Michael Battalio

Friday, December 25, 2009

Eighth Annual Christmas Mass E-mail

Greetings and Salutations,
        Welcome to the Eighth Annual Christmas Mass E-mail.  I hope everyone is well.  
        I don’t know about all of you, but for me, not only do the years go by faster and faster, but they get busier and busier as well.  There always seems to be something to do or something that needs to be accomplished - never any time to take a step back and just be.  Tomorrow I’m going to do that; I’m going to spend some time pausing and reflecting.  I invite you to do the same.  Reflection can go a long way towards contentment, and I think we could all use a bit more of that.
        Once again, congratulations to all of you who have really done something amazing this year, whether it’s finishing a degree, getting married, finding a new passion in life or any other accomplishment.  But never be satisfied.  Always strive for more.  Always question, learn, grow; otherwise, what’s the point?
        As my present to you this year I’ve uploaded some arrangements of Christmas tunes.  Some are me just being goofy; others are pretty okay.  You can find them at http://www.battalio.com/battalioxmas.html
        And that’s all I’ve got this year.  Enjoy the season, appreciate the little things, and take the time to give yourself some credit for making it as far as you have.  Let me know how you’re doing and what you’ve accomplished; it’s half the reason I send this every year.

And the joke...
A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse.
“But why,” they asked, as they moved off. 
“Because”, he said, “I can’t stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer.”

        Merry Christmas,

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Serious conversations (part 11)

        This series is a continuation of my conversations with an atheist friend of mine. We began with religion and have now moved onto many other things. These are my edited responses from that conversation. The eleventh entry is a continuation of part ten about art:

        My friend continued:
        Most great masterpieces were painted on commission.  An artist didn’t sit in his studio and paint because he wanted to or had something he needed to express. He painted because a wealthy person wanted him to paint something for him, either as decoration, or to simply display their wealth and power for all to see. But now, those paintings are in museums so the masses can view them just to say they have seen them. So originally, the subject matter of the painting did matter; it was full of political or religious or social symbolism. However, they existed not for the sake of art as we consider it today, but for something else.
        My reply was:
        I suppose the greatness of those commissioned artists of before has to do with the ability of those who commissioned the works to purvey them to the general populace.  In effect, the church and government becomes the art critic.  This portrait of me as king or this depiction of the last supper is important because I say so.  Marvel at its awesomeness you peasants.  Okay, not that dramatically, but I think my point remains.  My question being: does greatness only come from commission, only from an imposed purpose so others will find and "know" the purpose as well instead of some abstract, relative thought?
        Perhaps considering how artists of our time have become renowned would help us in contemplating how art becomes great.  How did Andy Warhol or Norman Rockwell become famous?  I think it might be that they had a sense of the every day man.  That's cliché.  Rockwell painted scenes that a random American would recognize and say, "Hey, that could be me."  Or, "I might actually live that."  Warhol started with some work of icons of Americana, the Campbell soup labels or Coke bottles.  (He stayed famous for eliciting controversy, but became famous for his art.)  Their main draw was appealing to the everyman. You have to appeal to the masses to be remembered.

To sum up what I think:
        I would be of the line of thought that art will always be created; whether or not an artist can support themselves doesn't matter.  People will always be inspired to create, regardless of any financial implications.  I would say the individual needs art that expresses outside the political, economic, and social power of the owner, but that art doesn't need to be financed by an outside power. Again, people will create what comes to them naturally along with what they are paid to create.
        I guess to finish: Art is a work that expresses a thought, feeling or idea through various media.  An artist is anyone who creates that work. That's a broad definition, but I’m not a philosopher.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Serious conversations (part 10):

        This series is a continuation of my conversations with an atheist friend of mine. We began with religion and have now moved onto many other things. These are my edited responses from that conversation. The tenth entry in this series is about art:

        I think there is a caveat to the typical definition of art.  (My friend began the discussion with the sort of definition a critic or textbook would give: art is a timeless expression of some feeling or sentiment.) Art may be a timeless expression of some feeling, but that feeling can be different for different times.  Great art will be able to continuously fit into the mold of attractiveness for a time period.  The question is who defines truly great art?  Who gives art meaning?  The short answer is an individual.  Just because a critic or the populace decides something is a great piece of art doesn't make it great to you.  
        My friend has a hard time getting a particular feeling or expression when viewing art. She is far more interested in the historical context within which it originally fit than with what the painting might express. She believes that many probably do not find something meaningful in art. She supposes that it means far more to them to be able to say that they have seen the painting, rather than to actually look at the painting. So, the true value of the old masterpieces now is that we can say we saw them. A critic might disagree, but in terms of the popular masses, they probably only look at art because other people tell them to. The question is why are some pieces are art “great”, but others not? And is greatness something intrinsic to the piece of art or a result of critics influencing the public or something else?
        I replied: Just because you don't feel that a particular piece of art isn't expressing something to you doesn't make it meaningless and consequently not art. Art doesn't necessarily have to impose meaning to everyone for it to be great.  Art can be considered simply for its own beauty, its appeal to the senses.  That can be technical beauty, as in the level of skill the artist had to demonstrate to create the work.  It could be the intrinsic beauty, as in the colors, composition or form of the subject is pleasing to the eye.  Or I suppose it could be the contextual beauty, as in the meaning we give to a subject makes it beautiful, the sunset is beautiful, two people in love is beautiful.
        I can't say why a great painting doesn't impart meaning to some people. It could depend on the kind of person one is, an analytical person interested in facts as opposed to an emotional person concerned with beauty. When I find myself in a museum, I never to try force any emotion out at the sight of piece of art. Meaning can be very subtle, and a lot of the time I don't get it either, but sometimes meaning will jump off the canvas and hit you.  You just have to be open to it.
        It is probably correct to say that most people see art because others say they should go see it.  Most people follow instead of lead.  People are attracted to what they are told is attractive, find beauty in what they are told is beautiful, see meaning where they are told to see meaning, so I would agree that critics of art steer us to what they conclude just because they are held in authority. Although, it might be because you are seeing something that's one of a kind, unique.  A painting can also connect you to the time period it represents.  A picture is a thousand words.
        However, some pieces and artists are great because they were the avant-garde for a new way of thinking, a new way of artistry or simply because they were one of the first masters of a particular genre or medium.  That might have inspired the interest of the masses at first.  I would imagine though that the continued influence of the great works has to do with a bit of everything - originality, critics, fashion, political and social relevancy.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Serious Conversations (part 9)

        This series is a continuation of my conversations with an atheist friend of mine. We began with religion and have now moved onto many other things. These are my edited responses from that conversation. The ninth entry concerns family:

        With this entry I must start with my friend’s side. She has a rather large extended family that she doesn’t have much in common with, and she often questions her obligations to her family and what she gets from her family.
        She begins by saying that family is the group of people who are supposed to be there regardless of the circumstances and who should delight in your happiness and be pained in your sadness. The love of a family is more than enjoyment of one another’s company. In a biological sense, we are attached to those with whom we share genes. Socially and culturally, there is pressure to protect and care for our family members.
        Friendship, on the other hand, is optional. Our friendships change as our interests change; we are looking for something specific - pleasure, company, common interests - in our friends. Family, though, is forever; we are tied to our family by our genes and by mutual family members. And it seems we are supposed to get something different from our familial relationships besides enjoyment of company or common interests.
        But what is it, where is it, and at what point do you decide, with a particular relative, that you just don't have it?  Or is the question, “would I feel that something significant was missing if I didn't see them anymore?  Would they?”   What makes me care deeply for some family members and not others.

