Blog Post

Status: ruminating

Beautiful Friday afternoon in Ithaca.  I'm sitting in the seventh floor stacks of Olin, overlooking the arts quad and the lake.  The autumn colors are vivid, the grass on the quad is dewy, the sun is shining, the clouds hypnotize me as they cross the sky.  I am looking at Cornell with a fresh pair of eyes this year.  I can't help thinking that this is my last fall in upstate New York, and maybe my last chance to enjoy fall colors (are there deciduous trees in the Pacific Northwest?).  Next Monday I officially sign my offer and will begin planning the next two to three years of my life - moving to Seattle, buying a car, maybe forming a band?  I need to take the GRE before I graduate so that I can leverage opportunities at UW because I want to learn more about signal processing and perhaps explore signal processing and sentiment analysis (!).

I have a few random ideas I want to share, but first, this is cool:

Lately I've realized that I can identify areas that interest me, but I rarely come to conclusions or proofs of anything.  I've been reading posts from other scholars and I'm impressed by ideas and claims.  I have a few topics I've been dabbling in... as I mentioned in my first blog post, I'm interested in religion, theology, and generally, belief and value systems.  I'm interested in the anthropology of belief systems and religious identity, as well as scripture as literature.  Compared to the heartlands of Ohio, my undergraduate career has been the most secular experience of my life.  I feel that I've grown away from viewing religion personally and instead have been interested in studying religion as human behavior.

We covered free will in my cognitive science class last week, and I've been applying it in my religious studies class.  Next week we cover ethics, which I expect to tie into these thoughts.  In religious studies class we discussed the religious community constructed in the Hebrew Bible.  This class has put an emphasis on the Hebrew Bible as a chronicle of the covenant between God and the Israelites, and one student remarked that people born into the Jewish community inherit the covenant, and must live by it.. that it could be seen as a "burden" that one does not choose.  It's interesting that there is no exact story in the Hebrew Bible in which the Israelites or descendants of Adam verbally agree to this covenant, and yet in the Hebrew Bible, God expects the Israelites to uphold the covenant of exclusive worship in exchange for land and progeny.  In comparison, Christian beliefs seem to centralize free will - Adam and Eve chose to eat the forbidden fruit, created original sin for humanity, and one must believe in Jesus for salvation.  In short, salvation must be a choice.  The Qur'an focuses on an omnipotent God who guides whoever He chooses to the *straight way* - then how can a person submit if that is in God's power?

All things to think about, without much of a conclusion.  I just think it's interesting to see free will as a cornerstone to religion - how much power do humans have over their actions or in relationship to God in each text? How much control does a person have over his own life, destiny, afterlife? 

We've moved onto apocalyptic texts in this week.  There is research in the science of why people believe in God/gods - I think The God Delusion may touch upon this, and I just saw a book about it in the Cornell book store.  I wonder what lies behind the psychology of eschatology?



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