Monday, September 29, 2014

Religion and Evolution Without Gymnastics: A Response to David P. Barash

    Keep calm, I tell myself. Keep calm.
    But illogical arguments don't sit well with me. Typically I ignore them. Okay, half the time I ignore them. And by ignore, I mean I don't rant online about them, just to my cats or my sister.
    But since this latest piece deals directly with science and religion, two things I'm pretty passionate about, I'll respond. (Also my dear twin asked me for my thoughts).
    So, last night my sister forwarded me an opinion article published in The New York Times, written by a biology professor named David P. Barash. Dr. Barash presents, once again, the argument that God and science are incompatible masked as a defense of evolution.
    I've heard this a lot, and I used to believe it. Now I don't, so I'd like to respond to Dr. Barash.
    But, first of all, I'm aware that Dr. Barash is a distinctive scientist, whereas I'm, uh, just starting a PhD program. I respect him as a scientist who knows a heck of a lot more than me about science, but I don't think that means his arguments are above critique.
    Also, I'd recommend you read the article before continuing, or I might sound (more) nonsensical.

    Okay, ready? Let's go through this.

     1. I’m not a legal expert, but I would like to know if this "Talk" violates separation of church and state. If I'm wrong, do inform me. Update: see comment below. It doesn't. It helps having friends who know legal issues. :D
     But I still find it problematic that he's saying he wants his students to choose, while telling his students "they will have to undertake some challenging mental gymnastic routines.” That’s as close to saying “your belief is wrong and as a scientist you can’t believe in it” as you can get without saying it outright. And if they’re not asking him his opinion, he has no right to give this indoctrination - I mean, talk. They signed up for biology, not philosophy. Your job as a professor is to prove evolution, not the lack of logic in religion. 
     2. Granted, he says his point is that evolution is correct and we can’t twist science. Well, yes, we can’t twist facts - including evolution (yes, I agree that evolution is true). But in his essay, he focuses more on disproving God’s compatibility with evolution than ACTUALLY proving evolution, which makes me question his true motives. But, again, I don't know him personally and it's hard to guess his motives based on one essay. So, pardon the cliché, take my opinion here with a grain of salt.
     3. Most importantly: in his essay, he engages no argument for the Bible not being a science book. He doesn’t mention Francis Collins’ work, or Peter Enns’ work, or any of the number of scientists and scholars who don't engage in “gymnastics” or “nostalgia” (which we all know are code words for “your belief is irrational”).
     Personally, as a scientist (though not a biologist) I don’t see a conflict. Now, I've heard that the Bible uses an intersex term for the first human before creating man and woman through Adam's rib, which could imply evolution. But whether you buy that interpretation or not, the Creation story reveals the truth that God put His image in us, that God intends for a good, restorative creation. Not chaos. Not evil. Not a balance of good and evil. Good. If we read the Bible to glean this message, there is no mental gymnastic - or nostalgia.
     4. Why is there no nostalgia? I could be wrong, but I’m guessing Barash views the Christianity-is-compatible-with-evolution faith as nostalgic because we don’t want to give up our Imaginary Jesus Friend. Except, we don’t read Genesis to understand Jesus; we read Jesus to understand Genesis. Jesus shows God’s ultimate act of restoration, which God started in Genesis. That’s not nostalgic, it’s a logical and reasoned interpretation of a text using Jesus as our hermeneutic.
      In essence, Dr. Barash has constructed a straw man in which He views Christians who believe in evolution as ignorantly as Young-Earth Creationists view us (in fact, if he would have his students accept his arguments based on a straw man, he is using the exact same tactic as a YEC, only his threat is “nostalgia and lack of reason” rather than “ unbeliever").      

