Wednesday, March 5, 2008

God's Problem

Warning: The following Blog entry contains ideas and language that those with closed minds and hearts may find objectionable. Reader discretion is advised.

Below is a transcript of a discussion I had with an old college friend last night about God. It's irreverent and opinionated, so if you're easily offended, skip this entry. Those of you who know me know that I'm a loud, opinionated, over-bearing American. Mix that with the passion and feisty temper of a Korean and you've got combustible material. So beware. You've been warned several times.

I wanted to share this with you because it surprises me that the "major stumbling block" to believing in God throughout the history of the world seems so... well, naive. Don't get me wrong. I still don't believe in the Christian God portrayed in the Bible, but my reasons for rejecting this God are not so silly. If you find yourself insulted by this remark, then you're in good company because I'm included in this characterization of naive and silly, until recently -- BEFORE cancer, in case you're curious. I'm surprised that erudite intellectuals and theologians are still going on about this, let alone humble civilians like you and me. I'm hoping three things:

1) If you are NOT a Christian, this discussion will encourage you to question your reasons for rejecting Christianity and thereby give you a more well-thought out reason than the one discussed below.

2) If you ARE a Christian, this discussion will encourage you to question your reasons for accepting Christianity and thereby give you a more well-thought out reason than the ones discussed (and dismissed) below.

3) Whatever your religion or belief, I hope this discussion will encourage you to recognize that faith is too important to leave to the "experts" or any other source than your heart. An unexamined faith is not worth having, but it's still just an intellectual exercise. I think faith is like love -- you can think, talk, and reason all you want, but in the end, it comes down to something in the heart that can't be proven, touched, or explained.

I once claimed to a girlfriend that I knew precisely why I loved Tony. He's funny, smart, kind; his natural instinct is to assume the best about people -- a trait which I especially admire and covet, because I don't have it. The list went on and on. But the reason why I love him wasn't on that list. They were just the many reasons why I liked him and got along well with him, but that's not the same as love. I could do the same for my kids. But after filling up a notebook with lists of why I love them, I'd come to the same conclusion. Try this exercise yourself. Make a list of why you love the person you love. Then take any of the items off that list and ask yourself, do you not love them still? There's your answer.

Oh! I can get preachy with the best of them! Remember, I have THREE preachers in the family!

Enough with the disclaimers and warnings. Here's the iChat discussion my friend and I had, in the raw (bad grammar and syntax included!):

Shin: Hey, do you believe in God? I can't remember.
Friend: Not so much.
S: He doesn't exist or he does and you don't like him?
F: The former.
S: So what made us and the world? What do you tell your kids?
F: I let them believe in God, like I let them believe in Santa Claus.
S: But Santa didn't make the universe. What do you tell them about the Creation thing?
F: Oh, we'll do the Big Bang on that one.
S: And who made the Big Bang happen?
F: The whole notion that God answers the question of Creation is silly. Where did God come from?
S: That's what Josie says. If there IS a God, then who made him? I told her I think WE did. Well, not me, but people. Isn't it just a nomenclature thing? God is just us in disguise?
F: Does she ask why God would let you be sick?
S: Good question. She's never asked that. I hope she does before I'm gone. I'd like to tackle that one with her.
F: Heard a great interview on NPR last week with Bart Ehrman. He's a professor of religious studies at UNC. He decided that the Bible cannot explain why there is suffering in the world, so he's no longer a Christian.
S: How silly. Josie is only five years old and she's smarter than that!
F: What do you mean?
S: You'd let a bunch of stories written by men (note, not women, cuz that would have been a completely different story), determine something as important as personal faith? Isn't that a bit naive?
F: Tell that to your brother. [My brother is a pastor and religion professor.]
S: I do. He says he's a religion scholar, not a religious scholar. I dare say I've given my over-zealous fundamentalist family the best argument they've ever seen why we don't need God.
F: His [Bart Ehrman] point is that he can't believe in a God who would allow the suffering of innocents.
S: Who says God allows or NOT allows the suffering of innocents?
F: Pretty simple logic: If he is all-powerful, then he'd be able to stop it, no?
S: Who says God does anything to or for us? Maybe he's just a watcher and lover of his creation. Much as we will be as parents some day when our kids don't give a shit about us and do all sorts of things to hurt themselves and us and we have to sit back and let them because we love them, we don't OWN them.
F: Okay, but that's not the Christian God. That's a different fella altogether.
S: Hey, I can actually PREVENT Josie from ever having breast cancer by putting into motion some extraordinary measures. But I ain't gonna do it. I think you should save this iChat and send it to that silly man, Bart Erhman. How does such a narrow and one-dimensional thinking man get to be a professor of ANYTHING?
F: I must admit that I don't think you can judge a man by one thing someone else said about him. He's wicked smart. You don't believe me, listen to the interview:
S: HE didn't say that? Somebody else said he said that? I misunderstood.
F: The question of suffering has been one of the biggest stumbling blocks toward belief throughout history.
S: I know, and that used to bother me too, but I just don't get why it's such a stumbling block anymore. I think becoming a parent changed my view on that. I see a lot of the God-man relationship reflected in the parent-child relationship. God fails in the sacrifice-your-child department. If I let Josie be killed to prove a point, I'd be in jail, not the object of worship. This idea that God is such and such and since he doesn't do such and such, then I won't believe in God at all. Very childish. This book title, "God's Problem". Shouldn't it be "Our Problem"?
F: Are you saying God is We and we are God?
S: Wrong pronoun number. I'm saying I'm God. Just kidding. Yes, I think we are God. Or God is us. Or Toys R Us. Or Toys R God.
[We just got silly after this so it's not worth repeating. It was about 4:00 a.m.!]

