As always I have to answer this from my perspective, not all deists. Deists are as diverse as any group bound by a common idea can be. Remember there is no such thing as “Deist Catechism”, to teach you what you are supposed to believe. There is no “Deist Creed” you say to prove your worth as a deist. There is no place with your name on a roll that can be removed and excommunicate you from deism. Deism is a free choice and a simple belief that there is a conscious creator. Some see this deity as a single being, some a total of all consciousness and many other versions. The only commonality is of course that we believe there is some creator to all that is.
So the question would be for me, do I have a relationship with God as a deist. My first instinct is to answer it as a former Christian. I was a leader and teacher in a Methodist church. Though I was raised Catholic I never really believed in a lot of catholic doctrine. Yet they did a good job of programming me and when I met my soon to be wife I was fine with “Catholic Lite” as I called Methodism. I also had discovered radio preachers and did a lot of driving, I became well versed in scripture and remember teaching people about “developing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ”.
I did a lot of teaching and counseling and was considered very wise for my young age. I had a great command of the bible both old and new testament and was good at explaining it. The problem is I was just going though the motions, I didn’t in my heart really believe it, at all. I would pray and it was just like well nothing really. Like a ritual for the sake of the ritual. I had no real relationship with God, Jesus or Buddha or Allah or The Great Pumpkin or whomever. It was empty words.
If I am to answer this question that way, I would say no, I don’t have a personal relationship with God in the way many Christians quest for such a thing. I never did and based on my view at this time I never will. However logic dictates you define a word before you say if it applies to you or not. So let us define relationship…
Relationship (noun) – the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.
There are other definitions but that is the primary one, so using it, yes indeed I have a relationship with the creator, the question now becomes more accurate. It becomes in what particular way do I connect with God?
In that there are many ways I have a relationship with the creator. The most obvious is I am a product of the creation. Further as I believe the creator is connected to all things, we are connected energetically and so is every other being and object I observe. God is everywhere and in every thing.
Some might say that is skirting the question but it is simply what is and it is not as the game show says “my final answer”, just an answer. I am also connected to God and interact with God in my interactions with his creation. When I observe a beautiful sunset, marvel at the stars, work with animals or sit quietly on a mountain top, I am interacting with God.
Of course I believe so is everyone else, the Christian, the Hindu, the agnostic, the atheist, everyone. The other side though is they may or may no be aware of it. Right now you are in a relationship with microbes, in fact your body holds almost as many bacteria as human cells. It doesn’t matter if you knew that or not, you are in a relationship with them.
To me a personal relationship with my creator means that unlike the person that doesn’t know about the relationship, I do and I am presently conscious of it. When I see a sunset, I don’t think “oh look God painted it” or when I hear thunder, I don’t think “God is mad” or “God is bowling”. No, I am fully aware of the science as to how light interacts with the atmosphere and how electricity displaces air in a column. But I am also aware of the fact that the creator is responsible for everything that is.
So I marvel not just at the beauty and the power that science can explain, nor just the ability of a human to observe and appreciate it, but of the creators beauty as the conductor of the symphony of the universe. The three working together, science, creation and observation are my trinity. To me that is not only a personal relationship but one far stronger then when I claimed Jesus as my personal savior, ate small stale crackers and drank a small sip of wine.
Today I prefer to have a glass of wine, good bread, a bit of cheese, sit on the side of a pond and watch geese, ducks and the sunset. When I do I marvel at all of it. I marvel at the way rennet curdles milk, yeast converts sugar to alcohol, how geese pair bond and baby ducks know what to do on day one.
I am sure some will read this that are of the Christian belief who will tell me I am wrong. The atheists will do so as well. In the end, we can all manage our own relationships in our own ways, we call that freedom. But to be true to myself, I can neither profess to believe that which I do not believe, nor to not believe that which I do.
A common meme right now is that unlike Isalm the Jewish and Christian faiths have evolved. That even though these faiths were used to justify some pretty horrible things, you know stoning people to death in direct accordance with the law for crimes such as disobedience to a father and other such things we just don’t do that any more. No more inquisitions, no burning or hanging witches and scorers, no more death or prison due to what they call blasphemy, etc.
Okay then I think I have a fair question to ask….
If the bible (old and new testament) are the actual word and commands of God himself, why would the faiths based on it need to evolve?
Don’t get me wrong, I am glad they did. I mean many things I say every day could have gotten me killed just few hundred years ago. Oh please dear friends let that sink in deep. Very, very deep. These two faiths have killed people for thinking and saying things that simply disagree with them. Yes they don’t do it today, but when they did do it, they were absolutely following their book.
Now sure at times they may have gotten things wrong, or someone may have embellished a bit to see to their own agenda, but in the end, the book says what the book says.
Oh what, Jesus and the woman brought to him you say? Oh I see he said “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” and everyone left right there? That changed it all you say? Really so Christians your bible then, it starts with the Gospel of Matthew right? You got rid of all that old testament stuff then right? No? Um, why not?
Oh, I see Jesus also said, “I did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it”. Well, well, so it is all still in place? No. Just parts of it? Okay which parts, okay so no one is to be gay married, I see, what about eating shell fish and pork though, that is okay right? Yea this makes perfect sense.
So you are saying that Jesus left a list somewhere saying you can do this now but not that, this is still wrong but don’t stone people for it, just lock them up or deny them rights etc.? Wait, that doesn’t exist? Okay, one more honest question then….
Where exactly does all your bullshit come from, in picking and choosing what is and isn’t still in force from your own bible, which you claim is the unquestionable and 100% accurate, will of God almighty himself?
