February 20, 2018

When Christians Change Churches

Some Christians remain in the same town in which they were born for their entire lives and attend the same church as adults they attended as children. Although this happens, I'd guess it is unlikely to be the norm. These days, people often move around a bit. For churchgoing Christians, this would mean that it is probably not uncommon to attend at least a few different churches throughout the course of their lives. But setting all of that aside, I'd like to address something I don't think I've ever written about before: Christians changing churches not because they move or a church closes but because they become dissatisfied with some aspect of their church.

I've known plenty of Christians who have done this. Over time, they grew dissatisfied with some aspect of their church and switched to a different church. In many cases, the source of their dissatisfaction was with the clergy. Maybe the church got a new pastor, and they didn't like what he or she brings. Several years ago, my parents told me that several long-time congregants left the church they used to force me to attend when a female minister was hired. In other cases, members of a church may tire of a long-time pastor who they perceive as increasingly out-of-touch with a changing world. Or maybe church leadership made a controversial decision unrelated to clergy with which they disagree. These things sometimes lead them to switch churches.

February 18, 2018

My Guns vs. Their Children

shooting range
I think it is probably safe to assume that almost all parents love their own children. There are exceptions, of course. Few would deny that there are some truly awful parents out there, but I think we can agree that the overwhelming majority of parents are concerned about the welfare of their own children. They would not want anything horrible to happen to their children.

How do most parents and non-parents feel about other people's children? Many have great concern, compassion, and empathy. Most would express agreement with the abstract notion that children, including other people's children, are a vital aspect of our future. They should be protected, and we should all be concerned about their welfare. That said, I'd guess that most people have less concern for other people's children than they might for their own.

Among the many challenges facing those in the U.S. who would like to see additional restrictions on gun ownership is the degree to which people value their guns vs. the degree to which they value other people's children. When push comes to shove, plenty of people likely value their own access to and enjoyment of guns more than they value the lives of other people's children.

February 17, 2018

The Two Prongs of Atheism

no religion
When addressing the subject of why some atheists actively oppose religious faith, I've often referred to there being "two primary prongs of the atheist's objection to religious belief" (here's an example where I did so) For the sake of brevity, I often gloss over some important details. In this post, I'd like to discuss these two prongs of atheism a bit more thoroughly.

At the outset, it is necessary for me to clarify that what I am about to discuss is not universally accepted among atheists. Because atheism is nothing more than the lack of theistic belief (i.e., an atheist is one who does not answer in the affirmative to the question of whether any sort of god or gods exist), the two prongs I will discuss are commonly held but not universal positions of the atheist. Atheists have many reasons for not accepting theism, and my selection of the two I will discuss here should not be mistaken as a suggestion that they are universal. I also acknowledge that an argument could be made that these prongs are more relevant to anti-theism than they are to atheism.

February 16, 2018

Trying Something Besides Thoughts and Prayers to Reduce Gun Violence

It isn't like we haven't tried "thoughts and prayers" before. We've tried them after every school shooting, terrorist attack, or natural disaster. It is clear that many prefer this method to taking action. I suppose that is to be expected. Taking meaningful action would be much more difficult, expensive, and unpopular in some circles. "Thoughts and prayers" cost nothing and require little effort. Unfortunately, they also don't solve any of the problems we say we'd like to solve. Perhaps it is time to abandon them and try something else.

But what if we try something else, and it doesn't help either? Whatever else we might try could fail. But it could also help at least to some degree, and we already know that "thoughts and prayers" are ineffective. Trying something else at least has a chance of helping, and this is more than we can say for "thoughts and prayers."

In the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, I was happy to see a few people on Twitter suggesting some of the other things we might try. It was a welcome change from the outrage and scripted narratives that made up most of what I saw. I've included an example below.

February 15, 2018

I Found God at the Gas Station

gas station
I was running a little late for work when I noticed that my gas tank was getting close to empty. Stopping to fill up would make me later than I already was but not nearly as late as running out of gas. I stopped at the same station I usually use. A tanker truck was there and seemed to be in the midst of refilling the station's underground tank. No other cars were around, so I wondered if they had to shut the pumps off temporarily while they refilled the tanks. There was no evidence of this, so I proceeded.

Everything was normal, and the pump took my credit card without any trouble. As I reached for the nozzle, I noticed that something was hanging from the handle. I figured it might be a notice of inspection or something along those lines, but I took a closer look when the nozzle didn't seem to operate properly. This was not an inspection notice or an out-of-order sign; it was a small brochure advertising a local Southern Baptist church. It had been inserted into the handle of the nozzle so that it had to be removed in order for the nozzle to function. The brochure prominently displayed an invitation to "salvation" and the church's address on the cover.