Are you thankful you exist?

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Socialism, Communism, and all political theories that involve attaining some degree of utopia here and now, at bottom express a dissatisfaction with the way that God has made things. They intensely dislike the world that God has made. And in their own faltering political ways, they attempt to get rid of these great blunders that God has created.

The main thing that proponents of Utopian societies want to get rid of are the limitations of our individual circumstances. That we should be constrained by our humble or poor birth, or the defectiveness of our culture or environment, is seen as a great evil. God has made us to struggle with this evil and this is something Utopians will not do. By means of money, i.e. distributing large piles into equal smaller ones, circumstances  and the struggles it would take to rise above them are left behind.

The majority of complaints stem from the existence of suffering and evil. And here I cannot but be baffled. To exist in this world is to be confronted by the challenge of every second. Each tick of the clock brings change and, thus, something to adapt to; something to struggle with. We imagine that evil and suffering is somehow inflicted upon us because God is himself evil and torturous. Yet, when we write our stories and books we add suffering and evil in the mix. We give our heroes a villain to fight with. We give them monstrous struggles to overcome. We send children into terrible abusive places and to terrible abusive people. We ordain the deaths of thousands of fictional people. We turn almost the entire world into soulless horrible inhuman zombies that destroy every piece of humanity it finds; yet we call the story good, and we pay good money to see them on film. Through imagination we create entire worlds and dash them to pieces. But, do the readers of these stories then turn around and call the authors evil? Do we blame them for the suffering they write? No.

The end of the road for people who continually complain about their personal struggles is the wish for death. It is the desire not to exist; to leave this real actual story. It is really an unthankfulness for existing. This is exactly where I am baffled. Because, despite the suffering I’ve endured, I still count it better to exist than not. And though I may understand someone’s desire to leave this world after having endured so much pain, I cannot think that about anyone who lives in the West. We have so much: technology, medicine, and many amenities in life. Yet, we are the most unthankful bunch I’ve seen. We constantly want each other’s things for ourselves, especially each other’s money; and we paint ourselves as victims of every challenge God sends our way. Every second we endure we find something more to complain about.

We are such hypocrites; who write end-of-the-world stories with great suffering in them, and then berate God for doing the same. I, for one, would rather meet the challenge and try to rise above the circumstances than be idle and unthankful. Every political Utopian desire is a wish to rewrite our actual story into a non-story: a state of existence where we endure through time but never leave the condition of happiness; a place where we become human pets in a little earthly terrarium that the government takes care of. And that, my friends, is not even a fairy tale. It’s doesn’t even count as a story. Neither can I imagine that that is what Heaven is. I certainly wouldn’t want to go there.

Christianity and the Law

One of the beautiful traits of our municipal jurisprudence is, that Christianity is a part of the common law, from which it seeks its sanction of its rights and by which it endeavors to regulate its doctrine.

–Judge Story

Atheism and the Bonds of Society

“An atheist is a person who questions every kind of authority, and this is the thing that is important. Because, if we can, without blinking an eye, question the ultimate authority, God, who must be obeyed; then we can question the authority of the state, we can question the authority of a university structure, we can question the authority of our employer, we can question anything.”

–Madalyn Murray O’Hair (quote from here)

“A being, independent of any other, has no rule to pursue, but such as he prescribes to himself…”

— Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England

“Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all.”

“For in all states of created beings capable of laws, where there is no law, there is no freedom; for liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others; which cannot be where there is no law: but freedom is not, as we are told, a liberty for every man to do what he lists: (for who could be free, when every other man’s humor might domineer over him?)”

–1. John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration,  2. John Locke, Second Treatise of Government

“For as God, when he created matter, and endued it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for the perpetual direction of that motion; so, when he created man, and endued him with freewill to conduct himself in all parts of life, he laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby that freewill is in some degree regulated and restrained, and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those laws.”

–Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England

The law of human nature is not, in all points, a limitation of human freedom but a direction of a freewill agent toward his proper interest. That law does not deserve the description of confinement which prevents us from falling off of cliffs and getting stuck in ditches. It’s aim is to preserve and broaden our freedom, not only to restrain.

If no God exists, then no law of human nature exists. If no law of human nature exists, then all government of human society is arbitrary and has no objective foundation or obligation upon men.

Moreover, there is no foundation for the establishment of government by free discourse in light of atheism because there is no objective and equal value of human persons to respect concerning each other’s jurisdiction or dominion over one another. Others need not respect the property (life, liberty, and estate) of their neighbors because no one has laid equality upon them or an obligation to respect.

The only reason, outside of the law of human nature, that can be maintained concerning respect of property, is only in the pursuit of certain social ends: i.e. If it is the case that men are pleased to preserve their property, then they need only confine their actions in such a manner as to meet those ends. But, let it be clear, if there is no superior being to lay an obligation upon them, then the choice to confine one’s action toward the preservation of property is arbitrary, and only holds so much as men are pleased to do so.

Also on atheism, outside of society, freedom is to do what one lists. There is no security within which one may conduct one’s affairs without constant threat of harm, and that harm cannot be considered illegitimate. There is no law the victim may appeal to, neither has he right to punish the offender, although, he may punish the offender if it so pleases him.

Furthermore, since rules of society are arbitrary, in a democratic society where the social end is peace with one another, those who think themselves outside this arbitrary law can rightly consider it tyranny. Tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, and right cannot be defined by arbitrary decision if a person is not pleased to accept that arbitrary decision.

This is why John Locke states that promises and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, cannot hold for an atheist. He has no law but such as he prescribes to himself and it holds as long as it pleases him to hold it.

The objection may arise, “But there are, indeed moral atheists. Are you saying that atheist are inherently immoral?” No. Because there is a law of human nature and they can apprehend it as much as the religious man can. They can be just as moral or even more so than the Christian because the same law holds for both and both understand it. Not only does the law of nature govern them, but the laws of the society they are in confine their actions as well. However, since the atheist has rejected God, the only foundation for moral obligation; the option is left open to him to reject the law of society and the bonds of nature’s law, even in the smallest of measures, because his true foundation is whatever pleases him.

The Enemy Within

 

The Adversary Culture, as Lionel Trilling indicates, believes “a primary function of art and thought is to liberate the individual from the tyranny of his culture… and to permit him to stand beyond it in an autonomy of perception and judgment.” In this view, society and government are thought to have negative characteristics such as force, compulsion, control, and coercion while the individual is thought to have positive qualities such as liberty, independence, will, and goodness.

(Lionel Trilling, Beyond Culture [New York, 1965], p. xiii.)

But let us not forget the reason for society in the first place. Our short lives here on earth are of an uncertain duration, frail, and fleeting. This being the case, we have need of several outward supports that the pain of hard work can provide in order to make our lives comfortable. For these “supports” are not provided to us by nature nor do they spontaneously appear in front of us prepared for our use. We must work to attain them. Crops don’t plant themselves. However, there are men who violently take the fruits of other men’s labors rather than put in the work to attain these things for themselves. Therefore, the possession of what honest work has acquired needs to be preserved, as does liberty and strength. This state of affairs leads men to enter into a society that by mutual assistance they may secure their property, liberty, and outward things pertaining to this life while providing a defense from external violence. This can hardly be thought of in negative terms.

What is not so easy to defend against is the inward threat of violence to the very fabric of society. For people who desire the overthrow of a particular society do not couch their intentions in plain terms, but rather they emphasize liberty and equality. Liberty and equality can be rightly used to change an unjust law or tradition in society and improve parts of society. But this is not the aim of these particular people. If their real intentions were known, the public would be aware of it and provide a defense against it.

