Empathy: Bringing down the walls, one brick at a time

By M. Jefferson Hale*

What would happen if the entire world followed the greatest moral advice of the sages?  What would such a world look like? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not a concept owned by any religion. One finds it even in the words of secular humanists. It is almost universal:

It is Baha’i: “Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not. . . .Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself.” Baha’u’llah;

It is Buddhism“…a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?” Samyutta Nikaya v. 353;

It is Christianity: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” Luke 6:31, King James Version;

It is Secular HumanismDo unto others as you would have them do unto you;

It is Brahmanism“This is the sum of Dharma (duty): Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.”  Mahabharata, 5:1517;

It is Islam“None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” Number 13 of Imam Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths;

It is Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary.” Talmud, Shabbat 31a;

It is Confucianism“When one cultivates to the utmost the principles of his nature, and exercises them on the principle of reciprocity, he is not far from the path. What you do not like when done to yourself, do not do to others.” Confucius, Doctrine of the Mean.

Indeed, reciprocity** is a moral concept advocated by these and many more religions, as well as atheists and agnostics the world over. It is possibly the highest moral value ever espoused, and yet most who claim to adhere to this philosophy often ignore it, especially in politics. If this were not so, then there would exist little or no poverty, little or no indifference, and there would be universal, nonprofit healthcare. Why would this not be something to which everyone could agree?

I confess to my own guilt here. I, like everyone, am a product of my environment and my genetic heritage. I am a work in progress. I have profound regrets for inappropriate statements and actions that brought stress to others, and still often have difficulty in controlling my desire for fractious confrontation against those with whom I have grievances in both social situations and politics. Civil debate is always better even if civility isn’t a trait of one’s opponent, and I am a firm believer in debate. Thus, I have to keep reminding myself that anger wins no converts, always troubles the soul, and makes the way difficult. Since I cannot change the past or my genetics, therefore, the best I can do is try my best to recognize my inclinations to self-centeredness, condescension, aggression, and resist.

On this site, I will call on readers to join me in traveling the difficult path of the sages. We are all subject to the same natural impulses and will often fall short, but if everyone were to try, it would be a far better world.

How hard can it be? Consider Matthew 25:32-46. Matthew, or whoever wrote Matthew, in his quest to bring about a more just society, did not suffer from any illusion that empathy is our primary motivating force. Self-interest is far stronger. He knew that without threat of punishment, relatively few would follow his words. Moreover, he knew that mere punishment, such as execution, prison, or flogging would not be enough. He knew the punishment must be far greater than anything dealt by society. It had to be the threat of divine punishment: unrelenting torture, without end, forever.

Yet, even that threat has never been enough. Why has it not? Because we human beings are only slightly less subject to our genetic heritage than other species. By nature, we are aggressive, self-interested, territorial beings. These traits are characteristics honed long ago by the drive for survival—a drive we’ve inherited from a distant past far more dangerous than the present when to lose one’s territory and possessions was to lose one’s life, or at the very least, create hardships.

Still, human territorialism is no longer the instinct it was long ago. An instinct is a drive that impels an individual, without recourse, to certain actions, not the least of which is to protect himself, his family, and his territory in an aggressive manner and to procreate.

We now have the power to override those passions, reducing what used to be instinct to mere impulses. We have become, collectively, more tolerant and less territorial. Even though we, for the most part, have intellectualized our territorialism in the form of property possession and sovereignty by force of law, our ethical concepts are evolving. We, therefore, now have the capacity to follow the path of the sages, difficult as that may be.

I can envision a future—not in my lifetime but long thereafter—humankind will live together as brothers and sisters. I can see a time when our primary motivation will not be self-interest, but universal empathy. The founders of that future are those who listen to the sages and have the courage to venture beyond the walls of their theological and self-centered ideologies, taking with them only the greatest words of wisdom; the words of benevolent reciprocity. Imagine what the world would be like if everyone did this.

