The Beginning of Clarity in Religion (Part 4, final)

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

When considering myself, I find that, I, like the world, am two sided. On the one hand, I find a desire for God; and the other hand I find shaking in defiance against him. What greater act of defiance is there than to deny his existence? What greater act of desire than to love him? But, it is as if when faced with the two ways that I am, there is an “antecedent me” in a state of wholly free choice in the matter. I can choose to love my desire for God or choose to love my defiance of God. But, this “antecedent me” only has free choice if the world does not wholly hide God nor wholly reveal him. If he is fully revealed, my will is powerfully directed towards God and my choice is slighted. If he is fully hidden, again my will is compelled against him.

In light of this, the man who demands that God appear is, therefore, asking God to make his choice for him. He squanders a choice that is free from manipulation by God and nature. He doesn’t think his free choice is as important as God does. Some atheists think it so unimportant that they claim to have no choice in the matter at all.  They believe they have no free will. I find this to be a logical conclusion of denying God’s existence. God has given them intellectual satisfaction in their choice by letting them reason that they have no choice. It seems as though God has provided every man a certain rest in whichever choice he makes, for each can support their choices with reason.

The Beginning of Clarity in Religion (Part 3)

Part 1

Part 2

Mankind has increased this obscurity in religion and added to it the obscurity of the natural world. For God, if he is there, is hidden. It is not true, however, that everything conceals God; and neither is it true that everything reveals God. For it seems to be the case that he has revealed himself to some, for there are those who claim to know him. And it is the case that God conceals himself, for some claim not to know him. Ironically, those who tempt God to reveal himself seem to be the ones who do not know him; and those who seek him, despite this hiddenness, seem to find him.

It seems, then, that men are both unworthy and capable of God. But, can man and God meet seeing man is unworthy?  History is abundantly filled with examples of men who exercise enormous effort to obtain things for which they know they are unworthy. Who has not seen a man in love strain every part of himself to have his heart’s desire and not seen that same man admit that he does not deserve it? Ask Columbus what he has done to deserve a fantastic voyage or grand adventure and he may not be able to tell you. Ask him what he can achieve and he will tell you he can reach the stars.

What can we draw from this observation of humanity? If a true religious man exists, he is a humble man who boldly embarks upon a romantic adventure without first having to perform some good act that would make him deserving of the journey nor having to make some payment. If a true religion exists, it must map out the journey that must be taken without asking for merit first. And, if there is a God, he is a God who provides a way to meet the unworthy adventurer on his quest.

But, what can we say about the man who tempts a God who does not appear on demand and yet does not undertake this voyage to meet him? We can say he thinks himself too deserving of God’s love. And what remains of love when it is made to jump through hoops and sing and dance like clowns in the circus, when it is made into a magician to conjure and entertain the arrogant whim of the self-entitled? I tell you nothing will remain. Love recoils from demands and shuns the arrogant self-entitled man.

The Beginning of Confusion in Religion (Part 2)

Part 1

There is much religious confusion in the world regarding which religion is right; so much so that some men adopt a casual apathetic attitude towards the whole subject. Atheists say, “The Hindus live and die just as the Buddhists do. The Muslims and Mormons have their prophets, ceremonies, rituals, and saints just as the Christians do. The religious waters are, therefore, not clear but muddy.” And having ventured this bare philosophical inquiry, they lay in repose having grasped enough truth to satiate their human appetites.  However, if a man desires with all of his heart to know the truth, this is not enough. He will dive into the details, and perhaps may stumble upon a religion that accounts for this obscurity caused by religious confusion.  Perhaps that religion will be able to instruct him.

The Beginning of Confusion in Religion (Part 1)

Lately, man is encouraged to discover and explore many millions of objects in art, science, technology, and so on; and his opinion is said to matter whether he is discussing health care, economics, or Ford Mustangs. But, let him happen upon that great object called the universe long enough to form an opinion and suddenly he has religion; at which point his opinion no longer matters. Everything matters — except everything.

Where is Life?

A man sits on the ledge of a high mountain. Out in front and below him a great chasm marks the separation between the precipice and the ground. Behind him lies the forest and a path that winds down the mountain to his transportation. One way leads to certain death and one way leads to life. But, which way is it? Is there life behind him? Indeed, does he even have life where he sits?

