Natural (and man-made) disasters great for goofball prayers

Whenever Thanksgiving weekend rolls around, memories of  playing hockey on ponds near my house where I grew up in Eagan (then a township) come back to me. By November 1st, most of my prayers consisted of praying for cold weather. If we didn’t have thick enough ice by Thanksgiving weekend, I was sure that God was punishing me for impure thoughts and related activities. My solution: saying a Rosary every day till we skated.

So I found it interesting this past week that weather-related prayers were in the news.

In Drought-Stricken Georgia, a Prayer for Rain:

At the state capitol in Georgia Tuesday, the governor tried something different. On a partly cloudy warm fall day, hundreds of people from the region came to join Gov. Sonny Perdue in a prayer service for rain. “I’m here today to appeal to you and to all Georgians and all people who believe in the power of prayer to ask God to shower our state, our region, our nation with the blessings of water,” Perdue said.

Stockton flood: A blessing in a very wet disguise

“This was not 40 days and 40 nights of rain. This was perhaps 40 hours,” Krusemark said. “There were many people praying for it to stop raining, and that prayer was answered. So God is still listening and is still there as a comfort to us.

California Fire Survivors Give Thanks

“Praise the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; we have lucked out much more than we deserve,” said Bill Lange, a scientist who led the service. “Dear Lord, thank you for sparing us again and thank you for helping all the people who needed the help.”

GH-God at His Computer This idea of God above the clouds (at his computer?) with the ability to effect changes in weather when humans ask for it, is amazingly persistent. It’s only certain events that trigger our prayers, however: rain, snow, storms, fires, floods, volcanoes. The assumption seems to be that God can do something about these short-term events but El Niño and La Niña? Nope, out of his range. Earthquakes? Too unpredictable. If a group of people got together to pray that the earth’s tectonic plates stopped pressing together, we’d have them committed. Human-related causes? No way. Climate change? fergetaboutit!

It irritates me a little that reporters love to include quotes from people saying these goofy prayers in their coverage of natural disasters. It irritates me more that enlightened members of the clergy who don’t buy into this notion of God-as-the-Wizard-of-Oz flipping controls behind the curtain remain silent when it comes to labeling this type of praying as complete bullshit. It’s one of many reasons that I don’t attend church here in Northfield or anywhere else.


  1. I wrote this yesterday on another list. Seems the religious aspect of life
    is popping up around as a topic of interest.

    1a. Re: Evolution?
    Posted by: “brightbrightlight” brightbrightlight
    Date: Sat Nov 24, 2007 5:57 pm ((PST))

    It’s nice to agree with everyone on this topic.
    In a world of worlds, in a universe amongst
    many, anything is posible. Whatever is conceived
    may be achieved someone said. And the possiblities
    are infinite.

    While I can’t say there is any sort of actual beginning date,
    having an actual beginning is just as perplexing as
    having no actual beginning. Isn’t it?

    It is a leap of faith to believe that we are something,
    and it would be a leap of faith to believe we are nothing.

    Life is a strange mystery, and I don’t believe we will ever
    figure it out, cuz for every question, there is another answer,
    and then another question.

    I think that may be why religion is so popular, it gives us
    something to hold onto in a very slippery sort of existence.

    Sleep well.


    November 25, 2007
  2. David Ludescher said:

    It seems to me that reporters love to quote simplistic theological theories as a means to spark controversy, which is a means to spark interest, which, in turn, sells more news. For example, in September 2006, Pope Benedict gave a speech calling for a renewed interest of reason in the rationality of faith so that we could enter into a renewed dialogue of cultures and religions. The popular press took a quote from one of his quoted sources, and blew it up into an international media event.

    So, the quoted sources may be out of context.

    Second, with regard to your interest in having religious leaders condemn this kind of “bullshit”, Pope Benedict said this in that same speech, “It would be easily understandable if someone became so annoyed at all these false notions that for the rest of his life he despised and mocked all talk about being – but in this way he would be deprived of the truth of existence and would suffer a great loss.” He was quoting Socrates.

    Third, you have not been listening if you have not heard religious leaders speak of all the “bullshit” in the world. At a time when 80% or so of the people supported the war in Iraq, Pope John Paul II strongly condemned it as an act of aggression which was unjustifiable. As I recall, Clay Oglesbee from United Methodist Church said the same thing. I would much prefer to have our ministers focused upon their particular speciality, and leave it up to the scientists to confirm or deny whether or not there is an empirical evidence to suggest that the power of prayer works for things like bringing rain.

    Lastly, it seems to me to be more more rational to pray for rain to the powers that govern the universe, by whatever name you give to those powers, than to do absolutely nothing, or worse yet, deny that there are powers beyond man’s control that govern the universe. For there can be no greater bullshit than to believe that man created the heavens and the earth.

    November 25, 2007
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    David, I think prayer *is* one of the main specialties of religious leaders. I’m arguing that for them to remain silent when these false weather-related prayers make the news — or other similar ones — is a big mistake (I was tempted to say ‘sin of omission’ but I resisted!) because the more it happens, the more people get the notion that it’s acceptable/normal/proper, the more it undermines true prayer.

    Asking God to prevent bad stuff from happening to us is not a good way to pray. And thanking God for the good stuff that happens to us is nearly as bad…. flip side of the same coin.

    And FYI: I’m a big believer in the power/importance of incorporating gratitude into one’s daily life.

    November 26, 2007
  4. John George said:

    David- Right on!!

    It is always amusing to me to hear all the different perspectives of how God relates to the day to day misfortunes we encounter in our lives. Some of the opinions surround the view of God the great pupeteer, as if we all have strings attached for His amusement. If we can somehow win His favor, then He will “pull the right strings” for us. Or, if we displease Him, He will dump out judgement upon us. Baloney! This comes from not haveing an understanding of God’s character, or His word.

    There are things in our universe which were set in motion at creation. The original intent of God and His creation was corrupted with the fall of man. It is written, even the creation moans in waiting for His return (Rom. 8:19-22). It is also written that it rains on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45). It is also written that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the warrior, nor is bread to the wise, nor recognition to men of understanding, for time and circumstance overtake them all (Eccl. 9:11). We also know He does not wish for any to perish, but that all might come to repentence (2 Pet. 3:9). We also know that His ways are unsearchable and hard to understand with our own weak minds (Job 5:9, Ps. 145:3, Rom. 11:33). But it is very easy to blame God for things that happen that are beyond our control, and we don’t know the reason for them. We just need to be careful not to allow a root of bitterness toward God to take our heart, and by it, many be defiled (Heb. 12:15).

    But I won’t bore you with anymore scriptures, Griff, as I surmise that you treat them with the same disdain that you seem to treat the notion of a God. Too bad. Of all the things we have to face in this life, He is always for us. I don’t consider what I have as a “religion”. All my trying to earn God’s approval was a waste of time. He had already paid the price to purchase me. What I have now is a relationship with the Creator of the universe. My prayer time is a time of fellowship with Him, more listening than asking. If you would like to hear about that sometime, I would love to tell you. Until that time, keep seeking the Truth. I gaurantee you that you will find it. I did.

    November 26, 2007
  5. David Ludescher said:

    The danger in “goofball” prayers is not so much that people will be led astray (“scandal” in Catholic parlance) by these prayers, but that people will use these individuals reciting “goofball” prayers as an excuse not to pray at all; or, in your case, use it as an excuse not to attend a worship service.

    I have no doubt that prayer works, just as I have no doubt that meditation and yoga work. Maybe they work for the same reasons that placebos work in medical trials. This may be the reason why religious leaders are reluctant to publicly denounce prayer, even for empirically unverifiable goofball prayers.

    Besides, when you are in the middle of a drought, what would be a true prayer?

    November 26, 2007
  6. Griff Wigley said:

    John, I definitely resonate with ‘listening’ prayer. It’s prefaced with ‘asking,’ not for what I want but for inspiration, guidance, understanding, strength. A prayer of contemplation/reflection. Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer is a good example.

