Archive for January, 2017


Many of us fail to live our lives to the full. Countless people reach old age wishing they had done things differently, and that they had made more of their time on earth…

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Here’s the second half of my rant on the subject of boredom. It’s the biggest half (joke). I wrote in the shortest half that I’m convinced vast numbers of us are bored, and this boredom drives us to attempt to fulfill our lives in many ways, some of which are wasteful or wrong in the eyes of our Creator.

Our society has reduced the human mind to a manageable size in order to maintain a controllable populace, while at the same time convincing us that life is getting richer. As I wrote last time, our modern world seeks to profit from the problem it creates, taking natural freedoms and real, free, God-given paths to fulfillment from us, and then providing endless forms of what it calls “entertainment” at our expense to fill in the gap.

Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV).

What did Jesus mean by “abundant life”?

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WHAT THE ANTIDOTE ISN’T

We tend to expect that a “real” and a “loving” God should be at our disposal twenty-four hours a day, like some supernatural Jeeves, fulfilling our every desire, fixing all our problems and just generally facilitating our own idea of happiness. This, according to our carnal minds, would be abundant life. However, you only have to look at the lives of some of the richest people around, who have all the time in the world to enjoy their wealth, to see that money and privilege don’t automatically provide happiness, contentment or a trouble-free life. And to make it worse, “The eyes of man are never satisfied” (Proverbs 27:20).

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When it appears God has failed to deliver all the goodies we think a loving God should deliver, and failed to perform all his duties as we see them, we’re prone to giving up on him. I’ve written extensively about this subject, particularly as it relates to the whole question of suffering. Here we’re being more specific and considering fulfillment and the enjoyment of life.

What did Jesus mean by “abundant life”? When we read the gospels and particularly the letters of the apostles, we don’t read about a Church having a swinging time, overcome by ecstasy and euphoria. In fact, if we look at the life of Jesus himself- our example-we see that he was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”. Then he was crucified. Perhaps this “abundant life” we’re promised doesn’t necessarily include all the good things we want out of this world: perhaps it means something else.

THE FIRST SHOT

I think abundant life in this context means that we have an inner joy of communion with our God, with the peace and hope it brings, and a spiritual life which will never end. It could be the subject for an entire series of posts. I just want to make clear here that the Christian life is not always one of earthly delights and delirious deliciousness in the way people who don’t know God would expect. It may instead be one of suffering and persecution, as it is in many parts of the world. Our consideration today is about whether, and if so how, we who are (in theory) free to pursue life, liberty and happiness should actually go about doing the same.

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The first answer must be a scriptural one, because we’re told that we are to “die to self”. We’re supposed to pick up our cross daily and follow him, and to serve our brothers and sisters. Paul said, We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up” (Romans 15:1-2 NIV).

The Christian life isn’t about fulfilling our own needs, but how we can minister to each others’ needs. In that way we fulfill our obligation to our God, we express the love we’re supposed to be expressing, and as a result we find deep meaning in life for ourselves.

Having made that priority clear, I’m convinced that God doesn’t expect us to sit around groaning and sighing for the rest of the day in order to “die to self”. Dying to self doesn’t mean we have to be miserable, morose and moribund to be a good Christian, or that we have to be straight-laced, bored and boring: it means we put God and others first before ourselves. And don’t forget that joy is one of the fruits of the spirit: it’s for the believer (Galatians 5:22). We gain joy (the real thing-not that elusive stuff the TV waves in front of our noses) by knowing Him and being in a proper relationship with Him. However, on top of that God has provided many ways and possibilities for us to enjoy life.

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CHRISTIAN REDUCTIONISM

When I first became a Christian I was so intent on parting myself from my former way of life and all that I perceived to be “of the devil”, that I purged myself of almost everything I possessed, everyone I knew, and all I had previously enjoyed. I cut myself off from all my former influences and pleasures. Friends thought I had been brainwashed by some American cult (cults from anywhere else in the world were acceptable). They were so “concerned” that they avoided me like the plague (a little irony there)…perhaps a hint that I was actually on the right track, because:

What fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Having been a bass player by profession, I sold my bass and my amp. I detached myself overnight from my musical and theatrical contacts. I disposed of all my books, memorabilia, photographs, and my entire record collection-all the music I had loved, enjoyed and been musically influenced by for years.

All I had left was a bed and a Bible, and I was considering getting rid of the bed…

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GREY AREAS (UK spelling)

Two years later I began to swing back the other way. Now, many years on, I find myself, without any feelings of guilt, enjoying things which some Christians would consider unacceptable, ungodly, far too worldly, and maybe even damnable. I regularly thank the Lord for what he allows me to enjoy and blesses me with.

