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.
I do, I genuinely pity atheists. Now mind you an atheist is generally a lot easier to have a discussion with about life than a born again full on evangelical by a long shot. They tend to be rational people, and most tend to be in my view “good people”. As honest as most if not more so. Most “keep the commandments” though they don’t say it that way. They respect their parents, don’t steal, don’t want what you have at your expense, they don’t murder, etc. Now they don’t keep the Sabbath or worry about “the lords name in vain” but hell, those things do not apply to their beliefs so why would they. My point is simply that beyond the overt religious components of most faiths, most such people are ethical even in the eyes of a person of a revealed religion.
Most atheists I know are also dramatically intelligent people. Many are highly successful in life and in general happy and optimistic.
So why do I pity them? In simple terms it is the lack of a sense of wonder. When I look at the stars, I know full well scientifically what they are, giant balls of gas, nuclear fusion reactors, nothing more in reality. Yet the dreamer in me understands that the very essence of that star, the same dust that makes up that star, also makes up my body, your body and the very earth itself. The difference for the Deist in seeing this fact which many atheists acknowledge by the way is its meaning.
To me this means so much more than galactic recycling of matter, it is also the recycling of energy. In fact I personally see the lines between energy and matter as blurred, and while science is now confirming this, it takes some level of “faith” to truly extrapolate what that means. When I see a leaf I don’t just see a photosynthetic solar panel, I see the marvel of life itself. To the atheist the universe seems mechanical, where the Deists and even the religious see it as energetic.
There is also what is next, to the atheist there is nothing next for the living when we die. You are dust, worm food, gone forever. I have written before about afterlife so I won’t go deep here but I do believe something happens, I don’t know what, I just know in my very being something does. Do we remember our lives, I don’t know, may be, may be not. We may simply become energy and only imprints of our prior life remains in the energy, just the raw information. Or we may remain in spirit far more like revealed religions believe. I really do not know, but the fact that something of our lives remains in some way, matters to me.
There is just part of humans I feel that is connected to the creation and when one cuts that off, something inherently human is then cut off from the individual as well. I feel I was made to be part of the creation, to be a co creator with it in my own tiny small way. Just like you were, atheists can’t comprehend how this is possible, we are too small to matter they say, one person doesn’t matter to the universe, in fact man doesn’t as a species. When we are gone the universe itself will not even miss us.
Let me put it this way, I feel all living beings that see, hear, perceive, wonder at, participate in the creation are very much, “the eyes of God”. It is with this wonder that I study science, nature, history, etc. I don’t sit around praying or believing that one day God will save us. I don’t wait for the day I die with anticipation of heaven, nor do I fear hell but I do marvel at the creation and its wonder and simply feel that is lacking for the atheist.
In my next text I will discuss why I personally feel many become atheists and why they feel it is the right choice.
I think this has a lot to do with how you define the word mysticism. The dictionary does so as…
- 1: the experience of mystical union or direct communion with ultimate reality reported by mystics
- 2: the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (as intuition or insight)
- 3 : vague speculation : a belief without sound basis
- 4: a theory postulating the possibility of direct and intuitive acquisition of ineffable knowledge or power
Looking at each as a Deist and asking if I believe in such things for me goes as follows
- Can one experience of mystical union or direct communion with ultimate reality reported by mystics? Answer – Yes to varying degrees, one doesn’t need to “talk to God” or “hear God speak” for this to occur. There are many wondrous things in the world, many that we can explain that are still wondrous. A person that takes time to connect with, examine, meditate over, etc these things often develops greater insight. Many “mystics” may be scam artists, but that doesn’t devalue a connection to something beyond what you usually have. Experience this and you know it is real, that is all I can say.
- Do I believe that one can attain direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality through subjective experience (as intuition or insight). Answer – Well if it stopped at only “direct knowledge of God” I would say no. As a Deist I know and experience God in his creation as part of it. I don’t think anyone has a direct line to the creator, I think largely that would ruin our experience of life on earth. But yes I do think we can find spiritual truth and a greater understanding of reality via reflection and simply being open to things existing that we don’t yet fully understand. That energy is wondrous and we don’t fully understand all the ways our energy and the energies around us can interact yet.
- Is vague speculation : a belief without sound basis something for a deist? Answer – No, not at all, Deism is based on logic an reason and experience. There is no room for a belief without sound basis.
