Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

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The Ear Tests

May 7, 2009

The ear tests words as the tongue tastes food” – Job 34:3

How does one that will die have faith, and to what effect does he imagine this faith to have. Life as test, trial, or testimonial is ingenuine and incomprehensible outside of theoretical jargon. We must be alive first and foremost. From that we should arrive at any ethic, even a faithful one.

Faith cannot, and mustn’t, spit in the face of a life genuinely living. A faith that abandons the body and its goods is ultimately incompatible with our existence. Man as flawed, as embodied, as contradictory, as ignorant must be taken into consideration. Not to remove man from this turmoil but to help him understand it. We are here to understand humanity, to understand our self, to know ourselves. This can be the only conclusion drawn from our continued sense input. In a faith system this means that something, someone, somewhere out there, wants us to experience this, for a reason.

To say that the bible is the word of God is to say that the world is not the word of God. To say that Jesus is the only son of God, is to say that we are not all children of God. To say that the law is the only way to live is to say that natural law is inadequate and the law of our consciousness cannot lead us to God who graciously put such a soul within us. To say we need a savior is to say that God’s grace needs physical action in order to be fulfilled – that he is imperfect without this nitty gritty world. Or, if not imperfect, at least inadequate.

We must take all of this into the matter of faith. When we believe something must be, we preclude and limit our understanding of God. Yet, we mustn’t be afraid of these conclusions. After all, this world can be hard to understand, and undoubtedly it’s hidden God is a complex one. But we must understand what we are inherently sacrificing when we believe. Too often we focus on what we are believing IN, rather than what we are believing OUT. That is to say, the things we can no longer genuinely believe IN because it contradicts other things.

I urge us all to reconsider this system of belief. I urge everyone to keep the faith.

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The Valiant Never Taste of Death But Once

March 30, 2009

“I do not fear death. I fear that I may somehow inadvertently or purposefully bring it about.” – My paraphrasing of Timothy Holmes.

I wish I could take credit for this extreme lucidity and eloquence when I responded to the same question… I cannot. Though I did answer the question in a similar way: “No I do not fear death. I fear the deaths of others”. I for one have always confronted the idea of death with more curiosity than fear – even the darkest hours of my atheism whereupon I still agreed that the deaths of my loved ones was far more painful than my own death.

This question did arise rather suddenly and externally when myself and Mr. Holmes participated in an interview wherein the subject of death was discussed in relation to spirituality and politics. It is important, beyond the urging of my words, that we understand the entirety of modern politics is based around death and the complete desire to avoid it at all costs. Beginning with Machiavelli, and then Hobbes, and finally with Locke the idea of death becomes the foundation of rights. Natural rights flow from the nature of death.

Death’s introduction to the political order makes any answer extreme. Since our idea of life, and it’s rights, are based on death – killing becomes either grim natural reality or perverse execution. In reality it is neither.

“Death is the respite from life. It is possibly joyous and maybe even preferred.” (again another paraphrase – Tim please send me the actual quotes if you can remember them and I will errata this entry). Death as respite is something I could never believe as an atheist (though many have tried to put forward a similar concept). This understanding does come about it is in the esoteric writings of select secular philosophers who then get misquoted and misunderstood by others. It is equally important that we understand that such a concept can never be the popular understanding of the masses in a secular state.

This is not a defense or justification of religion – it is reality. The post-enlightenment birth of secular states coincides with political revolution based on the concept of death. The two need each other. If we are to understand death in a Hobbesean or Lockean way then we must see it as flowing from nature and to be the subject of reason. Thus the state shouldn’t indulge itself in the particular mythologies of churches. Thus we arrive at our modern state.

Modern religious freedom creates an accepting environment by refusing to have any religious beliefs. Thus when confronting issues of death the state must make decisions without metaphysical guide posts. This has a tendency to make the regime either act too brutally or too late. Almost every war since the Enlightenment has been a total war, an ideological war, and a devastating war. The wars have been so gruesome that even the “good guy’s” virtue was often clouded or downright abandoned. America entered the war late to save American lives – then they ended it early by dropping two nuclear weapons. Again to save American lives. Here is not the time to discuss just war theory but it is important to point out this phenomenon historically.

But here is the not the time to talk about such politics either. It is the time to point out the reasoning of a secular state. Reason, as it turns out, is no different than blind faith. It indulges itself, justifies itself, and is often used to do all sorts of bad things. Is fighting over democracy abroad any different than fighting for the glory of God? Our love of democracy is based only on post-enlightenment reason that is ultimately based on a new death theology.

