When is it a miracle? 10-29-09
Religion's role in wars: 10-31/11-1-09

The beauty and limits of words: 10-30-09

A dispute within the Roman Catholic Church about a revision of a worship book provides a chance for all of us to think about how crucial language is -- or can be -- in faith communities. And also about the limits of words.


The Catholics are considering a new translation from Latin to English of the Roman Missal, but Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, Pa., former chairman of the U.S. bishops' liturgy committee, recently leveled some sharp criticism at the revision, suggesting it was much too literal and thereby missed a lot of the intended meaning. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is to consider the changes when it meets in November.

Well, as a Presbyterian, I don't have a dog in this fight. So I won't be either leaping in on Trautman's side or defending the translators.

But I think Trautman's critique offers reminders about what use people of faith are to make of language and how important, if limited, that language is.

First, no matter what religion we claim, all of us should acknowledge that all words -- all words -- are simply metaphors in that they themselves are not the objects they describe. Rather, in an almost sacramental way, they point beyond themselves.

One of the implications of that reality is that we would do well not to fall in love with particular words or phrases because we think they exhaust the divine meaning in something. So none of the many creeds in our Presbyterian Book of Confessions, for instance, contains words that, if I say them, will guarantee me an eternal relationship with God. Rather, they direct me to eternal things. They themselves are not eternal. Some of them, it turns out, reflect misguided thinking from centuries ago, and we'd be foolish to hitch our wagons to them -- even though, as an ordained elder in the church, I have pledged to "sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church. . ."

In Christianity, at least, truth is not a doctrine or dogma expressed in exact words. Rather, truth is a person, Christ Jesus, known as the Word of God. And I find that enormously liberating.

But whatever our faith tradition, if any, let's remember not just the importance of beautifully crafted words but also their limits. That's partly what I draw from the current Catholic dispute.

(The illustration here today is from http://fysop.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/words-12.jpg.)

* * *


When Pope Benedict XVI met the new Iranian ambassador to the Vatican on Thursday, it gave him a chance to let Iran's leaders know that he and other religious leaders around the world are watching the ways in which that country either defends or denigrates the religious freedom of all its citizens. That's one good reason for countries with bad histories of religious oppression to have formal relations with the Vatican.


Just Thinking

Yesterday, some people tried to argue that nothing could exist beyond the Physical Universe. Their arguments were circular. First they *assumed* that everything which happens in the Universe is completely determined by 'laws' of nature. They then used that *assumption* to prove that nothing else can be influencing this Universe! That's called circular logic when you assume something is true, and then use the assumed statement to prove the original assumption.

"We live in a natural world. Therefore, there is nothing beyond this world." That's the flaw of circular logic.

First, and foremost, Science doesn't support the argument that everything which happens in this world is determined by some magical 'law' of nature. There is no concrete reason to believe it's true, and plenty of good reasons to believe that it is not.

Furthermore, there is no way to prove that there is nothing beyond the Physical Universe, because there would be no way to directly probe it. There could be all kinds of other, different Universes, and we could never see them. But more than that, there could be something far more complex than this Universe. And that which is far more complex could directly alter things in this Universe, even if we could not alter it. Any assumption to the contrary would be an arrogant *assumption*, much like assuming that the Sun revolves around the Earth. It really is arrogant to believe that nothing could touch us, unless we could touch it.

One person asserted that everything which happens in this Universe can be completely explained by magical natural 'laws', and then claimed that they could make 'choices'! If everything in the Universe were completely determined by magical 'laws', then their 'choices' would be mere illusions. Their 'choices' would be completely determined by magical 'laws,' too.

Just Thinking

Words don't force belief. Belief is a CHOICE.

I definitely think that people have the ability to choose what to believe. But there are those who don't believe in choices because they believe that natural 'laws' determine *everything*. To them, choice is an illusion.

So how does that change anything? I believe in offering information and allowing each person the right to choose for themselves what to believe. After you have the relevant information, then you can choose. But those who do not believe in 'free will' will not respect a 'choice,' because there is no 'choice' to be made. So if they want to change the mind of an informed person to conform with their own, then they will inevitably resort to coercion. After all, only natural forces change, not choices. So they'll apply forces as a substitute for persuasion. Bullying, intimidation, and coercion become acceptable tools to those who do not believe in 'choices' coming from free will.