     Unless he engages in a Christian evolutionist’s actual arguments, listens, and thoughtfully explains why he believes otherwise - and presents ALL evidence to his students - why on earth is he giving this talk? And, for the record, should he actually accommodate other views into this talk, I personally believe he should still present this in a philosophy of science class, or in office hours. Not in biology lecture. 
     All that being said, I'd like to make it clear that Dr. Barash is entitled to his opinion that evolution and religion are incompatible. I just don't think he's entitled to imply that's the only conclusion one can reach.

    *End rant.*



Saturday, September 27, 2014

Round and Round: Me and My Body

***A very serious trigger warning for eating disorders, friends.***

    According to my medical reports, I've gained weight over the last year.
    I originally requested my doctor not to reveal my weight to me. But then last Friday happened.
    I frantically looked up my medical records online. I also searched how to lose 10 pounds in a week, and considered starving and dehydrating myself because, you know, water weight.

    I tend to use food as my comfort. Sugary food. Like frosting. I <3 frosting. Cake drowning in frosting.
    Well, apparently that, and not my refusal to starve myself, has led to me gaining 10 pounds this year.
    And I want it off. I'm tired of pinching my fat and wearing loose skirts and oversized pants because I can't look at myself in a mirror anymore.
    I'm tired of being terrified to wear a bathing suit.
    I'm disturbed that I still envy the anorexic girls I pass on the street, with their thigh gaps and frail arms.
    I know that weight is not sexy. But it always felt comfortable for me (even though I could probably lose half my body weight and never have a thigh gap).

    I thought I was done with this.

    It's easy to scream and blame the jerk who catcalled me for my "big booty" Friday night. But I have to admit these feelings - these feelings of self-revulsion and insecurity, the appeal of 1200 calories a day, and the fond memories of being stick skinny - were brewing for a while. I guess the sexist jerk just brought them to the surface quicker.
    At least I've learned to appreciate my reddish hair and blue eyes and even to like my face, which I never did before. I'm gaining a personality and I love chemistry and I love writing. I especially love people.
    It's a start. A good start, I hope.
    But it's not an end. Which means I'll have head to back to my counselor and have a conversation about something I thought was over and done.
    But this cycle needs to end like my neighbor's music. I don't want this, not really. I know the damage to my mind soul is a hefty price that will never be worth it.

    Yeah, there's no real point to this post. Other than honesty, which I hope is a bigger deal than I feel it is. Edit: yes, there is a point. Sometimes saying stuff, the hard and sticky secret stuff, aloud can reduce the secret's power. 
    So, no, old and new eating disorder temptations, you don't have absolute power over me. I prefer to give my power to Jesus and help others with it, not starve myself. Kthnxbye.
    Here's a hug for you all.
    And some kittens.


Monday, September 22, 2014

I'm Afraid I'll Become an Atheist

    Can I tiptoe up to you? Can I whisper in your ear?
    I have a secret.
    I know, I know.
    I ask too many questions.
    Look, I'm a scientist. I live on questions. But wonders on chemical bond formations aren't the type of questions I'm talking about.
    I'm talking about those questions, the questions that raise eyebrows and churn my stomach with fears of heresy. The questions like is God good? Is Christianity true? What's the point of life in light of eternity?
    So can I tell you my secret?
    Here goes.
    I'm afraid my questions...will turn me into an atheist.
    Side note: I know atheists who are among my kindest, most intelligent and helpful friends. I sincerely hope they know I'm not insulting them here.
    It's just, I like my faith. I want it to be true, so I don't want to be an atheist. (And maybe there's a tiny part of me still afraid of excommunication followed by an eternal barbecue...will you just stop, inner fundamentalism?).
    But, yeah. I want to be a Christian.
    I love the idea of God as Creator. God as Storyteller. A God Who believes in redemption and love and hope and good. A God who is so deeply intimate and personal He came to Earth to become one of us, a God who sees value in every. last. person.
    I want the chance to love everyone who ever existed (well, nearly everyone. I'm not perfect, so I freely admit I'd be icky about, say, Hitler and Nero and Genghis Khan - sorry).
    I want the chance to know that subverting oppression is not in vain.
    I want to see that everyone is special (as much as I love The Incredibles, the phrase "when everyone is special...nobody is" is nonsense. If everyone is special, everyone is special).
    I want redemption. Forever. I don't want this to be it.
   - Not for the victims of the Crusades and the Holocaust and the IS and North Korea
   - Not for the privileged but suicidal transgender American teenager
   - Not the inner city kid enticed into a gang, shot dead before he even reached two decades
   - Nor the bitter old man who's all, all alone
   - Not even the bigoted, venomous people who don't understand good.
    I want love to win, to really win, and I want God to be Love (Thanks, 1 John).
    Y'all are too wonderful and I hope and pray we actually have a God who is up there and Who is good.
    I know, I need rational reasons for belief. I have them, but I won't pretend they're hard proof.

