Coffee Talk #2 – Ye Olde Predictable Book Recommendation

Books and CoffeeYes, I’m going to say what many of you probably could have predicted. My philosopher had a book recommendation to make.

Is there a deconvert from conservative Christianity that hasn’t been peppered with book recommendations from concerned friends, family, and acquaintances?

Yes, it is predictable, and predictably unsolicited. But it isn’t necessarily ill-intended, and the recommendation may not be badly done. Experiences vary. I try to keep an open mind, prior episodes notwithstanding.

For a dab of humor, I’ll venture to co-opt a bit of Fitzgerald here:

I’m inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious book suggestions to me and also made me the victim of not a few tedious tomes.

[Read more…]

Coffee Talk #1 – The Scientific Method

beakerAbout a week ago, I had coffee with an acquaintance who is both a philosophy graduate student and a conservative Christian. “Coffee” in this case wound up being a three-hour discussion that meandered through a wide range of subjects: historicity of the Exodus, science, epistemology, the resurrection of Jesus, etc. It was all great fun and quite stimulating. Sadly, our subsequent email discussion devolved rather quickly, and I eventually bid my acquaintance farewell. Nevertheless, there were a few points of discussion that I thought might be useful.

At Issue

My first surprise during the talk pertained to the scientific method, which I said utilized deductive reasoning (i.e., general to specific). He countered with some astonishment, taking my view to be a muddled understanding, since on his view the scientific method is founded upon inductive and/or abductive reasoning (i.e., specific to general). [Read more…]

Beyond the Final Fear

I found myself arrested this evening to learn of the passing of a distant but steady friend, Archaeopteryx. He proved himself a reliable companion and support to many of us fledgling deconverts, hobbling as we must from our personal wreckage toward the daylight. Not a god, but in many of our lives, he could almost seem omnipresent, ever ready to comment on anything you posted.  I feel that I owe him a debt, and in partings without goodbyes, the ledgers go unreconciled.

I cannot help but think of Hitchens, who said that he didn’t fear death, because there was nothing to fear in it. Rather, he feared the waste and sordid decline of dying. Honest, as ever, regarding the truth of that final fear.

I’ll miss Arch. I’ll miss his reliable wit, there every time I post something. I also think, when one day I finish writing my bloody book, I’ll miss him reading it. I think maybe the best I can manage is a Hitch farewell, spelled in Johnny Walker Black. My eyes may not be dry, but there will be no blubbering fictions about a better place. Instead, I can say that I do find consolation that Arch has passed now, beyond the spectre and the reach of that final fear.

American Values & Greatness

America may need to rethink the notion that our country’s values are what made us great (or make us great). I say ‘rethink’ because it is so routinely stated as some sort of axiomatic truth.

Values do not create growth and expansion out of thin air. To think in this way is to embrace a sort of magical sense of conjuring. [Read more…]

Infographic – Book of Acts – Comprehensive Relationship & Timeline Diagram

*Updated 09-07-2016*

As part of my ongoing historical research efforts, I found it necessary to develop a comprehensive outline of the book of Acts. This has taken several forms, one of which is the following relationship diagram and timeline for Acts. The notion was simple, but the doing turned out to take a good deal longer than I had anticipated. I’ve decided to pause my research long enough to publish this as an infographic, in the hopes that it may prove useful to others. Feel free to print and repost; all I ask is that attribution to JerichoBrisance be included. Further details and notes are below.

Click on image for high resolution PDF.

Acts RD Preview Whole

Additional Notes:  [Read more…]

Yale Lecture Series on Hebrew Bible

My friend Archaeopteryx was good enough to share the YouTube lecture series by Yale Professor Christine Hayes, “Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible)”.  After watching the first video in the series, I believe this will make a good resource for serious seekers who want to understand the historical events, cultural forces and literary composition of the Old Testament. I read many volumes written by various historians during my own investigations, and I suspect this video series would shorten the learning arc for others.

I’m linking the first video here, which I have cued to mid-lecture as Prof. Hayes discusses 5 common myths about the Hebrew Bible that most Americans do not understand. If you have another 15 minutes, feel free to back it up for full context. I’ll also be adding a link in the sidebar under Rapid Resources, though these lectures are admittedly a bit long to be considered truly rapid. Cheers!