* M. Jefferson Hale is the lead character in the novel, The Empathy Imperative, by Max T. Furr

** What was implied by the sages was benevolent reciprocity. Simple reciprocity might allow for returning violence for violence, but benevolent reciprocity is returning kindness for violence. It is, indeed, a most difficult thing to do.

The Key Ingredient for Empathy is Understanding: Do Atheists Have Faith?

Do Atheists Have Faith?

tumblr_m81iz6Artd1qdbcn8If I had a nickel for every time someone told me that atheists have faith, too, I could quit my day job. Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration but I probably could at least afford a pretty decent steak dinner. It’s very frustrating to hear and it’s not for the reason the person saying it thinks it is.  This assertion doesn’t irritate me because it’s clever or insightful; it irritates me because it’s nowhere near as clever or as insightful as it sounds.  In fact, it’s a logical fallacy called equivocation.  I’ll explain what I mean by that in a second, but ultimately I’m not interested in talking about argumentation (well, maybe I am a little bit). I’m more interested in explaining how faith and reason represent two very different approaches to perceiving the world, and how they operate on very different principles.

Equivocation happens when . . .

read more at Do Atheists Have Faith?.

_________________________________________________________________________

— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel exploring the nature of biblical, Divine Justice–as opposed to true justice. Was Descartes wrong and God was a deceiver, after all? What would the world be like if empathy, not self interest, were our primary motivating force?

Is that feeling deep in the heart unique to your belief?

Max T. Furr:

The Fruit of Reason: An open mind.

Originally posted on Truth Is Elusive:

As I mentioned before, my Christian friend in high school was the first person I ran into that had certainty that he had the answers to the big questions of life, and he knew it deep down in his heart.  While I thought he was the first person I had met who had this kind of certainty, I had lived all my life with someone who had a similar kind of thought process yet I had never realized it.

I converted to Christianity the summer right before my Sophomore year of college, and I spent several months writing a very long letter to my parents explaining the reasons I believed Christianity was both true and also “completed Judaism”.  That’s a long story in itself, but on to my point – when I went home to visit my parents my mom said to me “don’t you realize that what you have…

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Can There be a Purpose to This Post?

Max T. Furr:

Am reblogging this post to The Benevolent Thou.

Originally posted on Truth Is Elusive:

EvangelistsA few weeks ago Josh brought up some good points about meaning and purpose in life at this link on Nate’s post.  We hashed through some of that over there but I thought I’d try to add a few more of my thoughts on the subject.  I actually agree with a lot of what Josh wrote (although I’m not sure he realized that), but there were some things he wrote that I thought could be looked at from a different angle.

First I’d like to explore what in the world is meant by “life’s meaning”.  For this I’d like to start with a quote from Loyal Rue:

When individuals articulate the meaning of life they are attempting to specify why they value life.1

I believe this hits the nail on the head, and I believe it explains why atheists are actually correct when they say that their life is…

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THE ROAD TO PEACE: An Inspirational Video

Reposted from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BG46IwVfSu8&feature=youtu.be

RSA Animate – The Power of Outrospection

I have only one comment on this wonderful video. Introspection is still necessary, but I like the Outrospection (I would call it, “exospection”) concept as an incorporation to the overall empathy message. I think one’s motivations need an occasional house-cleaning.

THE RENAISSANCE OF MY LIFE: A Journey From Exclusive Faith to Enlightened Inclusiveness

Irony

Irony

Irony! Who does not love irony?

It occurred to me this morning that I needed to post the story of my transformation, upon which irony played no small role. I’ve said a lot about empathy on this blog and how religious exclusiveness is the major obstacle to world peace. But, how did I get to this point and why did I, having been raised to be a strong Christian, leave it behind?

When I wrote the novel, The Empathy Imperative, my primary purpose was to demonstrate society’s disconnect between its sense of justice, mercy, and benevolence, and some of its religious beliefs. Too, I wanted to suggest what the world might look like were empathy to replace self-interest as our primary motivating force. If one seriously contemplates such a world, it should call into focus the lyrics of John Lennon’s, “Imagine.”

