"If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; but
really make them think they'll hate you." - Don Marquis
Context of Non-Involvement
The salient facts and
logic go like this. I don't remember creating myself or designing my
own life. As far as I know I was born a new person in the year 1941. Not
only did I not design my life but I didn't design my needs and my
desires, and I didn't design my nature, appetites, my attributes, my traits,
characteristics, weaknesses, strengths, propensities, etc. Nor
did I get to select my parents, my race, my country, culture, class, or gender. What's equally significant is that I didn't even
get to choose my belief system or my value programming; not even the
educational content of my formative years in schooling.
I DIDN'T SIGN UP
FOR ANY OF THIS! In the shadow of these realities, some
psychologists and philosophers will even go so far as to say that we
really don't even have meaningful volition, effective free will, but are
more like intelligent, sophisticated, ultra-complex but nevertheless
little more than complex intelligent but merely reacting stimulus-response meat machines.
I do not like
the way the cards are shuffled,
But yet I like the
game and want to play.
- Eugene Ware
Context of Evil
yet we all experience evil in the form of bodily damage, physical pain and
emotional trauma, and we agonize or suffer over these experiences to some greater or lesser extent. From moment
one in our existence we NEVER experience a complete level of safety, comfort or
fulfillment. We are never
truly or completely secure, and even those that think they are in God's hands have to say
to themselves that
it is God's will when something bad happens to them. Also, it is fashionable
to look askance at mankind and say that man is never satisfied. As if
this were a FLAW and we are DOOMED by our own insatiableness! What is so
hard to understand here? OF COURSE WE ARE NEVER SATISFIED, because
we never HAVE everything we truly, intrinsically need and desire!
The best consolation in misfortune or affliction
of any kind will be the
thought of other people
who are in a still worse plight than yourself; and
this is a form of consolation open to every one.
But what an awful fate this
means for mankind as
a whole! We are like lambs in a field, disporting
themselves under the eye of the butcher, who
chooses out first one and then
another for his prey.
We not only have to oppose the ravages of the natural elements, which may
come from sub-global developments—hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, famines,
etc.—but maybe global factors like climate change. And then there are
system factors, like solar cycles, solar storms, comets and asteroids. Yet
worst of all, we have to fight our own human misfeasance and malfeasance.
Context of Global Amnesia, Guilt and Denial
We now live in the context of where our religious, academic, and
scientific institutions with their thinking and teachings do not want to
acknowledge nor deal with the recent but pre-historical and historical
global astral catastrophes that so very extensively molded our physical,
spiritual, cultural, psychological world of today. This is incredibly
cowardly and unhealthy, incredibly spiritually—philosophically, intellectually, and
psychologically—irresponsible and debilitating for our personal,
social, and religious understanding and development.
Modern people are living under the big lie, a huge false construct about
our past that is now buttressed in every way possible in every
line of academic discipline and thinking. Both the religious and
scientific institutions now seem committed to maintain this modern mythic stance.
Faced with overwhelming geological evidence of immeasurable
cataclysm, the scientific establishment relegates such to the far
distant past, and denies any profound influence on the modern human
psyche, and much of religion still believes and teaches this to be the
result of dies irae, the wrath of God. The result is that we currently live in a
profoundly schizophrenic intellectual and spiritual world.
What Are We?
What kind of being is it that is profoundly free and yet whose decisions and
actions are profoundly effected and/or affected by forces beyond its control?
As we try to answer this, we are swamped by other questions:
Are we or are we not ultimately responsible for what we do? What is our relationship to what
befalls us? What is our responsibility for how our character, demeanor
and lives turn out?
In this world a man must either be anvil or hammer. - Longfellow
Of course, we have
the absolutely indubitable sense of
being the author of our actions—and yet it is no less certain that many/most of our possibilities
are determined for us, that many/most/all of our thoughts and feelings,
needs and desires, come unbidden. Sometimes, some people kind of wake up and look
at their past actions and say, "How did that happen? That wasn't me
that acted that way!" Is the correct answer that we are
really responsible only for some of our actions? Or are
we free and active agents but only to
a limited extent?
