Category Archives: Philosophic & Religious Musings
Like many of you reading this blog I have been following eschatologists, prophecy teachers and perusing bible-based prophecy books for what seems like an eternity (1960s on in my case). Along the way I have noted and sometimes jotted down prophecies that were precise as opposed to nonspecific, meaning specific timeframes and events such as a major quake in southern California were predicted in “thus says the Lord” fashion. None panned out.
Now, as you might expect my interest in eschatology and prophecy has not escaped the notice of close friends, family and others in my orbit. This leads to my getting emails containing prophetic words in oral or written form penned or spoken by various (mostly) evangelical preachers and self-proclaimed prophets. I typically retain those prophecies that bear a specific timeframe and later compare the predicted catastrophe, upheaval or what-have-you with what actually unfolded (The misses outnumber the hits by an almost astronomical margin).
On occasion, I will have someone pass along an email “imminent warning prophetic word” more often than not given by a well-known evangelist or teacher whose prophetic track record is not just abysmal but a literally train (of accuracy) wreck. Last night (9-4-2017) I got one such email in which great credence was given to a prophecy Jim Bakker reportedly shared concerning the recent flooding in Houston (and this well before Hurricane Harvey hit). Here are a few of the salient sentences from this email concerning Bakker’s prophetic predictions:
That prophecy was right about the flood here. Jim Bakker remarked a prophecy after that was for California. He predicted an earthquake. Since he was correct about the flood in Houston, I hope you take him serious for earthquake preparedness. Those products Bakker cover everything to get one through disaster.
To read the rest of my op-ed article go to http://summerclouds.weebly.com/summer-clouds-blog/and-now-a-word-about-failed-extrabiblical-prophecies
Intimacy has many forms and expressions, as you know — familial, romantic, sexual, and many others. You’ve got intimacy down pat, right? Now go do a Google search using the word intimacy and read a few of the articles concerning human relational intimacy (But skip the porno sites that may have gotten into your search results). After doing this I suspect you have found yourself questioning whether your mastery of intimacy is as thorough and complete as you thought it to be.
Now take this little self-reflection exercise a step further (provided you are a believer): do a Google search using the phrase (in parentheses) “Intimacy with God”. I did it just now and turned up 524,000 websites, blog entries and what-have-you. Now read through a few of the top ranked articles on this subject.
You probably read a lot about “surrender”, “transparency”, “obedience” and such (All consistent with what the Bible articulates about the God-human relationship).
What intrigues me is that many writers on the subject have a lot of “how to” steps based, in whole or part, on biblical examples and notions of what tends to draw us closer to the Almighty as well as those things that can throw a monkey wrench in the achievement of intimacy with God or complicate its development over time. Some of these writer-pontificators draw on personal experience. All this is fine and good and is generally valid at various levels and in various ways, I’m sure. And, I suspect, few (if any) believers are so instinctively and spiritually adept (gifted) at establishing and maintaining intimacy with God as to obviate the need for biblical and extrabiblical guidance or other input, such as “how to” guides and personal accounts (I invoked “I suspect” because it is hard to know for sure without surveying all believers).
In addition, I also suspect that many believers either think intimacy (at least the deepest, most profound expression of it) with God is something that he unilaterally ordains, decrees and facilitates, or is a matter of individual volition in the sense of approaching God and having faith he will respond to this and then help or enable us to wade into the waters of intimacy with him (starting with “toes first” and then progressing slowly over time as millimeter by millimeter of our being is submerged), or is a mix of both. Read the rest of this entry
Anthony G. Payne
Reports are beginning to surface indicating that retail sources for emergency preparedness or survival gear, dehydrated foods, seeds and such cannot keep up with demand. It isn’t hard to figure out why with articles and tweets and such appearing almost every few minutes on what is happening or lies ahead in term of climate spawned global upheaval, tectonic activity that is triggering volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and other calamities, fracking induced quakes, super droughts and massive wildfires, epidemics, increasing social conflict & unrest and gun violence, economic instability in nations great and small, the unrestrained barbarity of ISIS, not to mention terrorist acts taking place worldwide by people of every extremist stripe, and a seemingly endless litany of calamities both human-made and natural that are sending millions of refugees streaming into Italy, Hungary, and elsewhere. And this hardly begins to scratch the surface of how many ways life is now making various doomsday movies, books and such that appeared in the 1950s, 1960s and beyond almost prophetic.
Here is a analytic thought exploriment for you: Sit down and juxtapose current events (especially the darker side of the news) with the prophecies in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. I suspect that if you weren’t concerned about where civilization is headed before this exercise, you likely will be afterwards.
If you happen to be a Baby Boomer you probably have watched a succession of popular books and films on eschatology themes (“End of Era” events and corresponding prophecies) such as those of Hal Lindsey (Author of the bestselling 1970 book, “The Late Great Planet Earth“) come and go. A look back through these makes it very clear that nailing down the “End Times” is an iffy enterprise. However, today events are unfolding that line up with ancient prophecies in ways that are both starling and difficult to dismiss or gloss over.
And it isn’t believers in the mainstream religions that are blogging and tweeting on “End Times” prophecy. The Web abounds with fearful speculation on the part of people who are more secular in their thinking than religious or spiritual.
I have a different spin on this which is not peculiar youth or young people: What will you let life do to you?
“What do I mean?”, you ask. It’s really quite simple: Every person, influence, work of art and music, hobby, passion, group, tribe and such is writing paragraphs and chapters in the unique storybook which is your life. Your very being may even form a dynamic circuit with select others.
Picture your life as a huge whiteboard. Now walk along and read the entries on it — “the good, bad and ugly”, if you will. As you look around you see the various people in your life writing on your “lifeboard”. What kind of story has emerged? Are you happy with it? If not, how many “bad content writers” can and should be banned from writing on your lifeboard in 2015?
Dr. Anthony G. Payne
►Which dominates your life: Competition or sharing & harmonization?
►Is what you’ve been doing with your life consistent with your core nature, or not? That is, are you faithful to your true or authentic self or not?
►Do you tend to think your own thoughts or those of Madison Avenue, Wall Street, etc.?
►Are you nurturing what is genuine & true in life or something else entirely?
►Which is better: To be whole or something else?
►Do you resist learning what closed doors have to teach you?
►Have you consciously embraced your limitations?
►Are the “ought’s” & “should have’s” that bedevil you reflect who you really are?
►Do you run from failure and “experiments gone bad” or learn the lessons they offer and revise your life course accordingly?
►Have the roles you play in life, its pleasures, indulgences, escapes, or obligations, or something else eclipsed or undermined the “you beneath & within”?
►Do the conflicts and paradoxes in your life demand resolution, or embrace & integration into all that you are?
►Is your trip through the valley preparing you to fulfill your unique purpose in life?
Few reading this, I dare say, have any qualms about seeing religious extremists who believe they please the Almighty by dealing with nonbelievers, sinners, so-called apostates and “infidels” with intolerance and especially cruelty and butchery, contained and even eradicated (Mandated when an armed response is the lesser of 2 evils — kill or else have more innocents killed).
At the moment (October 2014) a coalition of nations including many predominately Muslin ones are involved in rolling back the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL) whose atrocities and wanton evil are regularly showcased and discussed on TV and in newspapers, not to mention web, blog and social media outlets galore worldwide.
In the midst of all this most justifiable righteous indignation with extremist violence and monstrous wickedness, there is also a growing hostility towards Muslims in countries throughout the world in which peaceful, law-abiding ones are not only suspected of being sympathetic to Islamic extremists like IS/ISIS/ISIL but are thought to be fellow travelers, even members of planted “sleeper cells” who lurk in the shadows awaiting conditions to favor their popping out and engaging in terrorism.
And, even though Muslims including scholars have come out and denounced the extremist evil of IS including their cherry-picking of the Quran to support their beliefs and actions (Examples: Here & here), this is oftentimes ignored or eclipsed by our all-too-human in-group/out-group sentiments (wiring?) which in many instances has given rise to xenophobia and then paranoia. There is something both ironic and paradoxical in the fact that many who decry the intolerance and acts of cruelty championed by extremists began to treat anyone or anything that “smacks of the enemy” with intolerance and cruelty (ranging from subtle ostracism to physical violence).
It is also tempting to filter out contrary evidence within the Islamic world and conclude that IS/ISIS/ISIL actually reflects the heart and soul of Muslim beliefs and heartfelt convictions. It doesn’t help that stories and accounts come out of how many Muslims actually do believe that certain Islamic extremist groups, often dominated by clerics, are an antidote for deviating from a literal interpretation of the Quran or “creeping liberalism”. This sort of thing is naturally seized upon by those who argue that Muslims who bomb, shoot, crucify, bury alive, behead and otherwise dispatch “infidels” in bestial ways represent the real Islamic McCoy. Here is one of many posted articles on the Web that take this position (This one claims that the Oklahoma Muslim who beheaded an ex-coworker represents the “real Islam”): http://www.wnd.com/2014/09/oklahoma-beheader-represents-real-islam/
If this doesn’t should familiar, you’ve either forgotten your high school history lessons or slept through them. How so? At one time the Christian world, especially many of its leaders both religious and secular, sanctioned draconian measures against “infidels” which included torture, imprisonment, exile and cruel executions. What did these “defenders of the faith” base their actions on? They certainly didn’t need to make up scriptural justification for this sort of thing. The Bible provided them abundant material that when taken literally and narrowly applied, sometimes out-of-context and sometimes not, justified the cruelest imaginable treatment and horrific execution of gays, occultists, nonbelievers, heterodox believers (heretics), infidels (non-Christians) and more. Click to read a rundown of such verses.
Historic examples? Thankfully, a chap by the name of Mark Humphrys saved me having to dig out all the applicable historic incidents and practices and such, as he researched, organized and posted this to http://markhumphrys.com/christianity.killings.html (Readers are also encouraged to peruse what’s posted at http://www.heretication.info/_heretics.html).
Of course, most modern (Western) Christian believers and organizations including churches and denominations would never entertain taking verses such as Leviticus 20:10 as (ahem) gospel and acting on them: If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death (Albeit some especially aggrieved wives or husbands might wish this was the law of the land)
But ask yourself: What stopped the waves of church-sanctioned persecution, torture and cruel execution of heretics and those declared apostates, sinners or such who would not repent or otherwise bend their knee to those who held their lives in-the-balance? History reveals no sudden turnabout. However, over time a number of shifts and changes occurred that gradually undermined and eroded intolerance and forced conformity to orthodoxy: Among these, the church lost secular power and influence while Biblical literalism and militant, extremist Christian policies and actions lost steam as more moderate views won the day (And these because to a great extent religious scholars and others critically examined archaic beliefs and practices and even the scriptures themselves in light of contrary or mitigating factual evidence and reasoning).
