Monday, August 08, 2005

The Greatest Man

I had a thought today, along the lines of "what the heck is life all about?" I figure it this way. If there is no God, no purpose, no anything to life, then the greatest man to ever live will be the man that destroys the world. He will save untold billions from needless and inevitable suffering. Not that that would actually matter anyway, as any suffering experienced by any one person is finite, and once it ends (when they die), it's as if it never was for that individual.

That's all.

15 Comments:

Blogger Stickwick Stapers said...

Now you know why most leftists have a problem with God, and why they consider Bush a greater "evil" than Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, and Castro combined.

Your argument reminds me of the episode of Biography that featured Jeffrey Dahmer. He said that he did the things he did because he didn't believe in God (he blamed the Theory of Evolution). Contrary to popular opinion, Dahmer was very rational, and was simply taking atheism to its logical conclusion: if there is no God, then there is no right and wrong, and we can do whatever we want. In prison, Dahmer converted to Christianity, and it was only then that he was truly remorseful for the things he'd done.

Interesting post.

8/09/2005 9:41 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

"(I)f there is no God, then there is no right and wrong, and we can do whatever we want."

I hear this argument all the time, but I've yet to understand it. Why is the existence of god(s) the prerequisite for the existence of "right" and "wrong?"

I'm an admitted athiest, but I believe that the concept of right and wrong exists outside of religion.

The "golden rule" as it is normally expressed is "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." To do so is "right," to do otherwise is "wrong." No omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, being is required, nor even the squabbling, vain, and flawed gods of Rome.

If all that keeps you from doing wrong is the fear of eternal punishment for misbehavior, does that make you more or less moral than I am, when I won't do wrong even if I don't think I'll get punished for it?

8/11/2005 3:11 PM  
Anonymous Rusticus said...

If I may blather...

Athiests (and agnostics) tend to fall into two camps.
1) There is no God BUT our actions do matter.
2) There is no God AND our actions don't matter.

The first camp and us religious nuts have more in common than the second camp. While we attribute the standards of right and wrong emanating from a perfect Being, like light from the sun, the first camp tend to say that right and wrong are based in principles outside of religion but more like the laws of physics, like light from the sun.

The second camp denies the light and denies the sun.

8/12/2005 7:28 AM  
Anonymous Rusticus said...

"If all that keeps you from doing wrong is the fear of eternal punishment for misbehavior, does that make you more or less moral than I am, when I won't do wrong even if I don't think I'll get punished for it?"

Good question. I think of it this way:

We are all climbing a mountain. The goal is to get to the top. Along the path there are dead ends, switchbacks, drop offs, paths that lead away from the top, away from the mountain. A sharp mind can start to figure out good paths from bad paths based on observation of surroundings and what others have done before.

Along the path, coming back down, are people that claim to have been to the top and know the path and are telling people of the dangers if one gets off the path and how to stay on the path. A number of them have left their experiences in writing, and that is shared by all that want to read it. You can choose to listen to them or not.

If you listen and heed their advice, does that make you less of a climber? If you don't listen or heed does that make you a better climber?

I'd say no to either, the effort to climb must be made regardless, but listening and heeding only makes the path easier to see.

So it isn't, for me, the "fear of eternal punishment for misbehavior" that keeps me on the path, but rather the desire to reach the top and avoid falling off the path. And I think it increases my odds of success by listening to the returning people.

But that doesn't mean the mountain can't be climbed by other means.

What happens at the top is a whole 'nother story.

Of course, this is just an analogy, you can only take it so far, but I hope that helps.

8/12/2005 7:50 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

(Sorry for hijacking the comments, y'all!)

Rusticus wrote: "We are all climbing a mountain. The goal is to get to the top."

I'd say that we disagree on a fundamental, then, because it seems to me that the goal of the religious is to live a righteous life (as defined by their particular religion) in order to ascend to their particular heaven/nirvana/valhalla/whatever. For we athiests, we're just goin' along until we find out for ourselves what happens at "the end."

Your response, while interesting, doesn't really address my question of whether an atheist who refrains from doing wrong is more moral than someone who does it out of fear of eternal punishment. I submit that we aren't, actually, chasing the same goal.

8/12/2005 6:05 PM  
Blogger carnaby said...

Kevin wrote: Your response, while interesting, doesn't really address my question of whether an atheist who refrains from doing wrong is more moral than someone who does it out of fear of eternal punishment. I submit that we aren't, actually, chasing the same goal.