It is curious that movements of “liberation from society” tend to emphasize group identity which gives rise to new traditions and conformities; and given enough power, these movements would replace the old tradition with a “tradition of the new”. And presumably, after a sufficient time has past when the “new society” has been established, another liberation movement would develop to oppose that culture. This attitude of “counter-culture” hinders the members of the movement from bargaining with the current society or the next one, or suggesting a new code of law to follow, or presenting a new constitution, or even demonstrating how their way is somehow better. This is not improvement. This is liberation for the sake of liberation, and speaks more of discontentment and envy than a sensible improvement in society. Instead, it is the dissolution of society in order to violate the protection of honest men’s possessions and make lawful the unlawful deeds of thieves. This is what lies behind slogans like “We are the 99%” in the Occupy Wall Street movement.

It is the duty of the civil officer to secure the just possession of the things belonging to this life and to execute laws equally and without partiality and to preserve the commonwealth. Therefore, words contrary to the main aim of society, which is each of its member’s well-being, and the moral rules which are necessary to the preservation of our well-being should not be tolerated by the civil officer. These words are doubly not to be tolerated when accompanied with actions that demonstrate violence toward rules of civilized society and indicate that on the occasion that they seize the government, they would possess themselves of the estates and fortunes of their fellow citizens thereby making insecure what we thought to secure in the first place: our money, lands, houses, and such like that we obtained with our hard work.

And what sense would it make to allow these harmful words or actions on the grounds of free speech? Individuals who enter into movements or groups of this nature admit implicitly that their allegiance lies not with their fellow citizens nor their protection or safety, but to another. For the civil officer to allow this, is to allow a kind of foreign jurisdiction in his own jurisdiction, and enlisted soldiers, as it were, against the people he is sworn to protect.

 

(picture from TheBlaze.com)

The Age of Manipulation

This is the age of information, but more like the bombardment of information. From the internet to the millions of books, everyone who can write wants their voice to be heard and given as much consideration as the millions of others who want to be heard. The public processes information too fast and with so much volume, it is hardly surprising that people know very little about a whole lot of subjects. In previous times when words and information were scarce, people put time and labor into their reading. The public, then, knew very well the value of every word and the implications that could be drawn from each one. Now, the public is pushed on every side by words. For each modern word touts an agenda and a bias. Feeling a responsibility to give every writer equal audience, the public gorges itself on more and more information. And just when it is just about to vomit, it forces more down its collective throat. As a consequence, the public has become indistinguishable from a lazy man who, because he cannot manage to govern himself, is manipulated not by the man with the wisest words, but by the man who speaks the most often.

What is the legitimate basis for governmental law? The will of God or the will of man?

Men who value liberty but believe themselves to be self-sufficient in matters of truth and existence and who have no need for authority apart from themselves, also have no compulsion to follow laws, except laws conforming to their own reasoning or inclination. Contrariwise, men who value liberty but believe themselves to be in a state of dependence on a Superior Being for matters of truth and existence, eventually accept the will of this Being on whom they depend to be the foundation for self-restraint and morality. The extent to which man believes himself to be dependent affects the degree of his adherence to the will of his Maker.

This superior Being; having brought matter into existence and provided it with rules for motion, has also, in bestowing upon man a freewill, given a law of nature whereby man’s actions may be conducted in accordance with his greatest happiness. Man’s reason, although corrupt, has the ability to discover this law of nature manifested by the moral standards men have held each other accountable to from the beginning of time until now. Because of man’s corrupted reasoning, moral standards look different throughout history, but never amount to a total difference. A greater understanding of the natural law provides better individual self-regulation, which in turn, keeps liberty free from corruption.

This doctrine applies to all men at all times and in all places, regardless of belief, religion, or disposition. No legitimate rule in existence can oppose this law of nature without corrupting man’s happiness, or providing a false happiness. Therefore, pure liberty cannot exist without the self-governance of man founded upon the will of his maker.

George Washington said in his farewell address in 1796, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”

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What is the proper relationship between religion and the government?

Is it the complete separation between church and state? Even Thomas Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury Baptists didn’t completely define the “wall” he talked about.  The wall itself seems to be penetrated at times by Jefferson’s own words in the Declaration of Independence which reveals that the source of life, freedom, and man’s ability to be happy comes from the Creator.