- Do I believe there is a way for us to attain a direct and intuitive acquisition of ineffable knowledge or power? Answer – As a deist I first seek knowledge and I will fess up, I had to look up ineffable, it is defined as, “too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words“. This gives me pause! Because again many things are subjective. This could mean things like levitation and seeing the future. I find these things largely nonsense. But it could also mean, simply something so special that you can’t really explain it, a perfect moment in the creation where you feel all is right, you know who and what you are and time is meaningless. Something that even when you explain it, no one can really understand it. I have had such moments hunting and fishing, in a garden, on the side of a mountain. They are rare and they are special and if you never had one, I can’t explain it to you.
It gets interesting when we actually examine concepts deeply instead of dismissing them out of hand doesn’t it? Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you need to believe what I believe to be a deist or that some how I am better off than you because I do understand these things and make them part of my life. There is no official you are in or out committee when it comes to deism. We all experience the creation in our own way with free will.
For me though a life that denies the mystical in the ways that I describe above isn’t what I personally want. I love the way the sun glimmers on grass in the morning before the dew is driven off by the sun. I understand fully the science behind it, that doesn’t do a thing to deny its beauty. Frankly the science is a miracle of sorts! We know scientific law, we know how light is refracted, how humidity and temperature work together but that makes the effect no less stunning. I marvel as much at the parts of the creation I understand as I do at the parts I have yet to understand.
With this open attitude I have lived my life now for about 10 years free of the shackles of any “faith” or the obligations assigned to it. It has a been a great way to live and the most fulfilling 10 years of my life.
This Question is Deeper Than You Think It Is?
Let me start out by saying I get what I mean and what most proclaimed Deists mean when they say, “I am a Deist”. The self declared Deist largely rejects all organized faiths, such as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, etc. Frankly if you want to discuss religion with me you will be just as likely to prove a point by quoting a X-Men comic as the Bible or the Qur’an. So don’t take my question here or my answer the wrong way. My hope is to help those who are examining Deism simply understand the core of what it means to be a Deist.
So here is my premise to you. Anyone that believes in a single God or a singularity of thought and energy for that matter is in essence a Deist, just not necessarily what the modern term has come to mean. A Deist is a person that believes in a Deity of some sort, a God, a singularity, a source, a creator, a great architect of the universe, the sum of all consciousness, etc. Now in the modern Deist movement there is more but let us first stop there. Let us simply ask do most people who call themselves Christians, Jews, etc. believe in such a thing, the answer is yes of course they do.
When we move into faiths like Buddhist and Hinduism with multiple Gods you might be tempted to point out that and say, well Deism sounds like monotheism and that is clearly in conflict with a “multiple Gods system”. Frankly though no it isn’t, such faiths always end up with a singularity eventually. Concepts such as the origins of the Gods themselves lead you there. Even in Pagan duality the masculine and the feminine, aka the God and Goddess the reality is both are seen in the end as a single source with duality of manifestation.
Now look you can nit pick technicalities above but if you are a Deist you are not bound by any of these faiths or traditions so you should be able to examine them with out emotional attachment. The simple premise here is that most people of any “faith” first and foremost believe in a Deity or group there of, said group though has a single origin in the end. I simply point to this and say, all belief in such things creates an origin in Deism for all faiths.
True it tends to go wrong from there. Yet if we understand this origin than leaving behind a faith we have been mostly brainwashed into becomes much easier for many people. As a former Catholic I can tell you by my late teens I had fully determined the church was in my view full of shit. I in effect believed in nothing they they were telling me was true. Yet as certain things came into my life such as sexual relationships there were fleeting moments of guilt. I would catch myself and simply realize that I did not believe this programming but understood it was still in me.
Now frankly I am one of the most strong willed people I know. I will fight to the last breath for a person in need, I live my life on my terms and always have. So today looking back over 20 years ago and remembering these tinges of guilt, I have to wonder what it is like for people less strong willed, less rebellious and frankly less intelligent then I am. If the last part sounds arrogant I apologize, I do have a very high IQ and it places me far into the top 2% of the population. So I am simply acknowledging this as something that will effect a person’s ability to reason and break free of programming.
So as a self declared Deist for over a decade now I often talk to people that want to “let go” but struggle. I often wonder why and I think this may be the place it leads to, we who believe in anything beyond the phyical world in a sense are all Deists. If you read this blog you likely have questions, you may not accept my answers but they help you find your own right? Just the very nature of knowing that there is a God no matter how you personally define God, leads to some level of a need to understand.