Because the novel can be, to varying degrees, disconcerting to those who hold their religiosity close to their hearts and remain faithful by rejecting all other beliefs, I decided to incorporate my personal transformation in the preface of The Empathy Imperative as a means of explaining my purpose for basing the story on biblical literality. What would it take, theologically, to achieve world peace?

I look forward to any comments you may have.


PROLOGUE

In 2008, the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) aired the BBC/WGBH Boston production, God On Trial. It is a play, written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, based on an event told by Elie Wiesel in his book, The Trial of God. It is a story about a group of Jews, imprisoned at Auschwitz, a Nazi death camp, holding court and trying God in absentia.

The charge was that God broke His covenant in allowing Hitler to commit genocide against them. In testimony, they deal with questions of justice and purpose (e.g., if God is just, then why does He allow, not just suffering, but also suffering on a scale such as the inhuman savagery of the Holocaust?).

It is a powerful and riveting play so well written and with such passionate acting, one hardly notices nearly the entire story takes place within one room.

I began writing The Empathy Imperative long before this play aired, and found, once having seen it, that many of the questions raised in the film I had included in the pages of this book, although in greater depth and with a different verdict. They are profound questions that test the parameters of our view of God’s justice, mercy and benevolence, in contrast with our own. What is justice? Is our sense of justice good, such that God, Himself, approves? Is divine justice something other than what we believe to be just?

The Empathy Imperative, like God on Trial, is a theological and philosophical exploration, but goes further in suggesting what would be theologically necessary to move our world into a future where empathy, not personal gain, is our primary motivating force.

The questions addressed in the following pages are a source of consternation in the minds of many, often exposing popular but strongly held contradictory views. It is no easy matter for one to examine, with objectivity, the religious “truth” he or she was taught as a child, especially those propositions deeply believed by the society in which one lives. Nevertheless, it is something that I feel must be done if we are to move beyond the walls of sectarianism, and view the world with understanding, compassion, and reason.

My journey beyond those walls began during my high school years when Bible class was offered as an elective, and I, desirous to be counted among the faithful, faithfully elected to attend. Having been raised a Bible believing, saved-by-perseverance Methodist, I had no doubt that God was in His heaven, that Adam was the first human being, that one of his ribs was appropriated to fashion his helpmate, Eve, and that humankind came by its various languages in one fell swoop at the Tower of Babel. I believed, as well, that two representatives of every species of animal on earth held first class tickets to a cruise aboard the good ship, Noah’s Ark.

For me, there was no alternative but to believe such propositions, because the fundamentals of the Judeo-Christian faith were what I was taught from my diaper days. By the time I reached high school, I was vaguely aware of other religions by way of various derogatory comments I heard and condescending movies I saw, but that was about as far as it went.

Perhaps, had an objective, world religions course been offered in my high school, my natural curiosity would have spurred my interest, but I will never know, because there was no such course. As for human evolution, it wasn’t so much as mentioned in biology or earth science.

It was with poetic irony, then, that my first serious doubt emerged from reading the Bible and thinking about what I was reading.

Late one night after a hearty round of supplications, I was repeatedly opening the Revised Standard Version at random, expecting God to give me a message by way of the first verse on which my eyes fell. I did indeed get a message, but, apparently, it was not from God. The verse that captured my attention was Revelation 13:8, which stated:

And all the inhabitants of the earth shall worship [the beast], every one whose name was not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the lamb that was slaughtered.

It was my first bout with an apparent conflict in my theology. There I was, a teen taught from tothood that I had a choice whether to follow the ways of righteousness and be rewarded with an eternity of blissful paradise, or to follow the ways of wickedness and reap an eternity of unrelenting torture.

Yet, try as I might to rationalize otherwise, the only interpretation I could deduce from the verse was that of predestination. If that were so, I reasoned, then God knew before the existence of humans, that most of them would be destined to eternal agony, no matter how good they may have strived to be.

“Why would God,” I asked myself, “condemn souls to Hell before they were born?”

