I pray for you !

When someone is sick or suffering, if a Christian says privately to them, “I’m praying for you.” or “I’ll pray for you.” I can see how that can be comforting. But saying it out loud in front of others or saying it to a nonbeliever is strange. Worse, is saying it to someone who is not hurting, especially when they say it in front of others, or say it because they mean they are praying for the poor nonbeliever.

This is obvious holiness signaling: “Look how righteous I am.” “Look how holy I am.” “Look how kind and caring I am”.

Such talk makes me think those Christians have never read these supposed sayings of Jesus in Matthew 6: 1 – 7

1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.


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Why God Changes

A God Anyone Can Believe In

If someone tells you that “God” was the force, event or power that started the whole universe, then it is very reasonable to say, “Well sure, if that is your definition of your word “god”, then I have to say such a thing may indeed have existed or even still exists. The universe may just be eternal or have a cause, but either way, it is reasonable to be agnostic (not taking a stance on believing or not believing) on that sort of “god”.

Theism’s Spiced Up God

Theist have stories to support a god who acts in history. Their god is usually all-loving, all-powerful, all-merciful and cares for humans (and especially believers) more anyone else. Believers believe praying to this god will not only grant them a better afterlife than others, but also make their own lives better and better for those they pray for.

We have no evidence of such a god, of course, and indeed, we have lots of counter evidence. But this doesn’t stop theists who are told to have faith and not doubt at a fundamental level.

When a Theist God Changes

This post was inspired because I just watched a TED video by Paul Stone Williams who left conservative megachurch as pastor and CEO of church planting organization who then came out as trans and (expectedly) lost everything. She recovered and her preacher son also converted his view on trans individuals, and you can be sure their god changed. Now they would not say that, but instead say they started to more deeply understand god himself. But what happened is that they stayed in the god business (too big of a loss to totally drop out) but tweeked their product — their god  — for a new, receptive market. (see Huffington Post)

Was this a good change? Certainly, and as long as they continue to do good in the world, great!

Bottom line

There is no god like the one theists imagine, and so the only way for that imaginary god to change is for the theist to just imagine up a different god. Theists will say that they have come to understand their god more accurately, but they are only telling you that they have decided to change the fiction in their head.

Caveat #1: That is not to say that imaginary fictions can not make us better people, of course. See my posts on your modular god.

Caveat #2: What people really believe is actually and fortunately very different from what they confess to believe. See my post on “Most Christians Don’t Believe“.


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Wind Chill & Religion

Temperatures are plummeting today in the Northwest USA due a polar vortex, but listening to the news, it is difficult to tell what the actual temperature is.

The actual temperature and the perceived temperature can be very different in any season. For instance, on a blistery summer day, nothing is more cooling than a nice breeze even though the actual temperature is unchanged, mainly because the blowing pulls perspiration off us more quickly, thus cooling our skin.  Air can also seem much hotter than its actual temperature in high humidity.

Similar temperature perceptions can happen in the winter, with low humidity, windy air will steal warmth from your skin much faster than cold still hair. Thus, weather folks have created the “wind chill factor” to describe temperatures as colder than they are — because for the average person, what matters is how uncomfortable or dangerous that temperature may be, given the other factors.

Just as temperatures needs to be evaluated in combination with humidity and wind so as to see the temperature’s real impact on people, a religion should be evaluated in terms of its historical setting, demographics, economics and much more. For instance, there are types of Islam in Turkey and Indonesia that are radically different from those in the Middle East and they all still embrace the same holy book — the Quran. Evaluating Islam in terms of their holy book only is a deep mistake because religion is always in context and its impact differs depending on context.

Christianity and Judaism are the same, evaluating only in terms of their questionable myths and odd beliefs will not tell you about their impact on those who embrace them. Think about the varieties of believers all over the world and over the centuries. This is because religion, like temperatures, needs wind chill factors to help us understand their real impact.


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Myths’ Functions: Fascism & Religion


Let’s start with a myth common to both Judaism and Christianity: The Garden of Eden. The garden was an ideal world where everything was perfect until a serpent tempts Eve who then tempts her man to eat a fruit forbidden by God and after their disobedience everything then falls apart.

How do we look at myths? Religious folks fall across a spectrum of belief about their myths: at one end are those who believe that their myths are totally true and probably shouldn’t ever be called “myths” at all, but at the other end are liberal believers of that faith that feel the myths are total fiction but still useful in their faith for inspiration and/or bonding identity.

But as I said, there is a spectrum, with most believers not really thinking about the issue much because they know it serves as inspiration and identity, so they don’t really care about the fiction vs. non-fiction issue.

