3:51 PM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|

Chilling Thought



It occurred to me about ten minutes ago:

If the gun found in the car does not match the bullets that have been fired, we have been played for fools and the people of Washington D. C. are in grave danger.

I don't think it is likely. I do think it is possible.

We've all pretty much been assuming we have now caught the perpetrators. If these two were a plant, it was a very sophisticated, very organized operation.

The shooting in Alabama helps to assuage my fears somewhat. But without the gun, we only have the flimsiest circumstantial evidence.

Think about all that implies.
|W|P|83482898|W|P||W|P|12:34 PM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|

In Transit



I'm heading back home after a long deployment, so I will be incommunicado for a few days. And after I get back, I may be busy. Send me emails of stuff you would like me to make a fool of myself on.

Coming up:

Is it Copyright Infringement if I Sing the Song in My Head?
Women and Caution
|W|P|83474155|W|P||W|P|12:33 PM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|

A New Kind of Criminal, a New Kind of War



Well, it looks like they caught the sniper. So many guesses, so much speculation.

It was really hard to classify this criminal. It didn’t have the hallmarks of a mass murderer or a serial killer. There were many indications it wasn’t terrorism, or at least Big Name terrorism.

I don’t think we have the whole story yet at all. They may end up being tied to Al Qaida. Deeper investigation may reveal a serial killer-type mental state. You could simply call it Timothy McVeigh domestic terrorism.

I think we might be seeing something new.

Have you heard the term Asymmetrical Warfare? It is a term that encompasses any style of attack by a weaker combatant that exploits vulnerabilities in a powerful opponent. Guerilla warfare is one type, in that the smaller force hits from ambush, then runs before the power of the larger force can be brought to bear. Terrorism is another type, in that a small, lightly-armed force cannot seriously threaten a full army, so it attacks a relatively undefended civilian populace instead. Computer hacking is another style, because a small, trained force with a few computers and a modem can bring down a large, expensive network from anywhere in the world.

In this case, it wasn’t exactly terrorism, because terrorism generally uses a large, flashy attack, killing as many people as possible and then taking credit, in order to bring about a political result. Often the dedication of the individuals involved goes so far as to make escape or survival optional. In fact, these were some of the reasons many bloggers argued it was a nutcase with a gun, rather than terrorism. But the city was still effectively terrified.

But this was a military operation. In retrospect, it seems even more clear, since the sniper appears to have been an Army veteran. Judging from the sniper’s success in withdrawing unnoticed, it is certain the area was reconnoitered, escape routes planned, objectives defined, and probably even a GO/NOGO point (a last second moment to decide to cancel the mission based on circumstances).

And two men successfully held an entire city under siege.

They also gave a primer to anyone else how to do the same. They had the police force jumping at their bidding. Without the fingerprints on the tarot card, we might still be wondering who was involved.

We are going to see more of this, in different ways. They used some of our freedoms against us, but I’m not going to rail for any restrictions. No, this represents a fundamental shift in the way war will be waged against us. They cannot challenge our military. Large-scale terrorism is now getting large-scale reprisals. But there are gaps in our society, gaps that can be exploited. Immigration, telephone privacy, people’s inherent respect for privacy, widespread personal transportation and well-developed infrastructure, and the increasingly impersonal nature of interaction all provide opportunities for the enemy. Not to mention a near-phobia of profiling.

I don’t think there is anything we can do about it. I do think Americans would rather risk their lives than their freedoms. To close these loopholes would render America unrecognizable. Unfortunately, that means all civilians just got drafted into the military. We are now all targets, each and every one of us.
|W|P|83474081|W|P||W|P|12:29 PM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|

Rape



Society is betraying our girls.

It is betraying them when Hollywood tells our boys as graphically as possible that their desire for sex should be fulfilled as quickly as possible.

It is betraying them when ‘romance’ stories, novels, and movies tell our girls they should say ‘No’ while encouraging persistence by the male.

It is betraying them in magazines like Tiger Beat and 17 when they encourage adolescent girls to obsess about boys in a manner ignoring the possibility of sex.

It is betraying them by not developing any reliable methods for determining if a rape occurred without implying the girl is lying.

Our society is persisting in raising young men who have no empathy toward the young women they want to love. It is persisting in raising young women who do not understand why or how they should protect themselves from a young man they have decided to trust.

It is betraying both by equating desire with love.

It is betraying both by proselytizing sex as the natural expression of love, regardless of commitment or circumstance.


More to follow…..
|W|P|83419033|W|P||W|P|6:06 AM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|

Addiction



I really like Chik-Fil-ATM sandwhiches. I wouldn't call it an addiction, exactly. But that's not why I asked you all here.

When I was a little child, my mom would comb my hair or wipe my nose. It HURT!!! Bumps on the head hurt. Little scrapes were agony. I almost couldn't stand the excruciating pain of an antibiotic being sprayed on the wound.

If a smoker starts when s/he is young, like 12 or 13, they are far less likely to be able to quit than if they start when 19 or 20.

My friends who started having sex the youngest were the ones with the most sexual partners. This is anecdotal, of course, but those who started before 15 have had more than 30, whereas those who waited until after 18 have had less than 10. This is males we're talking about here.

(Aside: for females, it seems like the greatest discriminator in the number of partners is their initial experience with sex. Those with positive experiences have fewer total partners, those with negative initial experiences have more. But then, I haven't talked to as many girls about the subject).

From this information, I have deduced that everything is more intense for the young. Emotions are certainly more intense. Sensations are more intense. Addictions are more intense. What is the real crime in pedophilia? Everyone agrees it is wrong (well, everyone but the Man-Boy Love Association...or whatever it is called. A splinter gay rights group that advocates, well, it's in their title), but what is actually wrong about it? Simple: you are forcing sensations on a child the child has no business experiencing, and those sensations invariably affect the child negatively. I shall not list the various problems likely to develop in the victims' later life, because it would probably violate politically correct sensibilities, but there are a staggering number of sexual problems that result. Including sexually abusing children themselves.

Alcohol does seem to be the exception, and I'm not sure why. It seems like the people more likely to get crazy with alcohol in college are those who were denied access when younger and not given a good example of responsible use. To my knowledge, the Europeans do not have the problems with excessive consumption among young adults that we have here. If anyone has more correct information on that specific issue, I'd appreciate it.