These are followed by questions about our social responsibility: Do we see
ourselves as isolated, separate individuals or instead recognize ourselves
as belonging to and depending on society, a wider world? What IS our
reasonable responsibility to the people and world beyond ourselves?
These are high-stakes questions because they affect our relationships and how
we live our lives. In one form or another they have bedeviled
Western philosophers since the Stoics. They bear on how we
stand in relation to everything that we do and everything we
are. Answering them involves sorting out who and what causes
various events and results, and requires decisive further moral,
psychological, and even political steps. It entails deciding who
deserves credit or who or what is to blame for the results. It entails
partially taking the world
on our shoulders and taking responsibility for ourselves.
All this may mean asking what needs to change so that things
may turn out otherwise in the future. But it is above all a key
question that atheists, agnostics, secularists, skeptics, and
freethinkers have to answer for and about ourselves.
Religion and Sacred Writings
Religions, in contrast, are generally founded upon ancient "sacred
writings"—admittedly subject to re-translation and reinterpretation—and/or ancient dispensations of authority
based on mythologies. Each major religion usually
considers each ancient source other than its own to be severely flawed at
best, worse fictitious, and at worst, a nefarious, evil-minded and cunningly devised counterfeit to
the truth. This is a quite distasteful situation and reality.
As to the major issues that confront man in modern Western society:
"Most of these issues could be discussed without referring to the
biblical heritage, but the Bible is always lurking in the background,
and positions have been taken on all of them that ultimately appeal to
the Bible as the final word. When that happens, thinking and reasonable
discussion stop. We do not know how to proceed after the Bible has been
Burton L, Mack, Who Wrote the New Testament?, HarperCollins
Publisher, New York, 10022, 1996, P. 3
when I talk about the situation delineated above people will ask, "What are
YOU complaining about? You've gotten a pretty good deal! You
were born in the best country, white, male, good looking, athletic,
decent build, high intelligence, good genes, talents, great
opportunities. You've been raised to generally have good habits, good
presentation and you've received an extended formal education. So, you
have got to be close to the desirable end of the normal
distribution curve. Consider yourself fortunate; few others have it so
good." This is when I tell them that we are all really neurotic, when our
favorite, most common method of making ourselves feel good is to compare
ourselves with those that are less fortunate! This should make a person
feel good, to compare to others not as well off? What kind of
psychologically sick ploy is that?
The best consolation in misfortune or affliction of any kind will be the
thought of other people who are in a still worse plight than yourself; and
this is a form of consolation open to every one. But what an awful fate this
means for mankind as a whole! We are like lambs in a field, disporting
themselves under the eye of the butcher, who chooses out first one and then
another for his prey. - Schopenhauer
And let's mention that it is not where we are at, but the direction and
prospects of our life that concern us the most. This is not to say that we should
wallow in negativity and focus on our victimhood. But acknowledging reality, not
denying it, is not an unhealthy wallowing but is a healthy response, and lays the
foundation for effective growth, action or change.
Thoughts on Evil
The simple logic is that either the universe is set up, i.e., designed and structured,
to deliver the totality of what I need and what I want, or it is not. Of
course, these needs and desires are defined here as being intrinsic and legitimate;
yet some of my desires may be temporarily immature, but that implies that
they are not wrong, just not fully developed. Given that my needs and
desires are legitimate or can be legitimized by spiritual growth, if the
universe is not set up to deliver these then it is a bad place and there
is no substance behind thinking the creator to be good or worthy of the term "God"!
If the universe IS set up to deliver what I want and what I need,
then and only then is it a good or "friendly" place, and I could
then legitimately give credit to a noble creator for designing the total
cosmos—the word means designed system—as a good and wonderful system so
that I could live with uninhibited delight, unabated ecstasy, and undiminished morale.
