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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

without You

by jp

Resisting His arms
To hold me and calm me,
Staying busy with everything
Trying to be independent and free.

Angst boils up inside
Wanting answers while wanting to hide.
Confront it, oh I've tried
Somehow it never works, I confide.
But now I need Him most
No time to threaten or boast,
Humble myself and give myself completely
Knowing He'll listen and take care of me.

It's true
I'm lost without You.
It's too much to take on
Too much to try to stay calm.
Too much to try to comfort and be
Someone other than a person who's innately incomplete.


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
I wrote this tonight out of the depths of my heart.

I think everyone experiences the highs and lows of the Christian life and thought my faith is still very strong, I'm feeling weak at the moment...mostly because I'm not relying on God the way I suppose I should be. I've finally hit the brick wall called my humanity. I believe God will do what He's promised and that no matter what happens in my life, He's in complete control and I don't need to worry...but I still do. I still go through my pity parties, wondering why God took away those whom I hold dearest---and all within a year. Okay, not all of them, but the people I confide in the most, aside from my husband.

It's been nearly a year now since my grandfather passed away. The anniversary will be Dec. 25..yes, Christmas. While it's difficult to think about and still hard at times to fathom, God has given me an incredible amount of strength and peace in the midst of it all.

It's been only a few months since my closest friends moved away. Still, I believe He's doing it especially for my growth, most likely to make me rely on Him more for my needs, rather than turning to my friends and family for advice. Slowly but surely, God is taking away all of the things I often use to medicate my problems. Shopping (no money). Friends (all moved away). Those sound pretty minute and trivial, but they were big pillars in my life...well, not shopping as much, but that was my free time to just do something for myself.

Now I'm giving more. I'm giving the high school girls my time, my love, my energy. I'm giving my job my efforts, my dreams. I'm giving my relationship with my family more of my time and heart than I ever thought possible.

But am I giving God the same? Am I turning to Him in the wake of my absences? Am I turning over my foibles, my weaknesses, my shortcomings. The quick answer? Nope.

Well, why?

It sounds lame, but I don't know. Getting too busy and not paying attention? Having the wrong priorities, even if they look worthy by everyone else's standards?

I'm trying to sort through all of this now, while also journeying back to what feels like square one with my job: do I stay?

Man, this is a hard spot to be in right now. But I know I'm going through it for a reason, if not anything else, to bring Him glory.

I'm innately incomplete and I completely realize it.



Monday, November 05, 2007

The Turning of an Atheist
Unless you are a professional philosopher or a committed atheist, you probably have not heard of Antony Flew. Eighty-four years old and long retired, Flew lives with his wife in Reading, a medium-size town on the Thames an hour west of London. Over a long career he held appointments at a series of decent regional universities — Aberdeen, Keele, Reading — and earned a strong reputation writing on an unusual range of topics, from Hume to immortality to Darwin. His greatest contribution remains his first, a short paper from 1950 called “Theology and Falsification.” Flew was a precocious 27 when he delivered the paper at a meeting of the Socratic Club, the Oxford salon presided over by C. S. Lewis. Reprinted in dozens of anthologies, “Theology and Falsification” has become a heroic tract for committed atheists. In a masterfully terse thousand words, Flew argues that “God” is too vague a concept to be meaningful. For if God’s greatness entails being invisible, intangible and inscrutable, then he can’t be disproved — but nor can he be proved. Such powerful but simply stated arguments made Flew popular on the campus speaking circuit; videos from debates in the 1970s show a lanky man, his black hair professorially unkempt, vivisecting religious belief with an English public-school accent perfect for the seduction of American ears. Before the current crop of atheist crusader-authors — Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens — there was Antony Flew.

Some of Flew's early works that made his case against God.

Flew’s fame is about to spread beyond the atheists and philosophers. HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins, has just released “There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind,” a book attributed to Flew and a co-author, the Christian apologist Roy Abraham Varghese. “There Is a God” is an intellectual’s bildungsroman written in simple language for a mass audience. It’s the first-person account of a preacher’s son who, away at Methodist boarding school, defied his father to become a teenage atheist, later wrote on atheism at Oxford, spent his life fighting for unbelief and then did an about-face in his old age, embracing the truth of a higher power. The book offers elegant, user-friendly descriptions of the arguments that persuaded Flew, arguments familiar to anyone who has heard evangelical Christians’ “scientific proof” of God. From the “fine tuning” argument that the laws of nature are too perfect to have been accidents to the “intelligent design” argument that human biology cannot be explained by evolution to various computations meant to show that probability favors a divine creator, “There Is a God” is perhaps the handiest primer ever written on the science (many would say pseudoscience) of religious belief.

Flew’s “conversion,” first reported in late 2004, has cast him into culture wars that he contentedly avoided his whole life. Although Flew still rejects Christianity, saying only that he now believes in “an intelligence that explains both its own existence and that of the world,” evangelicals are understandably excited. For them, Flew has become very useful, very quickly. In late 2006, Flew was among the signers of a letter to Tony Blair asking that intelligent design be included in the British science curriculum. Flew’s fame has reached even to small-town Pennsylvania, where in 2005 Judge John E. Jones cited Flew in his landmark decision prohibiting the teaching of intelligent design in the town of Dover. Referring to a publication of the Dover School Board, Jones wrote that “the newsletter all but admits that I.D. is religious by quoting Anthony [sic] Flew, described as a ‘world famous atheist who now believes in intelligent design.’ ”

But is Flew’s conversion what it seems to be? Depending on whom you ask, Antony Flew is either a true convert whose lifelong intellectual searchings finally brought him to God or a senescent scholar possibly being exploited by his associates. The version you prefer will depend on how you interpret a story that began 20 years ago, when some evangelical Christians found an atheist who, they thought, might be persuaded to join their side. In the intellectual tug of war that ensued, Flew himself — a continent away, his memory failing, without an Internet connection — had no idea how fiercely he was being fought over or how many of his acquaintances were calling or writing him just to shore up their cases. For a time, Flew hardly spoke to the media, leaving evangelicals and atheists to trade interpretations of his rare, oracular pronouncements. Was he now a believer in intelligent design? In Christianity? In some vague, intelligent “life force”? With the publication of his new book, Flew is once again talking, and this summer I traveled to England to speak with him. But as I discovered, a conversation with him confuses more than it clarifies. With his powers in decline, Antony Flew, a man who devoted his life to rational argument, has become a mere symbol, a trophy in a battle fought by people whose agendas he does not fully understand.

THE STARTLING ARTICLE appeared on Dec. 9, 2004. “A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind,” Richard Ostling of The Associated Press wrote. “He now believes in God — more or less — based on scientific evidence and says so on a video released Thursday. At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A superintelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England.”

The “video released Thursday” was “Has Science Discovered God?” a DVD of a May 2004 conversation, held in a television studio at New York University, between Flew and two popular advocates of theism, the Orthodox Jewish physicist Gerald Schroeder and the Christian philosopher John Haldane. There are long stretches of Schroeder, sitting behind what looks like an anchorman’s desk, lecturing an attentive Flew on matters like the unlikelihood that an infinite number of monkeys typing randomly would ever produce a Shakespearean sonnet. (He is rebutting Stephen Hawking, who argues in “A Brief History of Time” that nature, given enough time, can perform the wondrous feats that credulous people attribute to God.) Schroeder also talks about the Cambrian explosion of animal species hundreds of millions of years ago, which he says happened too suddenly to lack some supernatural guidance. Haldane chimes in to argue that certain human capabilities, like language and reproduction, can be explained only by a higher intelligence. Meanwhile, a narrator, talking as photographs of Werner Heisenberg and Albert Einstein appear on screen and Vivaldi plays in the background, says things like, “Many of the greatest scientists of all time” believed that “the intelligence of the universe, its laws, points to an intelligence that has no limitation.”

When at last Flew speaks, his diction is halting, in stark contrast to Schroeder and Haldane, both younger men, forceful and assured. Under their prodding, Flew concedes that the Big Bang could be described in Genesis; that the complexity of DNA strongly points to an “intelligence”; and that the existence of evil is not an insurmountable problem for the existence of God. In short, Flew retracts decades’ worth of conclusions on which he built his career. At one point, Haldane is noticeably smiling, embarrassed (or pleased) by Flew’s acquiesence. After one brief lecture from Schroeder, arguing that the origin of life can be seen as a form of revelation, Flew says, “I don’t see any way to meet that argument at the moment.”