But for everything else, it seems prudent to delay exposure to substances that are easily addictive. I've tried to delay my children's exposure to sweets and fats as much as possible, with mixed results. There were times when eating out they wouldn't eat anything but chicken nuggets and french fries, so I have given in. (It's not always easy to be a parent). But they are far less addicted to sweets and fats then many other kids their age. They do eat the dinner we give them every night without clamoring for hot dogs, pizza, and pop, and we have little problems with pickiness about food.

That's one of the reasons I advocate waiting for marriage to experience sex for the first time. That's why I advocate waiting until at least 28 for marriage. I did wait until my wedding night in both my marriages. Obviously, waiting doesn't ensure a successful marriage, huh? I still feel it was better. In fact, I attribute the failure of my first marriage to the fact that we didn't wait until 28, but were in our very early 20s when we married.

Do I need to expand on this, or have I written enough?
|W|P|83402554|W|P||W|P|4:54 AM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|

Opting Out



...which is not to say I think capitalism should be abolished. It has proven a fine system for allowing rapid upward and downward mobility, is amazingly classless in its pure form (write a letter to your Senator or Representative about the protectionist practices afforded special interests), and has proven the most effective system for improving the lives of the most number of people.

But it also encourages greed and consumption. I don't like this. It has no incentive for compassion nor long-term planning. I don't like this, either.

I certainly don't favor broad or extensive socialism. In some cases it is much better and easier to spread risks across the whole population. Insurance does a good job at this without socialization, yet HMOs can't seem to...I'm still looking for a better solution for that. I would also be more willing to support socialist programs if they didn't take on a life of their own. In fact, the less effective the program, the more it increases, sucking in money and energy and talent and spitting out broken lives.

I also don't support the sustainability movement. Nothing is more revealing than the last conference, in which several million dollars were spent for exotic luxury foods while untold thousands of people in the same country were dying of starvation. In any case, the sustainability movement has the same stated goals as the Kyoto Treaty: ineffective programs that won't achieve their purported aims while advancing a socialist agenda of hamstringing the more effective actors in the global economy to the dubious advantage of the less effective actors. Blah. No good. Not gonna do it.
|W|P|83400312|W|P||W|P|7:59 AM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|

Consumption



I was watching TV about a year ago (yes, it's been nearly that long since I watched any TV), and a commercial came on. The ad was introducing a new product: small cheesecake bites with chocolate or strawberry topping. The commercial showed hot, liquid chocolate being drizzled across the top, and it looked so good, I told myself I would look for it at the supermarket when we went next. Then I shook my head and wondered what demon had possessed my brain.

I had existed perfectly well without this product. I could go to a restaurant and get cheesecake, or even get a real cheesecake from the freezer section of most upscale supermarkets. Yet I had my appetite sparked by this highly processed and (most likely) inferior product. If I had actually purchased it, I'm sure it would have cost quite a bit more per ounce than a real cheesecake. I certainly didn't need the extra calories.

I was struck by some insight. Nothing special, probably something all of you have already thought of. It just hit me how much of our economy and way of life is based on consumption fuelled by artificial appetite stimulation. This is nothing new, I know. The same things have been said over and over. But despite hearing it multiple times, it never penetrated my skull until that commercial. Maybe some of you need to hear it again, too.

Things have changed so much since I was kid.

Drinks. I remember when they had 10-ounce bottles and 12-ounce cans. That was it for personal consumption. I think I was in High School before they introduced 16-ounce bottles. 20-ounce bottles weren't far behind. No they sell 1-liter bottles, and I haven't seen a 16-ounce in years. At the fast food restaurants, the large used to be 20 ounces, and when you bought one it was probably half ice. Was it 7-11 that led the escalation of drink sizes? Now the smallest cup is at least 16-ounces.

And it seems like no accident that obesity has increased during the same time. If you drink one just extra can of pop each day without any other variation in diet or exercise, you will gain approximately 12 pounds in one year. Good news: if you drink one less can of pop each day, you can lose approximately 12 pounds in one year without having to change your diet or exercise patterns!

But it's not just drinks or food. SUVs are the junk food of the car business. I don't need to tell you all the problems with SUVs, everyone knows already...yet people still buy. For me, the biggest argument to not buy an SUV is simply that you can buy a much nicer, more luxurious car for the same price you spend on an SUV. The For example, the Honda CRV costs more than most Accord packages, but you are only getting Civic-level luxury and options. Why throw that extra money away?

As a nation, our debt now outweighs our savings. We use credit cards for everything, we buy everything on credit. If you finance your car at 8% interest for 5 years, do you realize how much you are losing just to interest? I'm going to let you figure it out...the impact will be much greater for you. Let's just say I waited until I had enough to pay cash for my last brand-new car.

The over-arching message after 9/11 almost seemed to be: keep flying on planes and keep buying stuff! Even though the economy isn't doing that badly, having the stock market in the toilet gives people the perception we are in bad shape. (We are in bad shape, but it's because of high individual debt, not the stock market). If the GDP grows less in 2 quarters, we are considered to be in a recession. Think about that. We still grew, but because it was slower, it's not enough to satisfy the economists. That's like saying if you only put on 2 pounds instead of 3 you did the last two months, you lost weight.

This is one of the problems of capitalism. I wrote the fatal flaw of capitalism was there was no incentive for compassion. Then I wanted to change it to 'no incentive for long-term thinking', but then I realized that every economic system had that same problem. Today I realized that it actually does apply more to capitalism, because the point of capitalism is to create wealth through production, so comsumption must be stimulated as high as possible to sustain production so more people can become wealthy. So long-term thinking/planning isn't as deadly to socialism because the inherent laziness it produces reigns in production by quite a bit. So I'm back to thinking that it is the fatal flaw of capitalism again.

80% of our corn crop goes to feed cows. 90% of our soybean crop. Then they shoot them full of growth hormones and antibiotics as they're growing. This is a problem in the whole meat industry, but it is worse in the beef industry. When water was scarce and Californians were placed on water rationing, they didn't ration water to the cattle industry. You lose topsoil every time you plow and harvest. How much is being lost for the cows? Their manure is rich in nitrogen, which washes into the streams, then into the ocean. Rich in nutrients, it promotes the growth of algae. That provides more food for some fishes, but blocks sunlight, which kills the food sources of other fish, depleting already over-fished waters. Which means there aren't as many mercury- and PCB- poisoned fish for the dolphins and whales to eat, I guess.

This is not to say I advocate or even marginally support the latest sustainability movement. They aren't really about sustainability, they are advocating hampering the US Industrial system with all sorts of restrictions while exempting poor nations of the same restrictions, so that capital will flow to these poorer nations in order to give them the chance to get rich raping and pillaging the environment just like the US did. That's no answer.