I'm sure I've managed to offend some of you. That was not my intention, and I'm sorry about that. My intention is quite arrogant though. I think I have a view on this topic that many of you might not have considered, judging from some of your Blog comments and e-mail comments. And many of you have been asking me about my thoughts on God and religion lately. So if you ARE offended by my honesty and openness, do the Christian thing and forgive me.


Tony said...

Shin, I think you contradict your "Why I'm not a Christian" post when you call Bart Erhman silly. I think he was making essentially the same point you were making in that post.

We have better scholars than me who can comment on this subject (I'm thinking your brother), but I think the debate goes like this:
1. Christianity says God is omnipotent, benevolent and loves us all.
2. But how can this be when there is so much pain in this world? Either he loves us but doesn't have the ability to help us or he is powerful but a meany.
3. But like with our children who we love unconditionally, we let the ride their bikes even though we love them and have the power to stop them so that they can learn and we can give them choice.
4. I haven't listened to Bart Erhman, but I think I've heard his argument go as... yes, but there is so much innocent suffering that it does not fall within the child analogy. Its more like a parent who has put their child in a playpen of snakes. There is no lesson, their is no choice. How then can God be all powerful and benevolent?
5. I think the Christian answer is then, God works in mysterious ways.

Is this a fair summary of the traditional discussion on innocent suffering?


Tony said...

Also, I'll let the Chirstian scholars correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Christianity describes God's love as unconditional. I think the wrath and jealousy stuff is more old testament.

The reason I find the topic interesting is that I think you actually beleive in God but just don't like formalized religion.

In my case, I've always had the harder time in understanding how people make the leap of faith to believe there is a God in the first place, when there is no real evidence. But I've often found the Christian religion a very attractive philosphy of life that is healthy to adopt. I'd be comfortable if Josie and Toby grew up as Christians even though I don't actualy believe in God.

And then I wonder, are you letting your argumentative nature (which I mean in the sense of the postive strong combative fighter person that I love), get in the way of adopting something you could actually believe in?

Anonymous said...

Dear Shin
I read your blog for the first time last night. Coming to work this morning, I decided to write to you, on the very subject you so coincidentally commented on again today.

Your issue with the Christian God.

The Bible says God loves us so much that He gave only son to die on our behalf. I know I will lay down my life for my two lovely kids. But for either of them to lay down down their lives for me, let alone a clueless, arrogant, most probably unappreciative humanity? That's insanity !

Yet, the Bible says, He did it.

Is asking that we acknowledge our sins or wrongdoings all that demanding? Certainly not. We ask that of our children. Yet it does not make our love for them anymore conditional.

You have nothing to loose, and all to gain, believing and acknowledging that there is a Christian God. His name is Jesus.

Test Him. Go ahead. Ask Jesus to come into your life. Ask Him to heal you. Ask Him to remove every single cancer cells in you. Really, what is there to loose?

Shin said...

Tony, you are wiser than me and all the God scholars put together. I'll put that on my list of "Why I love Tony".

But briefly, to answer your question (which others have also asked, though not as clearly and lovingly as you have)... I think Bart is silly (as I was for most of my life) for asking for an explanation where logic just doesn't apply. Yes, God works in mysterious ways. WE are the mysterious ways. I believe that this supreme force of good that watches over us and protects us that people want to call "God" is actually the collective force of goodness in all of us. The human spirit. But if you want, call it the Holy Spirit. Call it Fred. It's there and it's going to show us love, hope, peace, and faith, no matter what we call it or how we describe it.

Shin said...

Dear Anonymous.

First. "The Bible says". No good when you're talking to someone who believes the Bible is nothing more than a good story book. And yes, I've read it. As "God's Word" in many years of Sunday School and church-going, and as a work of literature while at university. I preferred it as literature.

Second. Letting your only son die on my behalf doesn't impress me. I'd never let my kids die on ANYBODY's behalf. Sorry. Won't do it. I'd rather die of cancer a thousand times over myself than sacrifice either of my children for anything or anyone.

Third. Acknowledging our sins or wrongdoings is not at all demanding. I do it everyday. I don't see this is an issue at all.

Fourth. I have nothing to lose by believing or NOT believing, because I believe that any God, Christian God or otherwise, is not going to care about whether I acknowledge him or not. I don't think any God worth believing in would be that petty.

Fifth. As far as I know, Jesus was a historical figure who had a bad run-in with a guy called Pontius Pilate.

Okay. Let's say I ask your Jesus to come into my life. Although my life is so full of amazingly loving and kind people already, your Jesus would have a hard time keeping up.

Let's say I ask him to heal me. It could go two ways:
1) I'm healed. I become a born-again Christian. Although I tend to think I'd give my doctors the credit first, then the chemo medicine, then my positive attitude, my healthy diet, and all the positive energy and love from my friends and family first. And then I might think Jesus had something to do with it. But I doubt that. Actually, I'm pretty sure I won't become a born-again Christian even if an old man with a white beard pays me a personal visit and takes the credit for my healing. Sorry.