The next day, I prodded the teacher for a different interpretation. After a thoughtful pause she replied, “We’re not supposed to know everything.” I was taken aback, as I had expected a bit more than a dodge, but I accepted it. Her answer, however, gave birth to another question. I wondered why a perfect god would not be perfectly clear in words He inspired someone to write and for us to read.

I suppose the verse could have been interpreted as meaning the Book of Life was begun with the first human, then each name was added as each person came into existence and demonstrated he was worthy of salvation. However, that would be salvation through works, not through grace, and it would cause a problem with the King James Version of the same verse, which states:

And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

This verse seemed to say the “Lamb”—taken to mean, “Jesus”—was destined to be slain from the creation of the world. Thus, although the wording was different, predestination was still painfully clear.

For some time thereafter, I pondered and prayed, reread the chapter, and pondered some more. In time, I moved on, but the questions remained resident in my mind.

Not long after high school graduation, I found myself in Army Basic Training. One afternoon on a weekend as I lay on my bunk reading, some friends who knew me to be a devout Christian came in and asked me to assist them in a debate they were having with a professed atheist.

Never one to miss an opportunity to proselytize, I donned my godly armor of faith and sallied into battle. With my friends gathered around, I dodged and ducked every salvo of my foe’s arguments, and responded with my own volleys of piety and scripture. The end of the battle came with a total rout—mine.

Thoroughly shaken, I laid out a smokescreen prophesying divine retribution for my faithless adversary, and withdrew from the battle. Hastily applying a sturdy brain-splint of seasoned prayer, I retreated for weeks into mental convalescence.

It had been my first contact with the enemy, and he had come to the field of battle with an awesome weapon entirely new to me—well reasoned, evidence-based arguments.

His knowledge of the Bible was greater than my own, his knowledge of other religions was far beyond mine, and his knowledge of evolution caught my ship-of-ignorance broadside.

Bertrand Russell wrote of Pierre Bayle, French philosopher and critic in the late 17th century, that Bayle would compose lengthy arguments on the strength of reason over orthodox belief, but conclude, “So much the greater is the triumph of faith in nevertheless believing.”

Perhaps such sentiments are necessary to placate the troubled minds of a great many people, but for me, there was something deeply repugnant about willful self-deception.

It was this abhorrence for intellectual dishonesty that seriously weakened the walls of my theology and set me up for the final blow—my own, reasoned argument.

An acquaintance of mine, having noted my air of piety, invited me off post to dinner and conversation at his home. That evening, seated in his living room, he and two others engaged in a concerted effort to convert me to Mormonism. Among other arguments, they contended that baptism into the Mormon faith was necessary to achieve salvation.

Marveling at their confident posture, I asked, “How do you know you are right?”

“We know in our hearts we are right,” they replied.

“Yes,” I responded, “but so do the Jews, the Hindu, the Buddhists, the Muslims, and the Catholics. They all know in their hearts that they are right. Every person of every religion believes himself to be right.”

After dinner, having made no commitment, I thanked them for their hospitality and took my leave. Returning to the base that night, something was bothering me, the cause of which I could not ferret out.

When I awoke the next morning, the insight came in a flash. The rebuttal I had made in reply to their heartfelt belief that they were right, applied to me as well.

The logic was clear; I had no more reason to believe I possessed the sacred truth than did anyone else. I had grasped the indisputable fact that one’s religious beliefs have more to do with happenstance of birth than with truth. A person is most likely to believe the theology taught by his parents, which is most often the predominant religion of the society into which he is born, and that belief is often unshakable for the rest of his life.

A cascade of questions followed, the foremost of which was: Could there be a good and compassionate god who condemns billions of souls to eternal torture for having been taught to believe the wrong religion? Since adherents to other faiths believe their “truths” every bit as passionately as the Christian believes his, how do I know I was taught the right one?

I decided, therefore, to place my faith in abeyance and view my beliefs with an objective eye. I would return to school and acquire a much wider breadth of knowledge so vital for sound reasoning.

I vowed to study with an open mind, and follow the arguments to their logical conclusion. I promised myself that I would accept the conclusion no matter how uncomfortable it might make me feel, for if I refused to do so, I would live a life of intellectual dishonesty.