    This post isn't a defense of my beliefs. It's not even a complete explanation.
    It's something I just wanted to say.

    I feel (gasp!) that many of us Christians are so caught up in defending their faith, we make it sound like eternal blackmail. A no-way-out situation. You have to believe or suffer eternal sadism, so you'd best do it.
    Desire isn't really mentioned. Maybe we realize we've been bad people and desire forgiveness, but we don't generally hear about people wanting to be a Christian because it's good.
    What if we admitted that the "good news" isn't behavior modification or get-blessed-quick schemes? What if we admitted that the good news is, well, goodness? Redemption, forgiveness, salvation, justice and grace and mercy, humility and listening, freedom from oppressors, they're all part of this good.
    Plus, I have this smidgen of an feeling that all good reflects God Our Author (to bring this full circle: hence my many questions. I'm looking at you, genocidal Book of Joshua).

    So if you ask me why I'm a Christian? Yeah, I'll be honest: a large part of it is because that's who I want to be.
    Why do you believe why you believe (or don't believe), and do you like it?


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Bible Can't Save Us

    The Bible cannot save me.
    The Bible can't save anyone.
    Certainly the Bible is profitable for doctrine once understood in its context. But the Bible cannot save us.
    The Bible did not redeem me. The Bible is not the Word in the Beginning.
    The Bible cannot love me, or you, or anyone.
    The Bible cannot whisper the voice of God. Certainly God can whisper through the Bible, but the Bible is an object. A holy, inspired collection of stories, both poetic and narrative, yes, but it's still an object.
    The Bible is not God. We were created by a Trinity, not a Quarterinity (which isn't even a word, but you get the point).
    And so, the Bible cannot save us.
    I've been wanting to pen this post for a while, but I hesitated because people will judge me I know I'm a bad Christian could anyone relate?
    But a few days ago a lovely post went up at Sheloves Magazine from a writer named Heather, explaining that she stopped reading the Bible because reading it shredded her heart every time.
    Which is basically my story, too. Tears pricked my eyes when I read Heather's words because I thought that, just maybe, I felt God whisper to me through a blog post.
    I've written a bit before about my struggles with scrupulosity.
    So when I hear the typical evangelical encouragement to memorize Scripture, I cringe, because they don't know how much I've done that. How much I chanted verse and prayers in my head whenever I faced temptation, repeating them until I got them worded exactly right. Exactly.
    When I hear a well-meaning pastor's encouragement to get up early each morning and read the Bible, I feel cold. Because they don't know about the times I spent an hour meticulously reading every. word. of a chapter, making sure I knew every freaking definition, making sure I gleaned meaning from even the most tedious verses (hence why I hated Ezekiel: and he took his rod and measured, and the temple was this many cubits by this many cubits...).
    These compulsions were so ingrained in me that, even when I ignored God in all other aspects of life in high school, I continued my chants and prayers.
    And naturally, when I finally decided I wanted God again, I started reading the Bible with renew purpose.
    Every. Day. Making sure I underlined and reread anything I wasn't getting meaning from. I took special care on the days before college exams, so God would bless me on the test and not punish me for putting biology/chemistry first.
    I was scared, I think. I wanted to Do The Right Thing, and the Right Thing was a formula that fit everyone.
Geez this image triggers anxiety.
    But formulas and feelings only take you so far. When the stress and anxiety began piling on junior year of college, and when the depression collapsed senior year, my Bible reading collapsed into a formula devoid of meaning.
