Archive for the 'Religion' Category

29
Jul
08

The Battle of Good and Evil…

Today I read (watched actually) the 666th post on the blog (or yolog) on the Blog of the Angry Aussie. For his 666th post, he decided to talk about the concepts of good and evil. Well worth listening to what he said if you have a few minutes, because he makes some excellent points.

If I understand what he is saying correctly, he feels that the ideas of Good and Evil are abstractions that have no real definable meaning, and that because of that, there is no such thing as absolute good, or absolute Evil. He raised some good points, with some compelling examples, such as the Nazis, and how none of them thought they were evil, and how evil actions are really a matter of perspective rather than any concrete idea.

But while I agree with a lot of what he said, I do disagree on some of the fundamental implications of his position. Hence this post. I do believe there is a universal definition of Good and a universal definition of Evil. And no, I’m not talking about universal good/evil in relation to, (for Instance) God, and the forces of good fighting against the devil and the forces of evil. I’m talking about how we define the basic earthbound humans daily battle with the moral and ethical questions that drive our actions.

There are a lot of things that are universal in this world. Laws of energy, nature, physics, etc. are inviolate. When we break one of those laws, it isn’t because we really broke it, but rather because we didn’t truly understand it to begin with. I think that universally applicable concepts of good and evil exist in the same way.

I believe that there must be some universally acceptable idea of good and evil, otherwise we would not be able to recognize the individual instances of one from the other, regardless of our individual beliefs. I think that this is a very important point. I think our problem is that we really do not understand the idea of what “Good” or “Evil” truly means at a universal level.

What this means to me, is that the biggest mistake people make with respect to defining good and evil is that they apply too specific a filter on what they consider good and what they consider evil. It is often a function of their cultural or religious belief system, or their cultural morals, or social normalcy, or any random thing they were brought up to believe.

None of these, from my perspective, are good ways to determine the benevolence or malevolence of a person or action, because they are all rooted in a human way of thinking that assumes the thinker understands the difference, or is the good guy. I believe that in order to truly define good and evil as universal concepts, we must learn to think outside of our petty differences, and in terms of a much, much broader picture, otherwise our definition of Good and Evil will, by definition, not be universal in any way, shape or form.

But then the question becomes, is it possible for a human to think in such broad terms? Well, I think so. After all, there are social laws that are universal. Laws that do exist, in one form or another, regardless of religion creed or belief system. A typical example is “The Golden Rule”. Do unto others and all that jazz.

Lets take Mr. A and the example of the Nazi’s. Sure, Nazi’s Germans never woke up every moring and said, “Today would be a great day to be evil.” No, they justified what they did using some altruistic sounding, though heinously misguided, rationalization.

Clearly, your average German walking the streets of Germany today would consider what the Nazis did evil. But why did the Germans of the time not think so? Was it because of a different perspective? And if it was, was that a reasonable perspective?

My answer to the first question is: because they were lying to themselves. And to the last two: No. No way in hell. Why? Because they violated the golden rule. Unless it makes sense to you that if another culture considers yours inferior, that they ought to take the initiative to wipe yours off the face of the earth, nobody can argue that it was a “good” thing.

It’s amazing how quickly peoples perspectives become irrelevant if you correctly apply the Golden Rule to the scenario. Things that people say makes sense suddenly contradict themselves under that paradigm, and the theoretical complications brought about by “differences in perspective” suddenly don’t mean much.

My point here is this. If a concept as simple, as straightforward and easy to apply (if you aren’t lying to yourself) as the Golden Rule, can be applied so universally, regardless of culture, creed and/or belief, then there must be some universal way to define actions that fall in line with the golden rule, and actions that violate it.

And if that exists, then, to my thinking, it follows that there must be some concrete definition to universal Good, and universal Evil… I think that most of us are usually just too egocentric to properly define it…

666-The nature of evil – [Angry Aussie]

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14
Oct
07

Contrary Clergymen

You know, I am fully aware that priests are human beings, just like everyone else. But I’d hope that, once you became a man/woman of the cloth, you would at least try to leave behind the things that us regular folks are prone to do. But given some of the news I’ve been reading lately, I’m not sure there is any significance to being a priest anymore.

You have perverted priests, priests being annoying, bell ringing farts, priests engaging in petty feminism, and even priests who are, apparently, not above a little drinking, driving and brawling:

Priest Manuel Raul Ortega, who was not wearing clerical dress but was clutching a prayer book when captured, launched himself at the traffic cop who pulled him over earlier this week.