Of two evils choose the least. - Erasmus
There seems little point to chronicle once again some dramatic evils
in the world. Suffice it to say that essentially all people associate destruction—the
word is the opposite of construction—with evil. The earth continually experiences catastrophe on
an extensive scale; the multiple mass extinctions, and everything from
exploding lakes, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, landslides,
sinkholes, droughts, and human wars cause so much human carnage that we are
in denial of most of it, we put it out of our minds.
Even worse is the onslaught of evil from the biological world of disease
and debilitating sickness. It should be well known that in WWII disease and
accidents caused hundreds of times the intentional battlefield casualties!
And there are a number of excruciatingly awful hereditary syndromes, not to
mention the relentless debilitation of aging and the final destruction by mental
and physical system failure. And finally, probably the worst is the incredible
cruelty and oppression foisted on Mankind by other men. Men generally seeking more
personal power and control.
If the universe is a bad place or designed to be an experience of evil, structured
around a bad or evil system, then we also have no idea how bad it really is, or how
bad it CAN get to be for us. Whatever vicissitudes we may be experiencing or suffering
through in this life may be only a small sample of greater evil with pain and suffering
that we may have to endure in any future life.
The possibility for evil to be multiplied by
being reincarnated over and over again into a new body and a worse
situation is unfathomable, and the mind naturally turns away from
consideration of such a circumstance. On the other hand, the situation that
we experience now has both elements of goodness and evil. Again the
simple logic is that if the universe was designed perfectly then
something has gone tragically wrong.
Consider once again that we are born under a sentence of decay and death,
not to mention again all the other evils that result in suffering and sorrow.
There is a line of thinking that decay and death are natural and should be
embraced. Decay and death may be "natural", but that is only because nature
has been corrupted and we live in an unhealthy world environment. Natural
but not ideal nor desirable, palatable or acceptable!
Creator Decoupled from God
There are a handful of ultimate issues. One of these issues should NEVER be
whether there is a creator or no creator. The alternative to intelligent
design is to believe that all the aspects of the universe beyond the
basic material particles are emergent properties. All the multifarious
facets including the intangible and spiritual aspects of a human being
have to be considered to be “happy accidents”. By this type of thinking, a marble is an emergent
property of sand, or a beautifully organized garden is an emergent
property of soil and plants. Can you really go there? I cannot!
But, a creator is not necessarily a God, because the term "creator" ONLY implies design and
production capability. It says and implies nothing about purpose, intention, or
values. Only the term "God" incorporates these human value dimensions;
therefore the term "creator" must be decoupled from the term "God".
Consequently, one of these ultimate issues is whether there is a God
worthy of the title, or no God but just a creator.
Now is the time for me to say that dealing adequately with the ultimate issues
cannot be undertaken successfully unless one has taken the inward
journey to fully understand and embrace one's legitimate needs and desires.
There IS NO other valid point of perspective!
Three Phases of Inward Journey
There are actually three phases to the inward journey, one being to look
into the dark corners of your own soul to see how bad it really is and
to be humble in the face of it. This takes a deal of courage.
If only I knew what I wanted I could try
to see about getting it. - Sylvia Plath
What takes even MORE courage is the
second phase; to look into your own psyche or soul and to see what YOU really want
and what YOU really need. What you are supposed to want by God, or by
society, or parents, or church, or whatever agency, cannot be germane
here, because you have no legitimate basis for believing that these desire
limits imposed from the outside are any more legitimate than what YOURS
are. This is YOU here now, wanting and needing. Of course your desires
and needs involve other people and involve the well-being of other
people. One of MY highest desires is that we all maximize the quality of our
lives, the enhancement of our lives, our morale, and that our lives be sustained.
The third phase is to come out of denial and accept and embrace that
YOU are a victim of the human condition; you did NOT cause it but was born into it.