        I, unfortunately for my friend, have very little context to help here. I have a very limited family, not more than half a dozen that I ever see, and probably less than 20 total. So I have very little to draw from. In these couple of paragraphs is the best response I could muster:
        So, firstly, family love is different, yes, but why?  I think it's mostly cultural.  Something along the lines of a long time ago, when humanity was much more lawless, and trust was in short supply, you could trust your family, and that's all you could trust.  And trust is the first step to building a friendship which can then lead to love.  I also think it might have something to do with a desire to return what love and companionship is given us.  This would explain why you would care for those who care for you. The family members one cares for have established a lasting connection to you.  It's selfish, but that's what humanity is.
        I really don't feel pressure to like or be around extended family. If I like a family member, I don't look at those relationships any differently than ordinary friendship.  If I stop liking them, I stop interacting with them.  I don't really dislike any of my family though.  I suppose my problem with all this is I haven't spent enough time around my family to know whether or not I like them.  I feel my obligations to family are simply being courteous and civil. And that’s about it.
        To say the least, my friend was unsatisfied.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Serious conversations (part 8):

        This series is a continuation of my conversations with an atheist friend of mine. We began with religion and have now moved onto many other things. These are my edited responses from that conversation. The eighth entry concerns the purpose of science in my life and how religion fills in the gaps.

        Here is how I view the end of science. Just because I can't understand the soul and heaven and God (if they exist) doesn't mean I can't understand everything else. If we understood the universe except for religion, then I would have to think about the end of science again, fortunately we’ll probably never fully understand the universe. Until then why stop pursuing science just because we one day might understand everything except religion? Just because we can't describe the soul or God now doesn't mean we won't some day get there. I think religion and science can describe the same thing, just in different ways. What I can call creation, you can call evolution and the big bang. One being right doesn't mean the other is wrong. If science, then not religion or if religion, then not science is fallacious, a dichotomy in the most horrid sense. Both can exist simultaneously and not only exist but help on another.

Friday, October 23, 2009

This I Believe (20)

This is part twenty of my “This I Believe” series. I have had trouble over the last several years defining exactly what it is I prescribe to as a worldview. I hope to figure some of what I believe here.

I have one last thing to talk about for now (I’ll start this series back up once I come to more conclusions.): a thought that occurred to me a while ago. All the other times I’ve suffered a lack of faith it has been because I was mad at God for whatever reason, being depressed, loosing a friend, being lonely, etc. Right now though, I’m doing very well. I’m happy, productive, and usually around people I enjoy. So why am I having a hard time now? I think it’s because I’m finally not thinking like a child anymore. I am being very critical of everything that I am exposed to. I can step back and take a logical look at my culture, religion, politics, etc. and not have the influence of adults shade my judgments. And those judgments are very skeptical of religion. To again sum up my worldview:

  1. 1.)God is unreasonable, but because of his nature, God doesn’t have to be reasonable to human beings. No matter how unreasonable God seems, if reason cannot prove without any doubt God does not exist, religion can always claim that God does not have to be reasonable. Also if God does exist, He should not condemn a person to whom He gave logic and reason for logically thinking, as long as they truthfully consider the universe. Good acts can save.
  2. 2.)We cannot know all evidence in regards to the God question. God can neither be 100% proven nor 100% disproven. Questions will always remain. Reason is not helpful when it comes to religion.
  3. 3.)There is a small chance God does exist. Regardless of how small this chance is, faith can bridge the gap. Faith is believing when there is no proof. Notice I say no proof. If there is absolute proof God does not exist, faith no longer has a place. Also, faith without some doubt is not really faith. If one believes without any doubt, that is credulousness not faith. God requires faith, not blind following.
Thus, does God seem probable? No. Is God possible? Yes. Do I want to believe? Yes. How strong is my faith? Obviously not strong enough, but I think that as imperfect human beings, no believer has that quality.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

This I Believe (19)

This is part nineteen of my “This I Believe” series. I have had trouble over the last several years defining exactly what it is I prescribe to as a worldview. I hope to figure some of what I believe here.

I pose the following question: Why did God stop performing obvious large scale miracles after Jesus? God could have a much larger following if he would just perform a parting of the Red Sea or some other active miracle.

Option one is that God doesn’t exist and the Bible is a myth.

Option two is that God needed the big miracles to start his following, but now that he has that large following, large miracles that interfere in the development of man aren’t necessary. And that He is trying to inspire faith of those who believe (e.g. what point is faith if the object of belief is obvious?)

The point I again want to make is that every time I think up or am presented with an argument against God, religion always finds some sort of loophole around what doesn’t appear to make sense. And that’s all it has to do, simply remind that the possibility exists for divinity, not rebuff an argument against it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

This I Believe (18)

This is part eighteen of my “This I Believe” series. I have had trouble over the last several years defining exactly what it is I prescribe to as a worldview. I hope to figure some of what I believe here.
Here I want to comment on two concepts: faith and hope.

Faith, in the simplest sense I can think of, is believing in something, a thought, a person, a worldview, when you have no proof for the correctness of your belief. Faith also requires knowing that your belief is true regardless of a lack of evidence supporting that belief. I think that faith without doubt is not faith. Faith without some doubt is acceptance.

I am a follower of Kierkegaard in this sense. There will never be sufficient evidence to demand belief, but faith alone will be enough to demand belief. Doubt is the rational part of the brain telling you that what faith demands is nonsense. But by its own nature faith flies in the face of that and is meaningless without the doubt without which it is simply credulousness.

Hope, on the other hand, is wanting something when you have no proof for the correctness of your belief yet also not knowing or being sure how correct that belief is. Hope is wanting but doubting.

Hope is wishing something will happen, but faith is believing something will happen.

To make sense of this I picture an isosceles triangle where the two legs of the triangle are hope and credulousness, and the pinnacle of the triangle is faith. Faith requires some of both hope and credulousness to exist, but faith is not either of those two.