In 1787, the Northwest Ordinance allowed for the creation of five states, of which, Ohio was first. The ordinance states, “No person, demeaning himself in a peaceable and orderly manner, shall ever be molested on account of his mode of worship or religious sentiments, in the said territory.” This predates the First Amendment to the US Constitution which was adopted in 1791. This ordinance provided for religious freedom in the territory. It further states that religion and morality are to be taught. Article three says, “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” From reading the ordinance, it is obvious that this “religion and morality” was taught in public schools and paid for with public taxes.

The constitution of Massachusetts written in 1780 by John Adams asserts, “As the happiness of a people and the good order and preservation of civil government essentially depend upon piety, religion, and morality, and as these cannot be generally diffused through a community but by the institution of the public worship of God and of the public instructions in piety, religion, and morality.” It goes on to instruct that groups, political bodies, and religious societies should carry out this public worship authorized through the legislature.

Are these legal documents breaching the “wall of separation” that Jefferson talks about? Do they violate the First Amendment? Or do these writers and framers of legal documents and constitutions understand better than we do the proper relationship between church and state? A comparison of public scenes from the 18th century and today shows us that the former had greater religious freedom than the modern people of today. I postulate that this wall of separation as is thought of in the modern sense actually inhibits the freedom of expression and freedom of worship. If you doubt my statement and begin to invoke the undefined “wall”, consider if you will ever hear in your lifetime, a speech from a government official with these words:

“I congratulate the people of the United States on the assembling of Congress at the permanent seat of their government; and I congratulate you, gentlemen, on the prospect of a residence not to be exchanged. It would be unbecoming the representatives of this nation to assemble for the first time in this solemn temple without looking up to the Supreme Ruler of the universe and imploring his blessing. You will consider it as the capitol of a great nation, advancing with unexampled rapidity in arts, in commerce, in wealth, and in population, and possessing within itself those resources which, if not thrown away or lamentably misdirected, will secure to it a long course of prosperity and self-government. May this territory be the residence of virtue and happiness! In this city may piety and virtue, that wisdom and magnanimity, that constancy and self-government, which adorned the great character whose name it bears, be forever held in veneration! Here, and throughout our country, may simple manners, pure morals, and true religion forever flourish.”

–  John Adams, November25, 1800, the year the first Congress opened session in the Capitol.

I submit to you, the reader, we have lost some freedom when any religious expression in public places and public institutions is allowed to be defeated by a “wall”.

Prop 8: A Moral Stand

Shared morality is the rich foundation from which people can obtain the wisdom and discussion required to moderate what is called the tyranny of the majority. However, any moral society will eventually exclude those who operate outside of its standards. There’s no getting around it except to lower society’s standards. But, in order to keep this shared morality consistent, it must be a part of the basic institutions that provide a foundation for healthy life. I’m speaking of marriage and family. When marriage is redefined so that it means whatever anyone wants it to mean, it ceases to be a source of consistent morality, or any stable foundation. Concurrently, when the whims of individuals add, subtract, or replace whatever they want in the family unit, moral stability is lost. When these are redefined, society is redefined. Our society declines as it loses its attachment to religion: the main informer of morality to these basic institutions. Even though our government has a constitution; its concepts, especially liberty and equality, are interpreted today in ways the founders did not intend. Why? The words just don’t mean the same thing anymore because we don’t have the same morality. The previous restraints to liberty and equality enforced by the basic institutions, have been corrupted, and as a consequence, so have the original intents. Liberty and equality taken to the extreme will produce either a tyranny of the individual or a tyranny of the government. Self-restraint is taboo in this culture of radical individualism. Censorship is not even mentioned. Yet, if we are to preserve our way of life, at some point we must stop liberty from going too far, and restrain equality from infiltrating things it should not. To give them free reign is to watch our society be destroyed. Those who continually create new rights and new equalities which are mainly people living outside of the morality of the society, fail to provide a moral framework for their actions. They just complain about discrimination. All law is discriminatory in nature. They need more than this argument to back up their behavior. However, when their rights and equalities are made legal, this lack of morality is forced on the majority. I applaud those who passed proposition 8 for taking a stand for their corporate morality. I applaud them for trying to preserve the institutions that are the backbone of this country. We lose them, we lose ourselves. We just can’t react in defeat every time someone cries about rights. Some rights aren’t rights at all. They’re bondage.

