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Bill, it seems more likely than not that there are other intelligent beings living on other planets. If there are, I would be very interested in just spending a whole lot of time listening to them and learning everything I can about them: how they think, how their world works, how they cope with problems. It stands to reason that they would have every bit as much of a message from God for us, as we would for them.
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Just a reminder -- tonight at 7 on channel 19.1, is the last of the Nova three-part series on Becoming Human.
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Will, it's not just Atheists and "allies" (whatever you mean by that) who are excited about the God gene. I still recall, a while back, hearing a preacher enthusing over how scientists have now discovered a God-center in our brains. Preachers get pretty excited about science when they think it proves something in their theology. And who wouldn't? Are you saying you're not excited, Will? All I can say is, that's just too bad for you. Learning is exciting, whenever you decide you're ready to jump in there. Cole, I LOVED that video about the compassionate leopard seal. I plan to show it to my family later, and I hope everyone here will take a moment to watch it. If predators are willing to look out for other predators -- then by gum we humans can do a better job of looking out for one another!
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Bill, when considering the need for us to avoid "trash talk" about others whose beliefs we don't understand, another childhood memory came to me. My dad had parked somewhere he shouldn't downtown, or maybe he didn't put enough money in the meter -- and the car got towed. So we had to drive through a "really bad neighborhood" to get to the the tow-lot and pick it up. Before setting out, my parents made sure all our car door were locked and the windows were rolled up tight. I found myself fascinated, and as we got to the "really bad neighborhood" I eagerly scanned the dark streets for a look at these wild, evil people who maybe were going to leap on our car and try to get to us. I finally got a glimpse of something ... a little black boy standing in the lighted doorway of a house, with his grandmother standing behind him. I said, "Mother these people aren't bad! They have grandmothers, just like we do!" And she explained how most of the people living there were really good people, but some criminals lived there, too. And maybe she or my dad said something about how the criminals could get away with more there, because of there not being as much money to pay the police, or maybe that was another conversation. Anyhow, it all seems to come back to not shutting our children off from the world. The more kids grow up learning that most people in every religious or ethnic group are good, caring, honest people, the less propensity they will feel to trash any group. And Cole said something once about eating one another's food, too. That's always a great place to start!
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A couple of times here, someone has questioned my wisdom in taking my children to kcfreethinking events. And I've said before, and will say again, we have NEVER encountered any unpleasantness at any of these gatherings. My husband and oldest daughter had a great time at their movie night at Black Dog this past Saturday. And there were some other kids there this time, too! About Daniel Dennett, he seems to be in favor of parents continuing to share their religious beliefs with their children, so long as it's not a belief-system that promotes hate or intolerance, and so long as it doesn't involve shutting children off from information about the world. I think he made one more point ... But I am paraphrasing from memory here, because I finished "Breaking the Spell" and returned the book to Cole. Maybe Cole can help me with my accuracy re: Dennett's views on this (it's in the last chapter, under the section "What shall we tell the children?"). I strongly favor children getting to learn about all of the world's religions and their histories, and I definitely think this should be covered in schools. I'm just not sure how you'd "make sure" that homeschooling kids were getting access to the same kinds of information, without increasing governmental surveilance of homeschooling families, which would be an awful thing to do. As I've shared before, I really like the freedoms we homeschoolers currently enjoy here in Missouri. For my part, my children's education is possibly even more liberal and tolerant of diversity than the one they'd be getting in some public schools. And I know some other homeschooling families who are just as consientious about facilitating their children's access to information. And none of us want increased government regulation.
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Bill, one thing that rainbows symbolize to me, is God's faithfulness in sending splashes of joy and color into our lives, even at times when we are dealing with some really gray and grueling circumstances. I still remember when we took a trip to California when I was 8, and one time we walked across the border into Mexico. A little girl and a woman came up to to us entreating us about something in Spanish, they seemed really upset, and my parents shepherded us past them, and when we got into a restaurant my mother explained that they were really poor and were asking for money, but she was afraid if my dad had pulled out his wallet, a man would have jumped out from nowhere and robbed him. I just sat there crying, my mom even ordered Cokes for us which we usually weren't allowed to have, to cheer me up. And I just sat there thinking I couldn't enjoy it with those hungry people out there, and I honestly didn't think I could ever feel happy again. But then I looked around and saw other peole laughing and having a good time, even though there were hungry people outside -- so I realized that I would be happy again, too. And then I went ahead and enjoyed my Coke. I think God knows we can't bear up under endless sadness. And he gives us each what we need to smile again and move forward. But at the same time, He keeps reminding us that there's suffering out there that we can do something about.