I am only responsible for myself. But I'm reducing my demands. At the age of 34, I already have pretty much everything I want. I will need a few new computers in the ensuing decades. I will buy books. I and my family will need clothes. But I won't waste money on brand names. I won't waste money and calories on impulse/convenience food. We won't eat beef. I'm taking up hunting this next year (I need a year to practice with a rifle). We will have a garden again this spring. Our entertainment has always been music and playing together rather than TV or movies or passive numbing of the mind, but I will make sure we continue and expand that approach to life.

I was $15,000 in debt following my first divorce. I was making $1000 a month, and putting $925/month toward my debts. After paying off the smallest (it was about $500, with a monthly payment of about $25, but I paid like $60/month), I still lived on $75/month and just shifted the surplus to my other debts (my housing and food were taken care of, since I had already joined the military at that time). I got some pay raises and ended up being debt free two years later. I don't want to think about how much I lost in interest, but if you do the math, it looks like it might have been in the neighborhood of $7000. I'm not sure, because I did purchase a few plane tickets during that time.

Like I said, we don't go to see movies. The last three movies we saw in the movie theater were Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Phantom Menace, and Titanic. We don't eat out much. My wife is excellent at evaluating fashion. She kind find great stuff looking through clearance racks, envisioning how different clothes will look together and on us; we've never been out of style. We have purchased the bulk of clothes, toys and such for our children through garage sales. You wouldn't believe the number of toys we've purchased that were in unopened boxes for less than 1/10th of the original price.

I don't feel deprived at all. I've had a very fulfilling life with my family already, and my oldest child is just three. I look forward to games of Candyland, then probably Monopoly and Life, and on to Chess, Risk, and Axis & Allies. I can't wait for drama productions, concerts, sports events. I don't think we'll be able to home school, because I do need to work to maintain life, but I don't expect school to challenge my children. We plan on augmenting our children's education with extra projects in the evenings and on weekends. It won't be homework, per se. We're going to do all the fun science projects, read and discuss books together, visit museams and theater.

Along the way, we've achieved true wealth: we are satisfied with what we have. We were comfortable, content with E-5 (sergeant) pay. Becoming an officer increases my pay by a significant amount, and we're pumping all the extra into our house to pay it off within 10 years. When my wife goes back to work within about six months, we'll put her salary into buying her a nice car, our home, vacation fund, and more savings. When I retire from the military in 12 years, my retirement pay will be roughly equivalent to what I was making as an E-5. If we move to China (a possibility; they have better high schools, and we may want to ensure they are fully fluent in Chinese), my retirement pay stretches even further. Who knows what the future will bring? But there is a strong possibility that at age 45, with my oldest child a sophomore in High School, that my wife and will never have to work again. I probably will just to make sure I don't get depressed from inactivity. That may be when I really make a strong push to become a published writer, or maybe a recorded guitarist, who knows?

True wealth is not being addicted to consumption; true wealth is producing something of value. True wealth is not a cash total, and cannot be measured by the size of your house or expense of your SUV.
|W|P|83353574|W|P||W|P|4:04 AM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|

Some of my favorite places



East Rosebud Lake, Montana



This is a stunningly beautiful example of jagged mountain peaks, crystal clear lakes, peaceful alpine valleys, jumbled boulders. It was close enough to where we lived in Montana that we visited often on family camping trips, youth group trips, backpacking, etcetera. I was last there in 1999, when I dragged my 7-months-pregnant wife and my two nephews on the 3 1/2-mile hike (it's a gentle slope) back to Elk Lake. Sitting in a small meadow next to the pristine lake, surrounded by wildflowers, basking in the warm sun but cooled by breezes off the snowfields, my wife turned to me and said, "I want to have more vacations like this." I found out just before we went there that a fire had swept through two years earlier. I had no idea how that would affect the beauty. It did make the walk a little warmer, and the skeletons of burned, dead trees weren't exactly picturesque; but without the trees, the gray granite cliffs rising on both sides of the rushing stream we followed were much more imposing, and we saw waterfalls high up that I had never seen before. The burn scar from the fire stopped about half a mile from Elk Lake, so she was able to see some of the typical mountain forest.

I caught pneumonia there once, when I was 13. We had hiked up the side of the mountain to Mystic Lake, and everything was fine. On the way back down I started feeling unwell. I wanted to get to the base camp as soon as possible, so I just plodded along with an increasing fever without stopping to rest. As a result, I was the first person down. I spent the next 3 days sleeping. Once we got home without any sign of recovery, I was taken to the doctor, and, well, that's about it.

Across the valley was another trail that led to a hanging valley, Slough Lake, and over a ridge to West Rosebud Lake. We backpacked up to the ridge, but instead of going over, we circled around the ridgeline and up to the peak of Tempest Mountain, the second-highest peak in Montana. It's right next to Granite Peak, the highest in the State, but you need climbing gear to get up that one. Three faces of Tempest Mountain are sheer cliffs, overlooking the valley with Elk Lake. From the peak, you were so high the valley floor looked as far away as if you'd been in an airplane. We saw a deer about 15 feet away one night, and mountain goats within 30 yards. No fear of man at all. And you wouldn't believe how clear and distinct the stars are from the top of a mountain 100 miles from the nearest city. The next day we followed a goat path down to another lake that formed the end of the hanging valley we started out from (the outgoing stream fed into Slough Lake). We fished for our dinner (a welcome break from freeze-dried food), and I caught 2 fish in 5 casts before my bobber broke. Everyone in the group had the same type of luck. The fish were absolutely unused to fishermen, apparently. The next day marked our final descent, and we spent most of the day talking about what toppings we wanted on our pizza.

Yellowstone Park, Wyoming (mostly)



Medicine Rocks State Park, Ekalaka, Montana



This may be one of America's best kept secrets. It was a wonderland for adventurous teenagers. I talked my parents into bringing me and my friends there for weekend camping trips five years in a row.
It is a park filled with sandstone hills. The softness of the sandstone results in twisted, extreme formations: cliffs, channels, paths, tunnels. Enough people had visited over the years that handholds and footholds were carved all over. Every hill/stone/formation was a new experience. We must have explored 100 caves, climbed 100 cliffs. It took us nearly three trips to make it up every rock. We risked death I don't know how many times, but it was probably never as bad as we feared it.
The first time we went there, we found a rock we called the castle. It had a maze-like approach to an almost upper deck section. This upper deck had four entrances, and almost a little ledge on two of the entrances. Pine cones were abundant, and it was only a manner of time before we started pine-cone wars. With shirts off, to enhance the punishment of letting yourself get hit. We tried every possible combination, with one person "upstairs" and two people on the ground, two people upstairs with one the ground, switching people out. It provided great entertainment for 14-year-olds for two days.
And when I take my kids, they'll probably yawn and ask me to buy them the latest Zelda cartridge for their NinDreamga Xtreme game system.

