Seriously.. God.. why?!

April 6, 2009 at 7:25 pm 69 comments

With the approach of Easter, both Discovery Channel and History.Com have been trying to win audience by “Christening” it up a bit. Saturday morning was talking about “The Apocalypse”, which I learned actually means “revelation”/”to reveal” instead of the Doomsday I understood it to be. At 8:00pm/7c, it went through every word in the bible to look for evidences on the eternal battle between “God vs. Satan”. Sunday morning we had a historical account on the nature of “Angels: Good or Evil”. Yesterday afternoon, Discovery channel had three consecutive programs based on the bible: the Ten Commandments (whether they can be scientifically proven or not — surprise surprise they can!!); whether the “Shroud of Turin” (the linen cloth Jesus’ body was supposed to have been covered with at the time of his “death”) is real or a medieval forgery and finally looked into what Jesus’ life must have been like with regard to the socio-economic affairs of the time.

“The Anti-Christ” has been airing on History Channel for the last hour or so. The source, apart from interviews with various theological professors is, ofcourse, “Left Behind”. The “man of lawlessness” has been discussed in great measures. How charismatic he would be, how he’d start off by preaching peace, then gains everybody’s trust (to the point where Israelites & Palestinians lay down their arms and rebuild the temple; can’t say fairer than that) and how, on the third day, he’d “drop his fangs”. He’d give up pretension and reveal his true colors. From then on, you are given one of two choices: you bow or you die. Until Christ comes, cross hand, to the rescue!

Here is a summary of things that precede Christ’ return:

  • The appearance of the Anti-C
  • The Gospel being preached to all nations
  • A time of great tribulation
  • The coming of false prophets showing signs and wonders
  • Great wonders in the heavens
  • The Salvation of Israel

And a little something from:


Did you sigh a sigh of relief? Not so fast! The second-coming isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning! A beginning from which “Nobody would have been left alive if Jesus didn’t appear at this juncture”. Before the show down: Christ rules the world for 1,000 years. Satan escapes bondage (apparently, nobody paid this part of the bible any attention). Armageddon, from Har-Megiddo, a lavish plain located in Israel, would then be fought (I wonder what it would be fought with; nuclear weapons or good ole “torina gasha”, “Feresina BeQlo”, “beGenna ena Mesenko”?). Then “the judgment” would be upon us.

My question: Why all the drama?

I mean we have all heard how God is eternal. How there is no beginning nor an end to him. Alpha and Omega and what not. So he’s bound to have some time in his hands he won’t know what to do with. So some sort of “teWnet” is to be expected. Why does this drama have to come at our expense though? Wouldn’t it be far more wise and merciful (two qualities we’ve been told God is richly endowed with) to simply cut to the chase and put an end to it already?!

Just wondering!


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Zikr’e Wegayehu – Final Week 3 (A night at Manderley)

69 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mazzi  |  April 7, 2009 at 6:05 am

    “Wouldn’t it be far more wise (a quality we’ve been told
    God is richly endowed with) to simply cut to the chase
    and put an end to it already?!”

    Aydele?!?! Mann semton enji….

    One would think putting an end to it all (already!) might be much easier than dragging it out in such dramatic ways for another 1000 years of the same madness even after the so called second coming of Jesus. Even I, someone who prides herself in knowing the basics of what the bible is supposed to tell us, did not know the so called second coming of Jesus does not necessarily mean the end of the world as we know it. That is until I watched the same kinds of documentaries/programs you mentioned on some of these cable channels.

    Around the major holidays (Christmas and Easter) they sure run/re-run these programs every year, and I find them interesting for many reasons. The ones that want to use ‘the scientific method’ to prove or discredit some aspect of bible story are my favorites … like one program that was trying to show through the scientific method in archeology and carbon dating that Noah’s Arc actually existed by looking for its remains somewhere!

    Noah’s Arc and the myth surrounding it is an intriguing legend. But the minute I think about how some ‘scientists’ are looking for its archeological remains, a giant wooden ship that was supposedly built single handedly by an old man large enough to hold two of every animal in the world (even if it was for animals in his little village/town it would have been simply unthinkable), then I lose faith in my fellow science nerds. Sometimes I wonder what happens to our capacity to reason.

    How brilliant that religious books (put together by politically motivated religious authorities of old times) weave facts, historical events (written and oral), myths, and legends so beautifully we never know where the truth begins and the fantasies end. And how sad that these stories in these books are what unite/divide us in the end through religious identifications/conflicts both internal among many denominations and external with rival religions.

    Ah…the wonders/horrors of organized religions! If there is a creator out there, how he/she/it must be amused by our humanly feeble attempts to make sense out of our faiths and our need to know where we came from and where we are going……

  • 2. sistu  |  April 7, 2009 at 7:17 am

    ere gud new Mazzi and Abesheet…I guess I will see you guys in hell? (I ain’t passing judgment though. Notice I am also headed there.. but for different reasons, mind you very much)

    I don’t have anything to contribute to this but I thought I would just come by and deliver my usual ‘tikesefalachu’ message which I am always eager to dispense.

    On an unrelated subject, I hope you are still as excited about Easter as I am.

  • 3. Mazzi  |  April 7, 2009 at 10:04 am

    LOL Sistu :-).

    You are probably thinking Abesheet and Moi must be directly marching to hell for our jaded views on organized religions. Maybe not believing in the notion of hell (at least speaking for myself ;-)) lessens the fear of ending up there.

    When all is said and done, however, despite my not so flattering views on organized religion, I find it peculiar that I am a lukewarm Christian some times as much as I am a skeptic about religion in general!! Old life time religious habits and upbringing die hard as they say, despite my skepticism getting the better of me. Easter holiday holds a very special place in my heart for many reasons. It is the biggest holiday on the Orthodox calendar back home, and for better or for worse, so many of my vivid home memories are tied to it. For that reason, I am happy to report that I often find myself excited (and sometimes even reflective about what the holiday means) around the Easter holiday. So I am not a ‘lost soul’ after all huh?!

    Same time last year, a friend from home forwarded to me Teddy Afro’s well produced ‘Easter song’ soon after its release (don’t know what the exact title of that song is). And since I really loved that song, I played it to death till I got tired of it around the holiday. It almost became the ‘soundtrack’ of Ethiopian Easter for me even if (thanks to the rat race on this side) the holiday was just another ordinary day for me.

    Since I sometimes take my version of God as a father figure and myself as an ‘enken yebezabat’ child of God, and since Christianity says Jesus is the son of God, then by transition property Jesus can be a VERY holy and ‘enken yeleh’ version of a ‘big brother’ to me/us. The believer in me ponders … if God indeed had the intention of ‘saving’ us or the world from our own misdeeds through Jesus, then it is sad poor ‘enken yeleh’ Jesus (whether divine or human) had to suffer and ‘die’ as ‘the sacrificial lamb’ in an effort to save us from ourselves and evil ways.

    But the skeptic in me ponders … If God as our creator is the one who fashioned us in all our imperfect human glory, then why save us from our own behaviors resulting from the very characteristics he gave us? Wouldn’t it have been much much easier if God created us ‘enken yeleh/yelesh’ just like Jesus (our big brother), and save Himself from having to sacrifice Jesus to save us from our ways? Wouldn’t we all have been much happier in the perfect and holy versions of ourselves somewhere in paradise…. one big happy family? But that sounds excruciatingly boring, doesn’t it?

    I think God needed some major entertainment to fill his eternal time. So … he created gloriously imperfect humans to act in this giant play we call life with endless supply of ‘actors’ over the ages, never boring and fluctuating plots, climaxes, and sometimes resolutions (or not) to our lives. We humans may be sinful to the core, but by God (pun intended) we are not boring! And I have a sneaking suspicion that God might just prefer us in our entertaining ways.

    Just a thought…;-).

  • 4. Ankami  |  April 7, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Hello again, Abesheet. I hope averything is OK in your new home.

  • 5. Mamitu  |  April 7, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Gud Saisemu Meskerem AyTebam allu Basha Zerfu!!! So this is the in thing among Ethio women abroad, I mean the turning of everyone to an Agnostic, I must have missed the memo.

  • 6. abesheet  |  April 7, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    But the skeptic in me ponders … If God as our creator is the one who fashioned us in all our imperfect human glory, then why save us from our own behaviors resulting from the very characteristics he gave us? Wouldn’t it have been much much easier if God created us ‘enken yeleh/yelesh’ just like Jesus (our big brother), and save Himself from having to sacrifice Jesus to save us from our ways? Wouldn’t we all have been much happier in the perfect and holy versions of ourselves somewhere in paradise…. one big happy family? But that sounds excruciatingly boring, doesn’t it?

    Boring and the only thing God is unable to do–over ride your will. He respects Himself too much for that. I doubt many people know this but God is what you and I would call a “sentimental fool”. He wants to fellowship with you on a daily basis, poor guy don’t have anything better to do, but He respects your choice if you do not want to. “Come hither”, he would say “But ene silalkush sayhon Wedesh, FeQdish”. Problem is, He won’t simply walk away (as you and I will) when jerked off. He gets pissed off @ you big time. And you don’t wanna piss off the almighty. King David, my favorite Psalmist, has understood this perfectly. Which is why he moans: Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; the night is as bright as the day; darkness and light to you are both alike”. So you are pretty much stuck. Which is why i don’t think God is enjoying this anymore than you do. If He was like one of those amenzira, selfish, back-stabbing Greek gods whose moves you should watch carefully, being a God would have been such a sport (I guess). Being Holy and tied by your own word (or nature), that is tough on any diety. Still, going to such elaborate lengths to cast us into a bottomless pit, and making a song and dance about it, sounds so insensitive.

    BTW Mazziye, thanks for the feedback on the Audios. I was wondering if anybody was listening to them until i opened my zSHARE profile and noticed some of the files have been viewed upto 38 times. Yes, 11 & 30 are missing for good. (11 doesn’t exist, 30 wouldn’t load in all the 5 or more free uploading services i tried). Tried uploading Chapter 15 again. Tell me if it works this time.

    On an unrelated subject, I hope you are still as excited about Easter as I am.

    I’m actually dreading it sistu. YeQirbim, yeruQim betezemed hulu bezia sebeb metTo liyayegn asboal. And i sure ain’t looking forward to it.

    Nice to see you again Ankami and Mamituye. By the way, Mamitu, i met Samuel (Muna’s husband) when i went to the embassy for my interview. He was standing next to “American Citizens Service” window, so i imagined he must be. He said Muna is at home though s i told him to give my love to her.

  • 7. Mamitu  |  April 7, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    I think not Abesheet, he may be trying to get a Passport for his 5 year old American baby.

  • 8. abesheet  |  April 7, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    He has a 5 year old American baby?! I wonder where he got it from 🙂

  • 9. Mamitu  |  April 7, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Didn’t you hear, adoption is a two way street nowadays. DIdn’t you hear? Just kidding!! Their child was born in the US 5 years ago.

  • 10. Mazzi  |  April 7, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    What an image …. God coming across as a “sentimental fool” who gets mightily pissed when jerked off by free spirited humans :-).

    “ … i don’t think God is enjoying this [the struggle between His will and Our free will] anymore than you do.” Aydel?!

    You are right Abesheet. Negger hulu yetebelashew was on that fateful day when God himself decided to give humans free will! And how tragic if He indeed can’t over ride that! If in fact our free will is what keeps getting us in trouble, and something God himself can’t over ride, that sure is a recipe for eternal constant struggle between God’s will and that of ours. Maybe free will was a manufacturing error that ended up creating a major loop hole even God could not anticipate. And as you said, being Holy and tied to His Godly nature must not be easy to God himself indeed.

    The Greek gods, who are more like super humans with super powers, but not tied to any righteous godly rigid ways, must have found it much easier to be in their own ‘godly’ skins. I find them extremely and utterly entertaining! They are the perfect example of humans creating their gods in their own image.

    As for the Audios, thanks for the updates about the missing Chapters and for uploading Chapter 15 again. It still has the same problem as before, but after downloading the file, I think it plays with ‘RealPlayer’ software instead of ‘Windows Media Player.’ Maybe the missing Chapters’ narration might be part of the previous files Sistu was kind enough to share some time back. So my sincere thanks to you and Sistu for sharing the precious files. I shall mezeker you both every time I listen to those Audios and get transported to a different time and place.

    @Mamitu: LOL 🙂 about the trend and memo even I missed about some Ethio women in the Diaspora turning Agnostic. Abesheet is the only one I know out there, and is bold enough to say it :-). Me, I am a confused Christian who still believes in God without limiting him/her/it to only bible stories.

    I wonder what that makes me?!

  • 11. Ye'ewunet Wodaj  |  May 16, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Hi Abesheet and Mazzi:

    Just after sharing my thoughts (admiration, etc) about you two, I discovered the above thread in which you shared your views about God, etc.

    Just a thought or two: I spend a lot of time reading, thinking, and writing on the issues in philosophy and philosophical reflections on God, the nature of ultimate reality, the nature of us, human beings, etc. That is my full time job, FYI. Then when I come across people (whom I admire for other reasons) say things about issues that are of great interest to me in ways that I can hardly take seriously I begin debating with myself if reading such blog entries is worth my time. I come back to see if there is something shared again with a bit more seriousness and care, since that is the way I’d like to discuss such issues, but when I fail to get something like that from here I hesitate to come back. I come back though hoping that we can converse in a way that is conducive to the subject matter in such a way that we could share our thoughts about these issues in a bit more careful way. You can ask me what I mean by the repeated phrase–a careful way, if you will.

    Now, I know that this is not a blog run by a professional philosopher who’d naturally like to see arguments provided for every assertion made. But then if things go that way that would change this blog from a popular medium to share one’s opinion into a philosophy journal or a serious blog that would put off a number of potential folks in the audience who can’t stand philosophical discussions.

    So, I wonder if both of you, folks that I truly admire for your other qualities, maybe linguistic dexterity, if you would be interested in engaging a fellow abesha myself and others likeminded ones who would prefer discussing and sharing ideas about issues such as the ones I’m sharing my thoughts now about but in a friendly and intelligent and more careful way. I’d love to be with you, in the sense of being a conversation partner when I can. Just wanted to hear what you’d say.

    N.B. I’ve gone thru most of the things you’re going thru: being a believer, a skeptic and an atheist, agnostic, a believer again, etc, but then finally (that is a long time ago) I decided to pursue such questions about God, what life is all about, what it means to be human, etc as a full time job. For me such issues are of great and enduring interest as you could tell but also I take discussions on these issues with utter seriousness.

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts, Abesheet and Mazzi.


  • 12. Ye'ewunet Wodaj  |  May 16, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Hi Abesheet & Mazzi:

    I thought it’d be a good thing if I could give a link to two of the blogs I frequently read and at times contribute a thought or two to. One is a blog by Alex Pruss who’s both a mathematician and a philosopher, with two PhDs in these two fields. He’s a Christian and you’d see what kind of issues folks blog and discuss there. The other is also much similar. Please after reading some of the entries let me know what you think:





  • 13. Mazzi  |  May 17, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    @ Ye’ewunet Wodaj:

    Quite a rare event to “meet” a fellow country man (instinct tells me you are indeed a fellow ‘countryman’ and not a ‘countrywoman’) with keen interest in philosophy and even pursues a full time job/profession in the field.

    I have to admit that though I have come across few aspiring and inquisitive Abesha souls who fancy themselves as decent amateur philosophers, at least on a part time basis, you are the only one I am finding so far who has taken their passion all the way to professional level. Very admirable.

    By the way, your ‘name’ “Ye’ewunet Wodaj” can be interpreted two ways. Given your philosophy background, it can either mean “Lover of Truth”, OR in a literal sense it technically could also mean “True Lover.” I may be splitting hair here, but just wanted to throw that out there in incase there is a philosophical significance there ;-).

    Tackling philosophical reflections on God, the nature of ultimate reality and human beings etc in one’s profession sounds like a very tall order to me. I hope the personal and monetary rewards in your profession are decent for such a tall order though that may not be the case if you are in academics. I should know. If ever you figure out the above philosophical queries, do share! I sure would be one to listen.

    If you don’t have one already, how about starting your own blog tackling such queries from an Abesha perspective? That sure would be interesting and unique to say the least, and push the envelope in the Ethiopian psyche dead set in accepting, without question I might add, the status quo about our carved in stone ‘siwerd siwared yederesen’ beliefs.

    Though from your other comment it sounds like you appreciate Abesheet’s blog, her style, and some of my comments, why does your comment in this particular post feel as though Abesheet and I are being graded for a philosophy paper we did not submit? Speaking for myself at least, I am dead serious about my musings regarding MY own understanding of the nature of ‘god’ and my speculations of how we humans relate to him/her/it and vice versa.

    Though I am all for exchanging ideas “in a friendly and intelligent” (as you said) manner, I am more than happy to leave the heavily emphasized “seriousness and careful” nature of such discussions to the likes of you who tackle such issues for a living.

    I did venture, however, into the links you provided of the two philosophical blogs you follow. I have to admit the esoteric and field specific jargon in these blogs was a hard thing to overcome at first for an amateur like myself. After a quick glance over them, nonetheless, I found few arguments that I am in agreement with the bloggers respectively that are kind of related to the topic that was being discussed in this particular Abesheet’s post and the the comments that followed. Thought I might point out which ones, so here goes:

    Universalism and Free Will (From: The Prosblogion, A Philosophy of Religion Blog)
    By A.P. Taylor on April 10, 2009 12:04 PM

    “One of the problems with accepting Christian universalism
    is that in doing so it seems that one must give up on a
    libertarian notion of freedom of the will. This is due to the
    classic Arminian objection that a being could not really be
    free unless it were possible for that being to resist the will
    of God–that she be saved–for all eternity. Thus the denizens
    of Hell are said to be there as a result of their ongoing rejection
    of the Almighty. The universalist, contra the Arminian, holds
    that Hell is essentially purgative and restorative, and thus only
    temporary, and that ultimately everyone is reconciled to God.
    But then, if everyone is ultimately reconciled with God, it
    seems to follow that no one possesses libertarian freedom.
    After all, no one can choose to be permanently separated
    from God. …”

    Evil and utopian fiction (From: ALEXANDER PRUSS’S BLOG) POSTED BY ALEXANDER R PRUSS Tuesday, May 12, 2009

    “If the following proposition were true, we would have made
    some progress in answering the deductive problem of evil:

    1. The actual world is better for beings of our sort than any
    world that has no evil in it.

    Is (1) true? Here is one possible piece of evidence for it:
    Utopian fiction does not present compelling evil-free worlds
    where one would like to live.”

    To the above post, one blog reader commented….

    “Every semester I ask my students imagine that they are
    pre-incarnate souls who have to choose between existence
    in two worlds. ‘Actual World’ is our world. ‘Utopia’ is much l
    like our world except there is no free will in it and no moral
    evil. Every semester, a large majority of students choose
    ‘Actual World.’”

    If I were in that class, I sure would have chosen the ‘Actual World’ as well given the nature of human beings with free will and all.

    I promise to visit such sites when I feel like exercising my brain muscles if you promise to read my comments and not hold anything against me for not being “serious and careful” enough about my arguments. That is intentional by the way, since the ‘carefree’ feel of Abesheet’s Cyber ‘Tej Bett’ i.e. blog is what attracted me in the first place. I vow to be “careful & serious” when I submit a paper for publication.

    How is that for a happy compromise?

  • 14. abesheet  |  May 17, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    So, I wonder if both of you, folks that I truly admire for your other qualities, maybe linguistic dexterity, if you would be interested in engaging a fellow abesha myself and others likeminded ones who would prefer discussing and sharing ideas about issues such as the ones I’m sharing my thoughts now about but in a friendly and intelligent and more careful way. I’d love to be with you, in the sense of being a conversation partner when I can. Just wanted to hear what you’d say.

    Welcome Ye’Ewnet Wodaj. Nice to see you again Mazziye.

    Well, Ye’Ewnet. If i knew what i was talking about, I’d have taken you on your challenge. I don’t. So i naturally won’t. However, feel free to discuss whatever subject you wish to discuss about and for others to ponder over. I may even help you by posting it (under your name, ofcourse). Due to a laptop fan failure, I have been logging from my phone for the last 3 days. When I can get it fixed, I’d read your other comments and comment.

    Melkam Qen.


  • 15. Ye'ewunet Wodaj  |  May 17, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    Hi Mazzi and Abesheet:

    Good to hear from both of you.

    First to Mazzi:

    Thanks a lot for your post which has many good things to it. Yes, I’m not a woman. You’re right. I also pursue philosophy in the academic context, i.e., in a professional sense. That explains the reference to seriousness because it’d not make sense for a person to spend one’s professional life doing something and not being serious about it. That said, honestly, I’d not expect from you all the things that professionals require from their colleagues. I enjoy philosophical conversations with whoever as long as that person can hold such conversations in some friendly and intelligent way. Sorry if I sounded like I was grading papers that were never submitted, etc. Talking about seriousness and being more careful I was alluding to the way that some philosophically important issues seemed to be discussed here and that is just a way to call your attention to the fact that I’d enjoy such conversations in a bit more careful way. That does not mean in a professional way at all. What you’ve done, Mazzi, was what I was talking about. That is more than enough and I commend you for what you’ve shared with us.

    By my pen name I mean to communicate Lover of Truth. “True Lover” would seem to require being explicit as to what is being loved and hence seems to be incomplete unless someone knows from the context of the name that this person is a true lover of something. So, I’d go with the first meaning and thanks for your suggestions though.