The last segment of the DVD is a short infomercial for “The Wonder of the World,” a book by Roy Abraham Varghese, who, it happens, helped pay for the DVD’s production, and financed the participants’ trips to New York. Varghese is a 49-year-old American business consultant of Indian ancestry, a practitioner of the Eastern Catholic Syro-Malankara rite and a tireless crusader for (and financial backer of) those who believe that scientific research helps verify the existence of God. Through the Institute for MetaScientific Research, his one-man shop in Dallas, he sponsors conferences and debates, and it was at a Dallas conference in 1985 that Varghese first met Flew.

“I’ve been involved with him for 20 years or more,” Varghese told me in August. Since meeting Flew, Varghese “had him down to Dallas several times,” talked with him often and periodically sent him readings in theism. When Varghese convened the N.Y.U. discussion, he said he hoped that Schroeder and Haldane, both skillful advocates for belief in God, might carry Flew further in the direction Varghese had been leading him. “I knew that he was in that frame of mind — that there was no naturalistic explanation for the world,” Varghese said. “But at that event, he went further, saying the only explanation was that there was a God.”

It was Varghese who sent the DVD to the media, for which he was rewarded, in early December 2004, with articles from the A.P.’s Ostling and from Fox News, ABC News and a host of religious news wires. On Dec. 16, Varghese contributed an op-ed article to The Dallas Morning News that read, “Last week, The Associated Press broke the news that the most famous atheist in the academic world . . . now accepts the existence of God.” Varghese did not mention that the AP “broke” the news thanks to his own press release, which accompanied the DVD (which he helped pay for) of the conversation (which he paid for).

Varghese was not the only Christian to befriend Flew. “We’ve been friends for 22 years,” Gary Habermas told me in late July. Habermas, a professor at Liberty University, founded by Jerry Falwell, met Flew at Varghese’s Dallas confab in 1985; later that year, he invited Flew to Liberty University to debate the Resurrection. “Since then, Tony and I have dialogued five times, three times on the Resurrection,” Habermas said, using Flew’s nickname. “I don’t know how many letters we’ve written back and forth — dozens. I haven’t talked to Tony for about two months now, but we talk every couple months on the phone.” Habermas told me that in his letters, Flew tested shifting reasons for his newfound belief in God, sometimes saying he believed in intelligent design, other times saying only Aristotle’s notion of a “prime mover” was persuasive. Indeed, Flew has never offered a detailed explanation of what he believes, preferring to use terms like “Aristotelian deist” that connote both an assent to a higher intelligence and a resistance to the idea of a personal god.

As Flew’s profile in the Christian world rose, he was also courted by Biola University, the conservative Christian school outside Los Angeles. On May 11, 2006, Biola awarded Flew the second Phillip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth, named for the author of “Darwin on Trial.” At the Biola ceremony, Flew mocked the revealed religion of his audience and flaunted his allegiance to deism: “The deist god, unlike the god of the Jewish, Christian or, for heaven’s sake, the Islamic revelation, is neither interested in nor concerned about either human beliefs or human behavior,” he told the small crowd. Jim Underdown, who was there reporting for a skeptics’ think tank, said he was surprised that the Christians would want him. But the Christians, it turned out, were not concerned.

THE NARRATIVE TOLD by Flew’s Christian friends — and in some of Flew’s own pronouncements — has a certain coherence. About 20 years ago, they say, intrigued by the science of the Big Bang, Flew began to pay respectful attention to Christian apologists (and to the Jewish Schroeder) who believe that science now supports a sudden creation story that resembles the one in Genesis. These men promised Flew that new scientific research, far from being the enemy of revealed religion, argued for a God. And, in fact, a number of esteemed scientists were, in the mid-80s, talking about their interest in religion. Some, for example, accepted evolution as a fact but asked if it might serve a divine purpose, or they accepted the scientific method but tried to apply it to theological questions. And many of these God-curious scientists, like the mathematician John Barrow, the physicists Paul Davies and John Polkinghorne and the chemist Arthur Peacocke, were English. (Polkinghorne and Peacocke were ordained in the Church of England.) This group has since grown in prominence, and its attempts to create a nexus of science and religion were very influential on the men who, in turn, influenced Flew. Mindful of even greater men, from Newton to Einstein, whose words can be read to endorse the possibility of a divine creator, Flew at last joined their ranks. Flew had always possessed a restless, even eccentric intellect, and this was just another turn in his career, albeit a surprising one.

Or perhaps not so surprising, for Flew never considered himself a dogmatic atheist. Even when he traveled the world arguing against religious belief, he was never an angry polemicist; a preacher’s son, he had none of the bewildered animosity that characterizes many nonbelievers. Always respectful of his opponents, he exhibited an unusual curiosity about their beliefs. Flew’s first book, in 1953, was about the possibility (which he ultimately rejected) of paranormal phenomena like ESP. Flew also had a longstanding affinity for conservative politics — he was an adviser to Margaret Thatcher — that made him unusually approachable for some Christians. In the light of his natal comfort with religious folk and his agreeable politics, Flew’s eventual alliance with Christians doesn’t seem so strange.

But what is a coherent narrative from one perspective is strikingly incomplete from another. For while Habermas and Varghese, Schroeder and Haldane were urging Flew toward theism, an atheist from America was fighting back. They sent Flew articles — and he sent Flew articles. They thought they were winning — but so did he.

Richard Carrier, a 37-year-old doctoral student in ancient history at Columbia, is a type recognizable to anyone who has spent much time at a chess tournament or a sci-fi convention or a skeptics’ conference. He is young, male and brilliant, with an obsessive streak both admirable and a little debilitating. In the time that he hasn’t finished his dissertation, Carrier has self-published a 444-page magnum opus called “Sense and Goodness Without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism.” (According to its Amazon.com description, the book offers “a complete worldview . . . covering every subject from knowledge to art, from metaphysics to morality, from theology to politics.”) He is a contributor to Skeptical Inquirer magazine and the former editor of the online community Secular Web. And in August 2004 Carrier turned his formidable intellect, and sense of purpose, toward Flew.

Carrier first wrote to Flew in 2001, when an early, unfounded rumor on the Web claimed that Flew had become a believer. This time, however, Carrier was hearing louder rumblings: a positive review that Flew wrote of Varghese’s book promoting theism; kind words Flew supposedly had for Gerald Schroeder; an e-mail message from the Christian apologist William Lane Craig, stating that Flew told a third party that he had seen sound arguments for the existence of God. Carrier did not yet know about the N.Y.U. meeting or the forthcoming DVD, but he already had cause for concern. In a long letter, Carrier asked Flew to confirm or deny what he hoped were calumnies on Flew’s good name, and he provided a Web address for his own article refuting Schroeder.

On Sept. 3, in his small, sufficiently legible hand, Flew replied. (Carrier posted short excerpts from Flew’s letters online, but he has sent me computer scans of the entire correspondence.)

“Thank you for your letter, which reached me today,” Flew wrote. “I have for a long time been inclined to believe in an Aristotelian God who (or which) does not intervene in the Universe. . . . I am still thinking about the implications of, in particular, Schroeder’s books,” which Varghese had sent him. “If I ever become competent to read anything off the Internet . . . I will be eager to read your objections to Schroeder. I have met him, and I was much impressed.”

Carrier was not satisfied. He replied immediately, helpfully enclosing “a lot of reading material for your benefit,” including his Web article on Schroeder, a more scholarly article that he wrote for the journal Biology & Philosophy and — the pi├Ęce de chutzpah — a four-page questionnaire for Flew to fill out. The questions ranged from the relevant, if barbed (“Should we believe claims open to scientific evaluation that are not accepted by the vast majority of the scientific community?”) to the invasive and rather trivial (“Have you attended Quaker meetings, and is there anything about Quaker religious doctrine that you find attractive?”).

On Oct. 19, Flew sent back the completed questionnaire. In his answers, he wrote that he agreed with Schroeder that Genesis anticipated later scientific findings, but he retained his distaste for the Old Testament God, who makes “threats of eternal torture.” That God should not, Flew wrote, be confused with the “noninterfering God of the people called Deists — such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.”