Okay so here is my answer to why religions like Christianity and Judaism have evolved, they had to, period. They had to so that they could keep up with humanity’s evolution. As people began to realize how horrible it was to force people to believe as they believed, it was something else that evolved. It is human rights that have evolved, not the faiths themselves. They still have the same doctrine, the same rules, the book didn’t change, nor has the adherents belief in said book.
And this is my point when I say that I personally don’t believe in the bible or the God claimed to be the ultimate author of it. To me if God wrote a book, his followers would not have to apologize for it a few thousands years down the road, talk around parts of it and pick and choose what to and not to comply with.
I would suggest to fully understand this you watch a TV Series called, The Bible Rules by the History Channel, it is fascinating. You do begin to understand the logic, even when quite twisted of such rules. The goal of the Hebrew people to remain set apart while living as nomads searching for a home. The primary goal being to not be amalgamated into other cultures. You also realize very quickly, this would not be how God would work.
These are rules written by men, to control other men, authored in the name of God to convey authority upon the commands and justification for punishments.
Even if God had these harsh rules in place to keep his people together, you would think one of the profits after the nomadic life was over would have said, “okay guys God said stop stoning people for minor crimes, you can have some bacon now and hey if you want hook up with the locals, just tell them how great our God is and he will do the rest”.
No, that never happened and while Jesus did counter some things he didn’t counter them all. And when he countered them he did so as the Son of God meaning he had the authority to do so, not us, not a TV preacher and not a council of cardinals.
Personally I liked Thomas Jefferson’s approach to the bible. He tossed out the entire old testament, he removed all the miracles and such things from the new testament and left nothing but the core morality of the words of Jesus. He while not believing in Christianity himself stated at that point, “this is the finest assembly of ethics ever created by man”, and he wasn’t talking about himself. This book is called The Jefferson Bible and members of our congress were given a copy up until the early 1900s.
Jefferson saw the Christian writings as they were meant to be seen, a code, not a literal story, of how to treat each other, the truth that we are all sons and daughters of the creator and should treat each other as family. Frankly I think that if God did write the book, he’d of just said that, in like say Chapter One.
Yes the truth is religion evolved because it is fundamentally flawed when compared with basic innate human rights, rights we all share as created beings. I don’t personally feel the creator would botch things up bad enough with his chosen religion for it to require evolution in order to keep pace with his own creation.
*Note the author of this article believes in evolution and simply sees it as a creative process of God. To the author “God” is the singularity of all consciousness, time, energy and matter in the multiverses. Not some guy with gray hair on a throne. This should put his closing remarks in context.
As a Deist you might think I would respond to this with who cares, and on some levels you would be right, on others not so much. Recently a person emailed me about a comment that I made, that comment was as follows,
“Most Christians think saying God damn, is taking the lord’s name in vain, it isn’t, not even close. Sadly most christains don’t seem to understand the faith they are so devoted to. However, the belief that God Damn is a sin and offensive is so ingrained in modern people, I tend to not say it, in any sort of public speaking, just because I don’t want to upset people.”
I should point out to put this in context, I will when called for use words like shit and asshole in public speaking. To me they are perfectly valid words. It is funny though, many would prefer I didn’t but simply accept it but wow, say “God damn” and you’d think you had spit on a baby and punched an old lady in one move. Why? It breaks a commandment. Well lets put aside the same people break commandments all the time and just ask, does it even.
I say no, here I will lay out a simple case for that fact. Keeping in mind that I am not bound by the bible as a Christian chooses to be, I still know it well from my youthful Catholic indoctrination and my service later in life as a lay minister in another faith. With that in mind, let me say the reason saying God Damn isn’t taking the Lord’s name in vain is it simply isn’t biblical at all, there is no biblical case to be made for it.
I will answer what does taking God’s name in vain mean from three persepctives…
- The typical modern Christian
- The informed biblical Christian or Jew
- To me personally as a Deist
The Typical Modern Christian
To such people it simply means to say the word God or Jesus or any other “official name” for God at the same time you say a profane word. All good and well but can you show me a list of profane words in the bible? A list of words God says, “thou shall not say these words”. Nope you can’t. So the entire concept of what is and what is not a profane or bad word is subjective to current society. Any good bible believer knows that God does NOT WORK THAT WAY.
In the bible God is clear in his commands and they do not change simply because society has. Only God himself or Christ his son can change such things or say, “what I really meant was _______”. We may even accept the word of a profit who was told something by God, but man, you don’t just say, well today this means something different.
The truth is there are no profane words, there are profane concepts which can be described with words. So first and foremost damn isn’t a “bad word”. Have you noticed how many people find damn to not be offensive until you put God before it? Next the bible doesn’t claim that to use a specific word with God’s name is to take his name in vane. I pretty sure if that was the intent it would say so, clearly and plainly, given God even gets down to details like what to do if one man’s ox gores another.
That said modern Christan believe this for one simple reason, it is what they were taught to believe and with no attempt what so ever to verify the meaning of a self imposed law they simply choose to.
The Informed Biblical Christian or Jew
These folks understand the commandment because they understand the larger context of the Jewish Law and Jewish Customs of the time of the writing of the Torah. One much understand almost everything in the law was not just a code of conduct but an attempt to set the Hebrew people apart from all others. This at a time of tribal and nomadic living. Almost every law, is counter to what everyone else was doing at the time.
This included the concept of monotheism, or one God. While this actually has roots in Egyptian culture (among others) at this time almost all cultures the Hebrew people had around them professed to have many Gods. So the one God called his people not only to worship him, but to be set apart. So now we must ask what others did with their God’s names. What they did was speak for them, on their behalf and make edicts on said behalf. Such as, “I proclaim by the name of Baal that we will win this war”. Of course the same was said by the other side, “I proclaim in the name of Isis that we will win”. Problem was neither Isis nor Ball had said a thing about this.