This is viewpoint is reflected in comments made by Southern Baptist Theological seminary faculty member Dr. Timothy Paul Jones to the Baptist Press which were incorporated in a July 2014 article titled “Why Christians killed and why Muslim violence continues” by David Roach:
“Christians used to kill with some frequency over matters of doctrine. There was the Spanish Inquisition, Calvin’s Geneva, England’s notorious Bloody Mary, the drowning of Anabaptists, the Crusades and more.”
Dr. Jones, the author of “Christian History Made Easy“, also stated that “it was the intermingling of church authority and civil authority that made it possible for persons who claimed to be Christians to have the state execute others who also professed Christ.”
But,…and this is a big but…..this shift was not without acrimonious debates, calls for a return to “that old time religion” (i.e., a church with secular power that punished heretics and others), fist fights and open warfare, and worse, in various quarters at various times.
Now ask yourself: Does all that’s happening in the Middle East — the theocratic Islamic governments who rely on oppression and cruelty and public executions to hold the pot lid down on dissent, the pitched battles (literal and figurative) between proponents of a Muslim religious worldview that is exclusivist literalist, and radically fundamentalist and those who champion the opposite, etc. — represent the kind of “Future Shock” cultural, social and religious clashes and upheavals that arose from and signaled the transition from a Europe that was ruled by clerics and which burned heretics to one of nations largely democratic and essentially tolerant? (But not without periodic lapses into darkness when conditions favored the eclipse of reason and tolerance by fear, hatred and bigotry). I tend to think so.
The question of whether such a complete transition will occur may not be one of if but when. But at what cost to the Muslim world and Israel, the EU, America, and other countries before the dust settles?
Beyond containing militant/radical Muslim extremists, there are other variables at play that could up the ante and the “dust” that gets kicked up before it settles to the ground. Assume for a moment that those who warn that Iran is dead set on building nuclear weapons — something underscored by alarming developments such as this — are right and they do. What happens if a major offensive is launched by one or more Arab countries against Israel and Iran joins this? If so, it is not inconceivable that Russia, which has longstanding ties to Iran (not to mention Assad’s Syria), might seize the opportunity to support such military adventurism. This would surely result in America rightfully jumping into the fray to help Israel repel this armed assault and intended invasion. Bingo, WWIII or, if not something this dire, surely a major regional conflagration that will come awfully close to unleashing it.
A major war in the Middle East, too, seems less a matter of if but when. Certainly a great many Jewish and Christian believers view this as inevitable based on prophecies in the books of Daniel and Ezekiel (Among others). Read my blog entry on this by clicking this link.
However, whether a great war hits the Middle East in the near future, later on or not at all, we can all expect a lot of craziness and bloodshed not only there but in Europe, the US, Canada, and elsewhere before the Muslim world breaks free of the forces of extremism, oppression and such.
Our challenge here in the US lies not just encouraging and waiting out the hoped for transition among Muslim countries, but also in preventing terrorist acts by Islamic extremists and their sympathizers in our midst, while at the same time avoiding letting their occasional successes drive us into the arms of authoritarian solutions…or worse.
Dr. Anthony G. Payne (Br. Anthony of the Resurrection)
Additional/supplemental reading penned by “yours truly”
As a boy (1960s-70s) growing up in South in a world of fundamentalist & evangelical Christians I not infrequently heard pulpit & TV sermons about “The End Times” (Eschatology). Later Hal Lindsey’s books (such as “The Late, Great Planet Earth“) appeared and with this Christian “future think” consumed millions who might not have otherwise ever even heard of such speculation. Lindsey’s peculation proved to be largely wrong but it was still good fun to mull over & debate. Of course, predictions were revised as they failed to materialize as one would expect.
If you belong to a faith tradition or religious perspective that views the fusion of sperm and egg as marking the advent of a human life, you are probably very unlikely to modify your stance. As one who grew up in the Bible belt among Protestant fundamentalists and evangelicals (upwards of 90% of my family), I know where you are coming from. There is black & white, with grey being a species of unacceptable compromise that is akin to bedding down with evil incarnate.
If you happen to belong to the “B & W’ contingent, perhaps you buttress your antiabortion convictions like many aspects of your most cherished religious beliefs with borrowings from the world of science and medicine, however tenuous some of these may be. As you may know or at least have heard, many religious beliefs are not testable and thus lie outside the purview of science. For example, the religious concept that every human has a soul or spirit imputed by the Almighty at conception or thereafter is not something that can be tested and verified or refuted using the tools of science. There is no laboratory assay that will disclose or measure something that is held to have no material substance as we know it and which is not physically manifest in cells or tissues or such.
For religionists who hold that ensoulment (i.e., spirit is imputed) occurs at conception, and (who) refuse to consider even slightly modifying this perspective in light of contrary biblical reasoning, there exists an impasse that cannot be readily breeched (If at all). When enough people embrace such a spin on what constitutes viable human life, their collective influence on the direction state and even federal legislation takes is felt (Some would argue disproportionately so). Of course, the courts have weighed in to keep even majority sentiment from what they conclude impinges on or overrides the Constitutional rights of the minority.
Many scientists regard the convictions of those who hold that viable human life begins at conception or during the very early stages of development as both presumptuous and naive. Many religionists and theologians agree. Among those who happen to hold fast to a belief that a fertilized egg is entitled to full status as a viable human, the use of blastocytes or very early stage embryos constitutes a species of murder. Some even go so far as to decry those who take exception to their faith-based beliefs as being immoral or amoral.
Does the truth lie somewhere between the strictly secular and the sacred? Most of us probably harbor a feeling that somewhere in all this – lurking in the facts of biology and the world of polemics and logic, ethics and religion – there is an answer that will win the day. If this is the case, it is quite obviously going to take time for such a truth to fully emerge.
Many have asked me, “What is your spin on what constitutes viable human life?” Being as I have a foot in both worlds – which is to say religious belief and science – it seems logical to suppose that I would be able to offer up a “faith and science-friendly” opinion as to when viable human life begins. Well, yes, I do have something to offer up for consideration though the only thing I can be 100% certain of is that my opinion will be contested by people on both sides of the “great divide”. With this in mind, here is my spin – informed by biology, of course.
The heart begins beating at three weeks of gestation and the first neural reflex is manifest at eight weeks (and consists of hand withdrawal in response to stimulation of the fetal lip region). During weeks 9-13 the first brain waves appear and are discernible using special medical instrumentation.
Given that death is defined (in part) as a cessation of both heart and brain wave activity, one could argue conversely that to be alive in any meaningful sense beyond mere biological existence (A petri dish bearing a cell culture has biological existence, after all) begins when both heart and brain are operational – week 9 onwards.
Interestingly, in my own faith tradition which is informed by lines of moral & ethical reasoning in Rabbinic Judaism, the fetus generally becomes a viable human life after day 40 of gestation. In the ancient Jewish context, the fetus is deemed to be little more than water until “quickening” occurs, about 40 days after insemination. “What Do Orthodox Jews Think About Abortion and Why? By Judith Shulevitz – Orthodox Jews on Abortion. If we take week 9 as our bench mark — the heart and brain being recognizably functional – then the fetus would be deemed viable from about day 63 onward.
Applying this definition of when human life becomes viable, it follows that embryos from conception to week 9 or so are “pre-viable” or “proto-viable.”
Now is this to say that embryos prior to week 9 are “fair game”? Say, that we can create embryos strictly for the purposes of harvesting their tissue and/or stem cells for medical research or other applications? These embryos aren’t viable, so why not? Well this brings us full circle to religious and ethical concerns. Rather than belabor that in this op-ed piece, I would direct readers to an excellent treatment of this subject in this posted article: Jewish Virtual Library – Abortion
OK, so we don’t create embryos to harvest, how about using intentionally aborted fetuses as a source of tissues or embryonic stem cells for research or medical application? As one fellow actually said to me, “Hey, Doc, they are going to die anyway, so why not get some good out of them for sick and ailing people”. To my mind, this comes uncomfortably close to the arguments advanced by physicians and scientists who performed hideous experiments on human subjects in Nazi concentration camps. This very line of reasoning was, in fact, used as a defense by some of the physicians being tried for war crimes in the 1946 “Doctor’s Trail” in Germany). Granted, there is a world of difference between elective abortion and the intentional dispatch of life at the hands of doctors (such as the late Nazi “Angel of Death” Dr. Josef Mengele and his ilk) who abandoned universally acknowledged medical ethics in the service of the state. But even so, harvesting aborted fetuses from any source does strike many folks in America as constituting a form of callous utilitarianism that can’t help but bring to mind some of the most egregious polities and activities in the Nazi bio-state – or perhaps the fear that our country is headed in the direction of making prophecy of the classic sci-fi film “Soylent Green” – or both. And even if the intentional abortion of a fetus before week 9 were universally embraced as morally and ethically acceptable – in no way offensive to humankind or the Almighty – there remains something hauntingly “predatory” about utilizing material from intentionally terminated “pre-viable” human material.
All things considered, it seems unlikely that access to abortion will prove a genie that can be returned to the proverbial bottle (This side of the US becoming an authoritarian or police state run by pro-life factions at all levels, that is – something the majority of Americans would vehemently oppose). And while restrictions on the direction embryonic stem cell research and use takes will likely continue to be a legislative and ethical tug-of-war between various factions, a return to an outright ban on government provided/sanctioned embryonic stem cell lines seems unlikely. This leaves what is being played out now at the political level: That is, the fact many state legislatures such as my own native state of Texas in 2013 are leaning towards placing considerable restrictions on access to abortion services. This gambit may succeed especially in states dominated by a traditionally conservative majority although I predict any such this legislation will be eventually overturned by the Supreme Court as being unconstitutional.
Perhaps my life-at-9-weeks-on criteria should be thrown into the abortion access deliberations mix. Let’s revisit it:
Given that death is defined (in part) as a cessation of both heart and brain wave activity, one could argue conversely that to be alive in any meaningful sense beyond mere biological existence (A petri dish bearing a cell culture has biological existence, after all) begins when both heart and brain are operational – week 9 onwards
Of course, I am not actually advocating that my definition (above) be transformed into new legislation or such that is imposed on all women across the land. But for women who come out of conservative faith traditions what I have laid out might help them in deciding at what point-in-time during a fetuses’ development abortion constitutes an ethical or moral misstep. For those who find my approach reasonable, use of a “morning after” pill constitutions no sin nor does an abortion prior to week ten (10) post-conception.
In the final analysis, the whole matter comes down to personal choice informed by the unique constellation of social and life factors & players that characterize each woman’s life.
© 2013 by Dr. Anthony “Choctaw Doc” Payne. All rights reserved.