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(Continued) I've been thinking about how "Happy Feet" ties in with Nicholas Wade's article, "The Evolution of the God Gene" (which Bill links to in today's post). The proponents of the "old-time religion" in the movie, feel a strong compulsion to stifle the very uniqueness that ultimately saves the Penguins from starvation. Preacher Penguin was clearly wrong in his theory that Mumble's uniqueness was making the Penguin God angry. But does Preacher's error prove that there is no Mighty Quinn? Or could Mighty Quinn have actually sent Mumble as the answer to their prayers for provision? Mumble is kind of like the chief corner stone that the builders stumble over and/or don't have any use for. When he was an egg his father dropped him. He was late to hatch, and then when he did hatch he had the weird thing going on with his feet. And then he couldn't sing. He was the complete antithesis to a Messiah bursting with potential. And yet he was exactly what the other Penguins needed. Jesus shook up the old world views, and keeps shaking things up. Scientific discoveries keep our minds in continual overhaul. But getting a bigger world view doesn't mean we have to lose our connection to God and love! Let's keep learning, keep expanding, and keep loving and we will be all right.
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Has anyone seen the animated children's movie "Happy Feet"? It's about a bunch of penguins who worship and pray to "the mighty Guinn" -- the great Penguin in the sky who they believe provides them with all the fish they need. Then one penguin is born who messes with the natural order. Penguins are "supposed" to all have a song -- but Mumble doesn't have a song, and in fact CAN'T sing: he has a dance instead. The preacher penguin feels that Mumble's dancing feet will bring all kinds of devastation and must be suppressed, and ultimately even attributes the decline in fish to Mumble's dancing and how he is drawing the other young penguins to join him in the fun. Mumble tries to alert everyone to what he's discovered through an unintentional excursion he made away from the group: the fish are being taken by "aliens" (humans). Preacher refuses to open his mind because these "aliens" don't fit with his world view. He insists that he is right, and the Mighty Guinn is punishing them for Mumble's unorthodox behavior. He sends Mumble away, and Mumble decides to confront the "aliens" and appeal to their better side so they'll stop taking the fish. He ends up being placed in a zoo, and tries really hard to talk to all the "aliens" about the fish-problem. But they don't understand and he finally loses his voice and gives up. But one day a girl's tapping on the glass motivates him to start dancing. Which attracts a lot of attention, and the humans end up releasing him with a tracking device. They thus discover this whole group of penguins whose survival is being threatened by their fishing practices. (Continued)
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(Continued) But of course pluralism is not a new ideal. While looking at a Wikipedia article to learn more about it, I saw a reference to Federalist Paper #10, in which James Madison talked about the problem of having a truly free society, without having that society ripped apart by faction. Madison saw that the freedom for people to think differently and form diverse opinions, could without adequate safeguards result in the destruction of those selfsame freedoms, because a society splintered into various competing factions wouldn't have the strength or cohesiveness to stand up to an outside force that came to conquer and force its oppressive government on our people. Thus to retain our freedom to disagree, we must safeguard ourselves against the destructiveness of faction. So our founding fathers devised some very wise methods for decentralizing power (and preventing mob rule), while at the same time maintaining a strong enough federation that we could withstand outside threats. And our nation is now more diverse than ever before -- but I also think we have more pluralistic people than ever before. I now see why Dennett in "Breaking the Spell" talks about the need for people to pledge their primary allegiance to upholding freedom for ALL (I think "pluralism" is another way to say "freedom for all"). And the more aware I become of how God created, and loves, every single people group in this world, the more I realize that embracing pluralism is truly embracing God. We love Christ through loving people.
