The Tragedy of One

“We must never make the problem of pain worse than it is by vague talk about the ‘unimaginable sum of human misery…’ There is no such thing as a sum of suffering, for no one suffers it. When we have reached the maximum that a single person can suffer, we have, no doubt, reached something very horrible, but we have reached all the suffering there ever can be in the universe. The addition of a million fellow-sufferers adds no more pain.”         -C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”        -Matthew 2:18 (ESV)

In the aftermath of the tragic events at Pulse in Orlando, there has been something of an undercurrent of “dismay” at the labeling of the event as the “deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.” The majority of the debate has centered around the meaning of the term, “mass shooting.” For example, by one common definition, there have been “136 mass shootings in the first 164 days of this year.” By another count, there have been “178… since the early 1900’s.” Neither of these, however, include Wounded Knee, Rosewood, or St. Valentine’s, not to mention non-gun-related crimes or serial killers (does the temporal spacing lessen the degree?). How are we to determine which is/are worse?

Worst Mass Shootings

An example of a meme that has been circulating (I think the word “lies” in unnecessarily contentious)

The answer truly is: all of them. Continue reading

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Breadth of Life

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – 19th-century philosopher John Stuart Mill (para.) 

“I think it is one of the tragedies of our nation, one of the shameful tragedies, that eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours – if not the most segregated hour – in Christian America.” – Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr

As I sat in church this past Easter Sunday, I suddenly found part of the answer to a question I’ve had for a while: “How could so many educated, reasonable, and professing Christians boldly support a candidate who seems to embody anything but the values they espouse?” (While the problem certainly isn’t limited to Christians, it is in direct contrast to the heart of the faith.) Something simply hadn’t tied together, but came clear now. I had always assumed it was about what (who?) people were against, but I believe it is really what (and certainly who) people are actually for.

Continue reading

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Common Complaints and Rebuttals, Part V – “What about those who haven’t heard?”

“I read about an Eskimo hunter who asked the local missionary priest, ‘If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?’ ‘No,’ said the priest, ‘not if you did not know.’ ‘Then why,’ asked the Eskimo earnestly, ‘did you tell me?’” – Annie Dillard, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

This complaint refers to the justice of a God who would punish people for not believing in a God they’ve never heard about. The Bible echoes the sentiment in Paul’s plaintive preaching: “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” (Rom. 10:14), and speaks often about the importance of evangelizing, most notably in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20). The Christian idea of God demands that He is perfectly just, so the idea that people would be condemned without having a chance to believe seems at odds with His professed character. Continue reading

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The Myth of Kinship

“We imply, and often believe, that habitual vices are exceptional single acts, and make the opposite mistake about our virtues – like the bad tennis player who calls his normal form his ‘bad days’ and mistakes his rare successes for his normal.” — C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

For most of the first twenty-five years of my life, I had a singularly undistinguished love life. I consistently found myself imagining a life with this one or that one, most of whom barely knew I existed. The thought often loitered in my mind: “If she only really got to know me, she’d realize that I’m perfect for her.” I would imagine the most improbable situations that would cause them to spend time with me, at the end of which they couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with my charm. Patrick Dempsey in Can’t Buy Me Love was my regular inspiration.


Maybe if she was in danger, and I rescued her…

I have often felt something similar about various celebrities: from an article, an interview or a performance, I decide that “we would totally be friends.” Continue reading

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Common Complaints and Rebuttals, Part IV – Child Abuse Through Religious Indoctrination

“…[I]sn’t it always a form of child abuse to label children as possessors of beliefs that they are too young to have thought about?”

mindcontrol2There is an entire chapter in Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion dealing with the notion of religious instruction as child abuse, of which the quote above concludes the introduction. Like so many complaints, it has made its way virtually unquestioned into the atheist dogma, and I regularly encounter it in its various guises. Dawkins at this point is referring to labeling children “Christian,” “Muslim,” etc. when they have made no personal decision to be included in that group. However, the gist of the chapter – and the arguments so readily offered by others – is that children should be taught how to think, rather than what to think. While this sounds noble and progressive at first blush, I will counter it at two points: appeals to authority and the nature of evangelism. Continue reading

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Common Complaints and Rebuttals, Part III – Delusions and the Experience of God

 “Religious experiences can be easily explained in the same way as delusions, dreams, and hallucinogenic responses to drug use.”

HallucinationThere are many statements that we only hear in books and anecdotes about conversations. They tend to become something of folklore or urban legend, where everyone can describe the dialogue, but I’m not sure that anyone was ever actually involved in it. Until I saw this one for myself, I always placed it in that category of exaggerated fiction. In a social media “conversation,” someone talked about how a personal experience of the presence of God ratified her belief, and the antagonist responded with the quote above. Aside from being specifically designed to discount the testimony and attack the rationality of someone who is relating a very personal aspect of her faith, it is an absurd and illogical retort. Continue reading

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Why There Almost Certainly is a God

Phil: I’m a god.”
Rita: You’re God?”
Phil: I’m a god. I’m not the God… I don’t think.“

Groundhog Day


I believe in God. I believe in the God: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Benjamin. I believe in the God of Christianity, the Trinitarian God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

I also believe in a god: the transcendent cause of everything. It is a winding road from god to God, but like Inigo Montoya, I’ll go back to the beginning. After all, the beginning is precisely where science points to god. Really.

Big-Bang-TheoryYou see, all the information we have indicates that the Universe had a beginning. Whether they believe that was 10,000 years ago or 13.8 billion, the vast majority of people agree. Math, physics, cosmology, metaphysics and logic all dictate this same conclusion, and the main holdouts tend to be those who desire to avoid the conclusions that a “beginning” requires. These are the conclusions that I will present here. Continue reading

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