Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What is your functional "god" ? (God and Politics)

So  I saw this discussion about "Taking God out of Politics" and that set me thinking. 

What most people call "God" is really just an ideology loosely based on the idea of a god or religion.  Not to mention the version of God used varies widely.  Are you talking about a Mormon God, an Orthodox Christian God, Protestant God, Catholic God, Hindu God?

There is a problem as this statement is incomplete.  Government must be guided by some ideology. So you can't exactly say take "God" out without saying what ideology it should be replaced with. The thing with most atheists in America (like religious people in America) is that they all assume that their ideology of good/bad, right/wrong is self evident to a rational person.  They automatically assume that if religion is taken out of politics then their version of right and wrong will automagically take it's place as it should be evident to all "reasonable people".  

History has shown that this is not the case. Communist Russia and China are both "godless" but are based on an ideology which Communists believe is self evident to all good and reasonable people as being right.

Of course I always like to say that whatever governs your idea of good/bad is your functional god.  If you believe that pleasure is the ultimate goal of humanity then hedonism is your functional god.  If you believe that the overall survival and glory of the nation is the ultimate goal then nationalism is your functional  god.  If you believe that personal freedom is the highest virtue then individualism is your functional god.

It's extremely evident to me (though not to all) that pretty much everyone has a different version of what the ultimate good is, and as long as that ultimate good is not peace then we will always have arguments, fights and wars over who's ideology should be enforced even in a totally atheistic world.  North Korea and South Korea don't get along and it has nothing at all to do with religion or any sense of a god.

But, back here in luxurious America and also in Western Europe, the atheists seem to think that once free of any religious ideas that everyone's intellect will suddenly wake up and everyone will embrace the same idea of what government should be and how people should act.  I think there is overwhelming empirical evidence in front of us daily that proves that this is unlikely to happen.  Unless of course you could kill everyone who didn't agree.  Whooops!  There's another example of a "god free" government that didn't turn out so well.

What most people mean when they say "take God out" is really "put in my ideology of individualism/hedonism".

Monday, August 22, 2011

What I mean by the term "god"

When I'm talking about a "god" with a small g I'm talking about whatever mental construct is used in a persons mind as the ultimate goal that dictates if a behavior or event is "good" or "bad", "right" or "wrong". When I talk about religious I mean that a person behaves according to that goal. We all have one, the very basic is just pleasure. If we didn't we wouldn't have a single motivation to move a muscle in the morning. Animals don't get to choose their "god". Humans do. And it is an irrational choice whatever it is.

1) I first choose to believe that my own consciousness is a good thing.
2) I then choose to believe that other's are conscious like me.
3) I choose to believe that consciousness, whatever it's cause for existing should continue to exist (most people take this as an assumed fact, but it is really a choice we all make).
4) I choose to believe that it is good for conscious beings to be happy and not in pain.

The above beliefs are all irrational beliefs, but ones that almost every human shares and is all that is necessary for basic morality.  Though it is also evident from daily life that many people make decisions that override #4 in favor of their own happiness, thus their morality ends there.  I think that this is the cause of most pain in the world.

Most people do not consider the above beliefs "religious", they just consider them to be a given that we all agree on.  I would guess that everyone chooses to adhere to beliefs 1-3.  A lot of people also choose to believe in #4.  Many would consider themselves atheists as they do not believe in the existence of a deity.  But belief in #4 is still an irrational belief and a choice.  Albeit one that I agree with.  Though what most atheists refer to as the "evils of religion" is when religious people choose to apply #4 to people who follow their religious "god" and do not feel that it should be applied to "infidels" or "unbelievers".

Thus most morality that we observe comes from "beliefs" that people choose beyond 1-3.  These morality systems can vary widely depending on the other beliefs that are chose whether or not they are based on a deity or a political ideology or something else (like the good of the planet Earth).

Friday, July 22, 2011

Vacations Are Over Too Soon

So last week, we went to Walt Disney World in Orlando.  It was a fantastic week of course.  The excitement starts a few months before and the anticipation builds.  Then there are the wonderful moments at the start of the vacation.  The first time we cross the line into Florida, the first time we check into the resort, the first moment we walk into the Magic Kingdom and walk down Main Street.

Of course during the vacation sometimes it's hard for me not to think about the fact that soon all of this joy will be over and we'll be on our way back to our normal lives.  On the first few days of the trip it's still good and I keep thinking "we've still got 5 more days".  Then comes that point at which you realize that the vacation is more than half over and the fun will have to end soon.  I made a conscious effort on this past trip to just live in the moment and push such thoughts out of my head.  Better memories will come of enjoying each day to the fullest and not thinking about the fact that it will end.

