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My Own Personal Struggles with Religion

September 1, 2012 5 comments

Disclaimer: It is important to remember that blogs often exist to promote feelings, facts, and opinions about various topics. I do not claim to know everything about religion and my studies of it reflect that. Taking an Anthropology of Religion class and being currently enrolled in a Contemporary Human Problems course does not make me an expert in this field. I can, however, through observation, discussion with religious experts, and by looking through the Bible, state my opinions with valid reasoning. It is not my intention to offend anyone with the points of view I present, but at the same time, I more than welcome a lively discussion.

Despite being raised in a less-than-religious household, I was raised to believe from my own thoughts, really, that Atheists were bad. I did not know why or how I came up with that conclusion, I just did. Then I heard about not judging a book by its cover, a phrase that became well-known in middle school as a way to teach students to take the opportunity to get to know other peers. It felt like it was my duty to give Atheists a fair chance. After all, telling myself that these people were bad without any substance to what I was saying was not a reasonable judgment. It was at this moment, the beginning of high school, where I set out to figure out once and for all how I really felt about Atheists and, eventually, religion in general.

I tried my best to be a good son and a wonderful student. I listened to my elders and followed all the rules. I showed up to school every single day and tried the hardest I absolutely could. In retrospect, that is all I really could do. Of course, by being a good son and a wonderful student meant not having the terrible traits in life. This is why I never wanted anything to do with Atheists. I mean, an Atheist does not believe in God! They must also get high and drunk and have no value in life, right? This is exactly how I felt in middle school, which is why I never even said the word “Atheist.” I was just an ignorant kid who thought he knew a lot about life because of his straight A’s, but in reality, knew very little.

I had preconceived notions about being an Atheist and I let those so-called stereotypes overpower my choice in religion. I vividly remember one day in middle school where I was asked about what religion I was. I had overheard others say that they were Christian. Everyone already thought I was weird in middle school and I did not want to become alienated as well, so I also said “Christian.” I hated lying and I did not want to this forever, so I knew that something had to be done.

I did not want to be pressured into being a Christian and once high school began, I had a fresh start. I could be whoever I wanted to be. Before being labeled, I started to shop around at the different religions. After much research, I realized a few things:

I still did not like the idea of Atheism.
I also do not like Christianity.

Society led me to believe that it was either Christianity or bust. I knew one day I would get asked about my religion once again. In high school, it happened. I looked at the person and when I did not agree with Christianity and I still had doubts about Atheism for a still unknown reason, I finally said “Agnostic.”

They asked what it was and, my mind remembered exactly what it was: not having any religion. While what I said was a very much watered-down version of it, if I could remember that, then there must have been something special about this religion. Why did I choose Agnosticism over everything else?

Now, we jump ahead five years, to this current summer. I have become much more wise and open to everything around me. Having taken a course that had specific focus on religion, I could now make better assumptions:

I love the idea of Atheism.
Science is factual.
Christianity is not.

This was a radical change of mind, but I was still Agnostic. At this point, I’ve had the opportunity to read about religion, visit church, take a class, look through the Bible, and even talk to those who know a bit about it. So why the quick negative change when it came to Christianity?

I have come to realize that the Bible has many contradictions and the people who follow it religiously contradict themselves. It is at this point now if people have answers, then I am more than willing to listen. I want to know why God made man perfect and then man disobeys him. Is the Lord about war or peace? Is Jesus equal to his father or not? How can an almighty God not remember things and is he or is he not satisfied with his creation? Why isn’t length of years or dinosaurs explained in the Bible?

The Christian Bible is faced with potentially hundreds of contradictions. People have been studying the book for years with no answers. The authors refuse to tell us how long days were back then, why they believe the Earth is only 6000 years old, and will not say when and where Jesus will return, if at all. I have a hard time following and believing a story that, without a doubt, seems to be made up. I have an even harder time believing that others can follow such a story.