Friday, September 04, 2009

This I Believe (17)

This is part seventeen of my “This I Believe” series. I have had trouble over the last several years defining exactly what it is I prescribe to as a worldview. I hope to figure some of what I believe here.
This post poses an interesting question regarding original sin.

        Here’s an interesting thought: God created the world in six days. Some time afterward Adam and Eve committed the original sin. From then on, all humans would have original sin that would have had to be cleansed via the Resurrection. If then it only took seven days to create the universe, why not just start over again? God is omniscient. He knew that from the original sin onward that everyone would be tarnished and would suffer. Why go though with the trouble on continuing with a sinful people? (Because He loves us and couldn’t destroy the future of everyone because of two people.) Why then did He let us continue for however long until He gets fed up with us and floods the Earth (the Noah story) and kills every human except for one family, who because of Adam and Eve all still have original sin and will then repopulate the Earth with people who will still have original sin. Why not just stop it from the beginning? Wipe out the universe, start over again. It makes no sense.
        The best answer I can come up with is that because of original sin of Adam and Eve, all of His creations (even if He started over) would be stained as well. You can also call Adam and Eve a myth, an explanation of why God felt compelled to give us free will, a reason I find more believable. The problem is, if Adam and Eve is a myth, what else is? Possibly everything.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

This I Believe (part 16 comments on the comments part 5)

After all the name calling, superfluous comments on everything ranging from my psychological state to the Christian thoughts on homosexuality, and approximately 400 posts and comments, the following three quotes sum up what I now consider my world view. I’m sure this will change, but it is what it is right now.

Wesley: “You're realizing you can't win an argument based on reason, so now you're falling back to, ‘Well, I know God doesn't make sense, but that's because God doesn't have to make sense. He's beyond our understanding, so he's immune to reason - he doesn't have to follow the laws of the universe was we know them.’ My answer to this is that if there were a God who made himself logically impossible to us, I'm sure he won't be surprised when people do not believe he exists.”

Anon2: “So Wesley, you don't see any convincing evidence for the existence of God. That does not mean there is no God. Since you cannot know all evidence, it is possible that evidence exists that proves God's existence, or at least supports His existence. Therefore, it is possible that God exists. If it is possible, then faith has its place.”

Wesley: “You say that ‘if it is possible that God exists, then [I] should be an agnostic.’ This is a very common criticism - the response is this: every atheist is infinitesimally agnostic. It is possible that your omnipotent and omniscient God exists, but it is infinitesimally possible. The point is this: there is some point at which an unlikelihood becomes an impossibility. If you are familiar with the mathematical concept of a limit from calculus, then you should understand this.”

These three quotes sum up my thinking about God and religion. Formally:
  1. 1.)God is unreasonable, but because of his nature, God doesn’t have to be reasonable to human beings. No matter how unreasonable God seems, if reason cannot prove without any doubt God does not exist, religion can always make this claim. Also if God does exist, He should not condemn a person he created with logic and reason for logically thinking, as long as they truthfully consider the universe. Good acts can save.
  2. 2.)We cannot know all evidence in regards to the God question. God can neither be 100% proven nor 100% disproven. Questions will always remain. Reason is not helpful when it comes to religion.
  3. 3.)There is a small chance God does exist. Regardless of how small this chance is, faith can bridge the gap. Faith is believing when there is no proof. Notice I say no proof. If there is absolute proof God does not exist, faith no longer has a place. Also, faith without some doubt is not really faith. If one believes without any doubt, that is knowing not believing. God requires faith, not blind following.
Thus, does God seem probable? No. Is God possible? Yes. Do I want to believe? Yes. How strong is my faith? Obviously not strong enough, but I think that as imperfect human beings, no believer has that faith.

Friday, August 14, 2009

This I Believe (part 15 comments on the comments part 4)

        This post deals with some of the comments from the post “Serious Conversations (part 7)” I’ve really focused in on just the things I felt were important.

Anon2: “All worldviews require at least some faith, but Christianity, as the only one that accurately portrays reality, requires the least, because its claims can be shown to be objective fact.”
Actually, no they cannot be proven to be objective fact, that’s the point. It only appears to be objective fact because you assume that it “accurately portrays reality”. I also think that moral relativism holds if there is no God.

Anon2: Agnostics are "atheists" when it comes to most religions. Why does the agnostic feel that it's quite all right to play dumb [when it comes to the Christian God] but not in the other cases? The agnostic must believe that he has evidence for the existence of the Christian God that prevents her from outright dismissing Him. (Actually, that's the best case scenario from an intellectual perspective. The worst case scenario is that the agnostic is afraid to admit that he does, in fact, dismiss God all together.) … If agnostics want to play dumb they have to explain why playing dumb makes sense in certain cases but not others. … The main argument I have heard that is pro-agnostic is that ‘Church wastes time’
Truthfully, I think that anything is infinitesimally possible. I choose to formally address the Christian God because that is the faith I was indoctrinated in. I suppose I could randomly pick some other infinitesimally possible deity and address him/her. In this sense I lump all popular religions together. I cannot prove or disprove any of them. They are all possible. The difference is that there is a tradition of belief that is why it is different to address all formal religions and ignore an obviously made up religion. For why I only attend a Catholic church see my previous posts, but to reiterate in short: Church is about the people and interacting with those good people, not just worshiping a deity that may or may not exist.

Anon2 referring to Occam’s razor: “the universe cannot replace God as explanation for its own existence. The universe is finite in both size and time. …How did this universe decide to create itself? …The laws of physics are designed with such precision that it is almost inconceivable that they could be the result of chance. …Random chance does not design such a well-crafted universe. All the atheistic explanations for such an exquisitely defined universe require the presence of trillions of other universes, of which ours is the one which happened, by chance, to have the exact physics required for the formation of galaxies, stars and planets. Therefore the atheistic explanation actually goes against Occam's razor since it requires some mechanism by which universes can sprout from some super universe and randomly change their laws of physics. The mechanism by which physical laws could randomly evolve would add further complexity. Design by an intelligent designer is obviously a much simpler explanation.

I am familiar with Occam’s razor, and it would be useful if you could prove that intelligent design is much simpler. The problem is who are you or anyone else to say that the multiverse is more complicated than an intelligent designer. It is relative. There is no way to prove it. How is it obvious that the multiverse or any other explanation is simpler than God.

