In rereading what I’ve written, it seems that I need to give a disclaimer at the beginning. I think it’s wrong to kill people or steal or commit any other heinous criminal acts. I am simply asking questions that no one seems to consider, probably because they are difficult questions and most people don’t see much value in them. The problem is, I think they are very valuable questions to ask because they will ultimately help us understand what we believe, but more importantly why we believe those things.

“Is there a such thing as absolute right and absolute wrong?”

This seems to be the most important question we should be considering.

This simple question seems to not be considered near as often as it should. It seems we are all simply not thinking on the level as to consider such a question or we are simply afraid of the implications of the answers so we avoid asking it. Alternatively, we could all be so self absorbed with our own pursuits that the question never even occurs to us (I think this is really the bucket most people fall into, which is OK with me).  It is also likely that we don’t find many people willing or prepared to discuss such a question so we just sit on it and smolder internally. That’s what I’ve been doing, until now.

From my own internal debate I’ve concluded there can be only 2 answers to this question. Yes or No. What results from those answers?

No – If there is no such thing as an absolute right or wrong that leads to “Might makes right.” If you are able to do something who’s to stop you? On what authority? This would lead you to assume that both ISIS and Kim Jong Un are acting completely within their own framework of morality and that is fine. Of course, since under this assumption each person is entitled to their own morality, you could certainly choose to oppose them and if you can convince enough other people they are wrong then that makes you de facto right but it’s still an arbitrary right as it’s only right since you are the mightier group.

Yes – If there is a such thing as absolute right and wrong that would lead me to believe that there is some ultimate authority in the universe. This most people would call God. To avoid any assumptions that come with the word “God” I’ll use “ultimate authority” for this post. Determining if there is right and wrong doesn’t necessarily tell you (or me) what is right and wrong, just that there is some right and wrong. Of course determining what is right and wrong is the next logical step after determining that it exists.

How does one go about determining that there is or is not absolute right and wrong? I have no idea. Most people will default to the Bible telling them what is right or wrong. That is fine, but we can see that that has yielded thousands of groups with dissenting opinions. Same with other religions, Islam, Mormons, Hindus etc.

This is generally where atheists feel they shine. They point out that each person seems to make up their own personal morality anyway but then attributes it to their chosen religion. I agree that it seems that is what most religious people do. At the atheists, pointing out a flaw to someone else’s conclusions is generally much easier than drawing your own conclusions.

Most philosophers, atheists and religious eventually come to some conclusion that we should “Do unto others what we want done to us.” While that sounds fine in theory my question is why? You can find this claim in the bible. You will also find similar claims from Immanuel Kant as well as atheist Stephen Molyneux (Universally Preferable Behavior, which I don’t recommend you waste your time reading, even though I have).  

Back to my question, why do they think that for something to be right, even without an ultimate authority, you should apply it to everyone? The question I always come back to is murder, as that’s usually something everyone is averse to. My scenario goes like this “If you could kill someone (who is not threatening you) for personal gain and you were able to hide any evidence of your involvement, why shouldn’t you do that?”  Now all the above people appeal to “You wouldn’t want someone to kill you would you?” I don’t really see the point of asking that question. If there is no absolute morality that question has no basis on your decision to kill someone. You could insert any number of other actions considered crimes in here, theft being an obvious case. If you could steal something with no repercussions, why not? Again, “You wouldn’t want someone to steal from you would you?” Makes no sense to ask.

I personally cannot think of a good argument against those flawed actions if there was no absolute morality. It’s a bit terrifying to think about but that is one idea that inclines me towards there being an ultimate authority (in/outside the universe).

What do you think?

Do you believe in right and wrong independent of religion? (Note that while most people will jump to the assumption that I’m trying to make a case for a Christian God I have purposely not made that claim. I am just thinking out loud (on the internet.)

On what basis do you base authority if not on some ultimate authority?

Do you agree with “might makes right”?

I want it to be clear that I am completely ok with people admitting they agree with “might makes right”. If you don’t believe in an ultimate authority outside of the world, I think that’s your only option. Is there another?

The Most Important Thing

In the intro to “Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth” Buckminster Fuller’s granddaughter recalls a car ride that he asked her “What is the most important thing we can be thinking about right now?”

