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What About Goodness?

16 Sep

Much has been said these days about a lot of things, complete with negative tones, rancor, and personal attack of character.  From the political to the theological, naysayers line up to cast the stones of judgment at one person or another, or one belief or another.  Beliefs also receive vicious attacks, and ad hominem statements are made to assassinate the character of persons–regardless their station in life.  Claims of “What are you a racist?,” or “You are intolerant!,” dot the media landscape.  But it is all a ploy to taunt and accuse.

It has been stated by more than a few people that “there cannot be a God, because of all the poor people in America and the world.”  We are given free will to elect people, then we blame God for our choices.  As evidence, naysayers use suffering, illness, and death as their justifications of non-belief.  What did God do to deserve these negatives?  It is actually the accusation through question as to what He did NOT do, that is at issue.  “Some God you have there.  Look what He allowed to happen.”  I’d rather look at what He did NOT allow happen . . . But I see their point. It’s easy to use negative things if a person is negatively predisposed.

Atheists are an interesting bunch.  They claim not to believe in an objective good or evil.  They claim that man makes his own good and evil, define it as such, and that the fittest win out.  The main argument atheists use is that if there is a God then He allows innocent people to suffer and die.  Assume that God does allow this.  Hasn’t the atheist then just made a value judgment that God is not good, and that life–the real good–has been snatched?  That sounds like a belief system to me. 

Let us examine the following arguments:

  • There is too much “evil” in the world for there to be a God.
  • Suffering and death of innocents proves there is no God.
  • There is no such thing as good or evil, outside of what humans define.

Evil in the World.  I was recently talking to a nontheist who argued that he did not believe in goodness or evil.  I asked him whether child molestation, or murder were evils.  He said they were crimes.  I responded, they are not crimes if a person is not caught.  What do you call them if a person is not caught, and still molesting?  If there is no evil, then not getting caught means WHAT?  I had many other questions to ask, but let him off the hook.

Another person, a supposed agnostic, stated his “disbelief” in good and evil.  I pointed out that a person first has to believe, so that he can disbelieve.  There was no response.  In fact, he and others do what is typical once the cozy belief system they claim does not exist is truly exposed for what is really is.  They distract by calling names and it is fun to watch them attack ad hominem.  They lose all credibility at that point.  Personal attacks are atheists’ white flags. 

There is evil in the world, for every generation has committed the same crimes in all lands, among all people groups, and collusion is not a possibility.  Who instructed all the so-called “criminals” throughout all the ages to commit such acts?  One’s belief that evil does not exist does not make it so.  Neither does one’s belief in evil make it a reality.  But the evidence of common sense and data from around the world and its history prove that either man is evil by nature, or that he is “good” by nature, and just commits actions defined as evil.  Either way, one or the other validates good or evil–by nature or by action, either contrary to, or in line with his nature.  Another option is that man is neutral, and only affected by social conditions.  What social conditions?  Human ARE the social creatures affecting others.  How can someone affect another in a neutral way, and have a neutrally murderous act committed?  If this was the case, we would not need places for society’s criminals.  John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Hobbes, Baron de Montesquieu–and even Alexis de Tocqueville realized the need for government to protect societies. 

Evil is as real as love is real.  Goodness is as real as longsuffering and persistence are real.  One can believe away love all he wants.  But disbelieving love’s existence does little to cease others’ love for us.  Just ask our parents why they still love us when we rebel.  Anger and hatred exist as much as forgiveness and restoration.  Abstracts become real in humans.  Absent action, love still does not cease to exist.

Suffering and Death.  Negatives validate negative statements and affirm disbelief.  Belief is placed in self-fulfilling negatives.  It is enough to counter this with the fact that healthy people, babies being born, surgeries and doctors, medicine, miraculously unexplained cures, and technology are positives.  Weighing them out, if there is one ounce of good over evil, by mankind’s definitions, then there is a God.  Validation of no God because of suffering and death?  Then one must be fair in validating the existence of God with obvious healing and life.   There cannot be God and NO God at the same time. 

If an atheist “believes in disbelieving” for negative reasons, then he should not decry the theist for “not believing in belief” of atheism, with positives for God’s existence.  Personally, I believe atheists do not exist.  None of them have proven that they are atheists, so they don’t exist. 