“The individual became very violent because they were going to tow away his car. He attacked a policeman and was taken away,” said transit department spokesman Hector Lozano on Thursday. – [Yahoo/Reuters]

Yes the Church welcomes everyone with open arms. I know. They are only human. Indeed. And they aren’t cops or government officials. But members of the clergy are often looked up to as the moral pillars of a community, and I’m beginning to think that, much like that Indian judge who was sentenced to take law school all over again, these clergymen/women might benefit from another stint in seminary school…

Drunken priest punches cop, jailed – [Yahoo/Reuters]

08
Oct
07

Creationist vs. Scientist…

I ran into a very interesting post about Billy Grahams stance on creationism and science. I won’t repeat the entire text because the salient parts are included the the blog at the link below, but I found it interesting that we both have a similar tack on creation, science and man. I am, as I have professed on a couple of occaisions, a theistic scientist. I don’t believe that science and faith must be mutually exclusive. I find that there are often interesting parallels between the two.

And while one has a supposedly more “methodical” approach, I still see a lot of what looks a whole lot like “faith” involved in the scientific process, and a lot of practical “science” in faith. So they may not be as anathema to each other as many people think. I’ll grant that I may not share Billy Grahams views and beliefs on everything, or even practice my “faith” like everyone else, but I thought it interesting that it was still possible to come to similar conclusions even from a purely religious standpoint…

Billy Graham on Young-Earth/Old-Earth – [Careful Thought]

03
Aug
07

China Regulates Reincarnation…

The following is an excerpt from a rather unusual article:

Tibetan living Buddhas are no longer allowed to be reincarnated without permission from the atheist Chinese government, state media reported Friday.

The new rules are “an important move to institutionalise the management of reincarnation of living Buddhas,” the Xinhua news agency said.

According to the regulations, which take effect on September 1, all reincarnation applications must be submitted to religious affairs officials for approval, Xinhua said.

China is ruled by the Communist Party, which, despite being officially atheist, maintains strict controls over Tibetan Buddhism and all other religions.

Now I know China is probably one of the most highly regulated countries in the world, but isn’t this going a little too far? And obviously they are willing to go to great lengths in order to maintain control. The second half of the article is probably the best evidence of exactly how far they are willing to go to keep it.

Living Buddhas are an important element in Tibetan Buddhism, forming a clergy of influential religious figures who are believed to be continuously reincarnated to take up their positions anew.

Often there is more than one candidate competing to be recognised as the actual reincarnation, and the authority to decide who is the true claimant carries significant power.

This is especially true in the case of the Panchen Lama, the second-most influential figure in Tibetan Buddhism behind the Dalai Lama.

Chinese authorities detained the Dalai Lama’s choice as the Panchen Lama in 1995 when the boy was six years old, and he has not been seen in public since.

The Chinese government’s choice as the Panchen Lama has meanwhile been paraded around the country in recent years to promote China’s rule over his homeland. – [Yahoo/AFP]

When an atheist state decides to sequester religious icons, and elect their own, you know they are seriously hell bent on control by any means necessary. And China knows how to do it better than anyone. Government regulation at it’s finest…

China tells Tibet’s living Buddhas to apply for reincarnation– [Yahoo/AFP]

17
Jul
07

Are religions really universal?

I read an interesting piece on the unfortunate verdict of a British High Court to disallow a young teenager the freedom to wear her “Purity Ring” to school:

A teen-ager whose teachers had stopped her wearing a “purity ring” at school to symbolize her commitment to virginity lost a High Court fight against the ban Monday. – [Yahoo/Reuters]

The sad part of this is that, her statement regarding the gradual erosion of the right to religious freedom may be true. But more importantly, it raises a simple but very important question. How does one determine whether any given symbolic ornament or ritual is core to any given religion? Can such a thing even be done? The High Courts decision seems to be based on the premise that Christianity has some universally recognized integral components that are practiced in the same general way by everyone.

I honestly don’t believe that to be true. Christianity is not practiced the same way by every one. This is why there are many different kinds of Christians. Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, etc. I don’t believe that anyone in a legal capacity should be able to argue that any one thing does or does not belong in the Christian faith, or that any belief or symbol is any more or less important to Christians in general, because the truth is, there is no single, universally followed, Christian faith.

A typical example is the fact that many traditional Christian beliefs hold that sex before marriage is a no-no. And yet there are many sexually active, unmarried Christians. I would submit that this teenagers Christian views, while not the norm, are more traditionally valid than most. So the question is, how can her beliefs, and the symbols thereof, be marginalized on the grounds that they are not integral to the Christian faith?

I do realize we are talking about a piece of jewelry. But you cannot ignore the importance of symbolism in religion. A crucifix is no less a piece of jewelry than a ring. None of Jesus’ disciples wore a crucifix. That was something that followers of Christianity implemented later on at some point as a symbol, a reminder of the values of our faith. So, in my opinion, a purity ring or headdress should not be judged any differently. Perhaps she would get fairer treatment if she started a new religion that employed purity and faith rings instead of a crucifix.

Law and policy makers often seem to ignore the fact that religions are generally not the kind of things people can leave at the door when they go somewhere. They are often a lifestyle, a way of living life itself, and it was to protect this aspect of our individual rights that the laws protecting our freedom of religion were written.

Schoolgirl loses “virginity ring” battle – [Yahoo/Reuters]




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