Making Sense of Miracle… Paisley, Part 11

I come now to the brass tacks of fact and fiction regarding Paisley’s miracle, which will be the final post in this series. The ranging anecdotes I have recounted thus far may have left the reader with somewhat mixed signals. Had God answered prayer, or was He absent at the darkest hour? Was Paisley saved by a miracle, or by Pasteurian-Darwinian science? Was the experience a glory to God, or a reason to question His existence?

The force of such opposing arrows teaches a parable all its own, underscoring the deficiency of personal experience for navigating the waters surrounding miracles. Within the compass of a single individual (myself), one could distill nearly any moral to the story.

Nevertheless, real answers do exist. We need not wander in the mist between anecdotes. Malleable personal experience must be displaced by the stone of hard fact. To find it requires that we lift our gaze to a broader view. The cure for flat earth viewpoints hovers at high altitude.

So friends, this final post will present facts to make sense of it all. My question to you is whether you are interested in fact and truth, or whether you wish to preserve a favorite but somewhat fictional anecdote. We sadly cannot have both. [Read more…]

Prayer Most Desperate… Paisley, Part 10

If not now…

How gentle the rise, I thought, as they lifted me on that gurney. Two teams of paramedics had swept noiselessly into my kitchen, to find me collapsed on the floor. Chest pains had dragged me to the earth, coupled with strained breathing and the distinct sound of blood rushing through my ears. Crumpled to my knees, and then pulled further down, I had finally been flattened out on the stained concrete. I felt myself on the brink of losing consciousness, coupled with the sense that I would stop breathing if I did. The color had entirely drained from my face, and my frightened wife called for aid. A great hand had reached down and simply flipped the switch, or opened the valve, and the vital force had bled out of me. So they shuttled me by ambulance to the hospital, leaving my tearfully anxious wife alone with her fears until someone could come to relieve her. Paisley had not yet been born, or even conceived, but our three other children had remained fast asleep in their rooms. [Read more…]

Death of the Casual… Paisley, Part 9

Sinking the Old Frigate

I fell silent after reading that book, laying, as Job memorably stated, my hand upon my mouth. I stopped the grinding mental machinery of dismissal. I pulled back from friends and from life, and I dug in to find out what the truth was. [Read more…]

Dissonance Dawning… Paisley, Part 8

Two Standing Questions

My friends, I come now to the turn in the story which will, no doubt, lead to a good deal of seat shifting among you. However, before rounding that bend, I hope to briefly lay to rest two standing questions that have been put to us. [Read more…]

From the Rooftops… Paisley, Part 7

Lyrical Turn

Within a week following Paisley’s homecoming, my irrepressible happiness began to find its way onto the page, where a lengthy poem about the ordeal began to take shape. Following a period of toil, in which I wrangled with seesawing themes of despair and elation, the incubation yielded a grander idea. Feeble as the poetic embryo seemed, I sought out backup, rather clandestinely contacting my brother-in-law, a gifted musician:

I feel that this poem simply falls short of that moment, of what it felt like to actually be there. Do you think you can turn it into a song?

The smile began in his eyes – could he? Such an unnecessary question. [Read more…]

Equilibrium… Paisley, Part 6

It would undersell the truth to say that our Paisley had survived. She had passed through fire and death, to borrow Tolkien’s words, and without a scratch. She was perfect and whole in every way. Joy suffused us, and we felt a permeating thankfulness to God and to her doctors. She was an example both of Providence and of advanced Western medicine. She was our little miracle. But miracles are curious things, tumbling together the oil and water of the improbable and the impossible. [Read more…]

Valley March… Paisley, Part 5

A Different Cadence

You start already tired, as my wife puts it. You have already lost sleep and struggled with anxiety before ever arriving at the hospital. Exhaustion compounds downward from this depleted outset. Crisis-born adrenaline wires you briefly, while borrowing heavily on energy reserves, for which you must soon pay. The shear pressure of decisions, grappling with consequences, and the demands to stay somehow calm – these accruals run all accounts into the red. Long hours of silence chew down fingernails, but they are ever punctuated by medical interruptions, cheering visits from friends, phone calls from concerned family, and sobering consultations from the doctors. The brain must learn a new language: that of meningitis, of bacterial strains, of antibiotic treatments, of dosing intervals, and of prognoses. Night brings the red eyes of unsleep, equipment alarms, and nursing break-ins. By 36 hours into the ordeal, reserves are fully spent. You realize that you haven’t changed clothes or showered.

But people adapt. As those who have known life at the ICU will attest, we find a way. We find a new cadence when the world changes. We normalize to the absurd. [Read more…]

Pockets and Posies… Paisley, Part 4

Yesterday’s Life

Night had fallen while we had been in the windowless ER, somewhere in the belly of the medical behemoth. From there, they transferred us to the intensive care unit.

Centered in the vacant sterility, Paisley lay under a dim overhead lamp, stabbed and wired in places too numerous to count. As we stared down from behind our masks, my wife tried to hold Paisley’s hands and feet still, to keep her struggles from pulling out these lifelines. Digital equipment throbbed and chimed continually. They would have snatched away the hope of sleep, had we wanted it.