    Glad that you took time to read and interact with some similar ideas from the blogs that I shared. [By the way, thanks for suggesting that it’d be good if I blog with fellow Abesha’s in mind. It’s possible that I might do it someday but not sure when since I’ve demanding commitments in life right now]. As for sharing what I’m working on in relation to the things that I mentioned, sure I’ll be happy to share some at some point. If we’re neighbors in the Midwest we can even sit down and talk and hence engage each other in good philosophical conversations. I’d love to do that if such an opportunity ever arises.

    Mazzi, would you mind sharing with me (us) what kind of skepticism you’ve gone thru and are going thru when it comes to God’s existence and Christianity in particular? You said above in your response (not to me) where you talked about yourself as “a confused Christian.” It’s interesting to hear your reasons behind your skepticism about God or your faith commitment, if you still have a faith-commitment. One of the things that you mention that could be behind your skepticism could be in relation to the Bible and whether it contains truth and how we can relate to its truth-claims, etc. Would you elaborate your skepticism in your own way so that you can get a chance to share your thoughts in your own way?

    When time permits I’ll try to engage you in some of the issues you raise. I’ve a better background in some areas in philosophy and do not want to leave an impression that I’ve a decent background about anything. That is not true. Yes, we can talk about God’s nature, from the perspective of theistic metaphysics ( i.e., the nature of God in the way theists present what God is), and epistemology about how we know God’s existence, etc if God exists. Among others, I work in both these areas and might have something to say about them but cannot claim whether what I say in these contexts will be good enough for skeptics like you.

    The best way to go about these things is to respond to your skeptical worries rather than presenting what theists think or believe about this or that. Since I’m interested in engaging a skeptic, you, it’d be good to hear your thoughts in some orderly way. By the way, I’d like to tell you about a huge conference on the nature of God to be held somewhere in the Midwest in the fall and if you’d like to attend it I’d be happy to tell you its venue and exact date. It’ll bring the world’s foremost theists and non-theists to discuss the nature of God. The speakers are among the most accomplished and finest philosophers and theologians of our time.

    Abesheet: You said, “If i knew what i was talking about, I’d have taken you on your challenge. I don’t. So i naturally won’t.” I wish what you said were true. I’m not by any means implying that you’re lying. I don’t think that you’re talking about something you don’t know what it’s that you’re talking about. If you want to be humble and do not want to admit that you know something about what you’re talking about, my response to you would be simple: humility and sharing one’s knowledge about something are consistent. So, please go ahead and do your best in the sense of arguing or sharing some good reasons for your points or support your thoughts in whatever way that you can communicate as long as it’s friendly and intelligent and intelligible. For example, you’ve views about God. You claim certain things about God are true but others are false. One can easily show you that you’ve such views from your writings. In the face of such claims/assertions/ideas that come from you it’d be hard to believe that you don’t know what you’re talking about. It seems to me that you know quite a lot or claim to know quite a lot about certain subject matters. So, my friendly challenge to you is this: please tell us a bit more of the reasons why you say certain things and not others? Just share your mind and we’ll just have something to talk about and learn from each other etc. At the end of the day, I could be wrong about everything I’ve just said about you but hope not.

    One thing that would be puzzling to me if what you say is not true is as follows: You want to communicate some thoughts/ideas with others and blog them to accomplish some such things. You want your blog to be read and interacted with, ideally speaking. Then someone like me comes acrosss your saying I don’t know what I’m talking about. So naturally someone who wants to read something written by someone who wants to be read but does not take what that person is communicating in any way seriously would lose interest in reading your blog again. Why? Its’s natural for someone who wants to read something worth one’s time to be interested in reading something worth reading in a way that the blogger takes responsibility for what he/she says or means to communicate. Why waste my time, one might ask oneself, by reading something even the blogger does not know what she’s talking about? One might also ask, does this blogger care to know anything in order to blog something the blogger would take credit for? Questions like these would naturally arise from your readers’ perspective and I think you’d take such questions seriously, if you also care for your readers’ interests as much as they care for yours. That is just a sense of fairness, or, at least to seems to me.

    Hope to hear from both of you.


  • 16. Ye'ewunet Wodaj  |  May 18, 2009 at 2:51 am

    Hi Mazzi:

    Just a thought or two as I look forward to hearing from you about my previous post:

    When I read one of your posts (a response to Abesheet’s post above) you raised a number of things and some of them struck me as interesting or worth thinking about.

    After saying a few things about “Noah’s Arc and the myth surrounding it is [as] an intriguing legend” you end by saying “Sometimes I wonder what happens to our capacity to reason” because you’ve heard that some scientists, who are supposed to reason well believe in such stories as Noah Arc etc from the Bible.

    Our capacity to reason and how some seem to have “refused” to properly use their capacity to reason when they believe some of the stories in the Bible like the story of Noah intrigues many. But then someone who believes such biblical stories also wonders what would make it unreasonable to believe such stories of Noah from the Bible. Suppose that a believer asks you just the question, what makes it unreasonable to believe such stories from the Bible? How would you, Mazzi, point out the flaw in the way these Christians believe about some of those apparently unbelievable stories from the Bible?

    Suppose that you’re in a conversation about some of the stories in the Bible (like Jesus dying for sinners as you also entertain what that means) with Alex Pruss, whose blog you started to visit. Now it’s good to set some facts straight about some such believers as Alex by taking into account the possibility that he’s an idea what it means to reason properly and seek a rational faith as much as possible. At any rate, Alex received his undergraduate degree (double major in math and physics) at 18, and went on to receive his PhD in math at 23; then he went on to do another PhD in Philosophy a few years later at 28. Suppose that Alex believes most of the things the Bible teaches as true. Now would one of your questions to Alex be to challenge him if he’s careful enough as to how he reasons when it comes to his Christian? I think that would be a fair question? But what would you say if he asks you the same question? These are not philosophically loaded questions. I just want to see how you’d respond to such questions since such questions have the potential to challenge us to do much better than what we’re currently doing about issues that we’re talking about and thinking about, etc.

    Or, take Greg Restall who’s one of the foremost logicians working today. He’s also among those you might wonder whether he’s using his capacity to reason properly, whether he understands what it means to be logical, what it means to be both a logician and a Christian. Here’s Gregg’s website: Here’s one of Gregg’s writings on the atonement that might be of interest to you since you talk about Jesus’ relation to human beings:

    Now I wonder what your question for Gregg would be like when it comes to what it means for a logician to use his reasoning capacity when it comes to his commitment to Christianity. What would be your question to Alex and Gregg? Do you think they have a reasoning capacity as good as any decent human being?

    By the way, please note that I’m just mentioning a couple of Christian philosophers out of hundreds and probably thosands who’re working today. These examples are just two of the finest minds that could illustrate my point that one’s capacity to reason well, at its near perfection, could be used to make a case that it’s not lack of a reasoning capacity that contributes to being a Christian. The opposite could be true. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any fellow abesha Christian philosopher or even a good, decent non-theistic philosopher who pursues the questions that interested us here either in Ethiopia or among the Diaspora.

    As I’ve briefly mentioned before I’ve gone thru skepticism as a young believer, became agnostic and an atheist, and all sorts of such things. In this intellectual journey I’ve had chances to read and think about among the most challenging and finest works in philosophy both for and against the Christian understanding of God and our place in the universe, etc. I’ve had chances to work with formidable minds from both sides of the debate and have developed my own views in the context of working with these philosophers. I’m still working on these issues and will continue to work on these issues because of the fundamental nature of philosophical issues they bring forth for any person who wants to pursue existentially significant questions that engage the towering geniuses of human history, both philosophers and scientists and whoever else, both past and present. I’m an ordinary mortal probably like you, if you take yourself as such but then I’m pursuing these questions on a full-time basis because answers to them, as I take it, worth more than all the money and fame and power that a human being can amass. I’m the happiest when I come across abeshas like you who ponder and wonder these questions loud and clear. You simply win my admiration.

    I’m trying to see how you’d react to the above simple questions since I rarely come across a fellow abesha who takes time in the the most serious way to pursue such life-shaping and life-defining questions as the ones we’re just touching here.

    Look forward to hearing your reactions, Mazzi. I’d not mind hearing what our dear Abesheet would say in response to the above posts but then I’m afraid that she might respond in a single sentence or even a word—I don’t know what I’m talking about.


  • 17. Ye'ewunet Wodaj  |  May 18, 2009 at 4:37 am



    After posting the last note I thought it’d be fair to add the following thoughts: By mentioning examples of Christian philosophers such as Gregg and Alex, I did not intend to communicate the following ideas, too: I’m not saying that they just believe all those stories people say around about Christianity, organized religion, and this or that. I don’t even care what they believe at the end of the day but then also at the end of the day the point was to show that at least there are philosophers (logicians included) who care very much about what it means to be reasonable and who even work on the nature of logic but who at the same time are committed to some orthodox views about God and Christianity, etc. This just provides us with some food for thought in such a way that it might not be just some uneducated or less educated among us who just believe in some of the core propositions that a Christian faith commits one to. In the face of such empirical data, what are we supposed to do about our wondering and claims about the relationship between reason and faith since our examples provide us with such examples to cause us to ponder and wonder.

    One more thing and am done for now: people talk about organized religion in so many harsh ways and maybe they are right some of the times about what they say about such things. Mazzi happens to be one of them who says harsh things about organized religions and it’s nor irrelevant to bring up this issues even in a passing. But one thing I rarely understand, if ever at all, is this: what does being organized or disorganized ( if there is any disorganized religion) have anything to do with truth? I can’t understand for the life of me how to make sense of such talks. My interest has always been in trying to see if certain claims contained in some religious/philosophical traditions are true or false. For example, what matters most to me has been if the propositions contained by some of the most discussed religious/philosophical traditions such as Christianity or Christian theism, are true or false. For example, Christianity holds some propositions such as THAT a Triune God exists, THAT Jesus is both divine and human , THAT he died and rose from death, THAT human beings are created by God and have a nature such that their origin and destiny has something to do with God’s purpose in creating them, THAT there is life after death, THAT human beings are not merely material beings, etc, etc. My interest has always been in trying to see if such claims or propositions that Christianity or Christian theism requires one to be committed to are knowable and/or reasonable to believe and what reasons we have for and against them.

    Above all, Christian thinkers for generations have also been considering what consequence believing such propositions would have for our daily life. But then it must be noted that certain ways of living one’s life follow from the truth of Christianity but nothing that many have attributed, in a negative way, to “organized religions” simply follow from the truths of Christianity. The fact that some REASON BADLY about what Christianity is about does not entail that that is what Christianity teaches or commits one to. Making such distinctions in some careful way would save us from spending all our time saying bad (or even good ) things about “organized religions.” Asking simple questions with a clear conscience about particular claims of Christianity can help us address what is going on in the name of Christianity, but then there are too many things that go in the name of Christianity that are not consistent with Christianity. It takes a sincere intellectual commitment to see what is going on in the name of Christianity and what Christianity actually requires one to be committed to. But such a journey could be too demanding for some and instead of organizing one’s life in pursuit of such questions with exacting intellectual integrity it’s much easier to posit a straw man in order to make one’s attack against such a straw man easier and “effective.” I’m extremely suspicious of such easy attacks and hence my desire to engage fellow abeshas at a more serious and careful level. I’ve found myself among those who attack the straw man and later ended up studying what actually constitutes the negation of the straw man and what distinguishes it from the actual serious metaphysical and epistemological commitments of of Christian theism, which is among the issues I’ve been studying now for quite some time as I’ve alluded to before.

    Hope the above communicates some ideas worth communicating.


  • 18. abesheet  |  May 18, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    I have a feeling your offer would be met with a more enthusiastic reply from Angry Ex-Christian. Ever been there?

  • 19. Ye'ewunet Wodaj  |  May 19, 2009 at 2:19 am

    Hey Abesheet:

    Sure, I know the blog you mentioned and many others like it too. Since my posts address our Mazzi I’d like to stick to a conversation with our friend. I’ve lots of ex-Christians and ex-atheists around and they are are in plenty. My interest here is to engage my abesha friends and hence would rather hear what Mazzi and Abesheet say in response to what I shared above so that we can get a conversation going, of course, hopefully.

    What do you think?


  • 20. Mazzi  |  May 19, 2009 at 4:03 am

    Selam Ye’ewnet Wodaj:

    It was quite a trip to read your comments, and it is pretty clear how passionate and invested you are about your chosen field. That is actually impressive! I remember having that kind of passion for my chosen field once up on a purple moon till I got a bit jaded somewhere along the way, but still working hard to get it back. A girl has hopes. Though the not so impressive monitory gain in many academic fields is nothing to write home about, it sounds like your passion for what you do and any personal satisfaction you might gain out of it just might make up for it.

    You have emphasized enough times how seriously you take your chosen career field, and expect anyone who engages you in discussion to take it just as seriously. I gotta say, however, you have to remember that not everyone has the same passion and dedication to such philosophical academic pursuits. In addition, you have to allow yourself to have a sense of humor along with your passion!! You sound toooo serious to me. Just an observation. If you lack a sense of humor about such discussions, you risk losing potential people who could engage you in discussion if they feel they too are expected to take the subject matter just as seriously as you do. I for one plan to have a sense of humor about the whole thing. I have got enough serious things in my life that I have very little control over, so I choose to take discussions and exchange of ideas on personal blogs very lightly ;-).

    As for your pen name, I know you meant for it to mean “Lover of Truth” given your background. But you kind of missed my joke about the alternative meaning ;-). Though now may not be a good time for you to entertain running your own blog, you should seriously think about it in the future as philosophical blog with an Abesha edge to it would sure add a new dimension and flavor to the types of Ethio blogs that are out there. Though political blogs are a necessary evil, I wish there were more alternative blogs (personal, literature, entertainment, philosophical ones etc…) to mix it up. If ever the spirit moves and I finally get my bearings back, I might even contribute to the Ethio blogsphere some time in the future. Who knows?! In the mean time, many thanks to Ms. Abesheet for being generous enough to share her cyber Tej Bett with leflaffis like myself :-).

    You have asked me to address quite a few things in your previous comments, and I will see how many of them I can tackle without over loading Abesheet’s humble abode’s comment sections.

    My skepticism regarding the existence of God, or God’s nature especially in the context of Christianity changes from day to day depending on what is happening in my life at any given moment. All I know is I am far from being a garden variety Christian as I seem to have a healthy amount of skepticism about the role of religion in my life, at least the way it was taught to me. I happen to be a Christian, if I am even that in the strict sense of the word, simply by coincidence. I was born into it. I did not choose it. If I had to belong to any religion at all, I guess Christianity is as good as any of them since I sure am not one to think it is a superior religion over other major religions.

    Though I am not a Catholic, my early Christian teachings were heavily influenced by strict Catholic school teachings. Religion was everything and the way it was taught to us influenced just about every deed AND thought! At least for me. Though they taught about God’s love as well, what I obsessed about as a young inquisitive child was the extremely punitive, jealous, petty, irrational, bias, absurd, and even vindictive Old Testament God that I found downright terrorizing to my young mind! No amount of ‘God loves you’ could console all the ways I was told THE SAME GOD could burn my soul in fiery Hell for eternity for exercising my free will, not following his rules and appeasing him in thought, deeds, and prayers day in and day out.

    Teachers, nuns, and priests who run the school were more than happy to inform us (all young children mind you) all the many ways we sin even as little kids, and expected at least the Catholic kids to do weekly confessions at mandatory masses we all attended. Even then I used to ask my Catholic young classmates and friends who go to confessions every week what they have possibly sinned since their last confession for them to feel so sorry about and ask God’s forgiveness. So much for childlike innocent souls.

    I debated my ‘gibregeb astemariwoch’ about the concepts of original sin we all are supposed to be born with (thanks Adam & Eve!), reasons why God doomed woman kind to suffer (in labor, child birth, and in general for the rest of her life because she gave the apple of truth to dumb ass Adam), purgatory for young souls born with original sin who die before being baptized, and the validity of some of the bible stories that seemed more like myth than historical facts to me. I was not very popular for such questions of course, and it was easier to some teachers to blame my Orthodox Christian teachings and upbringing that I got at home on account of my mother being a strict Orthodox Christian.

    As long as I believed the bible as word of God in the literal sense of the word, I struggled with the strict nature of religion that was being shoved down my throat. There was no room for any doubts I had. That was before I was able to differentiate between the concept of faith, belief in God, and religious teachings and rituals. Christian teachings in my early childhood only helped guilt feelings to fester in my young soul, and I can even go as far as claiming that it had robbed some of my childhood innocence. Luckily, a secular high school with diverse student body from various cultural and religious backgrounds brought a sense of freedom like I had never known before when I was introduced to concepts of other religions besides Christianity and Islam (the only religions I knew something about). In a much freer environment, I actually had a chance to interact with teachers and fellow classmates who followed and even revered or questioned their own religions other than Christianity! They identified with their religion with the same fervor I was expected to identify with Christianity, and sure enough they too may have thought their religion was the only way to god or gods. Gods! Who knew there could be more than one?! I did not necessarily think their religions were better or superior in any way, but it sure taught me to be humble about the existence of other religions and get rid of my inherited arrogance that Christianity is the only way to God.

    Further education, growth, maturity, reading, research, and a couple of very interesting college courses that dealt with critical issues of religion (Christianity included) opened my eyes to even additional understanding of faith, religion, and spirituality. My personal quest to try to understand the history of the bible, who wrote the books in the bible, when, why, and who decided which gospels in the end would be included in the bible as we know it today, not to mention the history of subsequent spread of Christianity, politically motivated schisms in the original Church, further evolution of different denomination and various sects etc… were all eye opening experiences for me. Historical events in bible times and even later and how and why, despite popular belief, religion and politics IN ALL AGES are two sides of the same coin still fascinate the heck out of me. Bible stories, and accounts of Old and New Testament including Jesus’ life in my opinion are a product of weaving, myths, legends, facts, fantasies and historical events by authors and historians over the ages. I can’t take anyone who takes the bible as a literal transcription of God’s word very seriously, though I respect people’s choice to take the bible whichever way they want as long as they are not using it to commit injustices. But we all know that happens anyways.

    Despite my skepticism, however, it never ceases to amaze me how I can never say there is no God out there. The need for some form of spirituality, the desire to believe in something/someone outside of ourselves, and the wish to believe in a creator of some sort was very much alive even in me so I could not for the life of me dismiss faith and religion all together. So I decided to still believe in the concept of god, a god, since that was what was introduced to me while young, and since that is what I CHOOSE to believe. It was also my choice to view this god as a ‘fatherly’ god on account of my earthly father being a sucky one. Had it not been for that, however, considering that I choose to believe in a loving personal God (not the punitive, jealous, petty, irrational, bias, absurd, and even vindictive kind I feared in my younger days), I probably would have preferred my God to be a female considering females in general are more nurturing than males. But for all I know, God may be a he, she, it or even none of the above. My profound sense of injustice about how this world is a “man’s world” and how women in just about any society are always getting the short end of the stick makes me believe God is indeed a male bias towards his gender :-(.

    Having said all this, I am not as conflicted about the nature of God as some skeptics might be because conflict only arises when one tries to define god within a limited context. In this case Christianity and bible description of God I guess. But since I don’t limit MY God, my personal god, to the Christian God described in the bible or any other religion God for that matter, he is whatever I make him out to be. But since speculating the nature of God and how we know his existence from a philosophical perspective seems to be right up your ally, we all sure could benefit from hearing your perspective.

    As for my Noah’s Ark reference in my previous comment inferring how I find it strange when ‘scientists’ try to use ‘the scientific method’ to prove/disprove unlikely bible stories … well, my beef comes from believing how faith and science for the most part are like oil and water to me. They can coexist peacefully, mix minimally (at least temporarily) if shaken forcefully, but really have little in common. Faith is all about believing whether proof is provided or not. Science is the exact opposite. When I hear Noah’s Ark story, I am more tempted to take the moral of the story instead of being interested in the validity of its technicality. Unfortunately, this particular story reinforces the punitive God image. So besides the fact that it makes a cute and beautifully illustrated children’s story (if we only tell them the boat building part, not the God wanting to wipe put creations to teach few a lesson), I personally choose not to take any lesson from it. It is a horrible story.

    If I choose to believe in God through such bible stories, I don’t need proof of Noah’s Ark existence through archeological means. But I have to admit I find it a bit difficult when I come across people who believe that story as a historical fact/event. We have not even touched if that whole story is even a fair act from a supposedly loving God! God gets pissed at a small group of people, and wants to spare few of his favorite righteous people. So what does he do? He creates the largest collateral damage ‘known’ to man when he fatally floods the ‘sinful’ along with God knows how many innocent others, also God’s children I might add(!), not to mention any other animals/creatures (also his creation) that were not lucky enough to be selected for Noah’s Ark. What a lot of unfair and ‘ungodly’ crap that sounds to me.

    Also, what portion of the ‘world’ did God decide to flood? Just Noah’s village, neighborhood, town, country, region, or continent? How big did his Arc have to be to accommodate ‘two of every animal in the world’? How was he able to build such a vessel by the way? Did he have help from others? If so, come flood time did he tell them “sorry guys God only wants to save me and my wife from human kind while the rest of you are doomed?” Why did God need a huge flood to kill few ‘offending souls’ when he could use his infinite power to selectively zap them (still an unfair act in my eyes) where they are instead of killing everyone in the process? Even with all these unsettling questions, however, if a believer tells me he/she believes that story as sure as the sun rises in the east, I say more power to them. Just don’t try to convince me about it.