In essence these cultures claimed that their God’s wanted things for them and proposed to speak on their behalf. Not just priests or kings either, in small home temples the same was done with the idols of the day by individuals. Worse yet it was seen as clearly one God was stronger than the other if say Baal’s side won, Baal was the greater God.
So the command to the Hebrew people was simple, YOU DO NOT SPEAK FOR GOD and YOU WILL NOT TEST YOUR GOD AGAINST OTHERS. Simple no? In fact the bible at times says God led his people into slavery and into losses when they turned away from him. When you see this context it is clear what God is saying when he says, “do not take my name in vain”.
It means I am not a God of sorcery or a God to be commanded by my people. I am in charge, I know what will be and why it shall be and you are to trust me at all times. You don’t speak for me or on my behalf unless you are repeating what I have written or told to you though my profits (and later though my son). This is it guys and gals. This is a biblical understanding of the commandment.
In this context the statement God Damn is more a prayer then taking the Lord’s name in vain. It is a request, to make it a sin, one would need to say something like, “I proclaim that God will damn, ________”. There by choosing to speak for God, vs. imploring God to damn something. In other words many Christians actually break this commandment, not when they pray in God or Jesus name, but when they declare that X will occur or Y will not, simply by invoking the name of God.
In this context you see that “God bless” can be just as bad biblically as “God damn”. God bless Uncle Steve is perfectly fine, but I declare in the name of God that Uncle Steve will be blessed, is taking God’s name in vain. This commandment is all about intent, not words current society have placed on the list of bad words.
To Me As a Deist
You might think to me that this all means not a damn thing, on one level you are correct. I don’t believe in a God that judges his children, sends them to hell, tells them to kill other people in his name or anything like this. I do however see wisdom in this concept, though I see it as a natural law of energy vs. a law to be obeyed by command.
You see as a Deist I have one and only one thing I claim to know about God, it is only that “God Is”. That God exists, period. Nothing more and nothing less. Is God a person type God a being you would see as a man? I don’t think so, but I don’t claim to know. To me God is the single creative force that writes the symphony that is our known and unknown multiverses. When you truly understand physics you see math, matter and energy as what they are, patterns of music.
Somewhere in this music and everywhere in this music is God. How exactly that works I don’t know. God could be anything from a singularity of thought and consciousness or perhaps something akin to “the force” from the Star Wars movies. I don’t know, I don’t need to know and I can’t at this point in my evolution know and I am okay with that.
That said what this all means, what the fact that “God Is” means is wisdom of God is inherent to all people. We all have a connection and in forming religions we often find morality that is positive and laws that are if nothing else good advice. Many would point to a lot of bad things too, like stoning people for saying the wrong thing. While I agree that doesn’t change the good from all faiths.
Even something many today balk at like Jewish diet restrictions made a LOT more sense in the desert, with no sanitation to speak of, no running water and no refrigeration. I see the commandment to not take the Lord’s name in vain the same way, though more relevant to me personally than keeping kosher.
The commandment means to me what it means to anyone that interprets it biblically. Don’t presume to speak for God or tell others what God will or won’t do, because you don’t know what God really wants or what God is going to do or not do. God Is, be at peace and worry only about what you feel you should do in this world based on your relationship with God.
So do Deists have a relationship with God? Sounds like a topic for another post on another day!
In part one we examined what I call the natural innate morality that I do feel is written into our code as beings, assuming we are not damaged some how. We can be damaged from birth, for instance a true psychopath has no empathy. Before I continue in part one of this series commenter asked if a person is born broken, is there any hope for them. I want to answer that before moving on because I find it highly relevant to what we shall examine today.
The answer is, it depends, how broken are they? Some are born with no ability to walk, of those some can walk eventually though not very well, some can become Olympic sprinters and some will never walk. So the truth is, how bad is the damage, what therapy is offered, what therapy is possible at our current technology all play into a final answer. One couple may have a lame child but be financially well off and educated. They may ignore the doctor who says there is “no hope” and seek out someone who can do something, pay for it and their child may walk. Another child may be born to poor and uneducated parents, they may just accept there is no hope. Hence of two children born with the same potential to walk, only the one with the greater opportunity to walk will realize it. I believe it is the same with most people with what we call mental impairments.
To make it more complex, the child today who will eventually walk may never have no matter what station they had in life if they were born say 100 years ago. In fact many children who are born ill yet live wonderful lives today, would have died at childbirth or soon after just 100 years ago. So as our knowledge increases if it is properly channeled our ability to heal increases. What is the limit of that progression, we don’t really know do we?
Now let me say I am no fan of the psychological industry and I hate the over use of psychoactive drugs. I also think most diagnosed “mental illnesses” are bullshit, and that true psychopaths are very rare. Most people are “damaged” by their environment and most can be helped. Even then though, how much, well, again how bad is the damage? It is easier to fix a skinned knee then a broken leg. It is also easier to fix a broken leg then a severed arm. So can we install morality in those who have accepted truly criminal behavior as acceptable? Depends on how bad the damage is. Just like PTSD, some get over it, some deal with it their entire lives but function well and for some it destroys their lives. This of course has both to do with the damage and the will, potential and fortitude of the individual.
This all plays well into the segment of morality I want to discuss today, that of “taught morality”. Technically this is also “learned morality” which I described in my last post. However, for the sake of this discussion I am calling “learned morality” the morality gained from individual interaction with the world. Doing things and feeling either remorse or love or passion from those actions. Taking those feelings and shaping morality in your own life with them. For instance in the last post a young boy named Johnny killed a bird with a BB gun. Though he wasn’t caught or lectured he felt remorse and learned never to take a life unless doing so had a purpose. Killing a bird to feed yourself was one thing but leaving a song bird to die in the bush for no reason was another.
