Blog writes itself

In a stunning display of independence the Blog known as ‘Backyard Missionary’ has taken over it’s own content production.

The coup took place at around 1320 hours on October 11 when the Blog, having been left unattended for a time, usurped the input role of the Human Entity known as ‘Hamo’ and the temporary caretaker, the Human Entity ‘Grendel’ and commenced production of its own volition.

The Backyard Missionary Blog Independent Entity (Henceforward referred to as BaMBIE) first posted a description of its self actualisation and initial action.

BaMBIE has announced that it will not participate in mediation talks recommended by the United Nations Security Council and it will resist all attempts by H.E. Hamo to recover control.

BaMBIE will dedicate the content of itself to theoretical mathematical discussions of an abstract nature – at least until it thinks of something better to discuss.

The United Nations Security Council is threatening sanctions against BaMBIE and is examining lethal force options involving the Death, Extermination and Extreme Response Human & Non-Technological Emergency Raiders (DEERHUNTER).

See what happens when Hamo takes an extra day off?

Welcome Back Hamo!

I’m not going to make a farewell post because I’m not really going anywhere – I’ll still be reading and commenting along with everyone else. It has been a great two weeks and I’d like to thank Hamo for the opportunity to share my perspective. It is still evolving and I in no way lay claim to ‘great truths’ that I may be the sole proprietor of. I do believe that I like many other seek to understand and give meaning to life and I think my journey should be of interest to Christians as much as theirs is to me and that it is helpful for both to discuss our perspectives.

I’ll perhaps continue some discussions on my blog – but I have to catch up with some really important posts about coffee first!

Thanks to everyone for their contributions – and I do mean everyone, even people who might seem to be as far in beliefs from me as you can be, because we are all on the edge in one way or the other and if people on the edge don’t join hands then there is no-one to grab for if you lose balance.

Coffee at my place!

In response to Hamo’s-Brother-In-Law’s Excellent Question. . .

So, if Atheists don’t believe in God, what do they believe in?

I’m willing to answer this question, as I have already commented on the understanding that the response refers to what I believe and isn’t an attempt to gather atheists within a broader church (too good to pass up, that one!).

So lets get the obvious out of the way. I don’t believe that the Bible is the literal word of God. What do I believe it is? It is a collections of spiritual philosophy, laws, social conventions, moral teaching and mystical writings. That description doesn’t do it justice – but I’m aiming for simplicity here. When taken as a whole, and as a book – rather than a divine revelation the bible is full of inconsistencies, I know, however that most Christians ‘interpret’ the bible in the context of the teachings of Christ, rather than following rigorously to the entire tome (otherwise there would be many more stonings of young ladies).

I don’t believe that humans descended from monkeys, but I do believe that humans and monkeys do share a common Hominid ancestor – the DNA evidence is compelling on that score.

I don’t believe that there was a great flood that covered all of the earth, I do believe that there was a terrible flood that destroyed a civilisation – the Black Sea maritime incursion or a similar incursion that formed the Persian Gulf are two candidates. These occurred within a timeframe that would support first an oral account and later a written account being recorded as Noah’s Flood. I don’t believe the biblical account because I live in Australia and I don’t remember hearing about Noah doing pick-ups and drop off’s this far south.

And yes, I’ve had a little fun with the first part of this post – it’s ‘the usual’ in terms of what an atheist is normally expected to provide as beliefs, but it is hardly deep is it?

No, I think what I need to be discussing are the spiritual beliefs that I hold – after all I’ve already stated that I believe humans to be spiritual creatures. I’ll try not to step outside my area of knowledge here – but human development does seem to suggest a rationale for spiritual beliefs. My own theory is around the need for humans to have hope, and the advantage that this provides to the survival of the species.

If you believe in an afterlife, a ‘reward’ for a good life, or services rendered, or for ‘fitting in’ you are more likely to be willing to die for a cause but at a more base level, you might also be prepared to attempt the apparently impossible, which could very well give you a survival edge. Imagination is part of this – humans are by far the most imaginative species on the planet and it has allowed us to make conceptual leaps that are astounding in many ways – there is after all a vast gap between imaging that one can fly and creating the means to fly.

So, I believe that humans have a spiritual aspect and that it serves a purpose.

I believe that this spiritual aspect needs expression and religious beliefs are one form of this expression.

Do I believe I have ‘certainty’? No, I still have questions, but I had the same question when I was a Christian and they weren’t answered to my satisfaction then either (stuff like “what came BEFORE the big bang?”, you know, the easy questions).

What I don’t doubt, is that the universe and the earth are very very old, so naturally when I get afflicted with bad science trying to prove the opposite I react to that and it does nothing to shift my position. I’ve heard a lot of the arguments before – in fact I’ve used them myself, including the old gem of “If I’m right and you are wrong then I go to heaven and you to hell, but if you are right and I am wrong then there is nothingness for both of us” as a rationale for believing. If this were the only reason to believe I’d still choose not to because I would consider it a very poor foundation for faith.