I find then a principle: When I strive for self-actualization, I decay; but when I restrain myself, I gain liberty.

Proclamation of Injustice

This post is in response to another post. Read this first to get the context: Click Here. It also has to do with this news story about an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning: Click Here

There are extremes for the religious and non-religious man which can never be reached. For the religious man it is complete adherence to the goodness and laws of God. He will always fall short. For the non-religious man it is individual liberty. He will always find himself constrained by what, to each individual, constitutes harm. Other people have quite different ideas about what part of your specific behavior concerns them or harms them. On one hand, society could define harm like Anthony Comstock and squelch even the most private immorality perceived to take place. The moral police would always be looking over your shoulders. On the other hand, if only physical or material injury counts as harm there could be no law against prostitution, public drunkenness, obscenity, indecent exposure, and so on. If expanding the sphere of liberty was always a “net gain”, so to speak, it would lead to the elimination of all law and restraints imposed by social disapproval, which is an unrealistic goal of individual liberty.

Now, what constitutes harm to this particular government, in this case, does not constitute harm to the commenters on this post. I’m inclined to agree with them. However, without an absolute, or at the very least, a unending universal standard by which to judge these actions as immoral, how can you impose your concept of harm on another person’s or government’s concept of harm. There is no reason why their opinions on that subject are not as valid as, or entitled to more weight than yours. Your assessment of their actions are still based on your own notions and opinions of right and wrong. This is where you draw the line. OK. Great. They draw the line at another place. If there is no absolute standard, then your definition of harm is just as valid as their definition of harm. What’s the difference if it’s all based on every individual’s or society’s line? By the way, making an unending universal standard leads to Communism, and that’s never been a successful government. Communism hinders individual liberty as well. The only real answer is one that exists outside of humanity. We need a mediator who knows what’s best of each of us. If he doesn’t exist, your proclamation of injustice can always be hindered by another man’s equally valid idea of justice.

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The Problem of Human Government

People have usually styled Capitalism as a “Christian friendly” economic system. And it is, in that Capitalism makes similar assumptions as Christianity about human nature. Christianity says that everyone starts out with an evil nature. This nature must be dealt with by a righteous, albeit forgiving, God. Christians believe this to be self-evident because, for instance, you don’t have to teach a child how to lie. But if you want him to tell the truth even if it hurts, you must train him to adopt the principles of honesty in daily living. Capitalism makes a similar assumption by saying that human nature is generally fallible based on historical precedent. It does not say necessarily that everyone will be bad. Instead it says that in any society of humans, there will invariably be those who justify taking advantage of other people.

Capitalism may be “Christian friendly” in the sense of the two “matching up” in it’s claims about such realities. But Christians are dissatisfied with the outcomes of Capitalism. Sure we like the fact that people get to decide their own level of risk. We are all for the idea of personal responsibility. But inevitably there will be people who fall short of the merits of the Capitalist system, or in essence, fall off the radar: people who are “at risk”, according to sociologists. Empathic Christians feel it is their responsibility to do something to help these “at risk” individuals or groups. Although we may agree with some of Capitalism’s viewpoints, if we are intellectually honest, we must inevitably be disgusted by some of it’s outcomes.