I Wonder [A Hughman #1]

New blog I recently found, OftenBetterThanFine, started by a friend on the far side of the world. Smart chap, I’m here to tell you. He has located an interesting/engaging set of YouTube lectures that I’m just starting into. I enjoy mind expanding discussions like this one; they make a good inoculation against the dwarfish, provincial worldview celebrated on days like Easter. Though I will add that I have no idea where this is headed.🙂

oftenbetterthanfine

I’ve just listened to the first YouTube video from A Hughman, and it was a refreshing and enjoyable way to spend some time on my lunch-break (even if I couldn’t really see the screen properly in the sun).

I’m looking forward to his other episodes.

I was already beginning to think that ‘wonder’ is one of the most powerful things you can experience, and a noble end in itself, but this video meditates on the issues beautifully.

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Good Friday Off!

Sometimes my kids get the day off school in observance of a national leader’s birth. But today they get the day off because long long ago, in a third world country far far away, somebody was tortured to death in front of his friends and family. Austin ISD, among others, nods to the cultural inertia and takes the day off. And all the children of Texas, irrespective of their beliefs, are led to associate this observance with the adjective “good.”

It would probably be a sick thing to observe MLK’s assassination every year and refer to it as good. [Read more…]

Thanks on this Darwin Day

Darwin Day 2016

Happy Darwin Day! A chance for all to remember intellectual courage and scientific brilliance. For me, a chance to remember how evolutionary biology was used to treat Paisley and retrieve her from oblivion, 5 years ago this week. Paisley is perfect today.  Thanks to all the docs, thanks to all the nurses, and thanks to Charles.

062314_1716_DissonanceD1.jpg

[Read more on Paisley’s remarkable story]

Hug the Shrug

WhateverLast week my oldest son, Jack, had a high school project that involved making text/graphic description of himself and his life. Among the many points of identity and culture in the project, there was a section in which he was supposed to talk about his religion. My wife told me that Jack had simply put himself down as an atheist. That’s not surprising, as he has been pretty open about being non-religious among his friends. In this case, however, he included two graphical illustrations to go along. One was an internet meme about believing in “one god fewer,” and the other was my infamous Easter Infographic. [Read more…]

Southern Lilt of Greeting, and Farewell

The hour of loss and final partings

Gone in whiff, the hymnal drowns

While my ears still hear in beatings

Her southern lilt of greeting sounds

 

We lose in loss, good Wordsworth chimes

Of splendor, grass, and death through-seeing

Yet echoes throb our muffled cries

As waters soothe the haunt of being

 

~ A poem of cognac and mourning.

I can hear her still, and she makes me smile.

Reading List from the Year 2015

Books and CoffeeIt has been a great year for reading. I found it gratifying and a little surprising when I assembled the entire list of books that I consumed over the past 12 months. Formats ranged from paperback to hardback to Kindle to Audible. I’ve divided the 39 books into the four categories listed below.  

  1. Novels
  2. Books about Writing Books
  3. History and Religion
  4. Still Reading

Each book cover links to Amazon for the publisher’s synopsis. I’ve added my own micro-commentary below each book, not to substitute for a longer synopsis, but simply to highlight what I found notable about each. [Read more…]

Thanks to Mr. Hanks. Admiration for Mr. Olivetti.

IMG_1192I realized that Microsoft Word might amount to a liability. Editing as you go can stall forward momentum. More troubling still, the late great Gore Vidal said he could always tell whether a book had been written on a word processor. He didn’t mean it as a compliment. But what to do? [Read more…]

This Year, I’m Thankful for Stephen King

Blank Writer's PageDuring my years of martial arts obsession, I learned an old Chinese proverb about kung fu. The student’s understanding evolves in three stages.

Before I knew kung fu, a punch was just a punch, and a kick was just a kick.

As I learned kung fu, a punch was no longer just a punch, and a kick was no longer just a kick.

Now that I know kung fu, a punch is just a punch, and a kick is just a kick.

