O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith


Bits and Pieces and Unfiltered Thoughts

posted by Jason Boyett

Throughout the day, I’m always thinking about and keeping my eyes open for potential blogging topics. If something strikes me as possibly blog post-worthy, I might copy a link or type a few lines into a draft of a blog post, in hopes of coming back to it at some point to turn it into a more substantial post.

Sometimes I do. Other times, I never make it back to these bits and pieces. I get tired of seeing these partial posts in my drafts file. So today I thought I might just throw them out there, without much context and without any of the polishing I typically do for a “real” blog post.

Part of that idea sounds really great, because I can finally use some of these languishing ideas. But part of it is scary, because my opinions aren’t fully formed. I have questions. I don’t have much in the way of answers.

But enough introduction.

1. Human embryos are far more likely to miscarry than chimpanzee embryos. Did you know that? Humans miscarry nearly 50 percent of all conceptions, but chimps rarely do. It has to do with sugars on the surface of sperm that help bind sperm to cells in a uterus. Human sugars just don’t work as well as chimpanzee sugars.

I grew up learning not only that humans were created by God, but that we were the apex of his creation — that we were created in his image. Why, then, do we seem to have such a significant reproductive flaw…and why do “lesser” creatures like chimps seem to be better designed? Science has a good explanation for this — it’s a quirk of evolution. Does religion have a plausible explanation?

snailparasite.jpg

2. Speaking of design: I’ve always loved nature and the outdoors, and for years I’ve appreciated the night sky, or a Texas Panhandle sunset, or the Rocky Mountains…and these things elicit wonder and religious
thoughts in me about a supremely creative Creator. Then I hear about parasites like Leucochloridium paradoxum.
Snails come into contact with it via bird poop. It infects a snail,
sends embryos into its eye stalks until they get pumped so fat they the deformed eyestalks look
like striped caterpillars (see photo above). Then the parasite rewires the snail’s brain so that it doesn’t avoid sunlight but instead travels out into it. Why? So birds can see it. Because birds think its swollen,
colorful tentacles are caterpillars, and they swoop down to bite the eye
stalks right off the snail’s face. This kills the snail, and the birds have ingested
the parasite, which then lays its eggs in the birds’ digestive system. At which point the birds
poop it out again. Then more snails get infected, and the cycle continues.

THAT is creative. But it’s also disturbing and a bit sinister. If a human
came up with this system, I would describe him as a sick, twisted
genius. But, as a Christian, I am supposed to believe that a benevolent
Creator is behind it. And I’m supposed to worship that Creator. And I’ll be honest: It’s hard to sing “How Great Is Our God” when you’re thinking about such disgustingly effective parasites.

[Photo: Lubomir Hlasek, Wired]

3. There’s a new book out by syndicated public radio host Michael Krasny. It’s called Spiritual Envy: An Agnostic’s Quest and is, according to reviewer Reza Aslan,
an “agnostic’s manifesto” about trying to find a spiritual middle
ground between dogmatic atheism on one side and religious fundamentalism
on the other side. “What, really, does it mean to call oneself
agnostic,” Krasny asks,
“other than to be unwilling or unable to yield to belief and allow it
into one’s bloodstream?”

Aslan writes:
 

Where in the conflict between these two
competing claims of absolute certainty–religious and scientific–is there
room for the person willing to throw his hands in the air and say
simply, “I don’t know?”

…Is agnosticism
merely about uncertainty? Is it a matter of indecisiveness? Or, perhaps,
it is simply spiritual laziness. After all, in our modern world of
moralizing politicians, religious hypocrites, and holy warriors, the
term “agnostic” has come to signify not so much “I don’t know,” as “I
don’t care.”

I’m drawn to Krasny’s line about being “unwilling or unable” to yield to belief. Sometimes I feel as if I’m willing — Lord, am I willing — but somehow unable.

And I suspect that inability (#3) is a symptom of questions like those raised in #1 and #2.



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Comments read comments(14)
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Glen

posted November 17, 2010 at 10:05 am


Wow… for an “un-finished” blog post, you sure made me think this morning…



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Matt @ The Church of No People

posted November 17, 2010 at 10:46 am


Hey Jason, I don’t know if religion has a good explanation, but in watching my friends go through two miscarriages (the doctors won’t investigate a cause until three, because that’s not considered abnormal), it’s given me a fresh perspective on what a miracle birth is. To use the term “miracle” always sounded trite and cliche. Babies are born all the time, but it really is tough to be born!



