An Analogy

Imagine you are a horny young teenager who is told by a close and trusted friend that you have caught the eye of a beautiful supermodel. They say that the supermodel wants to be your friend, nay - your lover. All you have to do is read a few letters that the supermodel has sent you, and write back. You read the first letter, and it says:

Dear Lover, I love you and want to be with you. Sincerely, Cutie McHottie.

It doesn’t occur to you at this time to question that Ms. McHottie doesn’t use your name.

Your friend says to you that although this stranger loves you, she can’t be with you right now. But if you write back, you’ll soon fall in love with her - and one day you’ll get to meet her and be married. You ask him how he knows this - and he says it’s cause a friend gave him a letter from his very own supermodel girlfriend, and that he’s waiting for the same thing with her.

“Right,” you say, “I can’t wait! But I will, because she’s a supermodel, and that’s gonna be worth it!”

You write back. You say things that you really mean, like ‘I love you’. Your friend keeps handing you letters in reply that excite and amaze you. You and your friend talk about your supermodel girlfriends excitedly, sharing how you think they look - it’s funny, cause they seem so similar, but they’re also different.

One day you notice that the letters don’t seem so personal. They still say very personal things, but you wonder why she didn’t answer that question you asked in the last letter. You don’t think much of it however and keep writing. But it gets more obvious. You ask her what color her hair is, but her reply only contains talk of how much she wants to be with you. You ask what food she eats, and she tells you that she loves you. It’s not as though she’s avoiding the question, more like she’s just not reading it in the first place.

You ask your mate what he thinks. He pulls out his stack of letters, and starts leafing through them, “The answer will be in here,” he says.

Confused, you grab his letters and read. His first letter is the same as yours! And every subsequent letter!

“What?” you ask.

“Sure,” he says, “I copied them for you, just like my mate copied them for me - still, they’re meant for you. Just cause thy aren’t addressed to us specifically doesn’t mean they aren’t for us.”

You’re a little dumbfounded. But you trust this guy. He’s intelligent and clever - he wouldn’t be suckered in by something that wasn’t perfectly sensible. So these letters, and their method of delivery must be perfectly sensible. Besides, who are you to question your perfect girlfriend?

So this goes on for some years, with an occasional doubt that you might be being taken for a sucker. When you wonder these things, you go back to the letters and they make you feel better - you know you will be with her one day.

It bothers you a little that you mates seem to get more than letters from their supermodel girlfriends. They say things like “She keeps sending me gifts”, and you wonder what you’re doing wrong. Then you notice that their gifts are ordinary things like garden flowers and better jobs. “Sexy O’Sweet pulled some strings at work,” says you friend, “No one told me that, but I know.”

So you start looking for things that you can say came from your girlfriend. And you find them, but they seem small and insignificant.

One day you get really lonely. You need a friend, and your mates are tied up with their own lives. Besides, if you talk to them you know that they’ll make you talk about your girlfriend all day, or worse - their girlfriend. So you write to her. You ask her to show herself, to come today, to send a new letter you haven’t read before or a box of chocolates - anything with a return address. You wait a while, and receiving nothing, return to your box of letters. But now they seem less real, less personal. Their cheerful tone and hopeful promises seem empty and hollow. Surely what you want is simple enough?

You get to thinking. “What if this has been a lie all along?” What if your mate and his mate and his mate’s mate were all tricked? Not intentionally, but just victims of a desire to be loved, and feel important. Maybe they’re propping themselves up with the same sorts of things you’ve been telling yourself - “she’ll show herself some day”.

Worse - what if it is all true, and you’re a dud who’s girlfriend doesn’t care enough to write a new letter? Don’t your friends have legitimate reasons to think that this is all true? It must just be you. They must have their own proof.

You hold on for a while longer to the hope, but your heart isn’t in the relationship like it was. You write less. You make different friends - friends who don’t make you feel bad for not writing ‘cause they never received letters of their own. You still talk about your girlfriend a bit with your old friends, but you wonder as you talk if you really mean it any more.

Eventually, you stop writing. You put away your box and put her out of your mind. It’s easier, because you have less to worry about. You aren’t thinking “Will this offend her” and you have more time ‘cause you aren’t writing to her daily. Worst of all - you don’t feel significantly different. You thought your world would end and it didn’t - and you wonder what conclusions you could draw from that.