2) I die anyway. My Christian friends and family cry but reassure themselves by saying, "This is all a part of God's plan. He works in mysterious ways. We must not question God's work but simply believe and pray." Or worse, they say, "She wasn't sincere. That's why Jesus didn't answer her prayer." There's no way to win this game.

Actually, there might be another scenario:

3) I ask Jesus to heal me and I die anyway. Some of my Christian friends turn their backs on their faith. I hope that doesn't happen. The death of one person should not shake a true faith in anything. Nor should the healing of one person or any one "miracle" form the basis of any true faith.

So what do I have to lose? Nothing. What do I have to gain? Nothing.

And frankly, I think your God should have better things to do than occupy himself with curing me of cancer. I'd rather he fixed the situation in the Middle East first. Completely honestly... if I could choose between God curing me of cancer and God bringing the fight between the Israelis and Palestinians to an end, I'd choose the latter in a heartbeat.

Shin said...

In case I haven't made this clear in all my past Blogs about God and religion...

I'm not LOOKING for God or meaning in life. I've already found all the God or meaning I need or want.

I'm not afraid of dying. Okay, the agonizing pain looming ahead is worrisome, but I hope that won't last too long and my doctors will give me enough drugs to manage that. What I'm afraid of is that I'll be in so much pain and so doped up on pain-killers that I'll no longer be the person my kids and husband know and love. I don't want to put my family through this kind of trauma.

I'm not afraid of the afterlife, if there is one. I sincerely hope there isn't. I hope my body is cremated, my ashes scattered somewhere, and that's the end of that. But if there IS an afterlife and I end up in Dante's Inferno, what good is it going to do me to worry about it now?

I don't feel the need to ask God to heal me. I've had a great life. I've been extremely blessed. And I think Tony and the kids will be just fine without me, and so will the rest of my family and friends. There are many other people in this world who need and want God's help and who've never had the chance at the great life I've had. I'd rather he saved them.

I may sound horribly smug and arrogant, but I'm not going to start making stuff up out of fear or desperation or to appease those of you who need reassurance in your own faith and are looking to me for that. Sorry, I can't help you.

And finally, each of us will find our own way to God, however we define it. I'm at peace. Please don't fret that I'm headed toward eternal damnation. Find your own peace. I'll be okay.

Tony said...

One thing about religion I don't think I understand well is it really part of Christianity that Jesus chooses to heal people? It seems that some explain that God created the world and does not interfere that much. Others seem to explain that healing is definitely part of Christianity.

It seems that the effectiveness of praying to be healed is something that is possible to check. I recall reading a study on the cancer death rates by religion. It showed that Christianity had by far the highest death rates. This was attributed to the fact that western diet and lifestyle has lead to higher death rates than other parts of the world where cancer rates are lower.

I guess my point is that religion can give Shin peace in facing a scary situation and maybe salvation thereafter. But do people really think that religion will heal her? And not to be too cheeky but if so, given statistics, shouldn't she pray to Allah instead.

Shin said...

Re: Tony's last comment about prayer and healing. Tony told me about another study on the impact of prayer on cancer survival rates. There were three groups:

1) Cancer patients who knew people were praying for them.
2) Cancer patients who had people praying for them but did not KNOW that people were praying for them.
3) Patients who did NOT have people praying for them.

Group 1 had the highest death rate. Group 3 had the highest survival rate.

This is a curious outcome, but as with any study, it begs all sorts of questions. But my guess is that people who thought people were praying for them left their fate in God's hands and didn't bother to get involved in their own treatment. Maybe they continued with their unhealthy diets, didn't exercise, didn't educate themselves about what drugs they were getting or other aspects of their treatment.

That's the only logical explanation I could think of.

chance said...

Dear Shin
I am the Anonymous that wrote earlier on. If I have offended you with my 'in your face' religosity, it was not my intention.

You see, I chanced upon your blog. While I would freely, and gladly, admit to my faith in God when asked, I am hardly the Bible-thumping evangelical that you probably believe that I am. Strange as it may sound, I have not spoken about Christ, and salvation, and healing, to anyone, in probably fifteen years.

But, you see, your blog on why you are not a Christain touched and troubled me at once.

Perhaps it is because it seems time may not be on your side...and yes, it would be irresponsible, (entirely in my mind of course) not to mention the issue of Dante inferno. Or, of my first hand knowledge of people who were healed through faith.

But there is another reason. And do forgive me if I crossed the line on this one. What if you are wrong AND your kids, for the love and loyalty to your memories, swear off God forever? It ain't fair that we put such a burden on our kids.

You see, if the Bible is not pure fiction, then according to it, there is no greater sin that the pride of man and the denial of God.

No amount of arguing would make one a Christian. I did that for many years. And trust you me, was pretty smug about my ability to critique and tear down every theology thrown my way. Then one day, I got tired of my arrogance. And took the plunge. I have not looked back since. It is highly recommended.

Anonymous said...

"Friend" here (preferring to remain anonymous). I have a couple of things to add:

1. Not to beat up on a sick chick, Shin, but you can't dismiss as "silly" an argument that addresses thousands of years of belief and scholarship. You have to actually wade in and mess with the actual substance of the arguments.

2. Tony is spot on throughout.

3. The problem of asking Jesus to heal someone brings up a disturbing question: What do you make of it when the person isn't healed? It's one thing to ask for something vague like strength or fortitude, quite another to ask for a measurable result. I always laugh when an athlete thanks God for helping his team win because the implication--whether the athlete realizes it or not--is that God loves the winning team more than God loves the opponent, whom he has damned to ignominy and defeat. What's up with that?

