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The Truth Behind My Christian Beliefs — and Yours

Belief-Systems

Everyone of us has a belief system that guides our choices and behavior. Understanding how yours works and how it affects your life seems to me like a meaningful endeavor. I gave mine some time thought and might have found a simple way of understanding my beliefs and, by extension, myself.

One way to look at it is that my belief system is divided into two main categories.

  1. Beliefs I hold to be true
  2. Beliefs that are pending further investigation

Even more important than how this belief system is organized is how it affects my life. The beliefs in the first category, those that I hold to be true, guide my choices and behavior. The beliefs in the second category, those “pending further investigation”, don’t always guide my choices and behavior, at least not consciously. Category one beliefs are what you might call principles I’m unwilling to compromise. Category two beliefs are open to change.

How do I decide what beliefs fall under category one? I use the same system every human, including you, uses. It’s a way of evaluating the correctness of any truth claim using three methods:

  1. Logic
  2. Empiricism
  3. Authority

Granted, these methods are not simple and are far from perfect, but they’ve worked for us and are the only three known ways of learning truth. An example of logic is “1 + 1 = 2” or “All humans die and I’m human so I’ll die, eventually”. Empiricism relates to personal experience through the senses (e.g. you know you exist because you feel it, and nobody can easily convince you otherwise). Authority has to do with credible sources (e.g. only a qualified oncologist can diagnose you with cancer).

None of these methods of “truthseeking” is perfect. Human logic is prone to logical fallacies. Your observations of reality can be distorted by emotions, illusions, etc. And even the most respected authorities on certain matters can sometimes be wrong (e.g. misdiagnoses often happen). However, when used together, they’re very effective.

What does all this have to do with me being a Christian? Everything.

Christianity

I’m a Christian. More specifically, I’m Adventist. As a follower of Christ, I believe the scriptures are the infallible, immutable truth. Biblical truths are the only ones I accept without taking them through a logical or empirical test. In other words, if I meet a claim in scripture that fails the test of my logic and does not match my personal experience, that’s fine. I’ll accept it by Faith, because it’s the ultimate authority.

Besides the Bible, claims made from ALL other “authorities” must pass logical and empirical tests for them to guide my choices and behavior. Otherwise, they will be placed under the “pending further investigations” category or discarded, depending on how potentially useful they are.

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Posted by on September 5, 2017 in Wisdom

 

What Using Sarahah Says About You

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Do you Sarahah?

First, if you don’t know what Sarahah is, it’s a site/app where your friends and colleagues (and anyone else for that matter) can tell you what they think about you… And this happens anonymously. So on your end, you receive these comments or messages about you, but the identity of the sender is withheld.

The app has received love and hate in equal share. A few of my friends on social media have been more than happy to share their opinions about Sarahah.

On the hand are those who thought it was awesome and were quick to download it and share the link to their Sarahah on Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook. On the other hand, you have those strongly opposed to it, with some going as far as taking jabs at their friends and calling them cowards or weak for using the app. It’s clearly a highly divisive issue.

“But, why?” That seems to be the question on the minds of people on both sides. Why do those who use it like it and those who are against it hate it and seemingly despise those using it? Let’s start with those who use it.

Three Types of Sarahah Users

The first category of Sarahah users are those using it simply because of peer pressure. If you’re in this group, you only signed up for an account and downloaded the app because it seems like everyone else is doing it. But you don’t really care about it. You belong to the same group of people who opened a Twitter account or downloaded Telegram three years ago but have yet to use it since.

Or, you might be in the second category of Sarahah users: the small minority that somewhat naively believes that the app is an effective avenue for constructive criticism and personal growth. You actually think that because the app prompts people to “Leave a constructive message”, that it will stop mean people from being asses and immature cyber bullies from harassing users under the cover of anonymity. Bad news, it doesn’t. Bad people who suck will take advantage of it to do what they do best: hate and cause pain!

Then there’s the third category of Sarahah users, where most people (including me) belong. If you fall in this category, you were driven to use Sarahah by one thing: curiosity. You don’t really know what to expect. It might be fun or it might be dangerous. It might even be pointless. You’re not sure, but you’re willing to explore and see what comes of it, which may be something cool or nothing at all.