Monterey, California



Beijing, China



KoleKole Pass, Oahu, Hawaii



Of all the places I could go on the Hawaiian island of Oahu (the one with Honolulu, Waikiki, and most of the population), my favorite place to go was Kolekole pass. Yep, in the land of some of the best beaches in the world, I liked going to the mountains best.
The mountains were very interesting, because they were quite small, but jagged and craggy enough that my Montana-trained mental perspective assumed they were 30-40 miles away when they are actually a 15-minute bike ride from the main part of the Army base.
The thing I liked best was the coolness and solitude. The moist winds blew through the pass, but the increased altitude caused them to drop most of the moisture as rain on the windward side. This made the area much cooler than the lowlands, and there was a small grove of horsetail fir trees. I would bring my guitar up there and sit and play. The fallen fir needles were soft and comfortable, and the surface stayed dry in light rain. I fell asleep a few times, it was so peaceful. There was another place you could get to by hiking a few hundred more yards, where the trees opened up into a small meadow, almost a miniature plateay. On one side was the hilly, treed approach. The opposite side was a steep hill up to the mounain peak. The other two sides fell away sharply. The soil of volcanic rock and dirt meant there were often strange bald patches, and that area would always erode badly. One of the sides that fell away was like this. So it made almost a stair-step of shelves for about 15 feet before falling away in a cliff. across the small bowl valley below was a sheer cliff that had to be seen to be believed. When I took guests to show them the view, I would run away from them along the meadow, and jump off the edge onto a ledge about three feet below, immediately crouching down. I don't think I made anyone think I was actually plunging to my death, but I sure made a few people nervous!
|W|P|83345792|W|P||W|P|2:05 AM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|

A Clarification on Atheist Faith



A good night's sleep resulted in one of those flashes of understanding: maybe I'm assuming too much.

Andy:
My faith is central to my life. I was atheist for a good 3 years, but what drew me back to faith was a burning desire to have the three basic questions answered: Why are we here (or, where did we come from)? What is the basic nature of Good and Evil? What is my purpose in life?

I consider myself an introspective, thinking person. When I encounter intelligent, thoughtful people, as you obviously are, I assume these questions are important to you as well. I don't understand why any thoughtful, introspective, intelligent person would not care about these questions. Caring about them, I can't understand why a person wouldn't keep asking questions until they came up with some sort of answer (at least to their satisfaction). Science doesn't bother with trying to (and can't) answer these questions, so when I encounter an intelligent person who puts their trust in science, I try to challenge them with these questions.

I have read the arguments for and against the existence of God by most of the main philosophers. The ones who try to disprove God start with the assumption there is no God, and usually make a good argument, often by ignoring or dismissing evidence that weakens their case. The ones who try to prove God start with the assumption there is a God, and usually make a good argument, often by ignoring or dismissing evidence that weakens their case.

The problem with logic is that while a person attempts to break every logical step down into such small steps that there are no leaps of assumption, those leaps will always be there, and it takes someone else to point out those leaps.

So when I break down atheism, I start with what I observe around me and work up, and prove that there must be gods of some sort (or else we are mindless automatons), and that there must be Gods, or else the answers to life, the universe, and everything are overly complicated (remember Occam's razor). Alternatively, when I start with the idea there is no God and work down, I can see no point to life at all. To save space, I sometimes jumped over things I thought were obvious.

What I really want to hear is a logical, coherent argument that despite there being no God, that human life still has value, that good is not arbitrary, that death is not the end. I will certainly challenge many of the logical steps you may put forth, but I won't sit back and snipe at you, I promise. I haven't heard such an argument yet.

Here are the problems I see with atheism:

If there is no God, where does the concept of Good come from? The problems with using Evolutionary Game Theory (EGT) to answer the question are 1) it assumes normative statements in the first place, so while it answers how the normative assumptions are spread, it still doesn't answer from where they came. It only pushes the question back one level, it doesn't answer it. and 2) it assumes hyperrationality, which humans are not. 3) The Problem of Evil is even greater if you assume there is no Powers in the Universe. If Good develops through EGT, it would also eliminate Evil. The duality of man's nature just doesn't make sense without a God of Good. (And again, don't make the Manechean mistake of a God of Evil, either. St. Augustine thoroughly refuted that concept).

If there is no God, what is the purpose of life? Life is not easy, I think everyone can agree. It's a struggle, with some joys. If you do well, the joys outweigh the pain. I guess you could make the argument that all that matters is if you feel satisfied with life, and who cares about anything else? That strikes me as short-sighted, or not intellectually curious at the very least. Don't you care why you are here? Doesn't it matter if there is a purpose to all this? If someone close to you dies, can you just shrug and say, "Oh, well"...? How can you live with the idea that the only reason their death matters is your own grief? If this life is all there is, don't you betray their memory by getting over the loss? That's an honest question, not an insult. For me, if there really is no God, that raises questions that can only be answered by saying that something matters only if you want it to, because without God, life itself is completely arbitrary.

I don't think I could live without having the questions answered as logically and fully as possible. Even if it is a false answer, it is far more comforting than the alternative. I assume that any thoughtful, intelligent person must feel the same way; apparently, that was a false assumption.

So I've tried to understand God. There are two approaches to this as well. You can look at everything that has been said about God (any God you want, but in this case, the Christian God) and try to come to some coherent conclusion based on all the disparate inputs. That strikes me as difficult and inaccurate, because how do you evaluate the source of information? Could the source be a madman, a fool, a manipulator, or just misguided? The result of this is this type of conclusion: God said to stone homosexuals, and I can't agree with that, so this is a false God. That makes sense; I couldn't worship a God who is that apparently self-contradictory. But it ignores whether the source is credible, right? But if the Bible is infallible, then it must be true, which means God is not what He claims to be, which means the Bible is NOT infallible, which means.... You see the conundrum this creates.