We've been back for almost a week now.  I looked at my daughter who is now 13 and was thinking that in a few years she can help drive on vacations.  Then it hit me.  Her childhood and time living with us is more than half over.  I love both of my daughters and I love the times we spend together.  Every day of it.  I love hearing the thoughts they have, jokes they make and just seeing their personalities grow stronger.  It's very sad for me to think that some day they will be grown up and then I will only see them a couple of times a week if I'm lucky, maybe once a month or less if their lives lead them away.  I know that I will miss these times when I get to see them every day when I come home from work and they ask me "What are we going to do daddy?"

Then the thought hit me, my children's childhood is just like a magical vacation.  It's a wonderful magical time that doesn't last forever.  It starts out with a lot of excitement and the feeling that it will last forever but time seems to pass quickly.  I'm not sure that life after kids will be as enjoyable and I will surely miss them.  But rather than spend time being sad about the fact that it's temporary, I want to make the most of every day and enjoy every moment.  It's late at night now but I'm looking forward to getting up in the morning and finding out what we will do together.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Why Save the Whales and Not Tuna?

OK, I said that I would continue with the money discussion, but this seemed a little more interesting for the moment.  I'll get back to money later.

My wife often watches the show "Whale Wars".  If you haven't seen it, it is a reality show about a ship called the "Sea Shepherd" on which activists try to stop Japanese whalers from killing whales.  It's quite intense at times and it is easy to get emotionally involved quickly.

Now I like animals and think they should all be treated kindly.  I even lean towards being a vegetarian and I can easily understand the reasoning of the activists wanting to save the whales.  The whales are in fact beautiful animals that seem to be on the higher end of the intelligence spectrum.  But I have to wonder then, if I can sympathize with the activists in wanting to save the whales, why wouldn't I think it was wrong to kill a tuna?

Don't misunderstand me, I'm not actually saying it is right or wrong to kill a whale, or right or wrong to kill a tuna, I'm just pointing out that there seems to be a big inconsistency in protecting one and not the other.

Whales are definitely more intelligent than a tuna.  So does that mean that if something is intelligent we should fight for it but if it's stupid then it's OK to kill it?  That seems to be the way we operate.

I came to two conclusions, one about myself and one about people in general.

For people in general, it seems that if an animal can communicate or appeal on an emotional level, then a large number of people will respond to this emotional connection and fight for it.  But animals that cannot appeal emotionally to humans are ignored.  So it's basically a popularity contest.  If you're a likable animal like a whale, dolphin or seal then activists will fight for you, if you're ugly or can't communicate happiness or pain in a way that humans would understand then you're on your own.

Now for myself, I have to admit.  Something inside of me wants to agree with the activists.  Something inside tells me that this killing of these creatures is wrong.  Yet at the same time, I cannot come up with a good reason why I don't feel the same about the tilapia that I ate last week except for the fact that I am human like everyone else and seem to operate with the same emotions as most of the public in general.

As a Christian, I struggle with this also.  My instincts would tell me that killing animals is wrong, yet Christ ate fish and in the New Testament St Paul is given a vision in which he is told that it is OK to kill and eat.  I'm still not sure how to reconcile this particular fact yet.  There's a whole lot more to that which I will talk about another time.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why So Many Opinions?

I've wondered why it is that on just about every subject there are so many different opinions and theories when we all have pretty much the same set of facts and similar brains with which to form opinions.

Stepping aside from religion, what about things like politics and what is the best way to balance the budget?  Even among a group of people that all agree about the definition of a "good" outcome of a balanced budget, the opinions about what should be done vary.

I've also noticed that if I try to be unbiased and listen to the different viewpoints and reasoning behind them I find that most do have a sound set of reasoning.  In a way they are all logical and make sense.  Yet they cannot all be right.  So how can so many people with seemingly good rational thinking come up with so many different conclusions?

The best answer that I can come up with is that each conclusion makes sense within the context of the individual that came up with it.  That is, if you factor in someone's life experiences, their environment and the issues that they care about then often their reasoning and conclusions make sense.  The fact is however that on complex issues, or sometimes simple ones, no one human can hold in their mind every fact that is needed to come up with the true answer.  I think this is true even of things like cosmology and trying to figure out things like black holes, or dark matter.

I believe that for most things there is one true answer.  However each of us in humility must admit that we on our own cannot see the whole picture and thus our conclusion about the truth is often wrong.

This is why that any one person should not sit down with a Bible or other religious document, study it and then on their own without consultation of anyone else go enforcing their "revelation" on others.  This is exactly how we end up with wacky religious teachings and billboards giving exact dates for the end of the world.  Or you get politicians willing to send people to death over their ideology.

Getting things started....

My first blog entry.  I am a middle aged man with a wife and two kids living in the midwest.  I was raised in an evangelical Christian environment.  I consider myself a Christian. Though in the past I have spent a lot of time questioning that.

Every day I try to understand what I see in the world.  I want to know what the truth is.  Is there a God?  Do I believe in a God just because I was raised that way?  Why are there so many religions? Am I just a pattern of molecules, or something more?  And if so, why?  Why? Why? Why?

Currently I am at a sort of crossroads in my beliefs and thinking and that will be a lot of what I blog about.