Lemme have a go at this. I would say that a theist who is behaves "morally" simply out of fear of eternal damnation has no love in his soul and is therefore possibly less moral than the atheist who is interested in being good simply because that is what they want to be. While the proper Christian (I won't get into other religions I know nothing about) wishes to be good simply because that is what is right, also recognizes that those who are immoral will be eternally condemened. That's why we wish to save them. But being good, for a Christian, should be reward enough in itself, and then there's the fringe benefit, to put it mildly, that you get to go to heaven, whatever that might be exactly.

There's more to it than that, but I think you all get the idea.

8/12/2005 8:56 PM  
Blogger Stickwick Stapers said...

Your response, while interesting, doesn't really address my question of whether an atheist who refrains from doing wrong is more moral than someone who does it out of fear of eternal punishment. I submit that we aren't, actually, chasing the same goal.

Kevin, this goes back to our old arguments. First, a clarification. You are referring to the Eastern predecessor of the Golden Rule when you ask about someone refraining from evil: Do not do unto others that which you would not have done unto you. (I call this the Silver Rule) The difference between this and the Christian Golden Rule is that we are charged with taking action. We must DO unto others. The purpose of Christianity is to do good rather than to simply refrain from doing evil.

Now, addressing your question: as my minister reminds us, there are atheists who are closer to God than some so-called Christians. We are never supposed to do anything out of fear. We are supposed to do what we do -- always -- out of love. An atheist who refrains from evil out of love is therefore morally superior to a Christian who refrains from evil out of fear of punishment. But I think atheists often misunderstand what "fear of punishment" means to a Christian. Let's clarify "punishment." For me, there is only one punishment, the punishment Cain received for the murder of his brother. Schroeder writes in his book, The Science of God:

Cain suffered a fate worse than death: the enforced separation from God. He was denied any awareness of the transcendent unity that pervades all existence. He had no hint of a larger purpose other than day-to-day survival, a living death.

When you read the Bible, you come to realize that the overwhelming principle of God is love. God is love. So a Christian who fears punishment isn't afraid that God will strike his Mercedes with lightning or that he'll roast in the fires of hell, or whatever. He fears being cut off from God's presence, to be reduced to living like an animal. Who wouldn't want to avoid that? I think a Christian who fears that punishment does what he does out of love just as much as the atheist who refrains from evil out his particular sense of love. It's just that the atheist hasn't yet come to understand that there is a Greater Purpose(tm) or what that purpose is.

Why is the existence of god(s) the prerequisite for the existence of "right" and "wrong?"

Kevin, you're like a fish in an aquarium. You know your water, which is the society in which you grew up, and you seem to think this is the way it is everywhere. But it's not. In some societies people believe that it's okay to stone a woman to death if she breaks certain rules or that it's okay to enslave certain people. History has been overwhelming in its evidence that the Golden or Silver Rules only apply to one's group, be it one's family, tribe, race, gender, nation, etc. However, Christians, while not perfect, believe more than anyone else that God requires us to treat everyone well, even those who are different, because they are all equal in God's eyes. In the absence of God you have personal opinion, cultural tradition, majority rule, or might makes right.

As C.S. Lewis points out, when individuals or nations argue about who wronged whom, there is an implicit assumption of an absolute standard for right and wrong. In the absence of God, where does that absolute standard come from? It doesn't exist. From the point of view of physics, everything is relative. Within the universe, itself, there is no absolute physical frame of reference for anything. That's why the concept of time is such a tricky thing. However, there is one -- and only one -- absolute physical frame of reference if we consider the universe as a whole. Schroeder refers to this as God's frame of reference. (Incidentally, this is the basis for his argument that the Six Days of Creation are physically plausible -- a fascinating argument.) The same is true for morality. Within the human frame of reference, there is no absolute standard for right and wrong. It only comes from outside the human frame -- God.

8/13/2005 10:25 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Oooh! Interesting! Here we go again in our philosphical debate!

Stickwick writes: "You are referring to the Eastern predecessor of the Golden Rule when you ask about someone refraining from evil: Do not do unto others that which you would not have done unto you. (I call this the Silver Rule) The difference between this and the Christian Golden Rule is that we are charged with taking action."

Err, no. I wrote (and I quote): "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." That's the active, not the passive voice.

Now, as to this: "In the absence of God, where does that absolute standard come from? It doesn't exist." I'd argue that - given our history since Christianity arose - in the presence of (a belief in) God such an absolute standard has not existed. No one seems able to agree on one. Religious war, slavery, civil war, World War, etc. Your argument that God provides an absolute standard for right vs. wrong is no more powerful than mine that implementation of the Golden Rule - which does not mention any diety - provides one. If everyone lived under your standard or mine, we'd have pretty much equivalent behavior.

