Religion and its worthlessness; with special reference to Christianity Monday, Jun 21 2010 

I would like to take some time to share with you some thoughts on this topic, and I’d like to preface this carefully.

The inherent value of religion lies in its veracity. Quite simply without any hint of veracity, the stories and exhortations of religion are reduced to the same position as any other literary construction or myth with the same sort of value for wisdom and knowledge. Thus, when we speak of the exodus and the other stories of the Bible one must either recognize that they have [a] a direct truth value and therefore an empirical, didactic value in and of themselves that sets them apart from other literary constructs without such veracity, or [b] a value of wisdom unrelated to its value of truth, which reduces such wisdom to the forms that we may derive from the Iliad, the Aeneid, Beowulf, and other integral, formative works of literature that so beautifully and perceptively express the human condition.

Thus, we may discuss the veracity of religion, from its higher claims to its basic historical accuracy, and ultimately this is what defines us and our position, for it is the position of any honest human being to embrace what he views to be the truth, irrespective of its value as regards hope and any arbitrary ideal of ‘goodness’.

However what I would like to present to you at this point is what I view to be the relative worthlessness of religion outside of its claims of veracity. That is, if I may, to discuss religion (and specifically Christianity) on its own terms, and to interrogate its inherent value outside claims of truth and constructed realities. I find that, outside of the mere question of veracity that surrounds the Bible, it carries, if it is true in its entirety, many highly disagreeable implications, and here are some of them as I see them.

If you can I’d ask you to forgive the concentration on Christianity as well as the length of this opening post, the former seems more relevant to this forum of discussion and the latter is unavoidable. In all of this I work, as well, with the assumptions that, in such an issue, God is omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient.

The Bible, in the Christian ethos, is predicated on the sinful nature of humanity. Humanity are created with a predisposition to sin, immorality and evil, and are thus deserving of eternal punishment, however by the grace of God, Christ was sacrificed in order to pay for our sins, and so anyone who accepts Christ as their Saviour may transcend the punishment that their sinful nature rightfully demands and proceed into heaven.

However I find it incredibly difficult to empathize with an omnipotent creator, entirely and supremely aware of every consequence of his mightiest action into the infinite corners of the universe, who then creates men with a predisposition to sin and blames them for it. I find that the idea of free will does not compromise, in the slightest, the atrocity of this sequence of events; quite plainly put, if I burn my bread when I am making toast, I do not blame the bread.

To suggest, also, that God’s choices lie between free-will (with knowledge of good and evil) and slavery (without knowledge of good and evil) is severely limiting and presumptuous. It is entirely plausible that human beings ought to retain their free-will whilst being granted knowledge of good and evil without being entirely sinful and despicable creatures, yet the Bible does not recognize this possibility.

Any limit of our emotional, moral and intellectual capabilities that does not allow us to comprehend good and evil and retain our free-will whilst not being creatures of sin and evil that we are is a limit that God has imposed upon us and has blamed us for. That is to say that we are created so that we cannot possibly do all of the following:

[a] have free will
[b]comprehend good and evil
[c]be righteous creatures

Yet these are impositions upon us, and God was entirely aware of the ramifications of his actions when he created us thusly. He created us with the limit such that only two of any of the three things I listed above can be achieved, and most religious people would agree. Yet he still saw fit to test his creations that he had created with such limitations, and to stake the eternal fate of generations to come on such a test.

I find this to be abhorrent. After Adam and Eve were ejected from the Garden of Eden, their immortality was no longer given but forced to be earned, and if it is to be earned then, tacitly, there will be some that will not earn it. These people should suffer, die and live in a lower state of being (for ideas of hell are still fuzzy at this stage) and denied further life due to a test to which they were not a party that God created us predestined to fail.

Also, again, the Bible then deals with suffering that humans suffer due to their own immorality and evil nature, but what of that they suffer due to nothing more than the way that God saw it fit to create the world. The world and its function has been characterized by natural disasters, earthquakes, volcanoes and other forces of destruction from its very inception, and if the Bible is to be believed, this was God’s will.

Such destruction is a by-product of natural mechanics that the Earth, as created by God, requires, and these by-products, of which God was aware in creating the Earth, are destructive and cause suffering. The world does not require such disasters any further than God endowed it with such necessity, and this necessity leads to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of human beings yearly.

Similarly, new-born children are often endowed with bone diseases or defects from the second that their existence begins. We can extrapolate two positions from this, in the Bible, and neither of them are agreeable, but I’d like to clarify first. There is nothing about, for example, children born with diseases and defects, that is natural or automatic any further than God made it so.