I think this basic belief is coded into us. It is why almost all people of the world have some sort of a religion, spirituality or faith. Atheism is a very modern invention and I believe it is mostly a direct rebellion against religion’s attempt to control society and the many contradictions and frankly ridiculous contentions that all revealed religions have. Most people won’t make the leap to Atheism because in their hearts and though their reason they know there is something beyond ourselves. Again I think it is mostly hard coded into our being, we know because we are all a part of the creation, so an echo of the creator is within us all.
So that longing is filled with what ever faith most of us are born into. If we are not born into a faith, it is filled by what ever the prevailing evangelism around us turns out to be. In that faith we find answers, we find community, we find structure and we find acceptance. Many of us though also find a murderous God, nonsensical claims, ridiculous rules and many things that clearly don’t add up. So we depart from one faith, often to another only to find the same results. Eventually many people just sort of believe in their faith but don’t practice it. This is very true of both Christianity and Judaism.
I think many more people would be open to Deism or find it easier to accept if they simply understood all of this that perhaps it is the Deist in them, who has attached itself to a religion. That it has done so because it has a need for something beyond the phyical world. That their faith of choice was simply what happened to be available and fit best for a time. So to any with this struggle let me say.
- Deism makes no demands of you, if you think something is wrong and your former faith also says so, don’t do it, no one will judge you on this side of things for that. We would only ask that you set said social convention for yourself, not for others.
- Deism has one real rule, do no harm to others. We believe this though reason and enlightenment not due to fear of punishment. Do not fear that leaving behind an archaic faith will lead to a life of evil deeds. Likely you are a good person because that is simply who you are intrinsically. It is also likely that you understand harming others is not only wrong but in the end does you equal or worse harm, that this is simply how the universe and therefore society works.
- There is no need to “convert to Deism”, it isn’t an organized faith, there are no “police”, no one gets to tell you what Deism is, you discover this in time. Deists communicate with others, present ideas and use reason and logic to form their own moral codes and conceive of answers to big questions. Most see life as a wondrous journey. In this journey metaphorically you may want to go see the Grand Canyon and I the Beaches of the Gulf Coast. We can discuss what each experiences but I have no desire to drag you to Florida and you have no need to insist I go to Arizona. We may both choose to do so with each other or perhaps visit on our own or with others at a later time.
I hope this makes sense. Being a Deist is simply a choice when it comes to base your life on logic and reason while acknowledging something beyond what we can see. That the creator exists but isn’t marking down demerits. There is indeed a creator but he/she/it is not a murderer of children. An understanding that free will is just that, free will. We come here largely by choice, we live by our own choices and we are free to explore with a limitless idealism. We are also free to limit ourselves with religions, self loathing, etc. It is up to us, most Deists just think the creation is so marvelous we don’t need to be limited at all, as our knowledge evolves our limitations fall.
We know there is something more, some just accept that and enjoy the creation and their lives from there. Some ask and examine deeper questions. Some are very “spiritual” and others academic. The common bond is only that something beyond what we understand exists and that logic and reason tell us that. As to how we let that knowledge impact our lives, well we think free will is exactly that, freedom to choose for ourselves at the individual level.
Could getting everything you ever wanted and more really make you miserable? Is that even possible? May be?
This post orginated as a comment in response to a reader of a previous post called, “What Do Deists Think Happens After We Die“. You can see the question here and my response to it here. This is really a great subject to explore so I figured I would expand my response into a full post.
When it comes to what death and the other side are like, I can only theorize based on those who have had NDEs and returned. Their accounts though as I blogged in the past must be seen like a person from another planet telling you what America is like. Further that person from another planet was dropped into a large Airport and didn’t really fully understand what the beings walking past them were saying and only met a few that talked to them. They also only saw America by looking out the window and were only there for a few minutes.
If you asked this being upon their return to their own world what was earth like, they would have a pretty good idea. If your world knew of a place called America and this airport had been say JFK Airport in New York they would also have some really accurate perceptions of America. Most words would have been in English, likely TVs would have been on focused on American News, products and services that are sold to Americans would be there. You could see out the windows and know America at least in parts of it has lots of water, rivers, oceans, etc.
Many impressions though would be very inaccurate. Some things this being might have considered to be almost magical might turn out to be mundane if they stuck around for a while. On the other hand some things they wouldn’t even bother to notice at first might prove to be amazing if they had a longer visit to experience things. Some of those things might even change the way the thought about their own existence forever. What would that be, well we don’t know, in this thought expirment we are on the other side of the experiment, are we not?
