Monday, April 20, 2009

Inter-Blog Dialogue: Part 1- On Morality

Merriam-Webster defines Dialogue as the following:

2 a: a conversation between two or more persons; also : a similar exchange between a person and something else (as a computer)
b: an
exchange of ideas and opinions
c: a discussion between representatives of parties to a conflict that is aimed at resolution dialogue between loggers and environmentalists

Dialogue by Jean Augagneur]

In relation to the realm of the religious and spiritual we use the first two definition ('a' and 'b') whenever we come across people of different faith, and hopefully never HAVE TO use the 3rd definition ('c'). In a previous post a fellow blogger, Ben, at Discovering God's Holy Plan brought up a few questions as to the nature of my beliefs. A quick answer would be Love, but quick answers are not interesting nor insightful. If we were the Borg or we resided outside the Matrix we could plug into our neighbor's thoughts and we would know what they believe, but unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) we are restricted to human language. Ben's questions, which are found originally in the comment section of this previous post, are in black and mine are in reddish brown.

Ben, one final note, to keep things simple you can reply in the comment section but try not to add any more questions or else this specific thread will get long and confusing. Feel free to post your questions/response on your page where I can follow up with comments.


As always it is a pleasure to stop by & read your blog. In your last few posts, you have expressed your disbelief in God as presented in the Bible. I understand & totally respect your views, but at the same time I am a little confused by them.

For example: You talk about how religion should make us better towards our fellow man, and I agree 100%. But by what standard do we say what is right and what is wrong? If we use man's standard, how can we know "man" is right? If there is no God, there are no absolute rights or absolute wrongs. Everything is subjective. If a God exists, however, logic would dictate that God's rules should be followed over man's, if God indeed has contacted man in history to dictate these moral laws (which the main monothestic religions of the world indicate). I see in the Bible that God says exactly what you say, we should be good because it is right, and the laws given in the bible give us a clear standard of what "right" means, and also let us know what happens if we choose evil. Jesus taught the 2 most important commands are to "love God" and to "love thy neighbor."

We don't know if man's standard is right because man is too tribal to have a "standard". I believe there is a universal moral code beneath our tribal feuding that appears when we put aside our cultural and regional mores, folkways, and ethics. There are elements of universal morality present in all cultures, but what I can not say is that the Bible has a monopoly on morality nor, as a whole, can it be perceived as a container of timeless morals. Timeless morals are present within the Bible but they are also present in other holy texts. What I see is a manipulation and primitive (to modern society's "morals") understanding of morals in the Bible. Things that were acceptable thousands of years ago because of their temporal and cultural context are frowned upon now (i.e. polygyny). The fallibility of man fouls up any communication with and understanding of the Divine. You can't get a High Definition digital signal through analog rabbit ear antennae (or at least I think you can't). Because of our inability to clearly understand the will of the Divine we end up with thousands of interpretations on God's will, our holy texts, and man's relationship with God and one another. But, I believe as time and humanity progresses, revelation also progresses. We begin to unearth some of those Universal morals peeking through the texts and as a global community begin respecting each other as equals by implementing those morals into a global society.

This is similar to laws in our government. We shouldn't drive the speed limit because we are punished for it if we don't, we should do it because it is the safe thing to do. But there must be a punishiment if we choose to disobey this law, to ensure that the law is enforced. Like this, God wants us to be good because it is right not because he enjoys punishing us, but he enforces laws to ensure the world stays this way for the greater good (and so it doesn't end up like Hitler or Stalin would like).

All world religions touch on this subject and I especially like the way Buddhist sum this up in two lines: Help others whenever you can, and if you can't do that then do no harm. The intriguing thing is that Buddhist claim that this can be done without the guidance of a Creator God. In a sense, I believe humanity has the ability (and technology) to evolve to the point where we are born as naturally good people. Realistically, I don't see this happening any time soon (or at all) but if we collectively internalize Help others whenever you can and do no harm then our species might just survive.

You keep using a lot of atheists arguments that I hear all the time, "God is a killer, God is evil, the sacrifice thing, etc." I feel like all of these arguments are taken a little out of context, because, for example, we see that many verses indicate sacrifice has never pleased God, and that he doesn't even require it in so many instances in the bible (like with Jonah). It was more of a symbolic way to show an outward expression of your "repentence." Even in Judaism, if you couldn't afford a sacrifice, God didn't care & you could use flour instead of a ram, etc. It isn't about blood & guts, it is about showing that you repent, and making a public or outward declaration to God. Instead of just saying "sorry," they would "SHOW" they were sorry.

The way God is portrayed in the Old Testament makes him appear too anthropomorphic: he collectively punishes people (What does punishing the Egyptian populace have to do with Pharaoh's hardened heart in Exodus? Collective punishment is frowned upon and even considered a war crime in today's society.), he gets jealous over idols (they're just idols), and, similar to pagan gods, He has his people offer him sacrifices. Whether or not Atheist can see beyond the apparent anthropomorphism, I understand (which is the heart of my blog) why Atheist use these arguments. What my point was in my previous post is that I believe that the true Creator God is the non-anthropomorphic God which wants us "to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with Him" (Micah 6:8). This, I believe, is the true character of God. I don't believe that God is a Killer, evil, or demands ANY sacrifice for sins, these don't equate with Love. These negative attributes developed because a "primitive" people tried to appease forces they could not understand. Essentially, I see the whole notion of sacrifice as a primitive practice (compared to today) of a different time and culture, and because of this historical understanding I don't believe God needs to be approached with "barbecue" (i.e. Jesus' sacrifice) anymore. We can approach God directly and as a God of infinite Love, "forgiveness" comes as we internalize Love and let it radiate out in all directions.

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