Is death a good thing, or a bad thing?  I’ve never seen an Atheist Medical Center, or the Agnostic Secular Surgery Lab, etc., etc.  Yet, atheists have no problem going to doctors who might have faith and strong belief that saving life is good.  The implicit reality in so doing is that the person’s life is intrinsically good, and that suffering and evil are to be avoided–whether he admits it or not.  Think about it.  The ultimate proof that God does NOT exist, to the atheist, is suffering,disease, and dying.  Yet, no one I know is willing to validate God’s nonexistence personally by dying to bolster the evidence for someone else to say the same thing about suffering and death. 

I find it interesting how an atheist has no problem being treated in a Catholic hospital, or Seventh Day Adventist hospital.  Enough said about that.  I am glad they receive treatment.  Based on that statement, I now ask, “Is life good?”  The only conclusion I can draw is that regardless the posture, an atheist has the “belief” that life is good and worth saving.

Neither Good Nor Evil.  Human definitions do not define away good or evil.  Belief does not do away with good or evil.  These have existed long before we have, and will be here long after we are gone.  Human intellect can become reprobate and the result is evil thoughts.  Beliefs can be evil.  White supremacy beliefs are evil.  Evil thoughts may lead to evil actions.  Yet, these do not place “goodness” in the realm of the non-existent.  Before we existed, humans were here.  After we die, humans will be here.  It’s only while we are here that we say this or that does not exist.  This proclamation is unable to prove or disprove anything, before us or after us.  For those areas, we need to look elsewhere, outside our own experiences. 

In order to state universally that good and evil do not exist, one would have to be both good and evil, then realize that “poof they no longer exist,” in order to know that absence means nonexistence.  One would have to know objectively for all humans, just exactly the same good and evil, in order to trust the knowledge and that he is not misreading what is claimed as nonexistent. 

It is honest to state one’s disbelief in good and evil.  But such disbelief is conjecture and opinion, and not proof–absent clear and decisive evidence that “belief” in and of itself is enough for proof.  This would be ludicrous, for all I would have to do is say that “I disbelieve that child molestation is evil,” and by my belief, any actions of such would become neutralized–neither good nor evil.  We all know better than that.

In the many years I have debated atheists, I have yet come across any evidence they have presented that proves God does not exist and that good and evil are only humanly defined.  It is not incumbent upon one that exists to prove so.  If an atheist could prove there was no god, and his options were only one–killing himself–I wonder how many would choose that action?

When it comes to the vast majority of atheists, accusations with questions marks are the weapon of choice.  For example, “You don’t believe in that fairy tale God-thing, do you?”  Negative statements with question-marked accusations are not questions. 

To sum up, (1) Any atheist who claims not to believe in good and evil is not to be “believed.”  (2) Goodness in the world is evidence that there is a God, if the atheists’ accusations of suffering and death prove His non-existence.  One cannot have it both ways. 

Just a few thoughts for the evening.  Thanks for reading.

Honoring Our Parents

8 Sep

As many of you know, I am working on this brand new class for church–and I am excited about its direction.  It’s no secret that we assimilate and emulate a lot of what we are taught, and we appropriate to our lives the things which our parents also have appropriated.  Yes, it is true that we all must live our lives for ourselves.  However, when things go wrong, there is this popular notion that we should blame our parents for our problems.  Well, I am here to say that rather than cause dishonor to our parents by making ourselves victims, why not see things and practice things differently?

Taking personal responsibility for actions and words brings honor to our parents, for it shows the quality of ownership of one’s humanity.  Being unable to stand back and accept full responsibility without also saying, “Look how imperfect you are too,” is a dishonor to our parents.  Standing back and saying “I was wrong, forgive me,” is an honor to parents. 

There are those of us whose parents messed us up royally, or at least we think so.  OK, but so what.  Show me an average human who is not messed up somehow.  I think we’ve messed up enough because of our own choices as adults, that we can now let parents off the hook.   Show me an average human who does not yet have choices in life to move away from one thing, or another.  Show me a human who is honest, sincere, and willing to come alongside others without pointing out another’s “second-hand humanity,” and I’ll show you someone who honors his or her parents.  We need to focus on ourselves and get off the side-taking and finger-pointing.  Those things are dishonorable and childish.  Our own kids will do to us what we have done to our parents–including the blaming part.  We need to break that cycle.

Whether our parents are still with us, or whether they have departed this earth, our words and actions continue to demonstrate honor, or lack of honor for their roles and memories in our lives.  I pray that one day when I am gone, my own children will carry on the legacy of honorable living for themselves and for the honor with which they presently live. 

I am not a perfect man.  It just seems that way to negative people who cannot, or will not change to change.  In many people live by negative emotion rather than common sense.  They are used to the negativity and are addicted to it. 