    St. Francis of Assisi’s Make me an instrument of peace prayer is a good example of an existential prayer, ie, “Get off your ass and do what needs to be done!

    I think both these types of prayers as ‘true’ and they work/are effective whether one has a personal relationship to God as you do or is an atheist like me.

    So I’m disdainful, but I’m judicious about it. 😉

    November 26, 2007
  7. Griff Wigley said:

    David, I think false prayers always end up proving themselves false. No long lasting placebo effect. And I believe true prayer works. Always. I can rely on it, just like gravity. It’s what Jesus meant (IMHO!) when he said ”Ask and you shall receive.”

    ‘True’ drought prayers? How about something like these?

    • Give us the strength to get through this while living up to our values.
    • Help us examine our habits and previous decisions to see if we’ve acted in ways that have made this drought worse… selfish ways, wasteful ways, greedy ways.
    • Help us see how this adversity can make us stronger.
    • Help us reach out to those who are suffering the most, even as we are suffering.
    November 26, 2007
  8. Holly Cairns said:

    Oh no, the prayer debate again. Oh well, to add to the discussion: I think ANY prayer is fine. Just go with it.

    One thing we’ll never know for sure? What is “good prayer”, or “not good prayer.” You and I, whoever we are, just don’t have the answer on that one. One person’s prayer, felt from the heart, cannot be taken from them.

    And, we ALL have a direct connection to God.

    Enough said?

    November 26, 2007
  9. Curt Benson said:

    I prayed to God to ask Jesus to tell Santa to please find Griff a couple of new obsessions for 2008. Griff, please update your obsessions. Your twin obsessions of Northfield’s 85000 website and “false prayer” are getting tired.

    In the mean time, I enjoyed this from Kevin Kling:

    November 26, 2007
  10. kiffi summa said:

    Oh , no… once again we are in an arena where some claim to know the hearts and minds of others, and even the “character” of God. Are we speaking of arrogance, once again?

    November 26, 2007
  11. Anne Bretts said:

    Curt, if the prayers don’t work, maybe we can start a New Year’s resolution list for the group and empower ourselves to make the changes…(OK, forget that. Self-empowerment is even more annoying than debates over religion).
    I wish I could commit to atheism or faith, but I am drifting along in the recovering Catholic ambivalence of the agnostic.
    I firmly believe there is something out there, in there, something beyond ourselves. But I believe just as firmly that it can’t find me a parking space or help me meet my next deadline — although a really fierce case of writer’s block (like now) can send a stream of Hail Mary’s from my lips along with another empty promise to finish earlier next time.
    My favorite description of faith came from an Ojibwe elder when he was asked how he could reconcile his native beliefs with the Catholic faith in which he and others were raised by force. Without a word of bitterness, he said that the underlying messages of the two faiths were the same, and that the stories and rituals were just ways of exploring something we don’t understand. He said heaven is just a place of infinite peace above the earth, available to all. The faiths of the world are just the many ladders God/Great Spirit puts down around edges so people can find peace wherever they are when they decide to start climbing. If they fall off, they can start again somewhere else whenever they’re ready.
    I found it to be one of the most loving and accepting ways I’d ever heard of describing the chaos we make of religion.

    November 26, 2007
  12. John George said:

    Griff- You said, “…an atheist like me.” Hmmmmm. If that is true, to whom are you praying and from whom are you listening for an answer? Just wondering. Oh, and don’t give up your obsessions too easily.

    I read a little sign in a church some years ago that resonated with my pragmatic bent, “If you are going to pray for potatoes, then have a hoe in your hand!” I think that simple statement exemplifies the interactive nature of prayer.

    Holly- You said, ” What is ‘good prayer’, or ‘not good prayer.’ You and I, whoever we are, just don’t have the answer on that one.” How true! Aren’t you glad we don’t have to be the judge of that? It really should free us up to pray.

    You also said, “And, we ALL have a direct connection to God.” Where do you get that from? And, if that is the case, how do you explain some people’s choices and behaviors? Just wondering.

    November 26, 2007
  13. Griff Wigley said:

    Holly, people pray for success at doing bad things all the time. Eg, the 9/11 hijackers were praying for success in their mission; people pray that they don’t get caught cheating. Seems to me that those are easily categorized as false prayers.

    Curt, thanks for that Kevin Kling link. Gratitude, a perfect type of prayer. Now take Kiffi’s hand and the two of you depart from this topic and I shall be so grateful.

    BTW, you forgot about my 3rd obsession: the city selling tobacco at its liquor store (or better put, “the city selling a powerfully addictive gateway drug to its own youth and other citizens.”)

    November 26, 2007
  14. kiffi summa said:

    Holly, you said:”we ALL have a direct connection to God”; John, you replied:
    “where do you get that from?”

    I seem to remember that as the main message from my many years of perfect attendance at Sunday school, “Children of God”, “made in His Image”, “Loved as either the sinner or the saint”, “all encompassing Love”, etc., etc.

    I felt we were all free to seek, and strive to be, the Image we most wished to emulate; to determine that image is The Mystery.

    But oh, oh, Curt… I think we’ve been dissed; our discussion is deemed unworthy. Shall we leave?

    November 27, 2007
  15. Holly Cairns said:

    Oops, hit enter instead of another key. Love that!

    Griff, Griff, Griff. Yes, it seems to me that praying for injury is probably not what God wants to hear, but I think it’s better to pray away and not worry about the best prayer vs. what’s false prayer, etc. Enjoy the freedom of it.

    And, right on. Good thing we’re not the “judge of that.”

    Cause/ effect theory might be better applied to something else besides prayer. After all, and you might agree, it’s not the prayer itself that’s the important thing, but It’s the answer that is everything.

    November 27, 2007
  16. Holly Cairns said:

    Also, we can’t assume that everything is the result of prayer, since you brought up 9/11.

    November 27, 2007
  17. I love this from Sri Chimnoy on the “Love Supreme” album by John Coltrane…a fusion jazz vinyl record from the 70s.

    Sri Chimnoy says;

    “Love knows no business, love knows no bargains, love knows only giving and giving and giving.”

    This is Supreme Love from the Love Supreme and I hope at least one of infinite aspects of that whom I seem to know as God.

    If nothing else, it is a wonderful holiday sentiment, eh, eh eh?

    November 27, 2007
  18. David Ludescher said:

    I’m trying to get a grasp upon the form that prayer takes for an atheist.

    Griff: If the governor of Georgia were to pray for strength to help the state get through the drought, or the prayer ladies are praying for our City leaders to be given strength and wisdom, isn’t the form of pray nearly identical?

    When an atheist “prays” to whom or what is that prayer directed, and how is the response made known?

    November 27, 2007
  19. Holly Cairns said:

    What are you saying, Bright? Supreme something, I’d say. God is love?

    Kiffi, my post about gold stars in Sunday school didn’t get there. Lost in cyberspace. But I got them. 🙂 And wasn’t it embarrassing when there was a space on the attendance grid. There goes that perfect record– might as well stay home from now on (although my parents didn’t agree with that all or nothing stance).

    David, I think the prayer ladies are similar to the gov praying for rain. On the spectrum of things, anyway, if the spectrum were to be from most private to most public. The latter of those, when connected to political situations, might result in an abuse of power and so that is where we should draw the line, IMHO.

    As far as praying at Northfield City Hall: Those of you who want to could perhaps pray to yourself or pray in silence with a spontaneously formed group. That would be dandy?

    November 27, 2007
  20. David Ludescher said:

    It seems to me that the prayer ladies praying for our City leaders to have strength and wisdom is almost identical to Griff’s form of prayer in a drought.

    Was is different is to whom or what the prayer is directed.

    November 27, 2007
  21. Curt Benson said:

    Yes, Kiffi, we’ve been dissed. Asked to leave a prayer discussion. This may be a personal low. I’m praying for Griff to be smited, or is it smoted?

