Posts filed under ‘Philosophy’

The Real Enemy

Intolerance is the enemy. The finest of the founding principles of America are based on tolerance. We have a “Bill of Rights” not a “Bill of Exclusions”.

It seems apparent that two of the driving forces behind violent conflict and oppression are the concepts of fundamentalist ideology and intolerance. When belief in a cause, movement, race or religion becomes so strong and focused that a group believes it is the only acceptable existence for all, that group becomes a dangerous entity. Anyone not adhering to the beliefs of such a group is viewed as a threat and they become an enemy, less than human; they become disposable. This is the psychological process that allows us to kill other human beings. Think about the people you marginalize because they are a threat to your way of life. I don’t know that there is or can be an answer to this problem.

On one side, as a benevolent society we don’t want to harm the civilian population of our political or ideological enemies. On the other hand it is from the civilian population that the military, political, and ideological support springs. How can you subdue an enemy if you don’t defeat the ideology that fuels its existence? It is the nature of some men to strike out at those they feel are responsible for their lack of self worth or anyone they perceive as a threat. This is visible in our own society when we see people burst from the confines of acceptable behavior and wipe out former spouses, co-workers or even a stranger in traffic. On an individual basis we view this as an aberration, but the feeling is much more prevalent than one might expect. Imagine if this happens in a group of people; imagine the harm they are able to justify, the ideology in the name of their oppression. We only have to look to Nazi Germany to see this on a national scale.

The fundamentalist Islamic world is intolerant of anything non-Muslim. This is of great concern because they believe that the supreme force of human existence, God, supports their cause. They believe that this divine support makes their cause righteous and it marginalizes all non-Muslims as infidels. While there are many moderate Muslims, it seems they are more than willing to turn a blind eye to atrocities committed by the fundamentalists against Infidels because the infidel is outside the grace of God; they are reprobate. As insane as this might sound we non-Muslims are viewed as a threat to all things sacred to fundamentalist Islam. So they have made us their enemy and we have only two choices, passively submit to their ideology or fight to defend ourselves from their attacks.

If we choose to defend ourselves, we must accept that in a war even the innocent may die and develop a stomach for doing what it takes to win a war. The idea that war can be waged without civilian casualties is a ridiculous notion. In World War II civilian members of my own family were killed in British and American bombings of Germany. The price for your government and or ideology and support of it is that you may be a casualty of a war against that ideology and or government. After all can any government or ideology exist without the support of its populace?

Unfortunately mankind is not ready to “Just get along.” And war is an unfortunate byproduct of ideology. As Sherman said before burning Atlanta, “…War is cruelty…” there is no way to make it pleasant; and the more unpleasant it is, the more likely a speedy resolution is.

 

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January 6, 2009 at 4:05 pm Leave a comment

God Really Hates You

I have often heard the phrase “God (Jesus, etc.) loves you”. You have to ask yourself: If this is true why does humanity suffer? Each of us suffers at a different level but if you ask most of us will agree that suffer we do. For some the suffering is mild, like a long line at Starbucks or heavy traffic when we’re in a hurry, for others it’s the horrors of disease, famine and natural disaster. Suffering is personal and relative, hence all of the depression and anxiety rampant in our society. “Thank God” for Xanax and Zoloft; or is that: “Thank Pfizer”?

A friend of mine told me, and I’ve done nothing to confirm this, when something bad happens the Buddhists say “Buda looked away.” I like that. It seems to me that if there is a God that he spends most of his time looking away, or perhaps God just hates us!

People of faith, something I am admittedly not, might explain in various ways, that God does not meddle with the everyday dealing of man. I find this is in direct conflict with the idea that God loves us. A loving parent watches their children carefully and would never drop a building on, starve, or teach their children to kill each other, would they? This supports the idea that God hates man. Perhaps the reason that God hates man is that men are inherently bad. We do not listen or obey. Left to our own devices without fear of a fate worse than death, which is one thing that religion tells us awaits those who disobey God, we would be a bunch of lawless deviants having sex with anything we could hold down and killing anything that got in our way. I am not arguing that God doesn’t have reason to hate humans, But if God handles disobedience this harshly why does society get so whip up over corporal punishment of children? Ask yourself: What would God do? “Billy, you didn’t listen again, well this crippling disease will teach you a lesson!” I’ll bet Billy won’t do that again.