Throughout the ensuing years, I applied a strong dose of reason to each of my attempts to fashion a new theology.

In pursuit of truth, I opened my mind to philosophy, world religions and evolution. I read and contemplated the arguments of current and past theologians, scholarly evolutionists and philosophers.

It was during this process that I came across a famous statement by the German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716). In an attempt to reconcile the existence of evil with the idea that God is omnibenevolent (all loving), omnipotent (all powerful), and omniscient (all knowing), he suggested that God gave this world the best balance of all possibilities, good and evil. So that humans might act as free agents (possessors of free will), He gave us the ability to choose between the two. Therefore, Leibniz concluded, it must be that God blessed us with “the best of all possible worlds.”

Leibnitz’s proposition that this is the best world possible stuck in my mental craw where it festered. I recall thinking about the world; its wars, its hungry masses, its disease-infested children (what is more innocent than a child?), the horrors humans inflict on their fellow humans, and concluding that Leibniz’s best possible world conjecture was demonstrably false.

It was the age-old philosophical conundrum: If God is omniscient, then He knows of the intolerable suffering of billions of people through no fault of their own. If He is omnibenevolent, then it is reasonable to suppose that He would want to alleviate at least the depth of suffering. If He is omnipotent, then He could act on His desire. He does not alleviate the depth of suffering.

Therefore, either He is not omnipotent, and can do nothing about suffering, or He is not omniscient and does not know humans suffer, or He is not omnibenevolent as most of the world, astonishingly, thinks Him to be.

It was against this best-world proposition that I debated through my college years, but my post-college profession in quality management occupied so much of my time and raised my level of stress to such a degree that little time or inclination was left to ponder this primary interest.

In time, out of concerns for my health, I resigned from that profession, and eventually became a long haul, professional driver. This occupation appreciably lowered my level of stress and allowed me the time I needed to read and ponder my philosophical and theological interests.

It was early in this new career, while again considering the best-world proposition, that I realized neither I, nor anyone with whom I had debated, thought to ask the obvious questions: If this is not the best of all possible worlds, then could it be that we do not have the best of all possible gods? In addition, if this isn’t the best world possible, then what would a better world look like and how could we get there?

These are the questions about which I began to research and write, and which The Empathy Imperative attempts to answer.

I do not presume to believe this book constructs the best of all possible worlds or gods, and indeed, I am sure it does not. But I do not need to construct the best of either. I just need to demonstrate that, theologically, better gods and better worlds are possible.

Since any such qualitative construct necessarily deals with ethics and justice, I must deal with questions relevant to the omniperfection of God, and it is with this discussion that I feel a word to the wise reader is necessary.

For the purpose of this exploration, I began by assuming the King James Authorized Version (AV) of the Bible was literally true—both the Old and New Testaments.

Obviously, I had to deal with some misinterpretations and inconsistencies in the scriptures, while at the same time trying to remain true to the fundamentalists’ view that the entire Bible is the infallible word of an infallible god. This struggle becomes evident in the progression of the narrative.

I am well aware of considerable controversy in matters of scripture analysis and translation, but my thrust is not to make arguments of interpretation. It is rather to demonstrate that, again theologically speaking, a better world could have been created, and if a better world could have been created, then it follows that the god of the Bible, Yahweh, was not the best of all possible gods.

Therefore, in order for the astute student of theology to appreciate the point of the book, he will need to suspend his urge to fractious debate over scriptural interpretation, and tentatively accept my general premise that this is not the best of all possible worlds.

As for the version of the Bible, I chose the King James because it was the one believed and preached by the lead character’s father, and because it was the version with which most Christians were familiar, at least during my early years of study.

Another note of interest for the Christian true believer—when the Time of Sorrows begins, the lead character, Professor Mark Jefferson Hale (Jeff), is a politically aware, evolutionary biologist, and a causal determinist.

Jeff’s view of strict, causal determinism (cause and effect) is explained in the second chapter of part 1 as he attempts to avoid dealing with a culmination of unsavory events—the foremost being the death of his estranged, fundamentalist father—all the while struggling against a political purge, and romantic ambivalence.