    November 27, 2007
  22. Holly Cairns said:

    Regarding the city hall/ prayer ladies: It might not be the recipient of the prayer that is the important issue, but it’s whether or not the prayers/prayees had/have influence on others at city hall, and is the same influence allowed by other “groups,” and can all groups meet in Roder’s office without him being there, and does Roder use good judgement as a city official, etc. Don’t you think?

    The prayer ladies were praying as a collective group. It was a group with the preconceived plan to pray, and the purpose of the group was known to Roder, and they were left alone in his office or not (what are the facts?), and then one is left wondering how much influence the group has on policy making. It’s a matter of influence and if there was any. Of course this is rehash of the other thread, I bet.

    BTW, I often pray, myself.

    November 27, 2007
  23. Griff Wigley said:

    David wrote:

    If the governor of Georgia were to pray for strength to help the state get through the drought, or the prayer ladies are praying for our City leaders to be given strength and wisdom, isn’t the form of pray nearly identical?

    Yep. The problem, David, is that Sonny Perdue didn’t pray that type of prayer. He asked God to make it rain. Assuming Perdue believes that God created the universe and the laws of physics that accompany it, he’s essentially saying, “God, these laws you created that govern our weather are sometimes lousy. We want you to violate these laws for us because they’re causing us problems. And never mind that our behavior and habits have exacerbated the situation. Just break the laws for us.”

    Now if Sonny Perdue happened to be governor of a state that sat on major fault line, I seriously doubt that he would be holding prayer vigils at the capitol asking God to slow down those pesky tectonic plates. But there’s really no difference. Laws govern the plates and the weather patterns alike. And I think asking God to mess with the laws He made is more than a little insulting.

    (People tend to believe that God is ‘up there’ — witness all the pro athletes who point to the sky when they hit a home run or score a touchdown — so I guess since the clouds are also ‘up there’, they’re assuming God’s closer to the rain controls.)

    I have no problem with the prayers that the prayer ladies say that they prayed and I said so repeatedly. But their Harvest Evangelism counterparts in Elk River evidently say other kinds of prayers, eg help our police catch the drug dealers, help us pass the school bond referendum, etc. From there it’s just a short leap to ‘help our Elk River football team beat those Raiders from Northfield’ and then God will be in a heckuva pickle. 😉

    November 27, 2007
  24. John George said:

    Kiffi- If you haven’t wandered off with Curt, I want to congratulate you on your perfect Sunday School attendence. I’m assuming you know, then, what I mean when I talk about the character of God, so I’m a little puzzled by the “arrogance” dig. Let me liken it to your knowledge of Victor. Since you live with him, you surely know quite a bit about him. When you speak of him, you speak out of your experience. I wouldn’t call that arrogance, just a closer knowledge of him than I have (and not to mean that I want a closer knowledge of Victor). I have a different relationship with God than you. Does that make me any better? CERTAINLY NOT! Just different. If your universalist interpretation of the Bible is correct, then there is room for both of us. If you say there is not room for me, then how are you interpreting it? Just wondering.

    Holly- Just to console some of your fears, the Kingdom of God is not going to be established by man. Many people in Jesus’ time made that mistake and were looking for the wrong thing. There is scriptural precedence to pray for those in authority over us. Perhaps the three prayer ladies are just being obedient and really have no “influence” politically. So, keep on praying!

    The elephant that is in the room here is what if they are right? Does God really exist? Is he interested in the affairs of men? Does he really love us? Will he forgive us if we ask Him? Does He even here us when we pray? Or, is God, as some would say, just an opiate for the masses? There are men more learned than I who have made a life-long quest for the answers to these questions and never found them. There are others like me who are simple enough to believe that what the Bible says about God is true. You choose.

    November 27, 2007
  25. John George said:

    Grif- Here’s one just for you. James 5:1 says (and I am paraphrasing it) you ask and you do not recieve because you ask wrongly, to consume it upon your own lusts. Perhaps there is a moral implication in our motivation to pray. And, as far as God adjusting the laws he set in motion at creation, that is how Moses and the Israelites got across the Red Sea. It is also how Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Gallilee. Also, there is an account of the sun moving back so many degrees on one day so a certain general could win a battle. Interesting. God is pretty hard to pigeon-hole.

    November 27, 2007
  26. kiffi summa said:

    Bye, Bye … I’m leaving this pigeon-hole.

    November 28, 2007
  27. Griff Wigley said:

    Holly wrote:

    … it’s not the prayer itself that’s the important thing, but It’s the answer that is everything.

    Holly, I’m arguing that false prayer has negative side effects. Pastor Clay Oglesbee says he prayed falsely for 10-15 years before he changed gears. He argues that those false prayers were ultimately instrumental in steering him to a truer prayer but I’d argue that there are significant negative side effects to that, and unnecessary.

    Plus, just look at all his gray hair and wrinkles. He’s paid a terrible price. 😉

    November 28, 2007
  28. Holly Cairns said:

    Hi Griff,

    Are you arguing that false prayer has negative side effects on the prayee, or that they might influence other humans the wrong way… or what? Are you saying they influence God?

    I think we don’t have as much influence over God as He does over us. We pray, He answers. The power is in the answer, not the asking. We can ask.

    I think: Good things that happen might or might not be the result of prayer. Bad things that happen are or aren’t a result of our praying, etc. The cause/ effect relationship can’t be determined, really.

    As to James, I think that “asking the right way” must have something to do with what is in our heart. Maybe that is what a false prayer is? Saying something we don’t feel in our hearts, or saying something so that others can hear you (and that is a primary motivation. Having other humans hear you.)

    Judging what is a good prayer vs. what isn’t a good prayer? We elevate ourselves pretty high if we think we can be the judge of that. But, I do think there is moral obligation. That is our struggle. Determining what is good behavior. Right, everyone already said that.

    John: Jesus had an effect on the laws in motion… didn’t He? Or does everything stand as it was in Moses’ time? Just asking your opinion on that one. 🙂 And as for my fears– what fears? About one group having possible influence at city hall? Fear. Interesting.

    November 28, 2007
  29. Griff Wigley said:

    David wrote:

    I’m trying to get a grasp upon the form that prayer takes for an atheist. When an atheist “prays” to whom or what is that prayer directed, and how is the response made known?

    I can only speak for this atheist, David. I’d guess that most atheists don’t do any kind of praying, though some define meditation and reflection as prayer.

    My first assumption is that I am not my thoughts, that a lot of the mental noise about the past and the future that occurs during my normal conscious state causes problems for me. The tip off? Whenever I’m emotionally ‘bothered’ or ‘suffering’. I’m getting better at realizing this, “Ah, I’m upset. I must be entertaining some mistaken ideas/dumb-ass thoughts. Time to get quiet and figure out what they might be.”

    My second assumption is that there’s a vast source of wisdom, intelligence, and good ideas available if, after stopping the noisy thinking, I ask for access to it and then listen/pay attention. The ‘asking’ is part of the ego-taming, the surrender, the letting go, the acknowledgement that my conscious thought-making has proven woefully inadequate.

    And then inspiration and understanding comes. A sense of peace and easiness comes over me. Seemingly good ideas occur to me. Opportunities and people present themselves in seemingly helpful ways. I say ‘seemingly’ because I know that my ego and goofball thinking can insert themselves at any point and I might not catch it.

    None of this requires a belief in God or a Supreme Being, but it doesn’t matter. It works either way.

    November 28, 2007
  30. Lance said:

    I dont think many religious leaders are allowed to say “complete bullshit” in public. For the most part, even lay folks at St. Olaf wont say “shit” on the handball courts, even when it seems like a really good idea at the time.

    November 28, 2007
  31. Griff Wigley said:

    LOL. Thanks for that, Lance.

    In other news, the Strib chose this quote by Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs to highlight in the header of their print article on the death of player Sean Taylor:

    The way I’m going to deal with it is, God tells us that it will take a thousand years for us to begin to understand heaven.

