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Friday, August 26, 2016

Cognitive Distortion: Black and White Thinking

Dennis Diehl's post on "Cognitive Dissonance" (http://armstrongismlibrary.blogspot.com/2016/08/cognitive-dissonance.html) over at Banned by HWA got me thinking about the way that most of us approach most subjects. Let's face it: Many of us have adopted some form of dualism in the way we think about things. Don't we tend to choose one of two extremes (or at least we tell ourselves that)?

In the United States, we have long standing traditions in this regard. Historically, one was either a Federalist or an Anti-Federalist, an abolitionist or a supporter of the institution of slavery, a Democrat or a Republican, a Conservative or a Liberal, a Capitalist or a Socialist/Communist (many on the Right see the two as being essentially the same), etc.

Moreover, when the subject of God or religion is introduced, this phenomenon tends to become even more pronounced. You're either a Theist or an Atheist. If your a Christian, you're most likely to identify as Protestant or Catholic. And, if you're a Christian, you definitely want to be hot (the preferred position) or cold - You DON'T want to be lukewarm! In short, many of us seem to shun the middle ground.

However, we should all be able to recognize and acknowledge that the real world doesn't work this way. There are certainly extremes like hot and cold, but aren't most of us somewhere in between? What about tepid and all of the variations in between that middle and the two extremes? How many of us are true Atheists or Theists? Aren't most of us somewhere on the Agnostic continuum? We tell ourselves that there are only two alternatives, but aren't there many many more?

I've always believed that one of the most ingenious features of the American political system is its institutionalization of the principle of equilibrium between the two extremes. However, it seems that many Americans have lost sight of this important feature of their system. Most folks seem truly oblivious to the fact that if either side's program/platform was adopted wholesale that it would mean disaster for our republic. Traditionally, the best legislation to emerge from the Congress of the United States have been the bills where folks on both sides of the aisle have had to hold their noses and vote for a compromise piece of legislation that didn't fully satisfy either party.

I think that these considerations should be instructive for all of us in formulating our viewpoints - especially in the spiritual or religious realm. Is acceptance or rejection of the Judeo-Christian canon the only two options that are available to us? Does it really have to be Genesis or Evolution? Does it have to be myth or reality? Is it really Magical vs Scientific? Come on folks! Who are we kidding? Let's get real!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Destination Truth: The Road Goes Ever On

Yes, I borrowed the title of this post from a television show and my favorite author (J.R.R. Tolkien). The topic of this post has been on my mind for several days. It was inspired by two seemingly unrelated posts on two of the blogs which I follow: Ambassador Watch and Banned by HWA!

On Thursday of last week, Gavin posted two pieces that broke a two week drought. As he noted in the first post, one of the side benefits of the dearth of posts was the conversation that unfolded over his last post. He concluded, "maybe the journey really is more important than the destination."

On Friday, Dennis Diehl took Dave Pack (RCOG) "to the wood shed" by posting a video where Aron Ra refutes Pack's statements about God and evolution. As usual, Ra was very matter of fact and devastating. And, although I enjoyed his take down of Mr. Pack, I found myself cringing at some of his statements about God and the Bible.

For the Worldwide Church of God (and almost all of its descendants), the TRUTH is a neat little package of doctrines/teachings based on a Fundamentalist and Literalist approach to interpreting Scripture (with a healthy dose of circular reasoning thrown in). In short, one learned the TRUTH and either accepted or rejected it. And, if you accepted the TRUTH, it was mission accomplished. There was effectively nothing more to consider or learn. Indeed, according to HWA and his minions, if one continued to do research and ask questions, that individual would be sure to lose the TRUTH which they had received. For them, the journey had ended.

It struck me that some of Aron Ra's statements were in much the same vein. In both of the YouTube videos that Dennis included, Ra stated several times that EVERYTHING that Dave Pack believes and teaches is basically bullshit. He also stated that there wasn't ANY truth or ANYTHING of value in the Bible. Like the objects of his attention (Dave Pack and Believers), it appears that Aron Ra has reached destination TRUTH. Sure, Aron says that everything he believes is subject to the further development of the evidence at hand, but his many sweeping statements about God, religion and the Bible seem to undermine his assertion.

You can't find ANY truth in Scripture? Really? I can - ask me about it sometime (it's not that hard). And, just for the record, I'm not talking about TRUTH in the WCOG sense (that Scripture is literally correct in all particulars).

Aron doesn't like religion because he believes it to be the antithesis of reason. He doesn't like the fact that it is so emotional - that it is based on feelings. I wonder what Aron thinks about instinct. I wonder if he believes that instincts are of any value - that nature equipped us with various instincts for a reason(s).

Does any of the old stuff have any value? Must we discard all of mankind's beliefs and experiences that predate the application of the scientific method as rubbish? Where does this need for a god or supernatural things come from? Is it a primitive relic that should be discarded? If for no other reason, is it useful in measuring the progress that mankind has made? And, if so, doesn't that alone make it useful?

I believe that Something or Someone put us on this road. I'm all for exploring and being open to wherever it takes us, and I'm very suspicious of anyone who thinks they've reached their destination (or claims that we must follow precisely in their footsteps). What do you think?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

No finessing this contradiction!

"Reverend" Franklin Graham (son of Billy) apparently recently stated on Facebook (I don't have an account):  "Another first for America that we should not be proud of - the Vice President of the United States presiding over a same-sex wedding...Our country may have made same-sex marriage legal in the eyes of man, but that doesn't make it right in the eyes of God...Sadly, as a nation we have a reputation for celebrating what God defines as sin, AND THERE WILL BE A PRICE TO PAY." He then proceeds to quote Isaiah 1:4 (Woe to the sinful nation - originally intended for Israel). You can see an article on his statement here: http://cnsnews.com/blog/michael-w-chapman/rev-graham-biden-conducts-gay-marriage-there-will-be-price-pay-our-nation

For the sake of argument, let's say that the "Reverend" is right about homosexuality being a sin. The clear implication is that God is going to punish the entire nation because our leaders (Executive and Judicial Branches) have endorsed same-sex marriage. How is that fair? How is it fair for God to punish all of the people like the "Reverend" who oppose the practice - the ones on "God's side" of the issue?

We are told in Scripture that Abraham once persuaded God to spare the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah if "He" could find just ten righteous individuals within them by pointing out how unfair it would be to destroy the righteous with the wicked (see Genesis 18). In Ezekiel, we are told that each person is responsible for his/her own sins - not the sins of others (Ezekiel 18:20).

Nevertheless, it would appear that Franklin Graham is also on firm ground where Scripture is concerned. There are also a number of Scriptures where we are told that God punishes an entire nation because of the sins of a few. Will the real God please stand up?

I have talked about this principle in times past. When faced with a clear contradiction in Scripture, which alternative seems to be the most consistent with a loving, just and fair God? "Reverend" Graham appears to have decided that God is ready to punish the entire country for the sins of some. Personally, I don't want any part of a God who holds me responsible/culpable for the sins of others. What about you?