Harper’s gives us a peek into the sermons that Palin has been ingesting up there in the coldest state. Their main message? Most of us won’t be cold for long.
All Things Considered recently ran a feature on Camp Inquiry, a summer camp where the the main activity is not rounds of cumbaya but actual philosophical inquiry into the likelihood that there is a higher power. I’m all for it.
Thanks to skepchick.org for the link.
Dawkins can certainly get tiresome, but this conversation with Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg (at the University of Texas, by the way) is quite good. It provides the simple reason why design and fine-tuning arguments for the existence of God, even on their best days, get you nowhere.
“The God of many men is little more than their court of appeal against the damnatory judgment passed on their failures by the opinion of this world.”
–William James (The Varieties of Religious Experience)
The south, not surprisingly, is a terrific place to write a book about God. One can, at times, even feel the piety in the humid air. If ever you should forget, though, that you are in God’s country–and by God I mean Jesus, of course–there is the occasional billboard to remind you. My favorite was a black and white sign quoting God, “It is finished,” looming over a crew of construction workers who labored on despite the billboard’s proclamation. (A good thing they continued to labor, since the road itself was almost too rough to permit passage. A serendipitous metaphor, I thought, as I almost ran off the road trying to take a picture with my cell phone.)
When visiting my mother in Nashville, I was given a gift by a family friend who heard I was writing about God. It was a doorstop of a tome dedicated to proving that the Bible–most importantly the New Testament–was unadulterated, proven truth. I must admit, after determining that the author had no apparent training in history, or anything else for that matter, and after finding that the book was published by a Nashville press and hadn’t managed to garner a single review by someone that appeared respectable, I knew I would never read it. I did take a cursory glance, finding liberal use of circular reading and spurious historical inference, and managed to leave the book hidden in my mother’s condo. The gift was not without effect, however, since I thought I would look into another book by someone who actually had a degree, an academic post, and a respectable press. Granted, the book argued the opposite premise, but it was a lot shorter and it actually reflected research into the history of the new testament, so you can’t blame me.
“Misquoting Jesus” by Bart Ehrman, the chair of religious studies at UNC Chapel Hill, is a whirlwindy tour through new testament scholarship, with particular attention to the way that the texts have been altered or corrupted by scribes over the past couple of thousand years. Ehrman, apparently, had been born again in adolescence and was a literalist evangelical. His studies at Princeton Theological Seminary upset his applecart, however, and he now finds himself an agnostic. “Misquoting Jesus” provides part of the story why. (His newer book “God’s Problem” gives the larger reason: the problem of evil.)
Long story short, even our oldest copies of the gospels are copies of copies of….copies, generated by the hands of scribes who ranged from the semi-literate to the theologically calculating. The result is that there are as many differing copies of the new testament as there are words in the new testament. Most of those thousands of inconsistencies don’t amount to much more than misspellings, but some are quite significant. (For example, the last twelve verses of Mark in which Jesus appears, resurrected, before Mary Magdalene, appears to have been added.) The King James Bible was based on a very faulty manuscript, and our current translations smuggle in a lot of problematic bits as well.
I can see how all of this would be quite dismaying to a literalist, and it might even make more liberal Christians a little uneasy. I must say, though, that the book stands far short of a debunking–which is, to be honest, what I was hoping for. It rather shows what most of us know: that the Bible is a very old book that hasn’t moved unscathed through the centuries. For my money, a little too much time was given to a somewhat sketchy account of textual criticism and too little time was actually given to a study of the discrepancied themselves. Still, the book is a quick read, and it led me to desire to know more about Christian history and the origins of the book.
Let’s not get carried away, though. There’s science to be learned.
By Jonathan Mummolo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 31, 2008; Page B05
The price of regular at a Shell gas station in Petworth gleamed defiantly in the midday sun: $3.91 a gallon.
But unlike the customers rolling up to the station’s pumps this week, resigned to the fact that their wallets were about to take a beating, Rocky Twyman and company had a plan to bring that number tumbling down.
They would ask God to do it.
“Our pockets are empty, but we’re going to hold on to God!” Twyman, a community organizer from Rockville, said as he and seven other people formed a semicircle, held hands and sang, pleading for divine intervention to lower fuel prices.
It was the latest demonstration by Twyman’s movement, Pray at the Pump, which began in April. Since then, he has held group prayers at gas stations as far away as San Francisco, garnering international media attention and even claiming success in at least a couple of cases.
Some would say the proof of whether Twyman has the ear of the Almighty is in the result. On the first day of the movement, April 23, the national average price of a gallon of unleaded was $3.53, according to AAA. As of yesterday, it was $3.96.
But Twyman said true faith does not demand instant gratification, and he plans to keep his pump-side prayers going “until God tells us to stop.”
“This whole thing is a wake-up call from God to Americans, because we idolize men so much,” said Twyman, 59, a public relations consultant and Seventh-day Adventist who believes that high gas prices are a sign of the apocalypse drawing nigh. “I think through this crisis, God is trying to call us back to depend on Him more.”