Friday, September 10, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Springboards Into Who-Knows-What.

There were a couple of comments on my previous posts that were fantastic and very well thought out. They got me thinking about some other stuff so I want to take a little break and use them as a springboard for some different ideas.

So thanks commenters! (Interesting word: Commenter. Is that like a co-mentor? Like you are joining with someone else to mentor somebody? That was an example of a springboard.)

Here are the comments:
"And if it was proven there was no god tomorrow I doubt you'd change Ben because you strike me as a genuine person, not someone who is acting good to get past the white gates."

"We have broken from God, and our morals and ethics are an effort to be right with him be whole, clean, good."

Even reading these again I realize that I read them incorrectly the first time through. But I am still diving off! Huzzah!

In them I was reminded of MTD. That our morals, good works, and efforts are things that get us to God. The get us past the pearly gates. This may not have been what they were saying but I think that is basically what a lot of people think.

That isn't what Jesus taught. It is not what he lived. That is a religion of appeasement and I want nothing to do with it.

It is an ancient religion. I might say that most religions in history have been variants of that to some degree. They might say that something has gone wrong in the world and in order to escape this dreadful place we need to do enough good to prove to god we are worthy of moving on. OR to survive and live well here we need to prove that we are worthy of it. For a great 90 minute "lecture" on this I highly recommend "The Gods Aren't Angry" by Rob Bell.

Ok, I just kind of lost my train of thought. So I am going to jump back to the comments and dive in a different direction. Blog ADD much?

What do we mean by doing good?

My experience with people talking about being good or doing good is that it is usually a pretty generous definition. They also set a pretty low bar.

Be nice. Don't be a jerk. Don't rape or kill people. Occasionally get involved with a "cause" of some kind.

That is easy. I can do all of those without even trying. Why on earth would you invent religion to get that out of people?

According to Christians, at the center of the universe, of everything, is a God who loves sacrificially. There is a God who sacrifices himself for the people and the world he created and loves.

And by sacrifice I mean death. The God who is the source of all life is also the God who subjected himself to death. He entered into the self-inflicted suffering of his creation and let it do its worst to him.

And then, when it seemed all hope was lost he beat death by raising from the dead.

So when we as Christians say we follow Jesus, it literally means we are trusting that laying down our life for the sake of others is the way to find true life.

God created us to join with him in making something good out of the world. We said no and lost ourselves. We have been feeling the effects ever since. God loves us too much to stay that way. He made a way to join in with him again. The old way, the rebellious way (sin) must be put to death and God must raise us up. Then and only then can we be who we were always meant to be.

This has nothing to do with earning it or proving ourselves. It is God's grace that allows us to be redeemed this way.

(There is a lot I haven't filled out here. If you have questions, please let me know.)

So we have a radically different idea of what "being good" is: Sacrificial love. Laying down what we want for the sake of other people. Realizing that we are sick and broken and need a doctor's prescription to be made well again. Loving those who hate us. Praying for those who persecute us. Treating others like they are more important than we are. And a whole host of other counter-intuitive things.

We trust that this is what we were made for and that when God renews the world the way he renewed Jesus at the Resurrection, those things will be shown for what they are and God will use them to finally heal the world.

So in response to the first comment: I would still be nice (but probably a little less so). I would in general no be a jerk (when I liked the other person). I would not be raping or killing anyone but I can tell you that I would be WAY more likely to use people for my own pleasure rather than seeking to lay my life down for their sake.

I would change if it was proven there was no God.

What you would see is all the little ways I chose evil get magnified. Because I know that I am not a good person. I am selfish. I am lustful. I am arrogant. I probably think I am better than you. I have addictions. I am apathetic toward the suffering in the world. I am concerned first and foremost with my own comfort.

And if there is no God at the center of this who died so I could reclaim what I am supposed to be then there is no reason for me to change.

If this is all there is, then what the hell does radical self-sacrifice get you?

Ok. That is it for now. Again, feel free to comment and ask questions (like, why didn't you talk about the Holy Spirit?). Look what the last comments did!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

If This Is All There Is: Part 2

This is the second part of some thoughts I have on the potential implications of atheism being true. I am not so much concerned with the logic of whether or not it is true, just the implications if it is.

In my last post I talked about just a few initial thoughts on the role of humans if we are not created in the image of God. One thing I said was that everything we do it based on the need for survival and reproduction.

I think there are a lot of things that make sense if we are concerned for our survival. We ought to take care of the planet. We ought to ensure that future generations are able to have the same, if not better chances for survival than we do.

But that is assuming that the survival of humanity, or any other life on earth, matters.

What does the universe lose if we go extinct? What does it lose if our sun destroys our solar system? Well, given the sheer volume of stars and galaxies in the universe, I would say that it doesn't lose much.

The universe doesn't care about us. It is unfeeling and indifferent. And eventually it will run out of energy and everything will stop. At that point, there will be no one to care that we are gone or that we ever existed.

The universe, the planet, and human history aren't working toward anything. There is no goal. There is no story being told. It is just a bunch of materials spinning around and crashing into each other.

What is the ultimate hope of all our endeavors? There isn't one and there can never be one unless we can figure out a way to outlast the universe.

