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Should not intelligent, reasonable men of good will be able to agree on all things that matter?

"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to
  one who is striking at the root."
- Henry David Thoreau
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"If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; but
if you really make them think they'll hate you."
- Don Marquis

Human Context
Updated: 05/03/2021

We live in the world we were given, not the world that we chose! Consider the following:

Context of Non-Involvement

The salient facts and logic go like this. I don't remember creating myself or designing my own life. As far as I know I was born a new person in the year 1941. Not only did I not design my life but I didn't design my needs and my desires, and I didn't design my nature, appetites, my attributes, my traits, characteristics, weaknesses, strengths, propensities, etc. Nor did I get to select my parents, my race, my country, culture, class, or gender. What's equally significant is that I didn't even get to choose my belief system or my value programming; not even the educational content of my formative years in schooling.

I DIDN'T SIGN UP FOR ANY OF THIS! In the shadow of these realities, some psychologists and philosophers will even go so far as to say that we really don't even have meaningful volition, effective free will, but are more like intelligent, sophisticated, ultra-complex but nevertheless pre-programmed beings, little more than complex intelligent but merely reacting stimulus-response meat machines.

I do not like the way the cards are shuffled,
But yet I like the game and want to play.
 - Eugene Ware

Past Context of Evil

Given that there were unfathomably evil and destructive astral/planetary catastrophes visited upon the human population of the earth during and after the end of the Golden Age, doesn’t that make it almost impossible for a reasonable person to believe in a caring, merciful God that could have prevented them? Didn't these ravaging and savaging developments doom the human population of the earth to undergo thousands of years of misery while recovering psychologically from the trauma as a race? All the while in an ongoing, often hostile and non-benevolent environment of extreme seasons, weather, floods, droughts, volcanic activity, earthquakes, etc. Not to mention the endless ensuing wars and epidemics, pandemics of terrible diseases, and PLAGUES of insects and rodents! Was it all that unreasonable for a psychologically unhinged population to think that these were rained down on them by an angry God? These issues have NEVER been adequately addressed from an informed and enlightened perspective (something I am obviously attempting to do).

Most men live lives of quiet desperation.  - Henry Thoreau

Current Context of Evil

Also we all experience evil in the form of bodily damage, physical pain and emotional trauma, and we agonize or suffer over these experiences to some greater or lesser extent. From moment one in our existence we NEVER experience a complete level of safety, comfort or fulfillment. We are never truly or completely secure, and even those that think they are in God's hands have to say to themselves that it is God's will when something bad happens to them. Equally troubling to the rational person, it is fashionable for some pundits to look askance at mankind and say that man is never satisfied. As if this were a FLAW and we are DOOMED by our own insatiableness! What is so hard to understand here? Of course we are never satisfied, BECAUSE we never HAVE everything we truly, intrinsically need and desire!

We not only have to oppose the ravages of the natural elements, which may come from the aforementioned sub-global developments but maybe even global factors like climate change. And then there are dangerous Solar system factors, like solar cycles, solar storms, comets and asteroids. Yet worst of all, we have to fight our own human misfeasance and malfeasance.

Context of Global Amnesia, Guilt and Denial

We now live in the context of where our religious, academic, and scientific institutions with their thinking and teachings do not want to acknowledge nor deal with the recent but pre-historical and historical global astral catastrophes that so very extensively have molded our physical, spiritual, cultural, psychological world of today. This is incredibly infantile, cowardly and unhealthy, incredibly spiritually–philosophically, intellectually, and psychologically–irresponsible and debilitating for our personal, social, and religious understanding and development.

Modern people are living under the big lie, a huge false construct about our past that is now buttressed  in every way possible in every line of academic discipline and thinking. Both the religious and scientific institutions now seem committed to maintain this modern mythic stance in the face of any evidence to the contrary.

So, faced with overwhelming geological evidence of immeasurable global cataclysm, the scientific establishment relegates such to the far distant past, and denies any profound influence on the modern human psyche. Much of religion still believes and teaches this to be the result of dies irae, the wrath of God. The result is that we currently live in a profoundly schizophrenic intellectual and spiritual world.

Context of Mundane Labor

What happens when people in organizations are not inspired by real purpose, meaning, and Golden Rule treatment is that they often settle for security and their own brand of power politics.  They can easily become department or petty fiefdom oriented versus organization and society oriented.  They and the organization become stagnant, continuing to do things that become obsolete and wasteful, they become "yes people", cowed into a don't-make-mistakes mentality.  Even positive innovation is stifled.