    I kept reading, determined to affirm I was still following a God I doubted and couldn't hear from, so people couldn't accuse me of being depressed because I'd fallen away from God (for those who don't speak Christianese, "falling away" describes the unintentional process of prioritizing the secular over God until we no longer care about Him).
    Heck, even when I started recovery and my church attendance plummeted whilst I began re-examining every belief, I still read daily. No longer a chapter, however. I just read a story of Jesus' ministry.
    I was disappointed that nothing changed. I was still doing it because I had to. Bible devotionals incited rage or gave me panic attacks.
    When I returned from the Mideast, I have to admit, my daily Bible readings went the way of the dodo bird.
    Strangely, not reading my Bible every day, I felt closer to God.
    I want to love the Bible.
    I don't think I do.
    I love what the Bible reveals - a God who loves us, who told us to love Him and others as the greatest commandment. A God who came to earth to live among us, a God who would rather die Himself than kill us. A God who defeated death, a God who promises that life ought not be how it is, who promises that He is alive and restoration will occur.
    But I'm horrendously confused by the Old Testament stories of God-approved genocide, and I'm ripped apart inside when I read of a lake of fire. I'm repulsed by the use of Bible verse to bash the victimized while we conveniently ignore Matthew 7:1.
    I know there are books dealing with these messes. Peter Enns just released a book on it. Maybe I'll do some reading and come away with a different perspective, ready to read the Bible again.
    Heather said she just wasn't ready to read the Bible yet. I guess you could say that's where I am, too.
    It'd be nice to wake up each morning and treasure the Bible. But I'm not there yet, and I'm not sure when or if I will be.
    I guess it's good then, that the Bible doesn't save us; God does.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Woman in a City

*Trigger warnings for language and discussions of sexual violence.

All women is not an exaggeration here, either, friends.

    I was shamelessly singing Mat Kearney to myself as I hurried back home. It was a crisp Sunday evening and Boston glowed behind me, sending a multitude of colors shimmering off the Charles River. I passed the campus I'd attend class early the next morning, sped up as I approached my apartment.
    In the day I take a shortcut through a side street, but at night I opted to take the "safer" main street.
    I was kinda lost in thought and song, in a mood as bright as the city.
    So when I heard his taunt, I didn't realize that the old man was yelling at me until I saw that his eyes were fixated on me.
    My heart sped up, my fists curled, and all I could think was I'm almost home.
    But what if he was following me?
    With a shiver, I whirled around. No old man.
    When I turned onto the side street, I passed two guys on their phones. Their mere presence typically only provokes the slightest unease, but now it provoked actual fear.

    If you don't think feminism is needed, you have never imagined being a woman in a city.
    The old man invited me to "do something" with him if I "have that feeling" while I was walking alone at night, sure.
    I've also been invited to fuck in broad daylight. While I was in a group.

    I've been hollered at by old men on benches dressed in one of my favorite skirts and feeling cute.
    I've also been heckled for my "fine ass" dressed in a oversized jacket and shorts, and invited to flash while I'm wearing a loose T-shirt and shorts (and no, I don't have long legs, so don't tell me shorts were the problem).

    I'm tired of being scared of men. Men are complex human beings with God's image.
    No, I'm not tired. "Tired" is too nice a word. I'm freaking sick of this.
    I'm freaking sick of having to take care that I'm walking in well-lit sections so I probably won't get raped.* And, as Sunday night showed, there's no avoiding harassment, none at all.
    I'm freaking sick of having to worry about sexual assault on my way home from work or a friend's house at, say, 7 or 8 pm.