    Though I had ‘scientists’ who try to prove/disprove bible stories in mind when I talked about ‘our capacity to reason’, technically it applies to every one of us. I just love people who think critically, apply a bit of logic in their understanding of their world, and always question the status quo before accepting everything on face value. We so worship authority figures and religious leaders with no challenge, and often that leaves us vulnerable to manipulation and sadly sometimes even abuse. That is all I am saying. I am all for respecting such authoritative figures AS LONG AS they have earned that respect! No automatic respect for me thankyouverymuch.

    As for hypothetical conversations with Christian philosophers like the likes of Alex Pruss (who has an impressive academic achievements at such a young age by the way…more power to him!) about bible stories, well I am not sure how well that would go since as you said the likes of him (and you it sounds) would expect me to ‘set facts straight, reason properly, and seek a rational faith.’ For me, there is no rationality in faith though I am curious to see how Christian philosophers like him try to find that very thing! Same goes for logic as well. Faith has to defy logic at least some of the time. Otherwise, if we look for logic in bible stories, we might trip ourselves more often than we are willing to admit. If I were to ask logicians and Christian philosophers anything, it would be why they have their need to mix their faith and profession.

    For instance…I am in the field of biology, and one of the things that makes me instinctively believe in the notion of ‘a creator’ is the fact that there is a beautiful pattern in all creation from the microscopic viruses all the way to even extinct giant dinosaurs on molecular levels (DNA, RNA, Proteins etc…), and even smaller on atoms, and basic elements level. How wonderful to think that all creations are somehow related biologically, and we even have connection to inanimate objects like rocks because we share the same elements! I find a lot of beauty in that.

    I have also taken enough science classes, and worked in laboratory settings putting the ‘scientific method’ to work enough to convince myself the validity of Evolution. I don’t have the need to marry my two beliefs in a creator and the theory of evolution to understand the world around me, and even go as far as thinking the two things are not necessarily mutually exclusive. However, I don’t have the need to PROVE their not so mutually exclusive nature either. I am OK in knowing that I DON’T know everything there is to know, I don’t have to choose between Evolution and A Creator /Creation (not necessarily the bible’s version by the way). And I am one of those people who believe religion belongs in the Church or any other places of worship and the theory of Evolution belongs in our science classrooms, and not together or vice versa.

    My ‘intellectual journey’ regarding religion only goes as far as trying to understand the religion I grew up in, the various major religions around the world, what similarities and differences they have, the historical context of the growth of such religions, and what role faith, spirituality, and organized religion play in the human psyche. I have very little interest in trying to figure out which one is the ‘one true religion’ as there is no such thing. What I mean by ‘organized religion’ by the way is essentially how the accepted religion of the time was ‘organized’ by the ruling parties (religious and political), reinforced by religious rituals to forge alliances and unfortunately create enemies of none believers, and passed down to all the generations till current times. And if I talk harshly about so called organized religions, it is because religious authorities and religious dogmas often go unchallenged and rob otherwise rational human beings to accept just about any damn thing if it comes in the name of religion. Many of the world’s injustices over the centuries have been done and continue to be done in the name of organized religion as well, and how quick we forget that!

    All this pondering regarding faith is just an interest on the side for me. On the other hand, the likes of you have chosen to dedicate your whole career pursuing philosophical questions including religion. I can’t do that and I commend those of you who do. So, feel free to share what your own journey in faith and religion had been like and how you combine your profession with your faith…if you do that is. I don’t know if you will ever get to the bottom of the answers for all the queries you are pursuing. But the joy should be in the journey and not the destination anyways.

    And if ever you create your own blog along these discussions, you should share your thoughts including from an Abesha perspective, and maybe you might find few Abeshas willing to read what you have to say and engage you in an intellectual discussion. But I think you should tone down these ‘don’t bother to discuss such things with me if you are not going to take it seriously’ or ‘I find it hard to read other blogs if they don’t discuss these things in a serious manner’ statements. Let people decide what they find serious for themselves, and just say what they want to say without feeling they are being judged.

    Since in the Ethiopian culture it is almost a taboo to question faith and religion in any way, with the kind of blog you are capable of starting, you might just start something new and provide a safe and anonymous forum for such discussions, especially for interested Ethiopians. Maybe cyber anonymity might encourage otherwise inhibited but inquisitive Abeshas to really say what is on their mind, and give them permission to question and explore their faith from a philosophical perspective without the fear that their “Nefs Abat Qess” or “Imam” finding out about it ;-). Just a thought…

    The conference on the nature of God sounds like a trip and a half. But I know the nature of those huge academic conferences. They bring out the who and who of the field, and I doubt if any of the presentations would be in lamens terms for extreme amateurs like myself. Academics can be very elitists sometimes and often don’t do a good job of spreading their esoteric knowledge to the average enquirer. It is the same in the biological sciences unfortunately. It is a challenge to fully get the gist of what the philosophy bloggers you mentioned earlier say on their blogs let alone on academic papers presented at such conferences. But I am sure it is going to be a very interesting event to those who will fully appreciate what will be discussed. I don’t think I will quite fit in such places, but thanks for the information anyways.

    OK…. I better get off this computer and stop composing this comment before it gets out of hand. Hope I have addressed most of your questions, and feel free to share your own perspective and journey through your faith (or lack of) and profession.


  • 21. Ye'ewunet Wodaj  |  May 19, 2009 at 5:34 am

    Hey Mazzi:

    Wow!!! I wish I had time right now to respond to your many interesting thoughts. I hope I’ll get a chance to do that soon. Just a few things for now:

    First, you’re absolutely right that I come across too serious in the way I mean to communicate the issues we’re trying to talk about. Though at this moment you don’t know me personally one thing that friends could tell you about me is about my sense of humor. When I get to share ideas like this in certain contexts I just tend to focus on issues so much so that I could come across the opposite of what I actually am. I love a sense of humor in others so much and many talk about that about me too but unfortunately that did not show anywhere in our exchanges yet. I’m sorry for being un-humorous and too serious to be taken seriously!

    Second, thanks a lot for sharing your experience or journey in relation to what we’re exchanging. I do deeply value that. You’re simply admirable.

    Third, it’s cool to know that you’ve a background in the natural science, as I take it, in Biology. You’ve also a philosophical or an inquisitive mind and that is quite an asset whether you’re in science or elsewhere and this quality will serve us well as I hope.

    Fourth, your suggestion about a blog aimed at our fellow abeshas and esp., about the influence our religious traditions have had on us is very tempting to take and if you keep prodding me that way I might give in to this suggestion sooner rather than later.

    Fifth, at some point when I decide to share my journey (which I’ve written at a book-length for a different context , which you might see it somewhere at another time) you’ll hear that I turned my back on my childhood Christian faith when I was just 11. I’m an adult now and my relationship to religion has been complex for some time and we’ll have, I hope, a chance to exchange our experiences in this or another context. I see myself in you and we’re like soul-mates that never had a chance to meet in our pre-adult years. I hear you my friend about the many things about religion and Christianity you’ve shared. I hear you, surely. You make sense but then I disagree about most everything you said. That makes us philosophers as the saying goes– if two people agree one of them is not a philosopher!

    I’ll try to address some of your more substantive thoughts when I get a chance and hopefully I’ll try to be less pedantic in what I share. But then if I fail to speak lightly and fail to be as humorous as I should be just bear with me for I might be experiencing some low season to humorously engage my friend. One thing I know: if we were talking these issues in person, I bet that you’d crack up more often than even listen to what I’d say. I love life and one of the great things in life is sharing joy with a friend and humor is one of those media by which we communicate our sense of shared happiness and joy. I hope that will be our fate as friends, too. We might end up being fated to be such friends who take things easy.



  • 22. Ye'ewunet Wodaj  |  May 19, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Hi Mazzi:

    Just came back to share a few thoughts to keep our conversation going. I want to assure you that I’m enjoying our conversation very much.

    You said “…there is no rationality in faith..Faith has to defy logic at least some of the time. Otherwise, if we look for logic in bible stories, we might trip ourselves more often than we are willing to admit.”

    These statements struck me as so fascinating. For example, in order to make sense of your claims I need to know what you mean by rationality and by faith and why they should be opposed. Yes, I can easily name even philosophers and theologians and scientists who proposed such views as the one you’re sharing with us. But my desire is to see why you think that way. Since this is an informal conversation between friends I’d not venture into formal and technical discussions that need not concern us for now.

    One thing that I can initially think of, for your view to make sense, is this: You might be reasoning (maybe implicitly) that science has taught us (maybe philosophy too) that faith (whatever it is) is something inferior to the way science taught us how to think about the world we live in in. Also, the “scientific method” is the only reliable method that enables us to acquire knowledge of the world we live in. Besides, modern science has consistently shown us that religious claims are consistently factually false. Therefore, holding onto religious claims is a matter of faith (whatever it is) and hence unjustified. That means, it is irrational. So, why hold faith as rational (whatever it is) and seek vindication of faith commitments thru logic and philosophy? This way of thinking could explain why you said what you said in what I’ve cited from your post above.

    If you subscribe, more or less, to the above way of reasoning to the conclusion that you shared with me I’d simply respond to such objections thus, of course in a brief way: Some of the ideas in the above objection are misguided, and hence wrong. It is false to claim that science (even if we grant that we’ve a clear idea about what science is to begin with) is the only way that enables us to know reality. Even if, for the sake of argument, we know what science is (which I think is a hard thing to establish if one spends just moments thinking about what we mean by science), it does not follow that science is the only way by which we acquire knowledge of the world. For example, there is nothing that is intrinsically scientific if I claim to know that 2+2=4. This is not a scientific proposition at all.But do we know that 2+2=4? Sure that we do. One can add simple principles of reasoning like “If P, then Q; P, therefore, Q” as a valid way of inference which we use all the time. For a concrete example: If Mazzi is an Ethiopian woman, she is most likely pretty; Mazzi is an Ethiopian woman; therefore, Mazzi is most likely pretty.” [I’m married to one of those pretty Ethiopian women and no worries about the example]. Now most of scientific and our daily reasonings are based on such principles (which is one of themany) but there is nothing scientific about such principles. Science presupposes their truth but that does not mean they’re scientific at all. Do we know that there are such principles? Sure, we do.We just used one such a principle.

    If your objection to the rationality of faith is based on the nature science and scientific method, which is another notorious thing about which we can debate forever with increasingly less grasp as to what we’re talking about, then I submit your objection is a philosophical one and it’d inherit all the virtues and vices of philosophical arguments.One can see how one can find oneself engaging in philosophical conversations having begun one’s claims about science, which at the end of the day turned out to be a philosophical claim. Does the objection from the alleged success from science against the rationality of faith work? I submit it does not. There are family of such objections that begin life apparently as innocent but then a minute’s reflection shows that such objections are not going too far before running into significant problems.

    I could say more about your claim about logic and faith but the above would do for now. The only thing I’d be interested in hearing from you is this: what do you mean by logic and what do you mean by faith and what do you mean when you say that faith at times defies logic? I’m neither denying nor affirming your claim. I’m just wondering what you mean by it.

    Look forward to hearing your thoughts.



  • 23. Ye'ewunet Wodaj  |  May 19, 2009 at 9:13 pm


    I posted one more thing but could not see it . Anything wrong? It might show up later on. Am not sure.

    Maybe abesheet “eyekuaterchiben yihonal.”



  • 24. Ye'ewunet Wodaj  |  May 19, 2009 at 9:25 pm


    Abesheet is off the hook!

    Just moments later after I tried to post a friendly allegation against our dear Abesheet, enkokilishu tefata, abesheetem ke’kesu netsa wotach.



  • 25. abesheet  |  May 19, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    By the way, why i try not to reply every time a comment is posted is because I’ve noticed seeing the blogger’s response discourages other readers from participating in a would-have-been interesting conversation. That’s the only reason I stay away. As long as you are being respectful, as you have, any comment is welcome. Even desired.

  • 26. Ye'ewunet Wodaj  |  May 19, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    Yes, dear, Abesheet, you make sense. I understood your relative recent silence in the way you just described.

    Thanks a lot for allowing us to have respectful and friendly conversations on your blog. You know that you beat us, Mazzi and myself, by having one thing we both don’t yet: your blog! We might beat you someday by having three or four blogs of our own at once, assuming that you don’t have that many (:)



  • 27. Mazzi  |  May 21, 2009 at 5:59 am

    Selam Ye’ewunet:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. In response to your last comment(s)….

    Let me start by admitting something here. I am a gal who likes dishing out disclaimers up front before threading on shaky grounds (philosophical religious discussions comes to mind!) and giving and meqebaT’ering my amateur hasaboch to someone who engages in such sports for a living. I feel a bit underequipped for engaging in such sport not knowing the right lingo, rules of engagement, and established field theories that may be second language to you but foreign territory to me. Still, engaging in a discussion that is not up my alley is bound to establish new neuron connections in my brain, so I consider this my little contribution to the fight against Alzheimer’s disease in my old age.

    Normally, I despise discussing anything about religion with anyone since it is a sensitive subject to most, and more often than not such discussions end up offending someone’s sensibilities and rarely get anywhere. But since this particular discussion is really from a secular and philosophical point of view, it makes is easier to just freely speculate without anyone being offended … unless others who read these comments find the discussion tasteless. That I have no control over, however.

    So my disclaimer is … my opinions are solely my own amateur self and not based on any school of thought including philosophy (religious or otherwise) ;-). You being a philosopher, you might not find them to be in congruence to the theories you know, so feel free to read what I write not just from a philosopher point of view but from just another Ethiopian perspective. And since not being fully on the same page might present some minor misunderstanding, I would like to define some terms the way my amateur mind understands them.

    What I understand faith to be is a strongly held set of principles, beliefs, or trust in something (abstract or tangible deities for example) or someone (person(s), ancestors etc…) especially without logic or proof. And to varying degrees, faith might involve devotion in one form or another to that something or someone one believes in. And what I mean by religion is when such systems of beliefs are organized and institutionalized by the powers that be, and often involve accepted forms of custom/consensus rituals to who or what is being worshiped by believers.

    Spirituality can be one’s relation to the soul, spirit, religion, or all things sacred usually in contrast to tangible material things. I consider soul, spirit to be the essence of human beings, but I have to admit that is where my understanding ends. What exactly is the essence of humans anyways? That is another story all on its own.

    What I meant by faith not necessarily being rational is…. faith assumes and presupposes many things that are above and beyond every day observations/occurrences … assumptions that we would not accept as true or possible if told they happened in everyday life. If I tell someone I saw a man walk on water with my own eyes (except that weird Las Vegas magician on TV who really ‘seems’ to walk on water! What magician tricks he has up his sleeves is beyond me), people would think I have lost it. But through faith, the same people without hesitation may believe that Jesus did walk on water two thousand years earlier because someone reported that ‘fact’ in the bible. A skeptic would say ‘no way in hell!’. But a believer would say ‘why not?!’ because he/she supposes Jesus is divine with super human capacities and godly characteristics and therefore can defy common sense that people do not walk on water (based on every day observations). For now, let’s leave how such an act defies even laws of physics as we know it. I don’t know how important it is or isn’t for me to believe whether Jesus walked on water or not. It is neither here nor there for me.

    Speaking for myself, I personally believe there is ‘a creator’ out there, and I and all other creations in this dynamic world and universe are ‘his’ creation. Do I have any concrete proof for that? Hell no! Do I have an intuition that there is a creator? Definitely! And even being in the sciences, do I need ‘scientific proof’ to validate my faith and belief? No. Why? Because I CHOOSE to believe with or without ‘proof’ and not because I think I will burn in Hell if I don’t believe. More often than not, however, I think many believe because they are in fear for their eternal soul they believe they have.

    Do humans even have souls? What the hell is a soul anyways? Do animals that are also God’s creations have souls? Who know! Do I personally believe that human beings have souls? That I do. Do I have proof for that? Definitely not! Then why do I believe? Because I CHOOSE to. And since I don’t know whether I even believe in the ‘afterlife’, I am not even sure where I stand on the concepts of heaven or hell. All I know is that, I don’t look forward to so called ‘heaven’ as I think heaven is here on earth, and the whole sadistic concept of hell does not sit well with me, so I CHOOSE not to believe in it. Then you might ask, ‘why believe in the notion of soul then’? I would say because I want to believe there is more to me than my vulnerable human flesh. Simple as that.)

    What I meant by faith defying logic is also similar to the above argument. Logic also works with prior assumptions. Through faith, we are supposed to assume Jesus was as divine as he was human/mortal. And being ‘half human’ at least, we assume that he has humanly characteristics. Supposedly, he felt pain like us, he got hungry like us, he got tempted like us, he got fatigued like us, he got confused like us, and he even got scared for his life like us.

    By that logic we could assume that if Jesus was as much human as he was divine he must have also had physical needs as well just like other humans! If so, he could have addressed those needs by having physical relationships with women (or men!) or even opted to get married, procreate and bring ‘one fourth’ divine little kiddos in the world. I know bible scholars and critics (The Da Vinci Code anyone?) trip over themselves every day debating whether Jesus had physical relationships with women and even fathered future generations. But the ‘accepted’ story by church authorities is the ‘fact’ that Jesus was above human physical needs and he exclusively followed his divine instinct towards saving human kind and therefore abstained from any physical relations. So he defied logic by defying his human nature and needs and remained ‘true’ to his divine roots and purpose.

    Same goes for the notion of virgin birth. Every human being (except Adam and Eve I guess) is a product of a father and a mother. Even before human beings knew the facts of reproduction as we understand them today, they noticed and knew it took the union of a male and a female to produce a baby. So logically, humans assume(d) every baby has a father and a mother and no woman remains a virgin after giving birth. But faith tells believers how the circumstances of Jesus’ birth defied this logic and believers accept Jesus to be a child conceived without an earthly father, and his mother Mary delivered him while still remaining a virgin.

    The significance of this elaborate virgin birth story is neither here nor there for me, but if we stick to logic it sounds downright unbelievable. But faith helps believers accept this as fact, and even seek some religious meaning in it. Many of Jesus’ miracles also defied logic and were way out of the norm of everyday occurrences. But believers take them as facts because they choose to or are told to do so. Skeptics might have problems accepting Jesus’ miracles if they don’t accept his divine nature in the first place stemming from the virgin birth story or even their doubt of God’s existence in the first place.

    Though I enjoy my science background (not with the same fervor as I one did though), I sure am not one of those condescending science people who believe science is the only true way of understanding our surrounding, world, or ‘reality’. Far from that! By God (pun intended ;-)), we have not even established what exactly ‘reality’ is all about eko! Science or the so called ‘scientific method’ is ONLY one tool we humans have at our disposal to try to understand our surroundings. As ‘advanced’ in science as we arrogantly think we are, we have not even figured out what dreams are let alone the nature of ‘reality’!!!!!!! Yes in studying the nature of dreams we can measure brain waves of a sleeping person, and can come up with theories of what dreams are. But the reality is we still don’t know what they really are. Some dreams are so vivid when I recall them later in a waking state, they feel as ‘real’ to me as my day time activities. Sometimes I ‘go’ places in my dreams that later on register in my mind as memory, as real as memories registered from activities I did in a waking state. I find that fascinating, and only confirms my suspicions that we have much to discover even about our own mind let alone the outer world.

    Who is to say some of my vivid dreams were not ‘real’? Maybe they were! Perhaps in another universe! That is another thing all on its own! As science people we take a lot of comfort in figuring out that to the best of our knowledge the laws of physics apply everywhere in the universe … from the furthest galaxy we can observe to the microscopic world. But, and a HUGE but, how sure are we that the laws of physics really apply everywhere? Do they really?! Is our universe the only one out there? If it is not, how many universes are out there and what kinds of laws apply there?

    Electron microscopes in biological sciences have enabled us to ‘see’ deep into minute things like viruses we never even knew existed till not so long ago. Sometimes I wonder if there are universes inside even such minute things! I get a kick out of imagining the existence of other universe(s) inside one ‘invisible to the naked eye’ virus as I find those buggers extremely fascinating. If every new ‘scientific’ discovery helps us ‘see’ further/deeper into small or vast entities, it makes me wonder what else are we not ‘seeing’ based on the limited capacities of our scientific gadgets? That goes to what we can’t see by Electron microscopes in minute things, and the Hubble Telescope in space that is supposed to take pictures of far away edges of our universe.

    So my point is, my objection to the rationality of faith is really based on whether what we believe in falls within every day observation (established patterns) or not, and I don’t really want to say it is based on science per se. And that is because like you, I just think science is only one way of looking at the world. Other than ‘blind faith’ or ‘science’, I am sure there are other ways of looking at our world/universe we have yet to discover. I just don’t know what they are.

    After establishing patterns based on every day observation, we human beings like predicting the outcome of new events and situation based on what we have already established. For instance … a farmer puts potatoes in the ground, he observes potato plants with potato roots grow from it. Next time he buries potatoes under similar circumstances, he almost confidently expects and predicts potato plants will grow this time around as well. If they do, no surprise there. But if corn stocks grow instead from the potatoes he buried, he might account that to an aberration or a miracle! We humans find a lot of comfort in finding our prediction to be true. And when events we observe (or hear about like unlikely bible stories) fail to fit within established pattern, either we accept that not everything fits in patterns anyways, take it in faith that a ‘divine’ hand is at play and such events are miracles, or we dismiss them all together or accept them as aberrations.

    Anyways, it is late, and I am not sure if I am making sense anymore so I will stop here. Feel free to share your own opinions about the very same questions you paused regarding how you yourself define faith, and whether it has any role in your life in a religious context or not. And also, to what extent does science play a role in explaining your world, and barring faith and science what other alternative tools do you see humans use to understand themselves and their surrounding?

