romans 14:10-21
You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written:
" 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord,
'every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will confess to God.' "
So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But IF ANYONE REGARDS SOMETHING AS UNCLEAN, THEN FOR HIM IT IS UNCLEAN. IF YOUR BROTHER IS DISTRESSED because of what you eat, YOU ARE NO LONGER ACTING IN LOVE. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

Red Biddy

Your photograph of the mechanism of your church organ "inspired" me to look up Organ (Hisotry of) in the Oxford Companion to Music I found this:
The old Scottish name, invented in derision of the time when Calvinistic piety objected to the introduction of machinery for the worship of God, was "Kist o' whistles. i.e. chest or box of whistles.
Was there ever such a time when "Calvinistic piety objected to the introduction of machinery for the worship of God" ?
I know the Puritans and Quakers never used music as part of their worship services but was there a time when Presbyterians did not approve of it either ?


Regarding church music: in the early Greek church there was a dispute over whether one should have music. The question was whether the music enhances or takes away from concentration on the words.

The words were thus the most important. Ever since Plato the Greeks (pre-Christian) knew that music had the ability to fire up the passions. One had to be sure, therefore, that music served the words of God.

The Eastern Orthodox don't use any instruments during services. Almost all the service is sung/chanted. Coptic Christians, however, use symbols (which sound very cool).

Red Biddy

There's some really "spirited" debate going on among atheists about the use of the word "spiritual" in regard to its use by nonbelievers, who say "I'm not religious but I am spiritual."
Tom Flynn (editor of Free Inquiry magazine) even went as far as saying he feels like reaching for his revolver when he hears people using the phrase !
The word "Spiritual" indicates a belief in "spirits" surely ! Either the kind we get out of a bottle (I'm O.K. with that !)or the supernatural, ghosts, Holy Spirits and such.
Philip Zuckerman (Free Inquiry April/May) came up with a new words "AWEISM" to describe the feeling we all have when contemplating the universe or listening to great music. I kind of prefer "AWESOME" myself !

Red Biddy

In answer to your question yesterday in regard to my doubts about the lemur-like fossil being the missing link, I really don't have a definitive answer to that, except to say that there doesn't seem to be a consensus among scientists yet, as to whether it is or not !

The excitement has been generated because they have never found such a complete skeleton before. It's a link certainly, but some scientists are saying it is more likely to be a great, great AUNT rather than a great, great GRANDMOTHER.

Now if we could extract a bit of DNA from "Ida" we might be able to clinch it ! There was a super article in Scientific American (May issue) about rare stretches of DNA that are ours alone. If we could find those in a 47 million year fossil that would really clinch it !

Red Biddy

There's a joke I heard.
Why are Unitarians such bad singers ?
Because they always read the words ahead, before they sing them, to see if they agree with the sentiments being expressed !

Dolores Lear

"If you don't want to live eternally with Creator God who alone sustains life, then who is going to sustain your life? Your existence will end after Judgment Day, in the second death when you are destroyed."

The Christian Religion teaches there is a First Human Body Death. Then at the Judgment Day, Humans will Reincarnate into the Same Physical Body, to be Judged.

Humans today, could Reproduce Human Clones like Adam and Eve. So far Humans can only Reproduce Same Sex Clone Animals.

In Genesis, the Male and Female Clone Brother/Sister Humans, did Reproduce Misbred Children. The jokes about Humans in Arkansas marrying brothers and sisters will not be so funny when this happened 'in the beginning'.

This was the Original Sin of Inbreeding, and all Humans Brothers/Sisters have been Marrying and Misbreeding in the Original Sin ever since.

The Judgment Day and the Second Death is about Brothers/Sisters Misbreeding, ever since Generation Birth, Death, and Rebirth happened.

The Christian Bible says only Virgin Males will make it to Heaven/Space, like Jesus did. Then the same Female Cloning Event, will happen on a new Planet, like it happened in Genesis 2.

The Males will be given Female Clones, and Life will again begin, and they will avoid the First Death, as long as they do not Reproduce Misbred Children.

Then with a High Tech Science Lifestyle, Humans can have Eternal Physical Life After Birth, on Planets and in Spaceships.

They can escape a Planet, Solar System, Galaxy or Universe when they Die or Collapse into a Black Hole of Science.

This is 'Literal' Eternal Physical Life After Birth, on Planets and in Spaceships, like the Lord God in Genesis, in our Human Image.

Just Thinking

I've always loved the monkey argument given that intelligence could arise in a random fashion: "A monkey randomly tapping on a typewriter long enough will 'almost surely' produce Hamlet." Perhaps, but the odds are incredibly overwhelming that you'd run out of molecules in the Universe for typewriter ribbon long before it ever happened.