To the Jewish reader, you are already aware that I spell out sacred words. I do this because I feel it is necessary for the integrity and flow of the narrative.

For the politically inclined reader, chapters three and four set up the political condition of Jeff’s time, suggesting what might happen if the political pendulum did not swing back, but became immobile far to the right, caught up in an entanglement of corporate greed and religious fervor, triggered by the beginning of the Tribulation—the Time of Sorrows. This political theme mingles with theology throughout part 1.

Part 2 begins an exploration into our view of the nature of justice in relation to events described in the Old Testament, and in relation to the culmination of events described in prophesies.

I am sure many will say that I cannot judge the acts of God described in the Old Testament by modern, ethical standards, but they will be wrong.

I am exploring Judeo-Christian theology and embracing the popular notion that the god of the Old Testament is the same god of the New Testament whose being and temperament does not change.

I am proceeding with the idea that we believe our sense of morality and justice is good, and that it is God sanctioned. Therefore, in order to conduct this theological exploration honestly, I must view events in the Old Testament through the moral lens of modernity.


— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel based on the epic struggle between religion and science, and brings the true nature of justice, mercy, and love into sharp focus.  What would the world be like if empathy, not self interest, were our primary motivating force?

Religion Verses Atheism: A Misunderstood Debate

religion and science debateRecently on The Daily Tarheel, I posted a comment in support of same-gender marriage in which I chided religion for inhibiting advancements in the human condition. A contributor responded with a few questions which seemed to show that some good, religious folks have misunderstood the roll of atheists in relation to advancements in the human condition. Although I had not mentioned atheism in my original post, he wanted to know what atheism has contributed to humanity. I took this as an opportunity to elaborate, and decided to share the debate here.

I begin with my reply to his questions, which are incorporated below and are marked by <>:


Thank you for the questions. I always appreciate a civil debate. Forgive the lengthy reply, but your questions cannot be answered in a few words.

First, my argument has nothing to do with atheism. It has everything to do with religion-free Reason. Perhaps you could call it humanism. There are atheistic humanists, spiritual humanists, and religious humanists–and every shade within that spectrum. This applies, as well, to scientists the world over.

<>What advancements do you believe the anti-religionists of the 20th century brought to the world and the human psyche?

The question is a straw man argument. Again, I am not arguing atheism v religion. Advances in human societies have nothing to do with atheism, but everything to do with critical thinking. Better to ask what advancements have dogmatic religion brought to the world and to the human psyche. Dogma, by its very nature, is not a result of critical thought. (no condescension meant).

Once science divorced itself from religion and threw off (or set aside) the yoke of religious dogma, we achieved great strides in knowledge. In medicine, for example, we found that illness was not caused by demons, a devil, witchcraft, and/or a god’s punishment, but by organisms too small to see with the naked eye. The religion-free Scientific Method brought us cures for most of those diseases, and it will be religion-free science that conquers the Ebola virus.

For contrast, I researched the effectiveness of prayer and know that it does not work–subjective opinions notwithstanding. See: http://new.exchristian.net/201….

Too, science gave us knowledge that mental illness is not demonic possession, and this advancement led to cures and therapy instead of exorcisms. We no longer burn people to death because Reason has brought us empathy and understanding.

The Enlightenment brought us real astronomy (fought against by the church, fang and claw). Astronomy was nurtured by the birth of physics (where was the church here?)

The short if it is that the exclusion of religion in science has opened up humanity to every advancement known to the world and religion has been dragged along kicking, screaming, and killing. Reject science and you get ISIS (as an example).

<>If theism is out, what reason do you propose for our ability to reason?

My powers of reason (and yours) are a product of evolution. It developed because of its survival value just like most traits of all other species.

I sense that you would not agree with that. I will welcome your thoughtful arguments for Intelligent Design, but before you start, check out the documentary and trial transcripts of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. You can find them athttp://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/e…. Dr. Behe testified, and the judge was a conservative, appointed by a conservative.