    I will end here after giving many thanks for Ms. Abesheet for sharing her humble abode for such lengthy discussions. I have a feeling you may be the only one patient enough to read my very long comments!!!! I can be so long winded sometimes (Abesheet has forgiven me for that long ago ;-)), though I am learning to be more and more succinct in my writing. But this time, I took the liberty to engage in lengthy discussions because of the subject matter.


  • 28. Ye'ewunet Wodaj  |  May 21, 2009 at 7:26 am

    Hey Mazzi:

    A second after I finished reading your VERY INTERESTING POST I said this: Mazzi makes so, so much sense!!!! Unfortunately that does not translate into–Mazzi is right. You must blame philosophy for my sincerely complimenting you on what you’ve shared with me and my disagreeing with what you’ve said, not about everything you’ve said though but some of the issues I take to be critical for our differences. Btw, this is not a response to your last post. I hope to get to that when I get a chance.

    Anyway, I was almost done with writing some of my thoughts to share with you when my bro called me from back home and interrupted me when I was about to post some ideas. I’m sharing that below and end this post with just one more thought. The following was what I was going to share:

    Hey Mazzi:

    Just some more thoughts, hopefully, in brief: By the way, you raised the issue of your being some sort of a Christian, or your having been a Christian, due to an early influence in your upbringing. Just wondering how such things happen to others in a way maybe radically different from my own experience.

    Here’s why I say what I’m saying:

    I was born into a strictly religious (Orthodox Christian) family. If it helps I think I should add this: My father was a priest! But then as far back as I could tell, I do not recall struggling to shake influences from a religious family during my younger age. It never bothered me to turn my back on what my parents and all my siblings passionately or dutifully believed and lived their lives accordingly. I’m the youngest in the family with 8 children. But I never felt any sense of ” since I was taught to believe this or that…” kind of thinking at all. I decided at 11 (as I mentioned before) to say no to what I was supposed to inherit from my family. Of course, I had to be initially smart enough not to show my skepticism toward my parents’ religious commitment. But it never occurred to me to reason or experience thus: since I was taught by my parents I believed this or that and that is why I still in some sense hold some of the religious beliefs due to early religious influence. Such reasoning is foreign to me.

    Mazzi, can you help me see why your experience is like many others I almost always hear about why they believe what they believe now for sociological reasons? I can hardly take myself as believing what others around me believe if I don’t think of what I believe to be true. To think otherwise is foreign to me and it’d be good to hear what you’d say to such bizarre way of going thru such a different experience in our lives since both of us seem to share skeptical cast of mind.

    I’m just curious to hear your thoughts about the above experiential difference between two skeptical friends.

    Finally, would you believe me if I tell you this: I’ve a research project that will take me about 3-4 years to work on what you’ve just shared in this paragraph: “Do humans even have souls? … Do I personally believe that human beings have souls? That I do. Do I have proof for that? Definitely not! Then why do I believe? Because I CHOOSE to. And since I don’t know whether I even believe in the ‘afterlife’, I am not even sure where I stand on the concepts of heaven or hell. All I know is that, I don’t look forward to so called ‘heaven’ as I think heaven is here on earth, and the whole sadistic concept of hell does not sit well with me, so I CHOOSE not to believe in it. Then you might ask, ‘why believe in the notion of soul then’? I would say because I want to believe there is more to me than my vulnerable human flesh. Simple as that.)”

    This is unbelievable! You just gave me datum or even data that I’m looking for, esp., from those out side of professional philosophy about WHAT IT MEANS TO CHOOSE TO BELIEVE a proposition, the jargon for which is, doxastic volunatarism! I think I’ll need to sit down and talk with you more about about this fascinating experience that is going on between us. I could never tell that you’d say what you’ve said simply because I’m not God and cannot know who would say what, when, if God exists. I’ll explain what I’m talking about only if things work out for us to sit down and share THIS experience with each other anyway!!!

    Mazzi, one question for you: do you live in Missouri? Or NC? If your answer is neither, just ignore my question for now.

    Will get back with you as soon as I can.



  • 29. Ye'ewunet Wodaj  |  May 21, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Abesheet–Sorry for the above duplicate copy. I tried several times to post the above as soon as I finished reading Mazzi’s last post last night and moments ago, too, and it’s in the middle of such attempts that the above duplicate copy got posted, which usually does not happen since word-press prevents such a mistake from happening. No idea why this has happened any way.


  • 30. abesheet  |  May 21, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    I’m as stymied, Ye’ewnet Wodaj. Which is why i went to the support section and applied my question. Apparently, this guy has been having this problem too. The solution was to contact the Akismet guys with your nickname and e-mail address. Which i did and received the following assurance:

    About AkismetDownloadFAQCommercial UseDevelopmentBlogContact UsSubmitted!
    Thank you! Your bits are flying through cyberspace towards us as you read this. We’ll get back to you ASAP.

    So… as soon as they fixed it and as long as you keep commenting with your present address, you’ll be safe. Hopefully 😦 .

  • 31. Ye'ewunet Wodaj  |  May 21, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Thanks a lot Abesheet for your effort to make me feel at home in your cyberhome! I do hope too to be able to comment/interact without running into some unnecessary problems.



  • 32. Mazzi  |  May 22, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Selam Ye’ewunet:

    Thanks your last comment, and for sharing a bit about your own journey regarding faith and religion starting from your younger days. It sounds like your skepticism started rather suddenly at the tender age of eleven instead of through a long drawn out process over time. If you never had any problems with your strict Orthodox Christian up bringing before this age, I can’t help but wonder what sudden event or sequence of events at that age led you to start questioning things (at least in private) and start differentiating from the religion your whole family seems to be practicing. And once skepticism settled in your young mind for whatever reason, did you remain a skeptic or did you at any moment later on in your life have a change of heart? Considering your father was even a priest and the rest of your family were devout Orthodox Christians, did your skepticism affect your relationship with them (short term or long term)? Just curious…

    You mentioned in your comment: “But it never occurred to me to reason or experience thus: since I was taught by my parents I believed this or that and that is why I still in some sense hold some of the religious beliefs due to early religious influence. Such reasoning is foreign to me.” By this you may be indirectly asking whether that is what happened in my own experience.
    Before I explain whether that was the case for me or not, let me just clarify something you may have misunderstood. Somewhere in my early comments, I had mentioned something to the effect of ‘if anything I am a confused Christian’ and that may have been more misleading than I intended it to be.

    I get the impression that though we may have ‘similar’ kinds of skepticisms, in the end we differ in fundamental ways. With all my pronounced sense of skepticism stemming from my heavily Christian influenced (be it Catholicism or Ethiopian Orthodox) early upbringing, what I objected most was the not so flattering nature of the Judeo/Christian God and the ways I was being taught to practice Christian religion in order to avoid going to hell in the afterlife. Whether by design or default, the punitive part of God was so heavily emphasized (God will burn your soul in hell if you disobey, break any of his commandments, fail to pray, fail to attend church, or fail to praise him nonstop!) more than his loving side. I was in living fear of this God more than I was in awe of him especially after repeatedly being told in ‘moral’ classes about the many horrible, at least to my ears, bible stories where God had more fury than love towards his creation, and often came across as a bully!

    My all time favorite comedian the late George Carlin (nefsun yimarewina) said it beautifully and humorously when he described his own understanding of religion and the ten commandments in the following standup comedy acts. Do check out the YouTube links below if you have time coz how he articulated his skepticism is more than what I could ever say in so many words. So here goes:

    (George Carlin’s take on religion)

    (George Carlin’s take on the Ten Commandments)

    Coming back to my comment…

    I was also being raised in what felt to me a very stifling environment where exercising my will, and curious and questioning nature got me in more trouble than make me a loveable/agreeable child in the eyes of my teachers and parents. In school (all girls) they implicitly even made us feel ashamed to go through the natural process of puberty because they associated a young woman reaching reproductive age with the original sin and how God had doomed womankind to suffer for the rest of our lives in labor, child birth, and even through their menstrual cycles in between giving birth! Quite a ‘welcome mat’ for the confusing world of puberty even without added religious guilt. I may not have understood much at that early age, but I sure knew that I did not want THAT kind of a God.

    I had enough bullies in my life starting from my own father and many other males who seemed to show very little compassion to their women counterparts (wives, daughters, sisters, and sometimes even mothers!) and as long as I saw the bible God as favoring men (poor Adam was misguided by Eve and was kicked out of paradise because he listened to her) I knew I was going to have a problem. And some of the strict and often bizarre religious doctrines I was asked to follow if I were to be a devout Christian did not make my situation any easier.

    So it may not have been a conscious decision at that time, but somewhere along the way, and definitely by the time I entered high school, something in me rejected the Judeo/Christian God as he was presented to me through bible stories. Despite all this turmoil, however, I STILL wanted to believe in the notion of A LOVING GOD INSTEAD that was responsible for all creation I saw around me including myself. More importantly, since I was in desperate need of positive ‘male’ role models and father figures in my life, I found the notion of a loving ‘heavenly’ father very appealing to my young mind and made the CONSCIOUS DECISION to accept this new personal God I am choosing to believe in my life as a ‘he’ :-).

    Once I CHOSE to believe in the notion of a loving God that was not restricted to bible stories, then I no longer worried about the validity/credibility of those stories. So what did I make of Jesus once I chose my own personal God? Well … I learned to appreciate many of Jesus’ teachings on face value and for their universal message (Christian or not) as long as they emphasized the concept of brotherly love. By the same token, I cared very little about any of his teachings that may reinforce the notion of this punitive God I chose to leave behind or anything that put down women :-). I believe Jesus was one of the handful enlightened teachers that have existed throughout human history, and since most of his teachings were about “love thy neighbor as you love yourself” or something to that effect, I had no problem with him. We need sensible teachers among us to tell us to love one another once in a while anyways, so Jesus is cool as a teacher even if I may not down with his version of the punitive Judeo/Christian God either :-). It was never important to me to believe Jesus was divine, a product of a virgin birth, God’s son, sent to us to deliver us from our own sins and all that teaching etc… So if anything, I thought of Jesus as God’s (the new God I have accepted in my mind, mind you!) child in the same way we all were.

    Once I stopped believing in the bible at a literal transcription of God’s words, I no longer had the need to define my new found personal God in any religious books Christian or any other religion for that matter. For that reason, I was never tempted to convert to any other religion at all. If anything, I wanted to learn about other religions to see if believers in those faiths had the same kinds of relationships with their god/gods. Since I CHOSE to believe in one creator, I was not attracted to the notion of multiple gods (like in Hinduism for example) in other faiths though my respect for other religions remained.

    So really having said all these things above, it is difficult for me to call myself a Christian if I am not in full agreement with major Christian doctrines as we know them. And that is why I hate labels by the way. Why do we have this unexplainable need to label ourselves?! I don’t even believe in other labels like agnostic, atheist etc… because none of those labels describe me fully. What I am is a person who has CHOSEN to believe in a personal God of my own composition because I could not find it in me to not believe in a creator, even as a science person. The idea of not believing in anything makes me feel empty, and it would be in direct conflict to how much I feel it in my bones that there is a God out there however we decide to define him/her/it. Do I have any proof for that? Of course not. Just an instinct and intuition that I can’t fully explain.

    Even when Christians belong to the same denomination, how they practice their religion is heavily influenced by the individual cultures they live in. Same goes for strict Orthodox Christians like my mother. To her …religion is everything. Though she obviously wanted her children to also become strict Orthodox Christians, she vicariously also left it up to us how devoted we wanted to be to our religion. She made sure we were baptized as babies, and made sure we took communions at church as little kids till we reached the age of consent, and taught us the significance of all the major religious holidays and all her favorite ‘Tabots’. Once we reached the age of consent and refused be devoted to the church our family belonged to, she left us alone to make up our minds without taking any of it to be personal or making us feel guilty about it. I respect her for that.

    She tried harder with me being a girl and all to raise me as a devout Christian, and dragged me to many early Sunday morning masses. Though I protested often when I was a young girl having to go to church with her that early in the morning, and hated those long services in Ge’ez that I did not even understand, I went to church with her more often than I would have gone left to my own devices because those Sunday morning rituals were one of the few opportunities I had to bond with my mother. My mother and I are very different people with very few things in common. Since going to church were one of the few things we did together, I indulged her whenever I could by going with her even if I did not believe in most of the stuff that was being taught there.
    As I got older, she knew I did not believe in God in quite the same way she did, and for years was nervous that I would give up on the whole notion of God altogether. That, even she could not imagine!

    Whether I believed in the Christian God or not, my mother liked the fact that I still prayed when I wanted to connect to my God. And praying to the God we believe in is not exclusive to Christians anyways. But if ever she heard me say out loud (especially once I became an adult) “Thank God!”… she often is heard saying “Gosh! Gosh! Temesgen Getaye! Ahunim be-Igziabher tamgnalesh!” :-). She still has not given up on me becoming a devout Christian, however. And though she never confronts me about it, she still sends me or brings with her prayer books, T’sebel, religious icons, crucifixion necklaces and the like as personal gifts. I accept her gifts graciously, and sometimes wear the crucifixion necklaces (more to connect with her in her absence as I miss her a lot than to showcase my religion through jewelry) though I never read any of the prayer books. I just keep them somewhere as I can’t bear to throw them out not because they are sacred to me, but because they are gifts from her.

    So to answer your question: “ Mazzi, can you help me see why your experience is like many others I almost always hear about why they believe what they believe now for sociological reasons? I can hardly take myself as believing what others around me believe if I don’t think of what I believe to be true. To think otherwise is foreign to me and it’d be good to hear what you’d say to such bizarre way of going thru such a different experience in our lives since both of us seem to share skeptical cast of mind. “ …

    I am not sure your question applies to me. I don’t believe in my personal God for ‘social reasons’ per se because others around me believe but because I CHOOSE to believe. Do I, with absolute certainty, know my personal God to be true? Of course not! That is where my CHOICE to believe without the need of proof of God’s existence comes in. There is a big difference in the two options for believing…choice or societal pressures. By the way, believing in my personal God does not mean I hate churches or any other places of worship for that matter. In fact, quite the contrary!

    My personal God is always with me where ever I am so I don’t have to go to church looking for ‘him’, nor do I object to attending masses or religious celebrations in Ethiopian churches in the US when I feel like connecting with my people. Christian or not, I remain fascinated with all places of worship for what they represent to those who choose to worship whatever deities in them. Though I hated my early Catholic teachings, I have always loved and continue to love architecturally well designed Catholic churches. Besides appreciating what places of worship represent to the human psyche, the art lover in me also appreciates seeing how artists and architects alike chose to design such places in accordance to the many symbolisms of the particular religion represented.

    When I travel to large cities with elaborate Catholic churches, I often find myself walking in during off hours (no mass in progress) in search of solitude and a place to stay calm and meditate. I have never liked the horrific large crucifixion statues most Catholic churches hang as a focal point in front of the pews, however! It is never a calming experience to see a giant statue of Jesus suffering and nailed to a cross. Barring that however, I love sitting in such places of worship because it makes me feel connected to all the many people who walk in in search of something bigger than themselves and over the ages have walked into that church in times of celebration (weddings, christenings etc…), and in times of sorrow (hard times and funerals).

    I can almost ‘feel’ people’s prayers (for all kinds of favors from God or prayers of thanks for wishes granted) permeating through the walls of the church’s interiors. That always makes me feel connected to humanity, and our fragile nature, in a very profound way even if I don’t have the need to go to churches to attend mass. All this is possible for me because in the end I still choose believe in some notion of God, and don’t feel any conflict or see any contradiction in appreciating places of worship of any kind. I have visited mosques when my Muslim friends invited me, and I plan to visit local Buddhist and Hindu Temples where I live now when the opportunity presents itself. Though I really do not know what I expect to feel in a Hindu Temple, I have no doubt I will enjoy the Buddhist Temple since it will be all about meditation :-). If I could, I sure would love to check out a synagogue while I am it too. I just need to find insiders to tag along with so I won’t feel like an intruder.

    Anyways, coming back to your last comment…… I am amused to learn that your future research project involves investigating from a philosophical point of view ‘what it means to choose to believe’!!! “Doxastic voluntarism” alk? Hmmm…. I read a little bit about it online and one random site I checked out said “doxastic voluntarism is the philosophical doctrine according to which people have voluntary control over their beliefs.” Haha… that sounds right up my alley :-). So what does that make me?! A ‘doxastic volunteer’? Is there such a phrase? Not that I am eager to pick another label or anything mind you (not after I finished saying I hate labels above), but I am getting a kick out of ‘belonging’ to some ‘religious’ philosophical doctrine category ;-).

    If my skeptic speculations regarding faith and choosing to believe in my version of God indeed gave you ‘datum/data’ for what you are looking for in your research, feel free to include my name in the acknowledgement section of your future thesis/dissertation when it gets published :-}. Just kidding. All jokes aside, however, your research topic actually sounds very exciting though you have your work cut out for you for the next couple of years. Will you be doing some of your research (interviewing people maybe) while you are in Ethiopia? I am sure it would be nice to collect some of your research data from there though your research topic seems to pause the question in general and not Ethio specific (or is it?). Feel free to share.

    By the way, what did you mean when you said “I could never tell that you’d say what you’ve said simply because I’m not God and cannot know who would say what, when, if God exists.”?? I did not get that unfortunately. Though you said you will only explain that if there is a chance to sit and share this, feel free to explain in your comment since this is turning out to be one long discussion on the topic anyways.

    Lastly, I neither live in Missouri nor in NC though I sure would not mind living in a beach front mansion somewhere on the ocean shores of NC. Now, that would be my idea of living!


  • 33. YeEwunet Wodaj  |  May 22, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Hi Mazzi:

    The above post is quite a feast! Thanks a lot for sharing more of your experiences of your life that now has shown me what you meant when you spoke about yourself as a “confused Christian” in your earlier post. Of course, your earlier way of saying things about yourself misled me into thinking and sharing what I did. Both of us are to blame! Now no worries. Given your explanation about your own religious journey I’d not, without much qualification, think of you as someone who has been influenced by her past upbringing and thus holds some of her beliefs now ONLY due to those past influences. But then, honestly, the way you shared your past experience was ambiguous enough for one to take you to mean one way or the other. But now you seem to be a doxastic voluntarist ( Oops labels (!)) and no need to worry about sociological reasons etc. No worries again since I’m not even sure whether you’re a doxastic voluntarist in the first place.

    By the way, about my research on the topic I mentioned to which you contributed unawares or inadvertently I was trying to communicate the fact that I did not have an example of a person (a non-professional philosopher) who’d describe his/her religious beliefs in the way that you described, CHOOSING TO BELIEVE THIS OR THAT , and that gave me an opportunity that I would never foresee would come up in our conversations in this context. That was the surprise. That is also what I was trying to tell you that I could not foresee it, unlike God, that you’d say such a thing in these conversations. By the way, I just explained what you asked me to explain what I meant in what you quoted me for explanation to the end of your post.

    My trip this summer has nothing to do with my research project. And also, I do not need some data to conduct the kind of research work I said I’d be doing. My work will be so general, as you rightly suspected, and it does not depend on some data that needs to be explained or support my work. It’ll be purely a conceptual analysis of what we mean by choosing to believe this or that in order to better understand the nature of beliefs in relation to truth and most importantly if human beings can believe a proposition AT WILL or by sheer choice regardless of whether the belief is true or not. This is one of the thorny issues in contemporary analytic philosophy in the context of which I work.

    Just one thing I forgot that I wanted to say something about before I close for now: about the video clip you sent me. I’ll see, among other reasons, if I’d have a gut to watch it. I don’t think I’d turn to a comedy or a stand-up comedian to learn anything of importance about the nature of ultimate reality, for example, the nature of God. I can hardly even begin to think that issues like God’s existence, God’s character, can in any substantive and realistic way be addressed by stand-up comedy/comedian in the context of entertainment. If you suggested that I watch the video for entertainment, which I don’t need, I might consider doing it. Honestly, philosophical rigour requires so much care about what and how we think about important issues and it’d be foreign to my experience to turn to a comedy for insights about significant philosophical and theological issues though it’s possible that we can learn things thru comedy and also thru stand-up comedies. I don’t want to rule such venues out for some people to learn something about life. [This is that serious side of me that refuses to mix entertainment with serious philosophy]. But then thanks for sharing the video with me and when and if I watch it I’ll let you know.

    The above is enough for now and I’ll get back when I can. Thanks a lot, once again, for sharing generously from your experience



  • 34. Mazzi  |  May 22, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Selam YeEwunet Wodaj (spelling adjustment noted :-)):

    Thanks for your comment.

    Wow, I simply can’t imagine my world without fiction novels, movies, comedies, and many other forms of entertainment in it. But everyone has their preferences based on personal life philosophies, and more power to you for your unwavering dedication to your discipline. And best of luck in your research ventures too. I guess it does not involve collecting and analyzing data as I thought, though to be honest I do not know what exactly research in the field of philosophy entails. But based on your level of commitment to your field, it sounds like you might enjoy doing much of your research even if it turns out to be a lot of work.

    The George Carling videos I included in my previous post are mostly for entertainment value along the topics we have been discussing, and nothing presented to gain further insights or knowledge from the guy. So don’t take them seriously! Otherwise you will be reinforcing my first impression of you, which might have been right actually :-). And of course if that is the case that is OK too. Abesheet’s joint has room for everyone as you yourself have discovered her welcoming and accommodating spirit to her visitors. I just happen to like this George Carlin personality and find him to be smarter and funnier than many other comedians of his caliber.

