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Archive for the ‘Fear’ Category

Singularity II

Q:Do you think computers will take over the world some day? I admit I don’t understand them very much (although I’m learning to use e-mail, which is pretty good for someone in her late 70s!). But they seem to have taken over so much of our lives that I worry about this. — Mrs. M.B

A: I answered a very similar question last December.

Q: Do you think computers might take over the world some day? I like to read science fiction stories where they do this, and computers are so powerful today that I wonder if it might actually happen. — L.F.

    A: I have always been fascinated by this idea. When I was young, one of my favorite movies was Colossus: The Forbin Project in which the titular computer gained control of all of the world’s nuclear weapons and set about to rule the world. More recently, much science fiction has been written about a technologocal singularity which is usually related to the development of self-improving machine intelligences. The idea is that these machines would continue to make themselves more intelligent, and that pre-singularity humans (us, now) would not be able to predict or comprehend what life in the post-singularity would be like. I’ve particularly enjoyed stories by Vernor Vinge and Charles Stross on this theme. There are even some that think a technological singularity is likely to occur within the next century. While I find these stories and novels immensely entertaining, I don’t know enough about computing or machine intelligence to know if these estimates are realistic. In the meantime, I will continue to seek out good science fiction and enjoy myself.

Billy Graham’s answer.

Feel free to leave your answer to this question in the comments.

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Tried To Be A Good Person

Q: I’ll be 89 on my next birthday, and I know I don’t have much longer to live. How can I know that I’ll go to heaven? I’ve always tried to be a good person, but maybe I haven’t been good enough. — V. McF.

A: Congratulations on reaching such a milestone! Unfortunately, we can’t know if there is an afterlife. In fact, there is very little reason to think that one does exist. The heaven that Christians believe in almost certainly does not exist. If you’ve truly tried to be a good person, you can take satisfaction that your actions and words have aided many people throughout your life and that you have served as a good example to your family, friends, and others. You should not fear death, because you will cease to feel and think at that point. Ultimately, you are the only judge of whether you have been “good enough”.

Billy Graham’s answer.

Feel free to leave your answer to this question in the comments.

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No Use For God

Q: Is it possible to be so far from God that it becomes impossible for Him to reach you? I worry about this with my brother, because he’s never had any use for God and I don’t think he’ll ever change. — S.T.

A: I answered a similar question last November.

Q: Does God ever give up on some people? I have a cousin who just laughs whenever anyone starts talking about God, and he says he’ll just take his chances when it comes time to die. Several of us in our family pray for him regularly but he looks like a hopeless case to me. — S.Y.

              A: The possibility that any gods exist is extremely remote. The chances that the god you believe in are even more so. It then follows that heaven and hell do not exist and your cousin is not in danger of eternal punishment in any hell. Belief in gods and religions initially arose as attempts to explain the existence of the physical universe and mankind’s place in it and as a way to impose order and rules on society. Since these roles are no longer necessary (thanks to scientific discoveries and the emergence of democracy throughout the world), established religions attempt to maintain their status and power by dictating their (oftentimes ridiculous) rules under threat of eternal damnation. If the word “hopeless” were relevant here, it would apply to your belief that prayers to your god will have any effect on our reality.

Billy Graham’s answer.

Feel free to leave your answer to this question in the comments.

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Death Warmed Over

Q: What do you think happens to us when we die? I don’t think anything does, because once we die that’s the end of everything for us. I’m sure you don’t agree, but what are your reasons? — T.H.

A: I gave this response to a similar question last September:

    The most likely answer is that you will not go to heaven because there are no gods and no heavens. I would guess after you die your body goes through a number of biochemical changes. A medical doctor should be able to explain these changes in more detail.

I agree with you when you said, “once we die that’s the end of everything for us”. I think many Christians are such ardent believers in their god and afterlife because they fear the unknown of what happens after they die. However, we will most likely cease feeling and thinking (and fearing) when we die. The only aspect of my own death that I fear is the impact on my family and friends after I am gone. I have committed myself to supporting these people in one way or another and I hope to live a long life so that I can honor those commitments and share happy, loving moments with them.

Billy Graham’s answer.

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Wild, Wild Life

Q: I work with a woman who claims to be a Christian but she leads a pretty wild life and doesn’t seem to see anything wrong with it. When I confronted her about this, she said it doesn’t matter how she lives because Jesus will forgive her anyway. Is she right? — C.D.

A: I have already addressed this same topic twice this month (here and here). To quote myself from the first of those answers:

    Many Christians believe that they will go to heaven only if they believe that Jesus died for them. … I think this is a lazy way for many to feel moral and righteous, since their actions don’t seem to matter, only their belief in a fictitious deity.

Three letters this month that deal with sin and redemption seem to be indicative of many Christians’ fear of hell and eternal torment. Christian churches (and I would guess many other organized religions) have always used fear as a means to control their faithful. I truly wish that more people would come to realize this, and break free of the oppression of organized religion and the irrationality of supernatural belief.

Billy Graham’s answer.

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Starting College

Q: By the time you get this, I’ll be in college, and the truth is I’m kind of scared. It’ll be my first time away from home (I worked after high school), and I’m not even sure I’ve made the right decision. Do you have any advice for me? — P.R.

A: The transition to college can often be a difficult one. Most colleges and universities are aware of this fact, and have implemented first-year and/or student success programs to help students. These programs typically offer mentoring, tutoring, counseling, and skills development workshops. I’ve provided links to three such programs below, so you can get an idea of the services they offer. I would highly recommend that you seek out such a program in your new school.

Your transition may also be a little easier if you develop a social network early on. Look into joining a group that matches your interests (e.g., outdoor recreation, gaming, photography, dance). You may even consider joining a secular student group. A large list of such groups is maintained by the Secular Student Alliance. However, be careful to not to let your social activities be too much of a distraction from your studies.

Billy Graham’s answer.

Feel free to leave your answer to this question in the comments.

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Devil Music

Q: I used to listen to a lot of music when I was younger without paying much attention to the words, but the other day I was downloading a song and suddenly realized that it talks a lot about the devil. Will this hurt me spiritually, do you think? I’ve only been a Christian about a year. — M.H.

A: This song will not cause you any harm. Art (including all kinds of music) is, in part, a reflection of our experiences. There are many undesirable aspects of our society such as murder, rape, slavery, and war that have been used as inspiration for countless works of art. These works, in most cases, do not advocate these atrocities, but recount them and reflect on their implications. In fact, these piece are art are often indented to draw attention to these horrible events so that we can learn from past mistakes. Even if these did advocate these atrocities, most people will not be harmed in any way by consuming (viewing or listening to) them. The same could be said for this particular song that talks about a devil. Even if you believe in a devil (which is irrational and without factual basis) that performs evil deeds and tempts humans to do likewise, the subject of this song is not important. What is important is your personal moral code and how you act upon new information and thoughts.

Billy Graham’s answer.

Feel free to leave your answer to this question in the comments.

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