Alas, we don't. Christians blame this on, oh, I don't know - Satan, original sin, whatever. I blame it on human nature - an inherent conflict between what is best for survival of the species vs. what is best for the survival of the individual. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is, at its base, the definition of altruism - that most heinous of evils as identified by Ayn Rand. (No wonder she was such a rabid athiest!)

But this brings us back to that original question I brought up: Why is the existence of god(s) the prerequisite for the existence of "right" and "wrong"? You have yet to convince me that "(I)f there is no God, then there is no right and wrong, and we can do whatever we want" is a valid statement.

I don't think you can.

8/13/2005 11:00 AM  
Blogger carnaby said...

At some point we need to quit this argument and head to the range. Kevin, if you're ever near Seattle, drop me a line and I'll take you up to Wade's or the Kenmore rifle range.

8/13/2005 12:57 PM  
Blogger Stickwick Stapers said...

Ditto for me, if you're ever in Austin, Kevin. I have a snazzy new M4A3 that needs shootin'.

In the meantime, I have to say, this discussion is quite enjoyable!

8/13/2005 2:14 PM  
Blogger Stickwick Stapers said...

Okay, back to the discussion...

I'd argue that - given our history since Christianity arose - in the presence of (a belief in) God such an absolute standard has not existed.

Take the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..." and from that moment on you have a people who understand an absolute standard of morality given by their Creator, which applies to everybody. The application of this has been imperfect -- which most recently the Civil Rights movement sought to correct -- but we've obviously been heading in the direction of a more effective application.

No one seems able to agree on [an absolute standard].

Which people in the world ended slavery and tyranny? Which people have gone further than any other to alleviate poverty, ignorance, and disease? All of the conflicts you mention have been in the direction of extending this universal and eternal system of values. What was the Civil War about? Eradicating the culture of slavery. WWII? The abominations of fascism. The Cold War? Crimes against humanity by the communists. Now we're in a battle with the Islamists who are, if anything, even worse.

Your argument that God provides an absolute standard for right vs. wrong is no more powerful than mine that implementation of the Golden Rule - which does not mention any diety - provides one.

First of all, you have to have shared beliefs for everyone to live together. What system of beliefs has the power to do that? "Do unto others" is an empty slogan unless there's some bite to it, some reason for it. Otherwise, we could just as well have "Do unto others and bug out as fast as you can" or "Do unto others before they can do unto you." There's only one system of beliefs in the history of the human race that has furthered human rights, and that's Protestant Christianity based on a belief in God. Let's drop the theoretical -- what has actually happened in history? Have human rights, as you and I understand them, been furthered by Buddhists? Muslims? Humanists?

I blame [lack of equivalent behavior] on human nature...

So do I. For Christians human nature, by definition, is sinful, i.e. imperfect. It's got nothing to do with satan, other than to believe that he capitalizes on those existing imperfections.

...an inherent conflict between what is best for survival of the species vs. what is best for the survival of the individual. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is, at its base, the definition of altruism - that most heinous of evils as identified by Ayn Rand.

Sorry, Kevin, this just isn't coherent to me. No person operates out of concern for the survival of the species. I would frame the conflict in terms of what is immediately pleasurable to the individual and what is best for the health of the individual's eternal soul. An atheist can think of this in terms of the Marshmallow Test. And I don't think Ayn Rand ever described altruism that way. If I understand Rand, she said that if a person wants to be altruistic, that's fine, but it's not the highest ideal. Rand was against self-sacrifice, especially when it's coerced. As a Christian, I don't believe in self-sacrifice, either; God gave us life so that we could live. I think your interpretation of the Golden Rule is a misapplication -- there's nothing wrong with doing good things for their own sake, but enforced altruism (an oxymoron, really) is evil.

Why is the existence of god(s) the prerequisite for the existence of "right" and "wrong"?

Well, let me ask you this. How does your opinion or the tradition you've grown up with matter any more than the opinion of an Islamofascist or a Sudanese slave-trader? They're each operating out of their own beliefs of what is right and wrong. Why is your opinion valid and not theirs?

8/13/2005 2:40 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Thanks, y'all. And, of course, if you're ever in Tucson, the range is hot! (Pun intended.)