According to various polls a great many Americans consider themselves more spiritual than religious, and more than a few are disenchanted with organized religion and do not hold clerics in especially high esteem. If you belong to this fraternity you have landed on the right doorstep. CLICK TO READ MORE
“The quiet punctuated by the flow of water in that aqueduct made it possible to experience not just quiet and relaxation but more so (for me anyway) a unique situation in which conscious thoughts and awareness dipped and other things came to light. One of these was a dynamic running “mental clip” (representation) of Kaoru that was interacting with me at a very subtle level. There was a spoken and unspoken dialog going on. I realized that part of her was alive within me but not solely as memories and warm associations; there was a dynamic sort of circuit at play which was influencing not only my thoughts and mood but also some elements of my personality, i.e., I was being influenced by specific personality traits she exhibited that I found appealing and was even internalizing some of them (And while mirroring and mimicry mechanisms were undoubtedly involved in this process, there was seemingly more to it than this). She had become part of the “we” that is “me”!”
CLICK TO ACCESS MY HUBPAGES ARTICLE: http://anthonypayne.hubpages.com/hub/Extended-Being-The-You-That-is-Many
EXTENDED BEING WEBSITE: http://extendbeing.weebly.com/
FROM DR. PAYNE’S “EXTENDED BEING” on Examiner.com
“The quiet punctuated by the flow of water in that aqueduct made it possible to experience not just quiet and relaxation but more so (for me anyway) a unique situation in which conscious thoughts and awareness dipped and other things came to light. One of these was a dynamic running “mental clip” (representation) of Kaoru that was interacting with me at a very subtle level. There was a spoken and unspoken dialog going on. I realized that part of her was alive within me but not solely as memories and warm associations; there was a dynamic sort of circuit at play which was influencing not only my thoughts and mood but also some elements of my personality, i.e., I was being influenced by specific personality traits she exhibited that I found appealing and was even internalizing some of them (And while mirroring and mimicry mechanisms were undoubtedly involved in this process, there was seemingly more to it than this). She had become part of the “we” that is “me”!”
CLICK TO ACCESS EXAMINER ARTICLE: http://www.examiner.com/article/extended-being-1
EXCERPT FROM DR. PAYNE’S MORE DETAILED INTRODUCTION TO “EXTENDED BEING”:
“Extended being involves the creation of dynamic, largely affective neuro-subroutines that are, in effect, a form of dynamic connectedness or connective circuit between individuals; circuits that incorporate the other, their image (sighted people), mannerisms, attitudes and other significant aspects of their person and conduct; circuits that are fed by as well as facilitate and enhance certain aspects of socialization, behavior and self-awareness as well as distinctly human consciousness; circuits that predominately operate in our pre/unconscious and influence judgments and choices and etc. made there, as well as conscious thought flow and content, mood, and actions. But circuits, too, that mean that part of our being is operating external to our bodies (It is not that this circuit exists in the sense it can be detected and measured outside us but, rather, that our emergent sense of being, the “we” that us, includes the other and experiences him or her as both an internal reality and an external, connected one. This circuit is reinforced and additional content added while in the other’s presence and may be diminished during their absence, but is unlikely to be extinguished entirely even when the emotionally meaningful other ceases to be a part of our life for whatever reason).”
Click this link to read “Extended Being” in its entirety: https://biotheorist.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/extended-being-by-dr-anthony-g-payne.pdf
EXTENDED BEING WEBSITE: http://extendbeing.weebly.com/
“Upon suffering beyond suffering, the Red Nation shall rise again and be a blessing for a sick world. A world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separation. A world longing for the light again. I see a time, long after the skies have grown dark and ugly and the water has become bad smelling. I see a time of seven generations when all the colors of mankind at that place will gather under the sacred tree of life and the whole earth will become one circle again”
“In that day, there will be those among the Lakota who will carry the knowledge and understanding of unity among all living things and the young white ones will come to those of my people and ask for this wisdom.”
“I salute the light within your eyes, where the whole universe dwells. For when you are at that center within you and I am at that place within me, we shall be one”
ALSO CHECK OUT: http://summerclouds.weebly.com/
Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind by Robert Kurzban, Ph.D.
The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D.
The Natural Superiority of Women by Asheley Montagu, Ph.D.
Religion is not about God by Prof. Loyal Rue
EXTENDED BEING WEBSITE: http://extendbeing.weebly.com/
From my “Rocking the Boat” Blog site http://rockingtheboat.weebly.com/
Apparently we Americas spend a great deal of time thinking about and change our religious and spiritual beliefs and practices. One telltale example: Many theists are embracing deism. Here is what Wikipedia had to say about this:“The 2001American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) survey, which involved 50,000 participants, reported that the number of participants in the survey identifying themselves as deists grew at the rate of 717% between 1990 and 2001. If this were generalized to the US population as a whole, it would make deism the fastest-growing religious classification in the US for that period, with the reported total of 49,000 self-identified adherents representing about 0.02% of the US population at the time.”Along the same line, during a “For Good Reason” podcast on “The Search for Quantum Consciousness,” physicist Victor Stenger touched on a Baylor University survey that revealed that 40% of people who identify themselves as Christians basically do not believe in a God who plays an active role in the universe (13m:47s into the podcast). Dr. Stenger makes the point that these folks sound like deists.The rise of deism and the Christian identification with it in principle if not in name, tells me a lot of believing folks have taken the time to ruminate on whether or not there is sufficiently compelling evidence to believe God is actively playing a role in their lives – like answering prayers, performing miracles and such. 4 of 10 Christians in the Baylor survey appear to have concluded that God is on holiday. This is one way to for religionists to reconcile what goes on in the world and is attested to by scientific findings with one’s particular brand of faith (Of course, one can jettison faith altogether, which is what Dr. Stenger has done and advocates in his books “God: The Failed Hypothesis” and “Quantum Gods: Creation, Chaos, and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness”.)
Now, while believers may be increasingly leaning toward a deist stance on God, it is unlikely the great majority will decide the Almighty simply doesn’t exist and never did. Of course, what believers have to be careful of is making claims concerning God’s actions or motives that can be tested using the tools of science or refuted using demonstrable or deducible facts informed by logic. For instance, religionists who insist there was a worldwide flood that a man named Noah and his clan rode out in an ark run into monumental problems such as a lack of evidence for a global deluge in the geologic record, not to mention the fact the energy released by what is described in scriptures would have resulted in oceans so hot as to constitute a de facto lobster pot in which everything living including those in the ark would have boiled to death, et cetera (There is, however evidence of a local flood in Mesopotamia about the time the incidents described in Genesis were supposed to have occurred.) And if an evangelist declares a dying cancer patient healed, this is testable insofar as doctors can put the healing to the test using modern day scanners (One doctor who did track down 23 people who were declared healed of terminal diseases during services conducted in 1967 by evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman found no evidence to support this.)
Putting aside biblical and extrabiblical claims of the miraculous – which can be examined and either confirmed or found wanting — there is a host of very dark chapters in history such as the reign of Hitlerism-Nazism in Germany (1933-1945) and its “wicked fruit” (especially the Holocaust) that have profound implications for God’s role in human affairs, suggesting to many believers that either God is or was on holiday or just isn’t around at all. As a boy I mulled this over and came to the tentative conclusion that God was not necessarily absent from human affairs, but had simply assumed a more subtle role in lock-step with our ever increasing ability to run our own show. Of course, as our control over nature and each other increased and our tools and weapons became more sophisticated and powerful – the greater our potential became for doing both great good or great evil. The choice ultimately rests with us, of course, though we are told (in the Tanakh, Christian New Testament and Qur’an) that humankind will not be allowed to fully extinguish its own flame.
To my delight my boyhood spin on theodicy was independently arrived at by many others, including scholar David Birnbaum who fleshed it out (1989) on a scholarly level in a delightfully insightful book titled “God and Evil: A Unified Theodicy/Theology/Philosophy”
Obviously matters of faith lacking testable claims – amounting to convictions and beliefs in the absence of evidence — cannot genuinely be settled either decisively or conclusively. Often, one man’s truth is another one’s heresy. And treatises on theodicy like the one I came up with as a boy could as easily be accommodated by some forms of deism as it could conventional or orthodox religions.
Even belief in God amounts to a commitment in the absence of evidence. Atheists and agnostics can and have trumped Judeo-Christian apologetics using a body of powerful evidence and logic. I would urge my fellow religionists to face up to this and consider embracing polymath Martin Gardner’s fideist spin on God (which could also be applied to many aspects of faith including certain dogmas, doctrines and such.) This is ably captured in a comment made by famed illusionist and champion of skeptical thinking, James Randi, on Gardner’s passing at age ninety-five (95):
“……Yes, Martin was a fideist, and he defended that belief in his usual calm, direct fashion. When I questioned him on the subject he told me that he had no really good evidence to support his belief, but that it simply made him feel better to adopt it. He said that I — and other curmudgeons — had far better evidence for our convictions, but that he just felt more secure in his acceptance. He admitted — easily — that he could not convincingly argue his case… That was Martin, and I love him for being Martin…..”
I am not here to dictate what people believe or not. I’m here to rock boats that could use some rocking. Religion is one of these. But rocking this boat doesn’t mean telling folks what to believe or how to express their faith. Rather, I relish sharing ideas, information and lines of thought that at least some believers might find useful in terms of helping better reconcile their convictions and beliefs with what science and history has revealed about our origins and nature. And this, my friend, brings me to the purpose of this particular blog entry: Namely, to pass along something which I believe will serve this purpose for at least a few believers reading this thought stream —
Happy belated “Religious Liberty Day”! Keep rocking boats that need rocking! I sure will.
Jim Haverlock shares how he found it all by losing it all. A great antidote to the Gospel of Unbridled Consumerism that dominates the thinking and actions of so many folks: http://14ushop.com/haverlock/articles/1-giving%20it%20all%20up%20for%20freedom.pdf
Also check out:
Alienation: Pervasive and insidious (Examiner article) by Choctaw Doc
OSTEOPOROSIS IN WOMEN: SEMINAL FLUID COMPOUNDS ABSORBED THROUGH MUCOSAL TISSUES HELP PROTECT AGAINST & REMEDIATE BONE LOSS (Idea/hypothesis) by Choctaw Doc
Looking for God?
Do Religions follow the Teachings of Christ?
Are churches “infallable”?
Do you have your own questions about God?
What you will read in this book:
1. Embroidery of Life
2. Everyman’s way is right, in his eyes
3. 21st Century – vs – early B.C.
4. Religions – Rules/Regulations / Sins
5. Wisdom Literature
Chocolates Because so many of us “lay people” question this topic, it may just be time for a lay persons view point and expressions, that may open new doors, or provide more questions for each of us to ponder.