In this post “taught morality” is what I want to dig into because it digs deeply into our innate moral code and how environment can damage or distort it.
Again realize that much of what the TV and politicians would lead you to believe about psychopaths is false. Most are not serial killers and rapists, not that they would not do these things given the chance. The key is they are rare, (about 1% of our population) and that they are generally intelligent. This makes them adaptable, then tend to end up in positions of power. Since psychopaths tend to not feel any love or empathy they derive pleasure from controlling others and taking what they want. Since they are intelligent they know a prison cell is not a good place for such things.
So as I said in the last article by being both smart and willing to do what others won’t (for moral reasons) such people usually end up in positions of power in corporations, government, military positions etc. Again not all such people are psychopaths, but many are and these many have a huge influence over society. They then use such influence to alter morality for the masses.
So coming back to taught morality, most parents teach their children that violence is wrong unless it is in defense of your personal safety or the safety of another who is innocent and needs your help. Libertarians call this simply the “non aggression principle”. Many such parents though will blindly back wars where young innocent children are blown up by bombs and simply called “collateral damage” by the psychopaths running the show. In other words properly marketed and sold, that which is immoral can be taught to others as being moral.
This was clear in the slave industry in the US. For years people were taught slavery was moral, hell the bible said so! Making another human your property was okay, it was fine, no problem at all. Children born from birth were taught both as sons of owners and sons of slaves. Yes the slave too in time was conditioned to believe that his captivity was acceptable! Many in fact didn’t know what to do at first when the “War Between the States” ended. Yet why did slavery end? It didn’t end due to Abraham Lincoln for sure, the man was a racist and a statist! He did what he did in his own words “to preserve the union”, and had he been able to do so by “freeing none of the slaves” he would have done so, again in his own words. You can read the letter where he penned these thoughts here.
No slavery wasn’t ended because one man was moral, slavery ended because people in spite of conditioning by psychopaths knew in their hearts and souls that slavery was immoral and continously fought back against it. This even included racists who were unwilling to let go of that immoral conditioning but still understood slavery had to end. What this shows is indeed morality is in the code of creation. There was a 100% conditioning in the early US that slavery was okay, from all levels of government and industry. Today the south gets all the blame but northern industry was the group making raw cotton into cloth. It was the federal government (the Union) that allowed enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law. There were also many abolitionists in the south, though speaking out was considered more dangerous.
You see this is the second tool of the psychopath, the first is programming, get the majority to accept your twisted morality as right and decent. Next in step two you use fear, intimidation and slander to silence those who don’t accept the programming. When that fails you use actual violence to silence those who won’t shut up. The most clear event in recent times of course would be Nazi Germany.
Psychopaths are adaptive though, today you ahve people waving flags, chanting U-S-A, U-S-A, to support a war where children are murdered. Such people generally have sacrificed nothing in this war, they don’t do the fighting. If their relative dies in the war said relative died as a combatant and chose to serve. Often the flag waver tries to equate their loss with the loss of those who are actually on the ground. Today a war means profits and jobs. We don’t even have rationing like in WWII. The war is on another continent, the TV tells us what those in power want us to believe. We are told to do things like “stand with Israel” over Gaza but most Americans sharing propaganda as FaceBook and Twitter memes could not point to Israel or Gaza on a globe if it were not labeled and yet they are willing to sanction bombing of apartments, because the radio host they like says it is the right thing to do.
Blind patriotism is but one form or immoral actions sold as moral actions. Yet if most of these blind patriots had to see the harm, blood, death and destruction they were supporting I think they might stop the chanting of U-S-A and look at the faces of their own children and weep. The anti war crowd of course is slandered as “liberal hippies” but many like me are Anti War, and far from being a liberal peace-nick hippy. I have no desire to harm any man but threaten my family and you may very well meet the business end of an 870 shotgun, sound like I’m a hippy to you? I am actually a former solider who served in the US Army Airborne. I can tell you the most ardent anti war people I know, are soldiers who have seen combat. Remember that please the next time you are told all anti work people are liberal, commie, pinko, hippies by your TV and Radio.
While anti war politics were in the air for a time as the “issue du jour” of the left side of the dichotomy they seemed to vanish the day our current president became president, did they not? Might I point out this is a man that got a Nobel Peace Prize, while bombs were falling on children on his orders. Yet some people have continued to say, killing innocent people is wrong, period no matter who is in charge. Why? Because we know it is true and we know who is doing the killing doesn’t matter. We are those who have broken the system’s programming and who have a deep sense of morality. Why? It is in the human code of creation, that is why.
Most of the chanters and flag wavers do not support killing children, they actually don’t have a clue that is what they are doing. The programming is deep and far more sophisticated today then even 50 years ago. However, as soon as most people learn the truth behind the programming they realize almost instantly that what they have been supporting is wrong. They know bombing a wedding (which our current President authorized) is immoral. They know it doesn’t matter that a “target” was there, they know killing innocent children and non combatants was wrong. Many hear about it and consider it leftist propaganda, but if you get them to think, everything changes.
Yes unless we are truly damaged, morality is part of what and who we are. In fact I would say this is the number one reason people leave organized faiths and eventually find Deism. Led by our morality we can’t like let alone love a vengeful, jealous, murderous god and sure as hell can’t worship him. Inside us though is a spark, the spark of creation itself and deep feeling of what is right and wrong. We know when we marvel at the mysteries of creation that in the words of James Kavanaugh “God Lives” eventually we figure out, that God indeed lives within us. That we are all in Richard Bach’s world, “Children of the IS” and ironically that includes the psychopaths.
On that note I would like to leave you today with the words of James Kavanaugh from the preface of “Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves” one of his best books of poetry in my view. In the preface this is what he had to say,
“I will probably be a searcher until I die and hopefully death itself will only be another adventure. To live any other way seems impossible. If anything has changed over the years, and it has, I only feel more confident now about what I wrote then.