My belief, of course, is that these are fictional tales. And I actually think that the people who originally told these stories intended them to be fiction and not taken literal but over time, many began to take them as literal.

I am reading “How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them” (2018) by Jason Stanley, Yale Philosophy professor. Stanley has told me something surprising about fascist mythology that I never knew before and which addresses the paragraphs above about religious myths.

Fascist Myths

The definition of ‘Fascism/Fascist” is very controversial as it is certainly a word used almost always with huge political bias. And indeed, as I read Stanley, I can feel that already. But I think we can safely ignore that and still have some of his observations be very helpful for this story.

Stanley contends that

“Fascist politics invokes a pure mythic past tragically destroyed. Depending on how the nation is defined, the mythic past may be religiously pure, racially pure, culturally pure, or all of the above.”

The Garden of Eden myth, like fascist and other political myths, falsely paints their past as pure and better. Americans live with their own myths of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Manifest Destiny and much much more. But this is not the fascinating information — what is fascinating is that apparently some politicians intend their stories to be fictional myths.

Mussolini, in a 1922 speech at the Fascist Congress in Naples said about the political myth he created:

“We have created our myth. The myth is a faith, a passion. It is not necessary for it to be a reality …. Our myth is the nation, our myth is the greatness of the nation! And to this myth, this greatness, which we want to translate into a total reality, we subordinate everything.”

Mussolini confesses that his myth is contrived, intentionally fictional. And it appears that confessions of intentionally fabricating fiction in politics is not as rare as I imagined.

Stanley again tells us:

“The leading Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg, editor of the prominent Nazi newspaper the Völkischer Beobachter, writes in 1924, ‘the understanding of the respect for our own mythological past and our own history will form the first condition for more firmly anchoring the coming generation in the soil of Europe’s original homeland.'”

Stanley points out that those originally spinning these myths care not about the factual historical accuracy but instead about how they can serve the future.

Interestingly, Stanley then tells a story how those fascist regimes later insist on the literal truth of their myths and punish those who disbelieve.


Judeo-Christian myths like The Garden of Eden, Abraham, Moses and more are also deliberate fabrication meant as inspiration for the future.  Both politician and religious folks create intentional fictions (myths) which then slowly morphing into doctrinal truths that are not meant to be questioned. The process is universal.


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Sonnet Variants

sonnet check list

Sonnets were first clearly recorded by Lentini in the 1200s — “sonnet” originally simply meant a little sound or a little song. Poets have since, modified his style and called them “sonnets” and the variants are many.  But variations can go so far that eventually a sonnet is not a sonnet.   When learning forms, it is best to define the form so that beginners can discipline themselves with a form.  Free play can then come later.  Above I put what most consider the minimum standards of a sonnet.

Your thoughts are appreciated.



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Details vs Principle: Language and Religion

Learning accelerates when, instead of learning detail after detail, we learn the principles that generate the details. With principles, we can anticipate details.

The Oxford English Dictionary lists about 600,000 words, depending how your count. High School students, on average, know about 50,000 words and the average college graduate knows about 70,000. Of the words in English 70% have Greek or Latin roots, while those roots inform >90% of English scientific words. So, the fast way to learn English vocabulary is to group words by their Greek or Latin roots and thus be able to recognize new words without ever actually studying them.

And so with religion. We can spend our time learning all the details of a religions and then religion after religion do the same. Or, we can start understanding the simple principles of human mind and social behavior that generate religions (their theologies, rituals and associations) and no longer need to worry about the far-flung claims of each religion but instead, see how they truly operate.

Thus learning how religions create authority, enforce behavior and form new ones to overthrow the authorities they dislike, will save us from learning too many unnecessary details.

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Sects & Dialects: False Classifications

Dialects are simply languages which aren’t rubber-stamped as being “official” and thus not given artificial power and authority. It is not that the dialects are inferior, corrupt, poorly functional or lacking in other ways to the supposed official language, this is merely a political classification, not linguistic. So, Mandarin Chinese is the official dialect of China, Yue, Min, Hakka are also dialects — and they are all languages. Likewise, what is called English dialects in England such as Yorkshire, Cockney, Kentish and many more are as much as a language as “standard” English of BBC.

We can see the words “cult”, “heresy”, “unorthodox” and “sect” used the same way to minimize other religions. Here again, this is a political classification between religions fighting each other, it is not a religious study definition. They are all religions.

This is part of my series Comparing Language & Religion. See also: The Primitive Bias (where “primitive” is used falsely)

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