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Linnaea

posted November 17, 2010 at 10:59 am


what a way to begin the day, the line “unwilling or unable” to believe got to me. There are times were I wish I could belive but I’m either too unwilling or not able to make that jump.
Thanks for the voice.



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Pianolady32/Muddled Mawkishness

posted November 17, 2010 at 11:05 am


Post number 1: IMO, I’m not sure religion does have a plausible explanation or, more importantly, one that can be proven by science. For myself, believing that God has a reason and a plan (and one that I don’t know all the details involved) is enough. For some folks, it’s hard to accept my way of thinking and I’d never ask them to do so. This is simply what I feel is best for me. This is like asking the question, “Why do some children have to die?” There isn’t really an answer, that I know of. If there is, I’ve never encountered it.
Post number 2: Wow! Interesting and, yes, disgusting. I agree that it would be hard to sing that particular song while thinking about the sordid lives of parasites. …Wow.
Post number 3: Again, personally, I don’t believe absolute certainty exists in a way that we can touch or verify. Because I believe that humans are fallible and make mistakes, I also believe we should always allow for a margin of error, even if a small one. I also think falling into the pit of ‘I don’t care’ is a tragic thing. That’s the same as giving up hope. Hope is very important to me. I won’t give that up easily. Maybe I’m just stubborn. :)
All these just my own opinion and not aimed at anyone in particular. Just my own thoughts on the questions you posed. All very interesting articles and questions.



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Scott

posted November 17, 2010 at 11:56 am


#2 reminds me of the M Night Shyamalan movie, The Happening, only with snails and birds instead of Mark Wahlberg and John Leguizamo.



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Matt

posted November 17, 2010 at 2:39 pm


1. Chimp miscarriages vs. human miscarriages: cheetahs are also faster than us. Ants are stronger, pound for pound. The only thing we’re the apex of is brain development. That’s what I always thought of when hearing that we were “created in god’s image.” This view creates some interesting problems with how god views the mentally disabled.
2. God’s plan is often sinister. I like to think that birds, when they see a snail appearing to have caterpillars on its face heading into the light instead of the shadow, smile and say “that’s totally a god thing” before swooping in for dinner.
3. As we’ve talked about before, I don’t think belief is volitional. It’s an involuntary binary switch somewhere in my brain. Belief or agnosticism can be triggered as much by laziness as diligence (about vetting inputs, for example).



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Mixedpeaches84

posted November 17, 2010 at 4:02 pm


1. I guess the easiest way I see that we are different from the rest of creation because we are created “in God’s image” is that we have moral responsibility. Sometimes I actually wish I was an animal because then all of this stuff wouldn’t matter so much. Maybe it’s our conscience which is a huge part of God’s image in us. As for evolutionary reasons, I have no idea because I am sadly uneducated on the topic.
2. That is so disgusting and more than a little bit horrifying (and the picture is hardly bearable)! I don’t have much to say beyond that.
3. Good questions that I have no answers for except maybe thinking in either the extreme that we definitely can’t effect our level of belief at all or that we don’t believe only because we are lazy are probably both unhelpful and erroneous.
Thanks for the post, even if you felt it was incomplete.



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Tess Mallory

posted November 17, 2010 at 6:12 pm


1. My take on the chimp question: God created man in His image, as perfect creations — until we got kicked out of the garden and ended up in this fallen world. Now we’re subject to entropy, illness, bad genes and all the rest of that kind of stuff. And the fact that chimps have better rates of carrying to term just means that man has no advantage over animals just because he is man. Some animals have it better than us. Because this isn’t the place we were meant to be, that perfect Eden. Of course, this opens a WHOLE nuther can of worms, several in fact. Probably worms that are better off than us in some interesting way. heh heh heh.
2. Circle of life, baby, circle of life. Why are there scorpions? Why are there poisonous spiders? Somehow they all create that fabulous hand-holding, lion-singing answer. I’m sure scientists can explain how these poor disgusting disease-ridden snails help the world keep growing and turning and etc. But please . . . no more pictures!
3. I think saying “I don’t know” is an honest response. I respect someone who can simply say, “I don’t know.” However . . . To deny there is a God is to say that a person believes something that cannot actually be known. To say there is a God is to say that a person believes something known personally to him or her. Now say that three times fast without taking a breath.



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MH

posted November 17, 2010 at 7:13 pm


1 and 2 are just the way the universe rolls, and our good/bad choices had nothing to do with it getting it this way.