    When the system enforces one gender to take precautions to avoid attacks by another gender, that is a huge problem. Why can't we be one united body of human beings? Different, we all are, man or woman or intersex, but why can't we all be understood as human beings? God made us! We're awesome! We're unique! We can celebrate without needing power! Please, let's love each other. Please.
     We need to love each other.

    Jesus have mercy. On all of us. Give us hope.


*I realize sexual assault happens to men too, and I'm not trying to diminish that horror; I'm merely writing my own experiences here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Reclaiming Innocence

    Last Friday night I enjoyed the company of one of my best friends, Rosalie Jiang. Somehow, in between our reminiscing over college and discussing our quarter-life crises, we landed on the topic of innocence.
    And she said something very wise and beautiful, especially for this very visual learner, so I thought I'd share it for you to see.
    Innocence, it's often thought of as fresh-fallen snow. And snow shines most brightly in the sun, which, you know, is exactly what can melt it. Innocence shines most brightly in the face of what might destroy it.
    I think of people like Anne Frank, who somehow kept optimism about humanity even as she hid from the people trying to destroy her family.
    I think of children, who have to ask questions like "what is war?" and "what is death?"
    I think of Jesus, who was God and saw everything, yet still wept at death.
    I also think of Adam and Eve, who ate from the tree of knowledge. As someone who loves learning, I'm always bothered by why knowledge was forbidden.
    Except, it wasn't simply "The Tree of Knowledge." It was "The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil."
    And so, perhaps, the Garden involves the loss of innocence - the deep knowing of evil.
    Fine, okay. But what is innocence?
    Well, I don't have a concrete answer, but that's okay because I prefer the abstract.
    I do think innocence is often shortchanged; we view it as either naiveté or virginity. However, if innocence is a virtue, I don't think it can be ignorant like naiveté. Nor can it be the rigid sexual 'rule' of virginity - Adam and Eve were married and innocent.
    Innocence, maybe, is an elusive essence, found in the unblemished love of mother for child, in the hope of a bride, and in the kindness of a small child offering you flowers. Maybe innocence is found the belief that God can use goodness and beauty to save the world.
    Whatever it is, innocence is subversive. When violence seems the easiest action, when bitter retorts the best response, maybe we reclaim a bit of that shining innocence when we choose peace and love.
    Maybe we reclaim innocence when we see the reality of our abuse and say no. When we leave because this is not how it should be. Maybe innocence is seeing things as they should be.
    Maybe truth is not condemnation. Maybe the truth is innocent.
    Innocence shines most brightly in the face of what might destroy it.
    Maybe innocence is in the image of God. Maybe it's still hidden in us tired seeking souls.
    Maybe we'll all shine our brightest in the face of what can destroy us.

