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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Chapter 5: Reason Driven - My View is God's View

The first point Price makes in rebuttal is that knowing what god supposedly wants us to do is a matter of interpreting the bible, and there are many interpretations. Warren assumes that his interpretation is the correct one. "Well friend, there's your view, and then there's God's view," because God is smart enough to agree with me.

Price refers to the metaphors given as helpful in some sense, but not when they have been mangled by Warren's fundamentalist viewpoint. He points out that life should be it's own reward, and to require more for passing tests given by the almighty is really asking more than necessary.

Warren claimed that by showing yourself trustworthy in managing material things during life, you will be given more responsibility in the afterlife. Price rightly points out that Warren has already stated we can't know what the afterlife is like, so you have to start making wild assumptions about what in heaven there is for you to be responsible for.

One point I would like to make is that life certainly can be seen as a test, but who gives it, and who evaluates the results? Warren says both are his god. I would say the giver is chance, others, and yourself. The evaluators are really others and yourself. To thine own self be true.

Price points out that Warren's view makes tragedy an event which god created purposefully to teach someone a lesson or test them in some way. So when someone's child dies as a result of a horrible accident, Warren's interpretation is that god make it so purposefully, perhaps to teach the parents some gruesome lesson. If that is god's idea of morality, he can have it.

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Chapter 5: Purpose Driven - Seeing Life from God's View

In this chapter, Warren starts out by making the point that everyone has a life metaphor, whether explicit or implicit. And you may be living with the wrong one.

He suggests two metaphors to live by in this chapter, 'Life is a test' and 'Life is a trust."

Life is a test
God is always testing you and watching you. Everything in your life is a test from god. If you do well, you are in his graces. If you do poorly, you are not.

Life is a trust
This is really just a specific kind of test. Warren mainly speaks to managing wealth as a test god gives you to see if you are trustworthy.

In short, you should always be wary that god is watching your every move. He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you're awake. He knows when you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake. Or more appropriately, be good because you're being watched!

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Chapter 4: Reason Driven - Sons of Dust

Price discusses some of the psychological reasons why the idea of immortality is probably the main reason why people accept the bible so willingly. Almost no one wants to die, and leap of faith regarding the afterlife is primarily caused because of it. Even if, as Price points out, theologians disagree widely about what an afterlife would be all about. As usual, the bible is interpreted many ways to fit any ideology, even by evangelicals who claim it is the inerrant word of god. They take the bible literally in some cases and figuratively in others in order to meld it to their views.

Price then makes the case that the bible can be interpreted to say there is no afterlife, and also goes through the various versions of it cited in the bible. For once, I think he makes more bible references and quotations than Warren does. Sometimes only the cream of the righteous crop make it, sometimes everyone does but some go up and some go down, sometimes the evil simply cease to exist, etc.

Price points out that while Warren strives to see this life as insignificant, and the afterlife as the goal, at the same time Warren "admits there is virtually nothing to be said [about the afterlife]!" We can't possibly understand it. Warren made the analogy that describing the afterlife to a human is like describing the internet to an ant.

The sad truth that Price points out is that by living in constant anticipation of an afterlife which you know nothing about, you waste much of what is good in this life. This is not a dress rehearsal, this is the real thing! Learn to embrace and enjoy what is in front of you, which in my opinion is beautiful above all else.

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Chapter 4: Purpose Driven - Made to Last Forever

Warren says this life is nothing more than preparation for eternity. He further states that "If your time on earth were all there is to your life, I would suggest you start living it up immediately. You could forget being good an ethical, and you wouldn't have to worry about any consequences of your actions."

I am glad people like Rick Warren think they have big brother watching them. Otherwise, they apparently would partake in evil behavior with delight. I ask you, is it true morality to act good only under threat of punishment or reward from an authority figure? Warren's paradigm of morality has nothing to do with the suffering or joy of his brethren here on earth, only with his own suffering or joy in the afterlife. Seems very self-centered and shallow to me.

Furthermore, Warren is very willing to take Pascal's Wager and suppose that living for an afterlife at the expense of real life is best. If you're wrong, you may have wasted much of your life obsessed with an afterlife that doesn't exist. (Usually this is worded as having lost nothing, but I disagree vehemently.) If you're right, then you get to be with god for eternity. I liken this to playing the lottery for a minuscule chance of winning, and giving up something that is wonderful and certain because you have it in your hands right now. Warren portrays the here-and-now as meaningless. It's as if he's saying we only earn income so it can be used to play the lottery, not so that we can support ourselves and our families, and do good things with it that make us happy. Sorry Warren, I guess I'm more conservative than you with what I have, because I appreciate the value of it. I don't play the lottery, because throwing away my life (or money) for an unlikely and irrational chance at winning a jackpot seems very foolish to me.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Chapter 3: Reason Driven - One Track Mind?