I am all about the facts. That is why science has and always will be much farther along in proving its theories than religion. Science versus religion has been a debate that has been brewing for quite some time and because so many people know so much about it, I’ll leave it as one simple remark. As soon as scientists can replicate the Higgs Boson Particle and close in and eventually figure out how the Big Bang happened, then the Bible and, more specifically, the Creation Story, goes down the drains. It would be at this point where the Bible would become one big fable, a work of fiction.

My choice of reading material that I choose to learn about has undoubtedly affected my views. I have become quite the fan of Richard Dawkins, one of the more famous Atheists, as well as a fan of finding flaws in religion, something that seems to be very easy.

I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.
-Richard Dawkins

If religious people had an open mind about science and what was/is around them, then this would be a whole different story. Diehard Christian students often learn about science from religious-based textbooks. For more information on that last sentence, watch “Jesus Camp.”

It is totally understandable if someone were to read this blog and think, “This author, this Alex Miller, sure is a terrible person. He bashes religion when he probably does not go to church.” And, to some extent, that person is right. For a long time, like I said, I thought being an Atheist was considered bad. When you live in a country that claims to be some eighty percent Christian, you cannot help but feel bad about being an Atheist or even Agnostic for that matter. Each day, I honestly think about how I feel about higher powers and I think, “Everyone else around me would probably look down at me, so I should do something about that.”

I try to do one good dead every day, both big or small. This at first started out as something I should do, but something inside me had an awakening and it changed into something I like to do.

For the last six or seven years, I tried balancing believing I should be a good person and the struggle of not believing in God.
I was able to have an open mind, be a good person, and end up a non-believer.
Agnosticism allows us to have a free mind and be more open and live fuller lives.
Why would any sort of religion want to take that away?

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Seven Days at Ashford University and Counting

August 25, 2011 Leave a comment

I arrived in Moline, Illinois on Friday, August 19th at 10:55am and was in Clinton, Iowa an hour later. It was here where I was officially on my own. I did what the admission representatives who picked me up told me to do. I went into Durham Hall to pick up my room key. This was the lobby and hang out area of my new home. I went through the unfamiliar doors, up the stairs I didn’t know existed, and down the second-floor hall to the room I had never been in. Room 210. My home.
I always imagined walking in for the first time to see my roommate. But alas, he wasn’t in the room. I set my stuff down on the dresser and headed to the cafeteria, which I knew existed from my only other visit to the campus back in May. There was a complimentary lunch for all of the students arriving that day. Two slices of pizza and a glass of lemonade. I didn’t know anyone, so I stayed close by the admission reps that had been helping me all day. After lunch, I went to get everything else I needed. My student ID card, some paperwork, and other essentials. There was a meeting that day and I sat with someone random. I thought I was never going to talk to anyone. I learned otherwise.
After all the meetings, I went back to my room to find my roommate sitting in his chair. Drew seemed like a very nice guy. I’ve come to learn over the week that this has stayed true. My first full day was Saturday, the 20th, and my goal for the day was to go to Walmart to get dorm room essentials that I couldn’t bring with me via flying. I got my bed items, laundry stuff, and an extra towel. I would later learn that the more you stay here, the more time you have to come up with things you need. So, more trips to Walmart. I wanted to familiarize myself with the city a little bit and Clinton has a minor league baseball team. I like baseball. Seven-tenths of a mile away are the Clinton Lumberkings. At an extremely affordable $5 ticket, I got in to watch them, sadly, lose to the Cougars of Kane County. I went the next three nights as well, in which they won all three. Getting to talk to the relief pitchers who sit down the third base line is a lot of fun and has already created many memories.
The back-up catcher that I always talk to, Carlton Tanabe, who I hope becomes someone someday, shares the same birthday as me, October 28. All of the guys like the hot girls that work at various concessions. At one point, they had me deliver a ball with the words “Snow cone, please?” written on it to the hot snow cone girl. All of my chats and deeds earned me the right to throw a ball out to the left fielder as he was warming up before the fifth inning of the August 23rd game against the Cougars. The night before, I got a foul ball. My first ever. Although the season ends next week, I look forward to the final homestand of the regular season this upcoming weekend.
As for not knowing anyone because I’m coming from over 2,000 miles away, my goal has been to meet at least one new person a day. I use the fact I’ve from Oregon to start a lot of conversations. People find it fascinating here. It leads to talks about why I’m here, the weather (I am in for some fun during the winter), sports, and all sorts of things. Lately, I’ve been eating dinner with the same people. I’m getting invited to play video games, sports, and other activities. What I imagined was going to happen is not at all reality.