God is omnipotent. He is not working within a construct that is set for him; he had no obligation to create a world in which bone cancer, birth defects and other such miseries were ‘automatic byproducts of natural mechanics’. There is nothing automatic about it; the world and the natural order was, as held by the Bible, very carefully and specifically crafted by God; the miseries that result from it cannot then be ‘automatic’ or ‘necessary’, they are not ‘automatic’ byproducts but byproducts of the specific way that God crafted the world and its natural mechanics.

So in such, it is dishonest to claim otherwise; that God did not intend for such defects to exist and should be viewed accordingly.

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Sunday, Apr 25 2010 

I have long been irritated by the lack of an objective moral rule and in my conceit I have attempted to construct such a system without the aid of divinity or relativity. Mutualism is the result of that effort, though far from complete or perfect (yet) it is the first in an effort to establish a objective morality compatible with secular ideals.

Mutualism

Often we are presented with a false choice. That choice is to be selfless or selfish. In conventional morality these two choices are considered good and evil respectively. How can one be entirely selfless though? If one person is selfless does it not imply that someone is being selfish? In social interaction the concept of mutualism isn’t that one party benefits exclusively, or that another party benefits exclusively, but that the most moral pathway is that which both parties benefit fairly and that this moral pathway is the only way for humans to not only progress and succeed but rather to thrive.

Too long has immorality been tolerated and justified. Humanity has progressed to the point where slight immorality becomes intolerable. In a day and age where the entire fate of the species could be determined by a single immoral individual the danger of selfishness becomes apparent. What society needs is a true objective morality. Mutualism attempts to become this morality.

The concept of mutualism takes its inspiration from natural biological relationships. One should note however that mutualism only applies to person to person relationships. True flower power is not contained within the flower’s ability to populate the world, but in the flower’s ability to so benefit those around it so much so that they benefit the flower. This is the essence of the mutual relationship. Together the flower and the bee overcome the limitations of either one independently. No bee can make honey from nothing and no flower can walk.

Often in the world parasitic relationships are observed much to the detriment of the hosts. The parasite feeds off of the host and uses the host only to further its own selfish goals. In this relationship the benefit is clearly to the parasite that lives off of its host’s effort with little effort of its own. This is a cunning natural commentary on selfishness. Blind satisfaction of your selfish needs is not conducive to society in general because selfish needs are inherently fragmented and individual. Is the host guilty for this parasite? No, the parasite is guilty of evil entirely its own. One should be careful in concluding that giving is inherently good then. The mutualist would challenge such an assertion. The individual is good, and that cannot be denied, but as soon as we take into account the parasite the morality of the interaction falls apart. The giving of the host (unconscious or not) is perverted by the inherently evil taking of the parasite.

Benign interaction does not imply morality either. Benign entities feed off of the waste, refuse, and excesses that others would rather leave behind. The Mutualist has a moral obligation to help those around them so long as they are capable; inaction is perversion and does not serve the greater good. Why be satisfied with benign interaction when the interaction serves both so much more when it is mutually beneficial? Simple lack of knowledge of the benign entity is not an excuse. The mutualist has a moral obligation to know their world. If they cannot understand their world they cannot make moral decisions. Only through understanding your choices will the limited few moral pathways present themselves.

It is clear that both selfishness and neutrality result at best maintaining the status quo and at worst evil. A mutualistic relationship is one that both creatures put in effort and both creatures receive benefits; yet, these benefits are multiplied by the individual contributions of both creatures dramatically surpassing the individual limits of either creature on its own. The wild success of angiosperm is very telling of the power of a mutual relationship. The weaknesses of the individual(s) are compensated for by the other(s) and vice versa. Bees move a flower’s pollen to other flowers, and bees are rewarded with nectar. The beautiful simplicity of this relationship is obvious.

Who in a mutualist relationship is evil? We cannot say either party is evil because both parties fairly require something and both parties fairly have their requirements satisfied. If benevolence is good, mutual benevolence is better. Just like flowers, we as finite beings must enlist the aid of others to break free of our natural limitations and seek true objective morality.

The greater good is a concept that, in the end, all things add up to either good or evil. In the concept of mutualism true greater good can always be achieved. The concept of the greater good is applied relatively but not selectively. If two individuals are interacting, for the greater good to be satisfied the two must interact in a mutually beneficial way; however, if their interactions begin to involve other people the sum of the actions must benefit all of the people involved. I.e. the greater good is not served unless all peoples at all levels of organization are benefitted by the interaction.

It is important to note that the greater good does not represent a supernatural being but rather the aggregate morality of those working together. The more who work together, the stronger the greater good is and thus the better benefits all peoples within its influence experience. This greater good represents the speed at which cooperation can happen within a society. The greater the good, the greater the progress of the society. Societies which out-advance their moralities are in imminent danger of destroying themselves.