When people who do not believe in choices ridicule those who are informed, but who do not think as they do, then they are declaring others to be defective. After all, if they've given you all the same information that determined their way of thinking, and you still don't respond, then there's something *wrong* with you. There is no other *possible* explanation because there's no such thing as 'choice' to them. So by their ridicule, they are declaring that they are superior and that you are defective. You should, under identical information and circumstances, think the same way as they do, because there's no such thing as 'choice'. So if you do not, then you are defective or inferior in some way. This inevitably results in a lack of respect for others who don't think their way, given the same information.

Will Graham

The interpretation issue is something that Fudamentalist Christians and Militant Atheists share.

They are always for strict/literal interpretation, but the Militant Atheist does not really rationally employ that method when it does not suit them. Take a look at how they interpret the Constitution of the United States; when it suits them they consistently say we have to go back to the "original intent" to get the correct "intrepretation".

And then, they find what they want in the Constitution; for example.

1. The "separation of church and state" which is not actually mentioned in the Constitution.

2. The "right to privacy" as a superior right to LIFE, the first not being in the Constitution.

Actually, I agree that intent...as well as CONTEXT and Historical situation...is important, but the constant denigrations and slander directed at the scriptures and the people who wrote them pretend not to see this.

Unless it suits their purposes, as with, for example, Constitutional intrepretation.

Will Graham

Yesterday, and the day before GREG SWARTZ showed up demanding proof of the existence of God. He was responded to the day before, but he simply ignored that response and came on again with the same ASSERTIONS and CLAIMS about natural law.

Just Thinking clearly showed that his reliance on the "laws of physics", etc, actually beg the question about why such laws exist, and that the broad claims made for them render Swartz's own thoughts simply products of natural law.

But here is my THEORY and CHALLENGE FOR GREG SWARTZ, in case he missed it:

I submit that there is NO PROOF, even in principle, the he would ever accept for the existence of God, given GREG'S BELIEF that all existence is the product of mindless forces, or as RICHARD DAWKINS puts it, a BLIND WATCHMAKER.

Given that BELIEF, which, as to even the origin of the universe, of life, or of supposedly objective reason, has not been demonstrated, there is NOTHING that could falsify his position. (And Greg apparently knows that Falsification is a key element of the Scientific Method.)

I challenge him to tell me what proof he would accept...EVEN IN PRINCIPLE, not necessarily in practice...of the existence of God.

Then, if he tries to produce it, I will show him that, given his UNDEMONSTRATED BELIEF in the BLIND WATCHMAKER that he would not, in fact, accept it.


“That's one good reason for countries with bad histories of religious oppression to have formal relations with the Vatican.”

Seeing that the Vatican has had a stormy history of repression – still does – that should set a lovely example.

If I was the middle east I wouldn’t trust my children with them.

I find it amazing that this fact is well known yet people keep attending their services.

What does this say about people? Even though people know how corrupt some X churches are, they just look away.

Oh, they grumble a little bit, then drop money into the plate.

I find this curiously disturbing.

Perhaps the answer is somewhere with WHY people WANT to have something in control of their life. Something to tell you to turn left, no right.

Why is it so difficult for people to accept the real, natural, world? Are they weak or just needy? No focus, perhaps.

Oh, well what is truth, huh.? Not in the imaginary.

Peace For the Sake of Goodness Cole

Dolores Lear

" A dispute within the Roman Catholic Church about a revision of a worship book provides a chance for all of us to think about how crucial language is -- or can be -- in faith communities. And also about the limits of words." -

"When Pope Benedict XVI met the new Iranian ambassador to the Vatican on Thursday, it gave him a chance to let Iran's leaders know that he and other religious leaders around the world are watching the ways in which that country either defends or denigrates the religious freedom of all its citizens."

As long as Earth has many Countries, when did Any God Religion, using Genesis, say the Catholic Vatican Religion or any Country's Religion should have a Say, on the Religion another Country Practiced?