Here is the list of things that I thought of off the top of my head that are I am trying to determine if they are important. I think most of them are but how to decide “the most important”? I’ve probably started writing about half of these but often I find there is something else I thought was more important to write about at that time or I reached a point where I wasn’t sure what I thought about it.

How to help Syrian Refugees?
Can I “adopt” a refugee?
How to stop abortions?
How to stop senseless violence?
How to stop people from shooting each other in Waterloo, IA (where I live)?
How to effectively guide the charity I just became vice president of?
How what is my 5 year plan?
What are my life goals?
Will I ever get married?
Do I want to get married?
Why do I want to get married?
Can I more effectively “fix the world” if I’m single?
How much should I save in my 401k and how much should I invest in people?
Should I buy an electric car?
Should I sell all my “toys” and donate that money to some charity?
Should I buy a house?
What book do I want to write?
Why do I want to write a book?
Why do I spend so much time writing this blog stuff?
What is my purpose in life?
How do I be a better older brother?
Do I want to start my own company?
What would that company even do?
How do I help those less fortunate than myself?
How do I start a company that I enjoy working at, helps the world and makes money (self sustains).
What am I really passionate about?
Should I go back to college for more school or should I just learn by doing in life?
Is there a God?
If there is why is everyone telling me about their own different god’s and acting like some of them are the same god when it’s pretty obvious to me they are different?
How do I politely ask people about beliefs of theirs that I think are ridiculous?
Is it ok to be selfish sometimes?
Is it better to try to be a politician to change the world or do it outside politics?
Is it selfish to have your own kids?
Why are most Christians so obsessed with the bible but they don’t seem to remember that Paul said it is better to be single like he was?
Why do Jews have so many laws but try so hard to get around them?
Why do so many Christians leaders (pastors etc) preach “following the Bible” but forget that Paul had a full time job outside of preaching about Jesus?
How do I love more and judge less?
Should I listen when people are negative or tell them to just change their attitude and that will change their circumstances?
Instead of converting people to Christianity in places where that belief could get them killed why don’t Christians work to change the laws of that country or work to get people out of that country?
How do you motivate people to improve their situation?
What is the situation in other countries for labor? I hear about factories in China, Afghanistan, where people are paid very little and there are still effectively “company stores”. Are those true? If so how do we stop those practices?
How does my purchase of cheap stuff from other countries affect the above?
How do we expose people to the “very poor” and get them motivated to help those people?
Would religions be more effective helping people if they were less worried about pushing their doctrine on others?
What makes me happy?
What makes others happy?
What does it mean to be happy?
Is there an afterlife?
How do we store energy so we can use renewable but not consistent power sources like wind and solar?
When will the Chinese people become sick of restrictive laws like the 1 child policy and the conditions of the factories I mentioned above and have a large revolution?
How do we stop child sex trafficking, both in the USA and in the rest of the world?
Is it selfish to lift weights and eat a lot of protein and generally “be huge” while some people starve? I am not trying to be critical of people who lift weights. I am just generally interested in why we don’t help others more. This is also asked above in the 401K vs Charity question. I think about “Is this action selfish” a lot.
Why is promiscuous sexuality so stigmatized as a sin in Christian churches while obesity (gluttony) is not?
“You’ve got simultaneous epidemics of obesity and starvation. Explain that one! – Nix (Tomorrowland – movie)

What do you think is the most important thing you could be thinking about today?

Religion, Love And Relationships

What seemed to happen is that I became…
Less interested in religion and more interested in life
Less interested in doctrine and more interested in truth
Less interested in piety and more interested in love
Less interested in heaven and more interested in peace
Less interested in hell and more interested in suffering
Less interested in church  and more interested in people

  • Jim Palmer

I’ve been experiencing growing discontent with “religion” in a general sense lately. A lot of this has come from engaging those of various religions. While I do get a lot of enjoyment from understanding other’s beliefs I also find a lot of judgement.

I don’t like it.

I don’t like when people imply that I might be going to hell for not believing exactly what they believe, regardless of the actual number of people they would be condemning by making those accusations. Usually it’s a LOT since there are so many different denominations.  No wonder people are sick of Christians. I was raised Christian (of the Catholic variety) and really didn’t know much else until late in my college career. Now the more Christians I talk to the more I find that they all think each other are completely wrong. Why would someone listen to any Christian when they’d have to pick from 30,000 different interpretations of the same story?

