Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church

I've lately been reading The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church by Malachi Martin. The Author's thesis is basically that the Roman Catholic church defeated itself by taking on temporal and political power instead of staying within the realm of spiritual power.

It traces the first error of the church to the deal made between the Roman bishop Sylvester and the Roman emporer Constantine when Constantine legalized Christianity and made it the central religion of his empire, after seeing a vision and becoming convinced that he would attain military victory through Christ. It then goes through the ages from Pope to Pope, submitting anecdotes of how the Church's stronghold on military and political power ultimately lead to the loss of most of its power, and the errors made by various Popes when they might have lead the church back to a purely apiritual dominance.

I like the book so has a lot of good information that fits nicely into my study of the origins and history of Christianity. It also illustrates how "made up" ideas can be propagated from generation to generation and gain validity through mere passage of time. In addition, it highlights the historical and continuing corruption in the Roman Catholic Church.

The author's breeze style is very easy to read, but the one major drawback of the book is that there are no references provided, which makes it difficult to directly verify the vailidity of much of the information. I think it would definitely be very good reading for some of my Roman Catholic friends.

Feeding the Ignorant

Over the beginning of the new year (2007), we went "up North" to Bemidji, MN, to visit with my cousin Samii. On Saturday evening, we watched Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Sunday afternoon, we went over to an Aunt and Uncle's house for lunch, and to play cards and visit.

Over lunch, the topic of Gore's movie came up, and we began discussing the movie, global warming, and environmental issues in general. I was genuinely surpised with the generic "Christian" attitude toward global warming and the environment held by my relatives, especially my cousin Isaac, and the ease with which they became offended when I suggested that blithe dismassals of the issue are rooted in willful self-delusion and fear of the lifestyle changes demanded by an acknowledgement of the problem, as well as of the inconvenience such changes cause. The conversation quickly moved on to other matters, to forestall any harsh arguments over lunch, but I took away three points from my discussion with Isaac that annoyed me:

1) Isaac pointed out that even Gore's movie showed that the overall global temperature fluctuates over a long period of time, and suggested that we are in a standard warming period, that will be followed by a cooling period in turn. What he failed to mention is the point that Gore was making: we are now on a warming trend that is way of the chart, and shows no signs of decreasing...actually, it shows every sign of accellerating out of control. This picking and choosing of which information to pay attention to is typical of conservative rhetoric, and bears a close resemlance to taking lone Bible versus out of context to support one's viewpoint...a practice that I frankly find disgusting and disturbing.

2) Isaac made the comment that it would be pretty arrogant of us to assume that we, as humans, can significantly impact something as massive as the climate of the planet. I find that statement irksome...I would say, rather, that it is pretty ignorant of us to assume that we cannot significantly impact the climate of the planet, especially in the face of a mass of convergent evidence showing that we are doing just that.

3) He also said "people believe what they want to believe". I would rather say that people believe what they believe...desire has nothing to do with it. I can want to believe that Santa Clause comes to my house every Christmas Eve and delivers presents under the tree, but I won't believe it, in the face of a giant pile of convergent evidence to the contrary. Many people base their beliefs on the best evidence they have at hand, and are willing to change their beliefs based on strong evidence to the contrary (these people are called Scientists), but many people also have the ability to discount strong evidence and believe only what is most convient for them...these include those religious ones who cling to their obviously false beliefs due to fear of having been wrong all their lives, fear of change, and fear of actually having to change their lives in a way that is inconvenient to them. Some people want to believe what is true, and they make an effort to fidn the truth, some people want to believe what is easy, and take it for granted that what their chosen authority has told them is true.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year Resolutions

This year I decided to blog my new year resolutions so you all can keep me honest. Basically I have resolved to get in better shape...I'm going to lay off candy, sweets, pop, etc., and go on a soup/salad/fruit diet until I've lost 10 pounds or so. I'm also going to work out more.

Vague enough for you?