No, I’m not one of those people who gets high every day and has a string of live-in lovers. Such things are among the “black and the white” as far as I’m concerned, the things we can know are wrong in the eyes of God, and as Paul said:

“…those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

I’m speaking of things which are not forbidden or perhaps not mentioned in the Bible, but which some people think are out-of-bounds for Christians: things sometimes called “grey areas”:

“Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves” (Romans 14:22).

That’s a verse some people would like to have removed from the Bible. But grey areas do require some thought and prayerful Biblical consideration. We shouldn’t allow anything which will control us or harm us:

Everything is permissible for me-but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me-but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12).

Paul counseled the consideration of others as our ultimate guide in those grey areas:

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak… “…so this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge” (1 Corinthians 8: 9, 11).

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LIVING LIFE

I believe in raging against the mold our own society attempts to squeeze us into. We all have different DNA. We’re all different in character for a reason: let’s tap into that difference, and use it for God’s glory first, and then for our own satisfaction. This applies to our careers, our pastimes and hobbies, our relationships, and to all of life. Some people are so busy trying to be different in the way they think the world will be impressed by that they’re actually all “different” in the same ways. They completely miss and mask their own, true characteristics. For goodness’ sake-for God’s sake-be yourself.

Who gave humans the capacity to laugh, to run, to see the world’s beauty, to make love, to read, to create, to imagine, to play, and to do so many other things? It wasn’t the devil, and it certainly wasn’t Charles Darwin or the process outlined in his theory. God made man (men and women) in his image: we’re able to do what we can do because of His loving, incredible design.

GOD’S WILL FOR YOUR LIFE

Look for the things you love to do and which are not ungodly, and do them to the best of your ability. This includes your career. Don’t spend years trying to discover “God’s will for your life”. His will is simple: that you be conformed to his Son. He may well have a specific plan for you: he will make it happen without you having to know in advance what it is. He has given you talents and gifts. He has given you a love for something-a passion. Do it to the best of your ability, and God’s will will be manifest in your life.

Life is to be lived: family; love, romance and sex (in its proper place and form). Adventure: why would God tell man to “fill the earth” if he didn’t want us to explore it? Challenge, learning, friendship…it can all be within his will, and it can all be enjoyed to the full. The world is a big, beautiful place, and life can, at times, be amazing: make the most of it.

If the Bible doesn’t condemn it; if doesn’t hurt you or anyone else; if it doesn’t damage or neutralize your faith-do it, and enjoy it.

 

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An old song by a British band I once liked was titled “I’m bored”. I’ve identified with the sentiments of the song numerous times in my life, and this little admission forms the basis of a theory of mine which I believe explains many maladies in our world…

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I was listening to a discussion about Don Quixote, the fictional, self-styled knight-errant, created four hundred years ago by Cervantes. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it-most particularly the Tobias Smollett translation. Quixote made himself what he could never really be-a brave knight-and went out into the world in search of adventure, causing all kinds of trouble, mostly for himself.

The learned panel discussing Quixote debated whether he was mad or just eccentric. I go with the “eccentric” diagnosis. However, I say that it was an eccentricity born of boredom, as eccentricity probably often is. Quixote had had it with his dead-end, uneventful existence, and having read all those exciting stories of knights traveling the world and fighting dragons and saving beautiful maidens, he could only find a way of avoiding madness by re-making himself as one of the knights he’d read about.

Isn’t that the kind of thing children do? Their little minds (before television, overbearing parents and public education get a hold of them) are vitally, vibrantly, constantly active, and unencumbered by the stiff, monochrome, limiting confines of reality, they create their own worlds to find fun and thrills in.

We humans look for meaning and entertainment in all kinds of ways. In the West large numbers of people are fixated on Television. I’m not saying TV us intrinsically wrong. It isn’t, but for millions who live out drab, uneventful time-lines, or who don’t have the time, energy, money or imagination to do the real thing, it’s a convenient and easy way to experience any number of situations and activities without moving out of the comfort and safely of the e-z chair. The rest of us are virtually (pun intended) addicted to various forms of digital entertainment via the internet and computer-based devices. We’re all trying to brighten our lives somehow.

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Conquerors and marauders do their thing partly because it’s so thrilling. It’s much more fun setting fire to things and picking fights with people than spending eight or ten hours of mundane drudgery a day at the office, followed by a few hours of sitting on a log or in an armchair, dreading the thought of doing it all over again for the bazillionth time the next day. People take hallucinogenic drugs not necessarily because they’re evil but because normal life is so stale, empty, gray and uneventful in comparison. I’m not condoning illicit drug use-just stating a fact. Even cats are similarly challenged with boredom, which is why they sleep so much. Some people sleep their lives away because dream worlds are much more interesting than the real one.