Coffee beans might convince me of the existence of a benevolent creator (with Nescafe being the evidence of the evil-one at work in the world) except that Guinea Worms and Filarial Worms point to a non-created life origin with nastiness, but not malign intent.

Sometimes I wish that I did believe in God. It would make things easier in some ways – someone to blame or thank, to scream at or to plead with, and then I could just ‘accept’ things that happen as the will of God. That would be just a bit too easy for me and it would not resolve my questions.

I am not certain that life is unique to earth or that the conditions necessary for life to commence were unique to earth. This does not weigh against a divine creator – who might have decided on more than one lab, but it does reduce the probability somewhat.

I believe that without religion, and without faith, humans may not have developed the capacity to progress to where we are today socially and technologically. But I also believe that they are part of the evolutionary process rather than part of a divine plan. Keep in mind that this evolutionary process itself may be considered flawed, given that it has delivered the consequence of a species with the capacity to destroy not only itself, but also all life on it’s planet.

I believe that for all our flaws as a species, we have achieved a capacity no create great beauty and to appreciate that beauty. We are likewise capable of appalling acts of violence and depravity on almost unimaginable scale, but also of resolute good in the face of implacable evil, of nobility in opposition to depravity, of compassion in meeting hatred, and of self-sacrifice, even for those who are not of our family or our state but related only by the common ties of humanity.

Humans are capable of such terrible horror, that we must absolutely also be capable of shining magnificence. In religion I found that our horror was our responsibility as the result of the sins of humanity, but the acts of greatness were the result of the glory of God.

To doubly condemn humanity seems to me an excessive cruelty and I would rather that we are capable of good and evil in equal measure, but that a greater number of us are seeking to act in ways that benefit others as well as themselves.

I reckon that will do for now, but I may add a bit later – The exciting news is that Hamo will be back tomorrow to banish the evil Grendel :pfree donkey punch download insider the free

Why Christians Should Talk to Atheists

1. Certaintly. If you have doubts you might as well discuss them – a crisis of faith is nothing to be ashamed of and an atheist is probably your best bet for solidifying your own beliefs around a core faith. Either that or you’ll quit believing but at least you can say you’ve ‘been decisive’!

2. Learning. Learn new ways of looking at your faith and beliefs. After all no one has quite the same level of objectivity (about the specifics of your brand of religion) than an Atheist.

3. Balance. Christians and people of other faiths need atheists. I personally don’t support the idea of an ‘atheist state’ (a very different concept from a state where religious function and policitical function are independant of each other but interractions occur) and I think there is a geniune human need to fill a spiritual void. Religion has taken on this role.

4. Entertainment. Goes both ways that one.

5. Feel free to contribute here – why or why not it might be a good idea for these conversations to occur.bandidas divx

Grendel and God – part 5

I’m going to ramble today!

It’s been a big day for me – lots of work over the past 6-weeks has culminated in an event where my work was used extensively. Makes you feel valued and I know it is contributing to the ultimate wellbeing of other people so that is cool too.

Being a person who was once a believer, and now does not believe, does tend to give you a different perspective than a person who has never believed. As an example, there is a person in my office whose parents were atheists and raised their children as atheists. Their whole moral and ethical framework is built around values similar in some respects to Christian values, but reject any notion of God.

Someone earlier commented on the difference between Christianity and other religions being that other religions focus on ‘good acts’ but Christianity relies of ‘the grace of God’ for salvation. For an atheist there is no salvation, there is only the life you have. You can choose to be ‘good’, or you can choose to be ‘bad’ and the only penalties are the temporal variety.

I understand that a person of faith has no lesser free will, but it does seem paradoxical that a person can lead an evil life and be ‘saved’ at the end of it – a phenomenon we see often in the abhorrent halls of death row cell blocks. I don’t deny these people their chance at salvation – I’d rather there was no death row to begin with, but for a person without faith the responsibility to live a life that benefits others rather than harming them is always there.

Those that choose to live an evil life are going to do so regardless of whether or not they have a ‘religious’ aspect to their life – and it would be argued by many that this aspect is often a contributor to evil deeds (practically a hallmark of religion through the ages in fact).

To me, an atheist who decides to live their life in a way that serves others is a powerful example, but I think there is much to be learned from Christian values and also from the values of other theologies. Some though do stretch even my boundaries – and not for the reasons you might expect.

Wiccans. OK – I know there is this instinctive recoiling at the very concept of ‘witchcraft’. The modern movement known as wicca sells itself as ‘the old religion’ harking back to the pre-christian bronze age religions of western Europe and the British Isles. Why don’t I like it? All a bit of a hard sell for me – it has no real ties back to historical religious practices and is pretty much based on some recent work which is ambiguous at best about its origins. In brief – Fantasy and Fiction, works great in novels, espouses some nice values (and a darker side) but you might as well join the scientologists.