I refer you to this post I made on the anthropic principle:

The weak argument refers to the selection of specific times and spaces in the universe for the development of intelligent life. In summary the weak anthropic principle says our existence coincides perfectly with conditions for intelligent life because life would not be around to measure the perfect conditions for its existence if those conditions did meet the needs of intelligent life. To restate, we would not be here to measure stuff if the stuff we were measuring precluded our existence. The strong argument generalizes the weak argument to include fundamental constants and forces of physics. The conclusion to this is we are in a universe where the forces and constants are such that we can exist. (Which, I know, is rather obvious.) An implication of this is that there are universes where forces and constants do not include our existence. So, we are left with a theory of the multiverse, that we are in one of an infinite number of possible universes.
        By introducing this idea of the multiverse, the strong anthropic principle selects our universe as one in which life can exist. This is analogous to the weak version of the anthropic principle selecting our planet at our time for intelligent life, which is also somewhat analogous to the Darwinian theory of Evolution selecting our genes for life.
        So, which is simpler a multiverse, which we cannot prove, or God, which we also cannot prove. At best these considerations leave us agnostic.

Friday, July 24, 2009

This I Believe (part 14 comments on the comments part 3)

        This post deals with some of the comments from the post “Serious Conversations (part 6)” I’ve really focused in on just the things I felt were important.

Anon: The reason you [Wesley] can't understand this [to know God exists] is because you've never had a conversion experience. And guess what, you never will because you have decided to reject the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and for this, we Christians believe you will spend eternity separated from love and from a God who loves you.
If to know God is real you must blindly believe enough to have a personal conversion experience seems a bit inadequate. So to have a conversion experience (i.e. to know that He exists) you must know he exists in the first place. So only the people who are willing to believe in something that does seem possible are the only ones rewarded. That is counterintuitive. 

Anon: God did not make himself logically impossible to us. In fact, He made it very clear for us.
HOW? Where? If the answer is the Bible, then your argument is moot. The Bible was written by human beings. We are all fallible. To say the Bible was inspired by an omnipotent being is one thing, to say it was actually written by an omnipotent being is another. Example: Just now, God told me that the Bible is wrong. A Christian would say I was lying. To which I would respond, no I’m not; God told me I’m telling the truth. The problem is neither of us can prove what we are saying. That’s what is wrong with the Bible. It was written thousands of years ago by people who have purported to have been talked to by God. There is no way to prove the Bible is true other than the circular argument that the Bible is true because the Bible says it is true. That is obviously fallacious just as me saying God spoke to me is fallacious.

Anon referring to Hell: The Bible tells us that God is righteous….Righteousness deals with justice and justice deals with the Law. This means that God will always do that which is right and He does so according to the righteous Law that He has set forth. How many good works must he perform in order to undo an offense against an infinitely holy God?...”
Because He is loving He forgives. I believe an atheist can “sin” (even though he doesn’t believe in God, he can still recognize that he has done something immoral) and really feel sorry for what he has done. If he does feel sorry and remorseful, I feel that he has corrected his wrong. The point being when a believer sins are they are less guilty simply because they also believe in something that does not logically exist but still have faith for? Thinking that one is required to have a priest (as in the Catholic faith) absolve them of sin for salvation is also silly. The priest is given power by the church, human beings run the church, human beings, unlike God, are fallible, therefore priests are just as fallible as any lay individual is. The notion that you must be absolved to be forgiven is silly. I believe that if you are truly sorry even in the “silence of our own hearts” you are forgiven. Because God is infinite, He is also infinitely forgiving if we are truly sorry)

Anon “But if an atheist were to be diagnosed with terminal cancer, then this would be the time to watch him or her. They would be forced to think about a greater spiritual purpose in my opinion. But now, as long as they are without problems or plaguing events in their lives, why bother?”
This is true. I wonder how many non believers, whether they are premeditated nonbelievers or lazy nonbelievers, beg God for forgiveness and convert just before they die. I wonder if I will do this. I won’t really know until I am presented with a situation like this. I hope that I will be at peace with whatever decisions I have made throughout my life and will be content with my faith or lack thereof.

Monday, July 13, 2009

This I Believe (13)

Christianity is a leap of faith, and that leap is believing that everything in the Bible is 100% true and inspired by God. If you can accept that, then everything else taught by Christianity follows. If that isn’t obvious, then Christianity is a leap of faith.
The following is in response to some possible proofs of the credibility of the Bible.

1. The unity of the Bible--
Thanks to Wesley here are several examples of the Bible contradicting itself. These could be attributed to human error of course, but if there are these obvious contradictions, how many more non obvious untruths are there?
God sent his prophet to threaten David with how many years of famine?
* Seven (2 Samuel 24:13)
* Three (I Chronicles 21:12)
How many pairs of clean animals did God tell Noah to take into the Ark?
* Two (Genesis 6:19, 20)
* Seven (Genesis 7:2). Despite this last instruction only two pairs went into the ark (Genesis 7:8-9)
Did Joshua and the Israelites capture Jerusalem?
* Yes (Joshua 10:23, 40)
* No (Joshua 15:63)
Who was the father of Joseph, husband of Mary?
* Jacob (Matthew 1:16) 
* Heli (Luke 3:23-38)
In the count how many fighting men were found in Israel?
* Eight hundred thousand (2 Samuel 24:9)
* One million, one hundred thousand (I Chronicles 21:5)
Jesus descended from which son of David?
* Solomon (Matthew 1:5-16)
* Nathan(Luke 3:23-38)
Did Jesus bear his own cross?
* Yes (John 19:17)
* No (Matthew 27:31-32)
Who killed Goliath?
* David (I Samuel 17:23, 50)
* Elhanan (2 Samuel 21:19)
Does the Earth spin around in space?
* No (1 Chronicles 16:30)

So when it comes to specifics the Bible isn’t consistent all the time, but the major themes are connected throughout the book, those of love, faith, hope and a righteous God are well maintained. I’m not sure if this is coincidence or if it is a sound argument. It does seem improbable that the overarching themes would remain intact, but simply because it is improbable without intervention does not mean impossible. In my mind this is one of the (few and) best attributes the Bible has going for it: its consistency.
2. The Bible is non-mythical---
This is a matter of opinion and interpretation. Yes, the creation story in Genesis can be interpreted to fit with science, but what about other stories, Noah and the Ark, Moses parting the Red Sea? What is the difference between the “miracles” of the bible and “myths” of other religions? The only difference is that miracles of the Bible are not myths because the Bible is assumed to be true; besides that, the two are different in name only. The Bible is miraculous because the Bible says it is true and miraculous. Some of these stories you might call miracles, but others are obviously just stories, like the fashioning of Eve from a rib of Adam. And if some stories are just metaphor, how does one determine which stories are miracles and which are just stories and myths? Also, just because the Bible has historically accurate accounts of ancient peoples does not mean it has accurate accounts dealing with God.
3. The Bible is intact---
Define intact. If by intact it is meant that the Bible is how it is right now, then it’s intact, but what about all the purported books and manuscripts that aren’t part of the “intact” Bible. If the Bible is correct just because there are a lot of really old pieces of paper with transcriptions on it, then what about the gospels of various other people, Mary Magdalene, Thomas, Judas? Those are really old accounts of Biblical happenings. And there are other books that are accepted in one version of the Bible and not in another. There are seven books in the Catholic Bible that aren’t in the King James Version, including, for example, the book (2 Maccabees) that contains one of the major passages that Catholics take the concept of purgatory from. The acceptance of some books and not others appears random or if not then motivated by politics, power, and personal preference. The Bible is not intact; it only appears intact.
4. The Bible tells events ahead of time---
I’ve explained this point as illogical several times already. I predict that in a couple of lines I will randomly say the word “tomato” in the middle of the sentence. You cannot make predictions, then fulfill them yourself, and call them inspired by divinity. Can passages be specifically and undeniably dated so that an absolutely accurate timeline be created for when prophesies were made and fulfilled? No, so the Bible cannot be independently verified. The Bible is believed because the bible says it should be believed, therefore tomato this argument is moot. Wait, did you see what just happen? The prophesy I made was fulfilled, there must be a God. See how silly that is.

