Life of Pi

Life of Pi

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Above image by Benjamin Balazs from Pixabay

In 2001 Yann Martel published the book Life of Pi, which became a hit film in 2012. One of the themes in the book claims all religions are true and it is enough to love God. 

At the movie’s beginning, we are introduced to a kind-hearted young man named Piscine Molitor Patel, or (Pi), the son of a zoo-keeper. As a young man, Pi earnestly seeks truth, looks for the good in all things, and decides to become a Christian, Krishna, and Muslim. 

One day, when walking in town with his parents, they run into Pi’s Christian priest, his Muslim imam, and his Hindu pandit. An awkward to say the least, as each in turn claims Pi is a devoted Christian, Muslim, and Hindu follower. Finally, they demand he choose one religion. Pi in his wisdom which surpasses his teachers, says, “Bapu Gandi said, ‘All religions are true.’ I just want to love God.”1

Fast forward, and we find Pi with his family on a cargo ship heading to Canada, but in a storm, the ship sinks, and Pi is stranded in a lifeboat with a hyena, an orangutan, an injured zebra, and a tiger named Richard Parker. Pi and Richard Parker survive on the open sea for seven months until they float to Mexico, where the tiger runs off into the jungle. 

When Pi is rescued, officials interview him on what happened to the ship. An accounting has to be made, and the owners of the ship who have lost a fortune want to know what took place and why the ship was lost. 

Pi shares the story of the animals in the lifeboat and how they survived, but the officials say that is complete nonsense. Pi then offers another version. He recounts the story, but this time the hyena is the ship’s cook, the orangutan is Pi’s mom, the zebra is a crew member, and Pi is the tiger. 

Pi explains the cook cut off the injured leg of the zebra and used the meat to catch fish. In time the cook kills his mother, and Pi, in turn, kills the cook. Pi ends the story with a choice for the interrogators; they are to choose which story they prefer. Pi points out it is irrelevant; they can’t prove one story over the other. The facts of either account can’t be proven, so it does not matter which they one choose. 

The officials choose the story with the animals, and Pi responds, “Thank you. And so it goes with God.”2

The point Martel makes is that, like the two stories that Pi told, it is with religion. No religion has the whole truth, and all are subject to various interpretations and conflicting stories. 

In today’s culture, religious claims are not truth claims, but cultural or preferred flavors and subjective (opinion) claims. In fact, making the claim that your religion is the correct religion is considered intolerant and unloving. However, Paul Gould points out in his book, Cultural Apologetics, “It does not follow that disagreement entails intolerance. We [as Christians] should tolerate-show love and respect to people, not ideas.”3

Unfortunately, in today’s culture, many on the left demand we show respect for their ideas and beliefs. Beliefs such as the right to choose an abortion must be not only tolerated but respected. Yet, I have no respect for that worldview and find it contemptible. Yet I understand and believe those people who hold such views should be respected and loved. Christian philosopher Peter Kreft wrote, “We ought to be egalitarian with people and elitist with ideas.4

Truth claims, by nature, are exclusive. For example, as I write this, it is raining outside my window. That is a truth claim, which correspond to reality and the world as we understand it. Truth claims hold a belief, thought, or statement that harmonizes with reality. 

If I tell my Jr high students 1/2 is an equivalent ratio to 25/50, that is either true or not; there is no in-between. It is not true some of the time or most of the time, nor is it possibly true or potentially true; it is true all of the time. Christians claim that Jesus is divine, but Muslims say Jesus was not divine, both can’t be correct, and both can’t be true. 

((Gould, Paul. “Addressing Barriers.” Cultural Apologetics, 2019, Zondervan, 2019, pg 194″))

In recent years as the gender identity storm has ravaged our cultural landscape, decisions about sexual orientation or gender identity are based entirely on feelings. There is no denying individuals struggle with gender identity, but gender-affirming care, which includes puberty blockers and surgery, were decided on feelings, not facts. Only in the last couple of years have some begun to acknowledge the devastation this has caused a generation. 