I have observed and found particularly annoying many sports figures thanking God for their victory. Maybe if God weren’t so concerned with who wins sporting events he could concentrate on more pressing issues like famine and disease. Oh that’s right God created famine and disease. It’s kind of like congress worrying about steroids in baseball while the economy of our country takes a nose dive. Why is that sports figures never blame God when they loose? If he’s responsible for your victory then why isn’t he responsible for your defeat? “We lost because God hates us!” Please just once? Let’s face it sports fans; if we’re pretty much on our own when it comes to disasters, famine and disease, I’m pretty sure God doesn’t give a crap about who wins the Super Bowl.

As kids my friends and I had a much better grasp on God’s frivolity. When one of us got hurt doing something stupid or bad we would say “See? God punished you!” We knew then that God was vengeful and prone to cause injury. I like that idea better than the idea of a nice and benevolent God. Naturally this idea was imparted to us by some adult who, after living a life of misery, had concluded, that God punished us all for the slightest infractions and sometimes for no good reason at all.

Now you might think that I come from a Godless atheist background and you would be wrong. I was baptized Catholic and although my father was a non practicing Catholic and my mother a non practicing Lutheran, as a youngster in Brooklyn I would go to church on Sunday with our neighbor who we referred lovingly to as Aunt Catherine. She was a sweet lady who was a school teacher and the only man in her life was her gray poodle Chipper. I remember she drank tea and occasionally would tip a Harvey’s Bristol Cream with my mom. At the age of eight we moved from Brooklyn to the Northern Catskills and I started going to Church at Sacred Heart. I made my First Communion and Confirmation and was an Altar Boy. I never had a bad experience with the priest although years later there was some talk that one of my friends had though I’ve never confirmed it with him. Why dig up bad memories? In my teens my father had friends who became Pentecostals and were “born again”. I attended the free form gathering and was amazed by the love and devotion of these folks and was taken with it for a time, but I discovered girls and sex and found that, much to my detriment, more interesting. There have been times when I wonder why I didn’t stick with religion. I later revisited my Christianity for a short time while serving in the Marine Corps. I have even been married in the Catholic Church. I’ve also been married in a bakery; I like cake better than God. People of faith have told me that I have lost my faith. Actually I didn’t loose my faith; I abandoned it to reason once I discovered the history of religion. I saw folly in having faith in some unseen entity that governed all existence. I know this flies in the face of the majority of people world wide who believe in God. I’m not saying that they’re wrong and I’m right. Actually there is no clear evidence either way; I simply choose not to believe in God. Guess I’ll find out when I die.

To be honest, I would rather live a fairly good life, die, meet God and say “Well isn’t my face red?” than live like most religious hypocrites, who don’t really believe yet are just going through the motions to hedge their bet. You people know who you are and if there is a hell for “sinners”, you phonies will probably be a level deeper than me.

I do believe in Religion. I know it exists and that it governs the behavior of men. Unfortunately men are given to interpreting religion to suit their own agenda, much the way politicians interpret politics. When you mix religion with politics you are just asking for trouble. As a youngster during the Great Depression my father asked a priest why he wasn’t using the money he collected to feed poor and hungry people in the neighborhood. The priest slapped him and promptly banned him from the church. My father did not turn the other cheek; he just never went back to the Catholic Church. My father later was kind to the Franciscan priests at Sacred Heart Church and would regularly invite them to dinner at our home. He only talked politics with them and never religion.