When I dug for an answer to the question “What do you have to do to go to heaven?” I received various responses, generally centered around “Believe in Jesus. Actions are useless.”

When I asked if you had to be baptized I got various answers ranging from yes to no. Same with receive the Eucharist/communion or going to reconciliation/confession. Prayer didn’t show up as a requirement to often either.

I also found that a lot of the above things weren’t bringing a ton of enjoyment to my life.

I was told by at least 3 followers of their respective (different) religions to “try it and see if it works for you”. If that’s the best you got I’m not buying! “If it works” is a very subjective measuring stick for anything. Kim Jung Un would say that his ruling of North Korea is working for him but few people would say it’s the right thing to do. I say few because there are some people that have argued with me that he’s doing a good thing, or at least that it’s not bad!

I looked around and found that what I was really missing was love. I didn’t truly love others. I knew others. I liked some people, but I didn’t really love them. I didn’t act like I loved them and I certainly didn’t think I loved them. I remembered the following quote that I read one time.

“When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” C.S. Lewis

Maybe “trying it” would work for this? It has! Now I’m not saying that I perfectly love everyone I meet, or even do it particularly well. What I am able to do is ask myself everyday why I didn’t love the people I encountered that day.

It is sort of difficult today to walk around loving others. Especially if you are a single guy. Depending on who you are talking to it can be seen as unwanted advances or perceived as an advance when it’s not meant to be. For people who the age gap is big enough, it can come off as you are trying to get something from them or take advantage in some other was.

What I’ve found is it’s difficult to love people if you don’t know them. To know people takes time, time most of us don’t think we have. I often ask myself how I am showing love to the people I already know. Often I find that I’m lacking in that area. If I don’t love people I already know how can I love people I don’t know? Seems like that’d be pretty difficult.

On getting to know people, that is another place where I see religion being misused. People will meet someone and assume they know them if they practice the same religion. They will feel safer around that person. I understand why. As I said above, we all think we don’t have any time to “waste” getting to know someone we aren’t sure about, if they do some of the same things we do certainly they are more like us than those who don’t go to the same church every week. This often leads to people only having a very small group of likeminded friends. This is a dangerous practice as pointed out in “Reasonable Atheism” by Scott F. Aikin & Robert. B Talisse

“Groups of like-minded people who discuss their common views tend to unwittingly radicalize – they cause each other to adopt more extreme beliefs.” P36

If that doesn’t describe many religions and denominations I don’t know what does. Here the thought of a radical belief doesn’t necessarily have to be that everyone else is the devil, but it often does manifest in “Everyone else is wrong and only we have the Truth.”

At one time, I would ask others what they believed so I could tell them the truth of what I believed. I am slowly working to break that habit. These days, if I ask what you believe it’s not because I want to convert you to what I believe. I legitimately just want to know what you believe and why. I can see why people would be suspicious though as many people  are still in the same mindset I was and ask only to share their own judgemental beliefs. Once you do share your beliefs with me I will ask some pointed questions that might offend you a little, depending on how thick your skin is. I will do that only to get you thinking though, not to be actually offensive. It is to really get to know you and perhaps to help you know yourself.

With that background laid, I ask you the following questions.

Have you really been living like Jesus (If you are a Christian and are telling others how they need to be living like Jesus.) To get thinking about this more I highly recommend the book “Being Jesus In Nashville” By Jim Palmer (quoted at the beginning of this article).As usual, if anyone actually reads this and wants me to buy the the book just let me know and I will!

For those non-Christians (who likely don’t care about being like Jesus), I just ask you to recognize your group of friends. Are you unintentionally (or intentionally!) self-radicalizing? If so what? Is it a reasonable position? How can you find someone who holds differing views from you? What can you learn from them?

For everyone I ask, how are you maintaining the relationships you have? Are you truly sharing love? Who are you neglecting?

If we all took some time to think about these types of questions more I think the world would be a better place.