Nancy Pearcy pointed out in her book Total Truth the struggle C.S. Lewis had when he abandoned his childhood faith for atheism. Lewis wanted the truth, “He became desperate to find a truth that satisfied the whole person, including his longing for meaning and beauty.”5

The turning point for Lewis came from the most tenacious atheist he knew, who shared how the Gospel accounts were surprisingly good. That is to say, they seemed plausible, possibly true. “All that stuff of mythology about the Dying God. Rum Thing. It almost looks as if it had really happened once.”((Lewis, C.S. Surprised by Joy, Harcourt Brace, 1955, pg 170)) Pearcy explains, “There is no division into contradictory, opposing levels of truth-therefore no division in a person’s inner life either. Christianity fulfills both our reason and our spiritual yearnings.”((Pearcy, Nancy. “Keeping Religion in its Place.” Total Truth, Crossway Books, 2005, pg 121))

Ask yourself if the world we live in is an illusion. Or is it a product of chance, an accident that happened over millions or billions of years? Was God just a human invention, or is there a higher power somehow involved with this theatre we call reality? Who is right in their view of the world and reality, Jesus, George Carlin, or Oprah Winfrey? What you decide matters considerably and will determine how you will live your life. 

When you look at two little white pills, both the same size, color, and weight in grams, you can tell yourself they are basically the same. So on the surface, it really wouldn’t matter which one you choose, but if one was aspirin and the other arsenic, which one you choose will matter greatly. So choose wisely; all religions can’t be true. 

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Life of Pi by James William Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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  1. Martel, Yann. “Chapter 23.” Life of Pi, A Harvest Book, 2003, pg. 66 []
  2. Martel, Yann. “Chapter 23.” Life of Pi, A Harvest Book, 2003, pg. 69 []
  3. Gould, Paul. “Addressing Barriers.” Cultural Apologetics, 2019, Zondervan, 2019, pg 194″ []
  4. Kreeft, Peter. San Francisco, The Snakebit Letters, Ignatius, 1998, pg 94 []
  5. Pearcy, Nancy. “Keeping Religion in its Place.” Total Truth, Crossway Books, 2005, pg 120 []

Death by a Thousand Cuts

Reading Time: 6 minutes

I was talking with a friend at church not long ago and he shared with me his recent sleep study experience. Apparently, he has stopped breathing at night sometimes, and was tested for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition where an individual does not receive all the oxygen they need because of a blocked airway. It is fairly common for men over 40, especially those who are overweight, and the medical community believes that a large percent of men actually have this condition without knowing it.

I know a bit about this myself, having been diagnosed with sleep apnea several years ago after my own sleep study. I was surprised to have had it, but the signs were there. Always tired, sweating at night, and my wife telling me that at times I would stop breathing. It surprised me, because I was not overweight, at least not in the sense we might picture someone being overweight. I was 6’2” tall and about 225lbs. I worked out on a regular basis, and granted, could have lost some weight, but I did not have ‘the gut’ some men tend to carry. My extra pounds tended to spread out, so looks were deceiving.

I was prescribed the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, machine and after about a year, my doc told me if I would lose about 20 pounds I might not have to use the machine at all. I did as he suggested, and now keep my weight around 205 pounds, and have no need for the machine.

My initial experience of using the CPAP machine was something I will not forget. The first few nights opened up a whole new world to me, better put, it placed me back in a world I had forgotten all about. I had not dreamed for years, and after the first few nights, I would wake up with memories of these vivid and colorful dreams. I cannot emphasize enough to you what a shock that was for me. As I aged into my forties, the weight I had gained over the years brought on the sleep apnea, but did so so slowly, that I never noticed when I stopped dreaming at night.

Over the months and years, I dreamed less and less, till the Rapid Eye Movement, or REM, stage of sleep where we all dream, was nothing but a memory forgotten. The dreams I began to have again when using the CPAP machine were graphic, clear, and filled my mind when I first woke up in the morning. I would share them with my wife and think about them for hours. It had been so long since I dreamed, I had forgotten how enjoyable they were. Dreaming again, coupled with the fact that I was getting the sleep I needed, just heightened the euphoric feeling I had after I started using the machine.

As our children grow and experience the world, they are surrounded and inundated with secular media that undermines how they were raised. This daily secular dose that comes in every imaginable color, flavor, and texture. It is consumed by our children, friends, family, culture, and acts like the weight someone gains over the years, nudging them toward a sleep apnea condition.

Day after day, month after month, year after year, our children who are raised in Christian homes gain the weight of the secular world, till they no longer dwell on God, trust in the Bible, or even believe in God. This is also true of adults who once believed and followed Jesus, but over time the message of the world and its daily, soft, cottony, relaxing, peaceful dose of anti-God, anti-religion, anti-faith, much like a Charmin toilet paper commercial, erode even the most fervent Christian.