As I approach the middle of my uncertain life I find myself rejecting the idea of a benevolent God. I feel if God exists at all, it is indifferent at best; observing us much the way we might observe an ant colony; exhibiting many of the same qualities we humans do; curiosity, cruelty and indifference. In fact I think he occasionally sprinkles us with cosmic pesticide, collapses our burrows or pulls out the divine looking glass to roast a few of us. The ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians worshiped gods who possessed human qualities. Those gods acted out the same drama we humans experienced but on a cosmic scale. There was no defined set of religious laws; the actions of the gods were unpredictable, sometimes petty and often arbitrary. Occasionally the gods would turn a favorable eye on mankind, but often their actions were punishing and cruel. So enter monotheism. One God: omnipotent and all seeing. This deity doesn’t change much from the previous landlords. He kills us for sinning, casts us into hell, besets us with plague, famine, floods and wars without so much as a “This is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you.” He does all of this in the name of righteousness, but where’s the love?

If you read the Old Testament you see that God is a vengeful and punishing deity. He gives Adam and Eve free choice and then gets pissed when Satan, another supernatural power, talks them into doing eating from the tree of life. What kind of a game is this? This is what you call love? God screws with us and must laugh like hell at the confusion and chaos he creates. One might argue that God inflicts the harshness of disaster upon us because this is when man exhibits his noblest virtues. It is in time of great distress that man comes to the aid of his fellow humans, right? Some do, some just seek to exploit the situation for personal, political or financial gain. Again, God screws with man!

One big contradiction to me is: Thou Shall Not Kill. Then the God of the Old Testament shows favor with David who slays Goliath with a stone. Maybe his commandment was: Thou Shall Not Kill any of your own tribe but everyone else is fair game. God, if you’re reading this could you clarify? You know it would make things much easier if God would speak directly to mankind in mass and clear up all the confusion. If he is all powerful, why does he send mixed messages through men; hasn’t he witnessed a game of telephone. Men just get the message all twisted.
NOTE 7/29/08: Further review on this topic indicates that a more accurate translation for the sixth commandment is: Thou shall not commit Murder. This allowed for accidental killing, war and the killing of animals (non humans) for food and clothing. The Old Testament God did however allow intentional killing other human beings in special circumstances, such as allowing the killing of murderers and adulterers. Kind of makes you long for the old days doesn’t it?

Somewhere along the line, according to Christians, the God of the Old Testament turns benign and sacrifices his only son for the sins of man and then butts out of the affairs of humanity. His M.O. doesn’t change though and actually the problems get worse. More religions spring up in his name and now man starts killing each other over who properly worships God. Excellent plan! Who’s right? Well that’s anybodies guess because god has stopped talking with us except, allegedly, through a few crazy religious fundamentalists and he’s apparently telling each of them something different just to keep spiritual existence interesting.

Every time I hear someone say that “God loves us (you)”, I want to punch them square in the mouth for saying something so stupid. Actually I hope God punishes them for presuming to know the mind of God. If God actually made man in his own image, then God must possess the same flaws as man and might be a petty self centered, depressed, mass murdering, egomaniacal deity! Or maybe someone just made up the part about man being made in God’s image; maybe man made God in his own image. Either way it really doesn’t matter.

From this essay, you might think that I have a bone to pick with religion, but that is the farthest thing from the truth. We need religion to control anti societal and aberrant behavior; its rules insure the continuation of the species and promote social order much the way secular law does. Religion and faith also keeps some folks very happy and can be therapeutic and comforting in many respects. Who wants to believe that we face a meaningless and solitary death? I mean aside from me. However religion can also be toxic and fuel intolerance and zealotry; but that is not the fault of religion; it is the fault of men. Ultimately the only thing we humans have control over, unless you are mentally ill, is our own behavior.

Personally I have no need for religion. I am satisfied believing that this tiny planet on the edge of a vast galaxy in an endless universe exists for reasons beyond my explanation. We live here on borrowed time for as long as conditions allow, and as long as our nearest star continues to burn and no longer than that. Life and existence are uncertain and we can blame God or just accept that it is as it is. A close friend once said to me: “We spend the coin of life from a purse which cannot be replenished.” To that I add that the quantity of coin in that purse unknown. I accept that if (and for me that’s a big IF) there is a God he hates me at worst, is indifferent to me at best, but most likely doesn’t exist. Regardless, I will take pleasure in spending whatever “coin of life” I have left and share as much of that pleasure with others as I can.

September 17, 2008 at 7:31 pm Leave a comment


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