The second approach works better for me. Assume there is an ultimate source. Assume there is an ultimate standard. Assume that is who you should serve. Therefore, it should be worth serving. If you read C.S. Lewis and St. Augustine, you find a description of God that is not someone "bound" by laws of morality, or someone who arbitrarily set morality, but someone who IS morality, who embodies them. So when God says He is Love, assume he's telling the truth. Now read the New Testament. Evaluate everything that is said about God and Jesus based on the idea that God IS Love, God IS compassionate, God IS consistent. He may not explain His plan to us full, but assume that He does have an answer to injustices (like infants dying, like someone dying in a society that has never heard of God or Jesus). Setting aside the question of infallibility of the Bible for the moment, evaluate all the sources and see if they fit your assumptions. Personally, I haven't found anything in the New Testament that contradicts these assumptions. That's darn impressive, to have a body of works written over a number of years by a number of authors, yet remain that consistent. The one part that doesn't seem to fit the idea of God = Love is what Paul wrote about women keeping quiet in church....except that Paul prefaces that section by saying it is HIS opinion, not God's Law, and Paul gave his opinion only for reasons of social stability.

It is in the New Testament that the Bible claims to be infallible. I've just discussed (even if you disagree) the reason I'm covinced the New Testament is true. Using the same sort of logic (God simply IS; descriptions are either accurate or inaccurate, but are not God Himself; therefore you evaluate the accuracy by how closely they adhere to the assumption), the Bible then actually IS the true, infallible Word of God. But any one person's interpretation of "true and infallible" may or not be correct. My own answer is that the Bible is true and infallible so far as it is a guide to gain a better knowledge of God. Jesus and the apostles quote the Old Testament as if it were an authority; many people assume that means the Old Testament is also true and infallible. But there are many rules and commands attributed to God that do not fit with a loving God of Compassion. You have several choices in resolving this. You can conclude that it is all inconsistent garbage. You can conclude that God is not actually Good and refuse to be a follower. You can ignore apparent contradictions and assume that there IS an answer that resolves these problems without God being monstrous. You can also assume that if an account contradicts what God says about Himself, maybe it isn't actually God. But if the Bible is infallible, how can it not be God who said/did these things? These are good questions, and I troubled over them for years. For a while I rejected the Old Testament. At that time I probably was more of an "A La Carte" Christian. I kept my faith because the untruths contained in the Old Testament could never be enough to dilute or destroy the clear Truth of the New Testament. But then it occurred to me that the Old Testament is an account of people learning about God. It certainly could be a perfect and infallible account of an imperfect understanding becoming more perfect, could it not? (This gets into the idea that something is "Perfect and Infallible" for its designed purpose: a perfect fork makes a lousy spoon). You can see what almost seems like an evolution of God through the Old Testament. Jesus quotes the prophets, mostly from the later books (where God is most clearly defined), and Paul refers to the Patriarchs for lessons, so we can assume that parts of the OT are infallible. If we Christians are supposed to spend our lives seeking deeper understanding God (which is my assumption), then inaccuracies in descriptions of God could easily be part of His plan, as an example of mistakes people make.

Maybe it means that I still don't actually agree with the idea of the Bible's infallibility. So? My stance is still consistent: God IS. He describes Himself by saying God is Love. Love is pretty easy to understand, as well, but if you are confused, the New Testament describes it more fully. Other Christian Theologians have spent time meditating on God and Love and expanded the idea. But in every case you can take their explanations and compare them with the original Word of God in the New Testament. You TEST every idea based on the New Testament. CS Lewis gives some good explanations of "Love" that are actually selfishness in both "The Screwtape Letters" and "The Great Divorce".

You can denigrate this by calling it "A La Carte" Christianity...but I don't discard anything in the New Testament. I don't discard things I don't like, I discard things that are not consistent with how God describes Himself. It's kind of like that old joke about making a sculpture of an elephant: You just carve away anything that doesn't look like an elephant.

So I've now described my faith from the top down and the bottom up. I've tried to understand atheism from the top down and the bottom up, but keep running up against the same problem: If there is no God, nothing matters, and everything is transitory and illusion. If you can find philosophical comfort in transitory pleasure, more power to you. I can't. If you have another explanation of life without a God still not being arbitrary, if you don't just ignore the most advanced questions of theology, I'd love to hear it.
|W|P|83343448|W|P||W|P|9:14 AM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|

Chinese Pop Music



Back in August of 1998 (the time of my first trip to Beijing), I started listening to Chinese pop music almost exclusively. I get funny looks when I tell people this (…but then, I get funny looks for many things I do and say). I started listening mainly as a way to practice listening and language skills. It expanded my vocabulary, made me more acquainted with several set phrases and figures of speech, and it was a way to practice language without feeling like work. As such, I heartily recommend using music as a way to improve your ability in a foreign language.

But along the way, I discovered the Chinese have a pretty good music industry. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that Taiwan has a pretty good music industry, since the best singers and songwriters are based there. Except that the bulk of the consumers driving the industry live on the Mainland. Whatever. (Cantonese pop (the Hong Kong music industry) isn’t anywhere near as good, in my opinion. It is more established, and so more sophisticated, but it is also much more sterile, soulless, and formulaic)

The Chinese music industry is based more on singers than bands. There are a few artists who write their own music, but they are rare, and most of those who do usually only write 2-3 songs per CD. Videos are much more important in China, because the VCD has been around since 1997. Nearly every song on every CD has a video. There’s one guy who appears on almost everybody’s songs to do the really talented/cool guitar stuff. There’s a whole host of other guys who do either the non-descript, typical guitar noise or if it requires something more jazzy.

The best thing about Chinese music is that each artist has his or her own style, so you can listen to any style you like: light jazz, pop, teenie bopper, boyband, hard rock, heavy metal, R&B, acoustic, alternative, jazz-influenced, everything is always on the charts by the various artists. And since they aren’t writing their own music, one artist’s style can encompass a huge range. I found some sites where I can download Chinese MP3s, and I’ve spent time looking for the “character” songs that are totally unique.

I tried to put in some links to the songs below, but I just realized that they use PHP, the same technology used for comment functionalities, so you can only get to the download links for the song by going through their website. Since all the websites are in Chinese, it would be complicated to try and explain how to do it. If anyone is interested based on the descriptions of these songs, let me know, and I'll give it a try. If not, I don't feel like wasting the time/energy.

This Is



by Shino (Lin Xiaopei)
I simply love this song. It’s a good, alternative-ish song, nothing really special. I love the emotion in it, though. Maybe you have to understand the words, so here is a loose translation:

This is the key, but the door is open.
This is the room, and in it you are embracing her.
This is my heart, I won’t let it feel the pain
This is the dog, licking my hand.
This is you, so sad.
This is she, my best friend.

Bridge:
You were only kissing her, you probably won’t last as a couple.
A kiss can also be just manners, it’s no big deal.