9. Just for Fun
10. Communication with God
10a. Angels, Guides, Spirits
11. Trap Box – Supreme
12. Closing Notes
*About the Cover
*Foot notes / references
Want a sneak preview? <—Click this link
|At the heart of each of us are 3 primal drives that give rise to and inform most, if not all of the human behavior (Individually and collectively). Click here to read http://14ushop.com/wizard/3PrimalDrivesEssay.html. In science and many other fields, reductionism of this sort helps us see what is fundamental to many aspects of reality. However, while “unified field theories” in physics, psychology, or what-have-you make explicable what was previously inexplicable, unveiling a beauty and simplicity beneath the surface that is awe-inspiring and even fruitful at many levels, it isn’t always possible to take mechanism (however meaningful or purposeful) and forge tools or methods from it that advance human culture. We can take physical elements and build skyscrapers on the one hand, and thermonuclear bombs on the other. And with words we can fashion social orders that champion freedom, fairness and tolerance on the one hand, “empire and death camps on the other, “and many permutations in between.
However, knowing the underlying or fundamental mechanisms or laws from which our world proceeds can favorably influence the social, political and economic tapestry we weave. Consider the 3 primal drives: All of us want to acquire certain basic things crucial to survival (and more), preserve what we manage to gather about us, and perpetuate it so as to benefit our progeny and the community that nurtures and protects them. We can do this using rational and moral means so that fairness and mutual benefit are emphasized, or we can opt for something else entirely.
However, they all deal with meeting or satisfying some aspect of the human condition, and this most often through the allocation and judicious use of material and/or human resources.
In a way, all these various local entities and networks of entities (state, national or transnational) are functional algorithms of a sort– means of solving problems and/or meeting needs and/or helping folks cope — through semi-invariant procedures. Some merely point the way to viable solutions and are thus more heuristic in nature. And some combine elements of both (Known as a “heuristic algorithm” or of being “algorithmic” in scientific parlance).
A church, synagogue or mosque that provides money or food to the disadvantaged often adds a needed “human touch” missing from government offices.
Somehow we hope that between local efforts and national ones, the resultant symphony will be a harmonious and beautiful.
Of course, in order to create a wondrous symphonic work, the members of the orchestra (people and the society they comprise) must agree on how the orchestra will be run, how the music will be written and revised, and who will set the pace for the ensemble (The orchestra leader). In the United States, we advocate specific mechanisms for both preserving individually, maximizing creative freedom, and yet steering the whole towards a harmonious work as opposed to a raucous “noise fest”. The American way, as it were, is built on democratic principles and capitalism. The Japanese way, on the other hand, embraces democracy and capitalism, but has a strong element of conformity to what “the group” (society) deems in the best interests of all. Many countries in the EU favor a social democracy approach that offers varying degrees of “cradle to grave” care for its citizenry. Singapore is authoritarian in orientation. Iran embraces an Islamic theocracy. Cuba has a dictator.
The American system appears poised to fulfill Karl Marx’s prediction that capitalism corrupts, implodes, and then collapses (This is not to argue that necessarily offered a better set of devices for meeting a peoples needs and potentialities. But his extrapolations – his predictions – do seem uncannily accurate).
The Japanese democratic experiment, on the other hand, has managed to create and sustain a middle class that encompasses 95% of her people, made comprehensive national health care available to most, and has forged a social order that has one of the lowest crime rates in the industrialized world. There are signs that these devices are beginning to falter, but even so the Japanese willingness to adapt to contingency coupled with the group-driven ethic of their hardworking people may patch up and keep the Japanese sociopolitical engine running far into the future.
Most of us belong to a local band (Think back to the symphony analogy) – a small collective or branch of a larger one whose devices we utilize or become a part of in order to achieve certain ends (Material and otherwise). So long as these bands do not inflict harm or violate the laws the citizenry has agree to live by, such devices thrive and fulfill the purposes ordained by their constituency (They are “moral”). Up to and including providing meaning in life or facilitating finding such meaning. They may be playing different tunes, yes, but as they compete in the “marketplace of ideas” most wisely choose not to play a tune that attracts rather than offends those outside the band (If not for the sake of tolerance, then to keep from scaring off prospective converts or members).
The question arises, could all the bands (peoples) of the world tool together a musical piece that would be played by all – without sacrificing or compromising their individual, favored anthems and tunes? Can the world community achieve a utopian harmony and maintain it?
I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing
During 1971 Coca Cola launched a commercial that featured a musical group called “The New Seekers” singing a cheery, upbeat tune titled “I’d Like To Teach the World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony).” The lyrics include ones that beautifully capture the appeal of a utopian kind of harmony:
I’d like to teach the world to sing
Exactly what is involved in collectively writing (as it were) a global song of harmony? Which is to say, transcending the many differences, xenophobic and ethnocentric tendencies, religious quarrels, and such within and between nations and groups, in order to achieve a peaceful, peace-loving and peace-preserving global community?
Too,well,utopian?! I’m sure the creation of an enduring democracy in a land of people boasting a multitude of languages, cultural traditions, and religions must have seemed just as unlikely back in the 18th century. But the American experiment took root and flourished. How did a nation of diverse nations succeed in forging a viable social and political order that basically (though gradually and haltingly) subsumed and bound together all its constituents, worked to transcend differences (though not without great pain), and maintain a species of harmony that (though often frayed) has yet to come unraveled?
Is the American system the end result of good geography, good ideas and good luck (As in seizing opportunities)? In part, yes. But from its birth there was laid a foundation without which the many strands would have been unlikely to be wound together to form the one strong rope it has become: An express vision or template that all who call themselves Americans would embrace and defend. This vision or template included many elements such as the preeminence of basic articulated freedoms and rights for all; the rule of law; a democratically elected, representative government with constraints on the power exercised by its main branches; and so forth.
Now this is not to say that the success of the “American way” is a mandate for it to become the “Global Way”. But there are principles and ideas that can be extracted from the American experience, as well as that of other successful nations and collectives, which could form the core of a global vision or template.
If it is not a universal symphony, “..it may well be a funeral dirge.
Submitted for your consideration on Memorial Day (USA) – a day for reflection and moving forward – by Dr. Anthony G. Payne
Original copyright 2004 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne – All rights reserved.. This version copyright 2009 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.
Acquisition, Preservation against loss, and Perpetuation: The Basic Drives Underlying Biology & Evolution As Expressed in Human Psychology & Culture
Are there certain primal (core), universal traits or drives which act as a kind of behavioral template for our species? Which give rise to and are expressed in terms of our basic individual and collective behavior? A biological version of the Holy Grail of Physics – Grand Unification? (In a word, a small number of natural drives or instincts that undergird and give rise to much of human behavior)
In concert with Darwin, William James, E. O. Wilson, and innumerable others, I would respond with a resounding “yes”. And like them, I believe that the origins of the “psychobiological template” were forged in the crucible of evolution.
In June of 1998, the notion of fundamental or primal drives was big news. Researchers at Ohio State University conducted an extensive study and concluded that there are 15 desires which underlie most human behavior. “Nearly everything important a human being wants can be reduced to one or more of these 15 core desires, most of which have a genetic basis,” said Steven Reiss, co-author of the study and a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Ohio State University. “These desires are what guide our actions. In a sense, we are studying the meaning of life.”
This body of research was published in the June 1998 issue of the Journal of Psychological Assessment.
These are the 15 basic or fundamental human desires and values revealed by the Reiss et al study:
Curiosity – desire to learn
Food – desire to eat
Honor – (morality) desire to behave in accordance with code of conduct
Rejection – fear of social rejection j
Sex – desire for sexual behavior and fantasies
Physical exercise – desire for physical activity
Order – desired amount of organization in daily life .
Independence – desire to make own decisions
Vengeance – desire to retaliate when offended
Social Contact – desire to be in the company of others
Family – desire to spend time with own family
Social Prestige – desire for prestige and positive attention
Aversive Sensations – aversion to pain and anxiety
Citizenship – desire for public service and social justice
Power – desire to influence people
I, on the other hand, would argue that there are 3 basic or core drives which include and subsume Reiss’s fifteen. Briefly:
Life at it’s most fundamental level involves acquisition of resources to insure survival, prevention of loss or compromise of resources vital to life, and the perpetuation of the genome (Reproduction). Those traits and behaviors which help an individual satisfy these life-sustaining and preserving “essentials” are selected for; that is, they get the job done – are adaptive – and thus lend those who possess them to leave behind viable offspring (This is known as differential reproduction in biological parlance).
Acquisition, prevention of loss (defense), and perpetuation lie at the heart of biology and it’s explosive success on this planet. As such one would expect to see them conserved throughout the course of biological evolution with discernible expression in the individual and collective behavior of “higher” animals. This does indeed appear to be the case.
The acquisition of adequate food, water, shelter and warmth to sustain life is obviously a fairly high priority. If not tended to, we die off. It is that simple. How we secure these necessities is the stuff of which everything from clans to tribal cultures to first world nation-states and economies are built on. In the long run it behooves a collection of social creatures (people) to cooperatively nail down the basics of life. If each person is left on their own – or selfishness or cheating is considered a virtue – human survival on the whole is adversely affected. In this sort of society a few survive and thrive at the expense of the less capable, but theirs is an existence which is given to conflict and xenophobia, if not downright paranoia. One-upmanship can be carried to the point of mutual extermination.
Humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow rather brilliantly and succinctly captured this in his various works on human conduct and psychology. The first order of acquisition is the physiological basics. Once these are met, we are individually and collectively more at liberty to explore other wants, desires and needs (Internet keyword phrase: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs).
The man or woman who goes out to work in order to provide for self and family is satisfying the biologic imperative to acquire that which will help guarantee survival. It is universally recognized and in our culture elevated to the level of being a virtue (Protestant Work Ethic).
In most cases, mature humans concurrently seek to satisfy the physiological basics and reproduce. Both are expressions of resource acquisition. Procreation is fundamental to the preservation of the species. It also furnishes the parents with both an investment and a resource; that is, an investment in the sense that the necessities of life, love, nurturing, etc., are directed at producing healthy, viable progeny who will not only carry the family germline into the future, but provide the parents with “dividends” (resources) in terms of psychological, (possibly) material support, comfort, grandchildren, etc.