Elevate Your Thinking

“Jaime, we have half an hour now during this drive. What’s the most important thing we can be thinking about?”- Buckminster Fuller

The opening quote for this post was posed by Buckminster Fuller to his granddaughter, obviously during a car ride. I lifted it off of page 1 of “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth” by Buckminster Fuller (actually it’s part of the foreward by his granddaughter), which I will buy and send to your house if you tell me you’ll read it! (email me at What a powerful question! How would you answer a question like that? Have you ever even been asked something like that?

I have been on a quest for truth since well before this blog was started but I feel the quest has been ever quickening as I try to write more and more opinionated pieces for this blog explaining the world as I know it to others. Trying to explain things is quite the humbling act as it really is true the more you learn, the more you learn how little you really know.

That is not to say that learning is a fruitless act, far from it!
Some of the mysteries I have been bumping into though get to sounding downright mystical. This has been a real challenge for my analytical mind.

What is Love?
What is Truth?
Why do some people turn into murders while some are artists and engineers? Why are some people both!
Is there a God? If so, is he the God that is preached by any of the hundreds of branches of each religion or have they all missed the mark in some aspects?
How do I most effectively move the world forward in a positive direction?
How do I even determine if my actions are actually positive or negative!?!?!
Why do I think negatively of X type of person. You can substitute just about anything for X. Tall, short, gay, straight, bros, hipsters, foreigners, other Americans, Republicans, Democrats. You name it, I’ve judged them.

One thing that has been wonderful for me has been visiting other churches or religious events. I have been visiting a different church each month sometime during the 2nd week of the month for almost a year now with a group from my church. At the start I had to ask “What is our goal here?” Were we on a mission to save souls from their wrong thinking? I feel this is often the attitude taken by, at least, many denominations of Christians towards other Christians, and certainly other religions. Or were we just trying to learn about others? See how the worship and try to BE with them. Luckily we had the presence of mind to choose the latter.

I have purposely tried to seek as varied services as possible. To date I have visited, Lutherans, Missionary Baptists, Southern Baptists, Mormons, Sunni Muslims, Seventh Day Adventists, Greek Orthodox Christians, Church of Christ – Scientists, Universal Unitarians and I’m sure some I have forgotten. I have only been met with welcome at every service I attended. People were happy to talk to me and those with me. They invited us in, ate with us and shared their stories and beliefs. Our group tried to be very respectful of each group we visited and they showed us each the same respect and, even better, hospitality, back. The responses I have gotten have really elevated my faith in humanity.

Incredibly when I have shared my visitation stories with friends and family often the first question I am asked is “Were you scared?” Now perhaps they are just joking and I am very oblivious but I believe that every joke has at a minimum a small amount of truth behind it. I have been a bit nervous walking into places I know no one but every time I have done it it becomes easier. I think what the people asking me those questions are really doing is voicing their own fears. Fears of the unknown, which we all have. My solution to the unknown is simply to make it known!

I believe that one solution to much of the violence and fear in the world these days is to simply expand our our circles of influence, or put in a gentler way, expand our neighborhood. Buckminster Fuller coined the term “Earthian” to help unify us. If we could brush away our differences and recognize that we are all in this together, expanding our circle of neighbors, I think we’d all become a lot more comfortable.

As you start a new day ask yourself a few questions.

How can I expand my neighborhood today?

What’s the most important thing I can be thinking about?

Muscle And A Shovel – Book Review

Review (and thoughts on) “Muscle and a Shovel – By Michael Shank” By Axel Hoogland.

I read the book Muscle and a Shovel on the urgings of a friend. I was asked to read the book for about 6 months (starting August 2013) before I finally bought it around February 2014. Then it took me until October 14th 2014 to start reading it. I was finished by October 25th. Not because it was a great book, but just because that’s the kind of person I am. I hope to finish books in a reasonable amount of time. This was while taking notes and looking up bible verses and doing a bit of reflection. I’m intending to do more reflection as I write this review.

I have decided that it’s beneficial to take notes before reading a book to see how your perceptions and prejudices change as you read. My notes before this book are below and thus begins my book review of Muscle and a Shovel.

“I am going into this book skeptical as it’s written to be promoting the Church of Christ, from what I understand but I am interested to read the story.”

Immediately the book begins with 2 quotes.

“The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.” – Morpheus, The Matrix

The 2nd was a quote I had never heard before and is a recurring theme in the book.

