Thursday, November 18, 2004

God, Indivdualism and Pendulums

*One of my readers suggest I rename this piece, to reflect more accurately the theme and ideas of the discussion. His kind advice is appreciated.*

The following will be my last thoughts on the political divide we see in our country today, for now.

Before I go on, firstly let me apologize for being a day late. Work and matters of a personal nature precluded me from meeting that self imposed deadline.

In addition, I'd like to clarify a few matters raised by some thoughtful comments made in reference to my previous post

It has never been my intention my intent to make relativism a component in defining right from wrong. There is right and wrong and there is good and evil. Those truths that have influenced choices man has made from the earliest days.

Whether from a societal or religious standpoint, right and wrong must be dealt with, as well as good and evil. It is in the definition of those attributes that we differ.

Now, clearly, we call all see certain evils. September 11 was an evil, perpetrated by evil people. While we can all agree on that, the rest becomes fuzzier.

Some will say (mistakenly, I believe) that we foisted that evil upon ourselves, as a result of our policies. While I there is no need to discuss that now, obviously, I disagree whole heartedly. Nevertheless, there are people who see things differently. That in itself does not obviate the real evil.

There is no middle ground against evil. Societies thrive and endure when common efforts are exerted to keep evil at bay. If and when a society neglects that truth, that society will not endure and will collapse on itself. History is full of examples of failed Empires, the demise of whom can traced to not addressing an evil of one kind or another.

For the purposes of this discussion, I want to address not so much specifics as I do fundamental issues that are on the front burner.

Given the current climate of political debate, one question stands out.

Can God coexist with notion of the absolute right of individualism?

These two notions are diametrically opposed. Either we acknowledge God's Dominion and live our lives as directed by religious dictate, or we don’t. Any expression of individualism must be secondary to those dictates. That individuality and total freedom of expression, would be outside the confines of a Godly relationship.

We answer to God, or God answers to us.

On the surface, there is no possible reconciliation. Ideologues at either extreme of the debate keep fanning the flames of intolerance, believing that even one concession will undermine their entire belief structure.

In the end of course, they are wrong. Societies flourish when they interact with each other and in the long run, nothing can change that. The source of all democracies is the ability to live and let live.

Wars of all kinds, military, cultural and those of the class variety, are begun and fought by absolutists and phony 'patriots' of all stripes. Well meaning or not, when that absolutism reigns in a free society, no one wins, regardless of the outcome

Democratic governments and cultures don't go to war with one another. They work things out, find common ground and move on. If groups within a democracy (for the moment, extremists on either side of the debate) that do not have that fundamental understanding, instead choosing absolutism or direct confrontation, we are headed toward a train wreck.

It is with this in mind that we must examine the role of God in our society. That question needs to be addressed because it is one of the defining issues of our time. Whether you believe in God as Him, as a manifestation of an undefined spiritual being or not all, how we choose to find a place for believers or non believers as equals, defines our nation.

As in economics, there is a free market of ideas and thoughts, as I like to say. That market place responds in the same way the financial ones do- laissez faire, or let the marketplace decide. Over a period of time, the wild sways of the pendulum tend to self correct and the markets, like ideas, reach a certain equilibrium.

As the Church once repressed and subjugated whole classes of people, so too did secularists, foisting upon their adherents a value system that placed the importance of the individual above all, minimizing the necessary contributions the individual must make for society and the greater good.

Within a short period of time, the rift had occurred. From blind devotion to God and fear of Divine Retribution, society migrated to devout secularism and faith as science, that empirical deity.

It is interesting and bears remembering that both religious adherents and secularists claim the 'Judeo-Christian' ethic as the basis for their fundamental belief structure, finding within that ethic, expressions of God and expressions of the Self.

Still, it was inevitable that a clash would occur.

Absolutists on either side attempted to define their beliefs for all of us. The belivers clung with tenacity to an unshakable and unbendable faith and the non believers attempted to negate faith and God at every turn.

The problem was, and still is, people resist being 'defined.' Despite attempts by the religious to shun evidenced progress and their refusal to share scientific findings with faith, people did not ignore science.

Despite attempts by secularists to negate spiritualism, that didn’t quite work out either. People still believe, and want to believe.

This is the real silent majority, accompanied by a silent truth:

Most religious people and most secularists have made peace with coexistence. The marketplace of free thoughts and ideas has self corrected. There will always be that tension below the surface, but by and large, the loudest voices are the extremes on either side.

Those voices are what is upsetting the applecart. They impede our lives and our communities. We have found ways to make it work- and work well, but those shrill voices who purport to speak for us, keep distracting us from our better selves. Sadly, too many of us are too easily coopted, preferring to upset that applecart so that they are heard. When that applecart tumbles, no one eats.

Our understanding of God and Science has deepened. It is not an issue of the sacred and the profane. That is too simple and too inelegant. There is within the material and the scientific realities, much spiritual dimension that all but the most callous cannot see.

Why is this so hard to see- and for many to accept- is the result of many influences. Our parents and communities play no small role. Our educational experiences as children and as college students, help shape our perceptions greatly. Gullible 19 year olds, sitting in a classroom listening to a professor pontificate on his own subjective beliefs, followed by textbooks designed to obscure the truth, have a profound impact on who we are. Couple that with the now emotional 'all or nothing' political ideologies of today and it is easy to see how realities become obscured

We must find a way to make that silent, accepting and coexisting majority, speak for us. The voices that are imposed upon us must give way.

For the religious, and the believers, it is important to remember that were endowed with free will. The choice to do what we do, is our own. In other words, it is up to each individual to live life as best he sees how. Belief is not to be imposed, it is rather, to arrived at and understood, by everyone, as individuals. It is not contrary to faith be an individual. The same truth can be applied to some liberal ideas and values. Many conservatives reject those ideas simply because they came from liberal sources, as if somehow, they are tainted.

By the same token, secularists must recall, that the rights of the individual include the right to believe in God. When God is rejected by secularists, it is important to realize they are rejecting their own definition of God. While it is easy to reject an absolutist God, it is a bit more difficult to reject a God that endowed us with free will and the right to express that free will through our individuality Many pundits say that the last election was lost because many with liberal ideas who do believe in God, felt rejected and unwelcome by a mainstream political party. It is interesting to note that many secularists that reject religious influence and participation, define a God that most believers do not worship. That is no coincidence.

It is very difficult, admittedly, to reach beyond our own ‘four cubits.’ To examine who and what we are- and why we are, can be painful.. Still, facing ourselves and challenging ourselves is a high calling indeed. We can only be the better for it and reinvigorated by the process.

In the end, no good spiritual beliefs will be undone by man made ones, and no good secularist ideal is in conflict with those who believe in God.

Will there be conflicts? Of course. Will it always be easy? No. Nevertheless, by each side of the divide rightly claiming a basis in the Judeo-Christian ethic, there is a way to resolution. The biggest impediment to accepting the doctrine of coexistence are those shrill voices I spoke of earlier.

One idea does stand out.

From the millennia of an absolutist and rejectionist God, to a couple of centuries of extraordinary 'Enlightenment', and 'Progress,' of culture and technology, we have been through a lot. We have seen religions run amuck and destroy. We have seen man on his own, spill the blood of hundreds of millions with nary a mention of God, much less a belief.

And he we are, once again, talking about God.

I don't imagine I've made anyone happy, but maybe I've given you something to think about.

Wandering Mind

may not be suitable for political vegans