In the end, your life is simpler. You still wish occasionally that she might notice, and send a letter. But you aren’t going to go back to your box. This time you want real, personal communication - not hand-me-downs. One letter would be enough, but you know it won’t happen. And day-to-day you put her out of your mind.

This is my analogy. It isn’t perfect, but I feel it captures my feelings very well. I hope it makes sense for you. Now if you came from there, you can return to my testimony.

My Faith and My Religion

I have lot of concerned and loving people in my life who have come to my site hoping to get an insight into my life and how I am handling the pressures of an ill wife, and the gradual erosion of my faith. It is an easier thing to be able to say “check out my website”, than to speak about things face to face, partly because when I do I find it difficult to explain what I mean when I say that I need proof of God’s existence.

It’s also easier to respond to the gist of a series of comments in one post than to answer each one, because the irrational part of my brain wants to argue with everyone, and say I am right and you are wrong and start something akin to a Christian/atheist debate, where neither gives ground and each argument makes the other side more convinced they are right.

Instead, I wanted to clarify a bit what I’ve said in earlier posts about my faith, and why I feel I need proof of God’s existence.

One of the things I should say straight up is that I actually need two things.

  1. Proof God exists;

  2. Proof that He cares.

I could rewrite that second one to be: Why does “God’s Existence” make any difference?

If I could be given proof beyond a doubt that God is a real being, it would change me. I always felt that the existence of God should have an amazing effect on my life. I thought it was my fault that it rarely did. But the presence of an all powerful being (if proven) should cause undeniable change (either terrified fear, or uncontrollable joy). If you agree follow along.

That is what the effect should be with incontrovertible proof. The effects of such proof are all around. Many people have been given such proof (real or imagined) and have devoted their lives to God. However the rest of the world does not receive such proof and falls somewhere else - in a place where they either deny the existence of God, or begrudgingly admit that He could very well exist, and so perhaps they should do something about it. If you haven’t established, I fell into the latter group. I felt that God could be there, but without the first kind of absolute proof, had to make do with my own faith - which is weak at the best of times.

I’ll pause for a moment and say this: some can take our very existence as absolute proof, because it is inconceivable to them that something came from nothing. I can almost share that faith. The problem is that in this age, there are explanations of how something can come from nothing. This doesn’t prove the opposite of course, but simply makes not believing a possibility.

So without absolute proof, what does one need to keep faith alive? I would argue that one needs to feel that God cares. If nature or anything else can only get me to the point that I concede the possibility that God exists, I need something else as well. That is why I want to know that God cares. If God cares, then His existence matters to me. In the absence of absolute proof, a caring God is one that I will believe in despite any evidence or argument to the contrary.

I’m not speaking clearly here I realise, and I’ll attempt to clarify. In a murder trial, you must have proof that A) a crime was committed, B) that the person on trial did it. You do this with evidence. Without a picture of the suspect holding a severed head, the evidence must take on a more subjective nature. You show the knife, you show the scene of the crime, and you establish that the suspect had motive. Then the jury takes that evidence and says “Yes, in all likelihood the suspect is guilty” or “No, we’re not convinced that that is sufficient evidence to prove anything”. At the moment, I feel like the deliberating jury. I have Exhibit A: ‘the universe in its mind boggling complexity’, and Exhibit B: ‘a lot of people who claim to have seen the accused’. But I don’t know the character of all the witnesses - only a couple of them. And the prosecution have witnesses who claim to have seen other gods, or not seen any god at all. As a juror, I need to know what God’s motivation is. Only then can I say “Yes, even without absolute proof, I know He exists - because the arguments stack up. All the little evidences point to one big conclusion”.

I have had a number of conversations with friends who have tried to convince me that the evidence of God’s motivation can be found in the bible. The issue with this is the bible’s credibility as evidence. The bible was written over thousands of years by multiple people, but some evidence contradicts the claims made by the authors, and other evidence contradicts what has been said about the authors. For example, it’s generally taken by most scientists that the earth (more or less as we know it) was something that took many many years to happen. It has been said that this doesn’t preclude the existence of a God, but it does bring the first couple of chapters of Genesis into question. And if Genesis is read as a metaphor, I then struggle with the exact point where the bible begins actually telling history as it is. Where this leaves me is with the bible ‘beginning’ at best somewhere about the middle of the prophets, and at worst perhaps the beginning of the new testament.

