Category Archives: Religion

Time Travel

Maybe it’s not so impossible.

When you see or hear the words ‘time travel’, what’ the first thing that you think of? The first thing that usually comes to my mind is science fiction. Doctor Who perhaps, maybe H.G. Wells classic story The Time Machine.

For you and me time travel is impossible, certainly in any physical sense in which our corporeal form is transported to a different period. We are simply carried along with time. As H.G.Wells unnamed time travellere observed, whilst time is the fourth dimension, unlike the other three “we have no freedom of movement within it”

So is time travel possible? Maybe in a way it is but perhaps only in one direction, though it remains possible to look in the other direction. Suppose for a moment you could travel in time. How might it affect some of the beliefs you hold or tenets that you live by? While their basis might not change, it is quite possible that how you interpret or implement them for the era you are in might.

History in itself is not time travel but a means to see into the past, an imperfect means that does not always tell the whole story. Now what about forward time travel? I’ve already said that we cannot do it physically, in either direction but could something intangible move forward in time? Something like an idea. There are many thoughts and ideas from the past that have shaped the world as we know it today, ideas that have come forward from the point of conception to now. Couldn’t that be a kind of time travel?

Some of the most compelling and durable thoughts, concepts and ideas that are with us today concern religion and faith. They have travelled forward in time from hundreds, even thousands of years ago. Some remain essentially unchanged and some become updated to remain relevant and, more importantly, understood in the current age having been written to be understood by particular cultures in specific eras. The Bible is almost 2000 years old. It’s thoughts and ideas have survived, albeit in words suited to the different eras through which it has passed.

And maybe, just maybe one person has managed to travel through time. I’ve heard it said that for as long as someone is remembered they are not really dead. We know that Jesus died and we believe that he lived again, before his ascension. Had he been forgotten after his departure from the physicsl world then in a sense he would have died again, at least until his second coming. But, if he had been forgotten, would anyone believe who he was on his return?

Jesus was thought to be in his 30s when he departed his physical existence. It is probably as a human of around this age that many people around the world picture him. Millions of people believe in, know, honour and worship this ageless man always in his 30s. Couldn’t this be a kind of time travel?

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Humanism

How Humanist Are You?

That I’m taking a look at humanism should not suggest any doubt or move away from my Christianity. I think it is helpful to understand other belief systems, as well as my own faith. If you are interested too, you can try the free online course I am undertaking INTRODUCING HUMANISM: NON-RELIGIOUS APPROACHES TO LIFE.

The very first thing I noticed. in the introductory video of the course is that, aside from not believing in a deity, a lot of what humanists believe does not seem to conflict with Christianity, or other religions.

Humanists are much more committed to testing everything, acquiring scientific evidence for what they believe. The italics for believe are deliberate. For a religion, I use the term advisedly noting they have certain religious type characteristics, requiring testing and evidence, they refer to beliefs an awful lot. If “belief” is necessary because some elements cannot be objectively demonstrated and proof provided through evidence, then how is humanism different from any other religion or belief system that has elements that cannot be proven objectively?

I was interested to take part in the How Humanist Are You quiz that is on the Humanist UK website. The first time I took the quiz it told me that I am, apparently, 71% humanist. I suspect that might be a higher percentage than some self professed humanists, but the quiz itself makes me uneasy.

The quiz is of the multiple choice answer type and, one answer can be selected to each question. It seems to me that a number of potential, relevant answers are missing. Some of the allowed answers are not mutually exclusive, so more than one could be ticked if the design of quiz permitted it. I ‘believe’ the quiz to be deliberately slanted to suggest a humanist viewpoint at its conclusion. Of course according to humanists my ‘belief’ is as valid as theirs.

I took the quiz a second time, selecting alternative answers where I would have ticked two for the question, if the quiz permitted me to do so. I received a new score of 55% humanist.  So perhaps, averaging the two attempts, I am 63% humanist.