Team Anti-Sarahah

On the other end of the spectrum are the few people I’ve seen oppose it. I’m not talking about your friends who simply aren’t interested. I’m talking about the few who seem actually bothered by it. Reasons? Well, first, there’s peer pressure. They’ve seen some people they like and maybe respect opposed to Sarahah so, like faithful followers, they oppose it too. It’s that simple for them.

Second, there are those guys in the anti-Sarahah camp who mock and deride Sarahah users as an outlet for expressing their distorted sense of masculinity. You’ve seen them share memes of men dressed up as girls with the title “Men who use Sarahah be like…”. By feigning contempt for their Sarahah-using counterparts and calling them weak, they’re using the same app they seemingly despise as a prop to support their warped idea of what constitutes a strong male identity. And the irony is lost to them.

Yeah, I Tried It Too

All that said, I was curious about the app and I gave it a shot. I signed up and shared my Sarahah link on Twitter and Whatsapp. Sadly or thankfully, I got an earth-shattering two — that’s right, a whole two — responses, and here they are…

sarahah

Granted, two responses don’t qualify as a representative sample of all the people I know. Still, I chose to believe that they paint an accurate picture of how I view the people in my life: Friends… or strangers who don’t understand me.

What are your thoughts about Sarahah? Share them in the comments below.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2017 in Wisdom

 

Four Signs You’re in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship — In Which You’re the Abuser!

You don’t need a PhD in dating or a long list of previous relationships to know that being in one is hard. Even the couples we all aspire to be (Jay-Z/Beyonce, Barack/Michelle, or that couple you admire right here in Kenya) have problems. One of the things that could poison your blissful pairing with your significant other (SO) is you being emotionally abusive without even realizing it.

Yes, it happens! Rational, sane people like you and me don’t just wake up one morning and decide, “You know what? I’m gonna start being emotionally abusive to my partner from now henceforth!” The patterns develop because you’ve been through some form of abuse yourself, or you have some self-esteem issues, and so you start acting out.

If things have been a lot bumpier between you guys recently, you might want to consider the possibility of abuse and keep an eye out for the signs. Scary as it may be, it’s necessary if you’re going to have a relationship that’s positive and healthy. You’re better off catching it early and fixing it before it gets really bad and your partner is seriously hurt.

If things get ugly, having a serious talk with your SO would help. You might even need professional help in serious cases.

The signs of abuse are many. Some are obvious and some are so well-disguised as seemingly normal behavior that you’d have to be an experienced psychiatrist to catch them. Here are four especially nasty behaviors that might be signs of emotional abuse.

You’re Always Falling Back on the Silent Treatment

The silent treatment seems harmless because, after all, you’re not yelling, right? Nope. Think again. Your deafening silence can cause as much harm as loud fights on your balcony in full view of your neighbors. It’s a cruel punishment aimed at making your partner anxious as they torture themselves wondering “what they did wrong” and “how bad it is”. It’s among the first steps down the road to abuse.

You Go From 0 to 100 Real Quick in Arguments

We all know secrets that, if let out in the open, would devastate those we love. These are topics to be avoided, especially when arguing. Intentionally bringing them up just to hurt or hit back at your partner is a huge red flag. We all at one time or the other catch ourselves being deliberately condescending and saying hurtful things. If you don’t dial back when this happens, you’re not OK.

Your Partner Often Accuses You of Being “Selfish” in Bed

Things in the bedroom aren’t always 50/50, but that is not to say that you shouldn’t both try to put in the work. If you’re the only one whose needs are being met — either because you ignore your partner’s needs or you guilt them into having sex — you’re being emotionally abusive.

You’ve Tried to Make Your Partner Think They’re Crazy

You might at times say and do stuff to make your partner doubt if what they’re experiencing is real. In other words, you play cruel mind games and distort facts in a bid to control them. We’ve all done it at some point to win arguments. All the same, messing with your partner’s grasp of reality is without doubt abusive.