If we bring it home to a personal level, how much can one person possibly matter in this universe? Not at all I would guess. How many billions of people have lived and died and now have no one to remember them. They aren't any better than the flies that hatched from the dead rat that filled my room a few years ago. They were here and now they are gone. I may remember them but I will be gone one day and that will be it.

Everyone will be forgotten. It doesn't matter what they do in their lives. Even the most famous of us: Julius Caesar, Jesus, King Tut, William the Conqueror, Leonardo Da Vinci, Ben Franklin, Napoleon, Abraham Lincoln, Queen Elizabeth, William Shakespeare, Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Hitler, and Mother Theresa will all be forgotten at some point. Nothing they did will matter. What hope do I have?

So why does it matter how I live my life? Why does it even matter if I don't pass my genes on? I doesn't matter at all. My life, my existence is utterly meaningless.

When people argue so vehemently for atheism, I think they are actually arguing for the meaninglessness of existence. That is depressing.

I mean, if I died right now, sure, some people would be sad. But who cares? They don't matter. How they feel about things doesn't matter. They will eventually move on and get on with their meaningless lives.

Everything we do is meaningless. Every thought we have is just chemicals reacting to stimuli. There is no such thing as truth, only what helps us survive. And survival is not concerned with truth. Deer don't care that I don't want to hurt them, but they run away. Why? Because it helps them survive.

People say we invented God to explain things we couldn't understand. But the same brain that invented God also invented rationality. Even this whole ramble I have been on is nothing more than popping and fizzing in my brain because it thinks it will help it survive.

But who cares if it does or not? I think the only animals who would miss us if we were gone would be dogs. But they would get over it.

Basically, I think that when someone argues for a purely naturalistic universe, they never carry the weight of their argument to its full conclusion. And the reason for that is they would inevitably end up in total despair.

And so they (and we?) keep deceiving ourselves. Thinking that anything we do has any purpose that matters. That sucks.

If this is all there is.

(Note: As mentioned in my last post, I might be totally wrong about this stuff. There are smarter people than me thinking through it. If you are one of them, please let me know.)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

If This Is All There Is

I hesitate to write this post. Mostly because I don't even know all the things I don't know, still have much to learn, and am potentially unleashing an ugly comment war when it is done. So for the two or three people that will actually read this, please be civil. Thanks.

There is a lot of heated debate in our culture right now about whether or not there is a God. Whether or not religion a poison in our society.

Sometimes these debates and questions are fascinating. Sometimes I put down something I have read and feel like belief in God is absolutely necessary. Sometimes I question my sanity.

So today I will start a series of posts where I wrestle with the implications of there being no God, no ultimate purpose for the universe.

What if this is all there is?

One thing I find curiously absent from a lot of discussion is all the monumental, earth-shattering changes that could (and should?) take place if we finally decided that there was no God.

I want to try to apply this line of thinking to as many different aspects of life as I can. I am also totally willing to be wrong on all of them since, as I mentioned before, I don't know what I don't know.

But where to start?

I'll just start somewhere and go where the rabbit trail leads. This may end up as a ramble that briefly touches on many different topics.

If this is all there is, then human beings are not created in the image of God. We are simply a smart form of primate. Yes? We can't logically say that we have anymore right to live than any other species on this planet.

I might take it further. Farther? I can't remember which one it is. Anyway, what ecological niche do we fill? What do we contribute to this planet? What bad things would happen if we suddenly weren't here anymore?

Why should we be allowed to live?

Because my understanding of human history is we show up somewhere and everything starts dying. Seen a dodo bird or giant moa lately? No, you haven't because we killed them all.

We over-hunted the buffalo. We are over-fishing the seas. According to this site: "Meteorite impacts notwithstanding, scientists approximate that present extinction rates are 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the average natural extinction rate." In case you were wondering, the "present extinction rate" is caused almost entirely by humans. We are better at killing things off than anything else this earth has ever tried.

I think you could make the case that we are bad for this planet. And I didn't even talk about global warming.

If this is all there is and humans are only what I described above, then how can we say humans have rights? Nothing has a "right" to do anything. There is only what one person, group, species can do in order to survive. And if you can't do what it takes to survive then you don't get to pass on your genes and humanity is better for it because we weeded out some of the weak ones.

I hate to say this but who cares if a third of Africa is dying of AIDS? They don't affect my life at all. They weren't lucky enough to be born into a place that didn't have to deal with that. I will be able to survive and pass my genes on just fine without them. Plus, wouldn't it be better if there were a few less of us murderous humans running around?

And no, I don't care that it is people from my culture doing most of the murdering. My job is survival thank you very much.

Why is sex-slavery wrong? If anything, it is a brilliant way to force people to reproduce. Why do children have a right to a normal childhood? Why is it wrong to pay someone to have sex with a kid?

Tell me why it was wrong for those guys to fly a plane into the WTC? Tell me why anything is right or wrong.

The only thing that matters is survival and reproduction. The loss of a few thousand of us will not hurt our chances. There are over six billion of us. We are doing just fine.

That is, of course, if this is all there is.

Coming up in part 2: Why survival doesn't even matter