Over the past year, I have spent my spare moments learning the craft of writing long fiction. Put me in kung fu category #2 where fiction writing is concerned. [Read more…]

Infographic – Family Tree of Christianity (Reblog)

Evan T. at On the Way to Ithaca has gone to an incredible amount of work to develop an infographic showing the family tree of Christianity. Click the image below to get web and print versions of the graphic at his site. The comprehensive scope of this graphic has made some points of info verification challenging for Evan, to say the least, and he hopes that the community can potentially provide feedback, error-finds, or corrections that will lead to even better accuracy in the details. Kudos for the excellent work.  

online-en-small

 

Easter Infographic Now Available in Greek

Through the generous volunteer collaboration of blogger Evan T. at On the Way to Ithaca, the Taking Easter Seriously infographic has now been translated into Greek. Much thanks to Evan for his hard work, which can be found here and on the main Easter infographic page. And for those unaware, this Sunday will be the Easter holiday for the Eastern Church.

Taking Easter Seriously Greek Preview

Mark Twain on Slavery and the Church Taking Credit for Society’s Corrections After the Fact

Posted in an excellent article by Ryan Bell today, a quote worth sharing all by itself:

The methods of the priest and the parson have been very curious, their history is very entertaining. In all the ages the Roman Church has owned slaves, bought and sold slaves, authorized and encouraged her children to trade in them. Long after some Christian peoples had freed their slaves the Church still held on to hers. If any could know, to absolute certainty, that all this was right, and according to God’s will and desire, surely it was she, since she was God’s specially appointed representative in the earth and sole authorized and infallible expounder of his Bible. There were the texts; there was no mistaking their meaning; she was right, she was doing in this thing what the Bible had mapped out for her to do. So unassailable was her position that in all the centuries she had no word to say against human slavery.

Yet now at last, in our immediate day, we hear a Pope saying slave trading is wrong, and we see him sending an expedition to Africa to stop it. The texts remain: it is the practice that has changed. Why? Because the world has corrected the Bible.

The Church never corrects it; and also never fails to drop in at the tail of the procession – and take the credit of the correction. As she will presently do in this instance.

— Mark Twain


– See more at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/yearwithoutgod/2015/04/07/different-era-same-injustice/#sthash.zLR8RsL1.dpuf

A Recent Resurrection to Consider this Easter: Reblog of “The Curious Case of Alireza M.”

noose

This Easter, advocates of the traditional Jesus tale might consider a more recent example of “resurrection” that foiled a professional execution in the most startling way. The following was a blog post I originally wrote 18 months ago, though the ending has been appended. We now know how the story really ends.

October 18, 2013

An astonishing news story was posted by CNN this morning, with the following highlights:

Convicted by an Iranian court of possessing a kilogram of crystal meth, the 37-year-old man was sentenced to death by hanging at Bojnurd Prison in northeastern Iran, according to Jam-E-Jam, an official newspaper that offered this wince-inducing account:

On the morning of October 9, Alireza M. was taken from his cell to the gallows, where the judge who had issued the order read his sentence aloud and official papers were signed.

Then, a rope was placed around his neck and he was hanged for 12 minutes, after which his body was lowered and a doctor declared he was dead. The doctor, the judge and the prison head then signed the death certificate, and the body of Alireza M. was taken to a morgue for delivery the following day to his relatives.

But the next day, a worker at the morgue noticed that plastic encasing one of the bodies had steam in front of the mouth.

Consider the tally:

  • Executed by suffocation…
  • By professionals that carry out such executions for a living…
  • Death witnessed by multiple people…
  • Dead body lowered and inspected…
  • Carried away, wrapped, and laid on a flat surface

I can think of one notable case where this sort of thing happened before. [Read more…]

Easter Infographic Now in PDF Format

Per visitor request, I have created a PDF version of the infographic. It is available as a link above picture on the infographic page.

Pontius, Our Pilot – Part 1

Resurrecting the Pontius Pilate series for Easter.

Jericho Brisance

What-is-truth02To those who have, of late, recited to me our old evangelical adage – that the scriptures of the Bible are, despite their manifold authors, truthful and without contradiction – I have countered with my standing response: where would you like to begin?

Today we shall turn to one of our preeminent but unacknowledged allies, one who stands as exemplar of the sorrowing fact that the biblical writers were rather making it up as they went along – our old dear villain, Pontius Pilate. Just like Lazarus and Paul, Pontius can help us to pilot up-current, back through the Channel of No Return, to break the siren spell of rose-tinted apologetics.

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