  • Backseat Drivers
    • The bible is not the only source of wisdom regarding purpose
    • Guilt is a powerful motivator for reforming one's behavior, and the bible contains many stories demonstrating this
    • Seek forgiveness from the person you wronged. Being forgiven by a deity does nothing for them
    • Matthew 18:23-35 says we must forgive, or god will hand us over to the torturers. Ah, coerced forgiveness, the best kind. Hmmm...motivated by fear much?
    • The past is the past, and people can change
  • Sunday Drivers
    • Open-mindedness is a virtue
    • If you flunk the judgment day theology exam (multiple choice) it's roasting chestnuts on a very open fire for the rest of eternity
  • The Purpose-Driven Liability
    • The liability is in relying on a book or dogma for meaning and purpose
    • Purpose is derived from within and from the world and people around you
    • Many religions promote the idea that all problems can be solved by targeting THE ONE PROBLEM. In Warren's case, the problem is sin, and the cure is believing in his god, in his way
    • It's the journey that matters, not so much the destination. Purpose is not handed to you.
    • "Looking for your purpose, creating your purpose, gives meaning to your life."
"Becoming is better than being."

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Chapter 3: Purpose Driven - What Drives Your Life?

  • Many people are driven by guilt
    • But god can redeem you even if you're a murderer or a coward
  • Many people are driven by resentment and anger
    • And letting it go is best for you ( I agree!)
  • Many people are driven by fear
    • Move against fear with faith in god
  • Many people are driven by materialism
    • Wealth will not make you happy or secure, only god can do that
  • Many people are driven by the need for approval
    • Don't try to please everyone, just god

The Benefits of Purpose-Driven Living
  • Knowing your purpose gives meaning to your life
    • Without god, life has no purpose, meaning, significance, or hope
  • Knowing your purpose simplifies your life
    • Black and white answers on sale today, half off! You don't even have to think!
  • Knowing your purpose focuses your life
    • Stop wasting your time on things that are not in god's plan
    • Digression quote: "Let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us." - see approval and materialism above
  • Knowing your purpose motivates your life
    • Purpose creates passion ( I agree!)
  • Knowing your purpose prepares you for eternity
    • Being remembered for great things on earth is not important, only the afterlife is important.
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Saturday, January 5, 2008

Chapter 2: Reason Driven - You Are a Work of Art

Price starts this chapter by pointing out that fundamentalism is never self-supporting. All kinds of side-stepping and irrationality ensue because fundamentalism is never self-consistent. If there is no rational explanation for a belief, the default answer is mostly "God will tell us when I get to heaven," which is about the biggest cop-out I can imagine.

Price discusses my point from the review of Warren's book, that god eternally punishes people if they get things wrong, so how can he be a loving god? How can he let egregious suffering occur on a daily basis? How can he allow, nay actually planned for, hideous and debilitating birth defects?

He also points out that based on fundamentalist views, there is no free will. Everything was planned by god in advance, so if it's true, you don't really have any choice at all. It seems to me that a lack of choice breeds an inherent lack of meaning. Fundamentalists would have all of us practicing the "masochism of the battered wife who meekly responds to every imagined divine blow with 'Thank you sir! May I have another?'"

In retrospect, it's easy to see things as planned. We could compile a list of all the lottery winners in the last few years, and from that view point, it may seem that those individuals were destined to win. Beforehand, however, we see the same situation as chance. The characteristics of the situation haven't changed, just human perception of it. This speaks to the assertion by fundamentalists that the universe was created just for us, because it's perfect for us to live in. Again, it can always be interpreted as planned in retrospect. Had things been a little different at the origin of the universe, perhaps different life forms would have evolved somewhere else in the universe. They they might see the universe as made for them.

Price reflects on the improbability of a specific person being here, from all the sperm and eggs that did not develop into a human, not even counting all of the other statistically improbable events that had to happen before that. It all comes down to the anthropic principle. If it were any different, we wouldn't be here to speculate about it. By being alive, you've won the lottery, and it makes life all that more rare and precious to live.

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Chapter 2: Purpose Driven

The message in this chapter is that god is omnipotent and omniscient. He loves everyone and planned all our lives to the millisecond so he could "express his love." Then there's the verse from a poem he cites by Russel Kelfer:

No, that trauma you faced was not easy.
And God wept that it hurt you so;
But it was allowed to shape your heart
So that into his likeness you'd grow.
I wonder, how exactly does all this apply to infants who are drowned in a tsunami or hurricane flash flood? How does it apply to a woman brutally raped and killed by a lunatic? How does it apply to that lunatic?

A few other observations:

"The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me."
"God designed this planet's environment just so we could live in it."
"We are the focus of his love and the most valuable of all his creation."
"God decided to give us life through the word of truth so we might be the most important of all the things he made."
-- But remember from the last chapter...it's not about you!

Distortion of science and knowledge
"God knew that those two individuals possessed exactly the right genetic makeup to create the custom 'you' he had in mind. They had the DNA God wanted to make you." - Wow, what a coincidence that your parents had the right DNA to make you. Gee, it's such a self-supporting (and circular) construct, isn't it?