Friday, September 5, 2014

How Chemistry Influences My Faith

    There's a similar expression that crosses most people's faces when I tell them I study organic chemistry, as if the question are-you-smart-or-just-crazy flashes through their mind (for the record, the answer is crazy).
    So I typically reply "I love chemistry." And I mean it, but sometimes my claim comes with no reason or feeling, like I've buried them beneath my fears of failure or rejection or my enjoyable but chemistry-free times this summer. I'm also secretly afraid that I'm just fooling myself thinking that I can actually do grad school in orgo (Ha, according to TA training, this is called "Impostor Syndrome").
    But now that I'm enveloped in organic chemistry problem sets again (at last! No, seriously, I find them fun, if difficult), I've been re-discovering why I like the subject.
    That's a bit of a grand word, but it rings true. When I took freshman pre-med chemistry, I'd never learned quantum mechanics. I'd never heard of wave-particle duality or molecular orbital theory, I'd never seen the different shapes of the s, p, and d electron orbitals derived from Schrödinger's Equation (not that I cannot derive them for you, even now - sorry, Professor). I hadn't heard of Fermi contact affecting NMR spectrums. Really, I had a set, sensible way of thinking.
From Wikipedia: Two atomic p electron orbitals form a molecular pi bond.
    And chemistry blew all of those set images apart. You thought of electrons as dots? Nope. It's a cloud that's two things at once. I thought of molecules as having their bonded electrons in fixed places between two atoms? Guess again.
    The world was so intricate and crazy and above our current mind's understanding. There was so waiting much to be discovered.
    Soon I became obsessed and determined to study this subject. When I was introduced to organic chemistry, I found the puzzle-like aspect of the subject both enthralling and enjoyable. And working in a lab proved exciting, interesting ... and full of failure, because chemistry definitely teaches you to fail. Life lessons, I suppose.
    People say science and religion cannot coexist. Many religious people claim scientists have an anti-God agenda in promoting global warming and relative quantum mechanics and evolution. Many scientists view religious adherents as willfully ignorant, scared of both facts and truth.
    And so it's quite scary to say I'm a Christian and a scientist. Even if Christianity is what I believe and science what I do, they're both parts of me, both influence the other, and so separating them isn't possible (nor is it helpful).
    (Sidenote: I should clarify, when I speak of the two influencing the other, that I do not mean I consider the Bible a science book or science a holy word).
    The notion that the universe is nothing we can decipher, that sucks me in like a black hole. It's crazy-freaking-awesome. I don't want a God I can fit into my small box of limited understanding; in that case, there's no clearer sign he's a made-up entity of my mind.
    I want a God who leaves me wonderstruck.
    So, if the universe is so beyond our current understanding, how much more is God? How much more is his love and mercy and goodness and holiness?
    I find that exciting.
   And so chemistry and Christianity are not a conflict in my life. Both science and faith draw me closer in a dance with God (If I danced, that is). ;)
   What are your science/faith experiences?


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Stories That Changed My Life

    Okay, I'm a ravenous fiction addict, so... because I'm short on time and long on problem sets and procrastination, here's a list of ten books whose stories have continued to haunt/inspire me long after I finished reading them. Basically, they're novels that have changed my life. 

1. Crime and Punishment
    You don't want to know what I would do for half the writing mastery Fyodor Dostoevsky possessed. Seriously, who else can weave the story of an axe murderer's existential crisis under the guidance of a saintly prostitute, and keep it terribly beautiful? If you're filled with hatred of humanity, this story will both affirm your rage while stirring your hope in redemption.

    Quote: “Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.” 

2. Anna Karenina

    Russian Literature is where it's at, my friends. Ahem. Anyhow, Tolstoy himself esteemed Anna Karenina above War and Peace (which you should also read). The magnificent characters come across so intricately human you feel you could meet Anna or Lenin if you walked out your door. No human emotion and thought was too silly, wicked, idealistic, or noble for Tolstoy to record, and so I couldn't help but identify with all of his characters, noble or base. Plus, there's a portion of the story Tolstoy writes from a dog's the point of view, so all animal enthusiasts will have one more reason to love Anna Karenina.

    Quote: “All the girls in the world were divided into two classes: one class included all the girls in the world except her, and they had all the usual human feelings and were very ordinary girls; while the other class - herself alone - had no weaknesses and was superior to all humanity.” 

3. Les Miserables
    What draws me to mercy? What draws me to showing compassion? Victor Hugo's iconic image of the Bishop of Digne freeing the thief Jean Valjean and giving him his most valuable items. The Gospel of Jesus is acted out through the Bishop, and his impact on Valjean's life is inspiring beyond words.
    Quote: "Before him he saw two roads, both equally straight; but he did see two; and that terrified him--he who had never in his life known anything but one straight line. And, bitter anguish, these two roads were contradictory.” 