In line with the humanists’ own contention that everything we ‘believe’ should be tested and be evidence based, where is the evidence that the quiz is fair? What tests have been done to prove that by entering every possible combination of answers the results show a linear progression of 0% to 100% humanist?

As I write I am at the end of week two of the online course. This post will be updated if my views change as the course progresses.

Sunday

What does Sunday mean to you?

Visit the Keep Sunday Special website.Let me begin by saying what it means to me. It will be no surprise to regular readers of this blog that I am Christian, so Sunday for me is distinct from the other days of the week. I attend church, though I’m not hidebound about it. I don’t generally do big shopping though I will pick up basics, if I run out. I deliberately didn’t say necessities.

Maybe it’s also worth saying that I’m retired. That means I could do the same things every day if I chose to. Sunday is still a different kind of day.

A lot of people in the United Kingdom are of no faith and do not attend church. Some who call themselves, at least nominally, Christian don’t attend either. Don’t get me wrong I’m not knocking either of these groups for this.

I recently read a news article, from a reputable source, about a dispute concerning pay for Sunday working. The question arose in my mind, why should people who treat every day like any other, for whom Sunday hold no special significance, be paid more to work on Sunday?

When anything that can be done, bought, attended, visited on any other day of the week can be done on Sunday, why should Sunday continue to be thought special and attract premium payment. Shopping hours are still slightly restricted on Sunday but anything else is possible. If you’re working on a day when shopping is a little more restricted, then you have greater freedom to shop on other days of the week when hours are not restricted by employment.

I wonder how much the people who expect extra pay for Sundays consider the people who work to serve their needs and more often wants, on Sundays when they are not working?

The Keep Sunday Special website says “Sunday is a special day, allowing families and communities to spend time together”. However, and this is just a personal opinion for which I have no objective evidence, The families and communities that spend the most time together on Sundays is the Christians for which the religion is not just a nominal title.

Unveiling a Parallel

By Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant, published 1893.

Once again I find myself adding a book review to my Christian themed blog, before I add it to my book review blog. I add it here because of the comparisons Unveiling A Parallel draws with Christianity.

Unveiling A Parallel is billed as a romance. Some might say it is science fiction, as it is set on the planet Mars. Some would call it feminist literature, if the term “feminist” existed in 1893. I describe Unveiling A Parallel as social-science fiction, that just happens to be set on another planet.

Remember as you continue that Unveiling a Parallel was published more than a century ago. The society in which the protagonist finds himself is still a stratified society, in which there are rich and poor, servants and masters, characteristic of the era in which the story was written.

The reader is not told at any point the protagonist’s name, or how he comes to be on Mars. The story begins at his arrival on the red planet.  It goes on to recount his experiences with the “Marsians” whilst amongst the people.

The Marsian people are humans, who have evolved entirely independently of the humans of our planet Earth. The differences between the peoples are in intellects and social orders, not in any physical aspect that defines a human being.

The traveller’s male pre-conceptions, of how a society should function, based on his patriarchal Earth background in a male dominated society, are challenged from soon after his arrival on Mars.  As he begins to get to know Mars’ people, he finds an egalitarian, equal society where the female of the species is the equal of the male socially and morally, without needing legislation to achieve it.

It is also interesting to see the protagonist’s observations on religion, specifically Christianity, as he begins to come to terms with the “Marsian” society in which he finds himself.

Unveiling A Parallel is not SciFi in the form that readers of such as Asimov, E E Doc Smith or Larry Niven would probably appreciate. It is, to a greater extent, commentary on the differences between societies, that have evolved in different places, under different conditions and traditions.

“You worship the man – the God, if you will, –
instead of that for which he stood.”: – Severnius.

Faith Without Thinking

But not unthinking faith.

Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant. 1893

I’ve been nominally a Christian since I was baptised as a baby. It’s in recent years that I’ve taken it seriously, trying to live by Christian principals. I’ve not done anything criminal or deliberately hurt anyone, nevertheless I’m probably not what you might call a good Christian.