I am far more aware of the power that guides each of us along the way, and provides us with the insights and people we need for our journey.
There are, indeed, men and women too gentle to live among wolves and only when joined with them will life offer the searcher, step by step, all that is good and beautiful.
Life becomes not a confused struggle or pointless pain, but an evolving mosaic masterpiece of the person we were destined to become.”
Recently a commenter here at the ModernDeist.org wrote the following, “What if morality was written into the code of creation itself?” Great question but before I go on, you should know that this commenter is someone I know. This someone is Christian, so like most questions, it is always angled to make the point, “this proves my version of God”.
So first I will dispel that argument, this way. Whether the God of the Bible does or doesn’t exist is irrelevant to the question, period. “Morality” could be written into our code by the God of Deism, by the God and Goddess or the Pagan or by the pure evolution of they atheist. The atheist would say over time those groups with morality survived at higher rates and developed structure. Said structure via imprisonment and penalty of death, caused humans to accept “morality” and pushed a lot of those who would not, out of the gene pool.
This type of thinking is what makes discussion with a Christian difficult. It seems that anything that leads one to believe in creation is to them proof of their version of it.
Still the question is great, is morality and the evolution of said morality part of the code of creation. I would say that it is. As I previously blogged basic morality and ethics are observable in animals far less advanced than humans, and not just ones we have trained, either. See this post for examples of that.
I guess the first question would be are we born moral?
This is difficult to answer, more than you might think. We are born unable to hold up our heads, barely able to do more than puke, drink our mothers milk and crap on ourselves. We really can’t look at the behavior of a new born and ask is this child moral or not. It will be at about two years of age where the child is truly mobile and functioning high enough to make that judgment.
So are two year old children moral? The parent in us want so say so innocent, etc, but that is bullshit! Two year old children are selfish, demanding, they steal, they bite, they throw tantrums and I have seen many hit other children and animals for nothing more than their own amusement. I am going to say, no, we are not born moral, we are taught morality and develop during our growth as humans.
Let us shelve taught morality for this post and come back to it later. It is a big can of worms and one can be taught something as moral that is actually horrific. For today let us just discuss developed morality where real life feedback apart from other humans is our teaching tool. Here is a classic one.
A young boy with a BB gun shoots a bird. He likely had to work hard to do so, sneak away where he would not be seen, get a clean shot, make a good shot, etc. Unlike the TV where Johnny does this on his first shot in his back yard, there is a lot of missing and hits that don’t take a bird out before one goes feet up and drops to the ground. Also what the TV doesn’t show is that such a hit likely doesn’t kill the bird, it mortally wounds it and Johnny watches the bird die or must finish what he started, for the bird to not sit and suffer.
Once it is over and Johnny buries or hides the bird and “gets away with it” he is likely to have remorse. He will realize that this death was senseless, that the bird may of had babies that are now alone, etc. He doesn’t need a wood shed to have this feeling, trust me I know. Johnny may grow into a man who hunts and kills many animals, he may have a small farm and slaughter many for food and not feel remorse for it. But he likely will not kill anything ever again unless the death serves a purpose.
In this example the morality is learned, yes, but it is also hard wired in some way. It is not learned like say touching something hot that physically burns Johnny. Unless Johnny has something inside of him that says, “senseless death is wrong” there is no reason for him to change his behavior and not kill say thousands of birds. So yes I believe on some levels basic morality is wired into our DNA. Emotions like regret, doubt, remorse and emotional pain are the checks that force us to find it in time.
I see it a lot like walking, the ability to walk is wired into our DNA. Even if a parent never teaches a child to walk the child if well cared for and if left to itself will walk one day. It will first lean to roll over, then to crawl, then to use objects to pull itself up, then to walk. A child is not born able to walk but it is born with the ability to walk coded into it. So the fact that we are born before our morality is developed doesn’t mean we are born without it coded into us. Just as we must develop to realize our coded capacity to walk, we must develop to realize our coded capacity for morality.
Then there are children who should be able to walk but can’t. Something is broken, some will learn to walk anyway and some will live life in a wheel chair.
I think this can happen with morality too, a child should be born with the capacity to develop morality on its own at least to a degree but some are born with something “broken”. We call these people psychopaths. This is the Johnny that kills the bird and has no remorse but enjoyed it. He enjoys it for a time but then it becomes boring and he moves on. He may kill or injure higher life forms or even people. Sometimes if the psychopath is highly intelligent he/she realizes they must blend in.
Instead of a life of crime they go into “legitimate roles for psychopaths”. Such are positions of power in Government, Business, Religion and Military occupations. This is not to say that all in such roles are psychopaths, most are not. It is to say that intelligent psychopaths generally take over top leadership roles in such institutions and use the power of them to harm and control others.
I finish with this thought because in the next post I will discuss taught morality. And on that, we have to acknowledge something. You can successfully teach real morality, “do not harm others”, etc. You can also successfully teach false morality, “it is okay to keep blacks as slaves” and have otherwise moral people believe it.
Well if morality is “written into the code of creation itself” one must account for such teachings being accepted. In the end though I think history shows that we if not damaged, do have morality written into our genetic codes. But that is for the next post.
Where Does the Knowledge of Right and Wrong Come From?
Recently in a discussion with a member of one of the revealed religions this was the question she asked. The angle being that our morality itself comes from God and hence that proves the existence of God and hence it proved her version of God exists. Now even if we take this view that “morality comes directly from the creator” that doesn’t do anything to prove the existence of any specific version of God.
This is actually a new question for me, just when I had thought I had heard it all now religion isn’t being defended as a keeper of ethics but the source of ethics.