But not every parent does a great job of child rearing and not every child comes out right. Acquisition is the drive, but its expression can be thwarted, perverted or nullified. Adaptive traits such as ambition, competitiveness, willingness to negotiate and compromise for mutual benefit, the quest for power over circumstances, etc., can become maladaptive if pushed to extremes, seriously thwarted or otherwise corrupted. The ambition/competitiveness which encourages a father and/or mother to secure employment and work hard can become unbridled and give way to negative manifestations of same: Workaholism, coworker envy, greed, etc. The flip side of emotional satisfaction and sexual gratification (Acquisition) can be obsession, sexual addiction, narcissism, and neurosis. If these defects do not destroy the family structure or sacrifice the ability of progeny to cope with the world and lead successful lives, the family unit limps on. If the degree of dysfunction is seriously pathological, the family unit disintegrates and the effects ripple through the ensuing generations. If transgenerational maladaptive behaviors are not altered and more healthy patterns established, the dysfunctional line may go extinct through various adverse means : Suicide, homicide, infertility, socioeconomic marginalization to the point of starvation, compromise of hygiene and health with resultant onset of acute and/or chronic disease, et cetera.
Maladaptive traits can, in a social context, bring about conditions and responses (both within and outside the family) which essentially select the dysfunctional family member or unit out of existence. Of course, a society can enact programs which blunt this selection or winnowing process. When looked at as an investment which may return dividends to a given society down the line, this species of altruism is probably a wise form of cultural, if not species ” insurance.”
As indicated (above) , acquisition is derived from and informed by biology. We can see this very readily in human mating patterns: Men and women exhibit courtship/mating preferences and post-marital patterns which reflect differential parental investment in offspring. Women, who invest more biological and personal resources into bringing children (gestation) into the world, would tend to seek out a mate who will produce genetically healthy children and help sustain them (Bring home at least part of the bacon). And since it is often women who invest the most in terms of time and energy in rearing progeny, they would naturally be inclined to select a mate who will be both emotionally faithful and actively involved in the support and protection of the family unit. Men, on the other hand, who invest little in the reproductive process (“sperm donors” is an apt term) and are apparently hormonally driven to maximize reproductive opportunities, would be more inclined to get progeny into the world and on their way through life, then seek out other mating opportunities. This is exactly what cross cultural statistics indicate. Most divorces occur during or following the fourth year of marriage, just after the first child or two has been born and reached a sufficient age to suggest that “smooth sailing” is ahead, i.e., the child(ren) are healthy and viable, and will most likely remain so. Of course, this isn’t fair from most religious and ethical perspectives. Indeed, our society has enacted legislation to penalize men who abandon their family and eschew material (and possibly some degree of emotional) support for the children they have sired. But it (divorce) is a fact which appears to reflect a pronounced biological tendency in males.
Societies have various solutions to keeping men committed to the marriage and family. In over 85% of human cultures, polygamy is the order of the day. This is obviously one way in which a man can “have his cake and eat it to”, i.e., stay true to his first mate and offspring – while maximizing his reproductive opportunities. ( Of course, polygamous unions have their built in limits – namely, resources. If the resources necessary to sustain the family are seriously compromised, the intrafamily dynamic can be strained and even ruptured ). In some of the societies which have outlawed polygamy, women tolerate their men having mistresses and “one night stands”. This is not to say either approach is ethical in the classic Judeo-Christian sense, but it does bear testimony to what men and women will do to accommodate biological propensities. Again, this “battle of the sexes” (or battle for sex) reflects the basic acquisition drive (mates, progeny, security, protection, etc.) informed by biology.
Once women and men fully comprehend the desire to acquire through a biological/Darwinian lens, certain behavioral traits and tendencies become not only explicable, but potentially amenable to intervention and modification.
On a larger scale, acquisition finds expression in the activities of nation-states. Many of history’s most successful conquerors were expressly bent on expanding the economic and other resources available to the nation or confederation of nations they led. Other members of this fraternity apparently had in mind their own glorification, if not deification. However, the people who followed these megalomaniacs on wars of conquest did (and still do so) so for reasons more often practical or “down to Earth” then not: The major player being patriotism/nationalism, which boils down to protecting existing resources from real or perceived enemies and/or acquiring more resources (In the past, war and voyages of exploration/conquest and commercial gain brought a welcomed human resource to many nations : Namely, slaves). The justification for bloody conquest can be as straightforward as the desire for booty – xenophobic clashes born of differences in culture, language, etc. – or as esoteric as assumed racial or ethnic superiority packaged as a mandate to conquer and even exterminate the untermensch [The race(s) and/or ethnic group(s) deemed inferior]. The manifestations are many and varied, but the underlying drive is biological (Acquisition).
Consider the embrace of virulent racism and dictatorship by technologically advanced, seemingly “civilized” cultures in the early to middle part of this century:
The rise of fascism in Europe and the Far East in the 1920s and 1930s was the stepchild of economic depression and resultant privation (Loss and compromise of resources). Whether men such as Adolf Hitler truly cared for the people they led is both doubtful and irrelevant; that he possessed the insight to artfully exploit the human desire to protect resources and acquire new ones (to flourish) is born out by the slogans and propaganda he and his cronies employed to garner popular support for the Nazi Party (NSDAP). One example: Fur freiheit und brot! (For freedom and bread). The fact the Nazis passed out free bread to hungry, unemployed Germans – thus linking Nazism with the acquisition and distribution of resources – was not lost on the common people. The interplay of post-WWI political unrest, loss of resources and national pride, scapegoating fueled by long-standing xenophobia and prejudice, and a national tendency towards fervent militarism set the stage for the ascent of the Nazis. The almost idolatrous homage paid the Fuhrer (Hitler) by a nation-state grateful to have its glory (Resources) restored and expanded becomes perfectly explicable when viewed as a manifestation of human evolved nature. The Nazis, of course, took adaptive traits to unhealthy, maladaptive extremes. This flip side of acquisition – blatant evil – was proximally successfully, but ultimately catastrophic [And thus Nazi Germany decisively armed the history-based observation/axiom that oppressive dictatorships, especially those predicated on elitism and calculated violence, actually exploits (in the name of liberation) and then stifles the basic human drive to acquire, retain and protect resources. What begins as a successful shortcut to gain for the masses and its leaders succumbs to the maladaptive extremes it was both born of and generates. e.g. sadism, conflict, perversion].
The democratic approach to generating opportunities for resource acquisition and distribution exemplified by the American sociopolitical and economic system would appear, despite all its pitfalls and failings, to offer the most benign and yet productive framework for expressing the basic human drive to acquire. That is, adaptive traits are actually accommodated if not nurtured by the law of the land, i.e., freedom is granted to the citizenry to pursue material gain, a mate of one’s choice, sire progeny, etc., while the law concomitantly penalizes those who attempt to usurp or monopolize resources, blatantly steal them or employ them in such a way as to bring greater harm than good. This is not to say there are not inequities, injustices, and the marginalization of many citizens. However, the sociopolitical means exist to redress these, up to and including completely voting in a new form of government. It is conceivable that one day Americans may elect to marry political democracy to economic democracy, so as to more equitably distribute resources and thus insure that the existing poverty-stricken, marginalized underclass does not grow or become a permanent sociopolitical feature. Many European nations have been and are experimenting with various permutations of social democracy or democratic socialism to achieve this very end. Whether Americans will find wisdom in this trend and thus adapt some form of it as national policy remains to be seen. At any rate, the American political experiment would appear to both free and restrict the drive to acquire in such a way as to favor the common good.
- Protection from Loss
What we acquire (develop or inherit), e.g., good health, resources (tangible and intangible), progeny, esteem, etc., we naturally seek to protect from loss or compromise. This is a basic, fundamental human activity, akin to if not derived from the survival instinct. What we as individuals and as social collectives (even nation-states) carve out we seek to insure against loss; to preserve, if not expand.
At the family unit level, men and women employ posturing, strength, the law or what-have-you to protect their mate, children, possessions, and possibly kin from inflicted loss or compromise (Whether on the part of others or nature). The rifle over the fireplace mantle and the insurance policy in the family strongbox are both tools for protecting the family against grievous loss. If one’s progeny, in particular, succumb to violent acts inflicted by others, the genetic imperative to produce and leave behind viable progeny is compromised (In essence one’s representation in the gene pool – the continuity of the family germline – is threatened).
In certain tribal communities this propensity to protect may take the form of ruling counsels and military chieftains. Field commanders essentially lead villagers to fend off attacks aimed at compromising the village’s integrity (Both it’s existence & established resource base). In larger collectives such as the nation-states, we have professional armies and navies whose sole task is to defend the populace against aggression from other nations bent on conquest (Acquisition of resources).
The adaptive role of protection is so self-evident, most peoples have written it into their religious and national codes of law. For example: If a man or woman kills an intruder who is perceived to threaten life or limb, that person is held blameless.
Of course, the basic drive to protect can be pushed to or assume maladaptive extremes. People can and do twist “protecting what’s mine” into a pretext for smothering possessiveness, greed, envy and even the pathological control of others. Fear of loss or a desire to limit the possibility of it occurring – say, a mate taking a lover or running off (Read: Resource compromise or loss) – can turn a protective stance into a “fortress mentality”. Authoritarian-prone leaders of nations sometimes fall prey to a similar mindset – played out on a grander scale. The end result of both is predictably bleak.
To seek to perpetuate one’s germline and resources (material gains/immaterial contributions & legacy) into the future is a natural partner and outgrowth of both acquisition and protection. One acquires resources, a mate, and has children, all the while engaged in trying to protect this accumulated treasure-trove in order to perpetuate biological (and personal) presence in the world of today and far beyond. In most other animals, the drive to acquire and protect biological and material resources is instinctive and perpetuation the reward for success. In humans, perpetuation is all this and more: It is distinguished by being simultaneously a natural drive and a conscious objective. This is, I contend, an outgrowth of our unique cognizance of our own mortality (Something no other extant animal species shares).
Consider: While religious faith comforts and reassures believers concerning a transcendent postmortem reality (Afterlife)* – which is adaptive in terms of reducing anxiety surrounding death, dissolution of self, etc. – it seldom totally liberates individuals from the deep-seated notion that the only certain immortality is found in progeny (and/or kin – especially for those sterile or not given to reproduce for whatever reason) and in acquiring those resources which nurture the familial germline and thus better insure it’s continuity. This unconscious element no doubt finds expression in conscious planning with regard to perpetuation of self in various guises: Offspring (being primary); ideas and memories passed down through kin, friends, and others; businesses or other enterprises which bear one’s name as both legacy and “physical presence” in the world that lies beyond our demise; et cetera. No doubt the modern cryogenic preservation of the dead in hopes of future reanimation reflects this very human drive to both perpetuate and be perpetual.