What I am about to say is perhaps the most extreme thing I have ever committed to public dissection. Perhaps death isn’t all that big of a deal. Perhaps life (as we know it) isn’t all that big of a deal. It seems the greatest virtues eventually push individuals to put their own lives out of the picture. Ultimate humility, ultimate courage, and even ultimate justice sometimes demand a lack of regard for one’s own life. We are going to die. So don’t waste time fearing your death but rather fear you have not lived. Fear that you will die alone sitting watching the TV. Fear that you will have never changed another person’s life for the better. Fear that no one will mourn your death.

This idea is also dangerous. For once you realize the meaningless of death you no longer have the whip of the slave driver. The clear direction to the stars is cut short of its gravity and you’re left to drift in an apparent void. The temptation is to dive into meaningless and arbitrary faith – do not do this. This is not a justification for such irresponsibility. The fight is hard and it may flirt with that old slave driver like a mistress. It may find the bitter sting of the whip pleasant and what was once your master is now your ally. This is the most tempting and problematic effect of this new belief – one that for ages lead antiquity to the heights of greatness.

In the end, it is most likely our proximity to death that allows us to transcend and understand the things beyond our body. Only in the comfort of science could we embrace cold unfeeling atheism. Only with the soft despotism of the television could we finally give up the freedom we fought for. Only in the age of medicine and health could we devote our lives to living healthily only to realize too late that we never did anything with our 75 years. This proximity fueled our pre-science ancestors in the Renaissance who watched a great empire fall, a plague strangle Europe, and a 100 year war over a holy land they’d never see. They saw it every day and they clawed with clenched hands at the dark sky to let some light through.

The enlightenment itself started in the mild rumblings of an Earthquake in Lisbon. Such tremors have shaken the world and crumbled entire foundations. We now fear death or worse, we ignore it. But why? For what good does all this fretting and worrying do? Do we not shake the earth so badly that the ghosts of Lisbon pity us? Do those wraiths sit somewhere beyond it all fearing that one day they will be thrown back into a body and reintroduced into the fear of our skin? Perhaps I will ask them when I meet them. Perhaps they don’t even know the movement that started in their name. In which case I won’t tell them, I won’t make them worry about us, I’ll just ask about the weather or how the weather used to be.

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It Is Not Good That Man Should Be Alone

March 3, 2009

“So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.” Genesis 2:20.

Genesis has two creation stories. They both exist because each tell us something different, yet necessary, about the origins of humanity. In the Judaea-Christian tradition that claims it, Genesis is the first occurrence of God acting through history and the story itself is a summary of not only the origins of man but the his nature and the rest of time that will follow. By giving us an account of our origins it also gives us an account of our nature and the timelessness of our constant situation.

The two accounts of man’s creation are clearly different. They have different details and different focuses. The first is man’s place in the whole of things. His merely one piece of a seven day puzzle. The second gives an account of things from his point of view. We will focus on this anthropocentric chapter.

Adam is created alone. Adam exists alone for some time. Enough time to name the things of the earth as is his function given by God. Adam is given dominion over the Garden of Eden and is given a rule to follow – the rule of God. Adam may converse with nature but ultimately couldn’t find a suitable helper.

From Adam comes Eve. It is important to note that Eve is different in some important ways. Eve is not Adam, yet she is like Adam “Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh”. Eve is not like Adam in other ways – she is, in fact, female. It is not necessary that God created a female for Adam because death is not introduced yet. Yet “man and woman he creates them”.

This shouldn’t be particularly shocking to anyone since we still exist as man and woman and these difference perplex us still, but it is important to note that if God acts through history and biology then this means something else. Man, as a species, exists as a duality.

It is not good that man should be alone. In sex, in race, in speech, or in religion. We learn this again in the tower of Babel story. It is not good because man needs a ‘helper’. To exist, even in paradise, man needs a helper. That helper will be born of the same flesh and bone of the man and exist under the same covenant and same laws. Yet that helper will exist in a different way, its job will be different, its life will be different. It is not good for Eve to be alone either.

Other than previous importance that this story has had, I would like to add a new one. Genesis demands a duel covenant theology. It is not good for even the new man to be alone. As Christians claim to lead us to a new Paradise it is important to remember where they came from. Judaism was the first to receive God’s law, God’s covenant, and God’s word like Adam in the Garden. God decided it was not good for Judaism to exist alone and made for ‘him’ a helper. That helper, like Eve, was to fulfill the potential of the previous but could not replace Adam. Hence, our current situation of two seperate but equal covenants.

The job of the two churches is to coexist. Christians should not convert Jews and Jews shouldn’t covert Christians. Instead they should help each other grow in faith by challenging and educating. This is the history of man, the history of our origins, and the history of God written in the stories of Genesis.