    Amuse me, and just watch them when you find some time to spare with no prior expectations or judgments or speculation about whether anything can be learned from comedians or entertainers. I personally do not exclude anyone (including comedians!) from being people I can learn something from or gain some insights. But it helps that I am not a professional philosopher who has to have higher commitments to what he/she reads, listens, or watches. And I am glad it is like that for me too :-).

    I promise the content of the comedy routine will not corrupt, belittle, dilute, or contaminate any previously held philosophical stands if you make the leap of faith and watch the clips. And if you do watch them, I hope you enjoy them. But of course you can also choose not to watch them whatever your reasons.

    Have a great day!

  • 35. abesheet  |  May 22, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing the video. It’s HEE-larious!! The various discussions we had about God and Bill Maher’s “Religulous” put together 🙂 . By the way, is it only me or does that guy look like the kind of guy you’d cast as Moses for a re-make of the “The Ten Commandments”?

    YeEwnet Wodaj:
    I’m glad everything worked.

    Regarding your desire to start a religious discourse (which you are no longer interested in now? Am i right?!), I know I’ve said I won’t interfear, and I have no intention of doing so now. But you mentioned one point I can’t help touch upon.

    You said, under a “Revised Lines” comment, how you neither read books, nor watch movies because of philosophical reasons. And how people find that werid.

    Well I don’t. I mean, I don’t find it weird. For I have heard the same “Eyesus yibeQagnal” preaching and given up on reading/watching movies/associating with unbeliever friends/etc once. I gave up writing, too. Just when I was getting good at it (17-24; those are supposed to be golden/irreplaceable years for wordisans; boy do i know it!) not just because, seeing the world through a “Godly” “menetsir”; one is hard pressed to find any other inspiration but to call the ungodly to repentence; but also because putting a Godly or Godless lable to all the problems in the world is a creative suicide anybody can commit. (Jihadists would know what i’m talking about 😉 ).

    The result? Confusion! Frustration! Despair! Infact, by the time i went back to reading books again, I was on the verge of becoming my mother: A regligious woman whose love for her kids is boundless but whose wisdom leaves so much to be desired.

    So I ask you the obvious question: What are you afraid of? That your faith won’t stand the test? That you’d be party to your God being mocked? That a seed of doubt would creep in?!

    Doesn’t the bible say:
    Of God: “Semaiyna midir baiakebrut [enkwa] ersu yekebere hono yinoral”
    Of the pursuit of knoweldge: “Hulun fetinu, melkamun yazu” and
    Of wisdom: “Senef sewu ewQetin yiniQal”

    Hasn’t the preacher in Ecclesiastes actually said that “knowledge” is the only “habt” worth accumulating? He’s also said increasing knowledge is increasing sorrow. The Preacher’s way of pointing out, I fancy, the more you see around, the more you know nothing makes sense in this world.

    I mean, you call yourself a Philosopher, right? The lover of a study that “is distinguished from other ways of addressing the questions of mysticism or mythology (existence, knowledge, truth, beauty, law, justice, validity, mind, and language) by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on reasoned argument”. Yet, you refuse to read books. The reason, you say, is too philosophical for you to discuss here.

    Is it?!

    I doubt that very much, my friend. I doubt that very much. You know what I think? I think you are a smart guy. You have seen/perceived/argued enough to recognize once you opened your eyes to the world [that is] outside your little “gathering of the saints” (and i meant that in the most respectful way); once you dared think outside the box (that is your bible); once you sat down with your bible and decide to honestly see and separate the facts from the excuse; you KNOW you’d see holes in the teaching you got hold of at the tender age of 15/16 and clung to INSPITE of all reason showing you how “faith” is a lame synonym for “the absence of logic”.

    Believe what you want, by all means. But don’t go around giving it philosophical names and making it more “sound” than it actually is.

    Finally, i encourage you to watch the video. Not because it has all, if any, the answers. But because not watching it makes an obvious mockery of your “firm” belief.

  • 36. abesheet  |  May 22, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    Hey!!! Somebody was typing while I was :). 4 minute difference, cool!

  • 37. YeEwunet Wodaj  |  May 22, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Hi Abesheet:

    Wow! See the world of difference in how you and Mazzi responded to the same thing I’ve shared with you all? I could not believe my eyes when I read what you said what you’ve said in response to what I’ve shared.

    Honestly, were you responding to my post? Or, to some preconceived image of a Christian from your own experience in life? Do you know if I’m a Christian or an atheist or whatever? Did I ever say that I’m a Bible-believing Christian who does not watch movies for the reasons you mentioned at all? Am I saying that I’m not a Christian or I don’t believe in what the Bible teaches? Where did you get all those ideas you attributed to me in your post above?

    For example, just re-read the following from what I’ve said above and tell me how your response reflects anything about I’ve said:

    “Just one thing I forgot that I wanted to say something about before I close for now: about the video clip you sent me. I’ll see, among other reasons, if I’d have a gut to watch it. I don’t think I’d turn to a comedy or a stand-up comedian to learn anything of importance about the nature of ultimate reality, for example, the nature of God. I can hardly even begin to think that issues like God’s existence, God’s character, can in any substantive and realistic way be addressed by stand-up comedy/comedian in the context of entertainment. If you suggested that I watch the video for entertainment, which I don’t need, I might consider doing it. Honestly, philosophical rigour requires so much care about what and how we think about important issues and it’d be foreign to my experience to turn to a comedy for insights about significant philosophical and theological issues though it’s possible that we can learn things thru comedy and also thru stand-up comedies. I don’t want to rule such venues out for some people to learn something about life. [This is that serious side of me that refuses to mix entertainment with serious philosophy]. But then thanks for sharing the video with me and when and if I watch it I’ll let you know.”

    Then, just re-read what our dear Mazzi made of my comments too to see if you were actually responding to the text or whatever you’ve “seen” in the text that Mazzi and myself did not and maybe cannot.

    Can you help me see HOW you read and think about others’ comments? I cannot even begin to imagine why you said what you said.



  • 38. abesheet  |  May 22, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Maybe it’s a preconceived bias from my side, because of what I’ve been through (which, I’m glad to report Mazzi didn’t have to; making her an unlikely candidate of the kind to jump for the conclusions I did). So accept my applogy if I’ve misread you. Read however much I did that paragraph in your comment, though, I still seem to see your fear to put your faith (or philosphy) to the test.

    Still wrong?

    Englighten me! [in few choosen words] so i can clearly see [and not err from] what you REALLY mean 🙂 .

    P.S. Here is the source of my comment, by the way:

    You’re also right in thinking (implied or straightforward) that my interest and passion is largely in things intellectual, mainly philosophical. This following is a weird view to hear for many, example, that I don’t watch movies or even read fictions. The reason? Philosophical which has been with me, ever refined, since I was 15 or 16. I’m not going to discuss that reason here though. I shared it just to show you that discussions about such issues are not for me.

    I wonder what other explanation it has 🙄

  • 39. Mazzi  |  May 22, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    @Abesheet (and YeEwnet indirectly):

    I thought YeEwnet was/is a firm NON-BELIEVER and not a firm believer of the bible and such? If so then I majorly misunderstood something in this discussion. It is not clear to me whether you (YeEwunet) came back to believing again after as you said ‘turning your back’ on religion at such a young age. That is why I asked in one of my comments earlier if that skepticism that arose at that time remained, wavered, or changed? It is not clear to me I guess. I thought the deal was YeEwunet saw all the holes keeping a blind faith entails and based on those gave up believing all together and now only investigates the nature of faith and search for truth from philosophical point of view.

    Also, does ‘I don’t read fiction books’ mean you read non-fiction books like autobiographies, historical accounts, philosophical books and such? It has to be! It can’t be ‘I don’t read any kinds of books.’ How else does one do research without reading books?

    Abesheet, please feel free to leave your opinions in this discussion. If YeEwunet is a NON-believer as I thought he was, and I am a quasai believer in my own version of personal God after rejecting the bible God, and if you are an EX-believer in the bible God…. we all are on different levels/fields of believing or not believing eko! I find that interesting, so your views from your own stand points of being an ex-believer (if you consider yourself that, or I don’t know if agnostic is your prefered ‘label’) are going to be very interesting as well, so please share what you think. I am all ears.

    And YeEwunet, if indeed there is a major misunderstanding here as I suspect there is, do set us straight!

    But first, step out of your comfort zone as Abesheet and I are suggesting, and watch the George Carlin’s videos. We promise you will live to tell the tale!!

    Abesheet, I think it was me who was typing while you were typing. Neat isn’t it?

    Pleasant day to you both.

  • 40. YeEwunet Wodaj  |  May 22, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Hi Abesheet:

    Just before you responded to my query above here are a few things you said apparently in response to what I supposedly said:

    I said this in another post: (1) “This following is a weird view to hear for many, example, that I don’t watch movies or even read fictions. The reason? Philosophical which has been with me, ever refined, since I was 15 or 16…I’m not going to discuss that [philosophical] reason here though ”

    You read (1) to mean (2): “you neither read books, nor watch movies because of philosophical reasons….Yet, you refuse to read books. The reason, you say, is too philosophical for you to discuss here. Is it?!”

    The above are examples of what, partly, I think, led you to conclude what you’ve said above. Of course, it’s OK to make mistakes and learn from them and I’d not hold against you what you’ve said above. But I can’t even begin to think that reading and concluding the way you did is that simple and only explainable by invoking one’s past experience the way you did.

    Just let’s see closely what difference it makes to read what you attributed to me in the exact way you said things: For example, instead of attributing to me “read fictions” you said that “you refuse to read books.” That is wildely false. And, when I say, “for philosophical reasons” you attributed to me as if I’ve said, “The reason, you say, is too philosophical for you to discuss here.” That is wildely false , too, even making me appear that I was too arrogant to discuss such an issue, etc.

    Can you see the world of difference that your reading of what I’ve actually said could make? There is a world of difference between these two: (a) I don’t read books and (b) I don’t read fictions. And also, between saying (a) I’m not going to discuss that [philosophical] reason here, and (b) The reason, you say, is too philosophical for you to discuss here.

    The above examples are enough to illustrate my point: your reading of a person’s comments, in this case mine, if you suspect that person to be religious is bad, in that it lacks charity. If you attribute to your guests in your cyberhome views that they don’t hold, I’d worry if your cyberhome is a place for your guest to feel at home.

    Honestly, as your denbegna I’d suggest please read between the lines and base your comments on what is being said and if you’re not sure ask for clarification from your guest as long as your guest is with you. I’m with you now for example and would be happy to explain myself.

    I hope the above examples help you see where the mistakes in reading me originated: lack of careful reading mostly dictated by bias to a view which you don’t want to engage out side of your box, to put things in perspective in your own ways of expressing things.

    Just one last point for now FYI: For enough number of years I’ve worked both with the world’s most careful atheist and theistic philosophers and am daily reading books, articles, etc., by such figures (which I bet none of which you’ve ever read) and myself write and engage in such works that take religious views to the most sophisticated attack and defense and counter-attack and counter-defense that philosophers in the 21st century are aware of. Watching a video clip about the subject matter of God, whether I’m a believer or otherwise, is like playing with children’s toys as a substitute for carefully thought-out ideas. I hope this preceding anagogical way of sayings things would be of help as well. If I watch such videos I’d watch them for an entirely different reason, not for philosophical education.

    Thanks for your quick response above and admitting your mistakes though.



  • 41. Mazzi  |  May 22, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    @ YeEwunet and Abesheet…

    Hehe…. timing of such comments…

    By the time I posted my previous comment, both your comments had posted prior to it so it may not make sense when it is read out of sequence. It was a response to Abesheet’s prior comment before YeEwunet forwarded an ‘angry’ rebuttal :-).

    In all fairness YeEwunet, Abesheet may have misread you based on her own interpretations of one of your earlierst comments. But let alone her, even I who has been heavily involved in this discussion and been very forthcoming about my own journey and stand on faith at this moment, do not know what YOUR stand is on faith.

    I am not sure if you are deliberately being ambiguous about where you stand on your personal faith (before you even add philosophy to it), and how you approach your faith or no faith from a philosophical point of view. That would shed a lot of light I am sure. But there is no reason to be defensive even if it is a major misunderstanding in your views. We don’t have to be rigid even when we feel misunderstood. It is just a discussion, not an accusation of any kind.

    But feel free to enlighten both of us as I am sure we can handle it :-).


  • 42. YeEwunet Wodaj  |  May 22, 2009 at 6:55 pm


    We were apparently typing at the same time. I saw your post seconds after having posted mine.

    Just a rather quick point: Your reading of my comment about whether I read books or not is a good correction to our dear Abesheet’s misreading of the point I was making, which I also said something about above.

    About other issues you raised, I hope to get back to them soon. I got to go for now.



  • 43. YeEwunet Wodaj  |  May 22, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Hi Mazzi:

    Since you were again typing at the same time I was and our comments crisscrossed the cyberspace I just wanted to add a quick note as I’m taking off momentarily:

    You said, “But there is no reason to be defensive even if it is a major misunderstanding in your views. We don’t have to be rigid even when we feel misunderstood.”

    There is a world of difference between “being defensive” in an offensive way and defending a view without being defensive in the way you seem to have communicated. I was just showing mistakes that could creep in even in otherwise informal conversations that we’re having and I thought it’d be fair to correct them. Correcting them strongly or lightly does not entail being angry. Sorry if that is what you got from the above comments for Abesheet.



  • 44. abesheet  |  May 22, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Oh boy!

    I guess this is why I never wanted to get involved in a religious argument to begin with (but you wanted to talk of nothing else 😦 ). Because I can easily flip out and make the mistakes a person who knows not what she’s talking about would make and end up offending people. I only read parts of your comments, I admit (because I thought you were another Christian trying to convert us), and shared what i felt about the few that attracted my attention. I never meant to deceive or attack, although I can see how it might look that way. Still words like “false” and “which I’m sure you’ve never read” feel too conspiratorial for my taste and/or intentions (of making one other poor Christian bro see the light ;)). Maybe they are deserved, but not very “charitable” either.

    Still, I admit I judged you wrong and I appologize for that. I guess I never expected a man who for many years worked “with the world’s most careful atheist and theistic philosophers” to pay my “Tejj Bett” a visit and, more importantly, want to stick around. So I brought him down to my humble levels. And tried to “psycho analyze” him in the only way I knew how. Thinking, as always, there isn’t a strong hold the smart manipulation of all the punctuations in the English language won’t bring down.

    That, my friend, is a presumption I no longer plan to indulge in. Lest I lose the few good people I have left, when the true color of my persona (is it persona?!) pops up and discourages them from wanting to stick around a bit more.


  • 45. abesheet  |  May 22, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    Not again!!!

    I SHOULD learn to type [even] faster 😦 .

  • 46. YeEwunet Wodaj  |  May 22, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    Hi Abesheet:

    A few thoughts to make sure that we understand each other as I’m hoping that I could continue to be a good, OK guest, and not a nuisance or a bad boy.

    I’ve no intention to say that you’re making mistakes intentionally and then attribute wrong or mistaken or false views to your friends, me, for example. But what should I do when I see you make another mistake in the context of correcting a previous mistake while we’re at it? Seeing such things would add more concern that we might miscommunicate whether your intention is noble or a tad short of it, or whatever. Examples:

    (1) Under comment (39) you quoted me from my other comment but the way you quoted me did not help revolve the issue we’re addressing. Good to see that you provided, this time in your revised comment, a fuller quotation from my comment. But there is one problem that I see that could have been avoided. When I said “I shared it just to show you that discussions about such issues are not for me” I meant to communicate, as I hope it’s clear from the context that by “it” I meant to refer to larger philosophical reason (s) that need not be addressed here and also by “such issues” I meant to refer to what I don’t have interest in discussing, and these issues from the context are like movies, fictions, etc.

    Whoever reads carefully (which I don’t expect from any reader of blogs such as this partly for entertainment and chatting with friends and which is fine with me too) could see that what I was trying to communicate with the “it” and lack of interest on my part to discuss “such issues” is clear. The reason that I did not want to discuss “the philosophical reason” is because I thought it’d take us far away from what we’re talking about here. It’s nothing to do with religious belief. It’s a debate about the nature of truth, realism and realism in metaphysics, and epistemological issues in relation to the nature of “truth in fiction.” I did not see any good reason for discussing these issues in the context of my conversation with Mazzi; nor did I see any need to explain all this right there since Mazzi did not ask me for it. On the other hand, by “such issues” and my lack of interest in discussing them I was referring to discussing movies or fiction, etc. I thought that was one main thing that I was trying to communicate to Mazzi, which did not seem to have been lost on her since I did not see any need for more explanation coming from her. I hope the above is enough for illustration about what was going on in your revised comment on my comments.

    (2) One more thing and will be done: One innocent-looking correction of what you’ve, again, attributed to me. You attributed this to me: “which I’m sure you’ve never read” but what I’ve ACTUALLY said was this: “which I bet none of which you’ve ever read.” I was speaking with no confidence–as I was betting or wagering or gambling on what I was thinking– about what I thought could be the case but you simply changed it and attributed to me as if I was “sure” about what I was thinking about the case. These changes might seem innocent but they are mistakes nonetheless and if not corrected we’d continue to miscommunicate. I don’t want to misunderstand you, my friend, and fairness demands, that you don’t want to be misunderstood either.

    By the way, working with great contemporary philosophers or working thru their works does not necessarily make one a great philosopher. Nor will I ever claim such a self-promotion. I want to be judged by my work. I’ve also made a point once before to Mazzi that I’m an ordinary mortal like Mazzi, If she’s one, and our playing field is the same, it’s for equals. You’re not bringing own anyone who’s not your equal. Never forget how much I admire your brilliance with the way you play with the English language. By appearing to hair-split some of the things you’ve mistakenly attributed to me I’m not trying to bring you down my friend. We’re just friends in conversation, what the conversation is about is beside the point, it’s neither here not there as far as I’m concerned.

    Hope that the above makes sense.



  • 47. abesheet  |  May 22, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    Alrighty, then, YeEwnet. Thank you for the explanations. Etaremalehu, leWedefitu. Would it be ok, though, if i continue believing you are a Christian Apologist?! 😉

  • 48. YeEwunet Wodaj  |  May 22, 2009 at 11:52 pm


    Thanks a lot for your understanding. By the way, I don’t know nor do I see the reason why it matters for you to know what I believe. Mazzi also seems to be so interested in hearing where I stand about this or that with respect to being a Christian or not.

    Illustration: I’ve had chances to teach philosophy at a community college once and at a university [I’ll be teaching philosophy for the rest of my life] in this country. Now when I teach philosophy my principle has been to present arguments for and against various issues under discussion and avoid even slightly showing that I’ve opinion about the different matters I teach. If you were in my classes, I bet, again, that there is a chance you’d finish the semester like almost all my students who could never figure out what I actually believed. There is a virtue in such teaching methodology and my students without exception, I can say, have loved the principle I was trying so hard to practice since it’s not easy to do so all the time since I do have views about almost everything that I happen to teach in class.

    I did not share the above to make any hidden point or imply even remotely that you or Mazzi are like my students and I should deal with you here in the same way I deal with my students in classroom contexts. I shared the above point to illustrate for us that the point of our discussion is not what we believe, if we’ve to be crystal-clear. It’s why we believe what we believe that seems to matter unless we decide to share the contents of our beliefs, about whatever without going into much detail or without going to an unnecessary extent given the context of the discussion. My questions in our extended conversations have been, more or less, why think so this to be the case and not the other, etc. Mazzi has been gracious enough to share lots of background stories and experiences, which she could have avoided and just make cases for this view or that and which would have been perfectly fine with me too. I shared a bit of this or that about myself but have not been willing to just go autobiographical about everything I believe and the evolution of my belief or lack thereof from start to finish. The reason: I wanted us to go as far as we could about the issues we’re discussing without getting bogged down in making accusations in some personal way or making personal attacks of each other. I’m not claiming I’m a better example than either of you in handling our conversations but then I’m trying to bring back the issues being discussed more often than discussing people, you or Mazzi or myself unless the sub-context dictates otherwise. I did not see it as something totally wrong to illustrate our points by going anecdotal when the occasion allows for such things too.

    Do I have to tell where I stand about God or Christianity or naturalism or whatever? I do not see any compelling reason to do so. FYI, philosophy of religion is a field in which both theists and non-theist work vigorously together and at times one does know who believes what and there does not seem to be a need to know what the other believes when they interact with each others’ respective works. At times people are aware of who is committed to believing which proposition is true or likely to be true and which is false or likely to be false. I’ve been on both sides of the debate at various times but that does not show where I’m standing now. I see no need to say more at this moment. If I see a compelling reason to be more forthcoming I’ll do so. As a philosopher I’m more interested in the truth of ideas and how we should live in light of the truth, whatever we hold to be true.

    Please do not forget the context in which our conversation began. I saw some comments or discussions going on here and wanted to be part of the discussion –because of mutual interest in the issues–and started engaging the one who seemed to care about further discussing issues of interest to me too. Since I’m interacting with fellow abeshas who seem to be open about discussing and debating religious issues and also philosophical issues I joined you guys here. I never announced that since I’m a Christian (or an atheist) I’m here to defend Christianity from attacks like the ones from my abesha female (!) friends, etc. What partly attracted me to this blog is the degree to which I could see openness about religious issues being raised here and discussed or whatever you’d like to call it. Yes, I was just curios, as you’re about me now, WHY the participants here (now familiar friends–Mazzi and you) happen to hold the views they hold. I’m interested in hearing, ideally speaking, good reasons WHY or on what basis or grounds some hold some of their views that I came across in this blog. Then our conversation got where it is now. It’s going on well as far as I can tell.

    Hope the above makes sense.