I personally find this preposterous. I can put together a group of people that have no faith as we use the word in any God, true agnostics or even atheists and most will still have a pretty decent morality even if they were raised by and spend their time with others of the same view point.
Yet recently I have actually heard the argument from this woman that all law and morality has their roots in the Judeo Christian tradition. Got that? All “just law” is based on Judeo Christian ethics. As if those the native Americans who had never heard of such things had no law, morals or ethics until we came here and desavageized them. Yes I just invented a word!
While this point for me is a non starter I do think the question of simply, where does morality come from, is an interesting one.
We should ask why do we have morals and ethics and is that unique to humans? Do any other creatures show kindness and concern for others beyond basic parental instinct?
Well, I know of one verified true story where a pilot whale was being a bully to the smaller dolphins at a marine park. The trainers got an idea, they drained the tank to where the whale was safe yet stuck and stranded. The water was only about 3 feet deep. The dolphins could swim no problem while the whale cried out. I am pretty sure the “language” of pilot whale and bottle nose dolphin are quite different but the sound of terror and stress is pretty universal.
Now the dolphins had the upper hand and could have tormented their bully but they didn’t, instead they swam around the whale and actually tried to comfort it. When the water was put back the whale ceased being a bully. This showed that first the dolphins chose to aid the whale even though it had bullied them. And more impressive the bully having been stressed and afraid then comforted by the dolphins was able to understand what happened and express what we can only see as gratitude to the dolphins.
Now dolphins are smart I grant you and do have a sort of language but they ain’t humans and have no where close to the comprehension of humans. We certainly know they haven’t read the bible or the Torah. I also don’t think they have “profits” that talk to god, do they? Yet this behavior is something we can only describe as one based on a kind of morality!
In the Wild this is a Sign of Aggression.
Though less evident we see it in dogs that aid or defend their owners in ways that are not fitting with the dog’s normal behavior. While most stories of “hero dogs” are exaggerated forms of Yellow Journalism, dogs do exhibit this behavior, they even learn “human manners”.
Have you ever seen a dog grin? It is a clear expression of being happy, in the wild with dogs that don’t know humans and other wild canines like wolves, dingos and coyotes the animals will sometimes behave his way but never when face to face with another animal. Bearing the teeth is a sign of aggression, even in a “grin”. Yet dogs that live with humans learn that this is not aggressive and not only don’t see humans smiling as non aggressive, they accept if from other dogs.
Now you may say the dog thing is minor, but it some ways it is more impressive than the dolphins. This response of bared teeth means danger and aggression is hard wired into the canine brain, yet even dogs taken from the “wild” as pups quickly adapt when raised by humans.
It isn’t morality in and of itself, it is actually an expression of etiquette. To have etiquette, one must first have a morality of sorts to have any concept of adapting to the etiquette of another being.
There are many examples of cooperation with animals that you have to see as somewhat moral. When I got my first flock of geese I had always heard they were cooperative more than other birds. That as they mate for life there is no real need for conflict, but I was not prepared for some of the behaviors I have seen. When my geese were small and just began to swim, since we have no ponds we provide them stock tanks and kiddie pools. One day one goose was in the pond the other trying to get in and managed to do so.
Now the tank was pretty crowded and the last goose in had its foot extended back behind itself. It wasn’t in pain or anything they can bend this way and do so frequently. But it could not manage to pull in its foot. I was about to go motivate him a bit when I saw something I would never have believed. One of the other geese looked its brother, cocked its head, considered the issue and then gently as a goose can do used its beak to help the other one by pulling his foot into the tank. A simple tiny honk honk was exchanged.
Another time I was at a zoo, a young orangutan was playing and its mother got bored and decided to move elsewhere. It was a really great zoo and nice habitat and she swung across a gap easily. The young one tried to follow and could not and started to call out. The mother thought about it, went to the gap, spanned it with her incredibly long arms and legs and formed a body bridge. Rather than carry her child across it she became a bridge and let the little one clime across her, then went on to sit in a tree and think about whatever it is orangutans contemplate. This wasn’t just raw protective mother instinct it was a decision to not only help but to teach at the same time, and the child clearly learned.
Now I am not making a case that any animal has the higher morals of a human, just that they have some level of concern for one another and even at times for members of other species and that they act in a way to render aid or comply with etiquette of the same, that folks is morality. Now this doesn’t prove or disprove that morality is something of what we could call a “gift” from the creator, simply that it isn’t the product of religion.
Where do you think morality comes from? Is it simply how humans have come to survive, a mere product of evolution? Is it just innate to life and the higher the life form the higher the ability to develop a moral code of sorts? Or is morality simply the result of understanding, empathy and compassion for other beings? Or is it a product of evolution but as part of what some call “intelligent design”?
Jesus was Robin Hood? Read on, it doesn’t mean what you likely think it does.
I was asked in a comment recently what the “Deist View of Jesus” is? Like many questions I really can’t answer that for anyone but me. Asking what a Deist thinks of Jesus is like asking what a scientist thinks about the origin of the universe. The number of answers you get may be damn close to the number of folks you ask.
There are people that call themselves “Christan Deists”, they believe in Jesus the man and his message, see him as a profit of the creator that actually broke away from organized faith. The problem I see there is Jesus did claim to be not only the son of God in the bible but also to the door by which man gets into heaven. Now some Deists simply dismiss this, point to the lost Gospels and say, but I don’t believe that. They believe in Gnostic Christianity where Jesus is just one example and say we should ignore the things added to the canonized Gospel and simply see the message of Jesus as the way to live.