With even a small cloud of doubt about the validity of the bible as unquestionable truth, I begin to wonder what else isn’t true, and what other stories may be embellished.

See the issue is, I always believed that the bible was too fantastic to be anything else but true. I mean - God takes human form and walks among us! - it is amazing. Surely something like that is too good to be true - you couldn’t make that up!

But maybe you can. If everyone in the world who wasn’t a Christian believed the same thing, that God was fictional - strangely enough I’d find it easier to believe. With the small evidence I have I could say ‘the rest I take on faith’ because why would someone make up Jesus? But I see evidence that all over the world, people have created their own religious figures to fill whatever niche there is in their culture. Muslims believe their religion supplanted Christianity, just as Christians believe theirs supplanted Judaism. There is the possibility that one is right and one is wrong, but isn’t that awfully presumptuous?

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell.C.S. Lewis ‘Mere Christianity’ page 56

Forgive me Mr. Lewis for using your words in this way. The issue I see is that Muslims feel the same way about Mohammed. He may never have claimed to be God, but he and his followers have made some fairly bold claims that come close, or else refute the claims that Jesus made. If Christians can shrug these off with a wave of their hands, and Muslims can shrug off Christian beliefs, how do we decide who is right? Both religions are effectively saying that they have the only truth, both can’t be right.

Then there are religions who don’t have a God or head figure. Native Australians don’t follow Jesus or worship God. Are they wrong?

If you accept that the life of Jesus unfolded as written in the bible, you must accept that some pretty amazing belief systems have arisen out of lies or delusions that seemed perfectly reasonable to millions of people just like you. Why are you so certain you are right?

I realise that you may have a perfectly good reason - your faith - and again I return to my original point. I have little faith. I need evidence to build on. I have said in earlier posts that I believe Faith is for keeping belief alive when all these sorts of questions come up. Not having much to start with, none of the ‘proofs’ I can get from other people will satisfy me. Until I see God, or see any evidence that he cares about my life my faith will be small.

Forgive the rambling nature of this post. I have not the mental acumen to craft an argument or hold an idea in my head for so long. I will attempt to clarify in future posts based on your feedback.

My Superhero Quiz Results

When I found out I could discover my superhero identity, I had to try it. I was hoping for Spider-Man, who the quiz thinks I’m kinda like.

Your results:

You are Green Lantern
Hot-headed. You have strong will power and a good imagination.

The green
Lantern

+————————-+————————-+————————-+ | Green Lantern | ———————– | 65% | | | ———————– | | | | ———————– | | | | — | | +————————-+————————-+————————-+ | Spider-Man | ———————– | 60% | | | ———————– | | | | ———————– | | | | — | | +————————-+————————-+————————-+ | Superman | ———————– | 60% | | | ———————– | | | | ———————– | | | | — | | +————————-+————————-+————————-+ | The Flash | ———————– | 45% | | | ———————– | | | | ———————– | | | | — | | +————————-+————————-+————————-+ | Robin | ———————– | 42% | | | ———————– | | | | ———————– | | | | — | | +————————-+————————-+————————-+ | Hulk | ———————– | 40% | | | ———————– | | | | ———————– | | | | — | | +————————-+————————-+————————-+ | Iron Man | ———————– | 40% | | | ———————– | | | | ———————– | | | | — | | +————————-+————————-+————————-+ | Supergirl | ———————– | 35% | | | ———————– | | | | ———————– | | | | — | | +————————-+————————-+————————-+ | Batman | ———————– | 30% | | | ———————– | | | | ———————– | | | | — | | +————————-+————————-+————————-+ | Wonder Woman | ———————– | 20% | | | ———————– | | | | ———————– | | | | — | | +————————-+————————-+————————-+ | Catwoman | ———————– | 20% | | | ———————– | | | | ———————– | | | | — | | +————————-+————————-+————————-+


Click here to take the “Which Superhero are you?” quiz…

I’ve never really known much about the Green Lantern. Maybe I should do some reading. They’re all great characters though, so I’m pleased that I’m a bit of this group. It could have been worse too: I coulda’ got Robin.