    Let’s keep the conversation going!



  • 49. YeEwunet Wodaj  |  May 23, 2009 at 12:04 am

    P.S. Typo: a “not” is missing in paragraph 4, line 4. Please take note of that. There are other minor typos but then they would not affect the meaning of what I was trying to communicate. Please correct, at least in your mind, any typo when you come across some, which you’ll certainly do, whenever that happens. Thanks.



  • 50. YeEwunet Wodaj  |  May 23, 2009 at 3:08 am

    Hi Abesheet and Mazzi:

    I thought it’d be cool to share with you a bit extended quotation of a philosopher, one of the leading philosophers in his areas of expertise who’s working today, whose observation about theism and naturalism, otherwise could be called atheism, is worth pondering upon. [His areas of expertise include: Philosophy of language, philosophy of time, philosophy of physics and cosmology, philosophy of religion]. This quotation, below, will also give you a bit of an idea, if you like, a brief contemporary history about theism vs. atheism among academic philosophers, whom I kept calling professional philosophers. It’d be interesting to hear your reactions to the quotation and what you think this philosopher believes, whether he’s a theist or an atheist. I’m curious about this aspect since Mazzi and Abesheet attributed to me opposing positions, which I’m neither denying nor affirming at this moment. Here’s the quotation:

    “The secularization of mainstream academia began to quickly unravel upon the publication of Plantinga’s influential book on realist theism, God and Other Minds, in 1967. It became apparent to the philosophical profession that this book displayed that realist theists were not outmatched by naturalists in terms of the most valued standards of analytic philosophy: conceptual precision, rigor of argumentation, technical erudition, and an in-depth defense of an original world-view. This book, followed seven years later by Plantinga’s even more impressive book, The Nature of Necessity, made it manifest that a realist theist was writing at the highest qualitative level of analytic philosophy, on the same playing field as Carnap, Russell, Moore, Grünbaum, and other naturalists. Realist theists, whom hitherto had segregated their academic lives from their private lives, increasingly came to believe (and came to be increasingly accepted or respected for believing) that arguing for realist theism in scholarly publications could no longer be justifiably regarded as engaging in an “academically unrespectable” scholarly pursuit.

    Naturalists passively watched as realist versions of theism, most influenced by Plantinga’s writings, began to sweep through the philosophical community, until today perhaps one-quarter or one-third of philosophy professors are theists, with most being orthodox Christians. Although many theists do not work in the area of the philosophy of religion, so many of them do work in this area that there are now over five philosophy journals devoted to theism or the philosophy of religion, such as Faith and Philosophy, Religious Studies, International Journal of the Philosophy of Religion, Sophia, Philosophia Christi, etc. Philosophia Christi began in the late 1990s and already is overflowing with submissions from leading philosophers. Can you imagine a sizeable portion of the articles in contemporary physics journals suddenly presenting arguments that space and time are God’s sensorium (Newton’s view) or biology journals becoming filled with theories defending élan vital or a guiding intelligence? Of course, some professors in these other, non-philosophical, fields are theists; for example, a recent study indicated that seven percent of the top scientists are theists.[1] However, theists in other fields tend to compartmentalize their theistic beliefs from their scholarly work; they rarely assume and never argue for theism in their scholarly work. If they did, they would be committing academic suicide or, more exactly, their articles would quickly be rejected, requiring them to write secular articles if they wanted to be published. If a scientist did argue for theism in professional academic journals, such as Michael Behe in biology, the arguments are not published in scholarly journals in his field (e.g., biology), but in philosophy journals (e.g., Philosophy of Science and Philo, in Behe’s case). But in philosophy, it became, almost overnight, “academically respectable” to argue for theism, making philosophy a favored field of entry for the most intelligent and talented theists entering academia today. A count would show that in Oxford University Press’ 2000–2001 catalogue, there are 96 recently published books on the philosophy of religion (94 advancing theism and 2 presenting “both sides”). By contrast, there are 28 books in this catalogue on the philosophy of language, 23 on epistemology (including religious epistemology, such as Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief), 14 on metaphysics, 61 books on the philosophy of mind, and 51 books on the philosophy of science.

    And how have naturalist philosophers reacted to what some committed naturalists might consider as “the embarrassment” of belonging to the only academic field that has allowed itself to lose the secularization it once had? Some naturalists wish to leave the field, considering themselves as no longer doing “philosophy of mind,” for example, but instead “cognitive science.” But the great majority of naturalist philosophers react by publicly ignoring the increasing desecularizing of philosophy (while privately disparaging theism, without really knowing anything about contemporary analytic philosophy of religion) and proceeding to work in their own area of specialization as if theism, the view of approximately one-quarter or one-third of their field, did not exist. (The numbers “one-quarter” and “one-third” are not the result of any poll, but rather are the exceptionless, educated guesses of every atheist and theist philosophy professor I have asked [the answers varied between “one-quarter” and “one-third”]). Quickly, naturalists found themselves a mere bare majority, with many of the leading thinkers in the various disciplines of philosophy, ranging from philosophy of science (e.g., Van Fraassen) to epistemology (e.g., Moser), being theists. The predicament of naturalist philosophers is not just due to the influx of talented theists, but is due to the lack of counter-activity of naturalist philosophers themselves. God is not “dead” in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s and is now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments.”

    Please share your reactions and we’ll have something to talk about beyond this quotation.



  • 51. YeEwunet Wodaj  |  May 23, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Hi Mazzi:

    I recalled one question that you wanted me to address and here are a few things about it. You were wondering what triggered some skepticism about my religious commitment, if one can call it so, at such younger age of 11. The answer has nothing to do with huge life-shaping life experiences like the problem of evil or suffering that usually leads reflective adults to question God’s existence, etc. My skepticism was rather triggered by my reading (I could be a nerd at even that young age) of Marxist books in Amharic from my bro’s collection when I was in elementary school. I was fascinated reading revolutionary (in both his thoughts and implications of his thoughts) thinkers like Marx. It was natural for me to grow skeptical about what was going on around me. By age 16 and 17 I was the most blasphemous (about things religious) boy among my peers, and I was re-writing parts of the Bible that made no sense to me. I was crossing some of the claims in the Bible that did not sit well in my youngish yet scientifically and philosophically minded mind then. I became some kind of atheist in the process then, at about the same time, about 16/17. I was a typical rebellious teen too and no wonder I showed my being rebellious by turning my back on my childhood religion of my parents and family members and all in my neighborhood, I can say.

    The above story captures an episode in my life that later kept taking different directions as I kept reading and thinking about the world we live in and what it means to live in such a world. Mind you, I did not say that there is or there is no continuity between my former self and my present one. One thing I can add is this, though: I’m a skeptical person by nature.Now among other things, I’m working on skepticism about philosophy itself! But then I’ve also tried to maintain sanity in my skeptical mindest and it’s been a terrific intellectual journey that I’ve been thru and am going thru.

    The above, I hope, answers your question from one of your posts.



  • 52. Mazzi  |  May 24, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Selam Ye-Ewunet:

    Meant to contribute to our ongoing discussion earlier than this but could not for many reasons. The last time I was commenting on this ongoing discussion, I think you, me, and Abesheet might have been typing at the same time and some of our posts may have passed one another in cyber space almost simultaneously. At that time, I did not have the time to read the gist of the discussion with a calm mind since I had to be on my way, so I decided to read them later when I came back. By then, you and Abesheet had continued the discussion a little further so there were more posts to read and let some info sink in before deciding to add my two cents on the issue.

    After reading your most recent comments on this subject, however, I have to admit something did not sit well with me (yehone Qirr yalegN neger) so I decided to sit with that feeling and get to the bottom of it before I decided to contribute my own thoughts on the matter.

    Whatever Qirreta I felt probably says more about me than it does about you, and I will try to explain what I mean by that.

    In a nutshell, after reading your latest comments (and keeping your earliest comments in mind), especially in light of the now resolved misunderstanding between you and Abesheet, for a while I was back to reinforcing my very first initial impression of you which was a very serious academic type, with impressive passion and dedication for your chosen field (philosophy), but rather rigid in your views. The kind with little tolerance to others who don’t take such discussions with the at most seriousness, and harbor a little bit of condescension to personal non-academic or non-philosophy-nekk blogs or discussions. In short, and for better or for worse, I had classified you at first as an academic elite based on the little you said in one of your earliest comments but mostly based on my instinct. I admit that was not much to go by.

    By academic elite I mean people who have had the rare privilege and opportunity to pursue their chosen field of study in a higher level research/academic environment, are very learned in their particular field, and maybe even bias towards their chosen field sometimes at the expense of other fields limiting their chances of being a well rounded person in many fields. Also, the kind who even in every day conversation engage in ‘name dropping’ of other academics who came before them and heavily use field specific jargon without any context for such conversations to intimidate others and make themselves sound high and mighty to the average person, and a bit condescending towards others who can’t reason as well as they do. I have spent a good part of my adult life in an academic setting, and I have to admit I really dislike such people, and I have met quite a few of them.

    For these reasons, and considering the personal nature of Abesheet’s Tej Bett, I did not think you would find enough to engage your interest to become a potential new denbegNa to the joint. Hence one of my misunderstood implied jokes, and why I thought you would not enjoy sticking around. But I was pleasantly surprised when you stuck around, for this discussion at least, and it has been fun engaging in lengthy discussions (with few setbacks here and there) with you. It still remains a rare event to “meet” a fellow Abesha in the field of philosophy, and one who engages in it as a career on a full time basis too.

    Through our lengthy discussions (so long that it may have been only me and you who were reading and writing the unusually long comments! :-)) it was/is fun to discover your passion to philosophy. Though I had dismissed my initial impression of you as an academic elite the more I got to read your subsequent posts, once in a while you keep saying things that take me back to my initial view of you being way toooo serious and sometimes too rigid for my taste. I will explain what I mean in a while. I just wanted to clear the air regarding my new reservation so we can deal with it and move on with our discussion and see where it takes us. At some point, when I stop avoiding the work I am supposed to be doing, I know I won’t be able to write such lengthy comments, but it has been interesting indulging freely so far. I am well aware that it is not sustainable anyways besides the fact we may be boring other readers who are not into this kind of discussion. But it would be nice if more people also give their opinion the way I saw you egging at least Sistu to do just that.

    Abesheet may have misunderstood some of your comments (and the exact nature of our discussion: WHY people believe what they believe and not WHAT they believe in) and read you as a potential bible believing Christian at first. But now that has been clarified it is not important to me at all (and I suspect it is the same for Abesheet) to know whether you are a Christian now or a believer in any other faith so you don’t have to say anything either way. It is neither here nor there. If I asked anything related to your faith in my previous comments, it is to try to gain insight into WHY you may have chosen to believe or not to believe especially since you admitted you developed some skepticism to the Orthodox Christian religion you were raised in at such a young age. In the end, you explained what brought that skepticism at that age, and that is enough for me to have the kind of insight that I needed.

    I may be wrong here, but initially I sensed some effort on your part to deliberately remain ambiguous not only about where you stand on faith but also WHY you do, or do not believe. I addressed this question at length from a personal perspective not because I expected you to do the same but because I felt my personal journey would shed more light into WHY I believe the way I believe. Besides, I did not have either the right discipline lingo/jargon or the desire to address that question from a philosophical point of view only. So don’t think Abesheet and I are overly curious to find out your stand on faith now as it is not relevant. You can address the WHY you believe or not believe question which ever you choose of course without going autobiographical.

    On a different topic, we all have our biases and colored filters though which we see the world around us. To you of course it is philosophy by tackling philosophical reflections on God, the nature of truth, ultimate reality, and human beings etc… And me, I can’t help but look at the world and my surrounding through the filter of biological sciences. But I make a conscious effort to once in a while take those filters off and try to see the world from another person’s perspective perhaps in a different field, like literature for example to try to relate to the world the likes of Abesheet and other literature lovers experience. By the same token, some of your comments make me wonder if you leave your philosophy filters behind once in a while at all, and try to view the world from another person’s perspective. My gut feeling says no.

    It feels as though you are always “on” when it comes to viewing just about everything you think and do, both in academic and social setting, from a philosophical point of view. At least that is what I attributed why you prefer not to read fictions, or watch movies and the like. You mentioned how you challenged your friends to make you have desire to want to do these things, and reported how unsuccessful they have been. Well, unless the desire comes from within you, no amount of outside influence will change you if you are set in your ways. If you don’t mind sharing, what is your social life like with your friends? I am not prying here, but trying to find what you consider fun in a social setting (besides music which you mentioned). What kinds of activities do you do with them that are not academic? Just curious.

    You even found it hard to watch a casually recommended comedy clip that actually deals with the subject matter we are discussing. Of course you have every right in the world to choose what you watch and read, but too me you being adamant not to venture outside of your comfort zone (serious academic caliber philosophy) if nothing else even for fun only makes you rigid, firmly set in your ways, and inflexible to peak into worlds you don’t find worthy of your attention.

    Though it is probably not your intention (at least I hope not) statements like “I don’t think I’d turn to a comedy or a stand-up comedian to learn anything of importance about the nature of ultimate reality, for example, the nature of God. I can hardly even begin to think that issues like God’s existence, God’s character, can in any substantive and realistic way be addressed by stand-up comedy/comedian in the context of entertainment” OR “Watching a video clip about the subject matter of God, whether I’m a believer or otherwise, is like playing with children’s toys as a substitute for carefully thought-out ideas” make you sound sooooo arrogant and judgmental!

    Who is to say only academic settings/discussions/literature are the only ‘appropriate’ places for “carefully thought-out ideas”? Who gets to judge what is or is not a “carefully thought-out ideas”? Not every idea has to be formulated in a research type question after all for it to be considered important. You continue to say “If I watch such videos I’d watch them for an entirely different reason, not for philosophical education.” I get the impression that you may have serious reservation (as I sensed in one of your comments) to watch video clips with entertainment value in the first place, and even if that is not the case, are you saying there can never by any philosophical education that can be gained from them at all? Is this to imply that you get your philosophical education from only ‘serious’ (a word you keep emphasizing often) philosophical courses, books, papers, blogs and the like? If so, I beg to differ. Learning opportunities in any field are just about everywhere, and even the most uneducated person can have so much to teach and enlighten us! After all, we don’t know everything.

    From your comments, you come across, to me at least, more as a ‘thinking’ (cerebral) person than a ‘feeling’ person. Maybe it is a guy thing combined with your philosophical tendencies. I have to tell you, your first response to the now cleared up misunderstanding between you and Abesheet was a revealing one. Of course you had every right to defend yourself if you felt you were being misrepresented, and defend you did. But it is not what you said that intrigues me as I had a better understanding of where you stand on account of our very long discussions, but HOW you said it!! Your response was extremely defensive bordering on rude even and I felt a lot of anger in it. I know you disagree with me on this point as you have mentioned earlier. But anger I felt nonetheless. It made me wonder what might be behind that anger.

    Even after you softened your tone in subsequent exchanges with Abesheet after I left the discussion at the time, boy I was still stuck on the anger that came through in your first reply when I read it again later on. I personally felt you were being defensive in an offensive way, and this Tej Bett awdelday is protective of her Tej Bett owner as you may guess ;-). It is as if she mistakenly stumbled on some raw nerve that you felt had to defend vehemently. I think “Boy you so have me figured totally wrong” would have sufficed for the most part followed by a toned down discussion of all your valid points. I won’t even go into the detail of that message, but what I actually liked was how I felt there is a “feeling” person behind the “thinking” person after all even if that feeling was anger. I like you better that way (a “feeling” person as well) as no one can live in their heads most of the time. It is good to live in the heart and the gut for a change once in a while. But this Tej Bett denbegNa is happy you both have made up, and all is well in Abesheet’s land.

    I hope you take my expressed observations and concerns in the spirit it was intended (trying to understand each other better), and of course feel free to comment back on what I have said as well.

    Now that I have aired my “Qirretas” maybe we can resume the discussion a bit……

    I read the quotation you posted in comment #50, and though some of the jargon went above my head, I can safely say I got the gist of what was said :-). It is not important to me to find out whether the author of the quotation is an atheist or theist. But I found few interesting points in the quote that are of interest to me.

    It was interesting to read a bit about how and when mainstream academia began to lose its secular nature, and how theist academics deal with their state in heavily secularized academic fields they find themselves in. Based on some study, if indeed only seven percent of top scientists are theists, that is interesting. I thought it might be much more. I can totally relate to the statement “theists … tend to compartmentalize their theistic beliefs from their scholarly work; they rarely assume and never argue for theism in their scholarly work. If they did, they would be committing academic suicide or, more exactly, their articles would quickly be rejected, requiring them to write secular articles if they wanted to be published.” That definitely rings true for academics in the natural sciences. But I was also amused to find out how if biological scientists want to publish research work from a theist point of view, they are more likely to publish their work in philosophical journals (ones that incorporate religious philosophy I presume). Quite fascinating. Also, I did not know that Philosophy is the only academic field that has allowed itself to lose the secularization it once had. I learn something new every day. Thanks for sharing that.

    One of the most interesting things you said in one of your comments was “I’m a skeptical person by nature. Now among other things, I’m working on skepticism about philosophy itself!”
    As miserable as academics makes me sometimes, what you said here (working on skepticism about philosophy itself) is also what makes me love it. No question is off limits to explore/question in academics including the very field or frame of work we work in! Priceless. If anything comes out of that train of thought, feel free to share if you will still be visiting Abesheet’s joint and the usual suspects are still around by then.

    Lastly, just when I am about to give up on you on account of being too ‘cerebral,’ you go and surprise me by admitting how you like country music and Bluegrass music. Both music genres FULL of feelings and emotions! I love country music in general though I admit some can be terribly whinny. But the classic ones, I love very much, and yes James Taylor and The Dixie Chicks rock! I find most Bluegrass music beautifully haunting, and the way they play string instruments in Bluegrass music is simply out of this world.

    So as a way of ending this long comment and also as a peace offering, I am dedicating the same song I dedicated to Sistu and Abesheet earlier (Carolina in my mind – antes lemin yiQribih?) EXCEPT in light of you being a Bluegrass music fan, I am forwarding another clip of Alison Krauss’ rendition of James Taylor’s song. This version is beautifully sung by the queen of Bluegrass music herself, and my most favorite Bluegrass artist Alison Krauss. Her voice is simply one of a kind.


    ( )

  • 53. YeEwunet Wodaj  |  May 25, 2009 at 3:07 am

    Hey Mazzi:

    First of all, I want to sincerely thank you for taking your time to share a lot of interesting things and for being the kind of honest person I treasure as a person, and as a friend. I THINK I see honesty in you that deserves commendation. I want you to know that I treasure your comments no matter what you said, whether we agree or disagree about them. You make so much sense. I want also to thank our dear Abesheet for making it possible for us to share something that turned out to be of mutual interest to both of us, the kind of issues we’ve been trying to share a few things about. Abesheet, your hospitality is also treasured.

    Mazziye (if I may call you so; please allow me some form of endearment sometimes in our conversation as that is like a second-nature for us, Abeshas) you might want to know what I’m listening to now as I type this note for you. First I gratefully listened to the Alison treat and want to say thank you so much; it’s great. Now I’m listening to a CD (collection) of U2, Elvis Presley, etc. Am listening now to “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”, followed by Elvis’ “Hound Dog”, etc, etc.
    When I listen to the above U2 song, for me its primary meaning is not what is originally said. I substitute my philosophical perspective on life, life’s meaning, and humanity’s perennial search for significant truths about the world we’re a part as what that song symbolizes for me personally. It’s not that I’ve found what I’m looking for about everything. I THINK I’ve found answers to some of the most important questions in life but I’ve no intention to be dogmatic about what I think I’ve found. Note that I said what I THINK to be answers and that is a straightforward admission of my fallibility and openness to learn from others. if I’ve no such intention, then the best and wisest thing for me to do is never to engage others and never to expose my life to any view contrary to what I hold to be true. At any rate, I’ve just mixed some perspectives or personal reflections on what it means to be human, fallible and all that. That also captures what it means to be human for me, personally too.

    Mazziye, I’m sorry for coming across the kind of person you thought that I am or could be. Maybe I’m that kind of “arrogant prick” as one of the contemporary preeminent British philosophers said others COULD think of him. At times we don’t have any control about what others think of us; at times we ourselves contribute to the formation of such impressions about us. At times most of even the most consistent impressions others have about us could be consistently wrong. These are all possible and we’ve seen some of them in our own lives many times. I’ve seen some people who started out thinking about me the way you did, in some senses, but ended up on a totally opposite spectrum with opposite conviction. Honestly, I’m the last person to care about what others think of me so much so that many would take me to be out of my mind for years only to admit that they were dead wrong. In one of your posts you told me that it’s hard to categorize you in that you defy regular classifications . I also know what it means to defy standard categories and that has been a story of my life. So, I was not surprised at all when you tried in your last comments to pin down whether I’ve feelings or if I’m only just a thinking machine (I’m just trying to put your thoughts in my own way), etc. The best thing to do to figure out who this person, me, is is by simply ignoring the temptation to categorize me. No category will ever capture me and that I know. It’s not because there is anything great about me or exceptional uniqueness about me. Far from it. I’m, as I said before, an ordinary mortal like you and the rest of our ilk. Let’s forget the question about who I could be and just get to know me the way I try to communicate who or what ultimately I actually am. We’re simple friends and there is nothing extraordinary about us, as far as I could see, and let’s just share our views as we keep getting to know what we think about this or that–about mutual things. That way we can make some real progress about issues that brought us together thus far without taking issues about who we are. I’m not by any means suggesting that who we are is not important. Not at all. But getting bogged down to figure out who this or that person could be, at times, is a sure way of wasting one’s precious time. I know what I say at times could provoke you to ask a question or two to figure out whether this person is like this or that. As a friend, you’re most welcome to ask questions if they are provoked by some of my comments if having some idea about them can shed some light on understanding the issues we’re trying to share with each other.