Piety is not notoriety.  It is humility.  Efforts to change on our own are often met with futility and it’s easier to tell the world to celebrate its foibles than overcome them.  I am an overcomer, a victor.  Most of you are too.  There can be no greater honor to our parents than evidencing in our daily walks the Godly qualities by which they lived.  The second greatest honor is getting it right for our own kids to appropriate into their lives, and so on.

So, to those of us who are moving forward, getting a few things right each day by the grace of God, we are living in honor to our parents.  Those of us who are not are probably not living an honorable life in the eyes of their own families. 

Break the negative cycle with each and every choice to do so.  It is so freeing.  If a friend is a bad and toxic influence, break the friendship–or be a better friend and a better influence than the negative one.  Make the choice.  It will bring US honor.  It will demonstrate honor to our parents, which should never stop just because they have left this earth.

Thanks for reading!

Life is a part of Death

5 Sep

We all seem to think that when death occurs that life is over.  Let me flip this whole notion on its head.  Do I have your attention yet? 

We all use phrases such as “That’s life,” or “Death is a part of life.”  We even use the phrase “Life’s not fair,” as our bumper-sticker philosophical and theological default. 

These phrases, and others, have small places in our minds and realities, to be sure.  But are they true?  Are they true as long as they “happen” in another person’s life?  Do they become unfair and an invalid statement, losing it’s truth, when something happens in OUR lives? 

I am wondering today, “Where is the truth about death these days?”  Are we avoiding it for the universal reality that us really is?  Or have we just accepted its reality, sort of like the elephant in the room no one wants to address?

Excuse my Political Incorrectness.  It is not vogue to discuss death and dying.  As my mother used to say, “If you talk about it, you might cause it to happen,” and “Stop being so morbid.”  I’d swear she thinks reality hinges on my words and that I somehow have the power to cause mayhem and malady upon the world.  Let’s face it.  People who avoid discussions of death simply do not want to consider the emotional aspects of what we all know will occur to each of us.  Welcome to my blog addressing “This Journey Called Death.”

Our Upbringing.  We all were raised with parents who said things like, “I brought you into this world and I’ll take you out.”  We’ve all teased and told others, “Come here, I’ll kill ya.”  I could go on.  But we don’t seem to have a problem addressing the issue of death when it comes to power play and humor.  The sheer fact is, death is real.  Death is eventual.  Humor and extreme language may help to defray the deeper issue of its reality.  However, none of us make it out of this world alive, in the body as we know it.  Besides, would YOU want this body to make it out into another life?  Talk about torture!

I argue that we are all really good at evaluating the circumstances of others, but get quite blinded when similar circumstances strike close to home.  Un fairness never looks so “unfair,” as when it is delivered unexpectedly to those of us who expected to remain unscathed in this life.  I think one of the reasons for this, quite honestly, is that “living vicariously through others’ experiences is easier than living through our own.”  Because we wouldn’t do to others what life has just done to them, or us, we claim life to be unfair.  I totally understand these emotions.  It feels as if we died while we are still alive!  But where does that leave us? 

That’s Life.  (“Oh, that’s what people say.”  Remember that song?)  What do we mean by this?  Do we elevate life to some deterministic boogey-man, or is the statement a natural admission of our cluelessness about what is going on in our lives?  Moreover, is the phrase an acquiescence to a force that is outside our control?  Do we then relinquish our wills to the “whatever we cannot control” forces of life?  In my mind, the phrase “that’s life” is stated most often toward others, and not ourselves.  It is used as an attempt to ameliorate the impact of life’s stuffus upon others.  We should just say “Relax and accept what took place” in their lives.  The notion that we all face similar experiences sooner or later is a commonality and point of identification for us.  But we’d all like to defer the bad stuff, or hope it avoids us and our loved ones. 

The phrase “That’s life,” is shallow, indeed.  But the truth of the matter is, “Life happens”–another colloquialism used by the masses.  Life happens because life is not under our control. 

Death is a Part of Life.  Nothing is farther from the truth, with respect to life as we know it here on this planet.  Death is the cessation of life, and not incorporated as a part.  If it was a part, as such, it would be occurring in the string of life and be evidenced in one’s daily existence.  Death affects life–ultimately for those of us who experience it, and those who are left behind to grieve. 