What is the Relation of Church and State for All Earth Citizens? Is there any Country today, that has as Citizens, Only Believers in their State Religion? Or Mixed Religious Citizens and Atheists?

The USA was founded 'without' a State Religion. Why is Christianity accepted by Christians, as the Unofficial State Religion? Some Christians think it is Official.

All USA Citizens were supposed to be Equal in the Government without a State Religion, regardless of Religious Affiliation or Atheists.


Dolores Lear


Why do our Federal and State Buildings reflect the Christian Religion with Icons, Prayers, and Christian Holidays? Why is the USA called Christian America? God Bless America? etc.

Which God is that? The God/Us in Genesis that made Humans 'in their Image"? The One God of the Jews? The Three 'Persons' in One Trinity God of Catholics and Protestants, since 300? The God of Islam and all the other Religions in the USA?

Catholics and Christians Citizens have a Peace God, the Person God/Us, and His Human Son, Person Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and the Human Holy Spirit as a Person.

How did the Christian Mouth Worship Lifestyle, in temples made by Human Hands, and Killing our Brothers/Sisters of Life, 'Overcome' Following the Peace Father God of their Holy Scriptures, handed down for Centuries by Killing Believers?

How did the USA/America, 'under God', become the Policemen of the Planet, with Military Bases in many Countries, and the most weapons of destruction?

"In Christianity, at least, truth is not a doctrine or dogma expressed in exact words. Rather, truth is a person, Christ Jesus, known as the Word of God. And I find that enormously liberating."


God said (and says) all he needed or needs to say to us when he spoke one word to us: "Jesus". Everything else is just semantics.

He didn't come to leave us a book... He came to be the way, the truth and the life.

"...unless you eat my body and drink my blood you have no life in you..."

IGGY - www.KCFreeThinkers.org

Bill wrote>>>>>>>>In Christianity, at least, truth is not a doctrine or dogma expressed in exact words. Rather, truth is a person, Christ Jesus, known as the Word of God. And I find that enormously liberating.

Bill, I am speechless - I don't have exact "words."

Truth is a person/Word of God/Jesus? You surely have some "proof" of this in the "real world?"

I find this enormously misleading, baseless and actually completely intellectually dishonest - sure, you got a personal blog where one can BS about whatever, but come on... let's get serious about the "proof" factor vs. "faith" arguments - I believe because I believe and "primal cause" has to be god or another combination thereof of sorts?

Perhaps, the Word of God can brief us on why exactly his father wants to be in everybody's business all the time? - http://www.bilerico.com/2009/01/lawrence-v-texas.gif

Besides of course, meaningless, "I sent my son to die for your sins?"

P.S. the picture of the "word man" embracing woman is weird - I clicked and enlarged it. There is a mention of Billy Joel on the "word man's" arm - not sure what this has to do with Jesus? I gave up on reading the actual writing on the page.

adam harrison

Cole keeps telling us he is in control of his life.

Cole keeps telling us that the "natural world" is all their is.

In that case, what controls Cole's life are the laws of Chemistry and Physics, "The Blind Watchmakers"...not Cole.

adam harrison

Iggy claims Bill is "intellectually dishonest".

That is hilarious, Iggy, coming from you!

But you say, "lets get serious about the proof factor"?


Let's get serious.

Start by answering Will's challenge, instead of ignoring it, in the 7:18 am post.


Dolores Lear

"He (Jesus) didn't come to leave us a book... He came to be the way, the truth and the life."

The 'Truth' that Jesus taught in the New Testament, was for Males to be Celibate, and all in his Movement were Celibate and Shared the Earth's Resources Equally. What happened?

How does the Way Christians live, compare to the 'Way', the 'Truth' and the 'Life', that Jesus taught?

How does Jesus' Way, compare with the Christian Lifestyle handed down by the New Catholic/Christian Trinity Religion in 300?

Humans today have the History from 2000 years ago, on how Humans do start a Man-Made Religion with temples made by Human Hands. This was referred to as Pagan Religions.

How many Religions on Earth today started this Man-Made Way?