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From yesterday -- Goldstein Crew Member, I'm puzzled that you'd think Daniel Dennett would disapprove of children learning about all the different faiths, when most Atheists seem to strongly support the importance of children getting to do exactly that. By the way, I was rather shocked to go to that link you gave, and see Goldstein's really insulting comments about Bill and this blog. What has Bill ever done to you guys? Bill, what Eboo Patel said about thinking in terms of whether people are for pluralism or extremism makes a lot of sense to me, because I think it's easier to relate to and work with non-Christian pluralists, than with Christian extremists -- especially since most Christian extremists probably wouldn't even receive me as one of their fellow-believers anyhow. Ray Suarez, in his book "The Old Neighborhood: What We Lost in the Great Suburban Migration, 1966-1999," said that the basis for cohesiveness in the old urban neighborhoods, was ethnic and religious homogenicity. People felt they could trust their neighbors because they looked, behaved, and thought like they did. With increased diversity came increased mistrust, because fewer and fewer people still feel that they really know and understand their neighbors. If we want to weave strong and cohesive neighborhoods today, we need a new common denominator. And that common denominator is pluralism. If I know that my neighbor believes (as I do) that there is something wonderful about diverse people coming together for friendship, mutual support, and problem-solving -- then I can trust my neighbor regardless of differences between our appearances and our spirituality. (Continued)
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Thank you, Bill, for providing the link to Nicholas Wade's article, "The Evolution of the God Gene." I agree with Wade that the findings don't prove or disprove anything about the actual existence of God. To me, looking at these things as a believer in God, is like thinking about how we perceived our parents when we were children, compared with how we perceive them now that we're adults. Or, in another sense, it's like God within Mary and Mary within God. Mary depending on Christ for her life and salvation, and Christ depending on Mary for His human existence and the means to fulfill his plan of salvation. (Incidentally, this also applies to one of kcfreethinker's comments from yesterday: how can God be misogynistic when a human woman's DNA is inextricably-interwoven into Who He Is?). The truth is like a fractal: basic interacting patterns (of interactions) repeated over and over ad infinitum. There's something there for a child to grasp -- but the bigger we grow the bigger Truth gets. To someone who's lost the child's-eye view, but hasn't yet grown into their second childhood, it looks like there's nothing there, like they've grown out of the fractal, or the need for relationship with God -- But once we re-learn our need for connectedness, the pattern becomes increasingly real, though so complex that we never feel we've got it "down pat." But the more we live in relationship, the less need we feel for pat answers.
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Hey, Dolores, when you quoted me today, I think it was probably accidental, but you added some stuff in that was not me but was actually Just Thinking. Just to clarify -- I was the one talking about indeterminism, and Just Thinking was the one talking about the Atheists here on this blog. Cole, when you make pronouncements about what you think most Christians on this site really believe, this is no different from Just Thinking's pronouncements about how he thinks the Atheists here don't believe humans have any choice about anything. Or Will's or Adam's continued pronouncements that they are sure I don't believe there's any such thing as truth. It's just so patronizing. I wish you'd quit (and them too). And as to whether it feels good to take Holy Communion: It's a connection, it's a relationship. I think most of the time it feels good -- but that's not what it's all about. It's kind of like your love for your family: most of the time I am sure you have fun with your family, but I imagine that sometimes, as with everyone, there are those crappy days where you got together and it wasn't all that fun. But you'd never consider stopping the relationship, just because sometimes it doesn't feel good. Also, you don't care if other people think you are crazy for your devotion to your kids and grandkids. You love them and you're going to be there for them ... you're a part of each other and that's what it's all about.