    Now what the heck does that mean and why would the Strib elevate it so?

    November 28, 2007
  32. As a Catholic, I was taught that we are all children of God. That is what I believe today. If we are children of God, then every one on this list and all the other lists in the world are brothers and sisters and Gods. We are just split up into the material world and have the illusion that we are seperated out. Our skin does not end where we begin and where we end. Our skin feels the output of every othere plant, animal, sunray and air temp. Every atom everywhere in the universe is the physical manifestation of God. This is where the Love Supreme comes in to play. Love knows no business, love knows no bargains, love kows only giving and giving and giving…

    It means that there is no judgement, it’s the supreme uncondtional love that we all desire. We have it now and we always did and we always will. It is our own attitudes that create the heaven and or hell of it all. When we learn to accept our condition, then we can more freely tap into the realm of solutions to the down side of it, or to accept and let it happen and find our contentment there.

    I am not saying to run a country like that. I do not know how that works
    for the USA. I only know it works on an individual level for ones own self.

    The some Eastern countries are more accepting of death, disease and
    difficult living than we are here, I know. But there are political implications which I do not have the expertise to address properly and that’s another thread.

    As for Griff’s good prayer vs bad prayer I wouldn’t want to say which is which, cuz God will send what we need. Even if that means a hurricane to whicsk things up, cuz the other side of it all has another look at life that someone might need.

    November 28, 2007
  33. There are some Eastern, and whisk = corrections.

    November 28, 2007
  34. Apparently the coach was asked to share his thoughts and he did. To do any less would be false. For the Trib to then censure that or leave it out or cut it short would also be false. If the coach said, I feel really awful about the death,
    and the trib cut that because it didn’t make good copy, then what would we be

    November 28, 2007
  35. Holly Cairns said:

    Lance, who is spewing what? Who is the religious leader you are talking about? And who works at St. Olaf or were you just using that as an example? Can you explain what you meant… must be some inside joke of some kind.

    Lance said

    I dont think many religious leaders are allowed to say “complete bullshit” in public. For the most part, even lay folks at St. Olaf wont say “shit” on the handball courts, even when it seems like a really good idea at the time.

    November 28, 2007
  36. BruceWMorlan said:

    I have commented elsewhere, but if Griff can drag out this favorite whipping boy of his (false prayer) then I can surely re-point people to my editorial cartoon on the subject.

    Then I’ll chime in with my favorite prayer, “God, give me blind obedient, burn them heretics at the stake, lop off their heads for youTube, faith so that I don’t have to lie awake all night wondering if there is a god. You can start by letting me find a winning lottery ticket.” (since I usually don’t buy them). “A-being”. (don’t want to offend God by attributing the wrong gender, a-men seems so chauvinistic, and we can’t have that.

    November 28, 2007
  37. And with your usual aplomb, Bruce!

    (Just wanted to get a word joke in, though I don’t know what kind it might be.)

    November 28, 2007
  38. Curt Benson said:

    Now God is talking back, at least according to Richard Roberts who recently resigned from Oral Roberts University. God, it seems, is not pleased with our legal system:

    (How this is relevant to Locally Grown, I don’t have a clue.)

    November 28, 2007
  39. Lance said:


    My post was pretty much tongue in cheek. The religious leaders are every religious leader I’ve ever heard of, since I have never heard any religious leader refer to anything as complete bullshit (in public). I cant get too excited about this topic, aside from just enjoying the musings of everyone, because no matter who we are, we cant be exactly sure of the reception any prayer is going to get from anyone or ANYONE, no matter the content or context, so it doesnt accomplish much to judge any of them.

    November 28, 2007
  40. David Ludescher said:

    Griff: Let me take a stab at what Joe Gibbs was saying (post #31). He could have said, “In a thousand years, reason will never tell us why young men have to die. But, I am confident there is a reason. I have to be confident if I want MY life to have any reason and meaning. That reason which I cannot understand, and which men have searched ages to understand, I call ‘God’.”

    That may appear more intellectually sound; but is it any different than what was said? And, more importantly, in the final analysis, isn’t Joe Gibbs right? Whatever the cause may be we have to ask ourselves, why. How we ask the question may not be so important as what we do with the answer.

    November 28, 2007
  41. Griff Wigley said:

    Curt, if God is not pleased with the legal system that’s hammering Oral Roberts, I can only imagine the implications for Northfield City Hall. Therefore, this discussion is perfectly relevant to Locally Grown’s mission. (Whew!)

    November 28, 2007
  42. John George said:

    Holly- I think I understand your question, as far as Jesus having an effect on the laws of nature. Here is my take- since Jesus is God the Son (Immanuel, God with us), he has no less authority over the natural realm than does God. Does that make sense?

    And, as far as fear, perhaps I am projecting something onto you that is not correct. Forgive me. There has been such an outcry against the use of city property for this type of praying, I think I read something into your comments about the three ladies having some type of improper influence that you were not meaning. Am I correct on this? The antidote for fear is love.

    Griff- When you said, “My first assumption is that I am not my thoughts,” this is partially true. Jesus did say, though, that as a man thinks in his “heart”, so he is. As you analyze your life, I think you will see that much of who you are, the way you react to and interact with the world around you, comes out of what you “think” about what your senses tell you. Do you see my point here? It would seem that there is some importance in how you arrive at your conclusions about your life.

    Now, when you say that none of this process requires a belief in God, you are correct. There is a way we are put together that hasn’t altered appreciatively in the whole course of human history. Some would call this instinct; others- education (intellect). still others, our capacity to reason. Where I interject God into this phenominum is the reasoon it exists in us. I believe we are created in His image. I also believe we have a greater capacity to live up to this image than we might surmise. Either way, the laws of God written in creation affect us whether we believe in God or not.

    So, back to the original thread of “right” and “wrong” prayers, I don’t believe God wants us to be passive in our response to Him. Prayer is an active interaction with God, and, if James is correct, He will give us wisdom without condeming us for not having it in the first place.

    November 28, 2007
  43. Holly Cairns said:

    Nope, not laws of nature. Laws of God. Do you believe Jesus had and effect on how we should read the OT, for example. You refer to OT and Moses and laws, but Jesus and NT run on a different premise.

    I have no fear that prayer ladies had influence, per say, but I would like all groups to have equal access. Who’s up for a meeting in Roder’s office? Come one, come all!

    I think I’ve had too many points about praying, and as Lance said, we’ll never know the bottom line on this one for sure– but praying at City Hall might be like praying on the proverbial street corner… can’t we just pray to ourselves in the quiet… it’s the public part of the effort that irks me. And it’s the answer that’s important… isn’t it…

    November 29, 2007
  44. David Ludescher said:

    Griff: For you, as an aethist, are there any prayers to God that aren’t foolish? For example, the prayer ladies were praying to God to provide our city leaders with wisdom and strength. You have repeatedly said that you didn’t have a problem with them doing that. But, you have never indicated if those prayers were “foolish” because they entrusted those prayers to God.

    For you, as an aethist, how is praying “true” prayers to a God (who does not exist) different from praying “foolish” prayers to the same God? If God does not exist, aren’t both foolishness?

    November 29, 2007
  45. John George said:

    Holly- OK. I understand what you are asking, now. I do not believe that Jesus and the New Testament run on a different premise than the Mosaic Law. It all comes out of God. Jesus said He did not come to replace the law, but to fulfill it. He also said that loving the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself are the two greastest commandments. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments. When Jesus died and rose from the dead, He paid the price for our sin that we could not accomplish through trying to obey the law. Because we are made of flesh, we cannot fulfill the law in our own strength. That is the Gospel and the Hope we have in Him.