Acting in a way that leans towards emotional abuse points to your own underlying issues. If you realize that you might have emotionally abused your partner, beating yourself up won’t help. Talk to them, as well as a therapist, about it and work out your self-esteem issues. You both deserve to be happy.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2017 in Wisdom

 

I Want to be Heard Again

What do I write about? It’s been such a long time since I waxed poetic on this space. The unbridled zeal for blogging that I had when I was fresh out college faded, smothered by the unrelenting demands of the corporate slave ship. Sure, the self-destructive lure of hedonism and intoxication also had its hand in my dwindling interest. More on that later. Suffice it to say that bout after bout with personal demons drove writing way down in the list of priorities. My inner struggles have since settled down, somewhat. I want to be heard again. Maybe the pressure of having an audience will invoke something profound in me. Or maybe I’ll realize blogging was a phase, drop it, and move further along in this journey of self-discovery.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2015 in Wisdom

 

Accept and Move On

It doesn’t matter what you think you know. Reality doesn’t change. The facts remain as they are. And truth does not become a democracy; it’s not swayed by your whims. Or your grievances. Life has for a long time been personified as malevolent, oftentimes taking the form of that vindictive bitch Karma. The truth is life doesn’t care. It’s indifferent. Life only seems unfair if you harbor some preconceived notion that you are entitled to receiving some special favor from obscure deities.

Perhaps a more accurate statement is: life isn’t unfair…people are! Life as we know is nothing more than a series of cumulative causes and effects. At times (less often than we would want to admit) good or bad things happen to us because of something we did. More often things happen to us because of something we have no control over. Conclusion? Well, we can stop living in a fantasy world where we are the center of the universe, where our narcissistic attitudes forever paint us as victims or martyred messiahs. We can only do our best at any moment and live life on life’s terms. We need only accept reality for what it is and, for the optimists among us, what it could be.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2015 in Wisdom

 

Time Doesn’t Heal

Image from rare-thoughts.com

Image from rare-thoughts.com

The common phrase “time heals” has been used by many people as a way to not taking responsibility over their situations. Time, in itself, does nothing other than exist. It’s an illusion; a way for us to understand the reality around us.

Whatever agent it is that heals, it only does so within time, from our perspective. If the healing agent fails to act, healing does not take place. More often that not, for the healing agent to work, we have to actively use it.

As far as time is concerned. It does nothing. It’s indifferent. Otherwise, we would also claim that time kills, seeing as nothing lasts forever.

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2014 in Wisdom

 

Twelve Virtues of Rationality

Source (Eliezer S. Yudkowsky ─ http://bit.ly/1cVKBX5)

The first virtue is curiosity. A burning itch to know is higher than a solemn vow to pursue truth. To feel the burning itch of curiosity requires both that you be ignorant, and that you desire to relinquish your ignorance. If in your heart you believe you already know, or if in your heart you do not wish to know, then your questioning will be purposeless and your skills without direction. Curiosity seeks to annihilate itself; there is no curiosity that does not want an answer. The glory of glorious mystery is to be solved, after which it ceases to be mystery. Be wary of those who speak of being open-minded and modestly confess their ignorance. There is a time to confess your ignorance and a time to relinquish your ignorance.

The second virtue is relinquishment. P. C. Hodgell said: “That which can be destroyed by the truth should be.” Do not flinch from experiences that might destroy your beliefs. The thought you cannot think controls you more than thoughts you speak aloud. Submit yourself to ordeals and test yourself in fire. Relinquish the emotion which rests upon a mistaken belief, and seek to feel fully that emotion which fits the facts. If the iron approaches your face, and you believe it is hot, and it is cool, the Way opposes your fear. If the iron approaches your face, and you believe it is cool, and it is hot, the Way opposes your calm. Evaluate your beliefs first and then arrive at your emotions. Let yourself say: “If the iron is hot, I desire to believe it is hot, and if it is cool, I desire to believe it is cool.” Beware lest you become attached to beliefs you may not want.