And that’s a good thing.

A Baseball Player and His True Value

June 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Terms like batting average, strikeout, and stolen base were coined in the nineteenth century, while other statistics like total average (1970s) and on-base percentage (1984) are still relatively new to us. For those that follow baseball either religiously or just casually, those terms mentioned above should be familiar to you. But what about things like Defense independent pitching statistics, Peripheral ERA, or my personal favorite…NERD (Narration, Exposition, Reflection, Description)? Some thirty years ago, baseball historian Bill James coined a new term, sabermetrics, that would shape the way we look at stats. Sabermetrics, as defined by dictionary.com, is the application of statistical analysis to baseball records, esp. in order to evaluate and compare the performance of individual player. So, basically, a fantasy baseball manager’s dream.

Everyday, I tune into a baseball game or watch highlights and I hear about things like batting average and value over replacement player and I often wonder, “if Joe Schmo can come up with some unimportant stat, why can’t I?” Of course to Joe Schmo, his stat is probably the greatest thing since 1924 (the first year sliced bread was sold). I’ll have the same feelings about my new statistic, True Value (or TV for short. Hope I don’t get sued by whoever controls Philo Farnsworth and his patents).

True Value is rather simple. It takes four general already made up stats and turns it into one unique stat to determine a baseball player’s true value. Batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage, as well as a player and his salary will all formulate in his True Value. The equation looks something like this.

TV = (AVG + SLG + OBP) / SALARY(in millions)

By taking the three most important statistics that a hitter can have (those three measure how often he gets on base, his power, and his hits to at bats ratio), we can truly see if he is deserving of the contract he signed. As a side note, if you think that equation up there looks confusing, just take a look at the NERD equation:

pNERD = (xFIPz \times 2) + (SwStrk%z/2) + (Strike%z / 2) + LUCK + 4.69

Have fun with that.

Anyway, let’s look at some examples of players and their stats from the 2010 regular season.

Let’s use the reigning AL MVP Josh Hamilton from the Texas Rangers. His splits (AVG/SLG/OBP) were .359/.633/.411, which is a 1.403 combined total. Josh Hamilton made $3.25 million dollars last year. 1.403/3.25 = .432. This number gives us a starting point as to what is considered great, good, and bad. Obviously, the higher the stats and the lower the salary, the higher the true value. Players on the Marlins and Rays have an advantage, so let’s take a look at Hanley Ramirez and Evan Longoria to see if this holds up.

Hanley Ramirez: (.300/.475/.378)/ 7 = .165

Evan Longoria: (.294/.507/.372) / .950 (made $950,000 in 2010) = 1.234

This is a fantastic comparison between three all-stars with three different salaries. Hanley Ramirez, while considered an off year for what we are use to, had a very nice year. He batted a respectable .300, but the fact that he made exactly seven million dollars this year dropped his True Value number significantly. Evan Longoria, on the other hand,  had a lower batting average and on-base percentage than Ramirez and was lower in all three when compared to Hamilton, but because he only made $950,000 last year, his TV was exceptionally high.

This new stat is no where near finished, but at least it’s a start and it gives us something to think about. When on a limited budget, like an Athletics team or a Rays team, maybe this will come in handy. Of course with this, new questions arise, like “well would I rather have Hamilton or Longoria on my team?” I can’t answer that.

I’ll just let the sabermetrics freaks figure that one out.