Thursday, August 30, 2007

What's Love Got To Do With It?


Sylvia: Jay, hey, it's me. What the hell are you doing?
Me: Uh...
Sylvia: Have your fingers fallen off?
Me: What?
Sylvia: I'm tired of reading "Here's Your Sign"! Why aren't you blogging?
Me: Well, I cleaned out my attic, the sun room, burned junk in the barrel out back, rearranged the living room...
Sylvia: So?
Me: Oh, well, I just thought...
Sylvia: Get blogging! I need something to read!
Me: Uh... Okay...
So, before my sister goes mad with the rereading of the last post...

I bring you... The ruminations of my mind during days of end-of-summer cleaning...

The endless, eternal, undying, and deeply satisfying love of Jesus...

No, no, no... I know what you're thinking--"Sweet Jesus, they got him!" Sorry to disappoint. This post is about the message itself. The message Christians around the world preach, extol, discourse, lecture, and sermonize about. It's the supposed reason we were created, the reason Jesus died, the purpose of our existence, the greatest commandment, and the end-all, be-all of our supposedly miserable existence on this planet (besides feeding the dog and the kids, washing the dishes, and doing the laundry...)

It's all about the love they have for sky god, the love sky god showed them by letting his son commit Roman-assisted suicide, and the love they show and share with humanity as they attempt to convert us all, and sell us a condo on a gold-paved street within praising distance of the source from which all theoretical love must flow.

And, from their stand point, not only is it a "wonderful" and "good" thing they are trying to share, it is indeed a necessary and eternally vital thing if they are to continue in a loving eternity after they leave this rock we call Earth...

In other words, not only are they fulfilling "the greatest commandment" by loving god, and then fulfilling the "second greatest commandment" by sharing that love with their neighbor, offering this message of eternal life is well-intentioned. It is a good intention. They want to save your soul. They feel it is their moral imperative, their obligation, their responsibility to tell you, and tell you, and tell you about Jesus. Oh, and about the down side... Full disclosure policy for a lot of fundies...

But is that really a loving thing to do? To ignore other people's chosen beliefs, lifestyles, choices, hobbies, and overall existence by insisting that only they hold the true and real reason? That only they have The Truth, as well as The Way, to a happy and fulfilling life?

Most fundies to this site start off with the obligatory "Better hope you're right or your going to hell." Than after some prodding, some hand-holding, a little coaxing them out of their fundie armor into a human conversation, we find out that their just "concerned." They "love me." They want to "save me." It's motivated by a command from on high and a love that knows no bounds (despite what popular love songs would have you believe, that swimming oceans and climbing mountains has anything to do with it...)

Except... well...

Their god's love does have bounds, doesn't it? That deep, undying, eternal love isn't all it's cracked up to be for want of one very crucial, important factor...

Uncondionality...

True, it may not actually be a word... So sue me...

Let's say, for shits and giggles, my brother is playing chicken with an oncoming train barreling 90 miles per hour from Denver to New York. Another train, leaving New York for Denver, travels at 75 miles per hour with a one-hour stop in Chicago...

For some reason, he is unable to extricate himself from his place in front of Train A. As the light on the engine shines down on his tear-stained face, am I going to negotiate some type of agreement in which I save his life if he promises to tell everyone he knows not only what I'm about to do, as well as a solemn promise to worship me whether or not I live or die saving him? (HINT: No, I am not...)

Yes, my intention is to save my brother. I fully intend to whisk him out of harm's way... And, using the time model of YHWH, if I have all the time in the world to negotiate this position, and I knew he would be on the tracks unable to remove himself from danger, and had the power to not only stop the train (let alone the power to keep all trains from having such man-killing ability...), how would he actually perceive my offer to save him as long as he promised to have eternal gratitude and love for me for the rest of his earthly life?

Let's also keep in mind that I am able to raise myself from the dead...

How, again, is this actually a sacrifice on my part? How again if this an unconditional, undying love for my brother?

4 comments:

Sylvia said...

Two things. First...thank you so very much for blogging. And by the way, that conversation was edited big time. You forgot to add in all the laughter....
Second....why is it that everywhere one goes, we're surrounded by people telling us of Jesus' love.
Not saying that I don't appreciate the thought....in fact, it's quite flattering that someone out there is thinking that they're going to save Sylvia's soul today.
But, how do they know...I mean, how do they REALLY know that I actually need preaching to????
Two weekends ago, while at work...while GIVING a MASSAGE, the dude on my table asked me about my spiritual life. Uh...what???
"Excuse me Joe Schmoe, but in order for this massage to be effective, I need you to not speak."
And the other day at the store, I met someone who insisted that I need to ask Jesus into my heart. This was while I was trying to pay for my groceries. Somehow, even if I did for the first time ask Jesus into my heart while in the store, I feel as though my grocery bill still would've been just as large.
But, anyway...those are my little thoughts. Thanks for adding yours.
Love ya!
Sylvia

DaBich said...

A great analogy Jason.

Sylvia ~ you haev quite a brother here!

Anonymous said...

A science professor begins his school year with a lecture to the students, "Let me explain the problem science has with religion." The atheist professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks one of his new students to stand.

"You're a Christian, aren't you, son?"

"Yes sir," the student says.

"So you believe in God?"

"Absolutely."

"Is God good?"

"Sure! God's good."

"Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?"

"Yes."

"Are you good or evil?"

"The Bible says I'm evil."

The professor grins knowingly. "Aha! The Bible!" He considers for a moment. "Here's one for you. Let's say there's a sick person over here and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help him? Would you try?"

"Yes sir, I would."

"So you're good...!"

"I wouldn't say that."