I do not know a word for the futility of that place. The soul is tied by the limbs, rent and quartered. Shock and numbness mingle with the welling pressure to scream and to see everything broken. One wishes only for the quiet of home. To go back to yesterday’s life. I wanted to hold Paisley, to stand between her and the demons, and to make them take me first. Instead, you are made to stand there. You are made to feel the emptiness of your hands: a useless guardian keeping futile watch. [Read more…]

Landfall… Paisley, Part 3

Drops of White

Paisley was only twelve days old, and no bigger than two upturned palms. She had that scent that belongs only to infants. Pink skin, with tiny newborn speckles on the bridge of her nose.

And she was writhing. Her eyes were rolled up, and she was clutching against a pain strong enough to quench her cries.

The air became leaden as the doctor and nurse, obscured behind their masks, took up positions across the table from each other. Paisley lay between them, and she was rolled to face the nurse and me. The doctor cleaned the insertion point between two vertebral knobs on her lower back. The nurse cupped her body in his two large hands, with one behind her neck and the other grasping her buttocks. As the needle was bared, my wife could watch no more, and she took her trembling and prayerful tears to the hallway. But I stayed. [Read more…]

Tempest Rising… Paisley, Part 2

Pink Bundle

Paisley arrived in late January, during that time of year when the Texas air feels most out of character. She completed our quartet of children, a collated symmetry of boy, girl, boy, and girl. Being indifferent to sports but fond of cultural idiom, I dubbed her, “the final four.” She did seem to complete us as a family. But owing to events that transpired not long after her birth, she came to occupy a special place in our hearts and memories.

I find it becoming difficult to write already. Eyes moisten; breath comes up short; fingers quaver over the keys. Still yesterday.

Life has a way of trespassing its own character. Just as with the dissonance that Texas winter embodies, there was something about Paisley’s hale and golden dawning that makes befuddlement of that which followed shortly after. Just before her gentle rise pulled free of the rim. [Read more…]

Paisley

The near brush of death leaves upon us an indelible mark. So much more the case, when the noose of jeopardy closes upon a child. Our daughter Paisley hazarded that scaffold just twelve days after being born. This was three and a half years ago.

Medical intervention was swift, bending a potent light upon her affliction. As she fought to live, our church family rallied around us, lending full force to our plight. Much prayer was lifted on her account, and friends gave selflessly to help and to comfort us in whatever way they could. It was a darkness driven back by creeds, both Hippocratic and Christian. [Read more…]

Solipsism – an Illustrated Definition (YouTube)

Some readers have been intrigued by my use of the word solipsism. What does it mean? Well, we could go by the Dictionary.com definition, but that’s a little on the boring side:

Solipsism – an extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one’s feelings, desires, etc.; egoistic self-absorption.

I’m afraid that I would never have called my faith a solipsism. Isn’t Christianity all about dying to self? Yes, in many ways. And no, in so very many others. I submit the following “illustrated definition” for consideration. Caricatures can be instructive, and they can cause us to rethink things to which we are blinded by familiarity:

I’d have to say that I’m guilty of all these things. The retrospective has been a hard swallow.

~

Ref: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheThinkingAtheist

 

YouTube – Excellent/Short Analysis of Ken Ham’s False “Observational vs Historical Science” Dichotomy

Potholer always does a superb job:

Reblog: “My Journey to Atheism” ~ Nathan Pratt

Reblog:

Nathan Pratt pens an impactful autobiography in this post, which provided me with a number of strong resonance points as I read it. His path away from Christianity came from a different angle, but the struggle to understand and the responses from others in his life are eerily familiar. A recommended read. I wept.

unpacked thoughts

Something I’d like to get out of the way immediately is that this post is going to be very honest. It’s a brief history of my religious upbringing, my crisis of faith and the final pushes to search for truth. Nothing I’ll say in this post is said out of anger or malice. It’s an honest portrayal of the extreme difficulty of leaving something you’d held to be truth for almost 30 years. I imagine that some of the topics and points will offend, but please read to the end.

One of the more frustrating things to come out of leaving religion is that so many theists think I haven’t thought this out. That I’m just going through a phase. I’d be willing to wager that I’ve gone much farther in my pursuit of truth than about any believer out there. I’ve put a staggering amount of time into this journey…

View original post 4,033 more words

When I read the Book of Mormon, I feel closer to Jesus Christ.

Mormon Ad

This ad appeared on the CNN home page today and if clicked will take you here.

In a single sentence, this ad illustrates the problems outlined on one of my prior pages, Faith Card. Our existential sense of spiritual truth simply does not work. It is not a barometer of fact or fiction. It is not a compass that leads to anywhere. Our intuition does not work where spiritual matters are concerned. Well meaning, “faithful” people are all radically divergent in the direction their respective compasses point.