"Take the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..." and from that moment on you have a people who understand an absolute standard of morality given by their Creator, which applies to everybody." Except the slaves, who counted as 3/5th of a person? A significantly large contingent of the Founders could not bring themselves to abolish slavery. So much for "an absolute standard of morality given by their Creator." In fact, I believe many, many defenders of slavery did so using Scripture.

I grant you (and have in the past, too) that Protestant America has done more for individual freedoms than any other group, but I honestly attribute that more to the American ethos of individualism than I do to Protestantism. Protestantism is a world-wide phenomenon. Much of what you attribute to it has been exclusively American in nature.

"'Do unto others' is an empty slogan unless there's some bite to it, some reason for it." Why? It makes good, logical sense. What "bite" is necessary? The fear of eternal punishment if you don't comply? Didn't we already discuss this?

Human history has been relatively short. As we've previously discussed, the fact that Protestant Christianity has been a force for individual freedoms does not mean that in the future it will remain the ONLY such, or even the BEST such force. Protestant Christians have done some pretty bad things to members of other religious faiths, too. Don't ignore the bad while emphasising the good.

"No person operates out of concern for the survival of the species." Not consciously, no, but the behavior of human beings in disaster situations - very often the atithesis of "every man for himself" - is an example of "survival of the species" behavior vs. "best for the individual" behavior. This behavior is not culture-specific, either.

(The Rand topic was a side-issue. She actually did oppose altruism - read some of her essays - because it led people to want to institutionalize it.)

You ask: "How does your opinion or the tradition you've grown up with matter any more than the opinion of an Islamofascist or a Sudanese slave-trader? They're each operating out of their own beliefs of what is right and wrong. Why is your opinion valid and not theirs?" Because they want to INFLICT their beliefs on others, and I do not.

Which goes back to something you said earlier: "The difference between this (the "Silver Rule") and the Christian Golden Rule is that we are charged with taking action. We must DO unto others. The purpose of Christianity is to do good rather than to simply refrain from doing evil."

My philosophy of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" includes LEAVING THEM THE HELL ALONE - because that's what I'd prefer them to do to me, unless I am in distress. Evangelical Christians want to "save" the unbelievers. Islamofascists want to convert - or kill, makes no real difference to them - the infidel. Sudanese slave-traders see "others" as "profit" and not as people.

In my system, I'm willing to help others out of distress - so long as that help won't put me (too far) into distress myself, but I'm not willing to try to "save" them if they aren't interested in being "saved." I'll kill an islamofascist who wants to kill me, or a slaver who wants to enslave anyone, but so long as I am left to my own devices I'm willing to do the same to others. I'm also willing to organize to accomplish these ends when I see our culture thus threatened. Therefore we, as a culture, are fighting islamofascism, but not the Sudanese slave-trade.

It's a pretty good way to live, I think, and goes along with another bit of secular advice: "First, do no harm." Fighting every injustice one sees will quickly tilt us past the point of putting ourselves "too far" into distress.

8/13/2005 5:45 PM  
Blogger Stickwick Stapers said...

I had a bit of slack in my schedule today, so I decided to fire off one more missile in this debate before I leave, and will continue when I get back in September...

Except the slaves, who counted as 3/5th of a person? A significantly large contingent of the Founders could not bring themselves to abolish slavery. So much for "an absolute standard of morality given by their Creator." In fact, I believe many, many defenders of slavery did so using Scripture.

Slavery existed in North America before Europeans got here, as did ethnic cleansing and other barbaric things. Slavery was an ancient evil that predated Christianity. So when the Founders of America's culture of freedom -- which is based on the Protestant faith -- got to the colonies, they had slavery thrust upon them. Some of the colonies tried to abolish slavery and were overruled by Britain. At the time that the colonies won their independence from Britain it was simply too weak to take on this ancient evil. There was never any doubt that the Protestant culture of freedom was going to one day take on the culture of slavery. Had they tried at the beginning, it would have destroyed the nation -- as you well know -- and black people would have suffered much more than they already did. By the way, American slaveholders were by far the most humane in the world. The Cherokee indians, for instance, were renowned for their cruelty towards their slaves. But the point is that in the long term the Protestant culture of freedom did confront the very ancient evil of slavery, and not only did they destroy it in America but in Britain they had the power and motivation to destroy it worldwide.

In fact, I believe many, many defenders of slavery did so using Scripture.

Because somebody does something wrong in the name of Christianity doesn't mean that Christianity is to blame. Don't look at what any one person does as a final judgment, use the aggregate result. Anyone can pervert and distort anything for an evil selfish purpose, and there is no document that can't be twisted.