4. One Christian family member is fond of uttering platitudes such as, "God only gives us what we can handle." I want to ask her if that holds true for, say, the Somali villagers raped and murdered by the Jinjaweed. (I think this is the kind of thing Erhman has a problem with.)

Shin said...

Hi Chance!

I'm so glad you wrote again. I am not at all offended. I was actually worried that I might have offended YOU! Thanks for continuing to be open with me.

You sound like a genuinely caring guy who is concerned for me and my family. I'm touched by the concern you have for a complete stranger.

But honestly, I really don't believe there is an Inferno waiting for me, or even for murderers, child molesters and terrorists (although I wish there were for those other guys) . And even if there were, I believe fear is no foundation for faith. I wouldn't want anyone to come to me or love me out of fear and I'm just a mere mortal. I certainly think God is better than I am.

I also know many people who were healed through their faith in God. I also know many faithful Christians who were not.

Some of the nastiest people I've known in my life were devout Christians. Some of the kindest people I've know in my life were non-religious.

I know plenty of Christians who are selfish, hypocritical, self-righteous, judgmental, cruel, and inconsiderate. They bring much misery to people around them. And I thank their God that they have religion to keep them in check, because think how much WORSE they'd be if they didn't have the fear of eternal damnation to keep them in line?

By the way, don't worry about "crossing the line", as you say. If I can't be open and honest in this Blog, my last gift to my children, then there's no point in spending the time on this.

So to answer your question... What if I'm wrong and my kids swear off God forever? I have absolutely no fear of that happening. I've always encouraged my husband to take my kids to churches, temples, synogogues, all houses of worship. We're both happy for them to grow up Christians if it's their choice. Also, Josie is only five years old and already, she's telling ME about God. I'm not sure where she's picking up all this stuff about God, but I'm happy for her to learn from everyone around her about all points of view, not just mine. Besides, she's way too smart to swear off God just because her mother didn't believe in God. She's already wiser than me in many ways.

And you should know. I'm not DENYING God. I just give him a lot more credit than Christians seem to. I don't think God, in whatever form he exists, would punish anyone simply for denying him. I really don't. I think God is much greater than that. So I have no fear in that regard.

And I'm not trying to critique or tear down any beliefs, just questioning and studying the philosophies. That's different from faith. I love a good intellectual exchange. One of my fondest memories growing up is lingering around the table after dinner with my pastor father and my precociously know-it-all brother, discussing religion and philosophy. Actually, they were discussing, while I hung around listening and occasionally asking questions, which I remember them ignoring or dismissing. They didn't take my questions seriously, but I loved just sitting there listening and pondering. I loved the ideas being passed back and forth. I was lucky to have these two role models of intellectual curiosity and analysis.

Thanks again for being so open with me. And rest assured that your God, if he's as great as you think he is, will look after my children despite their mother's failings. I don't even believe in your God and I think he'll do that. Have a little faith, eh?

Anonymous said...

WhatI believe is in the spririt of us,theres's no point in these arguments about "god". I think what we all belive in is the human spirit. This spirit can surpass all of life. I believe that if Shin actually dies, her spirit will be living with her children, her husband and people she loves.

Her spirit won't die. You can't assign God to Shin's spirit.

Shin said...

Dear "Friend",

In response to your four points:

1) Oh all right. Maybe "silly" is a silly word to describe what I meant. I DO think we should "wade in and mess with" the thousands of years of religious scholarship, as you say. I'm a big believer in intellectual probing and investigating all sides of an argument. Remember, I was a teacher and a journalist in my past life. And I grew up poking holes in my father's sermons as a kid. Me at age eight: "If God created light on Day One, but he didn't make the sun, moon, or stars until Day Four, where did the light come from on that first day?" I remember asking my father that question one Sunday on the way home from church. He chuckled, but didn't answer my question. I started thinking there was something fishy about this story. And that started a lifetime of questioning and wondering, which I encourage everyone to do more of. But to let the fact that we can't come up with a rational explanation for Creation or the suffering of innocents be the DEAL BREAKER in our path to faith... THAT is what I'm saying is silly. Oops! Not silly, but unfortunate. Sad. Misguided. Pick a word. Trying to find a rational explanation for God or faith is like trying to find a scientific formula for love. Sure, you can talk about the pheromones, hormones, and all of that, but do you really think you can map out your love for your wife with a chemical equation?

2) Yes, Tony is spot on. He is the wisest, most "Christian" non-believer I know.

3) Here's a story about measurable results. There was a big scandal in one of the biggest Christian churches in Korea about 15 years ago. A church member whose daughter was dying asked the pastor to save her. The pastor said $2 million would do the trick. (It was much more subtle than that, of course. "God will hear your prayers, as he does to all our prayers of hope for the funds to pay for a new wing for our church so that more people can come to glorify His name." Or something like that.) The father forked up the cash. The daughter died. The father demanded a refund. God doesn't do refunds. That church is still there with no shortage of funds or church members.

4) I've heard that line many times. It sounds annoying, but think of the intent - to encourage and empower. We give this pep talk to our kids all the time. "Of course you can do it! I know you can do it!" Sometimes they CAN'T do it. But we don't tell them, "MAYBE you can do it!"

Anonymous said...

Shin et al.,

I feel compelled to make a few points.

