Another new year has dawned so it’s hard not to reflect on the past and look forward to the future.

The Bible says:

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead… Philip. 3:13 (NASB)

Good advice or bad? In one sense we don’t want to be tied to the past because the future is ahead of us. In another sense, forgetting what lies behind can be devastating. In a very real sense we are our past. All that we have experienced, all the mistakes and successes, all the traumas and exhilarating moments, all that we have accomplished and have yet to accomplish are all tied to our past.  It is what makes us human.  It is what makes us – US.  We dare not forget it. We must remember our past to go forth into the future. Unfortunately, some people don’t learn from their past. They repeat the same mistakes over and over in what appears to be a never ending cycle. Others appear completely bound to their past. They are never able to let go and live again but are always re-living their past hurts or victories. Both approaches to the past result in stagnation.

The proper response to the past is to embrace it, learn from it but not be bound to it.  While our past has made us what we are today, the good news is that we don’t have to be bound to our past. We can move on. We can break old cycles. We can learn new things. We can choose a different path. We can ask new questions or seek new answers. While all these things are available to us, it isn’t easy.  It’s easier to watch that same old TV show rather than take a course at the local community college.  It’s easier to stay in the job we hate instead of going out an looking for a new one. It’s easier to stay routed to the past rather than get up and move on.

As this new year progresses, make it a priority to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. There is nothing more challenging that re-evaluating long held beliefs.  The difficulty most people have in doing this is accepting the realization that something they believed for so long just may not be true. It’s a humbling and scary thing, but can result in enormous growth and excitement. 

Of course, I’m thinking about religious belief in the context of this blog.  Instead of reading all those “Christian only” or “Christian-approved” books, venture out and read critiques of your religion. You aren’t sinning.  If your religion is true, it will past the test of scrutiny. If the bible is the inerrant word of god, there shouldn’t be errors and you shouldn’t have to resort to mental gymnastics to make passages agree.  If god does exist, it should be demonstrable by something other than a leap of faith.  If the world is 6000 years old, all of science should point to that “fact”.

Unfortunately, for religion (in this context – Christianity), I believe that it can’t past the basic tests. For example:

  1. There are errors in the bible in facts that can be checked making it suspect in those “spiritual” areas that can’t be checked.
  2. The world behaves exactly as if there were no god.
  3. The problem of evil mitigates against a loving, caring, and compassionate god.
  4. Prayer is not answered as every honest Christian knows and every study has shown.  The pass god gets in this area is amazing. It’s something we wouldn’t tolerate in anyone but god.
  5. The world is much, much older than 6000 years old.
  6. Man, indeed all life on this planet, evolved. Man wasn’t specially created by a divine being.
  7. Personal testimony is not a good reason for accepting a religion or belief system.  When it comes to religion, all people in all religions have a personal testimony; thereby negating them all.

Don’t take my word for it.  Check out some of these books, interact with the text and challenge your beliefs:

On the subject of Religion:

  1. 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in God by Guy Harrison
  2. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
  3. The End of Faith by Sam Harris
  4. The God-Virus. How Religion Infects our Lives and Culture by Darrel Ray
  5. God’s Problem by Bart Ehrman
  6. Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman
  7. Challenging the Verdict. Cross Examination of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ by Earl Doherty
  8. The Reason Driven Life by Robert Price
  9. The Bible Unearthed by Finkelstein and Silberman

On Evolution & Science

  1. The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins
  2. Quantum Gods by Victor J. Stenger
  3. The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan
  4. Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin

By former believers:

  1. Godless by Dan Barker
  2. Losing My Religion by William Lobdell
  3. Why I Became an Atheist by John Loftus

By believers:

  1. Fall of the Evangelical Nation by Christine Wicker
  2. Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience by Ronald SIder

On how the mind works

  1. The Drunkards Walk. How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow
  2. Mistakes were Made by Not by Me by Tavris and Aronson
  3. How We Believe by Michael Shermer

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