"But why not say that? You'd help a sick and maimed person if you could. Most of us would if we could. But God doesn't."

The student does not answer, so the professor continues. "He doesn't, does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Hmmm? Can you answer that one?"

The student remains silent.

"No, you can't, can you?" the professor says. He takes a sip of water from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax.

"Let's start again, young fella. Is God good?"

"Er...yes," the student says.

"Is Satan good?"

The student doesn't hesitate on this one. "No."

"Then where does Satan come from?"

The student falters. "From God"

"That's right. God made Satan, didn't he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in this world?"

"Yes, sir."

"Evil's everywhere, isn't it? And God did make everything, correct?"

"Yes."

"So who created evil?" The professor continued, "If God created everything, then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil."

Again, the student has no answer. "Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this world?"

The student squirms on his feet. "Yes."

"So who created them?"

The student does not answer again, so the professor repeats his question. "Who created them?" There is still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized. "Tell me," he continues onto another student. "Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?"

The student's voice betrays him and cracks. "Yes, professor, I do."

The old man stops pacing. "Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?"

"No sir. I've never seen Him."

"Then tell us if you've ever heard your Jesus?"

"No, sir, I have not."

"Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelt your Jesus? Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for that matter?"

"No, sir, I'm afraid I haven't."

"Yet you still believe in him?"

"Yes."

"According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn't exist. What do you say to that, son?"

"Nothing," the student replies. "I only have my faith."

"Yes, faith," the professor repeats. "And that is the problem science has with God. There is no evidence, only faith."

The student stands quietly for a moment, before asking a question of His own. "Professor, is there such thing as heat?"

"Yes," the professor replies. "There's heat."

"And is there such a thing as cold?"

"Yes, son, there's cold too."

"No sir, there isn't."

The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested. The room suddenly becomes very quiet. The student begins to explain. "You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don't have anything called 'cold'. We can hit up to 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can't go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest -458 degrees."

"Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it."

Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding like a hammer.

"What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?"

"Yes," the professor replies without hesitation. "What is night if it isn't darkness?"

"You're wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it's called darkness, isn't it? That's the meaning we use to define the word."

"In reality, darkness isn't. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn't you?"

The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This will be a good semester. "So what point are you making, young man?"

"Yes, professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to start with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed."

The professor's face cannot hide his surprise this time. "Flawed? Can you explain how?"

"You are working on the premise of duality," the student explains. "You argue that there is life and then there's death; a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can't even explain a thought."

"It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it."

"Now tell me, professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?"

"If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes, of course I do."

"Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?"

The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed.

"Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?"

The class is in uproar. The student remains silent until the commotion has subsided.

"To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let me give you an example of what I mean."

The student looks around the room. "Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the professor's brain?" The class breaks out into laughter.

"Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor's brain, felt the professor's brain, touched or smelt the professor's brain? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, with all due respect, sir."

"So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures, sir?"

Now the room is silent. The professor just stares at the student, his face unreadable.

Finally, after what seems an eternity, the old man answers. "I guess you'll have to take them on faith."

"Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with life," the student continues. "Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?"

Now uncertain, the professor responds, "Of course, there is. We see it everyday. It is in the daily example of man's inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil."

To this the student replied, "Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart. It's like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light."

The professor sat down.

This students statements are true, can you or can you not make night darker?

Is it possible for it to get colder after absolute zero -458 degree's F.

Jason Hughes said...

Anon, your story contradicts itself. You say at first that, since God created evil, God must be evil. But then, you say that since God created good, God must be only good. See, God created both good and evil. Even if evil is only the absence of good (which it isn't...), God made it. Even if it is only created by people without God in their hearts, God created those people. We can't have good without evil, or vice versa, so since God created both God must be both good and evil....

This fictional story has of course made the rounds, sometimes with Einstein stepping into the role of the "student" who outwitted the professor... Of course, Einstein was very much a deist (much like our foudning fathers) and not a Christian, but that's neither here nor there...

Of course, the whole parallel with cold and heat is bullshit. You can measure temperature. However, you can't measure goodness or evil. Who's to say good isn't the absence of evil? There's no formula for measuring good, so you can't say definitively if good is absence of evil or if evil is absence of good. It's an abstract term for varying degrees of behavior with individual definitions of good and evil placed on these behaviors. There's a difference between faith and inference. You infer that the professor has a brain because of observations and evidence around you that has been proven before. A brain has been seen before. However, the only evidence of god is hearsay (if you can even call it that) and that's faith. They're completely different things.

Comparing faith in things which are unbelieveable and contradict very measured and observeable things to science which is the educated and most logically likely consolusions made when observing a variety of phenomenons. A brain can be touched, smelled, disected or whatever. God can not. A brain's effects are seen in everything a person does. God's effects are non existent.

Anyone who refers to "science" as a point of view which can be coutnered with faith is straight up ignorant. Science is not opposed to religion. Science is simply a method to explain how the world works in the most logical and intelligent way. If religious ideas are contradicted by scientific evidence, it is simply a failing of that religious way of thinking, and should not be seen as a problem with the unbiased scientific process.

I leave you with this passage: "We can ask, is God good because to be good just is to be whatever God is; or is God good because God has all the properties of goodness?

If we choose the former answer we again find that goodness is arbitrary, since it would be whatever God happened to be, even if God were a sadist. So we must choose the second option: God is good because he has all the properties of goodness.

But this means the properties of goodness can be specified independently of God, and so the idea of goodness does not in any way depend upon the existence of God. Hence there is no reason why a denial of God’s existence would necessarily entail a denial of the existence of goodness."

—Julian Baggini

Do with it what you will...