Archive for December, 2012


Merry Christmas!

Just wanted to wish everyone a merry Christmas! I had all these fun ideas involving more elaborate measures, but then, you know, things happened, and elaborate didn’t. 🙂 No worries – it’s still a merry Christmas!

If you’re traveling, go safely.

If you’re cooking, try not to burn anything.

If you get next year’s winner at the ugly Christmas sweater party, be grateful!

Whatever you do, have a great day!

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Glorious!

It rained this morning, 37 F degrees outside and everything wet, gray, chilly… In a word, it was dismal. I don’t enjoy weather like that. It can be depressing and make my whole life appear wet, gray, and chilly. I had to go see my doctor again – discouraging – about my back because SAIF – aggravating – said so. It just wasn’t a good feeling. Dismal, yuck.

Thank goodness life is not really like that. On the way back home, it was no longer raining. There was sun and blue skies. Clouds were still there, sure, and some of them were even gray, but there were light gray ones and dark gray ones and some so light they looked more white than gray. Some even borrowed a halo from the sun as they passed beneath it and the earth. All of this beauty encased the earth below, the upright trees winter-stripped, the evergreens proudly dark, the hills bedecked with vibrantly green grass. Everything glistened under that blue and white and gray sky as the water left by this morning’s rain caught and amplified the sunlight. Glorious! It was marvelously glorious!

And life is far more like that than dismal. God has given us many good things.

Why Do We Need Religion?

“So,” a friend wondered, “why do we need religion?” Great question! Really, that’s a great question, especially considering that she believes that she doesn’t need it. She’s not religious. She doesn’t believe in God, either, but does say that there are things out that defy explanation. That’s my paraphrase, and I may be misrepresenting her views somewhat. Don’t quote me! I know I’m not quoting her!

Anyway, it’s a great question. We’d been talking about all kinds of things – politics, religion, counseling, abuse, life, death – and she popped that one into the mix. For her, she wasn’t raised with much religion, and I’d guess that plays a part in shaping her opinion. She also mentioned religion has sometimes very negative effects. That’s true. Even if a religion claims to be good and beneficial, it’s not always angelic, saintlike, and completely positive. The Spanish Inquisition, Catholic priests molesting children left in their care, and the Salem witch trials spring immediately to mind. History is awash with examples of religions that, either thanks to core beliefs, misbeliefs, or being warped to serve dark lusts, cause harm to those in its vicinity.

The harm caused by religion need not even be that dramatic. Harm can be something as simple as burdensome guilt.

What good does religion do? Why do we need it? I think religion, particularly Christianity, because that’s the one I know best, can be very good for people. Let me share a few thoughts.

  • It has helped keep people healthy. I could be wrong about this, but I’d guess religion has been around longer than science has. In the Old Testament, lots of religious laws were given to the people of Israel. Those poor, overworked Jews weren’t allowed to do things like poop in their camps. They had to go outside and make sure it was buried because God thought it “indecent.” Any more, most people would call that sanitation and be completely grossed out by a pile of human excrement collecting flies within a campsite (“ew! ew! bad smell! disease! WTB toilet!”), but humanity hasn’t always had flush toilets and knowledge of disease vectors. Jews weren’t allowed to eat pork or shellfish, meat that sometimes came with illness causing friends. I could talk about it more, but I don’t want to take that much space. This article, Bible Health Laws, from Tomorrow’s World, focuses on the health benefits of ancient Judaism. Knock yourself out!
  • Religion ought to be helping to meet social need. James tells us that worthwhile religion involves activities like taking care of distressed widows and orphans.
  • For myself, I learned a lot about how to become the kind of person I wanted to be. My dad wasn’t exactly the greatest example of virtue, integrity, or how to treat others. No father is. They’re all heroes, I think, to their children and are emulated by their children. Then the children get a little older, realize that Dad does have some flaws, and must grow beyond that childhood ambition of being just like Dad. There are all sorts of ways a kid can go. I picked the Bible, God, and Christianity, and I learned a lot about how to treat myself and others better. Take a look at Matthew 18. It promotes humility, advocates good treatment of children, gives advice about how to handle conflict or sin, and advises mercy and forgiveness. I Corinthians 13 talks about the necessity of love and explains what love is actually supposed to be. Proverbs is chock full of pithy nuggets promoting wisdom, illustrating folly, and other valuable insights. Reading through Psalms and even some of the OT prophets like Isaiah or Jeremiah helped me to reach my heart and feel the emotions I was packing around with me.

In some ways, religion has been great for me. I’m sure there are lots of other reasons why it can be beneficial, but I’m out of time and brainpower today. How about you? Got any ideas?