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David Rooker

posted November 17, 2010 at 10:57 pm


Isn’t this all just another way to say “How can a good God let[fill in the blank.]” I wrote a blog recently where I opined that if God exists (and my personal position is that He does) then by definition He is God. Sort of a “My ball, I get to make the rules” kind of thing. Potter & pot, if you prefer. I don’t begin to understand how it all works out.



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jaymen

posted November 18, 2010 at 9:53 pm


1) Our apparent inferiority to chimps and other animals doesn’t really bother my faith. Mortal life, pretty much by definition, is plagued with evil, disease, disasters, and so on. Perfection comes if we reach Heaven. At least, I hope so.
2) Parasites are fascinating life forms and their ability to change their hosts’ behavior is frightening. Look up the lancet fluke, for example. Like anything that doesn’t meet my definition of “ideal” or “optimum”, though, I have to trust that the Creator of the universe (or multiverse if you subscribe to that theory) probably has reasons that surpass my knowledge and/or my ability to comprehend. I acknowledge that, compared to God, I am less than as a child to an adult.
3) It sounds like a good book. Concerning the middle ground, I think those who fit that category should simply accept themselves as not fitting into the molds designed by others. I would also add another definition of the term “agnostic”, one which has been my experience with many who claim that label: “an atheist with no balls”.



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~steveT

posted November 20, 2010 at 2:59 pm


jb~
oh, brotherboy! i love so much these discussions…..sometimes i wish i had unlimited time to simply sit and read and write and ponder. the stuff you can find in me and then churn up with a wicked spoon drives me crazy at times, but i can’t say that i don’t end up coming back for more….kinda like the viciousness of the bird and snail routine.
at least a half-dozen times a day, i find myself throttled with a new doubt or question or discrepency when it comes to the idea we have of this relationship with a Universe Creator and….just as quickly, something beautifully simple can fall into place and answer something i’m confused about and i’m left with at least a hint that Someone, somewhere is aware and looking out for us. that ebb and flow does nothing but continually pull me in further.
when i look back on my life…where i’ve been in my thinking, both as a closeted gay youth pastor and a black and white Bible worshiper (i know…why didn’t i get a clue then?! ;-) and now as a more open and transparent (still have a loooong way to go) guy who is falling in love with Jesus in a whole new, less religious and living way….i’m certain that much of the change has come from my willingness to open my heart and mind and mouth and scream at God saying, “what the hell do you think You’re doing?!”
i’m going to think about my sister’s miscarriage, recall that picture of the bug-eyed, bird-snacking snail, and then sign up to go to Michael Krasny’s talk and book signing here in the bay area in a few weeks. and in between, while i ponder all of this….remember that Jesus wants me to keep looking into the eyes of the homeless around me, use less gasoline and find ways to give more away while i do so.
love you, pal….
~steveT



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Chris

posted November 25, 2010 at 5:30 am


#1 is an interesting question…My guess is that we would be far worse off if there were double the amount of us. “Just sayin”
#2 lesson for snails…Don’t eat bird turd, it is sinful and you will surely die… Could be natures depiction of depravity.
#3 Agnosticism to me seems as a state of being, a more honest search for truth.
I find fundementalism and atheism to be more forms of self endulgence than of being. Fundementalism was best portrayed in the movie “The Life Of Brian”. Atheism seems to be just a lazy form of redicule. For what reasons? I’m sure they vary… Just my opinion



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Emily

posted December 2, 2010 at 1:13 pm


Love these topics!
1.) My understanding is that humans who miscarry often miscarry for a reason. For example, a fetus with a severe genetic abnormality is often miscarried (although is sometimes carried to term). If humans did not have so many social rules surrounding reproduction (wait until a certain age, be married, financially stable) and starting having babies as soon as the woman was able, we would probably have less miscarriages. I’m NOT saying that we should change and be more like chimps and start having babies young and unmarried, just a reason for the phenomenon to consider.
2.) What a strange creature! Fascinating! Gross! Nevertheless, I would imagine the bird would be quite pleased about his meal and doesn’t find it the least bit gross.
3.) As an agnostic, it is possible that I am unable to believe. I would NOT say that I am spiritually lazy. In fact, I find that assertion a little offensive. Most agnostics that I know are quite spiritual, in the sense that they are constantly exploring new possibilities and explanations. Personally, I read blogs by agnostics, atheists, Christians, Jews, and pagans to help increase my understanding and awareness. I am signed up to go on a 10 day meditation retreat, where I am required to take a vow of silence for all ten days. I do all of the above to seek truth. Agnostics are open minded, but skeptical of certainty when it comes to things that cannot be proven one way or the other. That does not make me an “atheist with no balls” nor does it make me “spiritually lazy.”



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