If capitalism, then, does not fit the bill, what else is there? Many who disagree with capitalism find communism a better alternative. The question must arise, where should Christians stand on this thing called Communism? It certainly appears to be a good thing, everyone working together and sharing everything equally. It sounds great. It definitely fits the picture many Christians have of their own church. Many churches strive for a communal inner atmosphere. We believe we are meant to enjoy each other and help each other, just like we are meant to enjoy God forever. It appears that although capitalism may line up with Christian realism, communism is the system of government that most closely matches Christian idealism – they just don’t call it communism or may not know that it is a form of communism. It may work in the church or a commune where many folks volunteer and agree on the same standard of social morality. But this begs the question, is the rest of the world up to it?

To answer this we have to look at what Marx predicted. He claimed that all resources would be collected and distributed by the ruling class – socialism. Then the working class would become aware that they are being exploited and take power from the ruling class in a bloody revolution, ushering in communism.

Now, some will agree that communism is the best form of government on paper. Some might praise the merits of capitalism. But who amongst us is ready to take the step of socialism to get there? It may be for good intentions. However, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with such things.

Socialism is a form of total government – or totalitarianism. Total government attempts to put “all” under it’s rule. This is for any number of reasons. But let’s consider the implications of only the ‘good’ reasons. Benevolent socialism might be done in an attempt to curb all manner of poverty and illness – basically to decide the level of risk for it’s citizens. Does it accomplish this task? Consider an analogy –

A lake full of some toxin may be cleaned up if enough money is spent. The lake may be 99% toxin free once the clean up is done. That one percent left, or some number less than one percent, is nearly impossible to attain. The trace amounts left of the toxin are so elusive that one might spend a fortune just trying to eliminate that last one percent. In some cases it’s like what mathematicians call a tangent – a line curving infinitely closer to zero (the axis) but never getting there. No matter how much money you spend, you can’t quite eliminate that last one percent.

Socialism is like the tangent that demonstrates the infinite dollars spent in trying to clean up the last little bit of toxicity. Or, in our case, poverty and illness. So by the time socialism has culminated, poverty and illness has not been eliminated and in the mean time we have taken away everyone’s freedom to choose their own level of risk (clean up their own toxins) for a solution that is unsustainable, economically speaking. It can’t be sustained by wealth unless wealth is being created. If the creation of wealth plateaus so will the amount of wealth we can tax.

But even if somehow we make this step of socialism successfully, true communism, as it’s successor, may still be deterred by human nature. A revolution to take power creates a power vacuum. According to communist ideology, that vacuum is never again filled by a government. There is no government in true communism. The only thing left is simply the shared principle of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” – Marx and Engels. Communism never accounts for human corruption or selfishness. It claims that those things are caused by people owning what we now call “property.” But even if all “property” is eliminated they can never eliminate the feeling that we are our own property. The ultimate thing we think we own is ourselves. It is the alleged ownership of that property which makes us consequently selfish. It is that selfishness which bites us back and reminds us of it’s existence every time we think it can be done away with by some trick of government or even no government at all as it were. And if there is no government in this great communism, how will we be protected from others’ selfishness if they at once decide they want or deserve more?

This leaves us with a problem. How are we to handle human nature? The options are either to eliminate human existence all together, leave the flaws alone, or somehow fix human nature. This is where both capitalism and communism part ways with Christianity. Communists don’t think the human nature itself needs to be fixed but only it’s environment. Capitalists think human nature is impossible to fix and adjusts policy accordingly. Christians, on the other hand, believe that human nature is the very thing to fix and that it really can be. Christians also believe that it is for the ultimate individual and collective good that human nature must be fixed. Of course, we believe that it’s fixing is no doing of our own and that it is not really fixed but forgiven first and then dealt with as it is till it is something different.

All government systems may eventually fail. However, they may survive longer if they account for the inevitable flaws in government that human nature will create. Capitalism admits to these flaws. We’re heading towards socialism because in a capitalist system were always trying to fix the flaws. Fixing the flaws in a Capitalist society can lead ultimately to communism. Fixing the flaws in a Communistic society can lead to Capitalism. If Marx was right and we see Communism on the other side of Socialism, how will we then account for the flaws without perpetuating the cycle?