Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Altruism turns me on

In a number of previous conversations, I've tried to explain why I think that people who decide to do "the right thing" aren't particularly praiseworthy.

Nice people do the right thing because they feel like it. They do not, in some spiritual sense, muster up The Will To Do Good and apply it to their situation. Instead, their values make them feel like doing the right thing instead of pursuing some other option.

Recent neuroscience seems to support this opinion. If you have a minute, read this article at the Washington Post.
The scientists stared at each other. Grafman was thinking, "Whoa -- wait a minute!"

The results were showing that when the volunteers placed the interests of others before their own, the generosity activated a primitive part of the brain that usually lights up in response to food or sex. Altruism, the experiment suggested, was not a superior moral faculty that suppresses basic selfish urges but rather was basic to the brain, hard-wired and pleasurable.
(h/t GKB.)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Speaking of perplexed...

Congressional Democrats have recently decided to use the power of the purse a little more gently, offering the President funding to continue his war without schedules, timetables or whatever you want to call them.

Obviously, the war in Iraq has been an ill-begotten, poorly-planned, poorly executed fiasco. But given that that's the case, here are two questions for you smart people:

1. Is the situation in Iraq "improving", "degrading", or "staying the same", and on what do you base this estimation?

2. What should the U.S. do next in Iraq, and why?

Please source your responses as well as possible. And Elrod, if you're reading, I'm especially interested in your opinion.

'Cause I'm perplexed.

Update: And in case you weren't going to respond because all you had to say was BS, you're also allowed to simply link to people who seem to know what they're talking about. Ready, go.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Climate Change

You may find this article from NewScientist interesting:

Climate change: A guide for the perplexed

Friday, May 04, 2007

A great bible class idea

Well, Richard Beck is laying out some principles for the class he is teaching at church, so this seems like a good time to share my latest Bible class idea. I guess you could use it for a sermon, too, but you should probably send the kids out of the auditorium/sanctuary first.

The idea revolves around a trend in recent horror films ... Hostel, Saw, Saw II, Saw III, and so forth. I haven't seen any of these films myself, but people who have seen them tell me that they represent a move from "horror film" to "torture film". In the past, it might have been difficult to get ahold of graphic depictions of torture, but I'm thinking that these videos should be pretty easy to find. (Though I guess if you're not up for the horror films, you could just make do with the fingernail-ripping scene from Syriana.)

So you get together some of the most gruesome scenes in this video, and you splice them together, back to back. When your class arrives, you sit them all down in front of a TV, turn down the lights, and play your video.

Be sure to set it to loop. Over and over and over.

When people start leaving, mock them. Tell them that it's embarrassing that they can't endure an hour of watching suffering and torture, when God intends to watch people to suffer in hell for eternity.

If anyone is still hanging around, read them the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16.

For the one or two people who haven't left because you cleverly tied them to their chairs while the lights were off, read them the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15. Be sure they know it's in Luke 15, which comes right before Luke 16.

Then go find a new church. Hopefully, these people won't need you to help them work out a new doctrine of hell.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Why we shouldn't talk about crucifixion with children

The pair of images is from a series of monsters drawn by children and continued by artists. h/t colby.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I have an idea

People seem to react poorly when I call God "she", so I've been trying to think up something a little less jarring.

If I can't call God "she", and it doesn't make much sense to call Jesus "she", maybe I can call the holy spirit "she" and not get kicked out of church.

Who's with me?