“It is easier to believe a lie one has heard a thousand times before than to believe a fact one has never heard before.”

I was definitely influenced by The Matrix quote as I grew up in the era where the Matrix was one of the movies for nerds. I am also Catholic. Some would argue it’s a system. I’m aware of my biases to thinking that that is the one true church of Christ. I tried to check my ego at the beginning of the book and read on.

The next page is basically a challenge to the reader and a warning that their views could be challenged or even changed by this book. I viewed this as basically a way to try to get readers to keep reading when they encounter something they disagree with. Sort of a “bet you can’t do this” challenge which some people fall for. I thought this was a bit childish. Then next page was the blue or red pill scenario from The Matrix again so I was once again content.

The book tells the story of Michael Shank (the author’s) conversion from lukewarm Baptist to baptized Church of Christ member. It starts with him about to be baptized (in March 1988) but then jumps back to tell the story of how he got there starting with him moving with his new wife to Nashville for his new job as an engineering technician for a printer company, starting in August 1987 so the book covers 8 months. He quickly meets the other main character in the book Randall, who works in the shipping department of the same company.

I was already much more interested in the book than when I started it since I could connect with Michael as we’re both engineers and he’s on a journey to find “The Truth”. The book is basically a cycle of questions by Randall, followed by searching for the answers by Michael. Michael usually thinks he finds the answer from some pastor and returns to be corrected later by Randall. The first question from Randall that stuck out to me was “Have you obeyed the gospel of our Lord?” The second was “How were you saved?” These were (and still are) questions that have been in my mind lately. The first has been more phrased as “Who goes to Heaven?”, which leads to “How do you get to Heaven?”, which in my mind leads to “Obey God” which leads to “What does it mean to obey God’s word?” I think this last one is the important one. It seems many people are able to ask the question, but not many are able to answer it. Despite how easy everyone seems to think it is to read the Bible and interpret, I challenge that it’s not inherently easy, partially because I think the Bible is a written in a way that can be difficult to interpret at times. It even mentions this in 2 Peter 3:16 about the writings of Paul

“He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”

I believe this is because a lot of peoples judgements are clouded by their sin or by others.
The 2nd question “How were you saved?” is interesting because it is a question I hear a lot from those outside the Catholic church, but not often inside.

Chapter 3 is important as it starts discussion on baptism. This is a prevailing theme in the book as it starts with Mike and his wife about to be baptized and ends with their baptism.

The next interesting revelation came at the beginning of chapter 4 from Mike “My friends and I all wore the label of Christian, but there was little difference between my lifestyle and the world around me.” This is a thought that was interesting to me as it’s something that I was confronted with in 2012 by a new friend at the time. It definitely started me moving on a new path, but it has definitely been a bumpy road and I’m still on it.

A page later another revelation, “My ultimate goal was to become a software CEO in the Silicon Valley with a seven-figure salary and stock options.” This by Mike. It spoke to me again as i’m wrestling with my goals. By the end of the book Mike learns that money is not the ultimate satisfier.

Chapter 6 is titled “Am I going to hell?” in my version. From what I understand chapter titles have been removed in newer version of the book. I am very interested in the question above if you reference my thoughts earlier in this post. This is a question I ask often, although usually I ask “Who gets to go to heaven?” One thought a friend pointed out to me was that heaven and hell aren’t referenced often in the bible but the “Kingdom of God” is referenced very often. Interesting.

Next thought “All denominations teach conflicting doctrines”therefore, it isn’t possible that all of them are biblically correct.” is a statement not far into Chapter 6.

Again a profound statement that I’ve thought myself. This is one of the first parts I’d like to propose a question. Not all are biblically correct.This is a nice straightforward way to ask “Do you believe is Sola Scriptura?” At this point in my life, and acknowledging my Catholic upbringing, I have to say no. Referencing this page, #10 “When all is said and done, Protestants who accept sola scriptura as their rule of faith appeal to the Bible. If they are asked why one should believe in their particular denominational teaching rather than another, each will appeal to “the Bible’s clear teaching.” You can read up on Sola Scriptura yourselves and think on it. You know my stance that the Bible isn’t as clear as people act like it is, or we wouldn’t have 30,000 denominations arguing with each other.