Gmail Easter Egg

Ok, originally I thought this was just a goofy co-incidence.

Amusing Gmail 'spam' news
clippings

SPAM Recipies!

Gmail’s spam mailbox has spam recipes up the top when you have web clips enabled! I thought it might be just their advertising seeping into inappropriate areas, but now I think they’re actually having a little joke about spam!

Games and the Meaning of the Universe

Ever heard of a Game called Whizz Ball? There was a game that I played on my Commodore 64 that was frickin’ awesome called Wizball - the game I am talking about isn’t that game. This game is kind of like that old ‘Mouse Trap’ game where you build a complicated mechanism to get a ball from a starting point to an end goal. But this is a ‘kids’ game that has been commandeered by a lot of much older people who have used the game’s inbuilt level editor to make a whole bunch of extra levels. Levels that they subsequently label ‘very hard’. That is to say, levels for kids are few and far between. When I started, I picked out a few easy and medium levels, and found the ones I tried to be fairly simple - a matter of finding pieces that fit the holes on the game board. A few of the harder levels got me thinking beyond this simple matching game. I found I had to start at the end point and kind of work backwards towards the beginning, working out which piece would take my ball to the previous piece I laid.

A combination of these approaches worked until I tried a level that was labelled ‘very hard’. Every tactic I had broke down. I tried every piece I could think of in every conceivable spot that would advance my ball to where I wanted it to go, and failed miserably. I even used the game’s little ‘hint’ feature to start having my pieces automatically laid, but the pieces it laid made no sense. Once I succumbed to my curiosity and watched the computer solve it, I could see how it worked.

The trick is that every piece has certain rules governing the way it works, but every piece also has rules governing what happens to the ball if a piece is laid incorrectly. Normally these negative rules make the ball do undesirable things leading to failure, such as flinging off the board, or bouncing back the wrong way. The author of this particular puzzle had used these negative rules to actually advance the ball instead, making solving the puzzle reliant on knowing the negative behaviours of each individual piece as well as the correct behaviour. At the time I was very annoyed, and cursed the author for their fiendish ways.

Then I was driving in my car. Not straight away, as my life is not edited for brevity like an episode of ‘24’. Anyway, driving along it occurred to me (I cannot remember the chain of thought) that life is rather like that puzzle. My puny brain is always trying to determine the logical outcome of events/thoughts/interactions based on ‘if this, then that’ reasoning. For example my thinking often goes:

The bible says that the world was created in six days. Currently accepted scientific thought says that it took millions of years. If these two ideas are mutually exclusive, then one must be wrong. If the bible is wrong on this matter, how much of the bible can be believed? Where does the cut-off lie - somewhere around Deuteronomy? And if the bible is correct, what are the implications for science? Did God create the universe in six days already looking really old?

Can you follow what I mean about ‘if this, then that’ reasoning? As with the game, I can’t help but look at the pieces I’m given and say, ‘If I put that piece there, then I must put the next piece here.’ What my short experience with this game has got me wondering is: are there facts (pieces) in life that still work when they look broken? That is, if another smarter person were to observe something about the earth that seems to work one way or prove one thing, could they also see how it might be used another way to prove another thing?

I’ll be honest. In my musings, the smarter person is God. Could an infinitely smart God create a world that seems wacky from our view, but makes perfect sense to Him? Apologists and theologians would say yes absolutely, and I’m not going to argue one way or another. I mean only to point out that in a silly computer game with limited rules, there are ways that a designer can bend the rules to make something seemingly broken work beautifully in the end. How much more so could God create a world full of contradictions and inconsistencies that actually makes sense in the end?

That’s some what ifs yeah? Now I’m gonna flip it around, cause I can’t leave a post sounding like I’ve actually sorted out what I think.

The game also got me thinking about evolution. Current creationist and intelligent design arguments go that there are some things in life that are too complex to have sprung up by chance. These things must (the argument goes) have been designed, ‘cause their individual parts are useless - only the whole has a point.