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P.S. My husband and our oldest are looking forward to Saturday's (tonight's) movie night at 7PM at Black Dog -- "The BBC Presents: The Planets, Vol. 2: Giants and Moon Giants ..." Discussion should be especially interesting, given the recent discovery of water/life on the moon! Here is the link to the K.C.Freethinkers calendar, where I got the quote about the movie (plus it tells more about the movie). I think Iggy likes for people to let him know if you are coming (either by telling him here or through email), so they can make sure of enough chairs and stuff. http://www.kcfreethinkers.org/calendar.htm
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http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-sci-moon14-2009nov14,0,2036369.story "The moon is alive"!!!! Water has been discovered in a crater, which means it may be possible for astronauts to be able to sustain life there. Apparently you can use H20 to get the oxygen you need to breathe. You can also fuel rockets. So the moon may end up working as a "low-gravity launch pad" for astronauts and their families to explore more distant places. The interdisciplinary-dialog between diverse scientists, is much like the conversation had by our nation's founding fathers: both conversations have resulted in living proof that listening to other points of view, and working together, is the way to learn, and to solve problems and get things done. I am developing more respect than ever, for those people (like you, Bill) who've striven throughout their lives to keep conversations going ... to help people avoid the pitfalls of getting gravely-offended and buried under (or behind) irreconcilable differences that keep them apart, and keep them from engaging in more than surface communication. Thank you, Bill, for your willingness to keep plugging away and pouring your heart into this blog. There are many great conversations to be had here. Thank you for continuing to open this forum to us, and I pray that we'll use the space you offer to us wisely.
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http://www.adeadlymisunderstanding.com/ (Continued) Before I forget, I thought it was fitting to again share the above link to the site that tells about Mark D. Siljander's book, "A Deadly Misunderstanding: A Congressman's Quest To Bridge the Muslim-Christian Divide." I'll confess I haven't read it yet -- I've just been so inspired by hearing his story summarized by someone who HAS read it. Here is a quote from the above site -- "Mr. Siljander builds a compelling case that any faithful reading of religion and its teachings should serve to unite, not divide." Apparently, from what my friend has shared, he started out with the mindset that his purpose was to convert Muslims to Christianity. But God showed him this was a deadly misunderstanding. It sounds like the interfaith conversation is "being had" in all kinds of arenas all over the country and all over the world ... and all over the internet. Just as I believe our founding fathers sensed that they were onto something totally world-changing, so we need to NOT underestimate the power of getting together with wildly-diverse people, and listening and sharing of ourselves, and eating and working toghether to better the world ... Talk is never really just talk.
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Bill, you've got me so excited about the Interfaith Youth Alliance that I just went to their site and emailed Sheila Sonnenschein about my 9-year-old, to see if she thinks I should wait until she's-high-school aged to get involved, or possibly get involved now ... I'm not sure if it's all just focused on teens or if there are some gatherings and projects for younger children too. We'll see, and of course it will also depend on my daughter's interest-level. It sounds like Patel's point about the ethic of cooperation/pluralism echoes the person you quoted the other day about NOT identifying terrorists as part of any religious group ... or as you summarize Patel saying, "The extremists of all traditions belong to one tradition, the tradition of extremism." I also love that he brought in our founding fathers with their "sense of religious diversity" and their understanding of "the power of interfaith cooperation." As Barak Obama wrote in "Audacity of Hope" about our democracy: there is a conversation to be had -- and actually I believe there are many conversations to be had. Diverse men came together and listened and brainstormed -- and now we have our Constitution and our wonderfully diverse democracy, and our continued evolution into an increasingly-freer and more caring society. We now have greater ease of communication, and more rapid and far-reaching interchange of ideas than was ever before possible. (Continued)
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In my post where I said that "This really goes hand-in-hand with how our nation was founded" -- I was talking about the whole idea that my freedom stops at the point where it interferes with your freedom. I can't remember who originally said this -- but it seems to be the basic premise of our Constitution. So, whereas an irrational person might take off with some religious or philosophical idea, and see it as a mandate or license to harm others -- rational people think, think, think and discuss, discuss, discuss. Just as our founding fathers deliberated as they laid the framework for our constitution and our nation. I agree with President Obama that our Constitution really is a living document. That's the wonder of what happens when a bunch of diverse people are truly willing to put their heads together and listen to one another. The ideals expressed and documented from these many hours of open-minded dialog, have taken on a life of their own, such that they are no longer limited by the personal prejudices of the imperfect humans who got the freedom ball rolling, so to speak. Many of the early fathers seemed to think the words "all men are created equal" only applied to male Caucasians -- but as we've grown as people, we've come to see how all racism, slavery, and every form of human subjugation is totally against the spirit of our Constitution. This is why I agree with President Obama that strict constructionism is NOT the best way to interpret the Constitution. Strict constructionism seems to be where judges and legislators try to get inside the minds of the founding fathers, and interpret the words of the Constitution according to the founding father's original vision. This seems very limiting to me, and very much like deifying and worshipping these men who were obviously brilliant, but were nevertheless just fallible humans like you and me.