The largest number in the Universe is realistically limited by the number of particles in the Universe (1e+80):
That seems unfathomably large to most of us, but that is INCREDIBLY SMALL compared to the number of ways a monkey could randomly type out just 100 letters/punctuation on a keyboard.

Suppose you ignore upper and lower case, and consider only 32 keys (includes space & punctation). There are 32*32*....*32 (32 multiplied by itself 100 times) possible random sequences of 100 keystrokes that someone could type. That's about 3.3e+150 (i.e., 3 with 150 zeroes behind it):
And only ONE of those sequences would match a specific, given sequence of 100 letters/punctuation.

The number of particles in the Universe is about
And the number of possible patterns you can get with 100 keystrokes is 3.3e+150. That's
times as many particles in the Universe! In other words, if you use just one particle to mark each possible outcome, then you'd need this many Universes full of particles:
If you marked each trial that you checked before finding Hamlet, then the odds would be unbelievably small of finding Hamlet before you ran out of molecules in the Universe.

Worse yet, if each particle in the Universe were a monkey tapping on a typewriter, then the odds would still be miniscule of finding Hamlet before the Universe ended.

Intelligence is hard to come by in a random fashion, but Cole keeps checking YouTube, just in case.


While on the subject of Asra Nomani, I thought I'd share about Sue Monk Kidd, an author I just recently learned about. One of the mothers in an online homeschooler's group I'm part of is just crazy about her book "The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman's Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine." Kidd comes from the Southern Baptist tradition, and also from the South -- I think her husand was even a minister.

I'm sharing a link where you can read the first page of her book if you want to -- she tells how she went to pick up her teen daughter from her part-time job, and went in to see her daughter being sexually-harassed by two middle-aged men, and how this started her on a journey of questioning her religious traditions. I want to read both her book and Ms. Nomani's: I think it'll be interesting to contrast one woman's decision to move on, with another's resolve to stay and reform.


Red Biddy

I'm not surprised that only 14% of people in the survey you found, thought even one drink was sinful. Were they Moslem by any chance ?
Did the survey say to which religion the 14 % belonged ?
As you surely know, alcohol is absolutely verboten in Islam.

The other taboo common to all the monotheist religions is gambling. Love to see a survey on that. Bet the percentage of people thinking that practice is sinful would be very low in this country, although maybe not, in the present economic downturn !

There's one well known Bible reference to alcohol in Proverbs, I've always liked: "Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that have heavy hearts."

This injunction could equally apply to the medical use of weed couldn't it ?

adam harrison

I am unclear, Red Biddy, as to why we should give any credence to the ramblings of someone named after a cheap alcoholic drink! LOL!

Of course, since the "scholarship" of most of the atheist posters here consists of Wikipedia and You Tube references, what the heck!


adamh, some of us are more interested in the ideas being expressed, than we are in a poster's user-name.

But when it comes to user-names, I think Red Biddy is way more original that Adam ... or Susan for that matter ... Susan hasn't been around quite as long as Adam has, LOL, but it's still a fairly common name, I remember there were often 2 or 3 Susan's in my classes at school.

Now THAT'S something for me to whine about -- not getting to be the only Susan. Heck, maybe I'll just throw one of my famous tantrums on the blog floor when I have more time, but right now I need to go put away groceries and dish out ice cream.

adam harrison

It was a JOKE, Susan! Lighten up. I think "Red Biddy" is a hilarious name. In fact, quite fitting.

But what "ideas" are you referring too? (chuckle) Can I learn more about them on Wikipedia and You Tube?


adamh's link

Chris Hedges, who graduated from seminary at Harvard Divinity School, has long been a courageous voice in a world where there are too few. He observes that there are two radical, polarized and dangerous sides to the debate on faith and religion in America: the fundamentalists who see religious faith as their prerogative, and the new atheists who brand all religious belief as irrational and dangerous. Both sides use faith to promote a radical agenda, while the religious majority, those with a commitment to tolerance and compassion as well as to their faith, are caught in the middle.
The new atheists, led by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, do not make moral arguments about religion. Rather, they have created a new form of fundamentalism that attempts to permeate society with ideas about our own moral superiority and the omnipotence of human reason.
I Don't Believe in Atheists critiques the radical mindset that rages against religion and faith. Hedges identifies the pillars of the new atheist belief system, revealing that the stringent rules and rigid traditions in place are as strict as those of any religious practice.
Hedges claims that those who have placed blind faith in the morally neutral disciplines of reason and science create idols in their own image -- a sin for either side of the spectrum. He makes an impassioned, intelligent case against religious and secular fundamentalism, which seeks to divide the world into those worthy of moral and intellectual consideration and those who should be condemned, silenced and eradicated. Hedges shatters the new atheists' assault against religion in America, and in doing so, makes way for new, moderate voices to join the debate. This is a book that must be read to understand the state of the battle about faith.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)