<>When you consider world history, how has atheism fared in the promotion of world peace?

Again, it isn’t atheism v. religion, it is dogma-free science v fundamentalist religion. Unfortunately, partly because of religion, science has had little effect on the human psychological thirst for domination and territoriality, and this, too, is a result of those traits we inherited from our evolutionary past. It is only when humanity realizes its own nature and whence it came will we be able to collectively do something about it.

<>What religion(s) do you see killing each other in the names of their loving, merciful gods?

When you realize the real reason you disbelieve and oppose other religions, then, and only then, will you realize why they disbelieve and oppose yours. Muslims of every persuasion believe their god to be a loving god, so long as one is faithful to Islam. Christians believe their god to be a loving god so long as one is faithful to Christianity.

In the Muslim world, however, having rejected the Enlightenment, various denominations are even now killing each other. Surely you’ve noticed. Listen to many fundamentalist Christians who think we should nuke the Muslim nations and kill them all. I’ve debated many who advocate a “finial Crusade.” I suppose you might call that their “finial solution.” It is such a sad view, I think.

<>Where does the “golden rule” come from?

From many religions as well as the ancient sages. I’ve researched this as well: See: http://thebenevolentthou.com/2… for the list and the quotes.

<>How do you know that’s the only doctrine humanity needs?

The last answer lays out the reason.

<>Why do you list “love” as a prerequisite to marriage?

I did not “list” love as a “prerequisite” to marriage. This question is an equivocation on my argument that no one in this nation (U.S.) should be denied the right to marry someone he or she loves. This is not a theocracy. It is a secular nation. No religion has a right to dictate to others in society that they must abide by certain religious beliefs. You may not like what others do because of your religious beliefs, but since their actions bring no harm, they have every right to marry someone they love–the same right you reserve for yourself.

ANSWERS IN GENESIS: A Profile in Parasitism

Full disclosure: I am not a scientist. I am science literate. But I do not have to be a scientist to vet information given by scientists.


From Merriam Webster:

Parasitism:  an intimate association between organisms of two or more kinds; especially :  one in which a parasite obtains benefits from a host which it usually injures.

Sophistry: the use of reasoning or arguments that sound correct but are actually false.

Prosperity Theology - art source unknown

Prosperity Theology – art source unknown

Recently, I came across an article written by Dr. Danny Faulkner of Answers In Genesis (AiG), titled, A Big Belief. As most folks know, AiG is an organization, headed by Ken Ham, that advocates Young Earth Creationism (YEC), which holds that the earth was created just as the Bible says, 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. The article set me thinking about the why people follow doctrine that, by any reasonable measure, has been shown to be false. Why do people choose faith over objective facts?

I understand that most people hold their religious beliefs deep within their being. After all, for billions of people on this interstellar vehicle we call Earth, life is little more than hunger, sickness, sham, and drudgery, especially among the poor. Their religious beliefs give them some comfort and hope for a better world to come, if not on this earth, then in a wonderful life hereafter.

My heart goes out to these people of all faiths, and I do not wish to take away hope for a better life. Yet it must be pointed out that blind religious faith (believing a proposition to be true even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary) makes one vulnerable to deception and fraud by charismatic personalities such as Ken Ham, Pat Robertson, Joel Osteen, Hal Lindsey, John Hagee, Creflo Dollar Jr., Joyce Meyer, Benny Hen–the list goes on. These are seemingly devout personalities who prey on the pious for no other reason than their own economic self interest.

But, how can one tell the impostor from the genuinely-believing minister? They both speak the same religious language, display the same piety, and point to many of the same verses in the Bible.

The face you don't see

The face you don’t see

The first clue is glaringly obvious; their wealth! These predatory charlatans often defend their wealth by what they call Prosperity Theology—the holier one is, the more God rewards him with treasures on Earth. They often put on a glittering, big-stage show, sell many books, and sometimes “lay on hands.” They might point to Job or Abraham as proof of God’s generosity to those of the deepest faith.