One example of the thousands we see and experience every day is the CoExist symbol on bumpers everywhere. If you look carefully, you will see several different versions of these. The message is quite simple, and very naive. No matter what you believe we should all get along. Each letter represents a belief system, or a system of thought that many use to guide their lives. Commonly seen in the Co-Exist symbol are the crescent and star for Islam, the pentagram for Wicca, the relativity formula for science, Star of David for Judaism, Karma Wheel for Buddhism, Ying and Yang symbol for Taoism, and finally the cross for Christianity.

Typically, those that have such a bumper sticker have not fully embraced any one of those systems, but more than likely, adopt a little bit here or a little bit there, so that they end up with their own belief system. You might hear someone say that all religions are basically the same, promoting love, kindness, and brotherly love for one another. The problem with this train of thought is the focus on similarities.

For example, if a man and woman are attracted to each other, they often find similarities in their interests, such as reading, hiking, or cooking. These similarities serve them well as they grow to know each other, but what will break a relationship is their differences. When two people are divorced, the courts often give the reason of irreconcilable differences. Greg Koukl, a Christian apologist, gives another revealing example of the importance of difference by drawing two small circles on a board and telling the class they represent two pills. They talk for a moment how similar they are, but he points out it is the differences that matter. This becomes very apparent when he explains one is an aspirin and the other is arsenic.

Religions often have similarities, but it is the differences that make them incompatible, and to suggest naively that all religions can all just get along and be accepting of those differences is foolish. Some of these faiths have followers who believe the lives of everyone outside their faith hangs in the balance. You could liken it to someone who is going to drink poison, and we are told to be tolerant and accepting of their right to do so. Which of us would sit silently as those around us consumed poison?

Not long ago, a former student of mine posted on Facebook, “It doesn’t matter people, Christian Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, atheist, it really doesn’t matter as long as you love.” Her sentiment we can all understand. Matthew spells it out rather plainly. The greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Love is important, but would an atheist who loves make it to heaven, a place he does not even believe in?

Some might say that ‘Coexist’ is just a bumper sticker with a positive message about tolerance; what harm could that possibly have to our culture? For starters, the message is not pointed at cultures, but religions, and how they should be accepting of one another, all the while ignoring core, incompatible differences.

The death penalty, abortion, homosexuality, are just a few hot topics that religions have very clear opinions on, but they are told to be tolerant and not force their views on others. Tell someone who is active in the pro-life abortion issue to accept Roe v. Wade and see how silent they will be. Tell gay activists to be tolerant of laws that discriminate against them, and listen to how accepting they sound, or better yet, have gay activists try protesting for gay rights in Iran to see what intolerance is.

Deep are the differences in religions, and for those active in their faith, it is often an eternal life or eternal death that hangs in the balance. To expect them to be accepting of other faiths, and be tolerant when lives hang in the balance, is absurd.

Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe in one God. Hindu’s believe in thousands of gods. Buddhists believe we are God. Atheists believe there is no God. They can’t all be right, and if they all can’t be right, then those who feel they have the truth understandably want to share it with others. The world would rather have us remain silent about our faith. The world wants us to consider our religion a private and personal affair, and to keep our noses in our own business.

Ever wonder/consider how time and culture has eroded our reasons for celebrating certain holidays? A Roman priest executed in Rome for his Christian faith. After that things get pretty fuzzy, and no one knows for sure how Valentines Day morphed into the current money making holiday we now have. Santa Claus in Christmas? He is harmless. Easter Bunny for Easter? Makes Easter fun for the kids, but when they out grow the Easter Bunny, make sure to call it Spring Break, so as not to offend those that want to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance.

The world can make anything look good, no matter what it is used for. The world can make toilet paper look good, and the world can steal your faith so slowly, you will never know it happened. These changes don’t happen over night. A paper cut is irritating, but a thousand cuts aimed at destroying religion will cause death as sure as a shot through the head.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Two and Out

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Two and Out. That is a wrestling term I have learned since my son Jed started wrestling in High School. It is referring to wrestling tournaments in which a wrestler who has two losses is out of the tournament. The past couple days were both a two and out for he and I. We both went to Sacramento for wrestling, but I also went to visit some Hindu temples in Sacramento to chat with the Pandit, (priest), and inquire about their religion, beliefs, practices, and how it compares to Christianity.