1) Regarding the study about the impact of prayer on cancer survival rates. Be careful what study outcomes you believe. Research is very complex, so be mindful of that. The outcomes of "scientific," "research" studies can be misleading. As you alluded to yourself Shin, there are many factors involved, many confounding variables that can cloud the issue(s) being studied. Also keep in mind that data can always be manipulated to serve various purposes, (including financial, political, and yes, even religious). This happens quite a bit in the pharmaceutical industry for example. So you don't want to simply take the outcome of any study for granted. The actual research design of a study makes a tremendous difference in the findings as well. Unfortunately, the average lay person doesn't know how to critically evaluate such factors. (Just to provide a little background for the others here, I'm a forensic psychologist by training, which means I was required, as part of my training, to learn about statistics, research design, well as conduct my own research study for my dissertation). I guess the point I'm trying to make is this. Take everything with a grain of salt, consider the source, consider who stands to benefit from the findings of the study, and consider that there are likely many components of the study that you're not directly privy to. And if you are privy to them, you likely won't have sufficient understanding of the technical aspects of the study (i.e., research design, statistical analysis, etc...), to fully evaluate the study, and therefore its findings, critically.

2) Much like you, I see the Bible as merely a piece of literature and nothing more. Truth be told, I don't even believe it to be particularly good literature. Dante's Inferno on the other hand, in my opinion, is a great piece of literature - one of my favorites in fact. While I don't believe in an afterlife, I wish there were, so that people who are cruel to children and animals would have to suffer for all of eternity.

3) Again, like you, my experience has been that some of the nastiest, most hateful people are self-proclaimed, devout Christians, while some of the kindest people are non Christians. It's been a while since I read Dante's Inferno, but if memory serves, there was a circle in hell reserved for the hypocrites. Based on my experience, if Dante's inferno does in fact exist, many christians would be headed for it at breakneck speed. As far as I can tell, christians are some of the biggest hypocrites I've come across. The perfect example: It's election year here in the U.S., and of course one of the political issues is whether the candidates support stem cell research. I of course am all for it for the very reason that it could save the lives of people like you and little max (bless his poor parents - no parent should have to lose, or worry about losing their child. But I digress...). On the other hand, the Christian, conservative right wing is opposed to stem cell research. Yet if any of these people were in a situation where perhaps their child was suffering from a terminal illness that could be easily treated/cured, I highly doubt that they would ask the doctors, "Was this treatment in any way derived from stem cell research?" And if the doctors responded, "Yes," that these parents would say to them, "In that case, I'll be refusing treatment and let my child die, thank you very much." The epitome of hypocrisy in my opinion. Christians seem to want it both ways. I almost can have more respect for those parents you hear about in the news who have their children taken by child protective services because they refused their child medical treatment based on their religious beliefs, more than I can respect most Christians. At least those parents in the the news have the "decency," misguided though they may be, to be consistent, rather than contradicting their "beliefs" with their actions. Society judges and condemns such parents and accuses them of being in "cults," but at least their actions are consistent with their words. Then there's the whole homosexuality issue. Christians believe it's a sin. They also have this misguided misconception based on pure ignorance that homosexuals are pedophiles. Well, given that sex offenders is one of the populations I have a great deal of first-hand experience with, I can tell you this is absolutely false. And yet these ideas seem to be perpetuated by Christianity. But this is the sort of negativity that "faith" can lead to. I could go on forever. Perhaps it's my own bias as a forensic psychologist, but you can look at all the circumstantial evidence and witness testimony you want, but in the end, you really need to evaluate the evidence - the ballistics, the DNA findings, fiber analysis, blood spatter patterns, etc... Many innocent people have been falsely convicted and punished, only to be found to be innocent later based on DNA evidence. I suppose the main point I'm trying to make is this. I don't think organized religion is the answer (Well, at least Christianity. I don't know enough about the others to comment on those). It may be for some, and I can respect that, but if it's not for you, then I respect that just as much. And I agree with what others have been saying on your blog - it's more important what values you teach your children and the love you show them. Afterlife or not, your spirit will live on through Josie and Toby, and that's what's important in my opinion. I can say for myself that there are some pictures of Josie and expressions that Josie makes that remind me so much of you, and I know that will carry on even after your death. And as long as everyone who's been keeping up with this blog respects your wishes and continues to show Josie and Toby love and caring even after you're gone, they'll grow up to be just fine. And we'll all ( I hope) talk to Josie and Toby about their mother and how much she loved them!

3) A final thought. I'm not sure I completely agree with your idea about love. I myself believe that love, much like forgiveness, is a choice we make. And a commitment of sorts. Yes, I recognize that it's also a feeling, but I think there's more to it. The average "honeymoon period" for romantic relationships lasts approximately 6 months. That's when all the hormones and happy brain chemicals are in overdrive. But after the honeymoon period ends, I think there's more choice involved in loving someone. Don't mean to add a wrinkle, but just a thought. And just my personal opinion.

Love you sis!

P.S. Your entry about your great day made me laugh out loud! I love you, Tony, Josie, and Toby with all my heart! Here's to more great days!

Ward said...

Hmmm. I find it quite odd. Despite all Shin's extraordinarily open and forthright blogging, her mention of God brought 16 responses (and counting). Most of her posts get one or two, as most of us are too timid to respond (or just don't know what to say - how do you respond to her careful, yet often painful, detailing of a terminal illness?)