People spend approximately 1/3 of their adult life working.  In thinking about the issue of motivating people with tangible versus intangible rewards, two questions can be asked, given that an "average" annual salary of $30,000 x 40 years = $1,200,000.

Question #1 – How many people would willingly trade or sell 1/3 of their lives for $1,200,000?  This is really what they are doing if they are uninspired, unfulfilled, unsatisfied, unproductive, etc.

Question #2 – What tangible $ amount would people pay (give up being paid) to have this 1/3 of their lives inspired, productive, appreciated, enhanced and fulfilled?

Universal need for government

In a fallen or non-ideal reality, there is a need for some form of government management and control of certain facets of civilized society. But governments are made up of people, and there seems to be a dearth of perfect incorruptible candidates. Even if–a big IF–they understand that they are civil servants tasked with serving the people, instead of just enjoying the wielding of the power, they are still prone to be unduly influenced to veer off course from the principles, overstepping their proper roles and becoming corrupted. The conundrum is that the more effective the government is, the greater the temptation to want to get it more involved and thus more controlling and oppressive. That is one of the many "no-win" situations that we constantly face in the human condition.

What Are We?

What kind of being is it that is profoundly free and yet whose decisions and actions are also profoundly effected and/or affected by forces beyond its control? As we try to answer this, we are swamped by other questions: Are we or are we not ultimately responsible for what we do? What is our relationship to what befalls us? What is our responsibility for how our character, demeanor and lives turn out?

In this world a man must either be anvil or hammer. - Longfellow

Of course, we have the absolutely indubitable sense of being the author of our actions–and yet it is no less certain that many/most of our possibilities are determined for us, that many/most/all of our thoughts and feelings, needs and desires, come unbidden. Sometimes, some people kind of wake up and look at their past actions and say, "How did that happen? That wasn't the real me that acted that way!" Is the correct answer that we are really responsible only for some of our actions? Are we free and active agents but only to a limited extent?

These are followed by questions about our social responsibility: Do we see ourselves as isolated, separate individuals, or instead recognize ourselves as belonging to and depending on society, a wider world? What IS our reasonable responsibility to the people and world beyond ourselves?

These are high-stakes questions because they affect our relationships and how we live our lives. In one form or another they have bedeviled Western philosophers since the Stoics. They bear on how we stand in relation to everything that we do and everything we are. Answering them involves sorting out who and what causes various events and results, and requires decisive further moral, psychological, and even political steps. It entails deciding who deserves credit or who or what is to blame for the results. It entails partially taking the world on our shoulders and taking responsibility for ourselves. All this may mean asking what needs to change so that things may turn out otherwise in the future. But it is above all a key question that atheists, agnostics, secularists, skeptics, and freethinkers have to answer for and about ourselves.

Religion and Sacred Writings

Religions, in contrast, are generally founded upon ancient "sacred writings"–admittedly subject to re-translation and reinterpretation–and/or ancient dispensations of authority based on mythologies. Each major religion usually considers each ancient source other than its own to be severely flawed at best, worse fictitious, and at worst, a nefarious, evil-minded and cunningly devised counterfeit to the truth. This is a quite distasteful, unhappy situation of our reality.

As to the major issues that confront man in modern Western society:

"Most of these issues could be discussed without referring to the biblical heritage, but the Bible is always lurking in the background, and positions have been taken on all of them that ultimately appeal to the Bible as the final word. When that happens, thinking and reasonable discussion stop. We do not know how to proceed after the Bible has been invoked." – Burton L, Mack, Who Wrote the New Testament?, HarperCollins Publisher,  New York, 10022, 1996, P. 3

Psychological Sickness

Often when I talk about the situation delineated above people will ask, "What are YOU complaining about? You've gotten a pretty good deal! You were born in the best country, white, male, good looking, athletic, decent build, high intelligence, good genes, talents, great opportunities. You've been raised to generally have good habits, good presentation and you've received an extended formal education. So, you have got to be close to the desirable end of the normal distribution curve. Consider yourself fortunate; few others have it so good." This is when I tell them that we are all really neurotic, when our favorite, most common method of making ourselves feel good is to compare ourselves with those that are less fortunate! This should make a person feel good, to compare to others not as well off? What kind of psychologically sick ploy is that?