Carrier replied with a letter of 2,000 words that moves from solicitousness (“I am writing this time to convey the concern of myself and numerous colleagues”) to brute candor (“There is absolutely no scientific basis for your position”) to self-regard (“I have also enclosed an excerpt from my forthcoming book summarizing the current science on this subject”). Above all, though, the tone is one of exasperation. Flew, he sees, has been taken to dinner by the theists, has been fed questionable science and swallowed it with pleasure. Carrier is fighting a rear-guard action, via snail mail, from a continent away.

“But to understand this,” Carrier pleads, “you must examine the most current science on this subject, not what theists tell you and not what scientists were saying 20 years ago. Everything has changed. Don’t you agree it is your intellectual responsibility to get up to date on this, before making any decisions regarding what to believe? It worries us that you may be shirking this responsibility.”

Amazingly, this epistolary pummeling worked. When Flew wrote back on Dec. 24, two weeks after the Associated Press story, he had changed his mind. “I simply but apparently mistakenly believed that Schroeder — a man whom I was told had taught at M.I.T. and was now working at the Weizmann Institute in Jerusalem — would be up to date. Clearly he was not.” As if in payment for Carrier’s multiple enclosures, Flew sent an enclosure of his own: an order form for an anti-European Union book called “England Our England.”

Further letters brought further backpedaling. In his letter of Jan. 2, 2005, Flew says that if the “so confident, atheist polemicist Richard Dawkins” tells him that Schroeder is wrong, he will admit that Schroeder is wrong. But he assumes that Dawkins accepts Schroeder’s arguments, since Dawkins “made no reference to your article.” It’s truly odd: Flew says he believes that since Dawkins failed to cite the graduate student Richard Carrier attacking Schroeder, then Schroeder’s scholarship is likely sound. In other words, if Flew was misled, he can blame Dawkins, who holds an Oxford professorship in the “public understanding of science” yet failed to inform his public that Schroeder was a crank. Nonetheless, Flew promises Carrier, he is prepared to reject Schroeder. Flew once believed that Genesis might be scientifically accurate, but “as it is not, that’s that. I am rather sorry.”

Flew’s second thoughts did not stop at Schroeder. At about the same time, according to Paul Kurtz, whose freethinking Prometheus Books published several of Flew’s works, Flew expressed doubts about Roy Varghese. “He’s told us that he’s sorry that he trusted Roy,” Kurtz told me. “He placed his confidence in him, thought he was a leading scientist.” Flew’s misgivings also prompted him to revise an essay that he was writing for Kurtz, an introduction to Prometheus’s new 2005 edition of his 1966 book “God and Philosophy.” In an early draft of the introduction, which Flew shared with Carrier, and Carrier with me, Flew identifies himself as a deist, but in the published version, that passage has been deleted. In his letter to Carrier of Feb. 13, 2005, Flew gives the American credit for stopping him at the brink of belief: “Thanks above all to your advice, I have been able to stop the press at Prometheus, and they will be incorporating a radically rewritten new Introduction.”

Flew sent three further letters to Carrier. In the first, dated Feb. 19, he again thanks Carrier for his help with the introduction, then adds, “I am since yesterday resolved to make no more statements about religion for publication.” And in the last, on June 22, Flew retracts, rather poignantly, praise he had offered for one of Gary Habermas’s books: “The statement which I most regret making during the last few months was the one about Habermas’s book on the alleged resurrection of Jesus bar Joseph. I completely forgot Hume’s to my mind decisive argument against all evidence for the miraculous. A sign of physical decline.”

TWO YEARS LATER, Flew’s doubts have disappeared, and the philosopher has a reinvigorated faith in his theistic friends. In his new book, he freely cites Schroeder, Haldane and Varghese. And the author who two years ago was forgetting his Hume is, in the forthcoming volume, deeply read in many philosophers — John Leslie, John Foster, Thomas Tracy, Brian Leftow — rarely if ever mentioned in his letters, articles or books. It’s as if he’s a new man.

In August, I visited Flew in Reading. His house, sparsely furnished, sits on a small plot on a busy street, hard against its neighbors. It could belong to a retired government clerk or to a career military man who at last has resettled in the mother country. Inside, it seems very English, with the worn, muted colors of a BBC production from the 1970s. The house may lack an Internet connection, but it does have one very friendly cat, who sat beside me on the sofa. I visited on two consecutive days, and each day Annis, Flew’s wife of 55 years, served me a glass of water and left me in the sitting room to ask her husband a series of tough, indeed rather cruel, questions.

In “There Is a God,” Flew quotes extensively from a conversation he had with Leftow, a professor at Oxford. So I asked Flew, “Do you know Brian Leftow?”

“No,” he said. “I don’t think I do.”

“Do you know the work of the philosopher John Leslie?” Leslie is discussed extensively in the book.

Flew paused, seeming unsure. “I think he’s quite good.” But he said he did not remember the specifics of Leslie’s work.

“Have you ever run across the philosopher Paul Davies?” In his book, Flew calls Paul Davies “arguably the most influential contemporary expositor of modern science.”

“I’m afraid this is a spectacle of my not remembering!”

He said this with a laugh. When we began the interview, he warned me, with merry self-deprecation, that he suffers from “nominal aphasia,” or the inability to reproduce names. But he forgot more than names. He didn’t remember talking with Paul Kurtz about his introduction to “God and Philosophy” just two years ago. There were words in his book, like “abiogenesis,” that now he could not define. When I asked about Gary Habermas, who told me that he and Flew had been friends for 22 years and exchanged “dozens” of letters, Flew said, “He and I met at a debate, I think.” I pointed out to him that in his earlier philosophical work he argued that the mere concept of God was incoherent, so if he was now a theist, he must reject huge chunks of his old philosophy. “Yes, maybe there’s a major inconsistency there,” he said, seeming grateful for my insight. And he seemed generally uninterested in the content of his book — he spent far more time talking about the dangers of unchecked Muslim immigration and his embrace of the anti-E.U. United Kingdom Independence Party.

As he himself conceded, he had not written his book.

“This is really Roy’s doing,” he said, before I had even figured out a polite way to ask. “He showed it to me, and I said O.K. I’m too old for this kind of work!”

When I asked Varghese, he freely admitted that the book was his idea and that he had done all the original writing for it. But he made the book sound like more of a joint effort — slightly more, anyway. “There was stuff he had written before, and some of that was adapted to this,” Varghese said. “There is stuff he’d written to me in correspondence, and I organized a lot of it. And I had interviews with him. So those three elements went into it. Oh, and I exposed him to certain authors and got his views on them. We pulled it together. And then to make it more reader-friendly, HarperCollins had a more popular author go through it.”

So even the ghostwriter had a ghostwriter: Bob Hostetler, an evangelical pastor and author from Ohio, rewrote many passages, especially in the section that narrates Flew’s childhood. With three authors, how much Flew was left in the book? “He went through everything, was happy with everything,” Varghese said.

Cynthia DiTiberio, the editor who acquired “There Is a God” for HarperOne, told me that Hostetler’s work was limited; she called him “an extensive copy editor.” “He did the kind of thing I would have done if I had the time,” DiTiberio said, “but editors don’t get any editing done in the office; we have to do that in our own time.”

I then asked DiTiberio if it was ethical to publish a book under Flew’s name that cites sources Flew doesn’t know well enough to discuss. “I see your struggle and confusion,” she said, but she maintained that the book is an accurate presentation of Flew’s views. “I don’t think Tony would have allowed us to put in anything he was not comfortable with or familiar with,” she said. “I mean, it is hard to tell at this point how much is him getting older. In my communications with him, there are times you have to say things a couple times. I’m not sure what that is. I wish I could tell you more. . . We were hindered by the fact that he is older, but it would do the world a disservice not to have the book out there, regardless of how it was made.”

MANY AUTHORS DON'T WRITE their own books. Some don’t even read them: sports fans will remember when the basketball player Charles Barkley complained that he was misquoted in his own autobiography. It could be that two years ago, when Varghese started writing Flew’s book, Flew was a fuller partner in the process than he remembers (the section on Flew’s childhood could hardly have been written without his cooperation). And perhaps he was recently reading those philosophers whose names he now does not recognize. Two years ago, he might have had a fruitful conversation with Brian Leftow, a man he does not remember. Two years ago, he and Gary Habermas might indeed have been good friends.