Pleasant Mormons like this young woman, far from being in the service of the devil, are doing the best they can. But they have been hampered by an unfortunate paradigm, which claims that the really important things in life must be known by faith. This general belief, that faith is the mechanism by which we know spiritual truth, is shared by the broad range of religions. And it is a demonstrably ineffective and wayward mechanism.

Faith constitutes a proposal regarding process… “This is how you find ultimate truth.” Your internal sense of relationship or spiritual presence should be your guide. That burning of the bosom should be your guide. Truth feels a certain way when you have it. You know, because it sounds right. You know because you know. You know because of your sacred texts. But at bottom, this type of knowing is followed by everyone in religions that oppose yours.

The cleverest part of faith, however, may be found in a self-validating defensive mechanism. Faith concurrently makes objective knowledge claims while maligning the validity of the one process which can call it’s bluff: critical thinking. Answers to the most pressing questions, we are told, can only be known by faith. Study, analysis, science, and the like are all said to lose their potency where ultimate questions are concerned. “You cannot answer these questions through such means,” comes the admonition from those who have never actually tried.

Belief in belief: the tragedy that all religions share.

I encourage my Christian readers to visit the Mormon website linked above. I would further encourage reading of Buddhists and other faiths. You will see a repetition of themes in how religious viewpoints are defended, advanced, and arrived at. The means of thinking are entirely analogous, but the specific claims are contradictory. And that should raise the question: what if faith is a flawed mechanism?

Infographic: The Breaking of Christian Apologetics

Collapse of ApologeticsIn thinking back over the course of my own investigations, I have noted that several criteria have proven useful again and again. As a person investigates issues of faith and compares different explanations, these principles of vetting can help clear away the clutter that is so happily foisted by various authors. I have dubbed the following five criteria:

  1. The Goose and the Gander
  2. The Burden of Proof
  3. Scaled Support
  4. The Weakest Link
  5. Alternate Cases

In my own investigations, I have found that the most robust cases raised by the mightiest Christian apologists cannot survive the winnowing.

The Goose and the Gander

Principle:

If a rationale can be used to support more than one religion, that line of argument cannot be considered definitive. What is good for goose and the gander cannot adjudicate between them.

Example:

Eyewitness testimony from believers living at the time of Jesus does count as type of evidence. However, it is not unique or definitive evidence. Other religions make similar claims on similar grounds by people who similarly believed. [Read more…]

Christian Agnosticism & Touching Earth

English: Arabic Question mark 한국어: 아랍어에서 사용하는 물음표

I have recognized a repeating pattern from my past conversations, both in person and online, which I believe lies at the very bedrock of believer’s objections to investigative discussions regarding belief, Christianity, and the Bible. Once evidential discussions have run their course, and once a retreat is beaten from that battlefield, believers will very often default to the inner keep of last resorts:

You cannot evaluate the truth of Christianity with analysis or reason or rational argument: you must either believe it on faith or not at all. It is about belief. It requires faith.

I have come to call this a “retreat to grey”, the falling back to a proposition that faith knowledge is different by category from other knowledge – as different as living organisms and dead stones. Things of the spirit cannot be interrogated by the same means as other truth claims. At bottom is an agnostic claim: we simply cannot “know” things in this realm, nor prove them, and certainly not disprove them, by any path of critical thinking or evidence.

But why do we think this? [Read more…]

Quotation: Michio Kaku on Galileo & Bruno

English: The trial of Giordano Bruno by the Ro...

In my conversations, some have doubted that what a person specifically believes about Genesis matters. Many believers take a casual approach to the text today and cannot imagine that martyrdom has ever been joined to Genesis. Jesus perhaps, but not Genesis. To the contrary: it has carried sufficient gravity to not only execute dissenters, but to do so with leading figures, as an example. There can be little doubt what fate would have befallen Galileo had he not recanted.

From “Parallel Worlds”:

The mixture of science, religion, and philosophy is indeed a potent brew, so volatile that the great philosopher Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in 1600 in the streets of Rome for refusing to repudiate his belief that there were an infinite number of planets in the heavens, harboring an infinite number of living beings.

Galileo’s and Bruno’s sin was not that they dared to divine the laws of the heavens; their true sin was that they dethroned humanity from its exalted place at the center of the universe.

It would take over 350 years, until 1992, for the Vatican to issue a belated apology to Galileo. No apology was ever issued to Bruno.

The Curious Atheist

Freely Seeking Truth After Religion

Class Warfare Blog

I don’t want to start a class war; it started a long time ago and, unfortunately, we are losing.

Secular Wings

My freedom from spiritual abuse happened when I walked away from the abusers. My healing and recovery from the complex trauma of spiritual abusers, spiritually abusive faith and toxic religion happened while I was still a Christian and continues to this day. My deconversion came later after many many years of studying the Bible, Christian apologetics, cults and spiritual abuse. When I realized that the Bible is not the inerrant Word of God, the only honest thing I could do was to stop calling myself a Christian. ~ Zoe

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playing in the rain

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Investigating the collision of faith, science and reason

aspiretofindtruth

Seeking answers for some of the big questions of life.

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Random musings about everything.

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Into the Gray