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Speaking of argument -- Just Thinking, can you please explain your assertion that the Atheists here all claim science is totally able to predict everything that will happen, and every choice that every human will ever make? I'm just wondering, because this seems to be the premise of your whole current argument about free will -- and yet I haven't been hearing any of the Atheists here saying that we're all just "wind-up machines with no choices." I feel like you may be attacking a straw man. Regarding determinism, there've been a few other times on this blog that I've tried to open up discussion about the ideas of (Agnostic) philosopher of science, the late Karl Popper, and (Atheist) physcicist David Deutsch. They are both INdeterminists (well, Popper is deceased). You are right, Just Thinking, that indeterminism is a real part of science. I'd love for everyone to get really interested in this, enough to read up on it and discuss it on a deeper level. Anyone game?
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Will, I was very sad to learn about the link between the Columbine murders and Darwinism. Just as people of faith should take a stand to condemn the acts of those claiming to be killing for Christ or Whoever they claim to worship -- so people who accept Evolutionary theory should take a stand to condemn the acts of those claiming to be weeding out undesirables in the name of Social Darwinism, or whatever philosophy they claim to be following. Since I am a Christian who also accepts Evolutionary theory, this gives me a dual responsibility. I can see how an irrational person might see Darwinism as a mandate or license to do whatever the hell they want to people -- but of course rational people quickly realize that this attitude totally conflicts not just with morality, but even with basic self-interest. Because if it's okay for ME to weed out everyone I think society would be better off without -- what's to stop YOU from putting the gun to MY head if you happen to think my absence would be an improvement? This really goes hand-in-hand with how our nation was founded. I'm still reading Barak Obama's "Audacity of Hope" -- and I love how he describes "our democracy not as a house to be built, but as a conversation to be had." (p.92) Further down on the same page, he descibes our Constitutional framework's role as that of organizing "the way by which we argue about our future." I'm realizing how much we see things in common, because I think respectful, open-minded dialog is a huge key for us being able to work out all kinds of problems, as well as to pursue the truth in our own lives. On page 95 of "Audacity," Obama quotes Madison as describing the process of forming our Constitution as one where "no man felt himself obliged to retain his opinions any longer than he was satisfied of their propriety and truth, and was open to the force of argument."
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Bill, when I die I want my body to go back into the earth. The only way I know to do this is to be cremated, since, as Lynne pointed out a while back, you are no longer allowed the option of having your body placed into direct contact with the earth. Since I think cremation services usually have to be performed within a day or two of the death, this probably means that only those closest to me will see my body before it's cremated, and then maybe those who couldn't come for that but want to commemorate me in some way, can come to the ceremony where my ashes are sprinkled, hopefully in our garden. I sure thought Israel Kamakawiwo'Ole's memorial service was beautiful, his ashes were scattered into the Pacific. I've given the link here before, to him singing his "Over the Rainbow/Wonderful World Medley. I just love that song so I thought I'd give the link here again. When you see the guitar standing alone, that's to signify his death, and then it goes right into his memorial service at Makua Beach. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OltAGuuru7Q
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Lynne, I'm glad you brought up the connection between extremism and authoritarianism. I agree that we all need to be more introspective and challenge whatever ideas are handed down to us. About the omniscience of God -- I'd always seen that as compatible with free will because just because God knows what choice I'm gong to make, that doesn't take away my freedom to make it. Just Thinking, I'm not sure what you are getting at in your free will argument? Are you saying that people have to believe in the supernatural in order to believe in their own ability to make choices? To me it seems perfectly "natural" for rational beings to make choices. And just because science can predict that a mother is most likely going to defend her child from an attacker -- that doesn't take away the need for the mother to choose to do it. Of course a great deal of this is instinctual -- but among rational humans, sometimes there are harms that aren't as visibally evident. I.e., instead of a bear trying to rip a child from limb to limb, maybe some adult will just come up and start stroking a child's hair and ignore the child when she says "stop that." Will the mother speak up for her child or be ingratiating to the adult instead? These kinds of choices sometimes go beyond instinct because they're not so life and death, but a child who's routinely subjected to having her bodily-integrity invaded against her will can grow up lacking confidence in her ability to speak up for herself. Which can often cause great harm in the long run. But whichever way the mother chooses, I wouldn't say her choice is outside the realm of nature. Would you?