Again, do I want God to exist? Yes. Do I want the Bible to be true? Yes, but there appears to be reasonable doubt as to the veracity of the Bible. Reason does not appear to be helpful in proving the existence of God or the truth of the Bible. At best it is also not possible to prove the inexistence of God or the falsehood of the Bible. So again I say that Christianity and any other religion requires a leap of faith.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

This I Believe (12)

I’m about to be brutally honest. Here is the problem. Not only do Christians of the evangelical variety believe they are correct because the Bible tells them so, but they also believe they are better than people that are more moral, more caring, more loving, and that are just generally better people than they are, just because they were indoctrinated in or adopted the “correct” religion from childhood. Also, it is demanded of them to correct the heathen masses who aren’t Christian exactly as they are Christian or rebuke and condemn them if they refuse.

And if “God” supports this, then that is not a God I want to believe in, a god of intolerance, hate, and mockery. And if hell is complete separation from a petty, intolerant god, then I welcome it. But, I believe in a God of love, and perhaps that isn’t the Christian God they believe in and perhaps it is, just the actual Christian God. Condemn me all you want.

The problem with religion is that all religions are based off of books (Bible included) of dubious credibility - books that have contradicted themselves and were written by fallible, corruptible human beings even if they were inspired by divinity. On top of this, it is left up to other corruptible, fallible human beings to interpret what those books say. So now not only can the original manuscripts be wrong, but the interpretation of an incorrect manuscript be wrong. And the fact is no Christian has any idea, nor does anyone else in any other religion. Everyone thinks they know, but no one actually does for sure. One may feel moved by divinity, but are they sure, really sure? Is anyone sure? Or do they just think they’re sure? (Is there anything beyond a feeling? And how do you express, convince others that your feeling is correct?) That to me is the definition of gullibility: the ability to believe in the credibility of something that can be wrong in so many ways but can never be questioned by the believers simply because that object of belief maintains its own legitimacy.
And maybe that is why I don’t have faith anymore, because it seems that people with an absurdly strong faith in any religion are gullible. I really don’t know. All I know is that I don’t want to believe I was created in the image of an intolerant, petulant, revengeful, and seemingly unintelligent (if ignoring good science [i.e. evolution] is a requirement) being.

The difference is, not every Christian is like Anon2 (or Anon1 for that matter), and that’s why I can still call myself Christian, because there are decent, intelligent people of that religion. Truthfully, I think we’ll all end up in heaven, assuming any divinity exists (I think that only then will we understand each other.), but for very different reasons. Both of us are undoubtedly misguided, but that’s why God is all loving, because by being human we could never please the intolerant, petulant god you speak of. Everyone has some measure of doubt. Let me repeat that. Everyone has some measure of doubt (We wouldn’t be human if we believed all the time.). So how do you measure how strong someone’s faith is against another’s? If good works aren’t good enough for God, how much faith does it take for them to become good? If good works are filthy rags simply because we don’t believe, then all works are filthy rages because at some point everyone doesn’t believe because we are all human. If we did believe 100% all the time we would be divine. No one could get to heaven otherwise.

Monday, June 29, 2009

This I Believe (11, comments from pt. 10)

I explicitly said that faith and hope were two different things in the last post. I don’t see why you’re now trying to convince me of this. I also never defined faith and hope, so I don’t see how it appears that I’m confused between the two. Also what you gave wasn’t a definition. “Faith is having [hope] in a faith dimension.” That isn’t helpful at all.

As far as children and religion goes, obviously it was a mistake of me to talk about Dawkins even once. The posts from a year ago where I talk about Dawkins were simply me expressing my thoughts on Dawkins. I do not agree with him on most things. So, I assure you, you don’t need to convince me that he says some stupid things. Two, there is no possible way those studies are unbiased because they are trying to quantify qualitative results.

Again, the church is more than the beliefs it espouses. The church is the people that make up the church. I attend church for more than participating in religious ceremonies. I attend for the people and the community.
I also stay because I love playing the music. Notice I said play and not perform. I do not care about showing off my talents. I do it because I enjoy it. The music I play in church is the closest I get to having faith anymore. If God exists, then I believe and am comfortable with what the Catholic Church does and says.

Again, I realize that faith and hope are different; I said that explicitly. But I disagree that if I don’t believe I can’t hope, because that’s exactly how I feel. For the very reason that hope is not faith, I can hope and still not have faith. And no, I’m not courageous. I am human; that’s why we need God isn’t it?

I keep going to church because I want everything the church says to be true. I do understand that wanting (hope) it to be true, believing (faith) it to be true, and it actually being true are completely different things. I also know, however, that after great moments of doubt there often come great moments of faith. I want to always have my foot in the door of the church so to speak. That’s why I don’t leave.
Question: you say that you will only make it to heaven “if [you] have faith, and inherently in [your] heart KNOW that He will take [you]”, but you say two sentences later that “No one knows, MBat!” I’m really confused. Do you know or don’t you? Or am I missing something?

A new thought: I do think that being a good person alone helps you get into heaven. 1 Corinthians 13:13-“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” The greatest of these is love, not faith. The question is does being a loving, charitable and hopeful person make up for not having a strong faith. I would argue yes. Obviously others would argue no. Perhaps I’m being narcissistic, but I just don’t see how a God who gives us reason would then demand we have faith (which is contrary to reason) for salvation when there is a reasonable doubt whether God exists.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

This I Believe (comments from last post)

I think it would be better for me to respond in posts instead of commenting because then there won’t be 100 comments on one post.

I agree that hoping that God exists will never help me; that doesn’t keep me from hoping though. Hoping and having faith are two different things. I hold out this hope because I want God to exist even though at this point I do not think he does. I want there to be an omnipotent, loving being that looks out for me and that created the universe. Isn’t hoping that God exists better (in your opinion as a Christian) than giving up on God altogether?