    As far as the prayer ladies praying in private, that is exactly what they were doing for a whole year. When Judy Dierks outed them, they were forced to pray quietly in the public meetings. If this is a problem, then why couldn’t they have been left alone? The whole council knew about their activity, and there was no problem with their use of the facility, according to the most recent Supreme Court rulings (see the archives about the prayer ladies on this site. I have referenced that ruling in them). And, to say that prayer can only be done in the confines of a church building or in our private homes is a blatant infringement on our freedom of speech. If you prefer to pray there, that is fine with me, but just as I would never want to force my prayer method onto you, I would prefer the freedom to practice my beliefs, also. I think that is what the U.S. Constitution gaurantees us.

    November 29, 2007
  46. Holly Cairns said:

    John said

    The whole council knew about their activity

    That is what I mean by “they proverbial street corner.”

    Sorry, prayer in silence is not prayer in public.

    November 29, 2007
  47. Holly Cairns said:

    And Griff and Anne, your Atheism or Agnosticism: there’s more proof that there is a God.

    November 29, 2007
  48. Anne Bretts said:

    Holly, if there were proof, we wouldn’t need to call it faith. I’m not opposed to the idea there is a God. I find it rather nice. I just don’t have any interest in arguing over whether he wants us to keep kosher or fast during Lent.
    As I remember from catechism class, we were created in his image, but most of the time it seems we create him in our image.

    November 29, 2007
  49. John George said:

    Holly- I don’t quite understand how three people praying in a secluded room and trying not to draw attention to themselves or make people uncomfortable by their activity is like the loud, public proclamations to merely draw attention to the person praying that Jesus was talking about. There is a fine line between doing something secretively and doing something privately. Communicating to those responsible for a facility that you want to use it is only proper procedure. The big flap over this is whether any other group was denied access or use of city hall for similar activities. There is no evidence of that. So, that leads me to believe there was some other “agenda” involved here that hasn’t been exposed.

    Anne- As always, a great observation on your part, “…most of the time it seems we create him in our image.” It is really more comfortable for us to try to bring God down to our level rather than acknowledging that He is on a higher level we cannot attain to with our own efforts. If God was like us, why would we need Him?

    November 30, 2007
  50. Soomeone just sent this to me and I thought it might help get into
    a different view of things for some of you.


    A science professor begins his school year with a lecture to the
    students, “Let me explain the problem science has with religion.” The
    atheist professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks
    one of his new students to stand.

    “You’re a Christian, aren’t you, son?”

    “Yes sir,” the student says.

    “So you believe in God?”


    “Is God good?”

    “Sure! God’s good.”

    “Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?”


    “Are you good or evil?”

    “The Bible says I’m evil.”

    The professor grins knowingly. “Aha! The Bible!” He considers for a
    moment. “Here’s one for you. Let’s say there’s a sick person over here
    and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help him? Would you

    “Yes sir, I would.”
    “So you’re good…!”

    “I wouldn’t say that.”

    “But why not say that? You’d help a sick and maimed person if you
    could. Most of us would if we could. But God doesn’t.”

    The student does not answer, so the professor continues. “He doesn’t,
    does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he
    prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Hmmm? Can you
    answer that one?”

    The student remains silent.

    “No, you can’t, can you?” the professor says. He takes a sip of water
    from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax.

    “Let’s start again, young fella. Is God good?”

    “Er…yes,” the student says.

    “Is Satan good?”

    The student doesn’t hesitate on this one. “No.”

    “Then where does Satan come from?”

    The student falters. “From God”

    “That’s right. God made Satan, didn’t he? Tell me, son. Is there evil
    in this world?”

    “Yes, sir.”

    “Evil’s everywhere, is n’t it? And God did make everything, correct?”


    “So who created evil?” The professor continued, “If God created
    everything, then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to
    the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil.”

    Again, the student has no answer. “Is there sickness? Immorality?
    Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this

    The student squirms on his feet. “Yes.”

    “So who created them?”

    The student does not answer again, so the professor repeats his
    question. “Who created them?” There is still no answer. Suddenly the
    lecturer breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is
    mesmerized. “Tell me,” he continues onto another student. “Do you
    believe in Jesus Christ, son?”

    The student’s voice betrays him and cracks. “Yes, professor, I do.”

    The old man stops pacing. “Science says you have five senses you use
    to identify and o bserve the world around you. Have you ever seen

    “No sir. I’ve never seen Him.”

    “Then tell us if you’ve ever heard your Jesus?”

    “No, sir, I have not.”

    “Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus?
    Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for
    that matter?”

    “No, sir, I’m afraid I haven’t.”

    “Yet you still believe in him?”


    “According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol,
    science says your God doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?”

    “Nothing,” the student replies. “I only have my faith.”

    “Yes, faith,” the professor repeats. “And that is the problem science
    has with God. There is no evidence, only faith.”

    The student stands quietly for a moment, before asking a question of
    His own. “Professor, is there such thing as heat?”

    “Yes,” the professor replies. “There’s heat.”

    “And is there such a th ing as cold?”

    “Yes, son, there’s cold too.”

    “No sir, there isn’t.”

    The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested. The
    room suddenly becomes very quiet. The student begins to explain. “You
    can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat,
    unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don’t
    have anything called ‘cold’. We can hit up to 458 degrees below zero,
    which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no
    such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the
    lowest -458 degrees.”

    “Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits
    energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit
    energy. Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see,
    sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We
    cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat
    is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of

    Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom,
    sounding like a hammer.

    “What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?”

    “Yes,” the professor replies without hesitation. “What is night if it
    isn’t darkness?”

    “You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence
    of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light,
    flashing light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing
    and it’s called darkness, isn’t it? That’s the meaning we use to
    define the word.”

    “In reality, darkness isn’t. If it were, you would be able to make
    darkness darker, wouldn’t you?”

    The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This
    will be a good semester. “So what point are you making, young man?”

    “Yes, professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to
    start with, and so your con clusion must also be flawed.”

    The professor’s face cannot hide his surprise this time. “Flawed? Can
    you explain how?”

    “You are working on the premise of duality,” the student explains.
    “You argue that there is life and then there’s death; a good God and a
    bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite,
    something we can measure. Sir, science can’t even explain a thought.”

    “It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less
    fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is
    to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive
    thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it.”

    “Now tell me, professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved
    from a monkey?”

    “If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man,
    yes, of course I do.”

    “Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?”

    The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes
    where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed.

    “Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and
    cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you
    not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a

    The class is in uproar. The student remains silent until the commotion
    has subsided.

    “To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student,
    let me give you an example of what I mean.”

    The student looks around the room. “Is there anyone in the class who
    has ever seen the professor’s brain?” The class breaks out into

    “Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor’s brain, felt
    the professor’s brain, touched or smelt the professor’s brain? No one
    appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of
    empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says t hat you have
    no brain, with all due respect, sir.”

    “So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures, sir?”

    Now the room is silent. The professor just stares at the student, his
    face unreadable.

    Finally, after what seems an eternity, the old man answers. “I guess
    you’ll have to take them on faith.”

    “Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with
    life,” the student continues. “Now, sir, is there such a thing as

    Now uncertain, the professor responds, “Of course, there is. We see it
    everyday. It is in the daily example of man’s inhumanity to man. It is
    in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These
    manifestations are nothing else but evil.”

    To this the student replied, “Evil does not exist sir, or at least it
    does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is
    just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describ e
    the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of
    what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart.
    It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness
    that comes when there is no light.”

    The professor sat down.


    November 30, 2007
  51. Matt Wagner said:

    Griff, I don’t get it. If you consider yourself an “athiest”, then why are you trying to distinguish “true” prayer from “false” prayer? Wouldn’t it all be “false” prayer to an athiest? Prayer != meditation. Prayer is a dialog w/God.

    With that, I find your criticisms of other’s hopes and prayers just down-right mean spirited and oriented at tearing others down. I guess I wouldn’t expect compassion and understanding from an “athiest”, but come on.. I thought you were trying to make yourself out to be a “community building” type person?