    Having said that, I’d like to add this: My life at times has been nerdy, that of a typical academic type who could hardly be interested in anything except thinking, doing, and talking about academic stuff. I’ve lived such a life to one degree or another for almost all my adult life. I started to buy my own books at 11. I was in grade 6 then. Nothing intrigued me more than books for many years. I valued reading books more than anything else in life. As I grew older things started to be more balanced, as I’d like to think. But then my love for books, my value for GOOD books, is the one constant thing about my life. But then, I’ve always had a significant number of friends in my life. But the catch here as been this: Most of my friends over time become part of what is my core value in life ( of course, I can never force friendship) or they slowly walk away if they don’t think it’s not in their own best interest to remain my close friends. That has been fine. But I never ask a person, do you read good books? If you do, yes, we can friends, or otherwise…No way! That is absolutely bizarre way of making friends. At any rate, good friends have been at the center of what I valued in life all my life. You might even wonder, if you observe my friendship with many people, if I’d ever have time to do any serious philosophy at all. I hope that I’ve found some balance in both worlds that I’ve just mentioned. I also love doing other things like traveling, enjoying nature like mountains and waters esp., the ocean, etc. I go to concerts, and enjoy good music, etc.

    Hope the above gives you an idea that I’m not a loner, just sitting by a computer and type away my life or a thinking machine who would never consider life in any other form. One thing I just thought relevant to add: about what I’m doing in my life, in a much more focused way, i.e., philosophy, I do it with passion that can easily be contagious. Some of my students (friends) from college in the US and back home are very much into philosophy and they say they’re in philosophy due to their being drawn to philosophy because of the passion they witnessed I prusued philosophy. All my students get a chance to be my friends (I don’t believe in student-teacher distinction). Whoever I find in my class is a conversation partner with me about the most important questions that we human beings face. We do philosophy in class and outside of class and I try my best to make sure that my students do philosophy for the love of it and not primarily for grade or for any extrinsic reason. I’ve never done philosophy for any extrinsic reason, as far as I could tell, and I don’t know how that can actually be the case in philosophy. I can hardly imagine to pursue truth for some other more important reason than the love for truth!

    Hope the above gives you a better perspective about what we’re discussing as well as your friend, YeEwunet Wodaj, literally.



  • 54. YeEwunet Wodaj  |  May 25, 2009 at 3:26 am

    P.S. Typo: Please take note of this: Read this “…they slowly walk away if they don’t think it’s not in their own best interest to remain my close friends” AS “..they slowly walk away if they don’t think it’s in their own best interest to remain my close friends.” I spotted another/other typo (s) but then they don’t affect the meaning of what I was trying to communicate. Typos! I hate you! But then, thanks that there are typos to conclusively prove that we, humans, are FALLIBLE in small or big ways!

  • 55. Mazzi  |  May 27, 2009 at 1:21 am

    Selam YeEwunet:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my last post in the manner that you did. It was a pleasant read with a bit more insight into “YeEwunet Wodaj” besides ‘his’ love, passion, and dedication to all things philosophical. Varied interests, and the capacity and the willing spirit to once in a while see the world through other people’s perspective (people whose values and views sometimes greatly vary from our own) only makes one a better philosopher, and not less. When I expressed my concern in my last post, it is not because I believed you were “a loner, just sitting by a computer and type away [your] life or a thinking machine who would never consider life in any other form” at all. Far from that! My intention was to share how you, a new cyber friend and fellow Abesheet’s Tej Bett denbegNa came across TO ME in your writing whether you mean to or not, so thanks for clarifying that :-).

    As you said, we sure should not spend any time worrying about what people think of us, especially when we are living our lives in the best and honorable way we know how. That is a futile exercise indeed. By the same token, if we can help it we should not also contribute to the not so flattering views others have of us through our own deeds and actions. After that, we just live and go about our business pursuing our individual passions. That I have no doubt you do well. And through pursuing your passion if you think you have found answers to some of the most important questions in life, even better! How many of us can actually say that?! So more power to you indeed. And I am very much aware how such answers to life’s ‘angebgabi T’iyaQewoch’ are relative to each individual, and not necessarily always universal. And I am perfectly OK with that actually. Through all this, we do remain fallible because we are human after all in all our imperfect glory. I am cool with that too.

    I was touched by your term of endearment ESPECIALLY since it is coming from a philosopher. Forgive me but the pre-conceived mental image I had/have of philosophers is far from the kind who even use terms of endearment. So it makes it extra special. It is true how using terms of endearment is second-nature to us Abeshoch. Some years back, living mostly among non-Abeshas, I and another Abesha lady friend had unknowingly gotten used into the habit of calling very dear non-Abesha friends “Entina-yé” after explaining its endearing connotation. So at another time when we travelled to DC with such friends for a break, the Makah of US Abeshoch, a fellow DC Abesha friend we were visiting noticed how we effortlessly used the “yé” thing with non-Abesha friends and said, “EndE! ‘yé’ lemaygabchew sewoch iyeteTeqemachu negerun arakesachihut!” :-). It was very funny how he said it :-).

    Point well taken when you said “The best thing to do to figure out who this person, me, is is by simply ignoring the temptation to categorize me. No category will ever capture me and that I know …. let’s just share our views as we keep getting to know what we think about this or that–about mutual things.” It’s a deal then, as that goes the same for me or anyone else who might join this or future discussions.

    I disagree, somewhat slightly, when you said “ … getting bogged down to figure out who this or that person could be, at times, is a sure way of wasting one’s precious time.” This being a cyber discourse and readers being limited to only what one chooses to contribute to an ongoing discussion, it sure would be a waste of time to try to figure out who this or that person might be based only what they say. In the ‘real’ world, however, ‘figuring out’ the very close people in our lives (few selected close friends, parents, siblings, significant others, children etc…) over time on an ongoing basis in an effort to try and understand them and grow with them while learning more than what is on the surface is one of the most enriching and rewarding experiences we can have. For the close people who are in my life, I like finding out what makes them ‘tick’, what gets them worked up, and what pleases them. Not everyone is worth our time and effort, but for those who are, what a journey that is! After all, there should be more than what is on the surface (blood, genetics, common backgrounds, or shared experiences) that bind us together as humans. But anyways, that is neither here nor there for this particular discussion.

    In the end, it is all about finding the right balance in our public and private and academic/career and social lives. Easier said than done no doubt, but the journey is worth the effort. I have no doubt your enthusiasm for your chosen field of philosophy spills over to your students who take your classes and end up being friends afterwards if they find the field just as exciting as you do. If one is a teacher/instructor/professor in his/her chosen field, it helps tremendously if that ‘teacher’ also has the passion to engage and insight students’ interests/passions/imaginations.

    Though I agree with you how grades should not be the motivating factor for learning or taking classes, competitive academic environments dictate otherwise! Whether we like it or not, we get judged by our grades, and I really hate that! I have hated grades ALL MY DAMN LIFE because they have ruled my life in more ways than I have time to explain here. The terms of any scholarships I had earned in my journey dictated that I keep a certain GPA, so whether I liked it or not, grades were more important than I would have liked them to be. In college, I so wanted to take a certain philosophy course just for fun until I heard how the professor graded students harshly and decent grades were hard to come by in his class. The halfway decent grades I was earning in my science courses were already draining my exhausted brain so I could not risk taking ‘an elective’ class that had the potential to hurt my over all grades. So there went that option whether my decision was a smart one or not. Maybe I would have been more familiar with philosophical academic terms for this discussion if I had taken that class! Oh well…

    Like you, I am so not with Sistu about grades bringing “intrinsic joy” to students. I guess I must not be one of those students!!! I suppose the world has to have a method of ‘measuring up’ academic progress for students, but boy grades as they are usually done sure do not tell the whole story about what the students understand. Asian graduate students (mainly from China) with VERY poor English communication skills used to rank in the 99 percentile for the GRE (graduate school aptitude test) including for the English and analytical sections after systematically studying the exam and ‘meshemdedigN’ previously given exams and vocabulary words for years prior to their applications. Their high percentile ‘grade’ speaks more about their discipline, dedication to their cause, and tenacity (tenacious they sure are) more than it says about their command of the English language. And my detest to the whole concept of grading, students’ ultimate obsession with their grades whether they did the work or not, and coming up with students’ grades at the end of semesters under high pressure situations, ultimately killed my long time dream of joining the teaching profession … at least for now till I recover from my past teaching experiences. I wish I know what to substitute grades with for tracking students’ learning progress while at the same time making life easier for educators who also hate the grading process.

    By the way, I am a U2 band fan for their staying power and their occasional time tested classic songs. And their “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” song happens to be one of my favorites as well especially since that song can have endless meanings to those who want to give it their own meaning! Another U2 song I love is “One”, and my favorite version of the song is the one the band did with Mary J. Blige, also one of my favorite artists. That woman sings from a place of anguish that comes through in her songs, lyrics, and most of all her powerful voice. She gave U2’s song “One” a whole lot more meaning for me because she sang it as though it was one of her own songs. Judging by her background and life history, she strikes me as someone who learned her most important life lessons through extreme suffering. Why is it that we have to suffer to learn our lessons?! Some cruise through life with minimal suffering, never have the need to learn their lessons, but continue to enjoy cushy lives whether they deserve it or not. Others go through untold mental and physical anguish/suffering before they learn their life lessons for the modest life they are afforded in the end. Why is that?! That is a question for another discussion.

    Anyways, I will end by linking the YouTube video for the U2 and Mary J. Blige collaboration for the song “One.”

    ( )


  • 56. YeEwunet Wodaj  |  May 27, 2009 at 5:51 am

    Hi Mazziye:

    Reading your post, once again, turned out to be another treasured experience. We’re discovering that we’ve much more in common than what we both initially might have thought otherwise.

    I loved reading your thoughts on grades and what real life experience has taught us to think about them in ways that we both could never think otherwise. My relationship to grades in my longish school experience as a student could make quite a story (I’m not trying to suggest, in a backhanded way, some self-promotion) if someone wants to make a name for herself/himself IF I WERE A FAMOUS PERSON. But the fact is that the opposite is true–I’m neither a famous person in even a village-level scale anyway. The point is that I went to several schools (colleges/universities in my career as a perpetual student) and what my professors could never figure out about me is what I think grades are for. I did miserable in grades most of the time, much, much lower than what I could do, even at ease. There are many occasions in my career as a student in which, in some sense, I INTENTIONALLY FAILED in terms of grades–just to prove to whoever that grades cannot determine my overall achievements as a person. I’ve gone thru all levels of educational programs, from the lowest to what people think is the highest (which I’ve no idea if there is any such classification in reality) and many people think that I’ve succeeded. as a student. I don’t know what’s going on. For me success in life as a person has very little to do with achievements by way of grades and I never understood why people disagree with me about this attitude about grades and achievements in life. For me success in school meant, for most of my life, partly trying to show that what people normally take to be a measure of success, achieving “good grades”, is a mistake. Life is much more complex than what grades at school tell us about who is who in this world.

    Almost all the preceding thoughts that I’ve shared with you have been shaped by my philosophical attitude about what it means to be human and what it means to live in this intriguingly mysterious world of ours in a meaningful way. I don’t see how MOST of what we, as students, have studied at schools are designed to show us our place in the world in any meaningful way. Because I thought what passes for a good scholarly study that we encounter in schools does not even begin to address the reason why we exist in this universe and why the universe itself exists, I can hardly begin to see how grades that we earn (good or bad) can contribute to the way we should pursue the questions about life’s most fundamental questions.

    You can see how the question of God’s existence, and, if God exists, how God relates to the world could acquire significant meanings, philosophically speaking, for a person like me. That is why I ended up engaging fellow abeshas about life’s significant questions and why we think some of our beliefs reflect truth about the way the world is and our place in it. You can now see how I could easily start to talk about grades in school and end up talking about why we human beings exist and why the universe exists as a whole and in all its details. One of my former professors from whose work I shared that longish quotation, couple of days or so ago, has lived his life to answer one question but with implications for another deeply related question: why does the universe exist? why do I (we) exist? Since God , if God exists, has been at the center of providing an answer to the preceding questions my former professor has spent thinking and writing about God as long as he’s lived. He’s still working on the above questions. Thinking about grades might not seem to lead to the most perennial philosophical questions, but sure it does; at least for me.

    Just wanted to share the above: a minor reflection on grades at school and how that could lead to more substantive reflections about the nature of reality and our place in the universe and how school can aid us in pursuing relevant and meaningful answers to our most important questions in life. This is philosophy pure and simple. But, alas, philosophy is not pure and simple!



  • 57. YeEwunet Wodaj  |  May 27, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    Hi Mazzi:

    I forgot to say a few things about one of your points from your last post and here’s what I wanted to add:
    By the way, the slight disagreements between you and myself about our efforts to figure out and understand others does not seem a real disagreement if you noted what I was actually talking about by what you quoted me as saying. If you note a broader context of what I was talking about, the cyber attempt at deciphering another person that might take us away from the issue that is the focus of discussion was what I was talking about. I was not meaning or implying to say anything about real life relationships. My whole point was contextually constrained and confined within the context of trying to address our previous issue about trying to figure out who we are and what we believe, which had the potential to derail us from what interested us in the first place. If we are clear about this, then our slight difference would not be any difference at all. Mind you, I’m not opposing differences or disagreements! It’s hard to imagine what life would be like if everyone agrees about everything! Philosophy would be the first victim of such a scenario and may that never happen!
    Having shared the above, I just wanted to make this quick point that might add to what we’ve been trying to discuss, some derailments aside. You spoke about the importance of getting to know other people in our lives and how that experience could enrich our lives etc. I agree with all that but want to add this: Coming to know other persons (be it in the cyber environment or a physical natural environment is ultimately a matter of trusting the other person. Trusting the other person means taking what the other person tells us as true in the absence of contrary evidence. Philosophers call this way of coming to know another person or others as knowledge based on testimony. Without testimony and trust in testimony we virtually know very little. The only thing we might claim to know could be what’s going on in our own minds/thoughts. Even to make sense of what’s going on in our minds, we need some dependence, ultimately, on some linguistic ability. But our linguistic ability can hardly be what it is without interaction with other human beings hence bringing us full circle back to our inevitable dependence on others for knowledge and much more.

    Much of our knowledge in most everything (history, politics, science, religion, geography, etc, etc) comes to us thru trust in the testimony, i.e., what others tell us–be it verbally in written form or orally or thru DVD or TV or radio– in many cases in ways that we cannot ourselves verify what we’re getting from others on independent grounds. Claims like knowledge of even our own names or places of birth and who our parents are (until our most recent history that brings in DNA evidence to assuage some of our skepticisms if we ever become skeptical of our real identity in relation to others) are largely based on what others tell us, in their testimony.

    Philosophers have argued, in an analogous way, about knowledge of God, if God exists, in similar ways. Some philosophers claim that human beings can come to know God by trusting testimony from God about God or about God by others who know God on a firsthand way, assuming there is such a way. They argue that, if God could communicate with some human beings, for example, God’s purpose in creating human beings, and how God wants human beings to live etc then it’s possible to acquire knowledge from God in much similar ways that we acquire knowledge from others about themselves and others. This is quite a controversial claim but then there is something worth thinking about this issue since this issue is supposed to address standard debates about how human beings can ever claim to know God, assuming that God exists. Personally, I take literature on this issue fascinating and am closely reading claims and counterclaims in the debate about the possibility of knowing God, if God exists, and how that relates to our claim to know other human beings.

    Of course, I’m throwing this as something that philosophers are working on in contemporary epistemology, religious epistemology (theory of knowledge) or non-religious, it does not matter. This way of thinking about God and human knowledge of God has a direct bearing on what Mazziye was sharing with us about the Bible and how it is alleged to provide knowledge or information about God and human beings etc, which she raised many skeptical thoughts about. I also shared what I thought about the Bible, at some point in my life, and its claims when I was younger and my struggles with skepticism about the truth of what the Bible means to communicate. But then it’d be interesting to discuss how we can respond to the contemporary philosophers who argue that knowledge of God and knowledge of others person are in the same epistemic boat, i.e., that they are at the end much similar.

    Look forward to hearing your thoughts, Mazzi.



  • 58. Mazzi  |  May 29, 2009 at 1:12 am

    Selam YeEwunet:

    Thanks for your last comments. Your relationship with the concept of grades, especially in light of your ‘perpetual student’ status to the highest level sounds more familiar than you will ever know. I can relate to most of it indeed. I have used the term ‘professional student’ to mean ‘perpetual student’ at times.

    Considering grades are used to ‘measure up’ who is who in this world, and considering how grades hardly tell the whole story about whoever is being ‘graded’ for one thing or another, I can see how you can find philosophical ideas about what it means to be human and the nature of reality vs. appearances etc…

    Most of what we are taught in school as students fail to show us our place in the world in any meaningful way because no one knows the answer for sure because no one has figured out why the hell the universe and everything else in it (including ourselves) even exist in the first place! Don’t all philosophical questions have this very basic question in their roots? Why the hell are we here? What is our purpose?

    In my amateur opinion, I think these questions are the roots to why human beings created the concept of faith/religion or started believing in something outside of themselves/ourselves like the notion of ‘god(s).’ And while we are at it, we humans created our god(s) in our own images (because ours is the only characteristic we know) to be able to explain our existence.

    After creating our own god(s), we also invented creation stories about how it was this/these god(s) that created us instead (and the world as we know it before we even knew about the universe) and in their own image at that! Then we also came up with supposed rules from this/these god(s) that are supposed to guide us about how we are supposed to exist and relate to one another. Creation stories took care of the “why are we here?” question, and such ‘divine rules’ we attribute to the god(s) took care of the “what is our purpose?” question, and the rest is history as they say! Except for people who don’t believe in anything that is.

    In high school and college I used to enjoy tremendously reading creation stories from various cultures and faiths/religions not to mention dictated ‘divine’ rules in such faiths. That was a lot of fun, and it was amazing how the Christian creation story (two versions of it I might add!) from the bible were not fundamentally different from other creation stories in basic content and purpose.

    As for your professor who has lived his life to answer the questions “why does the universe exist? Why do we exist?” (especially if he is trying to approach such questions by also thinking and writing about God that is attributed to be at the center of such questions)….. he is to be admired for his guts for even trying to tackle such impossible questions, and pitied a little since I doubt if he will get to the bottom of it all. But like I always say, it is the journey that matters and not the destination in the end. Along the way, if he is the open minded kind, he sure is bound to enjoy the scenic route in this journey even if he never gets to his destination. If he ever does, however, boy would I like to be informed!

    Regarding the importance of getting to know other people in our lives (not necessarily in cyber environment … I guess there was no disagreement after all), it is true that such experience is ultimately a matter of ‘believing’ (‘trusting’ sounds more definitive a term than what I would use here) what the other person says and does as you said “taking what the other person tells us as true in the absence of contrary evidence.” This is why I prefer to use the term ‘believe’ in place of ‘trust’ because there is a bit of choice involved to believe what they tell us to be true, while observing and looking for consistency in what they say and do. Trust kind of takes it to another level of commitment in believing what is said I guess. I don’t know if we can trust anyone wholly, including ourselves!

    Oh how I wish what you said “The only thing we might claim to know could be what’s going on in our own minds/thoughts” to be true! I think my mind has a mind of its own, and how I wish I can figure out (linguistic ability or not) what is going on in my own head let alone fully figure people out on that level. But we sure inevitably depend on our interaction with others for knowledge and much more.

    Like you said … much of our knowledge in most everything (history, politics and the like) INCLUDING religion sure comes thru testimony, reported accounts, and what other tell us in media (orally, visually, or in written form). Isn’t this the history of the bible anyways where we supposedly get our ‘knowledge and understanding’ of the Judeo/Christian God?

    By the way, I really do not know what it means to “know God on a firsthand way” if there is such a thing the way it is meant in the Christian religion. I don’t know what counts as ‘firsthand way.’ People claiming God spoke to them in their dreams or prayers and want to pass that message and stuff does not sit well with me at all. It sounds so arbitrary! If God exists, why does ‘he’ not reveal himself in a clear and decisive way AND on continuous basis mind you, not just some thousands of years ago to some people who claim to have had ‘firsthand’ experience with God.

    I used to debate people in religious discussions why God had to give Moses the Ten Commandments somewhere up on a mountain away from the Israelites when he could have exhibited a showdown, with the awesome magnitude of God’s power, in front of all the Israelites who are supposed to follow such rules in some spectacular way? That way Moses would not have had to go to the ordeal of making them believe that those commandments really came from God.

    If you had ventured in checking out George Carlin’s comedy clip, you would have found his view why the commandments as listed in the bible are ten in number and not eleven or nine…. “a marketing decision”!!! Priceless! The point is … I am supposed to believe ONLY Moses had a ‘first hand’ experience with God (was it as a burning and ‘talking’ QuTQuaT God had chosen to reveal himself to Moses?), brought down the Ten Commandments, someone narrated such an experience, maybe years and years later someone documented such an experience, then it got written n the Torah and later on in the bible, and now I am supposed to believe it on ‘faith’ and even follow those rules.

    I guess if I was a strict Christian, I would believe such an account, and follow the rules as dictated and repent for the times that I don’t . Mind you, I respect what the commandments stand for, and I even agree with most of them! Others, not so much! But since I don’t spend my days worrying about whether I follow them or not, I guess that rules me out as a practicing Christian. And that is fine with me actually.