But it seems somewhat more likely that Flew, having been intellectually chaperoned by Roy Varghese for 20 years, simply trusted him to write something responsible. Varghese had done him so many kindnesses. He introduced Flew to Gerald Schroeder and John Haldane, and, I learned, he flew to England to chauffeur Flew to meetings with Leftow and the Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne (although when Leftow and Swinburne appear in the book, the conversations are described as if Varghese were not present). Varghese also gave Flew adventures, jetting him to Dallas and New York, putting him in a DVD documentary, getting his name in the papers. If at times Flew could be persuaded, by a letter or a phone call from an American atheist, that Varghese and his crew were not the eminent authorities on science they made themselves out to be, he was always happy to change his mind back. These Christians were kind and attentive, and they always seemed to have the latest research.

To believe that Flew has been exploited is not to conclude that his exploiters acted with malice. If Flew in his dotage was a bit gullible, Varghese had a gullibility of his own. An autodidact with no academic credentials, Varghese was clearly thrilled to be taken seriously by an Oxford-trained philosopher; it may never have occurred to him that so educated a mind could be in decline. Habermas, too, speaks of Flew with a genuine reverence and seems proud of the friendship.

Intellectuals, even more than the rest of us, like to believe that they reach conclusions solely through study and reflection. But like the rest of us, they sometimes choose their opinions to suit their friends rather than the other way around. Which means that Flew is likely to remain a theist, for just as the Christians drew him close, the atheists gave him up for lost. “He once was a great philosopher,” Richard Dawkins, the Oxford biologist and author of “The God Delusion,” told a Virginia audience last year. “It’s very sad.” Paul Kurtz of Prometheus Books says he thinks Flew is being exploited. “They’re misusing him,” Kurtz says, referring to the Christians. “They’re worried about atheists, and they’re trying to find an atheist to be on their side.”

They found one, and with less difficulty than atheists would have guessed. From the start, the believers’ affection for Antony Flew was not unrequited. When Flew met Christians who claimed to have new, scientific proof of the existence of God, he quickly became again the young graduate student who embarked on a study of the paranormal when all his colleagues were committed to strict rationalism. He may, too, have connected with the child who was raised in his parents’ warm, faithful Methodism. Flew’s colleagues will wonder how he could sign a petition to the prime minister in favor of intelligent design, but it becomes more understandable if the signatory never hated religious belief the way many philosophers do and if he never hated religious people in the least. At a time when belief in God is more polarizing than it has been in years, when all believers are being blamed for religion’s worst excesses, Antony Flew has quietly switched sides, just following the evidence as it has been explained to him, blissfully unaware of what others have at stake.

Mark Oppenheimer is coordinator of the Yale Journalism Initiative and editor of The New Haven Review. He last wrote for the magazine about the Hollywood acting coach Milton Katselas.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

For all you YouTube addicts out there who are wanting more "Christian" videos and stuff, here's your solution. I thought it was interesting that it was the "fastest growing Web site" on the Internet since its debut in August.

Check it out:

j

God Goes Online

By Andy Greenberg, Forbes.com
God goes online (© Forbes.com)

YouTube has produced its share of celebrities: Lonelygirl15, the lip-syncing Chinese teenagers known as the Back Dormitory Boys, and Tyson, the skateboarding bulldog, to name a few.

But no single video by any of these user-generated superstars has ever attracted as many viewings as a clip of a little girl wearing a "Princess" T-shirt, reciting the Bible's Psalm 23. That video has been viewed more than 3.7 million times--not on Google's YouTube but on Godtube.com, the site's upstart competitor.

Godtube, a user-generated content site that focuses on Christian-friendly videos and filters out profane or sexual references, became the single fastest-growing site on the Web just after launching in August, according to comScore Media Metrix. Chris Wyatt, the company's founder and chief executive, says the site attracts over 3 million unique visitors a month.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The bittersweet door
-jp 10/29/07

The bittersweet revolving door
Ushers me to an exciting beginning,
While pushing back all of the old
As it continues spinning.

Yes, as with time
Friends come and go,
And before it's realized
Life changes and it's hard to know.

What's next?
When and where do I move?
A never-ending game of chess
With no winners and nothing to prove.

You are the Hand guiding my steps
When I walk through that door,
You are there in front of me,
Behind me and beside me giving me more.

I know you'll never give me
More than my sometimes-weak body can handle,
And though in the darkness sometimes I may travel
You are my Light, you are the candle.

So through the portal I will go
Watch time slip by and wait,
Knowing your timing is perfect
Never too early, never too late.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ah, change.
It's a normal fact of life that we're going to experience it.

New life is created. Old lives pass away.
Friends move in. Friends move away.

New life.
It seems like I've experienced all of these scenarios in some way over the last year. No, I personally haven't experienced the creation of a new life yet, so don't get any ideas, but I've had plenty of loved ones go through the process. It's pure joy and excitement.

I'm sort of on the other side of the spectrum for both of those aforementioned ideas.

Old lives.
My grandfather, the relative with whom I was probably the closest, passed away in December. It was heartbreaking and I'm still trying to cope with that loss.

But, if I've learned anything from that it's this: spend time with your loved ones; you never know when they won't be here anymore.

Additionally, it's the concept that change is constant and life is filled with unexpected turns of events. BUT, God always brings along something to heal your heart.

My grandfather and I were pen pals from the time I was 12. We always had letters going at some point or another. When he died, I worried that I'd lose that family connection. However, God brought my grandmother to mind and I promised my grandfather before he passed, that we'd keep the letter writing going.

It's been a joy to get to know my grandmother on a deeper level.

Friends.

After months of prayer, contemplation, and interviewing, one of my closest friends is moving away. It's a smart, brave, and incredibly difficult thing to do and I'm proud of them for following God's leading. Nonetheless, it's no fun to lose your confident, and the person you enjoy sharing your deepest thoughts with. Distance makes things tough, but thanks to technology, my hopes are high.

Within days before she left, I found out that another close friend is moving. In two weeks. To another state.
Another tough blow, but I know God has a plan for her and I trust that He's been in the center of that decision.

And then, just a day before my friend left, another friend tells me she's moving in January. It's a huge answer to prayer and I'm immensely thrilled for her (and slightly jealous). I know that God's got tremendous things in store for her in this new adventure.

So, while I'm stoked for my friends' life changes, it still leaves a bit of a void.

I know God is already raising up opportunities for me to move out of my comfort zone and meet new, godly women. I know that He's working in ways to challenge me in my ministry and stretch me in a multitude of ways. But man is it tough to face these trials!

I'm reminded of the passage in James that goes like this:
"1:2 My brothers and sisters,4 consider it nothing but joy5 when you fall into all sorts of trials, 1:3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 1:4 And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything. "

Someday He will create perfection in me, but this is a part of it. He's giving me my trials and building my faith in the process.

It reminds me of marathon training. People are always amazed by the miles I ran in order to prepare for it. Often, they don't stop to think about the build up that happened for me to be able to accomplish the 26.2 mile race. I slowly added two miles each week to my training, which was tough, but it built my endurance.

So, I'll go through these trials to build my faith, to build my endurance.
Ultimately, I know God's preparing me for this marathon life so that I may reach perfection--and the finish line--someday.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Now I'm copying Tia. :)

Below are the lyrics to Carrie Underwood's newest song "So Small" that's been released onto the radio. I'm always impressed by the songs she chooses, especially because she said she specifically pays attention to the lyrics.

I would love to meet the writers of some of her songs and pick their brains (ex: "I took a louisville slugger to both headlights, slashed a hole in all four tires, maybe next time he'll think before he cheats."---the writer could have said "baseball bat" but went with something that's just as recognizable, yet more illustrative at the same time--- genius!!!)

I've heard this song a few times now and let me say, if you haven't heard it, find it and listen up. I'm totally feeling like I'm in the place being illustrated in this song; like "mountain" I've been climbing is just "a grain of sand" when the broad picture is put up for me to see. It's easy to get down-and-out over trivial things that come along that seem so big, but when you put them in the right light, they're really not important and don't deserve your time or your worries.

So, take a look and enjoy the song...wherever you hear it.