The best consolation in misfortune or affliction of any kind will be the thought of other people who are in a still worse plight than yourself; and this is a form of consolation open to every one. But what an awful fate this means for mankind as a whole! We are like lambs in a field, disporting themselves under the eye of the butcher, who chooses out first one and then another for his prey. - Schopenhauer

And let's mention that it is not where we are at, but the direction and prospects of our life that concern us the most. This is not to say that we should wallow in negativity and focus on our victimhood. But acknowledging reality, not denying it, is not an unhealthy wallowing but is a healthy response, and lays the foundation for effective growth, action or change.

Thoughts on Evil

The simple logic is that either the universe is set up, i.e., designed and structured, to deliver the totality of what I need and what I want, or it is not. Of course, these needs and desires are defined here as being intrinsic and legitimate; yet some of my desires may be temporarily immature, but that implies that they are not wrong, just not fully developed. Given that my needs and desires are legitimate or can be legitimized by spiritual growth, if the universe is not set up to deliver these then it is a bad place and there is no substance behind thinking the creator to be good or worthy of the term "God"!

If the universe IS set up to deliver what I want and what I need, then and only then is it a good or "friendly" place, and I could then legitimately give credit (worship) to a noble creator for designing the total cosmos–the word means designed system–as a good and wonderful system so that I could live with uninhibited delight, unabated ecstasy, and undiminished morale.

Of two evils choose the least. - Erasmus

There seems little point to chronicle once again some dramatic evils in the world. Suffice it to say that essentially all people associate destruction–the word is the opposite of construction–with evil. The earth continually experiences catastrophe on an extensive scale; the multiple mass extinctions, and everything from exploding lakes, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, cometary disasters, tsunamis, volcanoes, landslides, sinkholes, droughts, and human wars cause so much human carnage that we are in denial of most of it, we put it out of our minds.

Even worse is the onslaught of evil from the biological world of disease and debilitating sickness. It should be well known that in WWII disease and accidents caused hundreds of times the intentional battlefield casualties! And there are a number of excruciatingly awful hereditary syndromes, not to mention the relentless debilitation of aging and the final destruction by mental and physical system failure. And finally, probably the worst is the incredible cruelty and oppression foisted on Mankind by other men. men generally seeking more personal power and control.

If the universe is a bad place or designed to be an experience of evil, structured around a bad or evil system, then we also have no idea how bad it really is, or how bad it CAN get to be for us. Whatever vicissitudes we may be experiencing or suffering through in this life may be only a small sample of greater evil with pain and suffering that we may have to endure in any reincarnation to a future life.

The possibility for evil to be multiplied by being reincarnated over and over again into a new body and a worse situation is unfathomable, and the mind naturally turns away from consideration of such a circumstance. On the other hand, the situation that we experience now has both elements of goodness and evil. Again the simple logic is that if the universe was designed perfectly then something has gone tragically wrong.

Consider once again that we are born under a sentence of decay and death, not to mention again all the other evils that result in suffering and sorrow. There is a line of thinking that decay and death are natural and should be embraced. Decay and death may be "natural", but that is only because nature has been corrupted and we live in an unhealthy world environment. Natural but not ideal nor desirable, palatable or acceptable!

Creator Decoupled from God

There are a handful of ultimate issues. One of these issues should NEVER be whether there is a creator or no creator. The alternative to intelligent design is to believe that all the aspects of the universe beyond the basic material particles are emergent properties. All the multifarious facets including the intangible and spiritual aspects of a human being have to be considered to be “happy accidents”. By this type of thinking, a marble is an emergent property of sand, or a beautifully organized garden is an emergent property of soil and plants. Can you really go there? I cannot!

But, a creator is not necessarily a God, because the term "creator" ONLY implies design and production capability. It says and implies nothing about purpose, intention, or values. Only the term "God" incorporates these human value dimensions; therefore the term "creator" must be decoupled from the term "God".  Consequently, one of these ultimate issues is whether there is a God worthy of the title, or no God but just a creator.

Now is the time for me to say that dealing adequately with the ultimate issues cannot be undertaken successfully unless one has taken the inward journey to fully understand and embrace one's legitimate needs and desires. There IS NO other valid point of perspective!

Three Phases of Inward Journey

There are actually three phases to the inward journey, one being to look into the dark corners of your own soul to see how bad it really is and to be humble in the face of it. This takes a great deal of courage.