But God? We all seem to have an opinion on that. Perhaps we see this as the last chance... a feeling Shin doesn't seem to share.

As to the "believe anyway, what harm can it do?" argument... in Australia we call that "2 bob (shillings) each way".

But you know... God, or what we SHOULD call God, exists in Josie's 'love medicine', or in Shin's efforts on behalf of Max, or Tony's gentle ministrations... or in a thousand glimpses of something eternal we often read in this open and honest blog.

Who knows -- or can determine -- if belief in such a thing cures cancer? We need only care that the glimpses exist... and that we can see them here.

Anonymous said...

What a can of worms this turned out to be.

Why does everyone think of Christianity when using the word God?

To me God means creator and I know many people, from all walks of life and religions, who have their own believes on this. No one God is better than the other, I just think it's important to believe.

I used to believe because as a kid I was told to believe. As I grew older and more experienced with the downfalls of life I became more cynical and stopped believing.

After many years I found myself wanting to believe in "something" and the very first place I looked was at myself. I really do believe in treating people how I want them to treat me. If someone needs my help I give it without question. Kindness and compassion is where I began and I believe that there are many others out there who feel the same.

Deb XX

Anonymous said...

My last comment didn't really hit the mark. I guess what I was trying to say is that God really is in all of us and to make a difference in this world it starts at home.

Shin believing in God is not going to cure her and yes he does work in mysterious ways but there has been many lessons learned through her illness, as she has noted along the way. Hopefully we can all take something from sharing this experience with Shin that somehow makes us better people.
Seeing her courage throughout all of this and still fighting for others is something I won't forget.

Deb XX

Anonymous said...


I have no idea who you are, but i couldn't have put it better myself! Well said!

Jin (Shin's sister).

Shin said...

Dearest Jin (my sister, who posted as "Anonymous" but signed off as "Jin" on March 4),

What you said about love...

You're a wise girl. I DO believe that love, like forgiveness, involves choice. Maybe we fall in love and when the honeymoon period is over, we have to choose to stay in love, or stay in the relationship, despite the fading or loss of love.

[Toby just ran up to me and asked, "You happy Mommy?" That's his latest little cute thing.]

Here's another funny thing about the honeymoon period... I seem to have had a number of them with Tony. We've been together for ten years now, and I think I've fallen in and out of love with him a few times. I've thought, "Did I marry the wrong guy?" or "Did he marry the wrong girl?" That's where choice came into it. And some of the later honeymoon periods were even better than the initial honeymoon period. Funny thing is... we've actually never had a honeymoon!

Anonymous said...

Hi "world"!!!

I hope noone thinks bad of me but I have been sharing my thoughts, fears, joys and love for Shin with a friend in the UK for several weeks now.....he just replied to an email I sent to him yesterday with this.........

Take care and... if the opportunity arises and as long as it wouldn't create any distraction for Shin, wish her well and let her know, the light that shines so bright is shining from her. *hugs*

I just had to forward it as it says so much about her. Even her physical body being so many miles away fron the UK and the fact he has never "physically met her", he "knows" the true Shin through her blog and sums her entire existence up in just a few short words. Well done Chris! I know he reads this blog and has wanted to write words of comfort and support but felt "awkward" not being "known" but I am sure that I am right in saying that Shin would be thrilled to read your comments Chris - you are an inspiration to many and am sure will also be to her and others having suffered similar experiences to reflect on...........
Leigh x

Anonymous said...

Hey sis!

Yes, i agree with your opinions about love and choice. I know there have been times when my marriage to daniel has been put to the test, and each time, I had to make a very conscious decision to stay in love, and consequently, in the marriage.
The same applies for forgiveness.

Yet another similarity between love and forgiveness. I think they are both things that, if we choose them - that is, choose to love or forgive someone - they are not something we do "for" that other person, but something that we ought to do for ourselves.

That is to say, I think that when we choose to love or forgive someone, we ultimately end up benefitting from it ourselves. It allows us to enjoy more fulfillment, peace, etc... in our own lives.

That's why I believe that love and forgiveness are always good choices to make. Because it allows us to progress, grow, evolve, and even leads us to happiness. And happiness is a good thing indeed! Even little Toby is well aware of this apparently!

In a strange way, love and forgiveness are in fact not nearly the selfless choices or acts that they may appear to be on the surface. It's somewhat of a paradox really if you think about it. But it's the kind of paradox we like because everybody wins! Both parties benefit - the person doing the loving and forgiving, as well as the one being loved and forgiven. Not a bad deal!

All of a sudden, we're getting all sorts of philosophical on this blog. What's up with that?

P.S. Could Toby possibly be any cuter? I really don't think so! How is it that I've been blessed with such wonderful nephews and nieces!

P.P.S. I signed on as "anonymous" because I'm still not computer savvy enough to do what I mean to do on the computer. It took me four tries to enter my initial comment in the first place!

P.P.P.S. I broke my comment down into small paragraphs for you this time, so you wouldn't have to struggle to read it!

P.P.P.P.S. Parenthetically, Daniel and I just went on our honeymoon after ten years of marriage ourselves!

P.P.P.P.P.S. Is there a rule about how many postscripts one can use at any one time?

I love you and I can't wait to see you and the rest of the family! I'm looking forward to spending time with all of you, going to your medical appointments with you, eating yummy food!....


Anonymous said...