As far as childhood indoctrination, I don’t think this is an important point. I’m never going to be a child again, so I don’t particularly care if this is true at the moment. I will reconsider this when I have children. The main point of it is this: the child should not be forced into a religion. The problem is that it would be difficult for any child to choose a religion when they have no way of getting to nor communicating with other people from other religions. Children may not be forced into a religion, but at least all children are predisposed towards the religion of their parents. The thing about religious children being more well behaved children is that when children are not indoctrinated with religion it is because they are instead left on their own. Although many of the statistics sited are probably correct, the flaw is that when children are not indoctrinated with religion it is because the parents aren’t around enough to teach them anything. For those studies to be valid you would have to take a group of loving religious families and compare them to equally nurturing and loving atheist families. If you were to take atheistic parents that were around and showed just as much affection as religious parents, I would be the results on the child’s behavior would not be conclusive.

I am still Catholic because the Church is more than just what its beliefs are. The Church is also the people that are members of the Church. The feast for that concept is the Body and Blood of Christ that we celebrated not too long ago. I still call myself Catholic because while I do not espouse all the beliefs of the Church, I value the people and their ideals. One can be a member of an organization and not believe everything the organization believes.

I also agree that faith and reason are two different things, but just because they are different doesn’t mean I can’t use both of them. But yes, reason cannot help you in areas of religion, and faith is not useful in science and logic. Presently we can’t use reason because to find answers because we lack information. Should the answer in those situations automatically be faith? No (for example in deciding if the big bang proves the existence of a creator). As Wesley said every atheist is infinitesimally agnostic because there is the chance that God exists in the same way there is a chance that the force of gravity could stop working tomorrow. That chance is not a reasonable doubt, but merely a chance. That is where I hope. That is where I try to apply faith, but my faith is not strong enough to fill in this chance, and that is why I do not believe in a personal God, but that I hope.

The thing is though that there is free will. God doesn’t stop the heart of callous, blasphemers. And calling God a megalomaniac is probably blasphemy, but I don’t believe, so it doesn’t bother me.

I understand that prayer is two way conversation and that most prayers are asking for things that are not willed by God, but the fact is that most prayers are essentially wishes to God. I do still pray. Let me just say what I pray for. Under the hope that God exists, I ask him to show me the “Way and the Truth” wherever that may take me and to help others with that same goal. I also acknowledge my talents and gifts, and I express where I would like my life to go. Lastly I pray for the decrease of misery and pain in the world.
If God doesn’t exist there is still a use for prayer in my mind. It helps solidify my desires and wants, and makes me grateful for what I have been given and helps put into perspective the misfortune of others. I think that level of awareness is a good thing.
I have a question. Didn’t Moses convince God not to destroy the people of Israel when they made the Golden Calf? Wasn’t that changing the will of God?

The problem with saying that the Bible has 2,000 fulfilled prophecies is that those prophecies were recorded by the Bible and then purportedly fulfilled and recorded in the Bible. I would be much more interested in independently proven prophecies made by the Bible, and even then there is now no way to prove anything from 2000 or more years ago actually happened.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This I Believe (comments on the comments part 2)

        Let’s start from the beginning. This post will only deal with comments from “This I Believe (part 4)” and will thus be rather short. None of the anons had really joined yet, so this was really just a couple of points between myself and Wesley.
        Firstly, no, I don’t really believe in a personal God (as in a God that “…interferes in the physical world for [my] sake.”) anymore. I really want there to be a personal God. I want to believe that there exists an intelligence that if I only hope (pray) hard enough and in the correct way that he will grant me wishes, but this does not seem to be the case. (As an aside and I suppose to see if the anons are back, I’ll will say this: yes, there are some things that are beyond human control [e.g. natural disasters and a lot of other things], but most prayers are for silly things that would be more easily solved if people weren’t as lazy [e.g. oh God, please let me pass this test] or things that if God does exist He probably doesn’t care about [e.g. oh God, please let my foot/base/basketball team win]. If everyone took a bit more personal responsibility, the need for prayers to be answered would be greatly reduced.) Yes, a lot of “miracles” happen, but in the end, I think a lot of those “miracles” will be attributed to our own stupidity and lack of understanding. It seems far more likely that miracles are a lot of chance, coincidence and people taking the initiative to help themselves. Just because I don’t believe in a personal God does not mean I don’t hope there is something greater than myself.
        Secondly, I believe that the primary reason for the continuance of religion is childhood indoctrination. I think that if we let a child develop without religion and then try to teach that child any religion once that child has developed the logical part of the brain, the child would reject it as silly.
        I don’t believe in what Catholicism believes, but I do believe in the institution that is the Church - the “Body of Christ”, the people that make up the church. The Church has a lot of good, decent people that do good works, so while I don’t really espouse many of those beliefs, I do believe in the people. The Church (and when I say that I mean the people of the church) has helped me a great deal. And because of that, I will continue to support Catholicism.
        Wesley is absolutely correct in his summary of my methodology for “minimizing the possibility of ‘accepting things on faith that are wrong’”. Namely:
1. “Figure out as much as you can with reason.
2. Begin believing things for which you have no evidence (or even evidence of likelihood) and call it ‘faith.’”
        I use the all too familiar risk-reward idea. Here are the possibilities. One, God doesn’t exist, but you believe. You die; nothing happens. Two, God doesn’t exist. You don’t believe; nothing happens. Three, God exists. You believe; you live in “paradise” for eternity. Four, God exists. You don’t believe; you suffer in hell for eternity. (In a future post I’ll comment on how I think that if option four is true, then God is a petty, childish megalomaniac.)
Am I, if I were to become a atheist, willing to bet against option four for eternity? No, so I must still force myself to believe even though reasoning tells me it is silly. (I’m sure Wesley and the anons must be exasperated with me now.)
        I’ll end this part with saying that I agree that God seems infinitely improbable, but because we do not know for certain I cannot dismiss the possibility that a God, even a personal God exists. I simply have a difficult time believing that. Moreover, I want a personal God to exist. I want an omnipotent being watching out over me, but it does seems like it is a fairy tale.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

This I Believe (comments on the comments part 1)