I go to church each Sunday. I meet with Christian friends and discuss what being a Christian means. I read the Bible, sometimes. That might be part of what makes me Christian but not necessarily a good one.

Often on weekdays and when I’m not with my Christian friends, I am not thinking about behaving as a Christian. Of course it shouldn’t be necessary to be thinking about it all the time. Which is the point I probably need to explain a little more.

This post was inspired by a paragraph from a book, Unveiling A Parallel (To be reviewed later on Entertaining Angels Bookshelf). The passage is:

“Do you often hear an upright man professing his honesty? It is part of himself. He is so free of the law which enjoins honesty that he never gives it a thought. So with the man who is truly religious and no longer needs to guide himself bit by bit and rein, or measure his conduct by the written code.”
– From Unveiling a Parallel by Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant 1893.

The book is fiction. We can still learn something from it, just as we learn from Jesus’ parables which were fiction but contained a truth.

The person referred to in the quoted passage never thinks about his religion which, in the book, we are not told what it is. The point is that he doesn’t need to think about it. Its principals are so deeply ingrained within him, that he doesn’t need to think about them to live by them. It is, or has become, his natural way of living, of conducting himself.

As Christians, shouldn’t we be aiming to live by Jesus’ teaching, to the extent we do not need to constantly think about it?  I’m not suggesting we should not think about or discuss The Bible and God and Jesus, just that living by its principals ought to become second nature to us, or that we should aim that it does.

The Trinity

Mind you don’t get burned.

If you say trinity to a Christian there is a good chance that he or she would think of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The three-in-one and one-in-three. Trinity in unity. But, what might a non christian think of?

There are many, many things that come in threes, some real, some fictional.

  • Three bones in an ear
  • Three wheels on a tricycle
  • Three legs on a tripod

If you remove one item from each of the groups of three, it becomes useless.

  • Take one bone from an ear, you cannot hear
  • Take one wheel from a tricycle, it cannot be ridden
  • Take one leg from a tripod, it falls over

In each case removing one of the three renders the remainder useless.

When I was at school, in the science lesson I remember being taught that fire requires three things to burn; fuel, heat and air (oxygen). Remove any one of these elements and the fire is extinguished.

Might fire be an, albeit very simplistic, analogy for the complexity of the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God the father being, perhaps, the oxygen (breath of God). God the Son providing the fuel (His word in the gospels). God the Holy Spirit being the heat (felt but unseen).

So if by taking away one element of fire it ceases to exist, what happens to God if one element of the trinity were missing?

As usual I have no answer but think it an interesting question to ponder.

Lost In Translation

Mind your language.

My native language is English. I can read sufficient Dutch to make sense of a lot of things, I write it a little, very poorly, and hardly speak it at all. Like many English people, I was, I suppose, quite arrogant for a long time about my language, with no knowledge of any other.

When we refer to language, we don’t always mean your language or mine where translation from one country’s language to another is necessary to understand one-another. Sometimes language can mean the form of words we use. For example when talking about someone’s manner of speaking I might say ‘he doesn’t beat about the bush’ . Someone else might say ‘he speaks his mind’ or ‘he has a direct manner’. Another person might simply say ‘he’s blunt’. It all means the same thing, expressed differently.

The same is equally true when we talk to someone about religion, for me Christianity but the language chosen is equally applicable to all religions. If you were not already A Christian, what would you think if I strolled up to you and said ‘can I talk to you about Jesus’ or Do you read the bible?’. Chances are, you would think me a bit odd and look for the first excuse to get away.

It’s not just what we say but also how we say something that can attract someone, or put them off entirely.I was put off The Bible early in my life by the, to me at that time, impenetrable, archaic language used in the King James Bible (given to me when I was 8 years old and which I still have). When we hope to introduce someone to Christianity, how we talk to them is important.

The same approach does not work for everyone, so be careful not just what you say, how you say it too. As usual I do not have answers, I just hope to get a bit of consideration started.