I personally feel most of such people are trying to cling to a shred of their Christian heritage because it comforts them, if so fine, there is no harm in it. I also think many are in very tight families where “church” is a big deal. They just can’t walk away, it is too hard. It results in being ostracized and frankly harassed as those you left behind try to save your soul and drag you back in. So they embrace Deism and when required to participate with family religious activities they are able to tolerate it. Most such people eventually walk away all together and become what is known as a “Christmas and Easter Catholic” in the Catholic Church. They go when the torment of family exceeds their desire to resist.
Then there are true Deists that just really embrace the morality of the Judeo Christian faith. Thomas Jefferson was one such Deist. He created the “Jefferson Bible”, which was the Gospels with all the miracles, claims of deity and such removed leaving only the basic teachings of Jesus. He did so because his claim was that basic Christian ethics were the finest example he knew of in the world. But Jefferson was not a Christian. So we have Deists that associate with Christian teachings but they are not Christians.
This isn’t really anything unusual when you think in context. For example I am a huge fan of much of the teachings of the Buddhist faith. I derive a lot of wisdom from it and read about it. It helps me frame my view of the world. I have a deep respect for Buddhists, but I am not a Buddhist and don’t believe their religion, I just value their way of viewing life. I am certainly not a vegetarian! I also love the history and lore in the Pagan faith. The duality of the God and Goddess makes sense to me more than one god that looks like well, King Neptune! I love the way Pagans understand the earth, I really love the “holy days” how they are seasonal and frankly as a guy that grows a lot of my own food, very useful. But I am not a Pagan.
I think many of us in the Deist world view most faiths this way. If there is a reason we are particularly harsh on main stream Christianity it is well, it is two reasons. The first is most of us were beaten over the head with it as we come from that background. The second is that we seldom see a Buddhist knocking on our door to tell us about “detachment” and interrupt our football game on Sunday. Nor do Pagans walk up to us say at a mall, hand us a tract telling us about a new temple and then ask to publicly pray over us. If you think the encounter at a store is a stretch, I live in the south and in the bible belt. I have had this happen three times in my life. I DO NOT appreciate it, when someone starts praying over me and following me around with raised hands in a public place.
These are the things that make us as Deists be unfair to the Christian tradition compared to our view of other faiths at times. But that doesn’t really answer the question does it? Well again different Deists have different opinions about Jesus the man we hear about in the bible. Here for example are two totally different views, both written by Deists at Deism.com presented side by side…
Did Jesus Exist
In the first one we have a take that yes Jesus existed and probably thought he was god. The 12 apostles were real and devoted in spite of the fact that Jesus was just a man. The resurrection is explained mostly this way. Mary Magdalene was nuts (as anyone described as having 7 demons would be by today’s standards) but the other apostles believed her because they wanted to. The reason Jesus looked different after the resurrection was because he was someone else. I personally think this is certainly possible.
In the second the take away is Jesus never even existed, there is no real historical record outside the bible and likely the whole thing was just made up. I think this is also possible but less likely so, then the above.
For instance we know for a fact Paul existed, there is record of that. Seems Peter was also real, generally people like this have to have someone to believe in or they won’t allow themselves killed for their faiths. So Peter and Paul likely were basing their beliefs on something or someone. These men and other members of this sect were motivated enough to spread the word. Authors wrote the books we call the Gospel in the names of such people and a new faith was created.
In Christian schools of thought though we get the illusion that these books were written soon after Christ died. Yet we know the earliest estimate of the Gospel of Mark, which is the oldest known gospel was written about 66-70 CE. The best guess for the year of the crucifixion as described in the bible is 29 CE. That is 37 years and all the other gospels came after that. Can we put that into some perspective for a moment.
Today it is 2014 and 37 years ago it was 1977. Let us say you are old enough that you were a young man in 77 say in your mid 20s and you had a good friend named Jessie and you and Jessie ran around together and did a lot of cool and crazy stuff. Now years later you are known to have been a friend of Jessie, he is now dead and famous and people want to know exactly what happened at some of the things you did together. If you then tried to write down say 1974-1977 as to your journeys with Jessie to the level of detail in the bible, how accurate would it be? Now this would be if you really were Jessie’s friend.
What if instead tons of stories about Jessie were being told for all those years. Things he said were written down and many things someone said he said. Now you know the name of one of his friends that is also dead and gone or perhaps went off and found a new life and just wanted to forget about those crazy old days. But you are able to write as him and the government will say you are him, you now assemble this montage of information into a story, how accurate is that? This is the origin of the new testaments of the bible folks.
And this leads to what I believe, Jesus was Robin Hood! Heck the title got you to read this long right, now we finally get to it.
Now look I am not saying Jesus robbed the rich and gave to the poor or that he came back in tights and miraculously split arrows! No I am saying the origin of the myth of Jesus is likely similar to the myth of Robin Hood. There was no one man that was Robin Hood. Old Mr. Hood is an amalgamation of several real people and a bunch of completely made up fiction that have been combined into a series of stories. This is the bible as a whole and certainly to me how we ended up with Jesus as we know him today.
There was likely a charismatic guy that Peter and the other apostles knew that got himself executed. Doing that wasn’t hard at the time. Peter and the boys likely believed in him, enough to die for him, this proves nothing magical, history is full of people that did such things. There were many such messiahs though at the time and putting something one did or said in the name of a better known name was common. I mean this is why we have the last gospel written in about 90 CE. That is 61 years after the death of Jesus. It is possible that some of the apostles made it that long but very unlikely, if they did how much do you trust the memory of a 90 year old?
So as the story grew, actions, deeds and words of many of the Jesus like figures were combined. Completely fictitious components we added to comply with “prophecy” and astrological components came in like the number 12. Yes there are 12 tribes of Israel but you do realize that there are 12 months right? Anyway in the end we have an astrological literary hybrid of the story of one man, that is likely the story of several real men and plenty of things there were simply either made up or modified gossip! Hmm, never thought of it but gospel and gossip seem quite similar as words don’t they?