Carrie Underwood "So Small" lyrics

Album: Unknown

Yeah, Yeah

What you got if you ain't got love
The kind that you just want to give away
It's ok to open up
Go ahead and let the light shine through
I know it's hard on a rainy day
You wanna shut the world out and just be left alone
But don't run out on your faith

Cause sometimes that mountain you've been climbing
Is just a grain of sand
And what you've been out there searching for forever
Is in your hands
And when you figure out love is all that matters after all
It sure makes everything else seem
So small

It's so easy to get lost inside
A problem that seems so big at the time
It's like a river that's so wide it swallows you whole
While you're sitting around thinking about what you can't change
And worrying about all the wrong things
Time's flying by, moving so fast
You better make it count cause you can't get it back
Sometimes that mountain you've been climbing
Is just a grain of sand
And what you've been out there searching for forever
Is in your hands
Oh, and when you figure out love is all that matters after all
It sure makes everything else seem
So small, yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

Sometimes that mountain you've been climbing
Is just a grain of sand
And what you've out there searching for forever
Is in your hands
And then you figure out love is all that matters after all
It sure makes everything else
Oh, it sure makes everything else seem
So small

Yeah, yeah

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hey guys,
I know there's a lot of debate out there on the link between vaccinations and certain disorders, specifically autism. Check out the article below. Very interesting.

Jen


Kids' Vaccine Ingredient Not Likely Linked to Neurological Problems
CDC study finds no clear association between thimerosal, mental woes
By Serena Gordon, HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 26 (HealthDay News) -- The latest study on thimerosal, a preservative used in childhood immunizations, should provide parents with reassurance that exposure to the agent will not cause neuropsychological problems later on, experts say.

"We found no consistent pattern between increasing mercury exposure from birth to seven months and performance on neuropsychological tests," concluded the study's authors in the Sept. 27 New England Journal of Medicine.

Widely used before 2000, thimerosal has been the center of controversy for some years now. Some parents of autistic children believe that the mercury contained in the preservative is responsible for their children's autism.

However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains there is no scientific evidence of such an association. And this latest CDC study did not specifically look at links between thimerosal exposure and autism. According to the study authors, a separate CDC case-control study focused on autism and mercury exposure, is currently under way.

In 1999, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded that children who were vaccinated according to the recommended childhood immunization schedule could be exposed to levels of mercury from the thimerosal contained in those vaccines that were higher than the maximum levels considered safe by the FDA.

In response, the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) asked vaccine manufacturers to remove thimerosal from vaccines. That move, not surprisingly, concerned many parents who wondered if the preservative was being removed because it was harmful.

In an effort to allay some of those fears, the current CDC study looked at more than 1,000 children between the ages of 7 and 10. They compared the youngsters' neuropsychological functioning with their level of thimerosal exposure.

Using information from a three-hour neuropsychological assessment or information provided by parents and teachers, the researchers measured 42 neuropsychological outcomes, including speech, language, verbal memory, fine motor coordination, achievement, behavior regulation, tics and general intellect.

They then compared those findings to levels of thimerosal exposure, based on the child's vaccination exposure prenatally, in the first month of life, and in the first seven months of life.

"Our study does not support a causal association between early exposure to mercury from thimerosal-containing vaccines and immune globulins and deficits in neuropsychological functioning at the age of 7 to 10 years," concluded the study's authors.

That conclusion, however, seems to contradict some of the study's findings.

For example, the researchers found that boys with the highest levels of thimerosal exposure had about twice the risk of evaluator-observed tics compared to boys with the lowest exposure.

While these findings may seem disparate with this conclusion, Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said some of the findings are likely due to chance, because such a high number of statistical comparisons were done. She was not involved in the study, which was led by William Thompson of the CDC's influenza division.

According to Schuchat, who spoke at a special CDC teleconference held Wednesday, the researchers completed 42 tests of neuropsychological functioning and completed 378 statistical comparisons from those tests.

"By chance alone, 19 of the 378 statistical tests we ran would be abnormal," she said, noting that 19 is the exact number of tests that resulted in abnormal findings.

However, 12 of those 19 tests suggested a positive outcome from higher thimerosal exposure, and seven, including the tic finding, suggested a negative outcome.

"Each test doesn't tell us as much individually," she said. "Chance alone probably explained these findings. The totality of the results are quite reassuring."

Additionally, Schuchat said there was no increase in the incidence of parent-reported tics in children with the highest thimerosal exposure, so the tics observed by the evaluators may have been transient in nature.

But several other studies have found a possible link between thimerosal exposure and tics. Because of that, the CDC feels the finding should be further explored to ensure that it was due to chance finding and not an actual effect of the preservative.

"This is what happens when you try to sub-stratify data," said Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "What's important is if you add up all the studies, do you find greater problems from thimerosal?" And, he said that study after study has shown that thimerosal does not cause harm.

"Parents should feel enormously reassured that another study has found that the levels of thimerosal contained in vaccines before 2001 are not harmful," said Offit, who also wrote one of two accompanying perspective pieces in the journal. Both pieces offered details on the legal history and the public health implications of the autism-vaccine controversy, even though that was not addressed in the actual study itself.

Thimerosal has already been removed from all but one vaccine, according to Schuchat. Some versions of the influenza vaccine still contain thimerosal, though thimerosal-free versions are also available, she said.

"Parents shouldn't take a theoretical risk and elevate it above the real risk of influenza. There's nothing theoretical about the dangers of influenza," Offit explained, adding that even healthy children can be at risk of serious flu complications.

"Vaccines are safe and effective. They prevent 33,000 deaths and 14 million infections annually," Schuchat said.

More information

To learn more about vaccines, visit U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

This is amazing! I'd never heard of this bird before, but it's incredible to find out how much a simple animal could learn. I know it's cheesy, but you know me---I'm an animal lover! Read below. Very interesting...
j

Brainy Parrot Dies, Emotive to the End

Mike Lovett/Brandeis University

Alex, a 31-year-old African gray parrot, knew more than 100 words and could count and recognize colors and shapes.


Published: September 11, 2007
New York Times

He knew his colors and shapes, he learned more than 100 English words, and with his own brand of one-liners he established himself in television shows, scientific reports and news articles as perhaps the world’s most famous talking bird.

But last week Alex, an African gray parrot, died, apparently of natural causes, said Dr. Irene Pepperberg, a comparative psychologist at Brandeis University and Harvard who studied and worked with the parrot for most of his life and published reports of his progress in scientific journals. The parrot was 31.

Scientists have long debated whether any other species can develop the ability to learn human language. Alex’s language facility was, in some ways, more surprising than the feats of primates that have been taught American Sign Language, like Koko the gorilla, trained by Penny Patterson at the Gorilla Foundation/Koko.org in Woodside, Calif., or Washoe the chimpanzee, studied by R. Allen and Beatrice Gardner at the University of Nevada in the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1977, when Dr. Pepperberg, then a doctoral student in chemistry at Harvard, bought Alex from a pet store, scientists had little expectation that any bird could learn to communicate with humans, as opposed to just mimicking words and sounds. Research in other birds had been not promising.

But by using novel methods of teaching, Dr. Pepperberg prompted Alex to learn scores of words, which he could put into categories, and to count small numbers of items, as well as recognize colors and shapes.

“The work revolutionized the way we think of bird brains,” said Diana Reiss, a psychologist at Hunter College who works with dolphins and elephants. “That used to be a pejorative, but now we look at those brains — at least Alex’s — with some awe.”

Other scientists, while praising the research, cautioned against characterizing Alex’s abilities as human. The parrot learned to communicate in basic expressions — but he did not show the sort of logic and ability to generalize that children acquire at an early age, they said.

“There’s no evidence of recursive logic, and without that you can’t work with digital numbers or more complex human grammar,” said David Premack, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Pepperberg used an innovative approach to teach Alex. African grays are social birds, and quickly pick up some group dynamics. In experiments, Dr. Pepperberg would employ one trainer to, in effect, compete with Alex for a small reward, like a grape. Alex learned to ask for the grape by observing what the trainer was doing to get it; the researchers then worked with the bird to help shape the pronunciation of the words.

Alex showed surprising facility. For example, when shown a blue paper triangle, he could tell an experimenter what color the paper was, what shape it was, and — after touching it — what it was made of. He demonstrated some of his skills on nature shows, including programs on PBS and the BBC. He shared scenes with the actor Alan Alda on the PBS series “Look Who’s Talking.”