    Theology is an extremely difficult subject, with people scattered all over the spectrum of understanding the reality of God. So it is a given that some are going to pray “simple” prayers, because that’s just where they are at this point. Luckily we have a God who understands our weaknesses and his Holy Spirit that intercedes for us to make our prayers more “correct”.

    This would be similar to people’s understanding of technology and creating an online community — of which you profess to be an expert about. Do you also look down from your self-righteous perch at all those poor schmucks who don’t know what a “blog” is and how to effectively use it? From what I’ve seen you don’t, you have a consulting business setup to help those type of people. I wonder how far you would get in that business if you applied the same arrogance as you have here?

    My suspicion is that you’re not really an “athiest”, but simply someone who’s heart has grown callous and cold to the love of God, and thus love towards your fellow man. Even if you think you’re too good to be caught attending worship service here in Northfield or anywhere else, I’m sure all of us believers would love to welcome you in from the cold.

    I’ll be praying for a warming of your heart.

    November 30, 2007
  52. Holly Cairns said:

    John, I think there should be a separation between church and state.

    As to praying in church or any other place: I think silent prayers get to God. In this case there was no need to tell others they were praying/going to pray.

    “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret…”

    I think all groups should have equal access to facilities– or no groups should have access to facilities. So, all groups meet in Roder’s office, or no groups meet in Roder’s office (or whatever is similar influence and access). You say there is no proof that another group was denied. I’m glad someone did a poll.

    Two separate issues here:
    1. Is prayer a good thing?
    2. Is it okay to pray in the city hall?

    My thoughts: Just to be clear: Praying is good, but it isn’t good to pray in the city hall, unless it is in silence and when it is not announced.

    Thanks for the comments, Anne. Proof? Life itself is proof. 🙂

    November 30, 2007
  53. Griff Wigley said:

    To those of you who have addressed their comments to me, rest assured, I’ll get to them. I’ve been reading along but haven’t had enough time the past few days to reply.

    I’m pleased the discussion is continuing.

    November 30, 2007
  54. John George said:

    Bright- Phew!! What a long breath of air, but, I think, a good one!

    Holly- Re: separation of church and state, the popular slant on that right now is separation of church FROM state. In that, I do not believe. As far as praying in city hall, part of the taxes I pay keeps city hall going, so I believe I should have equal access to it, along with any Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Native Americans, or Athiests (and any other sect I omitted in my brevity) that so choose to use it. According to the Supreme Court, use of government or public facilities cannot be limited because of religious content of the use.

    Matt- Don’t return evil for evil, but instead, a blessing. I was once worse than an athiest. I was a spreader of half truths. That was before God got ahold of me and started straightening me out. I think we all start out with the same need for God. It takes some people longer to realize that than others, but we know that God is long suffering, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance. Continue praying for Griff.

    Griff- Thanks for keeping the discussion going. I would still like to have coffee or breakfast with you sometime. You strike me as a man without guile. I admire that quality in people. I’m taking vacation the week before Christmas, and I’ll be around home. Let me know if you have some time in there.

    December 3, 2007
  55. Holly Cairns said:

    Just so long as you agree that ALL groups should have equal access. That means the local chapter of the KKK should have equal access to Roder’s office, etc. I, for one, I would be very upset to see them sitting in his office…

    Thanks, I think that’s the end of me on this one.

    Nobody’s right, if everybody’s wrong….

    December 4, 2007
  56. Anne Bretts said:

    Holly, interestingly, I think everyone is right, if a tad melodramatic.
    Of course, City Hall and other public spaces should be ‘de-militarized zones’ where those of all faiths are welcome but none are favored. For example if I were a minister, I would not want my religious symbols tossed on the crowded lawn of City Hall amid the burning crosses of the KKK and altars of Satanic cults that always show up whenever a baby Jesus in a manger is unveiled this time of year. I would want to showcase that baby Jesus at my church as a way to draw people in so they can hear my message unabridged. I guess it’s the difference between a business having a kiosk in the mall or a glorious little shop on Division Street.
    Just look at all the new and old churches in town. None want to be in City Hall when so many other venues are available.
    Back to Roder…the people who attacked were sincere and had the Constitution on their side, to be sure. (Some also used that attack as a very un-Christian smear campaign to remove a person they thought was an obstacle to their own plans for power, but we’re talking here about the people who were right in their pursuits.)
    I think the ensuing months have proven that the issue was not ice slicing the side of the Titanic. Mr. Roder had no grand plan to plant pews in the council chambers and replace the agendas with hymnals and halleluias. It seems he really was being a gentleman by offering a small group of citizens a quiet place to sit during the meetings. It was a charmingly small town gesture that In this litigious and conspiracy-laden society quickly took on the dramatic flair of an urban legend. Great campfire narrative but as phony as Iraq’s WMD.
    One thing that’s interesting is that maybe the prayers for wisdom worked, at least to some extent. Mr. Roder complied immediately with the request to vacate his office. The council enacted a simple room use policy. The council waived legal action against the mayor in favor of honest and civil conversation. They voted to release the tapes of closed meetings to end a lawsuit and show their honor and good intentions. They hired an investigator to prove themselves honest and a mediator to find a way to get along with the mayor.
    Heck we even got the Christmas trees off the boulevard without a court fight.
    Now if we could round up a few more prayers to get the lawsuit withdrawn we can all head over to WinterWalk and listen to the blatant attempts by downtown merchants to capitalize on a decidedly Christian ritual — on public land — but that’s business, and another campfire conversation.

    December 4, 2007
  57. John George said:

    Anne- Just goes to show, no good deed goes unpunished. I like your analogy to the Titanic. Interesting that one of the ministries given to the church in the New Testament is reconciliation.

    December 4, 2007

    I think there is something in here about “ask and it shall be given”.

    My former email signature;

    I once knew a man, so full of love,
    the room turned a bright electric blue.

    December 4, 2007
  59. Matt Wagner said:

    John, thanks for your comments. I admit that what I wrote could be read as harsh, I wasn’t trying to be harsh for the simple sake of it. I was trying to speak with honesty and not hide my opinion in flowery niceties (admittedly I was angry with the arrogance of the original post). With that, Griff I’m sorry if I offended you with sharp words.

    Back to the topic.. I don’t think there is such a thing as a “goofball” prayer, or “wrong” prayer, etc — with the caveat that you are a believer, if you’re an athiest it is all “false”, “wrong”, and “goofball”.

    Just as there are no “dumb” questions. If you want to shutdown someone’s learning, just belittle their “dumb” questions and they’ll most likely stop. Belittling someone’s “dumb/goofball/wrong” prayer will most likely lead to them ceasing to pray — never God’s desire.

    Believers believe in miracles. So it is absolutely not wrong to ask for rain in a time of drought. Or to ask that your terminally ill child be healed when all medical options seem to have failed. God does intervene in our reality, there are countless examples. But I wouldn’t expect an atheist to believe that. An athiest and a believer have two very different bases for their beliefs.

    Of course it is better to add “but thy Will be done” to the end of your “goofball” request. But even if left out, so what? God knows the desire of our heart. He knows what we really need. He knows how difficult it is for us to see clearly enough in our time of need to accept his Will. There is no reason for us to become preoccupied with being high-minded to only submit “true/smart/correct” prayers to Him to the detriment of not praying constantly.

    Griff, this discussion has been in my thoughts and prayers since I stumbled upon it a few days ago. I think of you praying the Rosary for the ponds to freeze when you were a kid is a beautiful example of the simple faith we need to have. Without the simple faith of a child we can become full of our own pride, thinking that we can fix ourself. No need for the outside love and assistance of God.

    Well, some day a person who thinks like that is going to reach a situation where they can’t heal themselves, they can’t sooth their hurt feelings, they can’t forgive. The only choice is the path toward death. Pretty sad.

    Having Faith is tough — as it ultimately means a surrendering of our own will. But it sure is rewarding to learn true love, charity, compassion, humility and all the joys that come with dying to yourself and living for God.