I refuse to let happiness turn to loneliness
Don’t tell me its because you are too sensitive
What is your love worth? Take back your excuses.
I accept that your wanting both me and her is just like every selfish person trying escape loneliness through getting more.
Just go.


She’s got some really good songs, so if you like this, let me know and I’ll add some more of her links.

Mosquito



Lan Xinmei
This is a song that sets up the analogy between a girl’s obsession for a guy and a mosquito trying to get blood. It uses lots of Chinese puns to good use, establishing some nice double entendres that are difficult to translate. Just imagine a hot, sticky evening, just after a rain, with a mosquito buzzing around. I think the feel of the song really captures the mood.

Cat in Spring



Lan Xinmei
Another character piece from the same CD. It’s pretty much another pun, since the title in Chinese implies “A Cat in Heat”. And it paints the picture of another sultry, hot night. Just not so sticky this time. More of a dry heat. Her voice almost sounds like a cat yowling sometimes. One of my favorites again.

Let me know what you think of it. This doesn’t even begin to introduce the kinds of music they have. I’ll provide some jazz-influenced stuff next.


|W|P|83302745|W|P||W|P|5:06 AM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|

Christianity



To me, one of the most interesting things about Christianity is the circumstances under which it has grown the most quickly and under which it has problems. Hindu has not really grown outside of India. Buddhism never caught on in India, but hung around on the fringes until becoming the State Religion of China in about 700 AD. They spread Buddhism with conquest throughout Asia. Islam also grew most quickly with conquest, but not actually by force: you were exempt from taxes if you converted. Its second major source of growth was also economic: wealthy Muslim merchants spread the faith beyond the spheres of conquest by giving an example of wealth equated to faith. Jews don't really proselytize. Mormons needed two generations of isolation in Utah to become entrenched. But Christianity grows best and provides the best example of its faith when under persecution. When Christianity is the dominant religion, apathy seems to grow in the hearts of the believers, and you get "Sunday Christians" who don't live their faith. Heresy creeps in and compassion evaporates, and you get things like churches supporting slavery, the Inquisition, selling of indulgences, the Crusades, and the like. Christianity grew the fastest when it was suppressed by the Roman empire. It grew again during the Reformation, when people were risking their lives to be able to worship as they pleased. It is when we are being persecuted that we shine the most. Time after time, Christians chose death rather than denying their faith. Time after time, Christians have been tortured to recant, and have refused. The calm and poise of Christians under duress has converted many of the oppressors.

Of course, I am most familiar with my own religion. But I am not aware of any other faith that has such a strong tradition of martyrdom. I'm not aware of any other faith that teaches its adherents they will be hated, reviled, and held in contempt because of their faith. Christianity teaches that life sucks, and life as a Christian will suck worse, but that we shouldn't care or concern ourselves with it. We are taught (although not everyone learns) that we are not to worry about our conditions or treatment in this life; that we may be called on to suffer and die for our beliefs; that our true life is in Christ. As such, we should be in the world, but not of it. We should not worry about possessions or social standing or anything. And it is this focus on the next life that actually makes this life more bearable and enjoyable. It gives that "Peace the passes all understanding" that truly is impossible for anyone not living in Christ to understand.

Are other people happy? Sure. Are other people at peace? Yes. Happier and more at peace? Dunno. I wouldn't even think of trying to insist I'm happier or more at peace than anyone else. How does anyone really know what someone else feels? All I know is that I am more at peace and happier in my faith than without it.

I think I've spoken before about the paradox of Christianity. That's one of the things that convinces me of the truth of Christianity. For example, the statement, "If you love something, set it free" has become pretty much a mindless truism. People spout that like a mantra anytime someone goes through a break up. But there is a truth there, a paradox that just makes sense. This is how I feel about Christianity. "Whoever loves this life shall lose it, but whoever hates this life shall gain eternal life." "To live is Christ, to die is gain." Salvation by grace alone. Free will versus omniscience. "The first shall be last, and the last shall be first." Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. "Unless you have the faith of a little child, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven". God and man in one person. Three Persons in One God (remember Source, Standard, and Motivation? Rather ironically appropos, don't you think?). The only perfect man being crucified for our sins. "The son of man has no place to lay his head". "Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as well as these." "Don't store up treasures for yourself on earth, but in Heaven." "Don't do good for the praise of man, or you have already received your reward." "If you did it unto the least of these my brethren, you did it unto me." Paul's Lament: "I know what I should do, but I always do the wrong thing anyway." How many religions actually teach "Turn the other cheek"? The other major religions all teach variations of "An eye for an eye".

This isn't to say Christians are perfect. Not at all. I'm not blind to the failures and tragedies engendered by Christianity. But I think investigation would show you these people were ignoring basic tenets of Christianity in order to fulfill selfish motives. Don't forget that the Old Testament is a reference document for Christians, not doctrine. Jesus brought a new covenant. I just quoted one thing he changed, "An eye for an eye" from the Old Testament into "Turn the other cheek." The woman guilty of infidelity deserved to be stoned based on the Old Testament, but Jesus forgave her and shamed her accusors into letting her go. He dined with and talked with the "Sinners" of the world. So stop trying to put words in His mouth. Christianity is about compassion. If you see someone claiming to be a Christian but not acting in compassion, he isn't a Christian. The old saying of "if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck" applies here: if it lacks feathers, wings, or webbed feet, but still has a sign on it that says 'duck', don't believe the sign. As Paul said, "If I speak with the tongues of angels, but have not love, I am nothing but a clanging cymbol".

That's all for now. I'm sure I'll come back to this again.
|W|P|83292987|W|P||W|P|4:18 AM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|

Belated



In my opinion, Johnny Walker Lindh got a raw deal. I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to understand the anger directed at him. The only thing I can understand is Johnny is somehow a scapegoat for the terrorist attacks last September. If I understand correctly, people are confusing the Taliban with Al Qaida, and he’s paying the price.

Here’s the whole story as I understand it. Johnny is dissatisfied with life in the US, becomes a Muslim and wants to be a part of advancing the Muslim cause. He is willing to fight for his belief, and travels to Afghanistan to do so. You may question his willingness to fight and kill to establish a theocracy in a foreign land, but it’s certainly not treason. Americans have been doing this sort of thing since we were established as a nation. We have one former military officer who later served as the top general in the Polish military, and that wasn’t considered treason.