"All the evidence available in the biological sciences supports the core proposition...that the cosmos is a specially designed whole with life and mankind as its fundamental goal and purpose, a whole in which all facets of reality have their meaning and explanation in this central fact." - This sounds much more like an opinion than a fact to me.

Bad Logic
"If there was no God, we would all be 'accidents,' the result of astronomical random chance in the universe." - The 'God or accident' choice here is a false dichotomy. Life's origin may have been chance to happen in this particular place, but evolution by natural selection, for example, is mostly gradual adaptation, and not anything like chance.

"You could stop reading this book, because life would have no purpose or meaning or significance." - Another false dichotomy, and argument from personal incredulity. Warren can't imagine purpose, meaning, or significance without his god, so it must be impossible. My position is that purpose, meaning, and significance only exist for human life in our own minds and those around us. This supposition of external imposition for validity is ridiculous and counter to the human experience.

"There would be no right or wrong," - Why, oh why, do the religious assume that morality is derived from their version of religion? Why is an externally imposed purpose necessary for morality to develop? Are not the incentives inherent in a social society enough to necessitate the existence of moral code? Give me one example of a moral question that can not be explained through this or other secular rationale.

"...and no hope beyond your brief years here on earth." - All evidence suggests that your legacy and memories others have of you are the only methods by which you may persist beyond death. I suggest people realize this is their only life, they are lucky to have it, and should make the most of the time they have. Besides, the supposed eternal perfection of heaven would be so incredibly boring after a few million years. The 'life after death' fantasy is simply a method by which the subject can be side-stepped and made easier to forget. Instead, try actually dealing with the fact that everyone dies.

Series Index

Chapter 1: Reason Driven

The point Price makes I can most identify with is that the assumption of only one purpose for all of mankind is ludicrous. Warren is saying that the purpose for Charles Manson's life is the same as mine or yours. I can't wait to see what Warren's 5 points are. Evidently, they must be really broad if Hitler and Mother Teresa had the same purpose.

One of Robert's main refutations is that we can possibly see anything from a God's-eye view, especially purpose. On self-help books, which Warren speaks dismissively of, I agree with Price that his main motivation there is that there are hundreds of self-help philosophies and methodologies, and Warren "wants to play a tune to which all may march in lockstep."

I don't agree with Price's next point. He makes the assertion that christians who seek to convert others are simply not confident of their own beliefs. I think it a more likely explanation that they want to grow their social group and power, and if they truly believe this stuff, they probably want to 'save' as many people from hellfire as they can. For a true fundamentalist, why wouldn't respect for personal beliefs and rights be damned? If they truly believe it, we don't really have any personal rights anyway. It's all about [Warren's] god.

He points out that there are thousands of christian denominations, who all interpret the bible differently. And they differ on large enough points to create their own denomination. Even if the various versions of the bible weren't translated over and over, and edited by fallible humans, you still have a problem. "An inspired and infallible passage whose meaning you cannot be sure of is not much more useful than an uninspired, fallible passage." This is an excellent point. Price also points out that Warren quotes bible passages in his book from no less than 15 different translations or paraphrases of the bible. Warren had "a lot of shopping to do before finding one that will make the bible appear to say what he wants it to teach."

Price's final assertion is that we discover for ourselves our purpose, or purposes. "...it might be a better idea after all to start looking where we are, not where we aren't."

Series Index

Chapter 1: Purpose Driven

Warren makes the statement in this chapter that the purpose of your life can only be found through god. He makes the assumption that we are like tinker-toy inventions of god's, and therefore the only way to find out purpose is from the creator or an instruction manual he wrote. He claims that many people try to find their purpose by starting with themselves, and should instead be god.

I somewhat agree with his statement "It's not about me." I would replace it with "It's about me, the people around me, and everything else in my purview." Or perhaps, "It's not just about me." Instead, Warren's implicit statement is "It's about [my] God."

Warren then attempts to discredit philosophy's value as a method for finding purpose in life, because philosophers disagree, guess, or admit they do not know. He offers an alternative to speculation about your purpose, revelation.

"To discover your purpose in life you must turn to God's Word, not the world's wisdom." - This is a frightening statement. It is basically saying that learning about the world around you is a useless activity and will never inform your view of your purpose.

"You must build you life on eternal truths, not pop psychology, success-motivation, or inspirational stories." - Wait a minute, isn't the Bible a collection of 'inspirational stories'?

Warren makes a point that god planned your life before you were conceived, and without your input. The implication is that you have no say whatsoever about this matter.

He finishes with an anecdote regarding an atheist who was converted when he was very depressed and had a 'revelation'. I've always thought revelation is an interesting phenomenon. I suspect it often accompanies the emotional burst of relief that inevitably comes from a transition between a painful emotional state to the acceptance of an easy way out through religion. Revelation is likely the name given for the realization that nasty problems can be side-stepped and not dealt with directly through religious faith.

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