The third virtue is lightness. Let the winds of evidence blow you about as though you are a leaf, with no direction of your own. Beware lest you fight a rearguard retreat against the evidence, grudgingly conceding each foot of ground only when forced, feeling cheated. Surrender to the truth as quickly as you can. Do this the instant you realize what you are resisting; the instant you can see from which quarter the winds of evidence are blowing against you. Be faithless to your cause and betray it to a stronger enemy. If you regard evidence as a constraint and seek to free yourself, you sell yourself into the chains of your whims. For you cannot make a true map of a city by sitting in your bedroom with your eyes shut and drawing lines upon paper according to impulse. You must walk through the city and draw lines on paper that correspond to what you see. If, seeing the city unclearly, you think that you can shift a line just a little to the right, just a little to the left, according to your caprice, this is just the same mistake.

The fourth virtue is evenness. One who wishes to believe says, “Does the evidence permit me to believe?” One who wishes to disbelieve asks, “Does the evidence force me to believe?” Beware lest you place huge burdens of proof only on propositions you dislike, and then defend yourself by saying: “But it is good to be skeptical.” If you attend only to favorable evidence, picking and choosing from your gathered data, then the more data you gather, the less you know. If you are selective about which arguments you inspect for flaws, or how hard you inspect for flaws, then every flaw you learn how to detect makes you that much stupider. If you first write at the bottom of a sheet of paper, “And therefore, the sky is green!”, it does not matter what arguments you write above it afterward; the conclusion is already written, and it is already correct or already wrong. To be clever in argument is not rationality but rationalization. Intelligence, to be useful, must be used for something other than defeating itself. Listen to hypotheses as they plead their cases before you, but remember that you are not a hypothesis, you are the judge. Therefore do not seek to argue for one side or another, for if you knew your destination, you would already be there.

The fifth virtue is argument. Those who wish to fail must first prevent their friends from helping them. Those who smile wisely and say: “I will not argue” remove themselves from help, and withdraw from the communal effort. In argument strive for exact honesty, for the sake of others and also yourself: The part of yourself that distorts what you say to others also distorts your own thoughts. Do not believe you do others a favor if you accept their arguments; the favor is to you. Do not think that fairness to all sides means balancing yourself evenly between positions; truth is not handed out in equal portions before the start of a debate. You cannot move forward on factual questions by fighting with fists or insults. Seek a test that lets reality judge between you.

The sixth virtue is empiricism. The roots of knowledge are in observation and its fruit is prediction. What tree grows without roots? What tree nourishes us without fruit? If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound? One says, “Yes it does, for it makes vibrations in the air.” Another says, “No it does not, for there is no auditory processing in any brain.” Though they argue, one saying “Yes”, and one saying “No”, the two do not anticipate any different experience of the forest. Do not ask which beliefs to profess, but which experiences to anticipate. Always know which difference of experience you argue about. Do not let the argument wander and become about something else, such as someone’s virtue as a rationalist. Jerry Cleaver said: “What does you in is not failure to apply some high-level, intricate, complicated technique. It’s overlooking the basics. Not keeping your eye on the ball.” Do not be blinded by words. When words are subtracted, anticipation remains.

The seventh virtue is simplicity. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said: “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Simplicity is virtuous in belief, design, planning, and justification. When you profess a huge belief with many details, each additional detail is another chance for the belief to be wrong. Each specification adds to your burden; if you can lighten your burden you must do so. There is no straw that lacks the power to break your back. Of artifacts it is said: The most reliable gear is the one that is designed out of the machine. Of plans: A tangled web breaks. A chain of a thousand links will arrive at a correct conclusion if every step is correct, but if one step is wrong it may carry you anywhere. In mathematics a mountain of good deeds cannot atone for a single sin. Therefore, be careful on every step.

The eighth virtue is humility. To be humble is to take specific actions in anticipation of your own errors. To confess your fallibility and then do nothing about it is not humble; it is boasting of your modesty. Who are most humble? Those who most skillfully prepare for the deepest and most catastrophic errors in their own beliefs and plans. Because this world contains many whose grasp of rationality is abysmal, beginning students of rationality win arguments and acquire an exaggerated view of their own abilities. But it is useless to be superior: Life is not graded on a curve. The best physicist in ancient Greece could not calculate the path of a falling apple. There is no guarantee that adequacy is possible given your hardest effort; therefore spare no thought for whether others are doing worse. If you compare yourself to others you will not see the biases that all humans share. To be human is to make ten thousand errors. No one in this world achieves perfection.