Answer  #1:

Man is made of a collection of atoms. All of his hopes and dreams, thoughts and actions are the byproduct of matter and energy moving from one place to another. Man’s behavior is controlled by pre-existing factors he doesn’t understand. He does not genuinely exist as a real person who makes his own choices; his choices were already predetermined. There is no life in him. There is just the illusion of perceived life. He is actually a puppet moved by the strings of the universe. The only thing that genuinely exists is the universe, except that it is dead. Peter Atkins so aptly describes the universe’s current existence as “nothing”. It’s positive and negative energies have the same force and both cancel each other out, so there is nothing that exists. Lawrence Krauss adds to this and explains how the universe came from nothing at all. The man on the precipice is dead where he stands. It makes no difference whether he goes forward or backward. Whatever direction he goes, could not have chosen otherwise. He is nothing that in the end goes to nothing and came from nothing.

Answer #2:

Man and the universe is made by Life itself. The Life is the Light which makes the light which makes the day; and the Life is the light that lightens every man that comes into existence. The universe is not dead, but is living. It began with Life and continues to exist by that Life; and the universe is the eternal language of that Life infused with meaning and written to man. Man himself is co-creator with the Life, and is given the gift of freedom to make his own choice – to be his own person. The eternally existent Intellect, Will and Imagination from which the man flowed and came into being, repeats every moment Its eternal act of creation within the man’s finite mind – essentially instilling Its image upon the man giving him intellect, will, and imagination. Life is running throughout the universe and flowing within and without the man. Therefore it makes a difference whether the man squanders his life-gift, or whether he preserves it. Life is within him and behind him in the path through the forest.

Christianity and the Immortals

 

When King Hyperion broke into the temple to find the virgin oracle, he ridiculed the priest who prayed to the gods and betrayed his hatred for them. Where were they when his wife and children were killed? He had a list of accusations against them and had expected them to intervene if they were worth anything. This was his motivation for unleashing the titans on mankind for their own destruction. He was driven by despair; despair towards Zeus who said he would not intervene, and only did so in the end to kill the titans, not to save Hyperion or humanity.

But, as I watched him I laughed. This was actually an accusation against the Christian God, but could not legitimately be applied to the gods of mythology. The movie was a chance for anger, normally vented against a loving God who intervenes in the affairs of men and allows suffering in the world, to be projected upon the Greek or Roman gods who functioned as convenient whipping boys. The Greeks didn’t take their gods as seriously as Christians take theirs. They took them with a kind of lightness and frivolity.They did not mix reason with the gods of imagination. But, it was hilarious to see the seriousness of Christianity applied to other gods.

As far as history is concerned, the ones who were serious about their gods back then were those who worshiped the demons, like Moloch.  A man who walked into the woods might hope to see a tree nymph, but the man who went in the woods to make a deal with the Devil expected even feared to see him. The Devil keeps his appointments. If you wanted things done in society and did not care how it was done, the demons were the ones to deal with. The city of Carthage sold their souls and their society to Moloch. But, Moloch was not a myth because his meal was not a myth. These people gathered together to invoke blessings upon their society by throwing their infants and children into a large furnace. This was religion, not myth. They became a culture of death, but they were perhaps more civilized than the people of Rome. It’s the supreme delusion of this age to think that barbarism characterized the first societies of man. But, it is the more complex and civilized societies that make an institution out of evil. How do we, as Americans, get things done in our society? We destroy our children. That’s how we further ourselves and society. Apparently, Moloch has not finished his meal.

At the end of the movie, the titans were unleashed and Zeus showed up like he said. As the battle raged he lost all his fellow gods who fought with him. And in a scene reminiscent of the story of Samson in the Bible, Zeus grabbed two chains connected to the sides of Mount Tataras and pulled so that the mountain imploded destroying the titans along with it. But, as the mountain came down on all sides around him, he traveled back up to Olympus. He did not sacrifice himself as Samson did. The more noble act belonged to Samson.