Given this human tendency rooted in biology, it should come as no surprise that “To die to self’ is no easier to achieve in our day than when first articulated by Ribbi Yehoshua (“Jesus of Nazareth”) nearly two thousand years ago. Yes, we do have many examples of people who die for strangers. St. Maximilian Kolbe took the place of a married man condemned to be starved to death at Auschwitz death camp during World War II. Newspapers routinely contain accounts of people of all ages sacrificing their own lives to spare others certain death. Are these acts consonant with our nature or do they transcend them? Perhaps both. Kolbe laid down his human life in order to acquire what he counted a greater reward: A place in God’s realm. He compromised the drive to “preserve” in order to “acquire” something of far greater value. Many who sacrifice themselves no doubt have internalized (and act out of) similar religious beliefs and convictions. While on the other hand, the sacrificial and heroic acts of at least some are born on the heels of a deep seated desire to gain more tangible rewards, such as recognition, honor, and material compensation. Some folks probably blend the two. At any rate, self-sacrifice would appear to both harmonize with and transcend the basic or primal drives.
As perpetuation is an adaptive trait, it follows that it has a dark side. We need look no further than individuals who build business empires and continue seeking to acquire more, even when this actually uproots and destroys other business and their employees. The reasons given include “it is challenging”, “the quest for more is an end in itself*, “it benefits the economy and thus society at large” etc. Are these the underlying motivations or mere rationalizations offered for a much deeper desire? That is, are we not witnessing the conscious desire to perpetuate oneself turned full throttle? Is the flip side of perpetuation an insatiable appetite for a species of influence and malignant self-aggrandizement which “immortalizes”? Do we see in history’s supreme narcissist, Adolf Hitler, the quest to perpetuate pushed to a lethally pathological level?
The 15 basic Desires/Values of Dr. Reiss et al as Expressions of the 3 Primal Drives
NOTE: Actually there is a great deal of overlap possible here. Power over others, for example, can help one acquire, preserve against loss, and perpetuate one’s legacy. The main point is: All 15 are expressions of the three fundamental or core drives.
- Concluding Polemic & Summation
Our brains were shaped over many millions of years in an environmental context few humans experience today (Gatherer-hunter). Our neurological wiring, so to speak, is a prosaic mesh of domain-specific adaptations which give rise to the complex faculties we call “mind”. Given the survival advantages conferred on life by acquisition, prevention against loss (defense), and perpetuation – it follows that primate behavior should to some reflect a brain “wired” with these core or primal (adaptive) drives. And indeed, various primatological, ethnological, and anthropological field studies tend to validate this prediction. Our evolutionary siblings, the Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), form communities whose members engage in the sort of social interaction, competition, aggression, peacemaking, food gathering activities, hunting, play, and so forth which would be expected to have arisen (at least in part) from the underlying primal principles or drives outlined in this essay. The same can be said of the Bonobo (Pan paniscus) chimpanzee “culture”, which is characterized by an incredible degree of egalitarianism (though favoring matriarchy), sexual activity that is somewhat casual, and the defusing of aggression via sexual overture. The nature and scope of acquisition, protection from loss, and perpetuation may be more subdued than is true of Pan troglodytes, but it is expressed nonetheless. That the primal drives are varied in terms of expression within and between primate communities (as well as human cultures) no doubt reflects biologic and environmental influences. Consider: Anger is a universal emotion in primates – an adaptive feature of our brains – which varies considerably in terms of expression. Biology and context both influence the degree of anger elicited and its discharge.
Human cultures vary too in terms of the influence and expression of the primal drives. In the Kung! San tribal culture (Kalahari), the community is essentially peaceful, there is a division of labor, e.g., men hunt, women gather plant foods, and disagreements are basically resolved via discussion. Families share possessions to a great degree with ownership per se being a “non-issue”. However, it should be noted that the Kung! have few material resources and live in a setting where natural resources are available, but do not readily facilitate the accumulation of “wealth” (They are also highly mobile – moving in order to more readily harvest seasonal plants and animals. As such, the Kung! peoples must literally pack up and carry their world about from one geographic locale to another. This discourages accumulating material goods not essential to survival). Historically, as various cultures situated in resource rich areas began to cultivate and exploit same, e.g., plant crops, create novel labor-saving implements, exploit minerals and gems to fashion tools, jewelry, etc., and thereby benefit in terms of material enrichment (intra- and extra-community trade), population growth, etc., conflicts were more likely to ensue. Thieves sought to steal food and goods. Armies sought to capture regions rich in material and human resources. Defensive strategies and technologies had to be created to protect people and assets. In short, acquisition, protection against loss, and perpetuation found more overt expression in step with resource growth (Material and human). This is true both of individuals, families, communities, and nation-states.
So there you have it. Acquisition (resource), protection from loss (defense), and perpetuation – the primal drives. A two edged sword, being both blessing and curse. It is what lends most of us to work, build, have families, buy fire alarm systems and insurance policies, serve in civic organizations and the armed forces, etc., and in so doing create a valuable and enduring legacy. And for some that which builds gives way to the opposite – workaholism which robs children of one or both parents, material greed, envy, strife, power plays, manipulation, conflict and a whole host of other evils.
In a world awash in sophisticated weaponry, ancient hostilities, xenophobia and intolerance, we must not only recognize the primal drives and their expression, but identify (and employ) the best means to resist veering too far into the dark side of our evolved nature.
*Matters such as an afterlife rest on faith – which lies outside the purview of science.
Original copyright 1998, revised version copyright 2002 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.
In one especially poignant scene in the movie “Shadowlands”,* famed English writer and Oxford University professor, C. S. Lewis (played by Sir Anthony Hopkins) has gone to a pub with his brother, Wally (Major Lewis). Having just lost his wife, Joy Gresham Lewis, to cancer, Mr. Lewis is met with expressions of sympathy offered up by friends and colleagues who are attempting to console him. An interesting exchange ensues between an Anglican vicar and Mr. Lewis:
Vicar: Only God knows why these things have to happen, Jack.
C. S. Lewis: God knows, but does He really care?
Vicar: Of course. We see so little here. We’re not the Creator.
C. S. Lewis: No, no. We’re the creatures, aren’t we? We’re the rats in the cosmic laboratory. I have no doubt that the experiment is for our own good, but that still makes God the vivisectionist, doesn’t it?
“Rats in the cosmic laboratory.” An apt analogy if the universe is an experiment in process. But is this the case? If God were running an experiment or cluster of experiments (some embedded in others), it would indicate that something is being tested — an hypothesis or many hypotheses — whose outcome is unknown. While some religious traditions might accept a God who is not all knowing, and hence might need to perform such experiments, this is conjecture. (Actually, God is conjecture, insofar as His/Her/It’s existence lies beyond the purview of science; which is to say, belief in God is not based on provable fact, but on faith) Bearing this in mind, what follows is pontification built on conjecture, albeit hopefully both informed and thought-provoking.
What we do know of the cosmic cauldron and the processes that gave rise to us can be succinctly summed up thusly: The universe we can measure and probe appears to be the expression of physical laws in operation. The Big Bang happened, stars and galaxies formed, planets formed, and on at least one world, this one, life arose and evolved to that state which we call “consciousness.”
For we who believe in God, the laws that set all this in motion and govern it are the handiwork or signature of the divine. This is not something scientifically provable, but like the concept of Providence, is based on faith.
And while some people might still cling to the idea that humankind is the center of the universe, the scale and grandeur of our universe would suggest otherwise. We are rather insignificant, at least in terms of our impact on the cosmos. We are, at best, perhaps big fish in a very, very small pond. And least we get puffed up about this exalted position, the dinosaurs held a similar role for about 170 million years before going belly up. Mass extinction, in fact, has occurred no less than five times during geologic history. We are but a massive comet or asteroid strike, nuclear war, or the like away from joining the dinosaurs. (A compelling enough reason to take out some “species insurance”, as in set up a human presence elsewhere in our solar system. Mars seems a likely prospect.)
We are the tentative king of a very, very small hill. And what natural processes produced and govern, God seeks to relate to. At least this is the basic message of most extant (as well as extinct) religious traditions. And within the constraints posed by our individual limitations, i.e., our genetic-based propensities as amplified by environmental and other situational factors, the ancient brain wiring or paleocircuits in our brains, etc., we go through life making choices and exercising that which we know as “free will”.
Is the universe thus an experiment and we it’s aim? While the universe may well an experiment, it seems doubtful that it designed specifically to produce conscious life forms like us. Which is to say, life forms capable to distinguishing “I” from “other”, and of contemplating its own mortality (It is unlikely that God can relate to a life form lacking these 2 cognitive features. Only a self-conscious creature that knows it will someday die would be capable of responding to anything God shared concerning an existence beyond the grave). Even if we accept the Weak Anthropic Principle, which asserts that the laws that govern our world would tend to give rise to life and something like us, it still seems unlikely that the “local phase” of the grand cosmic experiment was designed to produce us. Indeed, as the late paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould was fond of pointing out, if we were to go back and rerun the history of life, it is doubtful anything like us would emerge at all.
The experiment,..the universe,…did obviously tool us into existence. And God, it would seem, set about to interact with and relate to our bipedal twig on the primate branch of the evolutionary bush. Assuming that what we know and identify as “free will” is more real than illusion, the question naturally arises, “If God knows everything and is absolutely sovereign, how can humankind truly have and exercise free will?” And if God does not know in advance precisely what we will do or say, then He is less than omniscient and sovereign. If omniscient and absolutely sovereign, then while the universe may be a grand experiment in progress, we have been removed from it by God’s exercise of sovereignty. But if God is not omniscient and/or sovereign, or somehow attenuates or submerges either or both, then the give-and-take twixt God and humankind, the tests posed and our responses and God’s, do constitute a social experiment (of sorts) in progress. Logic and an abundance of scriptural support tend to argue for a divinity who works within and in response to contingency; who experiments and then blends our responses into the fabric of His grand designs . And this, I argue, makes God a scientist.
God as scientist: Support from ancient writings
Support for this view can be readily found in the Tanakh (Hebrew scriptures), which contains numerous stories and accounts that suggest that God is posing a test or permitting same, watching for the results, and responding accordingly. Consider the account of Abraham and his son, Isaac. In chapter 22 of Genesis, God has instructed Abraham to take his son to the land of Moriah and “offer him as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you” (verse 2). Abraham, a man who trusts God implicitly, is facing perhaps the severest test of faith imaginable. But for whose benefit is this test for? Abraham, Isaac, or God? Maybe all three? In verse 12 we see that for sure God has benefited by way of gained insight: “And he said, ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy, or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not with held your son, your favored one, from me’ “(Gen. 22:12). “..now I know…”. Now. Before the test? The clear implication is that prior to the test,…this particular experiment,…..God did not absolutely know the outcome (albeit He probably had a good idea extrapolating from Abraham’s past acts of faith and obedience).
In the book of Ezekiel, we again see God conducting a test. In this instance, He goes looking for someone to divert judgment being executed:
“The people have practiced fraud and committed robbery; they have wronged the poor and needy, have defrauded the stranger without redress. And I sought for a man among them to repair the wall or to stand in the breach before me in behalf of this land, that I might not destroy it; but I found none. I have therefore poured out my indignation upon them;…(22: 29-31)
See also Exodus 15:25
If the future were closed, known and thus settled from God’s vantage point, He would learn nothing from these tests. But we are told repeatedly that God uncovers something unknown; that free will is being exercised and as such outcomes cannot be known until the person making a decision has made it.