For the thinking Christian, this should be recognized as sophistry, and sophistry is the means by which these frauds attach themselves to the mind of the unfortunate believer, inject the poison of a misguided sense of self-worth, and then feed on his hope (sucking it out right through his wallet).

To avoid these fakes, the thinking Christian must ask himself; What is the real message from the Gospels–the message I am supposed to be following?

Matthew 6:19-21

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

and,

Matthew 19:23  ¶

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 19:24

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

and,

Luke 18:22-23  Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.

Now the Christian must ask himself if his minister, and/or anyone else to whom he contributes, follows the aforesaid prescription. If not, then they are frauds.

Secondly, to avoid harm, the Christian needs to understand that there are true-believing ministers who are delusional and dangerous. They seek not only your money, but your very being as well. These are folks like Jim JonesMarshall Applewhite of Heaven’s Gate, and David Koresh of the Branch Davidians. It is unfortunate, but apparently there always will be lost people vulnerable to these passionate, but insane folks, and I can see little that can be done other than through education and psychological help.


So, what does all the above have to do with Answers In Genesis, Dr. Faulkner, Ken Ham, and their Creation Museum?

Ham’s income at Answers in Genesis is a modest 150,000 per year, but added to that are speaking fees (he’s among the most sought after speakers in fundamentalist circles as well as one of the top spokes persons for the media on the subject of creationism) and book sales numbering in the millions. The man is a millionaire.

A scientist reviews Dr. Faulkner's work

A scientist reviews Dr. Faulkner’s work

Ham’s sophistry (the injection device): The article by Dr. Danny Faulkner is an excellent example of sophistry. Leaving out pertinent details and facts can be as deceptive as simply lying. It amounts to disinformation, or propaganda. Most Christians recognize such deceptions–when they recognize them–as “bearing false witness.”

In his article, Faulkner argues that the Big Bang–the current accepted scientific model of the beginning of the Universe, space, and time–cannot be true because, (1) it is, “fraught with problems,” (2) “different parts of the [Cosmic Microwave Background] CMB have precisely the same temperature.” and that, (3) the model does not agree with the Bible’s account of creation.

The first claim (1) amounts to misinformation, and his use of the use of the word, “fraught” is designed to cast doubt on the entire theory before any evidence is given or vetted. It is true that there are anomalies/problems within the Big Bang Theory, but problems are a normal characteristic of scientific research. Suggesting otherwise is misleading. Science is progressive. The more question solved through research, the more questions those solutions raise. Greater knowledge is gained over time, especially by the advent of better technology–new and more finely-tuned instrumentation.

This leads us to (2), the claim of temperature uniformity in the CMB. The claim was correct when the CMB was first discovered accidentally, but not now. As technology advanced and finer tuned instruments were developed, minute fluctuations in the temperature were discovered, and the explanation was given. Faulkner should have known this.

That the Big Bang theory does not agree with the Bible (3), is an astonishing statement coming from a scientist. It is an atrocity to reason. It is choosing the authority of an ancient, pre-science, unauthenticated story over modern, objective, scientific research. The statement is so far from scientific, that to be spoken by a scientist, it reaches the greatest possible height of absurdity.

Still, statement does lay bare very reason for the existence of AiG. It is the primary argument of the creationist–though often unacknowledged–and it is the very reason why creationism is not science. Faulkner should, and probably does, know this.

What was left unsaid: By far the most salient fact that Faulkner left out of his article was the primary reason for the Big Bang Theory. In my mind, the way to refute the Big Bang Theory is to show that the physics of the Red Shift, or the Doppler Effect, is false. And the likelihood of that happening is infinitesimally small–it ain’t gonna happen, folks.

One last point. Recent advances in theoretical physics are suggesting the possibility that our universe may not be the only universe in existence. Indeed, models now taking shape tend to solve some of the problems within the Big Bang Theory.


— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel exploring the nature of biblical, Divine Justice–as opposed to humanistic justice. Was Descartes wrong and God was a deceiver, after all? What would the world be like if empathy, not self interest, were our primary motivating force?

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