Another thought I had on this point was the history of the Bible. It didn’t appear by itself. In fact, the church assembled the bible, picking from many books available and assembling them, guided by the Holy Spirit. Here is an article on the history of the Bible.

Probably the most directly confrontational quote in the book appears at the end of chapter 6. “If you’re a member of any denomination … that Jesus Christ did not establish and buy with His blood, there’s no question that you’re headed toward eternal damnation.” This was from Randall.

I will freely admit that I have not had a ton of conversation with other denomination pastors (although probably more than most people, which would only require one, and I’ve had more than that). In chapter Michael asks a Baptist Pastor who started the Baptist church. The pastor replies, John the Baptist. Michael starts to search for this in the bible but eventually can’t find it, much like the cycle of many things in the book. Now this point was pretty quickly dismissed by Randall as completely false and proven with a quick look through the bible and history to understand that the Baptist church was actually started in the Netherlands in the early 1600’s. So I’m not sure if this was really what some people thought in the 1980’s. Since they didn’t have the magic of the internet it is possible that the pastor was really taught incorrectly so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. With the internet, it should be easy to look up simple facts like this these days, I wish Michael Shank would have done that with some of his facts later in the book.

Skipping some more to chapter 13 “Cutting off the end of the ham” In this chapter Michael’s tells an old story of a wife making a ham who cuts the end of it off and throws it away. The husband asks why and she says because that’s how her mother did it. Eventually it gets around to that the grandmother had a pan that was too small to fit a full size ham. The point of the story is that traditions or “how we’ve always done it” definately need to be questioned at times. If your teacher’s can’t give you a straight answer, maybe it’s time to move on, or ask a more clear pointed question. This was something that I have grown better at by talking with those who have different beliefs than myself. Often if we get in the rut of believing only what were taught, we don’t actually understand why we believe it. Ask questions, it helps you grow.

Chapter 14 “Feelings…Nothing More Than Feelings” brings a few interesting thoughts. First is Michaels confession that he was sure he was saved when he was 8 because he felt a great peace when he said the Sinners Prayer. Randall points out that this could have been a placebo effect of a young boy being told he was saved by those in power or perceived to be in power. Of course you could say it was also the Spirit. Hard to argue things of feelings! The next thought comes shortly after when Michael mentions a personal relationship with Christ. This was another thing that I was not particularly exposed to until much later in life as that’s not something that is often said in the Catholic Church. This article I read while researching to write my post mentions a lot about knowing God but mentions that many people are surprised to hear that “personal relationship with Christ” is not actually found in the bible anywhere. What it does mention is knowing God.

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were in bondage to beings that by nature are no gods; but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits, whose slaves you want to be once more? (Gal. 4:8-9)

It goes on to discuss the signs that you know God, mentioned how you will act. Works? I will take this opportunity to share James 2:17 “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

Repeated throughout the book is the quote “It is easier to believe a lie one has heard a thousand times before than to believe a fact one has never heard before.”

Moving to chapter 17 is the thought “If you know you’re going to be die and be judged, doesn’t it make sense to find out what you’ll be judged by?” Pretty sound advice.

The next important thought in chapter 17 is “There’s some truth in every denomination.”

Randall states that he’s not there to criticize others, but only to refute their false doctrines. This is where the most fatal flaw in the whole book comes in. He points to some of the “beliefs” of the Catholic church and he is very careless with definitions. He says that Catholics see the Pope as God on earth. This is the absolutely most incorrect thing I’ve ever read. It honestly made me question the whole rest of the book and Michael and Randall’s research skills. They undoubtedly had access to a Catholic priest. If they had taken a day to talk to a priest to understand what the Catholic Church teaches they could have had and accurate book instead of one that promotes lies. The Catholic Church does not teach that the Pope is God.

The second practice referred to by Randall is praying to Mary. Now this is something I’ve been investigating lately and here’s what I found. If you look at the definition of prayer it is 2 fold. One involves worship which is prayer to God. The other is a simple request, which is prayer to saints or Mary. The confusion in definitions is what leads to many disagreements between those who would otherwise be on the same side of a discussion. So synopsis. Catholics do pray to Mary and Saints. Catholics do not worship Mary or the Saints.