Then Al Qaida killed thousands on 9/11. We determined that their stronghold was in Afghanistan, that the Taliban leadership gave them safe haven. Johnny wasn’t a part of the decision to let them train in Afghanistan at all. There was a connection between Al Qaida and the Taliban, including visits to Taliban training camps by Usama Bin Laden, and other Al Qaida leaders training Taliban members. But the goals of both organizations were different. Confusing the two is like confusing the CIA with the Democrat Party. One’s about governing a country, one is about operations. Or maybe a better analogy is the CIA (Al Qaida), and the US Military (the Taliban). There are connections, but the goals and methods are completely different.

So Johnny is Afghanistan when the US attacks. Sort of. The US isn’t really attacking the Taliban, they are going after Al Qaida and have to go through the Taliban to get there. Furthermore, rightfully deciding that the environment established by the Taliban was too conducive to the existence of terrorist training camps and too susceptible to influence by terrorist groups, the US supported the Northern Alliance in their war against the Taliban. Please note, the US was one step removed from the battle. Johnny was in a group that was attacked militarily and defended themselves militarily. Sure, Johnny could have surrendered, but insisting that he should have done so is demanding a higher standard from Johnny than we’ve ever demanded from anyone ever before. It’s like saying all the Germans should have surrendered rather than fighting for Hitler. Of course they should have, had they known all the facts of his atrocities (which they probably didn’t), but they would have been shot as deserters.

So Johnny was captured and imprisoned. At some point, there was an uprising. The captured wanted to escape. They were Johnny’s compatriots, friends, fellows, and they probably expected him to participate in the jailbreak. I’m sure Johnny wanted to escape, as well. Was he supposed to say, “No, an American might get hurt, so you guys go without me.”? That would have gotten him killed, too.

Then a CIA agent died in the uprising. I don’t think anyone tried to insist that Johnny killed the agent himself.

That’s about all I know. I really don’t think that at any point, Johnny set about to bring about the downfall of the United States, nor did he aid in planning for any of the terrorist attacks. So where is the treason? There is a ‘confession’ in which he admitted a highly qualified support of the 9/11 attacks. He was never given a chance to explain himself. If you ask me, looking for ‘root causes’ that blame the actions, attitudes and policies of the US is giving a qualified support of the attacks as well, so why aren’t we rounding up and convicting people like Noam Chomsky for treason?

Convicting him of treason by association with the Taliban seems similar to convicting a private in the Japanese Army for supporting Hitler’s war crimes. Convicting him of treason because he participated in an act that resulted in the death of an American means that every person who resists arrest by a police should also be given a minimum of 20 years for treason. I see nothing that Johnny did that was worse (and in some ways better) than what any kid does by joining a gang. Hitting someone with a brick is just as much treason. In my opinion, saying Saddam Hussein is more trustworthy than our president is far worse treason.

But neither do I think Johnny is any sort of hero. He certainly didn’t deserve to have a song written about him. He’s really just a non-important pawn in the wrong place at the wrong time. He should have lost his citizenship and been deported, if there was a nation that would have taken him. Or convict him on the same basis as someone who participates in a robbery in which someone else shoots and kills a bystander. In our current judicial climate, that would be, what? Five years?

So let him serve five years, then pardon him. He will have learned his lesson and served as a negative example for anyone else who wants to join a foreign army. He doesn’t deserve any worse than that.
|W|P|83291758|W|P||W|P|2:53 AM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|

The Atheist Faith



We've been arguing faith and god over at WWR here. I realized yesterday I am not really clear whether I am defending god (note the lower case) or God (my Christian faith). I usually can't keep my personal faith out of it because it says in the Bible that if you deny Jesus here on Earth, He will deny you in Heaven. So I see it as an opportunity to defend my faith, strengthen my commitment, and stand up for my beliefs. But my real intent has been to argue for the existence of god. Once that is established, we can argue whose God is the right one. But I find myself eternally frustrated with the basic Atheist dishonesty or hypocrisy regarding their faith. I realize it's not deliberate, but it doesn't make it any more palatable.

Side note: God with an upper case G is for a real personage of God (but indeterminate relation of faith); god with a lower case g is for a god that is an impersonal fact of nature. Money can be your god no matter what you believe. Clear?

You see, everyone has gods. Because 'god' answers three questions: Source, Standard, and Motivation. If there is no god at all, then there really is no rational answers for these issues. By the way, if you can think of another word for motivation that starts with an ‘s’, it would help me preserve the alliteration.

Motivation: why you do what you do. This is the god spoken of in the Bible when God says 'you shall have no other god besides me.' Money is a god to some people. Sex for others. Family for others. Why bother going to work? What are your goals? What makes you happy? Why keep struggling in the face of adversity? These are your gods of motivation. Everyone has them, or you are brain dead. Or maybe really, really depressed and just going through the motions. The reason the Christian God is my god of motivation is because that faith tells me what will happen to me when I die. The dishonesty of Atheists in this is they don't admit they have a god, but are still motivated by something. The hypocrisy is they still strive in life despite purporting to believe life is over when they die. Without a real God, there is no point to anything you do, and it is all illusion. There is no natural reason to even have children, because all you and they do will become dust. This leads into the second god, Standard.

Standard: how you determine what is good. Something tells you it is wrong to kill people. Something tells you it is good to have children. Something inside you causes you to love. If you acknowledge no actual God of motivation, you probably still live and love and raise children because you have a god of standard that tells you love is good, or making the world better is good, or leaving some body of Work behind you is good. But what determines what is good? Don't try to give me any 'societal standard' claptrap, because that ignores questions of why society is good. You can try to say we have evolved to work together, but that has several problems. First, if society as a standard causes to act altruistically (meaning we do things not to our personal benefit in order to assure our genetic survival because beings that don't have that motivation as instinct die out), then evolution would have continued until we were as selfless and impersonal and efficient as ants. Evolution wouldn't stop halfway. Second, if society somehow helped to insure genetic survival, then the Clan would be the highest pinnacle of evolution. We can see from clan-based societies that they actually don't work well in the world, encouraging corruption, treachery (because your only loyalty is to the clan), inefficiency, etc.

But I digress (again!). There is something inside you that tells you it is good to be kind, something that places value on being good. Without any standard of good, there is absolutely no reason to be anything but a hedonist, existing for your own pleasure. That the hedonists I've known are among the most unhappy people I've ever met just implies that there is a natural standard of good. It is dishonest to say there is no standard, and it is hypocrisy to claim there is no God when you adhere to a standard of goodness that must come from a God.