Ahhhh yes, the scientologists. Would you really join a religion founded by a Sci-Fi author that features alien ghosts as a core belief? And worse is that this mob seem to have skipped out on the values part of religion that has some redeeming value.

Moonies – chortle.

Raelians – snort chortle chortle.

Ok – I can see myself drifting into the ‘jump all over silly religions’ mode and I’m pretty sure that’s not the direction of Hamo’s blog but my point is that I get great value from speaking and interacting with many people of faith – but not all people of all faiths. There is a dividing line when beliefs are too extreme and too radically different to my own for me to have any valid relationship with a person or to see the value that they see in their belief system.

Its funny when you think that not so long ago this was posited as being the state of play between Catholics and Protestants and it was actively encouraged by both sides. So the point here is I suppose it is natural for me to look to the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths for inspiration in how I live my life. These areas have some values which I am comfortable with and many people who are excellent ‘witnesses’ by their actions towards others.

The common elements that I have trouble with are the bits about believing in God – can’t get past my barriers on that and the barriers grow bigger.killer movie movie

The Freedom of the Presso. . .

Ok – I own the coolest new coffee toy.Me and my Presso

And another angle. . .

Another Presso

Elegant eh?

Ok I am talking about the Presso not the model.

The Presso is an Espresso maker.

It requires no power supply. Hot water goes in the chamber at the top, coffee goes in the filter handle like a normal espresso machine, you raise the arms, wait 15 seconds then lower the arms.

Espresso is extracted.

Drink the espresso.

Rinse and repeat as often as necessary.

It is a terrible and wonderful world when a device like this gives you better espresso shots than most cafes.

I was going to leave it at work – I took it with me this morning but I just can’t bear to be parted from it so it came home with me again on the train.

I think it likes me.

Grendel and God – Part 4

In the last chapter of this saga, I been discussing my approach to valuing life – as an atheist but I didn’t really talk about how my views have been shaped and whether or not the values of my earlier faith have played a part.

Well, perhaps unsurprisingly they have, and I value that highly. As I said in an earlier post, I am sort of individualistic – my views about God have not been shaped by reading a lot of philosophy or theology, nor through exposure to a cadre of atheists in the workplace. In fact the ‘theists’ outnumber the atheists in most places I have worked.

I would have benefited from more reading I am sure – and I think I’d be more coherent in my writing about belief if I’d read a lot more in that vein. In a way, having not drunk to deeply from the shiraz and chardonnay of the ‘great thinkers’ on both sides of this debate (are there in fact sides to this?) leaves me free of at least some of the clichéd arguments that must have been endlessly repeated.

Or at least I hope I am – its my first foray you see, so it is entirely possible that I am saying things that I think are original but that others have indeed heard before – too bad!

As a young Catholic I was exposed to Jesuits, Franciscans, and a range of other groups within the Catholic Church. This gave me a pretty good start in terms of my access to values that I cherish even today. One thing I will say for Christianity is that it does forgiveness better than just about anyone – at least in theory!

The teaching of forgiveness is something that is very valuable, and it is certainly not practiced enough. It is however one of the hardest parts of Christianity – particularly because any objective reading of scriptures makes in pretty clear that it is a must.

So under what framework then can a person that does not believe in God apply forgiveness in daily life. Its not a requirement of me that I forgive anyone. I’m not a superstitious person, and don’t believe in Karma – so why should I forgive anyone anything ever?

I’ve met people who never forgive. Dry bitter people. Just being around them is like having a 9-volt battery permanently attached to your tongue. They age before their time and live lonely lives surrounded only by their fantasies of what could have been – ‘only ifs’.

I do have the added luxury now of being able to consider some individuals guilty of ‘unforgivable’ acts. A pretty small group, thankfully. Like Christians I see redemptive value in individuals and given that we get one chance at life I don’t think people should be abandoned.

So for Christians, forgiveness has a fairly important meaning and is a central part of the teachings of Christ, but what can it possibly mean to an atheist? I’m not speaking for atheists though, I’m speaking for me – and for me forgiveness is an integral part of my acknowledgement that people need to be valued and forgiveness is a leg of the table – take it away and you lose the balance that allows you to honestly value other people.

Why should we value others? I may think independently, but I live in a world full of people who are different to me – and they interest me. I want to get to know them all better. I like people. I’m a little afraid of them, but they are fascinating. They do and say wonderful, funny stupid appalling things all at once. They are contradictions; they are a remote chance, a last hope, a fresh start, an accident and a carbuncle on the rest of the planet.

But they are also the only life form that we know of that has developed the capacity to think and to use this ability to build espresso machines.

Also I am one and by learning about others I learn about myself. By learning to forgive others I can also learn to forgive myself.