Which my confidence shattered I considered stopping here. But in keeping with my promise to my friend, in acknowledging that I had already gotten a lot of good out of this book (at least it got me to open my bible to check some verses) and in keeping with the thought that there’s some truth in every denomination, I read on.

A particularly confusing part came in came in chapter 18 when they began to talk about the word baptidzo and it’s translation to english. They contend that the history of baptidzo always means immersion. If you read here that obviously an oversimplification, referencing other parts of scripture. Again, I am becoming uneasy about Michael and Randall’s research abilities.

In chapter 20 Michael has made the decision to leave his current church. He states he is faced with either Catholicism or Protestantism. This is a pretty narrow minded statement.  I’m making an assumption here that when he said Catholic he was referring to the Roman Catholic church, which is the only Catholic church most people in the English speaking world know. He completely ignored the Orthodox Catholic church (more often called the Eastern Orthodox church) which had broken away from the Roman Catholic church earlier than the Protestants, based on Constantinople being the political power of the day and not generally for any reasons dealing with faith.Then he makes a broad statement that “Protestantism” is his other option. With many many different denominations, and more appearing every day based on new divisions, thats not really a bucket. Michael points to the hours he spent at the local library researching different denominations as proof that he was sure Catholicism was wrong. It’s too bad he didn’t save himself that time by talking to a priest for a total of 5 minutes. He could have been set straight on all the things he’s gotten wrong, some of which I pointed out earlier.

A few pages later he brings up a thought on original sin. This is one that makes me pause and think. He states “Children are, until they come to an age whereby they fully understand right from wrong (and are able to choose between the two), innocent and free from the spiritual consequences of sin.” I believe this one is pretty easily disproven by a little biblical research. Romans 5:18 “Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.” This seems to make it pretty clear that original sin as taught by the Catholic church is real. Read here for further thoughts on the topic.

A funny thing does happen later in chapter 20. Michael is “kicked out” of a bible study for referencing the bible.

I didn’t find much out of the normal discussion on topics until chapter 24 in which Michael asks himself “Why had I never questioned what I’d been taught in religion?”. This is a profound statement. It is one I’ve been embracing laterly. As Michael has found, sometimes you will find there are no answers or as I’ve found, there are answers.

I found another interesting fact in chapter 27. The Church of Christ does not use musical instruments.

Chapter 29 “Killing the One-Man Pastoral System”, is a chapter dedicated to proving that a church having one pastor can lead to rogue pastors. I can agree with him on this topic. There are many one-off churches that people are drawn into because of the charismatic nature of one pastor. When that pastor dies, moves or otherwise stops preaching, the church can wither. This is too bad. In contrast, we have the Catholic church which is fully in communion with the Magisterium, the teaching authority of the Catholic church. If a priest were to go rogue, he’d be reigned in quickly.

Jumping to chapter 38 and near the end Michael makes the decision to turn away from sin. “The pleasures of sin must be sacrificed in order to follow Christ. My smoking, drinking , cursing, lewd jokes, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life – all of these things had to be turned away from in order to follow the One that offered eternal life.”

This is a point that Michael and I can again be reconciled on.
Then he and his wife are baptized, again since they had each been baptized in their youth. This is a point of contention I am still researching.

A final thought of the book was sharing the “secret” of Randall. How he was able to rattle off so many bible verses. He would memorize one verse a year. Write it on a note card and carry it with you and memorize it for a week. Then write another verse the next week. Review the cards periodically and you’ll be far ahead of most people. Practice makes perfect just like any other skill.

My final thoughts on the book are as follows. It was a good book overall in the fact that it challenged me to read my bible more and research more. I commend Michael in his efforts to seek the Truth. I’m not sure of his resolve though. He seems to have done a lot of half research and at some point just accepted what he found or was told. I sympathize with him as just taking the time to write this review was trying on my patience at times. I hope he comes upon this review and it challenges his thoughts. If you read this far in my review you probably understand that I take issue with a lot of what is taught in the book, as you should also based on the fact that there are some blatantly wrong “facts” stated. I hope this challenges you to read farther into your faith. Read this book if you desire. Let it challenge your beliefs. The time you take to research to prove or disprove your beliefs will be the best way to grow.

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Thank you Phil for the cover image.