Now, instead I like to use the phrase, “dying is a part of life.”  I think this adequately reflects the truth in a decaying world.  This implies that we are aging, getting older and things are literally less alive than they were in months and years past.  Somewhat interesting in all of this is that feelings are not normally affected by this process of decay, but the body certainly is.  Does that not imply that living on as a conscious, aware, and feeling individual is expected–even for those dying?  As the body ages, the “person continues to grow, apart from this process.”  In my mind, this is an evidence of life after death.  It is not the strongest evidence, and certainly not the only evidence.  But advocates of “death is a part of life” ideology–whether knowingly or not–actually provide an argument for “eternal life being a part of earthly dying.” 

Life’s Not Fair.  Define fair.  My experience is that life is fair and that are consequences that occur, along with unintended consequences for most of our actions.  If life is fair because we all get the same size piece of birthday cake, then we must be careful what we wish for.  Life is neither fair nor unfair.  It is not life’s fault that death occurs.  Is it?  Is life not fair because death, disease, and dying are mixed into the equation?  If these were a PART of life, as advocates state, then they ought to be accepted as such. 

If we were all honest, the reason we do NOT accept them is because we know the truth.  Life is of great value.  Death does not diminish life or its value–regardless when death occurs.  Life is a natural right granted by our Creator.  Life at any stage does not have the right to claim “unfair.”  But people do.  Is it fair that a person chooses abortion?  Is it fair that a baby is born with Down-Syndrome?  Who decides “fair?”  If life happens by our choices, and death is a part of life, then “life’s not fair” is to be accepted as well.  But is that the case?

With all the talk of atheism and evolution, there should be no squawking about whatever comes our way.  Yet, when things do happen in this dying world, we blame God.  Sounds a little like the way politicians like to blame predecessors for the current messes.  It is just another way to deflect responsibility for our parts in creating this mess on earth.  We wanted free will.  We got it.  We argues that we can create our own truth, contrary to life.  It is irresponsible to blame God for gracing us with what we deeply cherish. 

Do We Know?  Since none of us knows for certain, by personal experience about the existence of life beyond this physical realm, we really can’t say for sure that life is completely over at death.  In fact, the only reasons we would ever imply that life is over at physical death is (1) we know for certain that nothing exists after death, (2) that life as we know it is the ultimate, (3) life as we know it does not have an eternal aspect, viz. eternal life, etc.

I am not a proponent of universalism.  It is not popular these days to believe in a literal heaven and a literal hell (place of eternal torment).  But may we be reminded that we just didn’t sit around making up these beliefs.  Christians, like myself, are followers.  We place our trust and faith in the Person of Jesus Christ.  So, the beliefs for which we are judged as intolerant come from Him.  Is Jesus intolerant of people choosing to reject Him? 

I find it quite intolerant to judge a follower of Christ as intolerant, for just holding a belief and obeying the command of sharing this belief.  Life does not remove ultimate truth.  But show me a life that removed the ultimate experience of universal death, then I am paying attention. 

Not believing something doesn’t make it less true.  Discarding as intolerant does not remove the fact that Jesus taught something and followers believe it.  Now let me move this provocation along a bit by the following statement.

There is No Such Thing as Universal Afterlife.  We are all NOT on the same path, moving in the same direction.  We all die at different times, so the path is not one.  Is there REALLY anyone who lives as if loving someone deeply as another human is a ticket to ride?  Is there a human love that can override truth?  Are there wrongs that are just wrong to us, but not to God?  Are there “rights” we possess and act upon that are wrong to God?  You know, where all is said and done, death is universal.  Then what?  Do we even care?

Where are we Headed?  Our spiritual GPS is not loaded and focused on the same destination.  One religion has the Virgin Mary, the Virgin Birth, another does not believe in the death of Jesus, but allows for dozens of virgins for eternal pleasure.  Wisdom for the ages is good to live by, but terrible to die by.  The path we take does matter.  Who and What Jesus is does matter.  Do you care?

Again, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I submit my understanding to His exclusive statement.  John 14:6:  “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father but through me.”  Either statements like those are lies, deceptions, myth, or sheer ego-mania.  Statements like those are exclusive to Jesus. No other religious leaders, founders of religions, etc., make such claims.  Could it be that this uniqueness is worth listening to, or rejecting?  But if statements like those are true and we reject them, then what?  

Life is a Part of Death.  No one can reject away death by one’s beliefs.  One’s beliefs will be proven true, or not, in the end.  Scientology and Christian Science can “believe away,” or even pay for the privilege of “feeling cleared” of all past baggage.  The stuff is still there and its effects just as certain.  Death happens.  L. Ron Hubbard and Mary Baker Eddy are proof.