    December 4, 2007
  60. Bruce Morlan said:

    Bright’s long post (God vs Science) was a fun read, but the most important point it makes is lost in the flawed use of the duality argument.

    When the professor is losing ground (and he knows it), he is delighted …

    The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes
    where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed.

    Imagine if the roles were reversed, and it was the believer who was being shown a flawed argument using the language of his faith. Would he smile and be happy at the thought of an entire semester of confrontation? I think not, and that (it seems to me) is the fundamental difference between faith based believers and evidence-based believers. Faith-based believers seem to think they know the answers and therefore uncomfortable contradictions are just that, uncomfortable. Evidence-based believers seem to think they know a methodology for finding answers, and can be quite excited when confronted with contradictions.

    It was interesting to me that the Dalai Lama embraced physics and neuroscience as paths to truth, noting that when confronted by evidence-based arguments, true spirituality embraces that knowledge and thoughtfully incorporates that knowledge into its cosmology. I see little evidence that the Abrahamic religions follow this lead. The pope did make some comments suggesting that his church (well, St. Paul’s church, I suppose) should be more open, I guess they are a bit embarrassed by the whole Darwin and Galileo thing). Unfortunately, the other two branches of the Abrahamists do not have a single person who can speak for them, and I understand that the pope only speaks for one sect of the third, but then the secularists don’t have a single authority either (unless one counts the peer-reviewed literature as an authority).

    – Freedom. Peace. Justice. Can’t have just one.

    December 5, 2007
  61. Julie Bixby said:

    Correct me if I am wrong. Are you saying that science is evidence – based and religion is faith – based? Evolution is and always has been a “theory”. There is still the “missing link”, yet it is taught in school as fact.
    If a person put all the makings for a watch in a box and that box was shook for thousands of years would it ever result in a complete, working watch?
    Just a thought.


    December 5, 2007
  62. Holly Cairns said:

    Evolution and Christianity don’t have to be at odds. They can agree with each other– in other words, evolution can be supported by the Bible, and the Bible can support evolution.

    Look carefully at Genesis. Genesis 1:25 the beasts are formed first. Genesis 1:26 man is formed, second.

    While in Genesis 2:7 man is formed out of the dust, first. Genesis 2:19 God formed the beasts, second.

    Right there is enough conflict for us to realize that evolution can’t be counted out. And, it lends to idea that the Bible can’t be read literally, all the time…

    Right? Or what do you think, Julie?

    Bruce, I wasn’t sure of the professor’s lack of faith. Are you sure of it? He might have just been asking questions.

    December 5, 2007
  63. Bruce Morlan said:

    Julie asks a very salient question … all belief is, in fact, faith-based, at least if you really get into the epistemology side of the questions. The difference is a concept I call “actionable”. Science’s understanding of gravity is “actionable” in that if you want a satellite to stay in a stable orbit you learn pretty quickly that the simple high-school level model of gravity is inadequate, and you end up using a much more sophisticated model, the simple elliptical orbits model fails. But for a baseball player, the simple parabolic model (the short range approximation to the ellipse) is an adequate approximation. So ALL scientific theories are statements of relative belief. The beauty of science is that it will change its mind to fit well-tested evidence rather than denying or changing the facts.

    As for the clock parts in a box, I study genomics (genetics, epigenetics etc) in my job. I have built and tested so-called “genetic algorithms” which mimic the basic mathematics of evolution. From this background, I have to argue that the clock parts in a box example ignores three critical mechanisms.

    First, the power of a genetic code to search through the set of all possible configurations of a system (chemistry, in this case) and find solutions to hard problems (like how to create selected compounds from simpler compounds using, for example, light). I have seen these algorithms solve very difficult problems purely through the random reorganizations we call mutations and (for higher organisms) sexual reproduction. The incredible power of these searches to find useful combinations is awe-inducing (if I were an artist I’d do a Sistine Chapel ceiling that would bring you to your knees).

    Second, these searches are not completely random (unlike the shaking box of clock parts), they are constrained by simpler rules about how chemical elements fit together (e.g., it is nearly impossible to form He2, in fact it has never been observed to form).

    Finally, we (with our 3 score and ten years) are nearly incapable of understanding how long 3-4 billion years is.

    All of this combines to make the theory of evolution actionable in a way that the theory of (for one example) Vishnu as an existent entity is not. That is why I DO act as if (“believe”) that bacteria are made more virulent if we indiscriminantly use antibiotics (Ref: CLINICAL PRACTICE GUIDELINE, Position Paper) and I do not make offerings (prayers) to Vishnu will help when I do need antibiotics.

    So the answer to Julie’s question is, yes, the clock would form spontaneously, given the right rules and enough time. In fact, think of the universe as the box, the laws of physics (and chemistry and …) providing some guidance, shake well for 13-15 billion years and not only do the parts appear assembled, so does the clock factory that makes it happen.

    December 5, 2007
  64. Holly Cairns said:

    Bruce said:

    the clock would form spontaneously, given the right rules and enough time

    I’m thinking we’d eventually have dust/dirt/rust/etc. in the box. After that… you think the parts would spontaneously form into a watch? Wow. Explain this one to me. What rules, Bruce?

    Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest because you’re looking at one tree? I’m guilty of that, too, sometimes… or are you seeing the forest?

    December 5, 2007
  65. kiffi summa said:

    Think about the meaning of the word “faith”…. In order to BE faith, there must be an element of doubt, which is then overcome by the entrance of faith.

    Doubt is an intrinsic, non-separable part of faith, or faith would not be faith …it would be fact.

    December 5, 2007
  66. Bruce Morlan said:

    Holly, the rules in chemistry are quite simple, one carbon will easily join with one or two oxygen atoms (CO, CO2), but not easily with three (CO3?). The rules in the clock box would have to be complex (probably nearly as complex as the rules that create life in a cell). Because the clock box metaphor is so artificial, the rules would be too, e.g., “gears that do not mesh will not align permanently”. Shaking the box is then the equivalent of reducing atoms to protons, neutrons and electrons and expecting them to reform into a rose. As I said, that would take more like 13-15 billion years, even with the simple rules of chemistry and genetic algorithms to help.

    Obviously, no one, not even I, would expect vibrating the box to force the clock to assemble itself. What I wanted to do was make clear that the clock box metaphor is way misleading in the context of the discussion by giving some idea of the real complexity of the real world system we are living in.

    December 5, 2007
  67. Lisa Guidry said:

    In Mark 10:15 Jesus tells the diciples: Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.

    As a child I was daddy’s girl, and as a woman I’m still daddy’s girl who trust Him completely & has unwavering faith in His teachings.

    Food for thought: If God were to be found through human wisdom, He would only be accessible to the elite. Paul argued that God’s wisdom is foolishness to humanly-conceived wisdom. On your own you will fail to know God, because true knowledge of God can only come through the Holy Spirit.

    December 5, 2007
  68. Holly Cairns said:

    Lisa, that’s good.

    Maybe, in fact, God would only be accessible to those with limited thinking abilities (instead of only to the elite)?

    Bruce: So, you are showing

    (the) idea of the real complexity of the real world system we are living in

    by saying

    yes, the clock would form spontaneously, given the right rules and enough time

    Maybe the line of thinking that “there are complex laws at work and so things evolve” would be better applied to the evolution of living things? Rather than non-living things. Or perhaps I miss what you mean.

    But if I did understand what you meant, and I applied your line of thinking to living things– rules or not, life has to begin someplace. There has to be something to start with, and then some kind of energy.

    You can’t have something from nothing.

    I bet you’ve already visited this thought and have a good answer to where the first particles and the first energy came from… I believe God is designer and master at work.

    Of course this goes against my usual idea that you have to have Faith and trying to reason everything out is a waste of time.