The contingency element in human affairs is underscored by numerous biblical entries that imply conditionals such as “if/then”. One example is to be found in the account of God’s declaration to King Zedikiah in Jeremiah chapter 38 (Part of which is quoted herein):
“If you surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, your life will be spared and this city will not be burned down. You and your household will live. But if you do not surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, this city will be delivered into the hands of the Chaldeans, who will burn it down and you will not escape from them.” (verses 17-18. Emphasis mine)
We can also find supporting evidence of the (at least partial) tentativeness of history in the various accounts of God having changed his mind:
In the 32nd chapter of Exodus, God has told Moses of his intent to destroy Israel. Moses prays and we read “And the Lord renounced the punishment He had planned to bring upon His people.” (verse 14).
Among contemporary Christian theologians, the religious and philosophic notion that human-divine interaction is unfolding and not predetermined, is treated and perhaps best characterized in the writings of proponents of “open theism”. One very highly acclaimed introduction to this is a book by Dr. Gregory A. Boyd titled “God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God” (ISBN: 080106290X) Content description of this book, as well as many others that delve into various aspects of Open Theism, along with pro & con articles and posted point/counterpoint exchanges can be found on the “Open Theism Information Site” (www.opentheism.org/) . It is well worth the proverbial ‘look, see’.
Within Judaism, an “open view” type of perspective can be found among many rabbis and scholars. Many aspects of this line of thinking can no doubt be traced back to the Pharisees. According to the Jewish historian, Josephus, the Pharisees, mindful of the fact that predestination precludes free will, essentially concluded that humankind is predestined to a certain station in terms of the material aspects of life, but has absolute free will in areas that impact spiritual life.
The Islamic faith also boasts a school of thought that leans towards contingency, and free will as a supreme player in human affairs and in God’s dealings with humankind. This perspective is supported by many passages in the Qu’ran, such as “Surely the Almighty changes not the condition of a people unless they change that which is in themselves.” (13:11), and “Whoever goes aright, for his own soul he goes aright; and whoever goes astray, to his own detriment he goes astray.” (39:41)
God as scientist: Methodology
The actual nature and extend of the experimental work God engages in is, of course, unknown. Judging from accounts recorded by ancient biblical writers such as that of Abraham and Isaac (above), many tests seem geared to gauge such human qualities and attributes as faith/trust, capacity for obedience, the mechanics of decision making, and various aspects of judgment and reasoning. Some appear to involve only a within subject, single variable design. Others reflect a between subjects design, some being single variable experiments and others multiple variable.
While we cannot ascertain the exact mechanics of the divine research program, it would seem from the glimmers of methodology we see reflected in the ancient record that God would use approaches that are not entirely removed from those we ourselves have found reliable in terms of generating meaningful approximations of reality. One logical possibility is Bayesian inference, a powerful method of analysis that involves comparing hypotheses. The Bayes theorem, worked out by Rev. Thomas Bayes (1702-1761), assigns probabilities to all the possible outcomes of an experiment, combines this with relevant knowledge obtained or known prior to performing the actual experiment, and then calculates the probability of each hypothesis being true given the actual observation. In a nutshell, the Bayesian approach readily facilitates the modification of existing beliefs or views in the light of new evidence.
According to the Bible, on more than one occasion God expected Israel to change course (repent), but they did not do so (Isa. 5:2; Jer. 3:6-7, 19-20). God apparently modified certain aspects of the divine agenda accordingly, though undoubtedly without compromising crucial long-term objectives. This process could reflect His use of Bayesian reasoning.
To learn more: A very concise lay level introduction to Bayesian inference is “In praise of Bayes”, The Economist, Sept. 30th, 2000 http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~murphyk/Bayes/economist.html
The many tests and conditional promissory statements found in ancient accounts of God-human interaction support the notion of free will as ascendant over predestination, and bespeak a future that is at least partially undetermined. They speak eloquently of God being an experimentalist who, after obtaining a result, weaves the new thread into the immense fabric that is His grand design.
It has been said that Albert Einstein had a plaque on his mantle that read, “God is a scientist, not a magician.”Whether or not this in any way reflected the great scientist’s sentiments, one can’t but marvel at how appropriate it was — and is.
“The most important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality.”
© 1993 Savoy Pictures, Inc. (distributed by HBO Home Video)
Scripture quotations from the Tanakh, 1985, Jewish Publication Society.
“Rats in the Cosmic Laboratory: Is God A Scienst?” Original © 2002 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. This Revised version © 2007 All rights reserved.
Day in and day out I wage war on the Great Grendel; that perennial, merciless foe of life that in all its incarnations makes a mockery of that innate desire in all of us to thrive and perchance depart this world full of years and wisdom. I speak of helping folks in their personal battles with disease, injuries, malignancies and such; incipient death in all her myriad manifestations and machinations.
In the midst of sharing a yoke with so many ailing people and their caregivers, I am sometimes struck by the element of futility to it all; futility insofar as the very best outcome is death deferred. When you think about it, we all wind up defeated as it were here in the physical realm. Even this world which most of us love so dearly and cling to ferociously — as well the cosmos of which it is a part – are likewise destined to die and enter a perpetual night (Barring what at this point appears unlikely – a “reverse course” and repeat big bang).
This “resistance is futile” state-of-affairs is rather obvious, yes and though true begs the equally obvious: What other recourse is there? One of the earliest and no doubt strongest drives to evolve is that of self-preservation (3 Primal Drives, Essay), without which this world would be for the most part a vacant planetary lot. So we strive to live and flourish, take a stab at leaving some kind of legacy — be it children or ideas or a body of work or some such monument — and hold death at bay until our strength is exhausted or we are otherwise left with little choice but to release our grip on this world. There is continuity in all this, but we all realize somewhere deep down that family and achievement do not confer immortality; that everything will be consigned to a vast, universal graveyard. And besides, there would be very little gratification in any sort of immortality predicated on familial or other forms of physical continuity, unless (of course) we were to find a way to actually become physically immortal, ageless and free of infirmity or debility.
Until we can confer immortality sans aging and debility — something that lies on the far side of tomorrow – we are left with but a single recourse: Resignation – with or without a belief in a postmortem spiritual life. This acknowledgement of inescapable inevitability can be a liberating, even positive thing for those who hold fast to a religious faith, as well as for those who do not. For example, the atheist who believes existence ends with one’s physical demise might tend to view death as freedom from infirmity, debility or such. Since he does not anticipate a postmortem life review and reckoning, there is little to fear other than the physical process of dying itself (If prolonged or painful). The “death as freedom from suffering” theme is a logical no doubt shared by most religionists, to which is tacked on the erstwhile conviction that there is a “life after life” that has a pleasant outcome (At least for those who share a specific set of beliefs or who otherwise are deemed or made worthy of sharing the Almighty’s presence).
I can appreciate both perspectives, but must confess that some species of religious belief concerning the afterlife is antithetical to assurance, hope or anything positive. For example, many fundamentalist Christians believe that most (if not all) non-Christian folks will wind up consigned to Hell or something like it forever. Now this is not too disturbing if you belong to the minority whose beliefs and practices guarantee one a privileged slot at the Divine banquet table. But – and here is where things get interesting if only from a psychological perspective – many of these true believers go through life uncertain as to whether they will actually merit a place in Heaven. I know, because during my nearly half century sojourn through life I have met or otherwise dealt with scores of devoutly religious people, mostly fundamentalist Christians, who are plagued by fears that they will somehow far short at Judgment and be consigned to Hell. So consider: We have a segment of religious believers – possibly a large one – who believe that despite their faith and pious efforts, they will probably fall “short of the mark” and be tossed into a house of horrors for eternity (For those who read this who are religious and believe otherwise concerning these matters, set aside theological or scriptural arguments to the contrary and focus instead on what this spin engenders in those who harbor it). Among the things I have noted in these often “quietly tortured souls”: A deep seated pessimism and sense of hopelessness, though not of the sort to send them running amok in the streets armed with an AK-47 – if only because this would surely turn the likelihood of going to Hell into a certainty. So what we have here is an incarnation of religious faith – faith being by its very nature a vehicle for instilling values, imparting hope, inspiring love and charity, promoting worship and social responsibility, and so forth – that is suffused with an undercurrent of agonizing uncertainty and fear, self-loathing, and a maddening sense that one would probably have been better off not being born at all.
Interesting, most Christians I’ve interacted with down through the years hold to a “trust and obey and all will be well in the great by-and-by” expression of their faith, while often confessing that those who do not embrace this are probably going to Hell. Surprisingly, I have found few among them I would characterize as intolerant elitists who defend their faith in inappropriate ways. And while what they profess appears to infuse many in their ranks with abject uncertainty and fear for their own eternal fate — and portrays those outside their ranks as holding one-way tickets on the fire and brimstone express – these folks by-and-large do not seek to impose their beliefs on others or deny those outside their ranks the right to disagree with their views or reject them outright. This probably reflects the influence of America’s democratic values and traditions on religious folks, which is good all the way around.
And let me lay to rest the notion I am singling out fundamentalist Christians by widening the proverbial lens: To whit, various surveys taken down through the years here in America indicate that most people believe themselves to be essentially good and (among believers) bound for something upbeat after their mortal demise. Many of these no doubt feel that while this is true of themselves, it is not going to be the case for those who do not share their religious beliefs or spirituality. And this conviction is not exclusive to fundamentalist Christians by any means, for one can readily find abundant examples of the “I’m in, but you’re not” mentality among many Jewish and Muslim clerics and laypeople.
Whatever reckoning and subsequent purgation or punishment there is that follows this life, I can’t help but marvel over these two primary, interwoven futilities: We wage relentless warfare with disease, age, decline and infirmity that sometimes buys us time but not a reprieve from walking life’s final “green mile”. And then following death for some – many – maybe most – depends on who you listen to — there is consignment to purgatory or Hell; a fate which surely constitutes the grandest futility conceivable – that of ever having lived at all. And if most folks do go to perdition, does this outcome not signal that the divine experiment is a failure? “Rats in the Cosmic Laboratory: Is God A Scientist?
It can be argued that the experiment was by design geared to winnow out the wheat from the chaff, and is a success by virtue of the fact it is achieving this end. But if this is the case, then it is a success that truly is eclipsed by its horrific cost. And even though the responsibility for this colossal failure lies in human missteps and bad choices and not with the Almighty, it begs the question: Once it became clear that more folks were going to Hell than to Heaven, why not bring everything to fruition quickly and end the experiment? To do otherwise – to leave such an apparatus running – surely constitutes both a wanton cruelty… and the penultimate futility…in anyone’s book (“Good Book” or otherwise).