As parrots can, he also picked up one-liners from hanging around the lab, like “calm down” and “good morning.” He could express frustration, or apparent boredom, and his cognitive and language skills appeared to be about as competent as those in trained primates. His accomplishments have also inspired further work with African gray parrots; two others, named Griffin and Arthur, are a part of Dr. Pepperberg’s continuing research program.

Even up through last week, Alex was working with Dr. Pepperberg on compound words and hard-to-pronounce words. As she put him into his cage for the night last Thursday, she recalled, Alex looked at her and said: “You be good, see you tomorrow. I love you.”

He was found dead in his cage the next morning, Dr. Pepperberg said.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Going crazy!!!

So work isn't keeping me very busy right now, which you probably already figured out, based on the fact that I recently started posting again like mad.

Keep me in your prayers because it's taking a huge dose of patience on a daily basis to want to keep coming in here to be a seat warmer. I'm just getting really sick of corporate inefficiencies like sending a document through a committee (practically) in order for absolute approval. What is the deal with that?!

Anyone offer any advice on how to cope with this? I'm DYING of boredom!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tired -jp 9/10

Feeling weighed down
By the rocks of their lives,
Trying to be supportive
Sifting through all of the lies.

Throwing pearls to pigs
Hoping they'll recognize the treasure,
Loving them despite the drama
Struggling to hide my displeasure.

I know not to take up their yoke
And shift it onto my shoulders,
Yet time and again
I try to help by holding on to theirs.

Finding that balance
Of loving others but letting them deal,
Watching them live out the pain
All the while knowing what is real.

I can't make their choices
Nor can I try,
But something hurts me
To sit and see it all go by.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

OMG---how cool is this??? New iPod Touch coming out...read on (wish I could afford one!)
jen

Associated Press 9/4/07

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs on Wednesday unveiled a new version of the company's popular iPod media player that's based on the iPhone, featuring wireless Internet access and a Web browser but not cell phone capability.

Dubbed iPod Touch, the 8-millimeter-thick device and can store photos, music, videos and other digital data. It features the same 3.5-inch, touch-screen display as the iPhone, on which light finger touches allow the user to scroll through menus and use two fingers to resize pictures.

The iPod Touch also has built-in wireless Internet access and the Safari Web browser, including Google and Yahoo search engines and easy access to YouTube videos. The iPhone, which runs on the AT&T cellular network, also includes Wi-Fi.

An 8-gigabyte version will cost $299. A 16-gigabyte version will cost $399. It will be shipped worldwide starting later this month.

"It's one of the seven wonders of the world, it's just incredible," Jobs told employees and journalists gathered at a special media event near downtown San Francisco.

Jobs also unveiled other new iPod models, including an iPod Nano with a 2.5-inch video monitor for watching movies and playing built-in games. The current version has a 2-inch screen but does not play videos.

"It's incredibly tiny. It's incredibly thin," Jobs said of the new Nano, which features a 320-by-240-pixel screen with 24 hours of audio playback. "We think it's really, really beautiful."

The new Nano, which will be in stores starting this weekend, will come in a 4-gigabyte version for $149, and an 8-gigabyte version for $199.

Apple also announced it will be selling ring tones for the iPhone for 99 cents, plus the 99-cent cost of the song. Ring tones from more than 500,000 songs available on iTunes will go on sale next week.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

It's not new news that obesity is a problem that's running rampant throughout our country and around the world, but it's certainly always interesting to see where our state ranks.

For me, this is the most alarming statistic in the entire article:

"Lack of exercise is a huge factor in obesity rates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found last year that more than 22 percent of Americans did not engage in any physical activity in the past month. "

Wow. So have you exercised today? This week? This month?

Take care.



Mississippi ranked fattest in the nation

Associated Press
Aug. 28, 2007 06:18 AM

JACKSON, Miss. - Mississippians need to skip the gravy, say no to the fried pickles and start taking brisk walks to fight an epidemic of obesity, experts say. According to a new study, this Deep South state is the fattest in the nation.

It also became the first state to crack the 30 percent barrier for adults considered obese, with West Virginia and Alabama just behind, according to the Trust for America's Health, a research group that focuses on disease prevention.

Aside from being a butt of late-night talk show jokes, the obesity epidemic has serious implications for public policy.

If current trends hold, these states could face enormous increases in the already significant costs of treating diabetes, heart disease and other ailments related to extra weight. The leanest state in the rankings was Colorado, with an obesity rate projected at a much lower 17.6 percent.

"We've got a long way to go. We love fried chicken and fried anything and all the grease and fatback we can get in Mississippi," said Democratic state Rep. Steve Holland, chairman of the Public Health Committee.

Poverty and obesity often go hand in hand, doctors say, because poor families stretch their budgets by buying cheaper, processed foods that have higher fat content and lower nutritional value.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee - a self-described "recovering foodaholic" who lost 110 pounds and tried to put his entire state on a wellness plan - explained during a Southern Governors' Association meeting last weekend that there are historical reasons poor people often fry their foods: It's an inexpensive way to increase the calories and feed a family.

Lack of exercise is a huge factor in obesity rates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found last year that more than 22 percent of Americans did not engage in any physical activity in the past month. The percentage is greater than 30 percent in four states: Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Mississippi's public schools already are taking steps to try to turn the trend around.

A new law requires at least 150 minutes of physical activity instruction and 45 minutes of health education instruction each week for students in kindergarten through 8th grade. Until now, gym class had been optional.

The state Department of Education also is phasing in restrictions on soft drinks and snacks.

All public schools are currently banned from selling full-calorie soft drinks to students. Next academic year, elementary and middle schools will allow only water, juice and milk, while high schools will allow only water, juice, sports drinks and diet soft drinks.

The state Department of Education publishes lists of snacks that are approved or banned for sale in school vending machines. Last school year, at least 50 percent of the vending offerings had to be from the approved list. That jumped to 75 percent this year and will reach 100 percent next year.

Among the approved snacks are yogurt, sliced fruit and granola bars, while fried pork rinds and marshmallow treats are banned. One middle school favorite - Flamin' Hot Cheetos - are on the approved list if they're baked but banned if they're not.

State Superintendent of Education Hank Bounds said he hopes students will take home the healthful habits.

"We only have students 180 days out of the year for seven hours in a school day. The important thing is that we model what good behavior looks like," he said Monday after finishing a lunch of baked chicken.

Bounds ate at a Jackson buffet that's popular with state legislators. The buffet included traditional, stick-to-your-ribs Southern fare: fried chicken, grits, fried okra, turnip greens.

Dr. William Rowley, who worked 30 years as a vascular surgeon and now works at the Institute for Alternative Futures, said if current trends continue, more than 50 percent of adult Mississippians will be obese in 2015.

Holland, who helps set the state Medicaid budget, said he worries about the taxpayers' cost of treating obesity.

"If we don't change our ways," he said, "we're going to be in the funeral parlors ... because we're going to be all fat and dead."

Here is the state-by-state breakdown of obesity rates, ranked from highest to lowest, released by Trust for America's Health:

Mississippi - 30.6

West Virginia - 29.8

Alabama - 29.4

Louisiana - 28.2

South Carolina - 27.8

Tennessee - 27.8

Kentucky - 27.5

Arkansas - 27.0

Indiana - 26.8

Michigan - 26.8

Oklahoma - 26.8

Missouri - 26.3

Texas - 26.3

Georgia - 26.1

Ohio - 26.0

Alaska - 25.8

North Carolina - 25.6

Nebraska - 25.4

North Dakota - 25.1

Iowa - 24.9

South Dakota - 24.9

Wisconsin - 24.8

Pennsylvania - 24.5

Virginia - 24.5

Illinois - 24.4

Maryland - 24.4

Kansas - 24.3

Minnesota - 23.7

Delaware - 23.6

Oregon - 23.3

Idaho - 23.2

Washington - 23.2

Maine - 23.0

Florida - 22.9

Wyoming - 22.8

California - 22.7

Nevada - 22.5

New Hampshire - 22.4

New York - 22.4

New Jersey - 22.2

New Mexico - 22.0

Arizona - 21.7 ---#42 (if I counted correctly!)