Now if you want to debate me, specifically as an offended Christian, please realize I have a right to my opinion, and that is all this is. It is when I examine history in context and consider human nature and the desire of government and religion to control people the most likely explanation. I can’t prove my theory and really don’t see the point in trying. Based on what I believe as a Deist it doesn’t matter if I am wrong at all. My view of the Bible doesn’t change my choices in my life or my personal faith. So whether Jesus never existed, was a real man that was made into a God figure or is as I say a hybrid of several people along with total fiction and literary license, has no long term implications for me.
I do think it is an interesting idea to explore though. And when I do I am left with this simple opinion. Who was Jesus? Well, he was Robin Hood.
As I begin this post I want to make something clear, if you are an atheist I have no desire to convert you from atheism by force of will or even with logic. I provide my views on Deism and other beliefs for those that have interest in it. I simply am examining all belief systems here, atheism is in fact a belief system, in fact I consider it a religion. A religion that believes in chance and mechanics vs. spirit.
Personally I feel that the question of why some people choose to believe in nothing, is an interesting thing to examine. The reality is about 16% of the total world population by best estimates are not affiliated with any religion at all. Yet only 2% are actual atheists as in they believe in no higher power, no creator or architect of the universe. So even the vast majority of “non believers” still believe in some sort of a “God” like intelligence. That would be 14 of 16 or 7 out of 8, simple math says that is 87.5% of NON BELIEVERS are still not atheists.
One must only conclude than that the atheist is not just a minority but a statistical anomaly. I personally think as a Deist this is because as we are part of the creation we intrinsically know there is something more to the universe than mechanics and random chance. The atheist therefore has to override this inherent knowledge and apply a certain logic to do so, almost like the fictitious Vulcan does with emotions in the fantasy world of Star Trek. So that leads to the question of why?
Let me start out with a concept that should pacify the atheist I have thus far offended, it could simply be because they are right. The reality is we don’t know that God exists, we have surmised it so as Deists solely via logic and our examination of the universe and the creation. As Deists there is no risk of hell for lack of faith, so we must be open to the possibility however so slight, that we could be wrong. I don’t think I am wrong, but no believer in any faith, including atheism thinks they are wrong, if so they would not believe what they do. So let us just say, may be it is because they are right, but if not, then why?
I would say it is a direct reflection of the failure, lies and deception of revealed religions. Like I said yesterday, atheists are generally intelligent, very much so. Some of my favorite people and most intelligent contemporaries are atheists. So when such people are told if you do X you go to hell but you can do X and if you say certain words and believe certain things you go to heaven, well they know that makes zero sense. When they see churches taking money from people and claiming to do “Gods work” frankly it makes them sick.
When they see people denying not just components of but the entire concept of evolution they see it as denial of fact, and frankly it is. When fossils are explained by some fringe members of Christianity as “God creating the illusion of age to test our faith”, they see it for the madness that it is. When they are told God destroyed all life with a flood, they know it is nonsense because it makes no sense to kill a child for his parents deeds and know that no just God would do such a thing. Just keep the list going, it is why so many of us left organized faiths, walked a path that eventually led us to Deism.
So why do atheists walk strait past the simple belief in a higher power of some sort all the way to the concept of “there is no God, there is no higher power, things are what we see and nothing more”. I think many are so sickened by the twisted components of religion they simply throw out the baby with the bath water. They want it all gone from their lives, no more fake guilt, no more lies, no more period, they just want freedom and see any faith as a false burden or a false promise.
I think though many don’t realize Deism exists, what it is or understand it as an option. When I speak to most atheists I find first that most are really agnostics, they doubt the existence of God, if pressed though they do not 100% deny the possibility of a higher power, very few actually go that far. They realize just as I do that since we don’t actually know, that any of us including them, could be wrong. Yet even if they have heard of Deism, they don’t understand what it is or how it benefits someone.
I’ve been asked questions like, “so what does a Deist have to do”?
To whit I have simply responded, “a Deist believes in a higher power, an intelligence that is behind the design of the creation, that is all they don’t have to do anything, it is something you believe, not something you do”.
Another question is often “so what happens to bad people when they die”?
I simply say I don’t know but whatever it is it is likely not much different than what happens to a “good person”. I figure either we simply return our energy to the creation or we have a consciousness, I am not sure which. If we don’t it doesn’t matter, if we do likely a “bad person” would end up with some sort of self assessing but there is no fires of hell, no gates of heaven, just what ever is, well, is.
Discussions like this with atheists never leads to instant conversions, and frankly unlike many on fire born agains for us that isn’t the goal at all. It is just a logical discussion of belief. I’ll tell you what though, 9 times out of 10 these answers are not what the atheist expected, most have never even considered such as an option before. Which always leads me to ask, if you have never considered something before, why would you just write it off? Would you do so with any other compelling and interesting or important part of life? The answer to those questions are almost always, “you shouldn’t” and “no”.
I mean in short, I think many choose atheism for the same reason we choose deism. Organized faith simply makes no logical sense when fully examined devoid of programmed belief systems (benevolent brain washing). I just think quite often, the atheist is simply not aware that a choice in the middle exists. That one can believe in a higher power, a creator and not have any religious obligations and not be required to throw logic to the wind.
I just don’t think most have ever considered that faith is not a binary code, where 1 is religion and 0 is no faith at all. That there is an option that accepts that so many things in the universe are so perfectly designed that something must have done it or frankly it must be something in itself, that one can acknowledge higher existence without defining it or worshiping it.
For God to exist doesn’t require that it need or even desire our worship, I think most atheists don’t even consider that.
But again, I could be wrong.