I’m not pointing any fingers, because I’m as guilty as anyone. And anyway, I’m convinced that God created us for so much more than what we as a society have made available to ourselves.

Neither am I saying that sin doesn’t play a part in such things as despotism, alcohol and drug abuse, and sexual promiscuity: it does. In fact, it’s the central cause, the root cause. But sin is frequently manifest in the lives of us humans because we’re seeking-consciously or unconsciously-meaning and fulfillment. Just look at Eve, who was persuaded that she would gain some exciting kind of enlightenment by doing what God had told her not to do.

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We’re bored. We’re more bored than we realize. We’re seeking vital, real, experiential, fun-filled, scintillating lives. And because we’re so incredibly and intricately designed, so fantastically crafted, yet using only five percent of our brains and sometimes even less of our physical potential, we look for a way-any way-to do something to alleviate the mind-numbing, crushing frustration and boredom which we often don’t recognize or identify. We’re unable to analyze our problem, let alone look for an answer in any constructive way. And having not lived long enough or having been unwilling or unable to find the wisdom or the power to control ourselves, we-that is, some of us-launch out in ways which may be destructive and which are sometimes sinful. Profligacy, hedonism, harmful proclivities, addictions all come from an inability or unwillingness to assess or conjure up a proper response to our pent-up potential.

Modern society is part of the problem. It also seeks to profit from the problem it creates, taking natural freedoms and real paths to fulfillment from us, and then providing endless forms of entertainment at our expense to fill in the gap. However, in many ways it fails to give what we really need to overcome our condition.

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So what’s the solution: what do we do? I’m not sure that there is a completely satisfactory fix in this life. I do, however, agree with Augustine, who, having once lived a life of unbridled hedonism, came to the following conclusion:

Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.

(From “Confessions”).

Solomon, sometimes seen as the wisest man who ever lived, sought after meaning and fulfillment through entertainment, sex and wealth. Being a king, and a very successful one, he was in a position to fulfill all his sensuous desires in as many ways as he could imagine, including possessing a huge harem. However, having tried it all he eventually came to the same conclusion as Augustine. Deciding that it was all “vanity” or emptiness, he declared:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:13 KJV).

I hear some of you groaning and complaining about “church”, and about how boring and unfriendly it can be. Actually, I didn’t say anything about “church”. And do you know what? I agree with you: “church” is frequently not what it should be, and no amount of what’s called “contemporary worship” is going to cut it for me personally-although I understand that it seems to do the trick for some people. Yes, church can be rather dull and can fail to provide the things in life we crave for, but really, it isn’t intended to, on its own. Church attendance is part of a much bigger picture of living life in step with our Creator.

How do us active-minded, imaginative souls live a life of faith and obedience without screaming inside with frustration? Is the entertainment the world offers off-bounds to believers wanting to live a godly life? The answers to these questions could be the subjects of an entire series of blog posts, and I could probably not do them justice even so. However, in part 2, I’ll attempt to offer a few thoughts…

Copyright © January 2017 by Nick Fisher

 

Some believers tell the rest of us that we shouldn’t be involved in politics: we shouldn’t speak politics, and we shouldn’t run for office. That’s just “worldly” stuff, they say. Thank goodness George Washington and his peers didn’t see it the same way. I don’t either…so here I go…

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Those actors and other big names currently attempting their own little revolution in the US should either hold their peace (was that polite enough?) and then run for office, or they should leave the country as they promised to before the election, and go somewhere where their brand of politics reigns, like Iran or North Korea.

If they don’t like the rules of the election, why didn’t they say something about the rules before the election, when they were convinced that their side was going to win? When you play a game with someone-let’s say a board game-you begin with the understanding that there are rules to be followed. You don’t start shouting about the rules and throw the board across the room when you lose. If you do, you can’t “legitimately” (to use a popular word these days) claim that you won the game. Both parties knew about the electoral college before the US election, which is why both candidates campaigned in such a way as to win the electoral college, with the media claiming that Trump had “no path to 270”. One candidate won, the other lost,  according to pre-agreed rules.

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I received a letter from that nice Inland Revenue Service about my lack of health coverage, and about how much money I’ll have to give them as a penalty. True, it’s my fault I didn’t obey the law-the rules-and sign up. But my impression was that Mr Obama’s intention in the “Affordable Care Act” was to help those who couldn’t afford coverage, not to slap huge “penalties” (fines) on them.