Utah - 21.1

Montana - 20.7

Rhode Island - 20.5

Connecticut - 20.1

Hawaii - 20.1

Vermont - 20.0

Massachusetts - 19.8

Colorado - 17.6

Friday, August 24, 2007

The BEST lunch spot

So, I'm going out on a limb here.

I was debating whether or not I should divulge where my new favorite lunch spot is, considering two things: a.) it's already pretty busy and b.) well, it's kinda mine.

After mulling it over a bit, I've decided to share the happy information with you.

Although it's not in the southeast valley, where most of my blog-reading friends are generally located, this place is worth it, simply because of its proximity to a fantastic bookstore.

Ready?

My new "favorite," is Wildflower Bread Company, situated right next door to The Changing Hands Bookstore off of McClintock and Guadalupe roads.

Yes, I know, it's a chain restaurant, but it's a good one.

I think this was the first full hour I've ever taken for lunch, and when I left, I actually felt refreshed. Shocking, I know, but read on.

If you've never been to Changing Hands, it's slightly granola-y. Lots of New Age kinda stuff, where many of its clients bring their own cloth book bags and peruse volumes of texts focusing on topics (I'd guess) like homeopathic treatments, and being "eco-friendly." True, this is a bit of a generalization, but that's what I'm writing so if you don't like it, go read one of the fantastic ones listed on the right.

Anyway, there's something about a bookstore-- especially a quiet one-- that can just put you in a better mood, even if you don't buy a single thing. Just to see the hundreds of books that countless authors poured their time, finances and creativity into is amazing. I'm in awe of people who take the giant leap into authorship. I'd love to do it someday, but I'm waiting on God to give me a divine revelation on what to write about. After all, what's the point of writing a book if you have no audience or large group of people willing to plunk down $15 to read your random thoughts and beliefs?

That's why I'm sticking to the blog for now---it's free :)

So I wandered around for a while and was bummed to discover that there really wasn't any writing stationary there. I've been dying to find some pretty paper to scribble letters on for all of my pen pals, but no luck so far.

I almost bought a book by C.S. Lewis that was tossed on a shelf in the used book sale section in the back of the store, but decided against it, given my recent determination to cut back on spending. I need to start going to the library---how did I forget about that place anyway?

When my time was up, I left the bookstore, bidding a "farewell" to my newfound friend. I hope to visit her again soon...


I'm sure this is a big let down for all of you-- my "place" is not all that fancy or even that exciting. Still, you'd be amazed at the kind of refuge I found today away from the buzz of the phones, obnoxious conversations and work-randomness.

Hope you find your refuge or favorite spot.

Just don't take over mine :)


This is a really interesting article. Thanks, Obadiah, for sending it my way! The only slightly alarming thing I saw was this: "Sixty-eight percent agree with the statement, 'I follow my own religious and spiritual beliefs, but I think that other religious beliefs could be true as well.'"


AP Poll: God vital to young Americans

By ERIC GORSKI and TREVOR TOMPSON, Associated Press Writers Fri Aug 24, 8:47 AM ET

Among America's young people, godliness contributes to happiness.

An extensive survey by The Associated Press and MTV found that people aged 13 to 24 who describe themselves as very spiritual or religious tend to be happier than those who don't.

When it comes to spirituality, American young people also are remarkably tolerant — nearly 7 in 10 say that while they follow their own religious or spiritual beliefs, others might be true as well.

On the whole, the poll found religion is a vital part of the lives of many American young people, although with significant pockets that attach little or no importance to faith.

Forty-four percent say religion and spirituality is at least very important to them, 21 percent responded it is somewhat important, 20 percent say it plays a small part in their lives and 14 percent say it doesn't play any role.

Among races, African-Americans are most likely to describe religion as being the single most important thing in their lives. Females are slightly more religious than males, and the South is the most religious region, the survey said.

The poll's mission was to figure out what makes young people happy. And it appears religion helps.

Eighty percent of those who call religion or spirituality the most important thing in their lives say they're happy, while 60 percent of those who say faith isn't important to them consider themselves happy.

"If you believe God is helping you, then everything else isn't as important and you can trust that there's somebody there for you no matter what," said Molly Luksik, a 21-year-old ballet dancer in Chicago and a Roman Catholic who attends Mass weekly. "Just going to church and everything ... it's very calming, and everyone is nice."

Sociologists have long drawn a connection between happiness and the sense of community inherent to most religious practice. Lisa Pearce, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, said religion can indeed contribute to happiness, but she cautioned that the converse also can hold true.

"It's easier for kids who are happy and have things going well in their life to find the time and energy to participate in religion," said Pearce, co-principal investigator for the National Study of Youth and Religion. "It could be kids who have bad experiences in church end up leaving and being unhappy with religion."

The poll also asked young people to choose between two statements about their views of other faiths.

Sixty-eight percent agree with the statement, "I follow my own religious and spiritual beliefs, but I think that other religious beliefs could be true as well." Thirty-one percent choose, "I strongly believe that my religious beliefs are true and universal, and that other religious beliefs are not right."

The latter statement is more likely to be the position of young teens — 13 to 17 — and those who attend religious services weekly.

However, tolerance is the rule overall. That doesn't surprise the Rev. Paul Raushenbush, associate dean for religious life at Princeton University and author of "Teen Spirit: One World, Many Faiths."

Young people eat lunch and play soccer with peers from other belief backgrounds, while adults tend to self-segregate with others of like mind, he said. Sweeping immigration reform in 1965 transformed America into the world's most religiously diverse nation, and young people grew up with the second generation of the immigrant wave, he noted.

"This shows that it doesn't require a lack of conviction in your own faith tradition to think someone else might have a similar type of conviction in their own," Raushenbush said. "There is no sense of, 'This diminishes my faith.'"

Traci Laichter, 14, went to Jewish preschool. Her grandparents are Holocaust survivors. Her family keeps kosher and displays a mezuzah — a little box holding verses from the Torah — on the door of their suburban Las Vegas home.

Her faith is strong and she believes it will last, but that doesn't mean she thinks other faiths are devoid of truth.

"I believe whatever you believe is true to you and it really shouldn't matter what other people think," she said.

About 75 percent of those surveyed say God or a higher power has some impact on their happiness. At the same time, 90 percent believe happiness is at least partly under their own control.

"I think you do have control over how you are going to feel on a particular day," said David Mueller of Lockport, N.Y., a 20-year-old college student who attends an evangelical Christian megachurch called The Chapel.

"When it comes to events in your whole life, it's already somewhat laid out for you," he said. "You can stray off to another path. But where God wants you to go, you are going to get there."

___

The AP-MTV poll was conducted by Knowledge Networks Inc. from April 16 to 23, and involved online interviews with 1,280 people aged 13 to 24. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I've got my iPod absolutely cranking right now to drown out office conversations.

Seriously---why do people think it's even REMOTELY appropriate to talk about their sex lives or anything else in earshot of the boss or whoever else?!

I'm so tired of being subjected to such disgusting, worthless, crap....

What would you do?

Thank goodness for my iPod. It's now my new best buddy...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I'll admit it. I'm a "Zonie" as the article below dubs us Arizonans who like to invade the beaches of San Diego from time to time. Apparently, we take over the area during the summer months...and who wouldn't? Enjoy the beautiful weather, spend a few bucks on a relatively short jaunt, and never worry about buying overpriced real estate? C'mon! It's a no-brainer.

I was just there in June for the Rock N Roll Marathon (finished in 5 hours, thank-you-very-much) and had an awesome time. My limbs were a bit too sore to stick around for the beach or really anything else, but it was the perfect weather and locale for the event. Someday I'll definitely go back---can't get enough of SD in the O.C. :)

So check this out. The article appeared in the NY Times, but was reported by a San Diego Journal writer...


San Diego Journal

The Weather’s Fine, Hence the Invasion From Arizona

Monica Almeida/The New York Times

San Diego has long drawn summer visitors from Arizona like Richard Holland and his 11-year-old daughter, Haley, of Phoenix.



Published: August 22, 2007

SAN DIEGO — Bulletin: Phoenix and Tucson have been evacuated because of summer heat and monsoonal moisture. The emergency shelter is here, or so it seems, for the displaced Arizonans.

Here they come, seemingly all of southern Arizona — Zonies in the local vernacular — with their children, their friends, their cars, their strange folkways, a mass exodus from one kind of sand to another, as if propelled by desert winds into ocean breezes.