What the game kind of helps me understand is how complex things might evolve. Some game parts can be used in ways that they weren’t intended, shoehorned into different roles. Perhaps (perhaps nothing, this is the theory as I understand it) some organisms started with one role, and by chance were grabbed and used by other organisms. This chance happening benefited both organisms, and over time they both lost the other functions that they once performed, settling into their new roles. Overly simplistic explanation - yes, useful explanation - yes.

OK. I’m sure there are many reasons why both applications of this one example are flawed. However, it helps me understand some very complicated ideas, and perhaps it can help others as well. Let me know if it’s useful for you.

Yay, Coolest Feeling Ever!

I got my first comment today by a non-friend non-family member. Can’t tell if it’s just spam or not though, and I’ll delete it soon (partly cause Mil’s not happy with it).

It got me checking my site statistics though, and I actually get visitors! It’s a very good feeling for someone who thought he’d never be read. Ever.

People have visited from the Dilbert Blog, where I’ve commented a couple of times, and from Quick Online Tips. Hello people from there! The bulk of my outside traffic is from search engines (Google particularly), and some pretty weird search terms.

‘Josh Nunn’ is the top Google spot, and I’m not sure who’s been looking for me that way (hello Dad?) or if they’ve been googling their own name like I do from time to time - Hello all Josh (or Joshua) Nunn’s of the world. Whoever you are leave comments, as I love knowing that I’m not the only person reading my thoughts.

This site is about tenth on Google for ‘The Streets of Ashkelon’, the short story that prompted my last entry, and a long ramble about God.

I was hit a lot by people looking for info about Google’s error message, which seems to be a bit more talked about than it was a month ago.

I also can’t spell earthquake (or eath-quake as I have spelt it in the past) and have been visited by another such spelling disabled buddy from Google.

Lastly, someone searched for ‘josh wee’.
What?
What?
Why?
Huh?

Josh Wee. A band perhaps, or a brand of deodorant? But I’m first on Google for THAT particular phrase… yay…

So that’s my day made. I feel so happy.

But please, if you’re going to proposition me, don’t do it on my publicly accessible web site.

Web Crazies

Why are websites by crazy people so damn ugly? So many websites about conspiracies and aliens are just shockingly ugly to look at. Like 2012 Unlimited, or the previously mentioned David Icke. I couldn’t find it, but there is another website that watches the movements of the Lizard Men… Damn appalling website design.

Maybe these people aren’t very good at graphic design. Personally, I understand (templates for me baby), but why not just rip off someone else’s design like the rest of the Internet world? It’s not helping you seem believable when your site looks worse than sites I created in 1995. Use some CSS, ditch that appalling repeating background squiggle. Stop listing your content centred down the screen in bright orange fonts. And please stop turning whole paragraphs into links!

Look, it’s hard enough to be taken seriously these days, when anyone can publish their opinions about any old crap, but to throw away what tiny amount of credibility you have for the sake of keeping a few animated GIFs is suicide.

Please, hire a designer. Take a class. Read a book. Look at other websites. Make your websites prettier… Or I won’t read them any more.

Faith v Religion

This is the station that my train-of-thought has taken me. Join me here and I will fill you in on where I’ve been:

Firstly, I read a short story by science fiction author Harry Harrison. Some of the best science fiction will provoke discussion, and this story certainly provoked me to discussion (with myself). In ‘The Streets of Ashkelon’, an alien race (of the noble savage type) is visited by a Priest and a Trader (just a regular guy). The end result of the story is that in trying to understand what the Priest is teaching, the natives sin - spoiling their natural ‘purity’.

Now the argument of the aliens is that belief in God needs proof. Proof He exists, that He cares, that He is watching. And the priest gives the regular arguments that tend to be given by fictional characters in these situations. That “creation is proof” but that “belief needs no proof - if you have faith”. These arguments are not the point of this post. Better and smarter people whom I admire have argued both sides for longer than I have lived.

What got me thinking though was the insistence of the aliens that they needed proof. For many years I didn’t think I needed proof, for much the same simple reasons that the Priest gave. And for years I had the conflicting idea that I had the proof I needed anyway if anyone should ask - creation. The reason that this idea conflicts is that the proof was really for me. I never felt comfortable with blind faith - although the idea that anything but blind faith produces a sort of logical loop never occurred to me. That is, the two statements cancel each other out: by saying that ‘Creation is proof’, but that ‘Faith shouldn’t need proof’ you are fudging things a little.