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Bill, thanks for sharing the theological reasoning as to why communion is absolutely not the same thing as cannibalism. I'd never studied this particular reasoning before -- but to me if someone's saying communion is cannibalism, then they'd have to be saying it about breastfeeding, too, since as I've already said the baby feeds on a living substance created from the mother's flesh and blood. And if breastfeeding is against Scripture, we'd seriously have to wonder if the evolution of mammals was outside the will of God. Huh? And then God came in the form of a human baby and breastfed, yet the Bible said He lived His life without sin -- so from this the logical conclusiion must be that cannibalism is something other than breastfeeding, and since Jesus said This is my body, take and eat, this is my blood, take and drink -- then obviously the Eucharist is more comparable to breastfeeding than it is to cannibalism. Since He offered up His body as a mother offers her baby her breast. I still think the main difference is cannibalism results in death, but Jesus conquered death and is alive for ever and ever. Trapblock, thank you for sharing about Luther yesterday. I will have to get a hold of a Catholic Bible. And, Cole, I did answer your question the other day to the best of my ability.
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Bill, thank you for sharing those Requiem clips. I am sorry we missed that wonderful event. I will try to watch the whole Rutter Requiem later today. It means a lot to me to be getting to know a faith tradition where people pray for the repose of the dead. I am also glad that Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral has this covenantal relationship with the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception -- and that their leaders are friendly enough to make jokes back and forth. It is wonderful to me to be able to pray for my grandparents (even the ones I've never met), my aunts and uncles, and especially my neice who died (five months into her first pregnancy, though she lost her son just before she died) a few months before I became pregnant with my youngest. The last time I saw my neice was at the family Christmas gathering which was in her home. My previous Christian instruction had been along the lines of "There is absolutely no point in praying for the dead ... their choice about Jesus in this life has completely sealed their fates." The Anglican/Episcopalian and Catholic way (and I think also the Orthodox and Lutheran way) seem much more compatible with a loving God who I believe created humans to be lifelong learners. Since he has given us eternal life, I can't see any reason why He would abruptly end our potential for growth and change at the moment of our physical death. I can't imagine any enjoyment in an eternity where I can't keep learning and growing, though I imagine I'll gain a new perspective on what that means, and on what enjoyment is, in eternity, too.
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Bill, it's frustrating when, as Sister Berta says, people/lesgislators "don't like (the) mothers" of poor children. Some people claim to have a heart for disadvantaged children -- but if they can't love the parents, then that means they won't be loving the children, either, in another 10 or 20 years when they are parents. How can you say you love someone, and then just stop because they're not little and cute anymore? I understand that the older people get, the more challenging it can be to love them -- but come on, people: we have to learn -- since we all have that little child inside us. And sometimes it takes kids a while, even most of a lifetime, to know how to receive the love and help that's offered. From yesterday -- thank you, Just Thinking, for sharing the connection between communion and David pouring out the water, because to drink it would be drinking the blood of the men who had risked their lives to obtain it for him, David. I had never made that connection before. Also from yesterday -- Will, I will keep believing in love regardless of how my spiritual beliefs get challenged, because without love I just see no purpose for living. But as I've said, I do not believe it's possible to disprove the existence of God, and I simply don't think I'm capable of not believing in God, He is so real to me -- I was just trying to answer Cole's question hypothetically, sorry if something in my answer offended you.
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P.S. In my post about communion I was not intending to bully anyone into partaking of this sacrament, or saying that everyone should think like me, though I think I accidentally came across that way. I was actually encouraging empathy for the Christian perspective, though I was doing it in a rather unempathetic way, as I now realize.
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