    December 5, 2007
  69. Julie Bixby said:

    Bruce, I realize that my example of the watch is simplistic. My point is that the original idea “the big bang theory” seems quite simplistic also. As you have said, certain things need to be present…I agree. You believe (I use the term loosely!) that in millions or billions of years there would be a full functioning watch in the box. How can you, with such certainty, say that? Just wondering.

    The universe and beyond is incredibly complex. It is exciting to learn about how things work and function, how certain things work together and certain things don’t. Fascinating!

    Why is it so hard to believe that someone “created” all things? People “create” things everyday. The difference is we humans are limited to using the things that are already here.

    BTW Bruce – See you Sunday, to reprise your POLITICS & A PINT keynote speech!
    Thanks for participating!

    December 5, 2007
  70. Bruce Morlan said:

    Holly, you asked

    I bet you’ve already visited this thought and have a good answer to where the first particles and the first energy came from.

    Wow, it’s like you’ve been peeking over my shoulder when I visit with a good friend at the Hideaway where we discuss exactly that question (along with other equally interesting). And yes, I have an answer that works for me, just as nearly everyone on this discussion has an answer that works for them, or at least a strategy for finding such an answer. And this group is so politely willing to listen to each other’s thoughts on the matter, which is such a variation from the norm we see in the rest of the known universe. Peace.

    December 5, 2007
  71. Lisa Guidry said:

    Holly I agree with your correction. I have experienced so much in my life, and some of my favorite memories were when I lived in foreign countries where their faith was all they had, and they experienced super natural miracles that could not be humanly explained.

    December 5, 2007
  72. John George said:

    Bruce- You do an excellent job of keeping up with this whole thing. You said in your post #70, “And yes, I have an answer that works for me, just as nearly everyone on this discussion has an answer that works for them, or at least a strategy for finding such an answer.” Now, how is this scientific? I thought the foundation for science was proving or disproving theories by analyzing and applying observable facts. Most of the scientific examples you have provided portray scientific laws as duplicatable every time. Your laws for analyzing gravity work every time and can be duplicated, as are the laws of chemistry you refered to. If these are the case, then doesn’t every scientist rely on the same laws? The answers you have work for others besides yourself, correct? This really does not require faith, does it? Or is your faith based on a knowlege that the laws you cite will work every time? Just wondering.

    Actually, this same logic (if you want to call it that) can apply to those of us grounded in faith in God. The laws you cite work, just as the laws of God we follow work. My faith is that they are proven principles on the moral and spiritual level, just as your laws apply to the physical realm. The question you cannot answer by empirical observations is the prime source of our universe. You have to believe in an unprovable opinion, or a theory. You can spend your whole life pursuing the proof of this theory, but you won’t find it outside of God.

    My simple argument in this is that science cannot explain everything and every phenominum just as “faith” cannot “prove” every observation. There is a need for both in a society. I believe one can be a scientist and a Christian without imploding or being contradictory. In fact, scientific study has strengthened my faith. Science only makes sense to me in the context of my belief in God.

    You also said,”It was interesting to me that the Dalai Lama embraced physics and neuroscience as paths to truth, noting that when confronted by evidence-based arguments, true spirituality embraces that knowledge and thoughtfully incorporates that knowledge into its cosmology. I see little evidence that the Abrahamic religions follow this lead.” Well, duh! The Abrahamic faiths do not follow the Dalai Lama. That is what differentiates them from all the other religions of the world. They were known before Abraham as the people who followed “the Living God.” In the New Testament, they are refered to as “the way.” We don’t have to incorporate other knowledge to strengthen our “cosmology.” (The New Testament does warn about the vain application of make up, you know.) If you want to use the Dalai Lama as your spiritual bench mark, then I suppose you can. I will continue to follow the Living God. Nothing else compares to Him. And, my pursuit of Him is a lifelong endeavor.

    Kiffi- Welcome back to the “pidgen hole.”

    Lisa- I, too, have seen the miraculous done before my own eyes, both in this country and abroad. Once you have tasted of God, you become spoiled for the ordinary.

    December 6, 2007
  73. kiffi summa said:

    I have a suggestion for Y’all… Read a book entitled “When Science Meets Religion ( enemies, strangers , or partners?)” by Ian G. Barbour. the book is in PB, $16.95, and I guarantee you will find it is interesting , and it might prompt about another 300 posts. I’m sure you can get the book at any of our fine LOCAL bookstores, and you have the author, a very brilliant person, and lovely human being, living right here in town.

    Dr. Barbour is a professor emeritus of physics and religion at Carleton, a preeminent figure in the intersection of these two worlds, having won the Templeton Prize a few years ago. A quote off the jacket: ” … Barbour explores the fascinating topics that illuminate the critical encounter of the spiritual and quantitative dimensions of life.”

    All that and an “angel”, too!

    December 6, 2007
  74. Holly Cairns said:

    Oh, Ian Barbour! Was he at Carleton? Oh, I guess I was thinking of John.

    Thanks for that.

    December 6, 2007
  75. Anthony Pierre said:

    I really hope the entity we call god makes an appearance and sets everyone straight soon.

    December 6, 2007
  76. John George said:

    Anthony- I don’t suppose our musings on prayer or spirituality or the relationship between science and religion particularly bother God. He is most interested in redeeming our souls and bringing us into the image of His Son. That is what is written in His word, at least.

    Kiffi- I’m not familiar with this book, though there are many good books out there reasoning on the relationship between science and religion. I only judge them by how they line up with scripture. In Jeremiah’s writings, we are exhorted to extract the precious from the worthless. We can only do that if we have a standard. The Biblical standard I use has never failed me, and I’m not looking for another one.

    December 6, 2007
  77. Anthony Pierre said:


    It would be really nice to hear it first hand, don’t you agree?

    December 7, 2007
  78. Holly Cairns said:

    Right, Tony, we won’t know FOR SURE until the very end (of our life or everyone’s).

    BTW, At the end: What if atheists are wrong? What if Christians are wrong?

    December 7, 2007
  79. Anthony Pierre said:

    What if everyone is wrong and when we die there is just blackness. Occam’s razor: the simplest answer is usually the correct one.

    December 7, 2007
  80. Holly Cairns said:

    If there is just blackness, then some atheists were right, so someone was right. And we won’t know it.

    But what if Christians are right? We’ll know it.

    The anxieties over what is truth vs. what isn’t can just be let go (if we want)– either you believe, or you don’t. Why not err on the side of believing?

    To me, it’s not an err, but maybe for the people that have to understand everything, they can find peace in that approach.

    December 7, 2007
  81. Holly Cairns said:

    an error– that’s what I meant. To err, an error…

    December 7, 2007
  82. Anthony Pierre said:

    Whatever people believe or do not believe really doesn’t concern me. I really don’t care either way. I think it is great people have differing opinions.

    What does concern me, however, is people pushing their beliefs on someone else or one belief is better than the next one.

    Holly it is refreshing to have a discussion like this.

    December 7, 2007
  83. Holly Cairns said:

    Well, I hope I’m not looking across the great divide at you. If I see you, I’ll try to get you some water… 🙂

    December 7, 2007
  84. Anthony Pierre said:

    You won’t, I will be wrapped in his noodly appendage.

    December 7, 2007
  85. I was gonna talk about how much I love spag, but then I thought it might
    incite a food fight, and then what would I have for supper after church?

    Sorry, I was raised Catholic, went to Zen Budhism, hung around the Hindus and Jews, and can’t help being a wisenheimer.

    December 7, 2007
  86. Holly Cairns said:

    Ha ha. Noodly appendage.

    I had to look up Wisenheimer, and then I wondered if it is Bright Wisenheimer? I’m slow this AM. One of those days.

    Back to work.

    December 7, 2007
  87. Holly, slow is good, esp when for homemade spag sauce! Mmmmmm.

    Back to being Ms. Wisenheimer, the smart aleck.


    December 7, 2007
  88. Alec Irwin said:

    Shouldn’t we cover all of the bases by that logic and worship as many gods a possible?

    November 8, 2010