I’ve learned that many who have coverage end up paying large deductibles when they do get ill, and those who have government assistance to pay for the required coverage are only covered for the most basic procedures. For example, the government will pay to pull your tooth out, but not for a root canal. It is, as justice Kennedy declared enabling the Act to pass into law, a “TAX”, and governments can legally tax all they want. Somehow this particular tax was massaged and shoved down the public’s throat by dressing it up as compassion for the poor. I know from experience that free treatment or reduced costs were already available before the Act to those who couldn’t afford treatment, and that huge numbers of immigrants-including illegals-were also able to take advantage of those benefits. There was no “penalty” for those who didn’t have coverage, and nobody went untreated. Ergo, the Act actually made things worse, not better. Oh, the intricacies of politics!

Politics affect us all. And in a nation with the benefit, blessing and privilege of voting-of at least having a little say in who runs the country-believers should take an active interest, for many reasons. We have the ability to influence how millions of people are treated; what kind of society we have; whether godly standards are implemented or if immorality will dismantle our families and our homes; whether money will be used wisely or wasted; whether or not the nation and the world is secure; whether or not we have real freedom of speech or a creeping belief system attempting to shut down our minds and our way of life.

Yes, actors can say what they want-just as we all (in theory) can. That’s thanks to those of today and those of past generations who’ve shaped a relatively free society, by prayerfully getting involved, instead of ignoring the world they lived in.

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We dream, we plan, we think, we strategize. We try to manoeuvre the pieces of our lives in the hope that one day…one day…everything will be just right. But somehow things never turn out quite as we imagined. In fact, they often turn out very differently. Just as we think we’re getting used to things, they change. Our lives can be as slippery as a bar of soap in the bath-tub: almost impossible to get a grip on…

egypt-giza-sphinx-02And it’s not just our personal lives which are unpredictable, but the world we live in changes every day. Nations change, cultures change, cities change, people change, and what was once familiar, what we once thought was the way of things for the rest of our lives, is now gone, or radically altered.

When you’ve been around for a few decades as I have, you look back on your life so far and on the land you once considered to be your safe, comfortable, familiar home, and you see all the twists and the turns in the events of your life and in the life of your civilization; you see the people you once felt would be close to you forever; the places you once knew intimately; the leaders you had some confidence in; the institutions and icons you’d built your world on…all gone, and replaced by others you may feel no attachment to.
I’m not saying I’m opposed to any kind of change, or to improvement or innovation: quite the contrary. I quickly get bored with status quo, with clichés and the same old way of doing things. Give me imagination any day. Neither am I one of those who resents modern technology: I’m tapping away on a laptop right now which gets used many times a day for all kinds of tasks, and I say thank God for it.
The best we can do is to make the most of our lives, and to enjoy what we are blessed with while we can.

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But people come and go: that’s the hardest thing to deal with. And the people you would most wish to hang around often don’t, for one reason or another. And some changes in our world, let’s face it, just mess things up totally, and there’s usually no turning back. We have to face up to the fact that things will never be just how we want them to be…at least, not for long. We all need to have the ability to adapt. We all need to get into our heads that this world is temporal, our lives are temporal. We are, to borrow the name of one of the Doctors’ subjects of rescue, the “Ephemerals”, and while we want to think of our lives as unending and indestructible, they aren’t.
Here’s just one more of those subjects on which the Bible succinctly captures our condition. I don’t call it a “plight”, because the ultimate message of the Bible is supremely positive. After all, how could our future possibly be any better than having eternal life in an incorruptible body, with our Creator who loves us unceasingly?

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I often think that if the Bible’s inspiration were solely human there would be far less consideration of the ugly side of man’s existence, such as the brevity of life. We’re brought to our senses not to depress us, but to align our minds with reality and with that of our Maker. In that vein, Bible writers speak on our behalf, uttering the things many of us are never willing to face up to:
Teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12 ESV)
What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes (James 4:14).
I’m convinced God understands and appreciates that we can’t naturally see the real end from the real beginning: we know only what we see in our own very tiny corner of time and space:
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:14)
There’s hope for us, because God is our savior, and he is eternal. He isn’t subject to change like we are:
The grass withers, the flower fades…Surely the people are grass…
but the word of our God will stand forever (Isaiah 40:7-8).
That’s why God was prepared to send His Son to deliver us:
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
The eternal God invites us to look beyond our limited view. We need to look ahead, not backwards. Anyway, not even nostalgia is what it used to be.