Make that hot desert winds. “Because it’s like a thousand degrees in Phoenix,” said Haley Holland, 11, walking in from a morning on the beach as her father and friends sipped drinks on the deck of their rental cottage atop the Crystal Pier.

The joke in Arizona is that if you are trying to find your friend in July or August, look on the beach here. In some hotels, three-quarters or more of the summer guests are Arizonans, who fly one hour or drive five or six to exchange triple-digit temperatures for San Diego’s breeze-kissed 70s and 80s.

“You can sit on this sand and not burn your butt off,” said Jim Phelps of Phoenix, who regularly settles into an oceanfront hotel.

Calling them Zonies is done with only the utmost affection, of course: the bad driving, crowded beaches and restaurants, jammed parking lots, clueless ocean swimming, touristy attire and endless requests for directions.

“Zonies go home” bumper stickers are a thing of years past, or so says the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau, which smiles through the invasion.

Arizonans account for 11 percent of overnight visitors, more than any other state but California. They spend $970 million annually, a hefty chunk of the $6.9 billion in annual tourist spending.

Or as Richard Holland, Haley’s father, put it: “They loan us their city for a couple of months, we pay them to enjoy it, we leave. It’s a nice deal.”

All the economic support, Mr. Holland suggested, justifies any inconvenience he and his lot may impose. “When I cut across seven lanes of traffic to make that exit in 100 yards or less, I figure my Arizona plates give me diplomatic immunity,” he said.

The ribbing follows the longstanding American tradition practiced by residents of many tourist zones, to poke fun at visitors and blame them for ills (think of the “bennies,” a term of disputed origin, that Jersey Shore residents gripe about all summer).

The San Diego-Arizona connection, though, pits two fast-growing Sun Belt regions jockeying for stature. It seemed easier to make fun of Phoenix before it surpassed San Diego in population, in 1997, according to the Census Bureau. Phoenix is now the nation’s fifth-largest city, with 1.5 million residents, and San Diego the eighth, with 1.26 million, the latest census estimates say.

David Moye, a San Diego writer who has blogged about the annoyances posed by Zonies (as a teenager, the Zonie girls didn’t always go for “townies” like him, he said), attributed picking on Arizonans as an effort by San Diegans to feel superior.

“There is a lot of angst, aggression, seething personalities among natives, partly because we are always in the shadow of L.A.,” Mr. Moye said.

“When you have good weather all the time,” he added, “you have to find something to be cranky about, if you can’t blame the weather.”

Jason Smith, a waiter in Coronado, just across the San Diego Bay, said the Arizonans were “nice enough” — got to keep those tips coming — but “sometimes they act like they are locals, like they’ve been coming here so long they feel like they own the place and don’t care if they crowd the natives out.”

And they have been coming for a long time.

Of course, there is also somewhat of a reverse flow; legions of Southern Californians have relocated to southern Arizona, seeking relief from exorbitant housing costs. And Phoenicians and Tucsonans have been known to make sport of “snowbirds” descending on their region from the Midwest and the East in the winter.

Nicole Nottoli, proprietor of the Big Kahuna’s ice cream stand on the Pacific Beach boardwalk here, estimates 60 percent of her business comes from Arizonans, and she can easily pick them out.

“Those big hats, touristy dress, pale skin,” Ms. Nottoli said.

And there is the matter of air-conditioning. Arizonans just love it; coastal San Diegans prefer the natural kind. So imagine the looks when the Zonies ask for the AC to be turned on or up at restaurants and hotels — and then search for the heat when the “bone-chilling” nighttime temperature dips below 70.

Mr. Phelps pleads guilty. He said he was staying in one of the few oceanfront hotels that provide air-conditioning: “That’s the reason I like that place.”

As he and his friends talked and joked in a shopping mall elevator recently, a longtime San Diegan turned and asked, “You’re from Arizona, aren’t you?”

“We still don’t know how she knew,” said Mr. Phelps, who, for the record, was wearing a dark print shirt tucked into khaki shorts that, well, did not quite completely blend in with the T-shirts-and-jammers crowd.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Yes, finally---a new look. I'm still playing with it and need to figure out how to put links on here, but I'll get there eventually...


So I ran across this article in the New York Times regarding one school district's approval of teaching about homosexuality in sex education classes in middle school. I definitely don't agree with the addition of this lesson, and I also wonder if they've offered an "opt out" to parents who don't want their children exposed to this. I wonder if this is something I should expect my child to be exposed to someday in the public school system, if we choose to send him/her there.

We can't necessarily change the culture, but we can certainly stand up for what we believe in.

So what do you think? Has this gone too far? What would you do if you heard that your local school district could approve something like this?

Lessons on Homosexuality Move Into the Classroom- NY TIMES
Published: August 15, 2007

ROCKVILLE, Md.

After five years, one legal defeat and a challenge on the way, Montgomery County, Md., is at the frontier of sex education in the United States. This fall, barring last-minute court action, the county will offer lessons on homosexuality in its 8th- and 10th-grade health education courses.

To school officials, the lessons are a natural outgrowth of sex education and of teachings on tolerance and diversity. They consist of two heavily scripted, 45-minute lessons for each grade and a video demonstrating how to put on a condom. The lessons’ central message is respect and acceptance of the many permutations of sexual identity, both in others and in one’s self.

School officials said they were not seeking to promote a political agenda, beyond tolerance and a kind of cultural literacy. “Our charge starts with educating students,” said Betsy Brown, who supervised the curriculum’s development in consultation with the American Academy of Pediatrics. “This is part of education.”

But critics, who have filed lawsuits seeking to stop the lessons, contended that the Montgomery County schools, just north of Washington, have gone too far. John Garza, president of the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, a group leading the opposition, said parents can block television shows they deem morally questionable, “but then we have the schoolteacher affirming unhealthy behavior.”

Montgomery is a mostly well-educated, politically liberal enclave. But opponents of the new curriculum, portrayed as a vocal minority by school officials, may be more in sync with the mood of parents nationally.

According to a 2004 national poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and National Public Radio, roughly three out of four parents say it is appropriate for high schools to teach about homosexuality, but about half say it is appropriate in middle school.

WHEN asked about the issue in greater detail, more than 50 percent of high school and middle school parents supported teaching what homosexuality is about “without discussing whether it is wrong or acceptable.” Only 8 percent of high school parents and 4 percent of middle school parents said schools should teach “that homosexuality is acceptable.” The survey had a margin of error of 6 percentage points.

Montgomery County may be ahead of the country on sex education, but it may also just be out there, stranded on its own.

The controversy illustrates how fraught the road can be for educators who venture beyond academics to influence students about sensitive social issues, risking not just lawsuits, but also losing step with parents and voters. In New York City, the controversy 14 years ago over the “rainbow curriculum,” which included the book “Heather Has Two Mommies” as a first-grade text, cost Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez his job.

“It’s a myth that our schools don’t teach values about lots of things,” said Debra W. Haffner, director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing, which promotes discussions about sexuality. “We don’t put communism, socialism and capitalism on an equal footing in our classes on government.”

But for a raft of reasons, many of them unconscious, teaching about sexuality is different, said Susan K. Freeman, a historian at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

For many parents, boy-girl dating may not mean that their child is sexually active, she said. By coming out as gay, though, “they’re announcing their sexuality.” Parents make a tacit assumption of sexual activity, and “that presents a problem for a lot of people,” she said.

The Montgomery County lessons begin by defining terms like “prejudice,” “homosexual” and “transgender,” and warn students not to assume that because they are not yet attracted to the opposite sex, they must be gay. The eighth-grade curriculum tells gay students that “concerns about how family and friends will accept the situation are reasonable, and fears about being teased or even attacked are not unfounded.”

In the 10th grade, the lessons, which presume that sexual identity is innate, again discuss the stresses of coming out, but add, “Many people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender celebrate their self-discovery.”

Kevin Jennings, the executive director of the New York-based Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, said the curriculum could reduce bullying over sexual identity.

“I don’t know how denying information to young people about sexuality or sexual orientation does anything to promote their health and well being,” he said.

Mr. Garza objected to schools teaching that homosexuality is not subject to change and failing to mention higher rates of some venereal diseases among gay men. “When you get into these hotly contested areas of moral judgment, that’s where the school needs to get out of it, or at least teach all sides,” he said.