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The Wisdom of the One Percent

January 26, 2009

Disclaimer: This post contains RAGE – if taken seriously or personally then you should not read. The only people this is aimed at in any personal way are Richard Dawkins and Jerry Farwell. Also, please note, I may be one of the 99% – but I still think this needs to be said even if it is contradictory to the premise of the post. I hope you appreciate the irony.

So much could be learned about the metaphysical nature of the universe, its inhabitants, and its causes if 99% of Atheist and 99% of Theists just shut up and went about their lives while the rest of us talked like civilized people about the matter. Too often the 99% of each side are so busy arguing with each other that they fail to listen to the wisdom of the one percent. Even worse is that both sides use such unsophisticated, assumptive, incomplete, and trite arguments that so easily become a caricature of their beliefs in the eyes of the other side.

Some facts to set straight:

Reason cannot know itself and hence is insufficient for understanding the universe on its own.

There ARE contradiction in the Bible. There are, however, contradiction in our everyday life. This is not a sign of non-existence but merely a complication.

The problem of evil is not a problem for any sophisticated mind. Even if God allows evil this makes us only further question his “all-goodness” not his existence.

Disproving one presumed quality of God does not disprove his existence. It instead should drive one to study more.

No argumentation is complete – leave room for change.

Humans cannot know the truest meaning of being and hence nobody is going to prove anything exists or doesn’t.

If you are not interested in changing your mind DON’T go about changing others. Discussion is a tool not a weapon. Likewise, if you already have answers for a question then don’t ask it just to piss people off. Atheist can be saved and there are many Theists smarter than Richard Dawkins.

Lastly, if you are under the age of 35 or do not have a doctorate in Philosophy, Theology, Science, AND Psychology then don’t pretend to be an expert. Stop lifting arguments from actual thinkers and re-arranging them for your convenience. Nothing pisses me off more than a 21 year old who thinks they have everything figured out.

Religion is complicated and complex – if you don’t believe this you are wrong. This is the same fundamental problem for both sets of the 99%. God is difficult, complex, hidden, and probably nothing like we imagine. Aristotle and Plato had a concept of such without at all succumbing to a religion (or science as we know it).  If such a being doesn’t exist it isn’t going to be due to some good \ evil paradox or some logical fallacy. If it doesn’t exist, it simply doesn’t exist and there can be no proof that a hidden God doesn’t exist, it is merely felt and understood. Thus the one percent of Atheists. Atheism should be complex if it aims to be at all serious. People like Dawkins do a great disservice to modern atheists by being their most vocal thinker when indeed Sartre and Nietzsche still hold much more convincing problems.

Any other type of atheism will ultimately be a chosen ignorance based solely on rational propaganda – a chosen way of belief that, for no other reason except the force of their will, has excepted principles that they then deem, again according to their will, to be inconsistent with theism. So long as an Atheist realizes this, I have no problem with the movement; it is much like fundamentalist Christianity. It is when either of these forces pretends to be an authority on the topic of metaphysical being that I become slightly agitated. Stop proselytizing each other, shut the hell up, and let the one percent of genuinely curious metaphysicians duke it out in meaningful conversations rather than pre-arranged diatribe.

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Atheism And A Hard Place

January 17, 2009

The only way to solve the current situation in the middle east is to remove religion from the earth entirely. So it’s either atheism or eternal war. I don’t know which fate is worse.

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The Devil Can Site Scripture for His Purpose

August 31, 2008

Unfortunately the devil speaks all the same languages as God. Usually louder too.

We should never confuse this with the powerlessness of God. Nor as proof that he is not good. But it should remind us that we are flawed.

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Good God Y’all, What Is It Good For?

August 17, 2008

First, allow me to thank Holly Martins (http://persnicketyrph.blogspot.com/) for his comments, which have spurred me to write. I recently left for a 4 day camp trip that gave me some time to think about the nature of the comment she gave regarding religious war in the pre-Enlightenment era. This comment came on the back of a previous post I wrote regarding the nature of religious and rational violence. Though he seemed in agreement with my general premise he did show me that I was not fully expounding upon my historical basis. A fact I hope to remedy with this post.

Recently the earth lost one of its fiercest defenders of ethical accuracy (despite your thoughts on his ability to live up to those standards). Alexander Solzhenitsyn passed in Russia a short while back and put to rest a corpus of work that was fraught with honesty, intellect, and hope (three things that are absent from much modern writing, perhaps even my own). His legacy is the story of communism, its twin brother democracy, and their warring feud which extends back into the Enlightenment. His books “The First Circle” and “The Gulag Archipelago” fully revealed the nature of practical communism for the first time and by doing so undermined the idea that perfect ideas can be applied by imperfect humans. This fundamental flaw travels contrary to the premises of the Enlightenment, of infinite progress, of historicism, and brings us back to a time where the fragile nature of man was impossible to question.