As a guy, I am told that I do not stop and ask for directions when I am lost.  But I am atypical then.  I ALWAYS stop and ask for directions.  If I reject the directions and try to find a shortcut, or believe all ways lead to my destination–or that my way is better, then I must accept the consequences.  Today we blame the direction-giver for why we chose to get lost. 

Where is the Hope?  I think we have it quite backwards in society.  We no longer provide hope for people.  We have taken hope and called it tolerance, thereby reducing truth to levels of “truth for you,” and “truth for me”–as long as it is watered down, so as not to cause a stir.  As long as it works for you and me, truth is subjective enough to be elevated to THE truth.  Once that occurs then the argument is made, “all truth is subjective.”  This is pure nonsense, in my thinking.  Just think about applying this principle to a marriage, or to justify a behavior to a boss, or whatever.  Is all truth subjective because YOU say so?  That statement alone seems like an exclusive and objective claim.  How then can ALL truth be subjective by a universal declaration that is objective?  Do you see the way we elevate ideas in our culture?  Here is an example.

“Jesus cannot be the only way to God because there are many ways.”  Pure nonsense!

Faith has its Place.  We place faith and trust all in the here and now, for fear of offending someone else.  Then we get bummed out when life doesn’t pan out like we expected.  In terms of our nation, in reality, minimizing Jesus’s deity equates Him to the rest of religious leaders.  But they have no answers of security for the next life.  Now what? 

Likewise, placing faith in men and elevating all the other religious leaders to the level of Jesus Christ places them in positions which they did not intend as mere humans.  Now what? 

How does either of those attempts help anyone in the long run?  If the words of Christ and His promises are false, all Christians have done is validate that all religions are essentially the same, and that He was truly a mere human.  Christianity then becomes just more religious stuff to do as humans, then we die.  But is that the case?

Non-Exclusivity?  If all religions get us to the same place, then all the “unfair things of life” in the name of religion are honored by some brutally sadistic universal power . . . That doesn’t work.  If it does, then I am heading off to the most selfish of religions and living for myself right now–ATHEISM!

All roads cannot lead to a place that is exclusive.  If they do, there is no exclusivity.  That would be like saying all political beliefs lead to the same political party, or the same political candidate.  Simply makes no logical sense, let along practical sense. 

If practicing a religion is the key, we are all in–assuming a few thing are in line.  

  • How much does one have to practice? 
  • Are we trusting another mere human to keep the tally and tell us? 
  • How much good one must do? 
  • Who or what defines good? 
  • If good is enough, they why would anyone do better? 
  • And what about doing our best? 
  • Is it just pass-fail? 
  • Who defines “bad,” and is there a subtraction factor from the good?

Here is where the ludicrous enters the universalist salvation philosophy.  

  • What if a person does good for a nation, and not the world, does he or she get in? 
  • Who is keeping the tally? 
  • And if a person does one good deed in life, or gives the most money to a cause, is that good enough? 

Universalism does not work, because people were good Nazis for their nation, good terrorists in the name of Allah during Jihad, and good murderers in the name of God throughout history.  Would you like to share an eternal life with these people?  If there is no eternal life, or punishment for anything, what is keeping all of us from destroying each other?  Would others like to share an eternal life with ex-spouses, or abusers?  Based on things done, universalism has no answers. 

Religious practice simply doesn’t cut it.  Religion may be universal in belief, but relationship is not.  If all roads led to the same place, then Christians practicing Buddhism, along with adhering to Jihadist ideology, and Roman Catholicism, etc., etc., along with polygamy are just fine and dandy. 

“Relationship with Whom,” you ask?  With God Himself–not religion.  I did not make this up.  Again, I trust the words of Jesus:  “I came to the world that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)  In the final analysis, I am placing my trust in the next world, right here and now in.  But I place it in Someone Who has been there, conquered the very thing we all cannot escape, and Who accepts me as I am. 

Religion enables my conscience to have a one-way relationship with a continuous grasping upwardly set of beliefs and practices.  Jesus Christ secures a relationship downward and validates it by His death and resurrection.  You know, come back from the dead on your own and  You, sir, at least have my attention–if not my soul. 

“For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

“Eat, drink, and be merry.  For me to live for myself is the ultimate.  There is nothing after this life.  For tomorrow we may die.”

Which one of these gives hope both now and later?  And do you even care?  The choice is yours.  It always is.

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