We were up about 4 AM and I drove him early to school. The team left before 6 AM, but I left a few hours later, after a relaxing morning with some coffee and some time spent Googling the location of a couple Hindu temples. The first one was the Laxmi Narayan Mandir Temple on Elder Creek Rd in South Sacramento off of Highway 99. Laxmi Narayan Temple

When I arrived, the parking lot was about empty, and it looked like there was some construction work going on in the back of the temple. I walked up to a side entrance where a door was slightly ajar. I also noticed quite a few pairs of shoes and sandals outside the door. I quietly opened the door and peered in to a very large carpeted room. Toward the front of the room was a large gold statue, (Vishnu, one of their main gods), very ornate and decorated. Several people were near the front in some kind of ceremony, so I quietly shut the door and retreated.

I walked around the building in the hopes of finding an office or someone I could ask about talking to their head Pandit, but no luck. After walking around, the only activity was in the large room that I first peeked into. So I returned, took off my shoes, and walked in.

What had been going on seemed to be over and I only saw two gentlemen in Hindu garments sitting across the room on a raised platform. I walked across the room smiling and asked if there was someone here I could ask some questions of about their religion. One of the men got up and walked toward me with a rather guarded expression on his face. I stuck out my hand, smiled, and introduced myself. He walked up to me, facing me squarely, and said, “Yes?” while crossing his arms, letting me know he had no intention of shaking my hand. His expression? Probably the same you would give a stranger who just walked up to your child and offered them some candy and ride in their car: angry distrust. My hand was left hanging for a moment and I dropped it. My expression must have changed as we were looking at each other for a long moment, when suddenly he folded his hands together as if in prayer and gave a couple quick, short bows. “Yees, yees” he said. “Pleased to meet you, pleased to meet you.” In a very heavy Hindu accent.

I thought I might as well just spell it out so as not to waste any time. I replied, “I am a Christian and I would like to talk to someone here about this temple and the Hindu religion.” He explained in a very heavy Hindu accent that if I came back Sunday, I could talk to someone who spoke better English. I explained that I lived a couple hours away and would not be back any time soon. He replied that he could answer my questions and just stood there looking at me, arms folded across his chest again. Since I was not planning on a short interview, I asked him if we could sit down and I motioned to some chairs along a wall. I was trying to look as non-threating as possible, since he had left my handshake hanging in midair. I am sure my expression was not one of loving kindness, and I had some ground to make up. He agreed and we sat down, his arms still folded across his chest.

I asked him some personal questions first. Things like:
-Have you been a Hindu all your life?
-Is everyone in your family a Hindu?
-Were you born and raised in India?
After just a few questions like that, he visibly relaxed. I was genuinely interested and did not have to feign a curiosity for him and his life. I am sure he sensed that and was quite willing to share with me, but I had a very difficult time understanding most of his replies. He was born in India and had been raised in a Hindu family. He had been a Hindu all of his life and so was everyone in his family. There was more, but I could not understand him.

I motioned to the statue in the front of the room, and asked if that was one of their gods. He said it was Vishnu and explained to me that they had one god, (this surprised me), but gave an analogy to explain what he meant. He said that some people wear gold earrings, some people wear gold bracelets, some wear gold necklaces. They are all made of gold, but all are different items. This, he said, was the relationship of Vishnu and the other gods. He also explained that they come several days a week to pray to Vishnu and to other gods and that is what they had been doing. He spoke on this for two or three minutes, but unfortunately, I could not understand most of what he said. I can’t complain since his English was a whole lot better than my Hindi.

When he was done, he got up and I thought he was probably more comfortable standing, but I had been concentrating so hard on what he was saying, I had not seen several people come back into the room, preparing for more prayers. It was time for me to go. I thanked him for his time and left with the stares of several people following me out.

My 2nd attempt at locating a Hindu temple the next day took me away from the wrestling tournament. After driving around for well over an hour, I located the Vrindavan Dhaam, but it was not a temple. It was a residence. Unfortunately, the parking was non-existent and I had already missed several matches and was pressed for time to get back. I drove around looking for a place to park, but each cookie cutter house had only one spot in front for a parked car and they were all taken. I was done. Two and out. I am planning on returning for another go, but this time I will call ahead and try to chat with someone ahead of time and set up an appointment.

My son Jed won his first two matches, but then lost the next two, so he was out. I returned and pick him up and we headed home.

Why am I visiting some Hindu temples? With all I have been reading about my Christian faith and the evidence for it, I want to talk to others about their religions and see what evidence they have, what beliefs they hold, what answers they have for some of the tough questions religions have to answer and share it here.

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