4. Waiting for the Barbarians

   J.M. Coetzee's Nobel Prize winning novel is written in an enchantingly simple yet poetic prose. Too bad that's all that you'll find enchanting. A story set in no discernible time nor discernible location, where most characters have no names, Waiting for the Barbarians examines a man's struggle for morality as fear of the indigenous barbarians leads the Empire to dehumanize anyone who opposes them. It's graphically violent, graphically sexual, and above all graphically human. I've never had a novel make me cry and scream and cheer through my tears in one page. Read it when you need your heart broken.

    Quote: "‘Look!’ I shout. ‘We are the great miracle of creation! But from some blows this miraculous body cannot repair itself! How—!’ Words fail me.  ‘Look at these men!’ I recommence. ‘Men!’”

5. Frankenstein 
    Besides that Victor Frankenstein is a chemist (hehe), Mary Shelley's masterpiece has made me re-examine everything from my purpose in creating, my view of others, compassion and justice, to my view of God. Grim but so, so necessary - and convicting.

    Quote: "'Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemlance. Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred.'"

6. Harry Potter 

   I didn't read J.K. Rowling's epic series until last year because the whole witchcraft thing weirded me out. Then I read a story of love and good vs. evil in a world we all want to join (you can admit it). This story is peppered with stunningly complex characters like Severus Snape and Sirius Black, whom you love despite how uncomfortable their actions make you. Plus, Hermione is one of the greatest female characters of all time. She's a genius who shows you don't have to be kickass to get stuff done (not that kickass is bad, but, well, I'm just not). It'll rekindle your belief in good again. 

    Quote: “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

7. The Lord of the Rings
    As a writer of fantasy, of course I had to include Tolkien's renowned tale. Besides friendship and breathtaking world building (I am forever dissatisfied that we don't know much about Beluthiel's cats) Smeagol's fight with Gollum's very real addiction to the Ring transforms him from a pitiful character to someone most addicts can all identify with, however uncomfortable that may make us. Plus, the ending will leave you aching.

    Quote - "Not all those who wander are lost."

8. The Chronicles of Narnia

    My introduction to the wonderful world of fantasy began with C.S. Lewis's The Magician's Nephew, and I've yet to stop obsessing. Theological musings mixed with children's stories; how can it get better? And I found myself, like the many marvelous characters who undergo drastic change as the books progress, altered after reading these stories.

    Quote -  “'It is very true. But even a traitor may mend. I have known one who did.' And he looked very thoughtful.”

9. The Master and Margarita
    I've returned the list to Russian Literature, surprise. Mikhail Bulgakov's novel is bizarre and satirical, two things I don't normally enjoy. And I didn't enjoy them in The Master and Margarita, either. But I've kept coming back to this novel and all the questions it raised in the years following. I mean, when Satan's visit atheistic Russia becomes entangled with a married woman who wants to find her unjustly imprisoned lover, who happens to be writing a novel based on Jesus' crucifixion, masterful (pun intended) musings on theology, fantasy, Russian literature, and mercy are bound to occur.

    Plus there's this fantastic quote: “Follow me, reader! Who told you that there is no true, faithful, eternal love in this world! May the liar's vile tongue be cut out! Follow me, my reader, and me alone, and I will show you such a love!” 

10. A Voice in the Wind

    Francine Rivers' novel is technically classified as Christian literature, but I think that people of most religious beliefs could enjoy the story of a Jewish slave girl in Rome, who falls in love with her wildchild mistress's brother. The character development, especially in Julia Valerian, is flawless. Flawless, I tell you. I've never been so desperate over a character's choices.

    Quote: “'Can you see air you breathe? Can you see the force that moves the tides or changes the seasons or sends the birds to a winter haven?' Her eyes welled. 'Can Rome with all its knowledge be so foolish? Oh Marcus, you can't carve God in stone. You can't limit him to a temple. You can't imprison him on a mountaintop. Heaven is his throne; earth, his footstool. Everything you see is his. Empires will rise and empires will fall. Only God prevails.'" 

    Really, the list is a lot longer, but I stopped at ten. Now it is your turn, mwahaha - and you don't have to stop at ten, even! What stories have changed your life?