Hi Shin,
I have absolutely nothing to add to such an intellectual discussion on God - however I decided that if I was ever going to write in your blog I would want to be on the page with all the brainy people!!!

Ward said...

I first met Shin in 1994 - at the APEC summit in Bogor. Between Clinton's security and the APTN booth. That's quite a long time, and a different world, ago.

So, "Hi Jin", I (had) no idea who you are either, but that's just your sister for you!

I must say though that having read your post I fear the day when I witness you and Shin in the same room - how would anyone else get a word in sideways!! ;)

As to all this poo about love involving choice - Gidoutahere - you Na's are mad!! There can be no choice involving the object of your love, only in what other things you allow into the same sphere.

And Katie... I'm with you - let me know when you find that page!


Jin said...

Well, nice to "meet" you Ward! Yes, the Na's are indeed a mad bunch, for better or for worse! That, I will concede!

And Katie, whoever you are, the Na's are not only a mad bunch, but we're also generally not as "brainy" as we may appear (although our brother is actually kind of a geek - sorry Kang, but let's not kid ourselves here!).

Then again, there's Ward, who's talking about "spheres." Yikes!

Anyhoo, nice to "meet" you Ward, and welcome to the party Katie - I hope you'll join us some more in the future!

Apparently, my sister has some pretty cool friends!


Thomas said...

Hi Shin, I am about to share my testimony of how I became a christian this coming Sat 8 March for the Alpha Course that is going to be held in my church.

Part of what I want to share is there is something meaningful in what my best friend commented to me when I told him the reasons why I decided to be a christian.

He said, "Come on, You chose what you want to believe in" Yes, if you choose to believe in Christianity, it is your own choice, let no one forces you to, because it won't work that way.

I will sign off for now.

Shin said...

Hi Thomas,

Thanks for your comment. You sound happy about your choice.

We cynical journalists used to joke, "Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story!"

Likewise, I'd say, "Don't let religion get in the way of your faith!"

axe said...

I know where you're coming from. first up, i'm really sorry for your suffering. i only hope you can find something within yourself to call 'god', some inner strength to help you through this.
i see god in the simplest things...a child's artless first laugh, the tangerine sunset, or even the way food can taste so good when you're famished. sounds trippy. but perhaps age has made me relinquish the dogmas we were raised with and just focus on the feel-good moments. they're intrinsic and i would say transient, but what's important is embracing each good moment when it comes. breathe. and call it life, god, anything you will.
all the best.
love and light

Anonymous said...

Dear Shin,

Thanks for hosting such an interesting and wide-ranging discussion on this vitally important issue.

I feel compelled to make a contribution.

As a Christian, I feel it is important to point out that I’m not a believer just because it suits or is a nice philosophy to get through life. If it’s not true, then I don’t want it.

Whilst, of course, we value religious tolerance (I think I’m right in saying that more Christians are persecuted for their faith than for any other), what people sometimes forget is that ultimately the different religions are incompatible.

The claims of Jesus are so stupendous - he claimed to be the only way to God,
and in fact, to be God. No other human has ever made such claims. Indeed, not even Buddha or Krishna or Mohammed or any other religious leaders have ever claimed to be God.

So either what Jesus says is true, or it isn’t. If it is, then it demands the appropriate response. If it isn’t then we Christians are more to be pitied, as the apostle Paul puts it: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” 1 Corinthians 15:18

There is no denying Jesus was a historical figure, who even non-believers accept as a good teacher. Some of his claims are as follows:

“I and the Father are one.” John 10:30

“I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except through me”. John 14:6

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18

Acts 4:12 tells us of Jesus: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Some people regard the wrath and judgment of God as being “Old Testament”, when in actual fact, no one spoke more about Hell, judgment, and the wrath of God, than Jesus himself. “Moreover, the Father judges no one but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father.” John 5:22

However, it is in Jesus that we see God’s wrath and God’s love intertwined. God’s justice demanded that he do something about sin in the world, and through his love, he himself made the sacrifice, taking our place, and paying the penalty for our wrongdoing, in his body on the cross.

It is clear from the Bible that Jesus’ death was not a case of “cosmic child abuse”, whereby God sends his son to die, rather, two things should be borne in mind. First, Jesus is God, in human form. And second, he willingly laid down his life. “I am the good shepherd…and I lay my life down for the sheep…The reason my father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” John 10:14-15, 17-18.

I sense from the blog comments that many people perceive Christians to be hypocritical and arrogant. In essence, all humans are hypocrites to some extent, as who can truly say their motives are always noble or pure? If I look honestly at myself, I see the problem. I don’t see the solution. The bible describes a process of change called ‘sanctification’ whereby we are being transformed day by day into the likeness of Christ. It doesn’t happen by magic. The Christian must actively live out their faith by seeking to serve, honour and obey God, actively turning aside from evil thoughts and desires which ‘war against the soul’, and putting the needs of others ahead of needs of self.

So, if you see something hypocritical in friend who claims to be a Christian, challenge them, by all means, but don’t judge the Christian faith by our failings. The merits of Christianity should be judged by the saving work of Jesus himself. If you haven’t actually looked at one of the eye-witness accounts of Jesus recently, I would encourage you to read one and make an informed, considered and intellectually defensible decision.

Christians are not arrogant if God really exists. If there really is a God who created the world for his own glory the correct response is to acknowledge him as God. Of course some people here accuse God of being arrogant, but if there is a God, then who are we to make that accusation? On the other hand, if God doesn’t exist, then Christians are simply misguided at best.