But, humanity needs a God who does both; a God who sacrifices himself but also still resides in Heaven. Mankind needed to be saved, but a God who only sacrificed himself no longer had the power to be with them; and a God who only kept his throne in Heaven had no way to bring humanity to himself. The great power found in Christianity lies in the paradox of victory through defeat.

The path of the hero in the film is perhaps a damning commentary on the state of our world. There was no vision of purity at the start, no holy light to reveal his defects, no clear start in his path – just a quest for revenge. And though he killed the man who killed his mother, darkness was not vanquished. Evil survived to plague mankind once again. Man was caught in an eternal repetition doomed to roll the rock of evil up the hill only to have it fall back down again. Our hero was in darkness in the beginning and in darkness in the end; he was lost in the beginning and lost in the end. Is there any better commentary on man? We are all stuck somewhere in the middle with no light on either side, stabbing vainly in the dark for a hope and salvation we will never find.

Christianity is blamed for keeping mankind in the dark ages, but Christianity was actually the one bright road out of the dark ages. It shed light on man’s beginning and his end. Christianity’s God took man by the hand and led him down the road. Those stabbing blindly in the dark had only to head towards the light, and thank God they did or our modern world would have been quite different.

Dear Determinist, (Sam Harris, Jerry Coyne, or whoever reads this first)

I’m sorry, but you’re not a real person. You don’t have your own thoughts, make your own decisions, or control your own actions. If you stand here and argue with me, I can only regard it as the universe arguing with itself. One part of the universe argues and says “A” is true and “B” is false, while another part of the universe declares “B” true and “A” false. The universe declares “A” and “B” to be both true and false, therefore truth is incoherent in this universe. In the absence of a standard outside of the universe, there is no truth for beings who are just another part of this incoherent universe.  So, determinist, you’ll have to excuse me if I can’t believe anything you say.

The Paradox of Life

Existence is a gift. We have no reason to think it otherwise. The only thing that competes with it and may convince us that existence is not worth it is suffering. A while ago, a friend asked me why God made him this way, referring to a great perversion in his mind and body that he had to deal with.  Why could he not be like other people who seemed to suffer less? Why was he given this torment, this sin? Why was he given a bodily disease that caused daily pain and may turn out to be cancer later on? One may as well ask why we lie, steal, hurt others, contract disease, and wither away till we die. All is a perversion of the mind and body. And it seems all of us were born this way. Why did God, if he did not make us this way, let it happen to us in this manner? Life, indeed, gives us great cause to weep, to mourn our wretchedness. Should we cherish existence even when it is accompanied by pain? Or should we do as Ivan Fyodorovitch and respectfully return God his ticket; to resign from this life?

Yet, existence does not only give us cause to mourn, but also makes us sing. For the great joys of family, laughter, love, and beauty envelope us and make us cling to existence with a fierceness. Every day my youngest daughter (3 months old) smiles at me I can’t help but smile back. Somebody made the objection, “But she smiles all the time.” I replied, “Yes, and I love it all the time.” May I never be bored of such a thing. And, oh, to drink in the beauty of the mountains and the sea; to feel the sun warming my face and see it set amongst a myriad of colors painted on the canvass of the sky; to know the intimate love of another human being and share our very souls — it is an awakening, a stirring of the soul into thankfulness. One may as well ask just as relevantly as before, why God made life in such a manner. At times, many of us have felt as if we would ask God for another ticket or one that affords us a longer stay.

What I’m getting at, is not a call to complete pessimism about life, or a complete optimism about life; neither is it a combination of the two. What I am saying is that since there is cause for weeping and singing in life, let us do both. Let weeping have its full freedom and the same for singing. There is a time for laughter and a time for mourning. Let us do as life indicates — complain and be thankful about life. Let us weep and sing; and sing and weep while we experience both sorrow and love. Life is bittersweet.

Ah, my dear angry Lord
Since Thou dost love, yet strike,
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure I will do the like.

I will complain, yet praise,
I will bewail, yet approve;
All my sweet-sour days
Will lament and love.

— George Herbert

If we find ourselves, in the end, clinging to existence — saying that life is worth it no matter what the pain; we will find that we love God himself. God is pure existence and the source of all of it. Love of it is love of him.