If only I knew what I wanted I could try
to see about getting it.
- Sylvia Plath

What takes even MORE courage is the second phase; to look into your own psyche or soul and to see what YOU really want and what YOU really need. What you are supposed to want by God, or by society, or parents, or church, or whatever agency, cannot be germane here, because you have no legitimate basis for believing that these desire limits imposed from the outside are any more legitimate than what YOURS are. This is YOU here now, wanting and needing. Of course your desires and needs involve other people and involve the well-being of other people. One of MY highest desires is that we all maximize the quality of our lives, the enhancement of our lives, our morale, and that our lives be sustained.

The third phase is to come out of denial and accept and embrace that YOU are a victim of the human condition; you did NOT cause it but was born into it.

There are according to some experts over 100,000+ different identifiable religions existing in the world today. There are no majorities in this venue, only this spiritual fragmentation. The number of religions and paradigms of reality are greater than I can reasonably assay during my lifetime, and so it makes sense that after I identify what I intrinsically want and need, I ONLY consider those systems of thinking or belief that promise to deliver the package of my criteria for goodness and success. If you want a vehicle that will navigate mountain roads and rugged terrain for geological exploration, or for camping or hunting, you do not go to the Cadillac agency or the Mercedes agency or the Lamborghini agency to look for a vehicle to buy. You go to the Jeep and the Land Rover agencies and look at their vehicles. See The Challenge for Modern Philosophy

This Package Must Be Offered

This simple logic is again that if there is a God worthy of the term, then that God would have an easy, reasonable way for me to succeed by the definition of fulfilling my own needs and desires. Thus the simple logic is that if we do not define God for ourselves, we are at the mercy of multifarious versions from "out there" and can have no reasonable expectation of recognizing God even if we were introduced. There are lots of different gods out there, and simply casting around for God based upon the various promises of mystical experiences, or the enthusiasm or intensity of the spokesman, or the majesty or impact of the organizational structure, should not, and cannot fill the requirement.

I have identified the complete package of my needs and desires, and this package is signified by the acronym: IF-I-SEEK-US, standing for: Imminent Fulfillment, Immortality, Safety or security, Empowerment, Equality, Unity, and Society. Of course immortality stands for sustained biological functionality and an uninterrupted continuation of life activity, not just some future mystical existence that we can only try to imagine. Fulfillment pertains to the complete spectrum of our health-and-vitality-generating needs and happiness-generating desires.

The reality though, is that I find myself born into a dirty, messy, pathological, dangerous, troubled, insane world under a sentence of death! Of course I don't like that! What reasonable person would? In order for the creator to be God he would have to care enough to communicate with us, with me, in a way that a rational, logical, reasonable person could understand and appreciate adequately. Theism is the word that expresses this concept, and it signifies a SPECIAL revelation that is other than or beyond what can be implied by looking at nature, including ourselves.

Value of Philosophy

What good is philosophy in this context? Well, the word means love of logic or love of wisdom. Philosophy is concerned with thinking right, believing right, and acting right. Right, of course, is defined as doing that which supports the sustenance and enhancement of life. How can we not be concerned with, how can we not deeply care about philosophy? Theology, a branch of philosophy, is concerned with thinking right and believing right about the creator. How can we not be concerned with theology?

Are we willing to sleepwalk through life, not being concerned about anything other than the mundane aspects of keeping body and soul temporarily together, maintaining our social facade, and having our little triumphs? Are we willing to steadily march toward the grave while aging and dying and only being concerned about being "normal" and having our little successes? Are we willing to keep our eyes to the ground, being only concerned with Mammon and having our little pleasures? Is this all? On the other hand, are we truly locked into an agenda set by God, leaving us waiting for pie-in-the-sky in the by-and-by? Or an agenda set by a reality that forces us into this grim un-requested victimhood?

Universal Victimhood

Yes victimhood! Most people don't like to think of themselves as being victims. They go to great lengths to jack their thinking around so that they don't have to admit victimhood. But victimhood is simply being forced to do something that you don't want to do, to experience something that you don't want to endure. If you truly love aging and dying while working hard for fulfillment but being only partially rewarded, and while staggering from one vicissitude to another in life, then maybe you are not a victim. But I don't buy it.

Finally, If you want to watch a very poignant portrayal of the human condition, find and patiently–get past the idiosyncratic aspects–watch to the end the movie The Hairdresser's Husband, and view and understand the hairdresser's straightforward approach to the going downhill, aging and dying process.

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