How many Christians read about all the Old Pagan Trinity Religions, that were the basis for the New Roman Trinity Religion?

This new Religion replaced the One God of the Jewish Christians, that was a new Man-Made Religion also.

The New Catholic religion also replaced the Mother of the Past Trinity Religions, with the Holy Spirit/Ghost. Why?

All religions in the Past were made by Humans, about God/Us in Genesis, our High Tech Asexual Male and Female Clone Ancestors, that Colonized Earth with Equal Male and Female Asexual Clones.

After the Clones started Reproducing Children, all the Man-Made Religions began building Pagan temples made by Human Hands. When did GOD, not a Person, or God/Us, High Tech Persons, start a Religion?

The Temple of GOD is the Visible and Invisible Elements, the Universe, and our Planet and the Life on it.

No One Knows or has seen this GOD, One thing that can be Proven, is this GOD is not a Human Being, like God/Us are, who were seen, and made of the GOD Elements.


Umm... what was that?


Iggy, about the words reaching out to embrace the woman -- to me this is an example of the word taking substance. Just as Jesus took substance -- became flesh and dwelt among us.

When we read the Bible or the confessions of our faith, if those words really become part of us, we will LIVE them. God's Word will then operate through our flesh just as it did (and does) through Jesus.

Bill, I agree with the people who are concerned about the dangers of getting so hung up in a literal translation or interpretation, that the true meaning is lost. Other ways of describing this loss of meaning are "not seeing the forest for the trees" or "focusing on the letter of the law and missing the Spirit of the law."

I feel like everyone should realize, by now, that there is no way to prove or disprove the existence of God. I'm surprised that some of you are still getting hung up on these arguments. As the Atheists say, you can't prove a negative. And as Christians (and probably other believers) say, how can we have FAITH if it's already proven?

And as for me, the more that would happen to make me doubt, the more I would hang on to God through hanging onto my faith, and prayer, and fellowship, and immersing myself in His words to me. So it's pretty much true that my faith doesn't meet the standards of science -- since I can be open to certain spiritual theories of mine being disproved, but nothing can make me end my relationship with God Himself.


I just finshed Daniel C. Dennett's "Breaking the Spell" last night.

In his last chapter he talks a lot about implications for childrearing. Dennett strongly values religious and philosophical freedom, and I like the way he wants to extend this freedom to children. It's long overdue.

At the same time, I'm reminded of Judy Blume's book, "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret." I've shared about this some here before. Margaret's mother was raised Christian and her father was raised Jewish. When they marry they decide they will just be no religion, and let their children decide for themselves what they believe, if anything.

Margaret makes religion her project for her 6th grade year, with the goal of deciding "what she is" by the end of the school year. But when that time comes she realizes she's not ready to decide yet, and will wait 'til she grows up. But, she says, when she has her own children she will tell them what religion they are, so they don't have to go through what she's had to go through (i.e. not enjoying religious holidays because they have no family tradition).

It seems like children usually like having some postives to wrap their minds around -- rather than just negatives. I think we all need family traditions and we need to be "about" something. Not just be "not" something. I.e. Lynne, as I recall, considers herself a secular humanist. And Cole is a promoter of education and science. It's important for kids to see their parents/grandparents being about something.

Whatever we believe, I think the best parents will be very strongly FOR education and FOR their children having access to information and alternatives. Otherwise how will the children be able to freely choose?

Dolores Lear

trapblock: "Umm... what was that?"

Abraham came out of an Eastern Pagan Religion, and started a Pagan Religion. Abraham's sons Isaac and Ishmael, and the sons of his second wife Keturah, and all their Children, started many Religions in the Mid-East.

The Children of Israel also started a new Religion in the Mid-East, and a Jewish Religion started from Judah. This is about all we Know about that Civilization. But Abraham's descendants were many and founded many cities.

Jesus came out of the Jewish Religion, with a different Male Celibate Commune Lifestyle, not a religion.

After Jesus left Earth Alive, a new Jewish Christian Religion began, still with the Jewish One God. In 300, a New Catholic Trinity Religion with Jesus, began from the One God Jewish Christian Religion.