Maybe to my credit, I was always looking for that one good moment that could finally give me ‘proof’ that God existed that I could share with the outside world. That it never really came is the reason I have so much trouble with religion now. See, I think I would like some proof after all. Faith isn’t enough to keep me going. I know this puts me back into my logical loop, but frankly I don’t know what else there is. Anyone that says they have pure faith is

  1. a better person than I; or

  2. lying; (assign to yourself as appropriate).

Everyone else that has faith but is willing to admit that they also have their own personal ‘proof’ can join me here in the loop. That my proof evaporates quicker under my own doubts is my own problem - congratulations that yours is stronger.

Now we are getting closer to the starting point of this post. Until now my parent’s, friends, and church’s proof was enough for me. Sharing someone else’s proof kind of helped in dealing with the loop for a while, as my faith was based on a watered down proof that I got elsewhere - making my faith seem to me a stronger faith ( stated-faith minus proof-needed equals actual faith ?). Anyway, now that my faith demands proof, I’m waiting for the sign from God. What this story made me realise is why I can no longer accept other people’s proof.

When other people tell me that this miracle occurred, or that that amazing thing happened I can’t help but be sceptical any more. There are so many people willing to tell you that they have the proof, but no way of knowing who can be trusted. I could trust Joe Regularguy, because he has a website that tells me that Jesus’ face appeared in a bar-stool. But then I might also have to seriously consider David Icke’s theories about shape-shifting lizard men (who knows?!). So the Internet and other popular media might be a little unreliable.

I could trust my family. I could trust my wife. But let me ask you - if the person you trust most in the world began talking about things you couldn’t believe in would you? Even though you trust them and love them? I know that if Mil declared one day that she had been following her horoscope for a month, and every day it came true - I still couldn’t believe it, and why should I trust her more about one set of proofs than another? In truth, she would never do this - part of why I trust her judgement - but honestly, I’m uncertain that I can accept any proof (of God) that I cannot claim to have witnessed myself.

So from this long thought-train I established some definitions. Now these are only my thoughts for today, so if you disagree, don’t berate me for being more than a fool - I’m still learning. I would define faith the same as the bible does - ‘being sure of things hoped for, and being certain of things unseen.’ I would then define religion as ‘those things that are done to prove that faith is not misplaced.’ Maybe this is simplifying things, but think about it. All the rituals of religion couldn’t possibly be done for God’s benefit - and it says as much in the bible. Romans 4:3 ‘What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”’ All our rituals would mean little to God - what he seems to want is belief or faith. It must be man that needs rituals, to remind and to guide. We must need religion to keep giving us the proof we need, when we run out of our own.

I hope God can understand that a little extra proof could help, and if He never gives it, at least understand those of us who can’t dredge it up ourselves any more.

Happy New Year

Hope you all had a great 2005. I had an average year, with some really great things, like being given a job at a great place I love to work, and some not so great things. At Christmas lunch with the family I was made to score my year, and I gave it a P1 (pass).

Rules if you want to grade your year:

  • no separate grades for areas of your life. Must be one overall grade.

  • no fluffing about.

Mil gave hers a pass (P2). No one Failed their year this year, which is a good sign. I’ve noticed that people who travelled this year gave their years High Credits and Distinctions. Must do that myself some day.

Here’s to an even better 2006 all round.

Weddings

I’m between Wedding and Reception for my best friends Anna and Andrew, the most excellentest people I know. They matched each other up there at the front of the Chapel, and I don’t just mean that one wore black and the other wore white. I mean that they look good together. They really are both terrific, and couldn’t be more perfect for each other. I wish them both the best. And I hope they make it through the rest of the day. Yahoo tells me its a top of 33˚C today and the abc LIES and tells me 24˚C, and frankly, I’m not inclined to believe anyone who says it’s less than 37… So yeah they would be hot. And I’m looking forward to the reception. Who doesn’t love a reception?

My wife and I have been waiting for these two to get married since about a week after they started dating, and most of the time we keep forgetting they aren’t. So I’m not sure how much will change… for us (I’m hoping things might be slightly different for them!)

So whoever you are reading this, charge a glass and join me in a cyber-toast to the coolest couple in the world, Anna and Andrew!

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