There are according to some experts over 100,000+ different identifiable
religions existing in the world today. There are no majorities in this venue, only
this spiritual fragmentation. The number of religions and paradigms of
reality are greater than I can reasonably assay during my lifetime, and
so it makes sense that after I identify what I intrinsically want and need, I
ONLY consider those systems of thinking or belief that promise to
deliver the package of my criteria for goodness and success. If you want a
vehicle that will navigate mountain roads and rugged terrain for
geological exploration, or for camping or hunting, you do not go to the
Cadillac agency or the Mercedes agency or the Lamborghini agency to look
for a vehicle to buy. You go to the Jeep and the Land Rover agencies and
look at their vehicles. See
The Challenge for Modern Philosophy
This Package Must Be Offered
This simple logic is again that if there is a God worthy of the term, then
that God would have an easy, reasonable way for me to succeed by the
definition of fulfilling my own needs and desires. Thus the simple logic
is that if we do not define God for ourselves, we are at the mercy of
multifarious versions from "out there" and can have no reasonable
expectation of recognizing God even if we were introduced. There are
lots of different gods out there, and simply casting around for God
based upon the various promises of mystical experiences, or the
enthusiasm or intensity of the spokesman, or the majesty or impact of
the organizational structure, should not, cannot fill the requirement.
I have identified the complete package of my needs and desires, and
this package is signified by the acronym: IF-I-SEEK-US, standing for: Imminent
Fulfillment, Immortality, Safety or security,Empowerment,
Equality, Unity, and Society. Of course immortality stands for sustained
biological functionality and an uninterrupted continuation of life activity,
not just some future mystical existence that we can only try to imagine, and
fulfillment pertains to the complete spectrum of our health-and-vitality-generating
needs and happiness-generating desires.
The reality though, is that I find myself born into a dirty, messy, pathological,
dangerous, troubled, insane world under a sentence of death! Of course I don't
like that! What reasonable person would? In order for the creator to be God he would have to care
enough to communicate with us, with me, in a way that a rational,
logical, reasonable person could understand and appreciate adequately.
Theism is the word that expresses this concept, and it signifies a SPECIAL
revelation that is other than or beyond what can be implied by looking at nature,
Value of Philosophy
What good is philosophy in this context? Well the word means love of logic or
love of wisdom. Philosophy is concerned with thinking right, believing
right, and acting right. Right, of course, is defined as doing that
which supports the sustenance and enhancement of life. How can we not be
concerned with, how can we not deeply care about philosophy? Theology, a
branch of philosophy, is concerned with thinking right and believing
right about the creator. How can we not be concerned with theology?
Are we willing to sleepwalk through life, not being concerned about anything
other than the mundane aspects of keeping body and soul temporarily together,
maintaining our facade, and having our little triumphs? Are we willing to steadily march toward the
grave while aging and dying and only being concerned about being "normal" and
having our little successes? Are we willing to keep our eyes to the
ground, being only concerned with Mammon and having our little
pleasures? Is this all? On the other hand, are we truly locked into an agenda set by God,
leaving us waiting for pie-in-the-sky in the by-and-by? Or an agenda set by a
reality that forces us into this grim un-requested victimhood?
Yes victimhood! Most people don't like to think of themselves as being
victims. They go to great lengths to jack their thinking around so that
they don't have to admit victimhood. But victimhood is simply being
forced to do something that you don't want to do, to experience
something that you don't want to endure. If you truly love aging and
dying while working hard for fulfillment but being only partially rewarded, and
while staggering from one vicissitude to another in life, then
maybe you are not a victim. But I don't buy it.
Finally, If you want to watch a very poignant portrayal of the human
condition, find and patiently—get past the idiosyncratic aspects—watch to
the end the movie The Hairdresser's Husband, and view and understand
the hairdresser's straightforward approach to the going downhill, aging and dying process.