I grant you (and have in the past, too) that Protestant America has done more for individual freedoms than any other group, but I honestly attribute that more to the American ethos of individualism than I do to Protestantism.

But that ethos of individualism comes from Protestant Christianity. The idea is that every person has an individual relationship with God -- there's no collective relationship, nothing is mediated by a priest -- and you, as an individual, are as important as every other individual, but with that comes certain rights and responsibilities. That is the basis of American individualism.

Protestantism is a world-wide phenomenon. Much of what you attribute to it has been exclusively American in nature.

Well, the ending of the worldwide slave trade happened in Britain. The Industrial Revolution started in Britain, and then spread to Protestant Sweden before it came to America.

Why? [The Golden Rule] makes good, logical sense. What "bite" is necessary? The fear of eternal punishment if you don't comply? Didn't we already discuss this?

A lot of people say it's much more logical to do unto others before they can do unto you. Besides, there is an important point that people always get confused about.

You get a few people who take time thinking about stuff, and you get, say, Epicurus who comes up with Epicureanism. The highest ideal is to pursue the good things in life: art, philosophy, good company, etc. But then there's how the masses interpret that. And so you take this logical philosophy of Epicurus, and if you followed it you would be a pretty good person. But when you take the interpretation of that philosophy by the average person, what you get is an argument for debauchery. For a Christian who spends a lot of time thinking about his Christianity, it's obvious that the most important thing is not the punishment that some people imagine will occur, it's the love that comes from God. What is done is done out of this sense of overwhelming love. But throughout the centuries as people moved from paganism to other belief systems to Christianity, the thing that did motivate them most immediately for the first few generations was fear, fear of being watched and judged by an early pissed off kind of judge. Here's a good analogy. When my three-year-old nephew ran out into the street, he put himself in danger of being hit by a car. It would have been pointless for Carnaby to try to explain to him rationally why he shouldn't do it, so my nephew got a swat on the behind instead. Fear of that kind of punishment kept him safely on the sidewalk from then on. But now that he's older, it's possible to motivate good behavior out of him in more subtle ways. Likewise, the motivating factor for a society of people depends on that society's stage of development. At the highest levels a person is simply motivated by this thought that you have an all-powerful God who is capable of infinite love, and everything you do is in the shining light of this. At the lowest levels, when you're turning away from all these ancient ways, the fear of punishment definitely has a role to play.

Human history has been relatively short. As we've previously discussed, the fact that Protestant Christianity has been a force for individual freedoms does not mean that in the future it will remain the ONLY such, or even the BEST such force. Protestant Christians have done some pretty bad things to members of other religious faiths, too. Don't ignore the bad while emphasising the good.

You can speculate that someday in the future people will be able travel at warp speed or whatever, but the fact is that it has never happened. With respect to bad things done by Protestants, you go back hundreds and hundreds of years when the Catholics were trying to eradicate the Protestants and back when differences in religion were complicated by differences in cultures and ethnicities and politics, and it's difficult to separate what was the cause of those things happening. The Protestant faith can be demonstrated to be a good force in human affairs, something that has constantly guided people in the direction of better -- not perfect -- behavior. Incidentally, have you noticed that Christianity is the only belief system that has to go through this kind of scrutiny? That's because it has been such a powerful force for good, people are constantly holding it up to the standard of perfection, in spite of the fact that one of its core beliefs is that nothing human can be perfect.

Not consciously, no, but the behavior of human beings in disaster situations - very often the atithesis of "every man for himself" - is an example of "survival of the species" behavior vs. "best for the individual.

There was a program on TV about kamikazes, and showed how a kamikaze plane crashed into a ship and all the terrible carnage it caused, and in the midst of this destruction and disaster this one guy risked his life in the most incredible ways to save people and to organize the fighting of the fires, etc., with a total disregard for his own well-being. He eventually got the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions. You know who this person was? The chaplain of the ship. You don't do these kinds of things for the physical survival of the species, you do it for spiritual love of your fellow man. Like I said before, the real struggle is between the physical self and the spiritual self.

Because they want to INFLICT their beliefs on others, and I do not.

Okay, here comes the main thrust of my argument.

You can have the highest most admirable system of beliefs that is really well thought out, and as soon as an Islamofascist blows your brains out the backside of your skull your system of beliefs becomes an absolute dead end and irrelevant to the future of mankind. Along with the admirable quality of whatever belief system you have also has to come the ability to inspire others to believe the same things and to unite them together in a way such that you can protect yourself and project you and your beliefs into the future. If it doesn't have that quality -- to preseve itself -- it is a dead end in every sense of the term.