The ninth virtue is perfectionism. The more errors you correct in yourself, the more you notice. As your mind becomes more silent, you hear more noise. When you notice an error in yourself, this signals your readiness to seek advancement to the next level. If you tolerate the error rather than correcting it, you will not advance to the next level and you will not gain the skill to notice new errors. In every art, if you do not seek perfection you will halt before taking your first steps. If perfection is impossible that is no excuse for not trying. Hold yourself to the highest standard you can imagine, and look for one still higher. Do not be content with the answer that is almost right; seek one that is exactly right.

The tenth virtue is precision. One comes and says: The quantity is between 1 and 100. Another says: the quantity is between 40 and 50. If the quantity is 42 they are both correct, but the second prediction was more useful and exposed itself to a stricter test. What is true of one apple may not be true of another apple; thus more can be said about a single apple than about all the apples in the world. The narrowest statements slice deepest, the cutting edge of the blade. As with the map, so too with the art of mapmaking: The Way is a precise Art. Do not walk to the truth, but dance. On each and every step of that dance your foot comes down in exactly the right spot. Each piece of evidence shifts your beliefs by exactly the right amount, neither more nor less. What is exactly the right amount? To calculate this you must study probability theory. Even if you cannot do the math, knowing that the math exists tells you that the dance step is precise and has no room in it for your whims.

The eleventh virtue is scholarship. Study many sciences and absorb their power as your own. Each field that you consume makes you larger. If you swallow enough sciences the gaps between them will diminish and your knowledge will become a unified whole. If you are gluttonous you will become vaster than mountains. It is especially important to eat math and science which impinges upon rationality: Evolutionary psychology, heuristics and biases, social psychology, probability theory, decision theory. But these cannot be the only fields you study. The Art must have a purpose other than itself, or it collapses into infinite recursion.

Before these eleven virtues is a virtue which is nameless.

Miyamoto Musashi wrote, in The Book of Five Rings:

“The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means. Whenever you parry, hit, spring, strike or touch the enemy’s cutting sword, you must cut the enemy in the same movement. It is essential to attain this. If you think only of hitting, springing, striking or touching the enemy, you will not be able actually to cut him. More than anything, you must be thinking of carrying your movement through to cutting him.”

Every step of your reasoning must cut through to the correct answer in the same movement. More than anything, you must think of carrying your map through to reflecting the territory.

If you fail to achieve a correct answer, it is futile to protest that you acted with propriety.

How can you improve your conception of rationality? Not by saying to yourself, “It is my duty to be rational.” By this you only enshrine your mistaken conception. Perhaps your conception of rationality is that it is rational to believe the words of the Great Teacher, and the Great Teacher says, “The sky is green,” and you look up at the sky and see blue. If you think: “It may look like the sky is blue, but rationality is to believe the words of the Great Teacher,” you lose a chance to discover your mistake.

Do not ask whether it is “the Way” to do this or that. Ask whether the sky is blue or green. If you speak overmuch of the Way you will not attain it.

You may try to name the highest principle with names such as “the map that reflects the territory” or “experience of success and failure” or “Bayesian decision theory”. But perhaps you describe incorrectly the nameless virtue. How will you discover your mistake? Not by comparing your description to itself, but by comparing it to that which you did not name.

If for many years you practice the techniques and submit yourself to strict constraints, it may be that you will glimpse the center. Then you will see how all techniques are one technique, and you will move correctly without feeling constrained. Musashi wrote: “When you appreciate the power of nature, knowing the rhythm of any situation, you will be able to hit the enemy naturally and strike naturally. All this is the Way of the Void.”

These then are twelve virtues of rationality:

Curiosity, relinquishment, lightness, evenness, argument, empiricism, simplicity, humility, perfectionism, precision, scholarship, and the void.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2013 in Wisdom