The next few posts will deal specifically with the comments I have received to my previous posts. Only three posts had much discussion with them: “This I Believe (part 4)”, “Serious Conversations (part 6)”, and “Serious Conversations (part 7)”. I’ll deal with each set of comments separately. Firstly I’d like to make some general comments.
It is interesting to note the ratio of how much commentary everyone left to useful comments. I pasted all the comments into a word document and the result was 293 pages of 12-pt Times new roman font. However, I deleted a lot of it because I found it irrelevant (e.g. the name calling, arguments on specific authors, like Dawkins, the argument on homosexuality, anon. 2 soliciting five positive comments to speak intelligently [which I still maintain is a bribe], the argument of anon 2 actually being an agent of the devil [which I first interjected as a joke to demonstrate how childishly the anons were behaving], I could go on and on about the pointless items discussed.) or when people repeated themselves. The end result was only 24 pages of relevant, original discussion. So only about 8% of the comments posted were useful. A PDF of the comments I found relevant can be found at “http://www.battalio.com/comments.pdf” I’m sure many of you will be aggravated by me leaving out something you feel important. Leave it as a comment later on if you want me to look at it again.
In reference to specific Biblical passages, I ignored references to the Bible in arguments where the Bible was used to justify its own veracity, that being a fallacious argument. In cases, mostly between Ted and anon 2, where specific topics about religion were argued, for example what is hell or do demons exist, I considered those references because in those arguments the presupposition is that God exists and Bible is true.
I should also say I deleted or ignored comments I felt needed no reply - places where I find it obvious that the argument is true or false. Let me justify that statement. I’m certain both anon. 1 and 2 will condemn me as a narcissist. I will repeat; this is my blog. While others might find our commentary useful, I don’t think I need to justify myself for every thought I have. I’m not trying to convince anyone but myself. If I am comfortable with my own logic, I don’t care what condemning statement others have.
As well as deleting entire comments, I deleted sections of comments I found irrelevant, obviously true/false, snipes at one another’s intelligence, et cetera.
I am leaving comments off until I post my responses to the first set of comments. I suspect that to be complete in the next week or two. I again apologize for having to take that step. I felt that the conversation was being pointed toward places I really don’t want this blog to head, namely politics. I will end that discussion with this: Despite the prevailing opinions of many, politics has nothing to do with religion and vice versa. In political discussion most confuse ethics with religion. Politics should be a case were they are separate entities. If your ethics are defined by religion then fine, but do not directly inject religion into politics. I firmly believe in the separation of church and state.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Serious Conversations (part 7):

        A bit of a disclaimer, this is the seventh in series of serious blog posts about religion and philosophy. If you have ever chatted with me about philosophy and religion and very much disagree, be prepared for that to continue.
        These are my responses (Edited, of course, to offend as few people as possible; although offense is inevitable with me.) from a conversation I am having with an atheist friend of mine about the meaning of life, consciousness, physics, the kitchen sink, religion and a couple of moral issues thrown in to boot. This entry is about control.

        Previously my friend hit upon an important point, that religion and science are different methods for explaining the same thing. Also, she noted that religious ceremonies were created so we could control God. Here is my perspective: I find it difficult to let go completely of religion because I like the hope of control.  Assuming what I pray for gets answered, I can in some respects control whatever I want.  But with the things I cannot control (for example, a safe drive, an extra scholarship offer, acceptance to whatever grad school, that it will/will not rain today), without prayer, I really have no control.  They are left to luck and chance.  So, letting go of religion means letting go of a level of control.  I think that’s part of the reason that religion is so hard to disavow.  Who would want less control over their lives?  Christianity is particularly good about saying that if God hasn’t answered your prayers yet, you aren’t praying enough or in the correct way. Prayer and religion give people a way to swing the odds in their favor, and people are greedy.  They will take whatever method they can to get what they want, even if it is trying to use God to hurt others chances, say for winning a football game or getting a job. (Let me just say as a matter of personal belief, even before I started questioning my faith, God does not care if you win a football game. Your prayers for your team were no stronger or better than the prayers for the opposing team. God doesn’t care. Stop thanking Him. He didn’t do anything to help your team.)
        Control might also be considered the root of religion and part of the reason why religion is still around. Faith gives you a level of control where logically or scientifically you should hold none. But to tone that statement down, and to not give faith undue credit. “Miracles” do happen in the sense not that God has necessarily done something for you, but in the sense that, for example, life is very resilient and can heal itself without an explanation from medicine (or insert some other “miracle” in place of a medical miracle). I would expect that the occurrence of that will continue to decrease as we become more and more knowledgeable about ourselves and the universe It’s just easier to attribute “miracles” to an omnipotent God than it is to attribute them to our own ignorance. The part of me that still clings to belief wants to believe in the miracles though, but as we understand more and more of the world, I feel it will become more and more difficult.
        I’m also inclined to believe that culture had a major influence on the survival of some religions over others. It would make sense that dominant cultures, that for whatever reason became dominant, would have a greater chance of spreading their religions. And that fits the facts. The dominate cultures of the Far East have religions that dominate the Far East, and the dominate cultures of the West have Judeo-Christian religions that have come to dominate the West.
        And again, I believe it is the very nature of religions that ensure their survival. Judeo-Christian religions are very big about spreading the faith. Followers are even told they will be rewarded for more and more converts. I’ve never heard of the Ancient Roman or Greek religions being about that.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Serious Conversations (part 6)

A bit of a disclaimer, this is the sixth in series of serious blog posts about religion and philosophy. If you have ever chatted with me about philosophy and religion and very much disagree, be prepared for that to continue.
These are my responses (Edited, of course, to offend as few people as possible; although offense is inevitable with me.) from a conversation I am having with an atheist friend of mine about the meaning of life, consciousness, physics, the kitchen sink, religion and a couple of moral issues thrown in to boot. This entry is about the origin of God and Science.

My friend and I have taken up several other topics, but we are currently revisiting religion. I will post our conversations on family, art, and a comment on what we want to do with our lives further on in the series.
I began the conversation:
The older I get, and the more stuff I learn about, the harder and harder it is to believe in a religion.  Being a child and believing in a religion is easy because children can be convinced of everything.  Which, from a atheist’s perspective, is why religions force parents to teach their children about faith at an early age (It could also be why in the Catholic Church you must agree to raise your children Catholic if you want to be married in the Catholic Church.) because they are so impressionable, and it’s easy to convince them to believe.  The older I get the more I realize that if I hadn’t been raised in a religion, I probably wouldn’t be religious.  This is a scary thought.  Religion could be the second Christmas myth, and unlike Santa Claus, when we get old enough no one tells us that Jesus is just a made up story for the sake of the holiday, which is quite possible.  The question becomes, where did religion come from?  If it’s just something that we conscript children into, who conscripted the first generation?  Could Jesus be a real person?  What about Moses, Mohammad, Buddha? How unlikely is a God who created all of us?  What about a Son who died for us?  (Notice I still capitalize the names.  I still haven’t given up on religion completely.)  If God didn’t create the universe, where did it come from?  Perhaps the answer is in front of us; perhaps we will never know.