The Catholic Trinity Religion became the Protestant Trinity Religion, and how many Man-Made Divisions of this Religion have taken Place and are still breaking, into Man-Made Religions? All with Temples made by Human Hands.

And all this happened only on Part of our Home Planet. At this same time, there were many other Groups of Humans with their different Religions, including many more Gods.
All Human Made, not God made, and all had Pagan Temples.

The Temple of GOD is the Living Universe, and All Living 'Life' as we Know it. When Life made from GOD Elements die, the Temple of that Life decays, and returns to GODs Elements.

God/Us, our High Tech Ancestors from Space, do not have a Pagan God. They are High Tech Asexual Male and Female Clone Humans, that do have Eternal Life in GODs Universe Temple, on GODs Planet Temples, and in their Man-Made Spaceships.

GODs Temple is Living Beings and All Alive Forms, not Dead Temples made by Human Hands.

What is so Supernatural about that, today with our High Tech Science?

IGGY - www.KCFreeThinkers.org

Susan wrote>>>>>>>>Iggy, about the words reaching out to embrace the woman -- to me this is an example of the word taking substance. Just as Jesus took substance -- became flesh and dwelt among us.

Susan, imagine if you went around telling people that the Humpty Dumpty jingle are the words that are reaching out to us to embrace the world.

Noone can put him "together again" - i.e. the "original sin" has perverted the word. So, just like you say Jesus took substance and bacame flesh and dwelt among you, Humpty Dumpty did the same thing and you are more than happy to promote this particular "New Testament" of Humpty Dumpty.

This actually would make more sense in the "Big Rip" view of the Universe as we understand it right now - the original sin of "falling down" by Humpty Dumpty is preventing the universe from "getting together again?"

Hope it makes sense to you? This is exactly how I am viewing your views on the magic dust permeating the world and working in some "uber natural" and "holistic" way ala "The Secret" book and "eat flesh and blood of Jesus."

Red Biddy

You've missed the point of Bill's image to-day. It's obviously a LOVE LETTER written by a man to his girl friend saying how much he's missing her and telling her everything that's on his mind....if you'd read the first bit ("...(not) being able to see each other as often as we can..." at the top of the page this is quite clear.
I think the point Bill was trying to make is that when you can't see "face to face" you have to rely on written words to communicate and often words can be misinterpreted, or mistranslated as is often the case in the Bible and as the Bishop Trautman wrote in his criticism of the new translation words like "ineffable" "consubstantial, "incarnate' etc...would send most people to a dictionary ....if they have one !

Greg Swartz

This post is in response to Will Graham's post at 7:18 a.m. on 10/30/09.

My original post in this series (requesting proof for God) was on October 28. Will's response is a little unclear as to when there was a response and I have not been able to find the response. If Will would be a little more specific, perhaps I too could be a little more specific.

He claims that I made certain assertions and claims about natural law. Not so! I personally do not like the term and do not use it. The term "law" implies a law giver and I have no evidence that there is a law giver in the case of the forces that guide the universe. Most scientists seem to be comfortable with using the word "law" in regard to scientific principles, because they do not assume a law giver. I do not like the term, however, because when most people think of laws they think of Congresses, city councils, police officers and everything that goes with the legal system that effect them and so a law giver is implied in the word to many persons. Please note that in my Oct. 29 post about the Hudson River incident that I referred to “scientific principles” and not “natural Law”.

Will talks a lot about Dawkins and "The Blind Watchmaker" though I have no clue as to why. Sorry, but that is one book that I have not had time to read and never would rely of something that I have not read.

Will states that I have a "BELIEF that all existence is the product of mindless forces". Well, humans have minds and certainly effect part of existence, so I cannot think that "all existence is mindless". I do submit that there is no proof that there is any intelligent force directing every nook and cranny of the universe.

Will's post demonstrates the problem that has confronted me for many years. When asked point blank to prove the existence of a god, every "believer" comes up with tangential evidence or questions. No one takes the issue head on. Perhaps we could start with what evidence satisfies you (Will or anyone else)? Let's start with that at least.