So let’s flip it now with the previous concepts in mind. Some believe the afterlife is anything we choose. That we are like some version of Star Trek’s Q once we cross over. They say in the afterlife or “next level” we can have anything we wish, create any reality and go to any space or time. This is possible but not exactly what I think. I believe that as limited as we are at this plane of existence there are likely some limitations at the next and so on and so forth. I also believe beings such as us might become truly bored if we were so unlimited and bound by absolutely nothing. In this way I feel if the afterlife is really wholly unlimited we would likely indeed create a new place to go to, a new challenge for ourselves. We might even erase many of our memories from past experiences to make the challenge more enjoyable and learn more from it.
There is an old episode of The Twilight Zone that this makes me think of. I am talking the old black and white series Rod Serling did in the 50s. A conman/gambler/thief dies and ends up with a guide. He is still on earth and everything looks the same. He is told he can have anything he wants, a prime suite in the hotel, girls, food, money, the best clothes money can buy anything. Women swoon on him, every pull of the slot machine is a jack pot, etc. He enjoys this life for a while then gets bored. The guide suggests perhaps he misses his old profession as a thief and that perhaps he could rob a bank or something like that for excitement.
He gets excited but realizes it won’t be real. He asks the guy, “is there a chance I could get caught”, to wit the guide replies “sure anything you want”. The guide even pulls out a pad and pen to get the details just right. You know like what percentage of chance that you get caught, get shot and injured, etc. It’s a set your own parameters type of thing. Again ANYTHING HE WANTS. This conman now realizes it is all too easy, it isn’t real, he hates this “heaven”. The episode ends with him saying to his guide, “This is a mistake, I don’t belong here, send me to the other place, I don’t belong here”. The guide goes into a maniacal devil style laugh “where do you think you are, this is the other place”.
The irony is there may be a lot of truth to that. Not in a hell but that beings such as us may enjoy “games” way to much to be free of all limits for long. That could be a case for reincarnation or just a case for the fact that we might create other worlds, challenges and levels for ourselves.
Think about a video game you might enjoy playing and imagine you found a cheat code that made you unstoppable. If it was something you could do a few times at critical points of the game it might be fun and cool. If it were permanent, how quickly would it go from cool, to boring to, “I don’t enjoy this at all any more”.
Personally, I am not a gamer but I know enough who are to know that once a gamer really beats a game it becomes boring is cast to the side and replaced with a new challenge. I do enjoy playing darts for instance and while I get really excited when I do it right and drop 3 bulls in three throws or nail a “ton 80” on rare occasions it is the challenge that does this. I am sure if I could put darts into a board as perfectly as I choose every time with no effort it would be cool for a while. Yet other then to make a few bucks playing competitively I don’t think the game would do much for me for long.
Likely I would stand further from the board, get a board with smaller areas or something, or just find a new game. Most of us played tic-tac-toe as a kid. First you play with no strategy and if you have an opponent doing the same it is fun, then you and your opponent quickly learn a few techniques and it gets more fun for a bit. Sooner or later you both learn a few rules of the game such as if X marks corner O should mark center, etc. Soon every game ends in a tie. Or if you play someone who doesn’t know the rules, every game can indeed be won, both are as boring as shit though are they not.
Next thing you know you are outside playing tic-tac-toe bean bag toss because that adds a layer of challenge and skill and perhaps then you are on to horse shoes or something totally different. The key is for most of us if we truly master something simple we are done and on to something next. It takes something complex to hold a master with it for long.
Chess or music for instance have infinite layers to explore, so some people do dedicate their entire lives to them. The same with say dancing, writing stories, playing a sport at the top level, etc. Yet what if none of this challenged us? You could write and know more then Shakespeare did in his entire life in a millisecond. You could write and play more beautiful music then Bach with your mind and it would be heard as you thought it up. Nothing was beyond you, no challenge existed at all, everything was perfect you even got the Crown in Heaven you were promised in church.
How long before you said, “man I have got to do something to have some fun” and dove into some sort of “game” you created for yourself and created limitations so that you would enjoy it? Such is found in many things in life and I believe that pattens that repeat are often constant patterns.
Those of you that have never considered this angle before might try reading Illusions by Richard Bach. It is a good first step into many of these concepts and a fun easy read you can get though in about an hour or so if you choose to. It is also a fun story that is good to just read as such and the author is quite creative in the way he weaves permission into the narrative for you to not believe a thing he has to say if you don’t want to. Those of you who know what the “Master’s Book” says at the end, know what I am talking about.