People don't understand what cultures do. In any system of belief a culture has to accomplish certain things: it has to have the ability to project itself into the future, and it has to inspire people to have children and to raise them in their own image OR it has to have the ability to persuade other people's children. This is why the left takes such great pains to control education and the media. Your system of beliefs is just a sterile mish-mash of things until it can motivate people to do certain things: unite them together; give them common identity and purpose; minimize conflict within the group; make people productive; guide people in a healthy existence, i.e. guide them to live in moderation, because it's so easy to be unhealthy*; and then ultimately, no matter how honorable you philosophy is, your system must motivate people to have children and teach them the system and to actually live it so that your system is projected into the future and remains relevant to the human race. Anything less than this is just a sterile exercise in philosophizing. If you look at what system of beliefs has best accomplished that, it's the Protestant faith. This is a competition in which the Protestants have won and nobody else has even come close to crossing the finishing line.

Again, of all the things people have come up with so far, and since the Greeks we've had 2500 years of thinking about this (I'm not sure how many more original thoughts on how to organize human affairs are out there), how many things have humans come up with that you would trust to guarantee human rights, peace, and the continuation of progress in science/medicine? There simply is no other contest there. The only thing that has worked is a system based on the belief that there is an all-powerful loving God, eternal right and wrong, and each person having individual responsiblity to try to live up to that in his own imperfect way.

My philosophy of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" includes LEAVING THEM THE HELL ALONE - because that's what I'd prefer them to do to me, unless I am in distress. Evangelical Christians want to "save" the unbelievers. Islamofascists want to convert - or kill, makes no real difference to them - the infidel. Sudanese slave-traders see "others" as "profit" and not as people.

But again, in your eyes a system of beliefs can be admirable, but if it doesn't produce children and raise them to hold onto those beliefs OR if your beliefs do not have the power to persuade and convert others, it simply dies. If your philosophy believes in leaving people alone, then it dies. It has no ability to affect people's behavior.

I don't believe in evolution of one species into another, but I definitely believe in survival of the fittest and cultural evolution, where a culture can become a different thing over time. Just look at how French culture evolved into a humanist society. In this battle of survival of the fittest you can have something hugely admirable like the Shakers, whose society was based on being nice and cooperative, but the problem with them is that they were celibate, they didn't make their own little Shakers, and they couldn't convince other people's children to become Shakers, so they died out. You can put on paper your own wonderful system of beliefs, but until you accomplish the few absolutely essential things to create a viable society of people, it's just useless philosophizing. Mental masturbation is what it is. Something like Objectivism is admirable on the surface, but in terms of moving a society in a certain direction and being relevant to the fate of the human race, it ends up being a big circle jerk. It sounds cliched, but it all comes to children. You either have to have them and raise them, yourself, in your belief system or you have to basically get control of and educate other people's children. Which is exactly what the Christian right and the secular left, respectively, are doing.

[* The Protestant lifestyle has been demonstrated to be the healthiest. On the other hand, look at poor Russia and all the trouble it's having because of rampant alcoholism and spread of HIV. The moral system there has utterly collapsed, people are rudderless, and so Russia has a gangster state where might is right.]

8/17/2005 12:54 PM  
Blogger Rusticus said...

The more aware a nation is of its unity, and the more this unity is borne by specific spiritual principles, the more prominent will be the place of symbols and symbolic acts in its political and religious life. Conversely, if a people's sense of unity is weak, if they do not feel bound together by a common history or a common purpose… if the nation accords first place instead to the personal concerns, ideas and aspirations of the individual, then symbols and symbolic acts will increasingly vanish from that nation's political and religious life. In that case, too, the awareness of commonly held principles, and practical cooperation to translate those principles into reality, will also cease in that nation. This fact has been documented in history, both ancient and modern.

—Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Jewish Symbolism

8/18/2005 8:39 AM  
Blogger Stickwick Stapers said...

The Jewish faith is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. One of the reasons Jews have persisted despite thousands of years of persecution is their strong cultural identity, which is derived from the Old Testament. Without this, even secular Jews wouldn't have a chance.

But one of the great ironies of life is that Jewish culture, which puts so much emphasis on unity and nation, consistently produces some of the most accomplished and influential individuals in society.

8/21/2005 3:46 PM  

Post a Comment

Testing ...

<< Home