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I think time is just a measurement of change. Without change, there would be no time, and vice-versa. You can’t go from A to B without time, and there can be no time without change-that’s the nature of our universe. So somehow, while we should look back with fondness on the past, and to learn from our mistakes, we must more importantly look to the future, which is never-ending.
It’s a mistake to get too attached to the physical while neglecting the spiritual:
…we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV).
We live in a fallen world where people and things let us down continually and we let them down. But there’s coming a time of restoration. How can a God who created such an amazing universe not want to restore it? And He’s promised that he will. In that future there will be no more tears, and no more struggle. The only change will be all positive, constructive, attractive: improvement and growth. I personally believe the universe is not only vast because our God is vast and uncontainable, but because he has plans for it, which we will be a part of, if we choose Him.

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Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children (Revelation 21).

Am I cold, or hot, or both, or neither? In this age of “devastating climate change” it’s difficult to know what my politically correct temperature should be…

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The temperature outside my house this morning, before wind-chill consideration, was -1 Fahrenheit, or -18 celsius. I live in the north-west corner of the United States: hardly the arctic circle. I heard that in Wyoming the temperature was -15 F, or -26 celsius. As I drove to work and struggled to keep my circulation going I couldn’t help wondering how, with such temperatures here, those glaciers are melting at the poles…
Of course, we mortals aren’t supposed to question the idea that climate change is happening, or that it’s happening because we’ve been eating too well and keeping warm in the winter. After all, I’ve only been on the earth for several decades, and just because I’ve witnessed no change in the climate whatsoever, let alone been convinced that it’s my fault, that doesn’t mean everything’s not going wildly out of control, and that I’m not guilty of trashing the earth.
Only the super-elite know what’s really going on, don’t they: and what’s best for all us plebeians and proles out here. And after all, they deserve to jet around the world and burn all that fuel and own large limousines and keep their houses toasty warm, because they’re the ones who are right about everything. They deserve to get more and more control over our lives and our nations…right?

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Unfortunately, far too many people “out here” have been successfully brainwashed into believing without question pronouncements from our ruling oligarchy via the TV news media and the education establishment which, they insist, are totally unbiased and completely untainted by political considerations. I say “drain that swamp!” Oh, if only that were really possible…

The great 20th century comedian Bob Hope, who was born in Britain as all great comedians have been, once said,
“England is the only place where you get all four seasons in one day”.
And he was right. So right in fact that it would be difficult to detect if there were any change in the climate at all. Where I live now I experience extremes in weather: extreme heat in the summer and cold in the winter. Older locals tell me it used to be much hotter here in the summer. Hotter! So much for global warming.
I suppose we just have to trust that our betters know what we don’t know, like at the recent election time when they told us that Donald Trump didn’t have a chance of winning, and that he “didn’t have a path to 270”. To tell the truth (honestly, really, truthfully…no, really) I don’t trust anything my “betters” say any more. The people who tell me that babies should not be allowed to be born, and who tell me that I’m a racist because of who I wanted to see in office, and who tell me that dirty water turned into us, and who tell me that I need to shrink my budget while they spend more and more, are not to be trusted, in my humble opinion.
“All reputable scientists believe in global warming and/or climate change”. Really? That’s the image being projected via the Ministry of Truth, as they seek to silence scientists such as Judith Curry. Curry was, until a few days ago, Professor and former Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and President (co-owner) of Climate Forecast Applications Network (CFAN). Curry made a statement to the US senate on the subject which goes against the grain-read it here (1).
“All reputable scientists” believe I’m guilty of destroying the earth’s climate? Then why have 31,487 American scientists, including 9,029 with PhDs signed a petition stating the opposite (2)?

Ah, but they’re the “disreputable” scientists, because they don’t agree with the official story. They’re the “flat earth society” scientists. Well, I’m happy and honored to be a member of the flat earth society (though I’m not a scientist).
We used to be warned about global warming, but since most of us don’t sense any warming but only wish there was some warming going on, well, the concept of climate change is much more marketable.
I’m more inclined to agree with John Coleman, the Weather Channel founder who said that the concept of man-made global warming (remember, there have been natural climate changes throughout earth’s history) is “baloney”. He stated that the issue has now become “political”, and that scientific support for it is based on the need and desire for government funding:
Since the government only funds scientists who put out results “supporting the global warming hypothesis,” he claimed, “they don’t have any choice.”
“If you’re going to get the money, you’ve got to support their position. Therefore 97 percent of the scientific reports published support global warming. Why? Because those are the ones the government pays for and that’s where the money is.” (3).
NOTES
1 https://curryja.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/curry-senate-testimony-2015.pdf
2 http://www.petitionproject.org/
3 http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/weather-channel-founder-man-made-global-warming-baloney

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