We have our ideas about the past that simply aren’t true. The ancient Greeks knew the world was round (not flat), the dark ages actually had a lot going on, and the only people who read Plato for hundreds of years were the Arabian Muslims. Add to those myths one more. We blame religion for almost every war after the death of Christ and before the birth of the Enlightenment. Is this a fair assessment or simply one that our modern understanding of human consciousness has whipped up to banish a more romantic interpretation?

The simple fact is that war exists, it always will, and always has. Ever since man separated into groups and competed for resources there has been conflict. (This in itself is an Enlightenment era proposition: Hobbes, Locke, Machiavelli, and Hooker). The only true causes of war surround this dichotomy of “us” and “them”. Religion is merely a marker of “us” and sets us apart from “them”. It is a distinguishing aspect to our character but not strictly a cause. Rather it is a condition by which the cause is manifest. Religion allows us to see more clearly who is “them” and hence can be a tool of war which thrives on finding contrary elements. Likewise it is something that we can rally around – something that makes us “us”. 

A simple analogy in modern terms is nationality. Not all nationalists or all patriots desire war. However, when war occurs the two can be easily used to better define “us” vs. “them”. There is no inherent violence or anger implied by love on one’s own. However, when a violent aspect is introduced it mimics itself to appear in the clothing of a more benign virtue. This phenomenon of concealing vice as virtue is one form of ideology because it justifies what would otherwise be considered unjust.

Hence the crusades cannot be considered strictly a holy war. Religious thinkers of the time often spoke about how the Church was not performing its proper role in those wars. Shortly after a host of analysts came forward to say that other forces were at work. Modern historians point more to the fall of Rome and the separation of Byzantine and Italian powers as more of a concrete cause of the Crusades. Likewise, on the other end, the Turkish invaders fervor for Islam was only partially religious. The true cause was a motivation to make everyone like them or to subsume the “them” into the “us”. Religion became a rallying cry and perhaps even a justification but the true desire is more deeply rooted in human nature and it is a love for ones own and a hate for the other. Psychology and Biology will often talk about this phenomenon as “natural” and a product of “evolution” though to keep things simply I will use the term “human nature” though it is a heavily debated one.

The notion of a merely religious war inherently implies that those wars wouldn’t have happened without religion being present. Outside of possible historic accidents (like the collation of Arabic cultures under the flag of Islam) it is easy to see an eastern power and a western power colliding without the necessary presence of religion. Take, for instance, the Greek struggles against Persia, the Roman conquest of Africa, the Russian wars with the Tartars, and the Huns sacking of Western towns. So long as a power arises simultaneously in both the East and the West there will be conflict between the two because the “us” and “them” will now be interested in the same resources.

In the case of the Crusades, accidental qualities, such as religion, united and empowered both east and west cultures at the same time. As both united and found power (keep in mind many Christian nations and many Muslim nations fought each other to achieve such unity often in the name of money, land, and power rather than religion) they expanded into each other and clashed. Both used religion as a way of uniting “us” and defining “them” but merely by the accidental nature of religion not because of an inherent factor within religion as an idea. Thus religion can only ever be considered an accidental cause and not a sufficient cause. And perhaps that means it may have to deal in the dirt on occasion and be blamed on occasion for its lack of action or its abundance of action but add to that list race, language, culture, government, regime, philosophy, location, and time period. All these things have “caused” wars too yet we cannot start blaming them for war in general merely because they have been used as reasoning or justification. It wouldn’t make sense and neither would saying religion caused these wars. They are related, possibly entangled, but are not caused by each other. This error appears too often in our modern day when we confuse related things as caused by each other. Two things can be found and even generated in the same time and place without be caused by each other. 

For more on this issue I would read Solzhenitsyn’s address to Harvard. It seems we too quickly judge things like religion because of our modern culture. We are in a mind frame of “fixing” the problem quickly. Simple minded solutions like atheism in the name of peace fail to take into consideration that the problem might be within us. We, indeed, might be the monster under our bed rather than any outside or external idea that has arisen from philosophy, politics, or religion. Perhaps we are imperfect, dirty, war loving animals who will always struggle with violence despite our governments, religions, locations, languages, and cultures. But such a concession would mean or reliance on old world ideas springing from the mouth of (dare I say) Theologians like Pascal, Aquinas, Augustine, Pope Leo, St. Francis, etc. It seems it is religion which all along has embraced the nasty nature of man and offered as a solution in accordance with the problem of vice.

Perhaps that is why we so quickly slander religion with false accusations. For one does not feel the ethical obligation to listen to what they deem a “murderer”. So we label religion as the cause of war so we do not need to hear its valid cries over humanity’s fallen nature. One day we will find out that we ourselves were to blame all along, but then in may be too late.