    The philosophical argument you mentioned that some follow … “if God could communicate with some human beings, for example, God’s purpose in creating human beings, and how God wants human beings to live etc then it’s possible to acquire knowledge from God in much similar ways that we acquire knowledge from others about themselves and others” presupposes that one even knows HOW God communicates with some humans! Unless there is a consensus about whether that is even possible or whether it even happens now or has happened in history in ways that we find believable (except bible accounts like God talking to Moses, or the angel Gabriel talking to Mary on behalf of God … all stories we are meant to believe on face value), then it is difficult to follow the argument. If indeed there is a God, I (and all skeptics out there, not to mention even devout believers, including believers in undefined personal God like myself) would love love love to hear from ‘himself’. I don’t even know what that is supposed to be like!

    So until and unless we hear the existence of God from the horse’s mouth ‘himself’ (Gehaneb siQesef taytogNal for saying such things :-)), and enlighten us with ‘his’ own andebet or Godly way why he created us and the universe (if ‘he’ did) and what our purpose is supposed to be, then many including myself shall remain skeptics about the whole notion of ‘god’, and even go as far as creating their own ‘god’ to make up for the lack of meaning they feel about their existence without a creator. Even that is a weak cope out, coz even if there is a ‘creator,’ then we move on to the next set of questions…. Why is there a ‘creator’??? And most importantly, who created the ‘creator’??? It is kind of like what came first… the chicken or the egg??? And whether it is the egg or the chicken that came first, who created that?!

    It is like walking in circles, sin’t it??

    So in the end, I am not even sure if there is value in the philosophical argument that “knowledge of God and knowledge of others person are in the same epistemic boat, i.e., that they are at the end much similar” on account of finding out about both on just ‘here say’. At least with humans, besides believing what they say, we can at least observe them with all our five senses and make note of their consistency or lack of in their actions and behaviors to see if they stick to what they say and claim to be. As for God, even if we have stories that we are told about how he is supposed to be, how are we supposed to even observe him to see if he is what he is indeed claimed to be? I don’t know if I am making sense!

    Let me just leave it here for now, but I sure would like to hear from the philosophers who deal with such questions if they have figured out some sensible thing about how we are supposed to ‘figure out’ God’s true nature and not just what is said about him. If you know, feel free to share yourself.


  • 59. YeEwunet Wodaj  |  May 29, 2009 at 3:54 am


    You’ve no idea how many fascinating philosophical questions you’ve thrown at me (:)–btw, I could not figure out how to get the smile icon to symbolize the idea whenever I wanted to–in a good way though! I’m not going to address your fascinating question at this moment but then wanted to just share a philosopher’s name or his work that addresses many of your questions.

    If you get a hold of a most recent book by an American philosopher, Paul Moser, he address a number of your questions in his book: The Elusive God: Reorienting Religious Epistemology (Cambridge University Press, 2008). He’s also working on another book to be published in 2010 by the same press, titled: The Evidence for God: Religious Knowledge Reexamined. Here’s his homepage:

    Please have a look at his incredibly prolific writings in his CV. He’s just recently turned his attention to work on skepticism about religious belief. He’s eminently qualified to address your questions as he’s one of the most distinguished epistemolgists working today. Remember this name, Paul Moser, from that longish quotation? Just spend a few minutes scrolling down to see his writings in epistemology and you’ll see how much he’s contributed to epistemology before he turned to work on specifically Christian epistemology.

    I think it’s enough for now to introduce one philosopher and his work in relation to your great questions and meditation that you graciously shared with me.



  • 60. YeEwunet Wodaj  |  May 29, 2009 at 4:40 am

    P.S. An idea occurred to me after posting the above note. I think it’d be good if you read an essay by Paul Moser before you read–if you decide to read the book I mentioned above–that addresses a number of your questions in your last post.

    Moser and I share several philosophical interests and I’ve access to most of his recent work and I thought I could send you his essay titled, “Religious Skepticism” published in a very expensive book, The Oxford Handbook of Skepticism (OUP, 2008) edited by John Greco, that you don’t have to bother to buy. Do you want to read the essay I’ve just mentioned? There are two ways that I can get it to you: 1) You can send me your email address via Abesheet, or, 2) I can send the essay to Abesheet and then she can send it to you, since Abesheet has an access to my email address and I’ve to hers as well.

    Let me know.



  • 61. Mazzi  |  May 29, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Selam YeEwunet:

    Thanks for recommending the American philosopher Paul Moser whose philosophical research/focus seems to be (partly at least) based on some of the questions I raised.

    I have made a note of his book that you recommended as a potential book to read when I really want to exercise ‘my brain muscles.’ I know I won’t be able to get to it any time soon coz yerasén manbeb yalubigNin negeroch mann anbibolign?! I have enough research papers to read for my own work that I seem to be happily avoiding (I blame Abesheet and you for diverting my attention … hehe… so much for taking personal responsibility, right?!) And whether I ignore them or not, they ain’t going nowhere! So CHirayen qolife, kerase sirra garr endegena selam bifeTir sayawaTagN ayiqerim. Of course I will allow myself the occasional guilty trips/pleasures of visiting Abesheet’s joint when in need of feeling her Tej Bett’s ambiance.

    Besides … this little amateur ‘mefelasef’ habit of mine about the existence of God, the concepts of faith, religion, the nature of God if ‘he’ exists, the role of faith/religion in my life, what the purpose of life is, and why we exist is totally A SIDE PROJECT for me ;-). I admit how as much as I venture into God related ‘filsifina,’ I sure don’t have the kind of dedication that you have for it besides the fact that philosophy is your bread and butter.

    You sure seem to derive some fulfillment out of your quest, and I hope in the process you stumble upon satisfying answers to some of the angebgabi T’iyaqewoch you raise. Me, I am content even if in the end I remain with my questions/queries. I have grown accustomed to them by now, and strangely enough they don’t bother me as often as they used to! They have become like pets I hated at first, but gotten used to and even learned to love over time. This is not to say I don’t want satisfying answers to my queries, but have come to the conclusion that there is as much beauty in raising the questions themselves as there is in the answers.

    Since I might not get to Paul Moser’s recommended book anytime soon, maybe I will settle for reading one of his essays you mentioned on the topics we have been discussing above. If you have a copy of the essay out of the expensive book you mentioned, feel free to send it to me via Abesheet. She holds the secret to both our e-mail addresses, and she should be able to send it to me then. I shall pay her for the ‘cyber postage’ and her services in other ways she sees fit :-). Thank you in advance for sending the essay via Abesheet, and thank you Abesheet in advance for sending it to me.

    Checked out Paul Moser’s homepage and his CV just for fun by the way. I looked at his list of publications (books, essays, papers, and the like), and presentation topics and said to myself … “you see, these are people who are truly meant to be in academics!” I envy his dedication to his work even if I don’t see myself having the same kind of academic discipline :-). Viva la difference!

    Thanks again for the recommendations.


    P.S. “:” plus “-“ plus “)” equals :-). AND “;” plus “-“ plus “)” equals 😉 (with no spaces in-between symbols that is). Five bucks for that valuable lesson……

  • 62. YeEwunet Wodaj  |  May 29, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Hi Mazzi:

    Good to hear your rather quick response and letting me know that you would like to read Paul Moser’s essay. I’ve already emailed it to Abesheet and hopefully her service as our courier will be efficient.

    By the way, I hear you about how much our visits to Abesheet’s Tejbet consumes our time. I’m just taking advantage of a bit of less demanding schedules (with fewer deadlines to meet) I’ve these couple of or so weeks. Do not forget that I’m in academia and in the US this time of the year could bring some break and hence my frequent presence here. Once I start to travel and come the Fall, we won’t have the luxury of doing what we’ve been able to do, at least on my side. I hear you again.

    By the way, you’ve to wait for sometime to earn the $5. I could not figure out how the smile icon thing works. One thing I could not see is this: does the icon show up on the page I’m typing or does it show up once after I posted the note? If the latter then I’ve not tried that way. By trying the former I got all my pluses though they stared at me with no smiles. Pluses without smiles in this context are no smiles and am about to give up. Teach me again please and you’ll get your check via Abesheet!



  • 63. abesheet  |  May 29, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Have forwarded Mazzi the file, YeEwnet. And.. you are welcome.

    Regarding the emoticons:
    Writing “:)”, without the quotation marks, isn’t enough to show the smily. You gotta also give it space before you put a period after it. Like 🙂 , for example. Here are a few others i googled. I put a space inbetween so they don’t end up being smilies. Hope they help.

    : ) or : smile : for smile
    : D or : grin: 😀
    : ( or : sad: 😦
    : o or : eek: 😮
    8 O or : shock: 😯
    : ? or : ???: 😕
    8 ) or : cool: 8 -)
    : x or : mad: 😡
    : P or : razz: 😛
    : cry: for crying
    : evil: for evil face
    : twisted: for a twisted face
    : roll: to roll eyes
    ; ) or : wink: 😉
    : !:
    : idea:
    : arrow:
    : | or : neutral: 😐
    : mrgreen: for evil face

  • 64. Mazzi  |  May 29, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    Thanks Abesheet for forwarding the essay, and thank you YeEwunet for sending it. I am sure it will be interesting to read it when time allows.

    I am all too familiar how this time of year is relatively a down time in the world of academics before the summer schedule kicks in. And it is great it has allowed you deadline free days to indulge in such discussions at length. Though my own schedule is a little different, it has been an interesting journey nonetheless!

    If you figured out Abesheet’s lecture about using ’emoticons,’ I suppose you will have to send the five dollar to her! Thanks Abesheet beEnjeraye meTashibigN. Just kidding :-).

    By the way YeEwunet, the emoticons only show up in the text of your comment AFTER you hit the submit button and not while composing comments in the section provided. Don’t forget to leave a space between the end of your sentence (or word) before you start typing the symbols for the emoticon desired with no space inbetween.

    Try some out for fun and see if it works for you!

    Thanks again for the essay (and Abesheet for your efficient courier service), and I wish everyone a great and fun filled weekend.


  • 65. YeEwunet Wodaj  |  May 30, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Hi Mazzi:

    Just stopped by to share a thought or two:

    First, glad to hear that the Moser essay has made it despite a rather complicated route it had to take!

    You once made a point that reading Moser’s book might count towards exercising your “brain muscle.” Just one thing to note about Moser’s recent works on religious epistemology is that he writes in such a way that can be accessible to any reader with a background of some college education and with as minimum jargon as possible but consistently profound in the sense that the works contribute to substantive debates in contemporary philosophy. Few philosophers write in such a way that those who don’t have academic background in contemporary philosophy can follow the arguments with much profit. Despite Moser’s intention and effort in writing a reasonably accessible book, the one I mentioned to you, its publisher has asked Moser to write a sequel to that book with non-philosopher audience in mind (which is a point Moser shared with me; hope this would not be taken as name-dropping; FYI, since Moser and I share a lot by way of philosophical interest we do also extensively communicate about our respective interests and works; please do not infer from this that yours truly is also an important philosopher; absolutely far from it; I’m simply an unknown entity and that is my story). That suggestion by the publisher made me wonder what’s going on with the reading audience out there in that I took Moser’s works as fairly accessible to any college educated audience.

    Second, I’m curious to hear how you’ve found the Moser essay when you get a chance to read it. Hearing your experience about reading it, its accessibility/readability, etc would be interesting and I’ll share your experience with Moser too. Your take on the philosophically substantive issues in the essay is most welcome for our discussion here.

    I’ve not yet tried the emoticons. Will try soon though. Thanks to both you and Abesheet for the instructions.



  • 66. YeEwunet Wodaj  |  June 2, 2009 at 3:33 am

    Hi Mazzi:

    You must have been very busy since you seem to be away for a while from Abesheet’s Tej Bet. Hope you’re doing well otherwise.

    I’ve just received and read a good book review of that book by Paul Moser that I mentioned to you, i.e., The Elusive God. I can send it to you via our reliable courier, Abesheet. I think it’s a good idea to read a review of the book until you get a chance to read it yourself. Since Paul Moser thinks it’s a good review–he’s the one who sent me its copy– I’d not hesitate to recommend this review, which is just published in a journal.

    Let me know what you think and I’ll send it to you via our courier, Abesheet.



  • 67. Mazzi  |  June 2, 2009 at 4:38 am

    Selam YeEwunet:

    Ya Moser’s essay did make it to its final destination via a complicated route indeed :-). Thanks for sharing that. I have only glanced over it so far just to get an idea of its contents. But thanks to a crazy couple of days I have been having (Oh better and brighter days, where art thou?), I have not had a chance to sit down and read it in any depth. But when I do, I will probably comment about its content and accessibility though I am a little amused about my comments possibly being shared with the author himself through your discussions with him.

    It is interesting you know this Moser fellow in person and on professional level. I imagine if your research or interest areas overlap you might come across his work often and maybe even collaborate with him for academic works when the opportunities present themselves. Don’t worry, I did not take you mentioning or knowing him personally as ‘name dropping’ I mentioned at an earlier post. Having the rare opportunity and privilege to know and work with accomplished academics is one thing. But academic elites unnecessarily showing off their insider’s knowledge including names of accomplished or famous academics who came before them for the sole purpose of sound high and might … now that is another story. Those I am not impressed by at all, and that is what I meant by ‘name dropping’ not being necessarily cool ;-).

    As for my “exercise my brain muscle” comment, it was my little humor/commentary about how some field specific publications can be a little dense for readers from outside the discipline. I have always had a beef with ‘highly learned’ people in some chosen fields who are little celebrities in their own circles and can easily be understood by their colleagues, but for some strange reason lack the talent or the skills to be able to relay their knowledge to average readers or knowledge seekers. As an aspiring educator, I always say what good is knowledge if it can’t easily be shared with the general public who ultimately are beneficiaries to such knowledge when and if they are put to practical use. I respect great minds and scientists for their contribution to general knowledge, but I respect even more those great minds who have the skills to share their knowledge in a way that can be consumed by many (including even curious children!) not just insiders.

    Though I am not familiar with Moser’s book you recommended, I can’t say I am surprised his publishers asked him to write a sequel to his book with non-philosopher audience in mind. That in spite of the fact that he had made an effort to make his book and its message easily accessible to anyone with at least some college level educational background. College educated or not, however, knowledge seekers and avid readers of quality/substantive books might just be up for the challenge of picking up interesting academic books of many kind, and appreciating in earnest the contents/messages in such books.

    That being said however, it is not always quality books (fiction/non-fiction) with great academic or literary value that end up on the best seller list in nationwide stores. Thanks for TV, movies, cable, and the Internet even fewer and fewer people are avid readers, and reading books, and even the joy and physical sensation of holding an actual book and turning the pages while reading might just become a dying art if at some point it is decided that all books will only be accessible electronically over the Internet. And it does not help that some people think a book is not worth picking unless it is endorsed by the likes of Oprah or something :?. It is great Oprah has her own taste and all, but who says she has to dictate what the country gets to read? And why are people so eager to follow the crowd and read even mediocre books just because everyone is reading them?! So much for individuality …

    I simply love walking into book stores even when I am too broke to buy any books from my reading list. While browsing the shelves and display tables, however, I get amazed what kinds of books get the preferential treatments on account of being best sellers in some manufactured list or other. Like I always say, most readers want their literature the way they like their fast food. Colorful, fast, easy to consume, literal (what you see is what you get), and often robbed of substance in favor of mostly entertainment values. Nothing wrong with that on the surface, except I wish more people took the risk to read books with subject matters outside of their comfort zone in the name of learning something new about a variety of subjects including those that we have been discussing about at such length. But to no avail!

    So you should not really be surprise about what exactly is happening with the reading audience out there. When I was grading students’ research paper, it used to wear me out repeating myself to college level students (!) how information they obtained online from Yahoo or Wikipedia pages hardly count as reliable sources for academic research papers!! Some of the students used to pride themselves in making it to their third year in college without EVER setting foot in the campus library … not even once! Oh the horror :-(.

    I wish every child in the world is afforded the privilege of discovering the joys of reading from such an early age. But this world is a cruel one, and let alone the have nots who are stuck on survival mode and struggle for their daily existence, even the haves don’t always do a good job of instilling the love of reading in their children.

    Long live the joy of reading, discovering, and seeing our world in someone else’s perspective!


    P.S. Just read your latest comments. It would be nice to receive the book review for Moser’s book you read recently. I am happy for Moser that he had received a favorable review as well. It is nice to get good reviews on one’s labor of love and passion. Thanks in advance for sending it via Abesheet’s courier service, and thanks in advance Abesheet for sending the review my way :-).

  • 68. YeEwunet Wodaj  |  June 2, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Hi Mazzi:

    The more we communicate the more you sound like my alter-ego, esp. the way you shared your experience of reading and valuing reading books. Books have been an essential part of my life and my identity and I could hardly imagine a better life than life that involves reading and enjoying the pleasure of reading truly good books. It took me many years to unlearn how not to “worship” books since books became my idols for many years. Now I love them with care and in moderation. I don’t want to make a religion out of my love for books!

    Mazzi, I was proven wrong by both the reviewer of Moser’s book (By the way, I’ve just sent you the review via our courier–Abesheet) and its publisher, Cambridge University Press. This particular reviewer said that the book is for ‘advanced readers”, by adding that it’s intellectually demanding. I spent a lot of time working thru Moser’s relevant works and this book (I’ve writtenn three papers responding to this book and will do a larger project still as part of a response to this book and another one-The Evidence for God– that will be coming out in December) and as a result have come to have a slightly mistaken view about the accessibility of the book .

    In other words, having spent a lot of time working on these projects and after extensive discussions with Moser (both in person and thru emails and comments on my papers) I’ve become so familiar and thought that it’s a really accessible book for almost anyone with some college education. [For your info, Moser informed me that a paperback version of his book, The Elusive God will be out in September and if you plan to get a copy of this book just wait until the paperback is out]. Yet another person speaking of his/her experience of reading this same book, The Elusive God (TEG) says this: “I finally understand now…after reading and re-reading TEG over and over multiple times.
    Now, as C.S. Lewis has suggested, I’m trying to translate some of this “technical terminology” into more accessible language, not only for myself (so I can better understand it) but also so I can better share it with others when need be.” Here you go!

    So, now I want to reconsider my thoughts about accessibility of the book without much background in some contemporary philosophy. Certainly, it’s a fairly accessible book for those with a relevant background, far more accessible than many which not many even with a PhD in philosophy can understand. For those who lack such relevant backgrounds I’d not say that it’d be a really demanding reading but there is another catch to reading this book and making the most out of it: Here are some of the reasons even many in the profession miss which I came to realize after an almost inordinate discussion with Moser: Moser has been among the leading epistemologists in analytic philosophy and his contribution to his areas of expertise is, esp., epistemology, widely recognized. His earlier writings were mainly in apparently purely academic epistemolgy or theory of knowledge. Then when he lately focused working on religious epistemology or specifically Christian epistemology, many philosophers missed the connection between his apparently purely academic epistemology in his most famous book, Knowledge and Evidence (1989), and in his a bit less famous book, which in my opinion is one of the best books on philosophy and the nature of philosophy I’ve read in years, Philosophy after Objectivity (1993). These two books are fairly technical works written to advance debates about the issues they were meant to engage. These are not for everyone. A lesson that I’ve learned in the process of working thru Moser’s book, TEG, is that one who thinks that TEG is just a book on religious epistemology without much connection between Moser’s earlier works and TEG is mistaken. If one really wants to understand all the aspects and claims of TEG, one has to be familiar with Moser’s, at least, the above two books and one’s reaction to the fundamental epistemological claims in TEG should be based on the fact that the claims in TEG are continuous with Moser’s earlier major works. That is the catch: it’s not going to be easy to respond to the claims in TEG as purely religiously motivated epistemology, or as a pure religious epistemology. That is false. By reflecting on the continuity in Moser’s works one begins to see a mistake in concluding that there is a a huge chasm between religious epistemology and just epistemology per se. Yes, there is a fundamental difference in the way we are supposed to know different objects of knowledge (for example, God and a table) but that does not mean that there is nothing in common in a theory of knowledge about various objects of knowledge, be it God or a table. The challenge in reading and dealing with Moser’s works, as I’ve come to realize, is a challenge to think about the nature of philosophy itself, among other things. So, my friend, you’re entering a world that is full surprises and I encourage you to read and reflect on the things I’ve been able to share with you in relation to Moser’s works and I’m sure that Moser’s works address most of your skepticism-driven questions about God, etc that served us a reason for introducing Moser’s work in our discussion.

    Enjoy and keep sharing your experiences and reflections.



  • 69. Mazzi  |  November 21, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Hi Abesheet,

    I wanted to share with you and your readers who might have related to this post and the discussion that followed one of the MOST INTRIGUING interviews I came across recently on public radio on a program called “RADIO TIMES with Marty Moss-Coane” on WHYY with former evangelical FRANK SCHAEFFER on his new book “Patience with God: Faith for People Who Don’t Like Religion (or Atheism)”

    The program describes Schaeffer as “the son of evangelical leader Francis Schaeffer who left the movement in the mid-80s and went on to become one of its most ardent critics. His new book, ‘Patience with God’, takes on all forms of extremism including right wing evangelicals and the new atheists who mock them”.

    Maybe I am bias to the message of this interview since I happen to agree with Schaeffer’s views almost a 100 %, but I think his views can be mind teasers even to those who don’t agree with him.

    One can play the interview directly from the site or listen to it in mp3 format. Hope the link below opens with no problems.

    Thank you.

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