Source: Everything must come from somewhere, right? Where does matter come from? What caused the Big Bang (if that's how the universe started...)? What determined the Laws of Physics? Despite all the knowledge developed by science, it cannot answer basic questions like these. That's because science is self-limiting to only describe what has happened, never why it happened...but I'll get to that in a minute. Science has no answer to the question: "From where did it all come?" The believer's (of any faith) answer is: God. Sure, that's like a self-licking ice cream cone: "Where did everything come from? God. Where did God come from? God always was." But at least it's an answer.

Let's look at this mathematically. The believer says that God is the source of everything, but God is unknowable. The atheist (especially the atheist scientists) says there is no God. So the believer says God = God, the atheist says God = 0. The believer’s answer doesn't really say anything tangible, but it least it is provable. A thing is equal to itself. The atheist’s answer is difficult to prove, because it is always problematic to prove a negative. The next theorem is since everything proceeds from the source, there can be nothing that exists outside the source. That means if you find the source of everything, you find God. Plugging that back into our equation, we find, then, that for the believer, God = life + the universe + everything. But for the atheist, since God = 0, then life + the universe + everything must also = 0. If God is a variable, g, then you have the respective equations of g=l+u+e and l+u+e=0. The believer’s equation is impossible to solve without further information, but may be solved eventually. The atheist’s equation is just depressing.

So we all have gods. The sooner you recognize it, the sooner you understand yourself. And unless you are a depressed, amoral hedonist, you probably have a God, even if He doesn’t have a name anyone else would recognize. Recognize that, and we can start discussing whose God is correct based on the merits. If you insist on misrepresenting your position (even if unintentionally), we’ll never get anywhere.

Final note: I think I’ve put together a pretty strong argument that everyone has gods. I honestly cannot understand the continued existence of anyone who has no Gods, as I describe in what I feel are pretty strong arguments above. But I also recognize that I naturally think my arguments are strong, because they’re mine. Please, if you can have a moral standard in a universe without a God, I’d love to hear it. I can see no possible explanation that is not far more arbitrary than religion. I pre-empted the ‘instinct’ idea of standards somewhat, but I have far more arguments against it than what I included here. Likewise, any motivation in life without recognizing the existence of a God seems utterly impossible. The only possible explanation I can see is if someone believes in an afterlife even if God doesn’t exist. That seems self-contradictory to me, but maybe I’m missing something.

I expect a rollicking good argument in the comments. I’ll post your emails, too, if you have too much to say in a comment box.


|W|P|83289982|W|P||W|P|1:37 AM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|

More Ground Rules



Maybe I should have named this blog "Caveat Central". I realized in my reaction (not written down) to questions as to the validity of the study regarding Christians and Marriage that I have a personal assumption about studies, polls, surveys, and statistics. Basically, you can "prove" anything you want through manipulation of facts. It's a mindset I didn't realize I had. So why post the statement that a study showed Christians have happier marriages? (...and I will find it...I may be an idiot, but I'm not a liar. Apparently the internet is insufficient to this task) Because there is some value in looking at the assertions and considering the results.

For instance, I read one study in which the conclusions were that children adversely affect marriage satisfaction. The satisfaction in the marriage plummets for both husband and wife, but recovers within three years for the husband (or maybe by the time the youngest child is three...I don't remember), and goes up from there. But the wife's satisfaction in marriage never returns to the same level it was before kids. Now, that's a dang depressing result. If this is true, children ARE the cause of divorces, at least the ones initiated by the wife, right? Not so fast. There are many ways to come up with that conclusion, ways I don't agree. What was the question? Maybe what the study asked was "What aspect of your life provides you the most satisfaction?" In that manner, marriage could come in way low on the list for women, without them actually being dissatisfied in the marriage. The results were definitive...but the questions that produced the results were not included in the article. So it's great information, but doesn't really do any good, huh? No. I don't think it actually proves anything, particularly because every person is different, and what may be true in a study may not be true for your spouse. But it would be a good article to cite if your male friend is scared having children will affect his life badly: you can point out that the chances are his satisfaction in marriage will be much greater with kids. And when my wife and I were arguing more and connecting less after having 2 kids in just over 2 years, I mentioned the article and told her I was scared our relationship would never recover. Maybe the conversation had no effect; she may not even remember it. But from my perspective, she seemed top start making an effort to appreciate me and our relationship. Less than a year later, despite being separated for 5 months on deployments, my relationship with her is so close I feel like the luckiest man on Earth.

So I don't pretend I've proven anything by saying a study showed Christians have the happiest marriages. It certainly doesn't mean that every Christian marriage is happier than any marriage between non-Christians. But it's a great starting place from which to discuss. For instance, other studies have shown that marriages tend to end in divorce less often if neither spouse accepts divorce as a possible option beforehand. Christianity teaches that aside from abuse, infidelity is one the two acceptable reasons for divorce. Atheism has no natural standard aside from personal happiness and fulfillment, which then has no natural incentive to look at the long term. Most other religions accept inability to have children as a valid reason. Islam allows divorce on the whim of the male. Not to mention allowing each man to have 4 wives, which is not marital happiness as I understand/define it.

Moreover, Christians have a common standard with which to resolve problems. The main one is 1 Corinthians 13, The Chapter of Love. If someone is being a jerk in a marriage, you can always refer to that chapter as a standard of loving behavior. Getting your spouse to recognize their lack of loving actions is another matter, but at least you have that standard in common. Paul also talks about marriage specifically in other locations, including telling both husbands and wives to submit to their spouse (Go back and read it AGAIN, guys!) According to my understanding, the Torah concerns itself more with the legality aspects of marriage and contains little, if any, exhortations of how to treat your spouse lovingly. I am unaware of any such standard of love in the Koran, either, nor in Buddhism or Hinduism. This is why being married to an unbeliever is also grounds for divorce in the Christian church, because there is no common ground of values on which to construct a strong and stable marriage.

Christianity may not be the perfect paradigm for a happy marriage, there may be a religion of which I'm unaware that is more appropriate. But it should be clear that there are many aspects of Christianity that contribute to a strong marriage. Many people fail to take advantage of all those aspects. Many people who talk the talk don't really walk the walk. That doesn't change the fact that if both sides follow what the Bible says about marriage, you will have a happy marriage.

And so I cite the study, just so you can examine it, so you can ask questions about how such a result could be possible. Likewise, the study showing that Christians divorce at a rate slightly higher than non-Christians certainly doesn't mean that a marriage will be saved if both sides leave the faith, nor does it mean that the people who identified themselves as Christians were actually living according to Christian principles. A good study will always raise questions for further study. An honest study will make sure those questions are actually stated as part of the conclusion.
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