Hello Panzie,

I think Judy Blume's parents sound lukewarm about their faith. If you believed that your church or temple taught the Truth there would be no need to look elsewhere and there'd be no reason to wait to teach them. Not to mention you'd be excited about sharing the Truth with them.

Since I believe you're a Christian... didn't our Blessed Lord say something once about being lukewarm...? :)

IGGY - www.KCFreeThinkers.org

Attention Christians: Kansas City Atheists now offering post-Rapture pet care

"The Pitch"

Last week, when I glanced through a new proposal from Iggy Dybal, an atheist, real estate broker and a founder of the KC Freethinkers, I thought it was little more than a tongue-in-cheek mockery of Biblical prophesies.

"If you are a Christian who believes in The Rapture and has pets, please, take notice," Dybal wrote in his announcement. "A few atheists in Kansas City are starting a 'Rapture Pets' service to take care of pets when Rapture happens and righteous Christians are taken up in heaven and we atheists are left behind... So, if any of you are anticipating Rapture and you know you'll be taken up during this time, please, think about your animals who will suffer and may die a painful death of starvation, thirst and neglect while the Tribulation Times are happening."

This is no joke. Dybal is dead serious.

For the past year, Dybal and fellow skeptic Cole Morgan have been ramping up the visibility of area atheists. They helped fund a provocative billboard in Overland Park, sponsored a family during the holiday season and even jumped into freezing cold water to make a point about global warming. Their latest idea -- Rapture Pets -- isn't entirely their own.

FULL STORY>>>>>>>>>>http://www.blogcatalog.com/search.frame.php?term=iggy+dybal&id=a509c55f3bbf93f59c397dda9da04d66

adam harrison

Greg, neither Will nor I have claimed that "all existence is mindless".

We clearly referred to, and YOU KNOW IT BECAUSE YOU QUOTE IT, a belief that "all existence is the PRODUCT of mindless forces"...which is what you believe.

You have not demonstrated this, of course.

But you are still avoiding our question. You ask for Proof...but you don't say what proof you would accept.

Our contention is that there is NO PROOF you would accept, given your BELEIF, yes, BELIEF, that all existence is the PRODUCT OF MINDLESS FORCES.

I await your statement as to what PROOF you would accept...at least in principle if not in practice.

I will then show that given your BELIEF that all existence is the PRODUCT OF MINDLESS FORCES...a Blind Watchmaker as Dawkins put it, and whether you read the book or not is irrelevant because the term is quite simple...that you would not accept said proof.


Red Biddy, Thanks for expounding on the meaning of the picture! I had never bothered to enlarge the words, so I was just guessing that Bill used the picture to represent the Bible, which most Christians see as God's love letter to us.

Iggy, what an awesome point you just made about a possible deeper meaning of Humpty Dumpty! I'd never thought of it that way -- though I've known for a long time that many of the old nursery rhymes are really political satire.

But obviously the words that we want to "take flesh" in our own lives, are going to be the words that have meaning TO US, and more specifically the words that we really want to embody to the world, because we think those particular words will make the world a better place.

And pondering Humpty Dumpty could possibly do that -- if it gets everyone wondering WHY as the richest nation on Earth, we have up to this point been so inadequate in our attempts to put things back together ecologically, financially, and socially. In other words, it's helpful if it gets us thinking about how to turn it all around, but unhelpful if it just exacerbates a sense of ongoing defeatedness.

Now is that clear as mud? If so, GOOD because mud is a great place for all kinds of new beginnings!


Hello trapblock. I post here as Susan, so some readers might be confused with you calling me Panzie over here, since that was just the username I picked over at the K.C. Star when they wouldn't let me register as Susan.

I'm sorry if my previous post confused you. I wasn't saying that I plan to do what Margaret's parents did in the Judy Blume story. I talk with my children about my beliefs, I pray with them and they also see me praying.

I'm just saying that I feel my children need to grow up with free access to information and alternative ideas, so that they can make their own informed choices. As they grow, they constantly rub elbows with their dad's and my faith, and we are developing our own family traditions.

My husband's and my beliefs are no secret to our children: we just want them to have a choice regarding what beliefs they decide to make their own.

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