Is there a perspective more consonant with logic and fairness? (Both are crucial attributes of the Divine according to most religions). There are many, chief among which in my opinion is reflected in this positional statement from the Judaism 101 website:
Although there are a few statements to the contrary in the Talmud, the predominant view of Judaism is that the righteous of all nations have a share in the Olam Ha-Ba. Statements to the contrary were not based on the notion that membership in Judaism was required to get into Olam Ha-Ba, but were grounded in the observation that non-Jews were not righteous people. If you consider the behavior of the surrounding peoples at the time that the Talmud was written, you can understand the rabbis’ attitudes. By the time of Rambam, the belief was firmly entrenched that the righteous of all nations have a share in the Olam Ha-Ba.
- Submitted for your thoughtful consideration by Dr. Anthony G. Payne
© 2005 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.
Rabbis and Christian theologians down through the centuries have wrestled with biblical accounts of the Almighty in which He imposed punishments or sanctions, as well as direct military and civil action that flies in the face of what is deemed fair, just or decent in most cultures, past and present: http://www.angelfire.com/pa/greywlf/biblegod.html
Of course, contemporary religious experts tend to agree that a great many of these stories are fables or myths borrowed from ancient societies that predate the authors of the various books of the Bible. They also recognize the anthropocentric and ethnocentric biases and cultural filters of the writers and scribes who committed these biblical tales to parchment (as it were). But even with all these allowances and concessions, there remains a disturbing pattern of supposedly divinely ordered brutality towards and outright wholesale slaughter of foreign tribes and entire nations. These biblical “cleansing actions” and fiats have underlying premises and logic that appear to have informed some of the darker chapters of history, including the ideology and policies of the penultimate incarnation of evil, Adolf Hitler.
One writer who very adroitly goes into how Hitler’s beliefs and actions parallel and mirror Biblical morality and standards is Jim Walker whose writings are found on a website bearing the moniker “Hitler compared to God/Jesus/Christians” http://nobeliefs.com/hitlerchristian.htm. Here are but a few of Walker’s insightful notations (Excerpts pieced together):
|Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have,
and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling,
ox and sheep, camel and ass.
-I Samuel 15:3
Hitler attempted to utterly destroy the Jews and all that they had and had millions of men, women, and infants executed. As for animals, Hitler had far more compassion than the Biblical God; he felt kindness for animals.
(Note: In no sense do I mean that Hitler fulfilled any prophesy, mind you, but rather that Hitler’s actions remained consistent with the actions of the alleged God described in the Bible.)
|I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
Hitler created peace when it suited him and created death and destruction when it fit his needs, which by Christian standards means “evil.” Hitler did all these things in similar God-like actions reported in the Bible.
Not only did Hitler’s atrocities remain consistent with God and Jesus’ actions in the Bible, but his intransigent attitude parallels many of the fanatical beliefs of Right-wing conservatives of today. Hitler even used his faith in the same way as many mainstream American Christians. It appears clear from the history of Christianity that Hitler brought nothing new to Christianity, albeit he brought its violent nature to new heights.”
This is not to say Hitler didn’t distort and infuse such standards with perverse beliefs of his own, but this alone does not permit one to dismiss logical contradictions, conundrums and catch twenty-two’s between Nazi philosophy and the murderous campaign against “impurity” (Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, political dissenters, etc.) it gave rise to—- nor ancient Israelite beliefs and their wholesale slaughter of peoples that were designated as “defilers” of their culture & community. Slaughter attributed to HaShem.
If you look closely and resist facing what history and scriptures plainly disclose and declare, you will come to see more clearly than ever before the vast array of incredibly discomforting parallels between the reasoning of the ancients and the Nazis (and all other perpetrators of genocide). And while abundant apologetics exist that try to distance Biblical accounts and actions from the moral malignancy of the Nazis, the arguments given can be recast easily & readily to support the Nazis (And they were – by the Nazis — creating a movement with all the trappings of messianic fervor and religiosity).
http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/2000/4/004anti.html http://www.nobeliefs.com/DarkBible/darkbible3.htm, http://freethoughtfirefighters.org/a_wager_on_old_testament_atrocit.htm, http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/atrocities.html, http://www.geocities.com/paulntobin/godbible.html, http://www.biblicalnonsense.com/chapter10.html
So moral reasoning and logic alone cannot (to my way of thinking) explain, defend or justify the many dark episodes and pronouncements in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Scriptures, of course, reflect the human element — ideas, interpretations, contradictions http://home.freeuk.net/jesusmyth/page5.htm etc. – they serve human needs (Social coherence and personal wholeness, according to religion scholar Prof. Loyal Rue in his thought-provoking book, “Religion is Not About God”) – and reflect more about human nature than that of the Divine. It is said all scripture is Misnah – commentary – and not so much history and especially not science. I agree wholeheartedly with this. And, of course, regional values, myths and views intruded everywhere and suffused and informed what the various scribes and religionists believed and recorded. But be that as it may, there is a recurrent theme of almost cold-blooded malevolence in the Hebrew scriptures: God appears to invoke the very arguments for cleansing conquered lands and peoples, as well as punishing those who deviate from keeping the Law (Oral & written) that were used by pagan religions, kings and later genocidal dictators like Adolf Hitler to reinforce and perpetuate their ideologies (And some of these ideologies, like Nazism, had some aspects of their belief system and practices Biblical beliefs, laws and such).
Of course, according to scriptures the Almighty’s agenda is one that will redeem and reconcile humankind (in whole or part depending on whose spin you agree with) while evil men tend to enact laws and take actions that lead to a life that is at odds with the program and objectives He sanctioned (And by so doing estrange people from Him). Yet while the ends are presumably different, the means to them seem disturbingly similar and in many instances are virtually identical. Indeed, the methods, language and some elements of reasoning attributed to the Divine and that voiced by various evil personalities such as Hitler differ little in kind or degree.
We must, of course, allow for the limitations imposed by human language itself, culture, as well as our neurobiology. We must also do our best to wrestle underlying truths and subtle messages from hyperbole, corrupted text, myth and legend in the scriptures.
That the scriptures are filled with borrowed, fallible, contradictory, and corrupted myths, legends and fables should not disturb us. Consider what the Almighty had to work with, as it were: A tribal people who were steeped in regional myths and superstitions. Some in the fundamentalist or Orthodox camp actually believe God dictated scripture pretty much like a boss might to a secretary or executive administrative assistance; at least with respect to the Torah (Pentateuch). This is nonsense, for had this been the case He would have given humanity a document or set of documents immune from flaws, and by so doing handed down proof of his own existence. In short, no faith would be needed to believe in the Almighty or his stated agenda. A set of flawless, infallible scriptures impregnated with scientific and historical truths centuries ahead of those He was inspiring or speaking to would remove all doubt as to origins and make it impossible for doubt to exist about the reality of the Divine. Indeed, “No faith needed” would have been axiomatic and there would be no legitimate grounds for agnosticism or atheism.
A fallible set of scriptures is not so disturbing really. It makes us dig and work and argue to arrive at what God meant and how we should respond. What is disturbing is not the flawed image of the Almighty nor the presence of various distorted or mythic things attributed to Him, all having been rendered by flawed men and women, but the seeming reliance of God on violence, cruelty and outright “ethnic cleansing” to forge and maintain His hold on the hearts and minds of the Jewish people of antiquity.
Was He so seemingly bloodthirsty and quick to punish because fallible, almost primitive men and women left Him little to work with in an ancient setting but this? Or was this just how these ancient people’s interpreted things and acted accordingly? Or could it be that the Almighty was both learning and growing with His people, and had His hands tied in terms of available means to preserve the Jewish people from corruption and conquest? (Limited in that He would not override human free will and also utilized human nature and social mechanisms rather then supercede them?)
To invoke a crude analogy: Picture a group of trainee mechanics standing before a car – hood up – a limited set of tools sitting before him – parts scattered everywhere — their goal is to create a harmoniously running engine. There are two instructors present – “good mechanic” and an “evil mechanic” — standing on either side of the trainees. The good instructor wants to help the students create a smoothly functioning automobile. The evil mechanic wants to thwart the good instructor by influencing as many of the trainees as he can to mess things up by doing things like putting useless or ill fitted parts into the engine. The evil instructor’s machinations quite naturally force the good mechanic to get those trainees who follow his lead to take and use some of the tools in the same fashion as the evil mechanic, doing violence as it were to extricate ill-fitting or even dangerous parts from the engine so that they can get the right and proper ones installed. This tug-of-war goes back and forth seemingly endlessly.
Scriptures depict God’s ultimate goal as being one of harmonizing and reconciling as many people to Himself and His sanctioned ways as possible. But in order to pull this off, He must rely on a limited set of tools and options,….as limited as we are. It is, in a very real sense of the word, a pitched struggle that is part of an experiment in-progress; an experiment with a goal, of course.
Indeed, the Cosmos and humankind in particular are, in my opinion, expressions of a divinely initiated experiment (Rats in the Cosmic Laboratory) whose ultimate goal is harmonization with HaShem and his being (“Holiness”) for as many as will “walk the walk”. As such, those impulses and elements and actions that lead to good or conversely evil ends would seem to represent the variables in the ongoing experiment — the “drugs” if you will — that by act-of-will (choice) leads to genuine harmonization between subject & experimenter (HaShem) — while the other appears to do so, but degenerates into greater disharmony and the ultimate chaos unleased by unbridled selfishness (Estrangement from HaShem and what this entails in this world and the next). This aspect of the Divine experiment constitutes a sorting mechanism of sorts; the one referred to by various biblical writers as “sorting the wheat from the chaff”. It tests both men and women, revealing to us individually and collectively our inner nature and the consequences of our choices along the way.
Because the tools, methods and sometimes even the reasoning employed by good and evil people are virtually identical, discretion becomes paramount. This is where many religious and political systems fail utterly — trading that which reconciles people to each other and the Almighty for that which winds up accomplishing the opposite.
In the end, scriptures indicate the experiment will run its course and produce a final result: Harmony twixt humankind and HaShem for many. Many who die in sin/error/missteps get redeemed and participate in this harmonious world (material and incorporeal), while an unrepentantly evil, unredeemable few are separated from this redeemed plane of existence — presumably for eternity. Or until obliterated, which some Jewish sages considered their ultimate fate. This is certainly more merciful than what many Christian denominations fancy for the unredeemed/unredeemable — Hitler, Stalin, Caligula, etc. A mercy more characteristic of the Almighty that sages like Hillel knew and championed by virtue of their faith, teachings and deeds.
Pulvis et umbra sumus
by Jim Walker