To sum up my friend’s reply: Humans, being curious and having a desire to understand all that they see, came up with way to explain all the phenomena around them. God was attributed as the doer of the unexplainable. If there was not an obvious explanation it must be God. And humans wishing to control whatever they can to better their condition created religion via ceremonies, rites, sacrifices, worship, to influence of that entity with controlled the unexplainable.
She continued: Just like religion, science was conceived to explain what was confusing. Science was just another method to make order of the chaos. And like religion, science has changed over the ages.  The science we know today is not like the science of the ancient Greeks. What we consider science today is based on the, well, scientific method: developing a hypothesis and testing to see if that hypothesis is correct. Before the scientific revolution, science was not this. Scientists used Aristotelian logic to try to derive truths about the world without much experiment, most of which turned out wrong.  
Science and religion did not really become separate things until around the 1800s or so, and they didn't come into direct conflict until much later, when people began questioning one from the other’s point of view. My point is that religion and science are sort of different ways of addressing the same questions (explaining the things we don't understand).  But you can't really judge one of them by the other one's rules and standards.

Well, where does this leave me?  At best I can believe with the part of me that still has faith.  (Faith being believing in something which by definition you have no proof of.)  And calling myself agnostic with the scientific part of me.  I’m not saying that science and religion contradict each other.  As my friend said, they were created as different methods of explaining the same world. And today, many religions embrace science. I’m saying that science doesn’t need religion, and that religion can adapt itself to whatever science proves.  There will never be a way to prove religion wrong.  Religion will always redefine itself.  But the question is, do I still have faith?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

This I Believe (part 7)

This is part seven of my “This I Believe” series. I’m going to be spending most of the time delving into my struggles in deciding what it is I actually believe. I have had trouble over the last several years defining exactly what it is I prescribe to as a worldview. I consider myself a man of science, but I also consider myself a man of faith. So, where am I exactly? I hope to figure some of it out here.

Sentient Puddle
As a quick post, here is an analogy speaking about the argument from design. This is from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy writer and atheist Douglas Adams. Imagine an intelligent puddle of water. This puddle, in contemplating its existence, realizes that the world must be designed for him because the hole in the ground in which he exists (his universe) fits him so well. There must be a creator. The puddle exists in its universe until it evaporates.
What we, and the puddle, don’t realize is that perhaps the universe is not made to fit us but perhaps we are made to fit the universe, a la evolution. A creationist would say that means nothing, perhaps evolution was the instrument God used to create the Earth. There is the element of reasonable doubt. All a theologian has to do is come up with some explanation to cover whatever new science reveals as a truth about the universe. Religion, as has been the case since the dawn of man, can evolve just as science does.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This I Believe (part 6)

This is part six of my “This I Believe” series. I’m going to be spending most of the time delving into my struggles in deciding what it is I actually believe. I have had trouble over the last several years defining exactly what it is I prescribe to as a worldview. I consider myself a man of science, but I also consider myself a man of faith. So, where am I exactly? I hope to figure some of it out here.

Call this “What I actually Believe”
Special thanks to --jam for getting me to do this.

When I first sat down to do this (figure out what I actually believed in), I wasn’t sure I believed anything. Then I realized I was forcing it, and I wasn’t looking at a large enough scope. I do believe in several things, most of them concepts. Here are a couple.

I believe there is a purpose to me. Whether or not that purpose is to be self determined or whether it comes from some other entity I cannot say. I can say what purpose I have given myself, and that purpose is three fold. One, my first purpose is to be happy, not a just a physical happy, but a psychological happy as well. Part of that happiness is doing what I like to do and being around who I like enjoy being around. Two, a purpose of thought, to be self aware and constantly questioning what it is I believe and do, and if this questioning leads me away or towards religion then so be it. Three, to return what I have been given (whether by divinity or chance or fate) to the people around me, that can be through my talents, actions, personality, and words - to make other people around me better off and happier than they were.

To sum this up: I believe in the Pursuit of Happiness, the Enjoyment of Life, the Ability to Question, and the spread of those Ideas.

Second, I believe in the connection between humanity. For whatever reason, we are self aware; we can learn; we can grow. We can only do these things when we interact with others. Except for some, we need companionship. We need friends with whom we can share our joys and our sorrows. Life is empty without others to share it with. Conversation with a good friend is hard to beat.

I hope there is something much greater than this tiny little existence I have, but there is no way to know. But I can say with absolute certainty that those things above exist to me. They are important: happiness, enjoyment, thought, friendship. They are the something bigger to me that I believe in.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Seventh Annual Christmas Mass e-mail

For those of you that somehow didn't get this (I had a lot of e-mails bounce back this year; update your facebook e-mail address, people.), here is the Seventh Annual Christmas Mass e-mail.

Greetings and salutations,
Welcome those old and new to the Seventh Annual Christmas Mass e-mail.
I've been sick the last several days, so this will be short-only a thought or two. Firstly, let's do some math. As I get older and sort of wiser, I have noticed one thing in particular, that time goes faster and faster the older I get. The average life span of an American male is about 70. I'm 23 so 47 years left. Forty-seven times 365 is 17,155 days, times 24 is 411,720 hours, times 60 is 24,703, 200 minutes. I could go on, but 24 million is a lot, or is it? I'm already a third of the way done with my life on average. What have I done or accomplished? Quite a bit I hope, but there is always more I can do. Here is my first thought: don't give in to boredom and laziness. Use the time wisely. I can't say how many times I've gone through a day where I could have done a lot, but I never actually got anything accomplished. What a waste of time and space. There is always something to do. Learn a new hobby, make a new friend, read a good book. Not all of us can win the Nobel Prize or become president, but we can all use our time wisely. And that means savoring every fleeting moment.
Secondly, I don't know about the rest of you, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel that is school. That light happens to be the freight train of real life though. I've done and am currently doing a good job of putting it off, but I know the real world is coming eventually. To those less successful than me in avoiding the real world, good luck; I will be joining you at some point, maybe. A lot of you are getting jobs, going to grad school, and even starting families. (Congratulations to everyone that is getting married.) May you find contentment, personal accomplishment, and a bit of joy.
And that's all I've got this year. Enjoy the season, appreciate the little things, and take the time to give yourself some credit for making it as far as you have. Let me know how you're doing; it's half the reason I send this every year.

And the required bad joke...
During a visit to the mental asylum, a visitor asked the Director how do you determine whether or not a patient should be institutionalized.
"Well," said the Director, "we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup, and a bucket to the patient and ask him or her to empty the bathtub."
"Oh, I understand," said the visitor, "A normal person would use the bucket because it's bigger than the spoon or the teacup."
"No," said the Director, "A normal person would pull the plug. Do you want a bed near the window?"

Merry Christmas,
2003-2016 Michael Battalio (michael[at]battalio.com)