Many people struggle with the idea that a loving God could permit suffering in the world. This is a good question and believers and non-believers have suffered and grappled with this issue through the ages. Suffering does not disprove the existence of God. If we assume that God is all-loving and all-powerful (as the Bible describes), then God must have loving reasons for allowing suffering. I don’t expect to fully understand these reasons. While this doesn’t prove the existence of God, there is no logical reason to rule out God’s existence based on the reality we see. It is worth reflecting on the fact that we exercise freewill (God did not create robots), and this freewill allows individuals to behave in ways that cause other people to suffer.

I agree with Shin that to say that "God only gives us what we can bear" is a platitude which doesn’t come near the hard truth. Throughout the Bible there are accounts of God using hardship to bring his own people back to him. As a Christian I have to realize that God uses suffering to serve His purposes. C.S Lewis describes pain as ‘God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world’ – it reminds us that everything is not OK.

Christians shouldn’t expect God to interfere with the normal course of events although we believe he has the power to do so and may choose to do so. All of the miracles recorded in the bible, Old and New Testament, have the purpose of displaying God’s power and glory. They were never for the comfort or convenience of those present and even in the face of miraculous healing many people still didn’t believe.

I trust that I have not come across as arrogant, hypocritical or insensitive. I’m simply trying to share the great hope that I (and millions of other believers) have in Jesus.

Anna. (couldn't work out how to send this except as 'anon').

P.S Our love and prayers continue to be with you, Tony and the kids.

Shin said...


I'm so glad you posted that comment. Not because I agree with your beliefs about God, because, as you know, I don't.

But I think extremist, unforgiving atheists are just as bad as the extremist, unforgiving Christians they criticize.

You say, "I'm not a believer just because it suits or is a nice philosophy to get through life. If it’s not true, then I don’t want it."

I guess for me, that's the rub. I don't know if any of it is true for sure, and I don't think it's possible for us to know "truth", writ large, let alone impose it on others.

The only thing I DO know, is that there is enough love and hope in us and enough good in this world, that if we hang on to that, we'll find our way to God, no matter what form God takes.

Thanks for being so honest about your faith and for articulating your thoughts so well. And thanks for continuing to pray for me, despite our disagreement about something that is so central to your being.

Anonymous said...

Shin, as long as u're at peace with yourself, the thing about religion doesn't really matter.
I fully understand why the Christian God doesn't appeal to you, because it doesn't appeal to me either for pretty much the same reasons.
Cheers! wishing you and your family all the best.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shin, it's Thomas here and I am back! I saw your comments on my post and I'll like to elaborate on my friend's quote" You choose what you want to believe in" I think there will be no end to this "God's Problem" if you have already decided what you wanted to believe. No amount of words here will be able to change your heart or convince you if you have already chosen.

Jesus said you can see but you do not see, you can hear and you do not hear, if your door is closed no one can ever enter it.

However let me share my testimony here. I was an antichristian who had some bad experiences with christians before who only said but never do that kind. I would describe myself as an agnostic, someone who doesn't know if God exists or not and never have enough information / chance to decide. I am a science based person as well who only believes in facts and how the universe works period. Only if I see things with my own eyes will I believe, my new christian friends like to tease me as Doubting Thomas.

However one day I chanced upon this book called G.O.D Experiments from Dr Gary Schwartz, you can find out more about him on among many other books that I've read. Dr Gary is somewhat like me who is a no nonsense kind of guy and show me the experiment results please! Due to the nature of his academic and the kind of work he's involved in like mediumship, healing, afterlife etc he's been presented with quite alot of evidence but he still refused to believe. Finally one day he decided to do an experiment himself, late at night he sincerely asked the universe a question if 'you' exists what is your name? In a flash, Samuel came into his mind. He checked out the meaning and Samuel is english for Hebrew Shemuel who means name of god. He came up with 11 hypothesis of how he could not have come up with the word himself, you can read his book to find out more if you are interested :)

I guess the turning point for me was I tried the experiment myself as well and I got an answer for my particular intellectual struggle. I asked if you exists prove to me you exists, reply me, show me. I was doing this while I was bathing and a voice spoke "Look into the mirror" Looking back I could have been the one telling myself to look into the mirror for whatever reasons my brain tells me too. But as I was staring at the mirror the answer was so obvious and so appropriate to my barrier at the time. If you wish to know my barrier let me know I can elaborate in my next post.

So the next question is what has this got to do with you? My point is this someone commented if Jesus is true, what have you got to lose if you believe in him, I feel the meaning is lost put in that way. Why not try this, if you are free and bored and got nothing to do, try our experiments? Ask the whatever you want to call it any questions, see if you get answers? Maybe you won't get any at all. For Gary and I, the answers shot at us, it could have been from us and it could have not, make your own decision.

By the way I have cut short the story from G.O.D guiding, organizing, designer entity that Gary so painfully names it to the relevancy of Christianity.

Jesus said ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened for you.

Have you chosen what you believed already?

Shin said...

Dear Thomas,

I'm curious to know about this "barrier" you mentioned in your last comment. What was it?

Kathrine said...

Hi Shin
Read your blog this morning. I am not a good writer. I have three grown-up children who have enjoyed the privileges and endured the difficulties of being the children of a preacher. I, myself, have my share of life as a Christian. Is it possible for us to meet to share our personal lives about God.
Kathrine Lim