This brings up the conundrum of whether individual actions benefit the population at large. The greater good asserts that, though this contribution may become diluted by the contributions of others continuously serving their moralities, a good person always means a good influence upon the world. No single person’s value can be understated, yet the value of that which is achieved by the masses is only as great as the value that those put in. One for all, and all for one.

No raindrop fills a glass; the raindrop has natural limitations which it cannot overcome. Two raindrops do not fill a glass either; the raindrops have smaller limitations but they are still limited. A thousand raindrops fill the glass; here we can say the raindrops have overcome their individual limitations. People, as raindrops, are naturally limited. It is only by enlisting the aid of others we overcome this limitation because it takes many drops to fill an ocean.

It is not that we do not necessarily have the capability to keep surviving. We plausibly could maintain the status quo indefinitely. It is that the danger of knowledge that offers us an impetus to temper it with morality combined with the desire not to simply survive but also to thrive. We have advanced to the day and the age where there are a considerable amount of people who could really destroy civilization as we know it. This capacity requires moral scruples as strong and universal as knowledge has become. Assuming we desire to advance in knowledge and civilization when it is likely that every person in the future will know how to destroy every other we must adopt either censors or morals. The freedom of knowledge can only be established through morality.

Mutualism neatly solves many moral conundrums which seem to test an individual’s respect of law, or relative moral obligations. By taking the path in which the individuals both benefit the greater good, objective morality can be achieved and moral rule independent of divine law or relative philosophy can be established. Many moralities pale when presented with the question, at what point does benefit become harm? Many solve this by urging abstinence from that which benefits you. Others solve this by urging acceptance of that benefit and claiming it without regard. To the mutualist however; this line is apparent. The line in which a benefit becomes a perversion is that line that represents when an action stops benefitting the greater good.

Altruism interestingly mutates under the paradigm of this philosophy. If we accept that altruism is in essence goodness then mutual benefit surpasses the concept of selflessness that altruism popularly represents and becomes a concept entirely more complicated yet entirely more satisfying. No longer is someone uncomfortably forced to represent the taker, no longer are those who give away all of their possessions to the parasites around them considered paragons of the greater good. Altruism is no longer a concept possessed by the individual but a concept only attainable through the interaction towards the benefit of both parties.

In regards to the greater good, helping someone may not pay off for a long time. Thus we can consider charity a good that just hasn’t paid off yet. Charity therefore represents any action in which the repayment is at a later time. It’s important to realize that fairness does not necessarily dictate a mutually beneficial exchange but merely the promise of a mutually beneficial exchange. This promise must be kept to serve the greater good or the individual is betraying the trust of the mutualist and thus perverting the goodness of the act.

Perversion is seen as the degree of difference between the ideal moral decision(s) and the chosen immoral decision. As humans we must accept the concept that perversion can destroy the greater good itself. Every evil action that a man engages in has far reaching implications drawing more and more people into its sphere of influence. Perversion has a similar power to that of the greater good but it works in entirely the opposite direction.

Unlike the greater good perversion merely results in corruption, fragmentation and eventual societal failure by over emphasizing a specific group or individual. In Austria a young boy witnessed anti-Semitism; decades later he had found himself in a position to apply such an insignificant evil to millions resulting in one of the most morally reprehensible times in human history. The act of evil which was so insignificant to those at the time grew exponentially as each opportunity to quell it was lost to time.

How does one end perversion? Perversion must be ended through mutualism. Perversion is by nature defensive because it is not a trait many value. In the attempt to defend itself perversion will grow stronger, deeper and wider. Attacking perversion simply results in more perversion. The Greeks represented this concept in the story of Hercules with their idea of the Hydra. A beast that no matter how many times you attempt to slay merely grows stronger.

In the story, Hercules slays the monster by cauterizing the wounds with fire. Modern day interpretation of this story is that there’s simply another way to kill the beast. While, in essence, this is true we must consider what the Greek’s conception of fire was. In ancient Greek society, fire was seen as a ‘gift’ from the gods. A gift the great hero Prometheus had to steal from the selfish gods to give to man. Fire was seen as the essence of goodness, life, and order and represented the ultimate power of man to overcome any obstacle.

From this perspective we can see Hercules was not cauterizing the wounds with burning painful flame but rather it was the essence of goodness that allowed Hercules to finally defeat the beast. As Hercules did, we must not attack perversion less it overcomes us and defeats us, we must encourage the perversion to wither on its own. When perversion is brought into the light of goodness the wound it leaves ceases to fester. When the wound is gone the perversion can be corrected through the utilization of the greater good. One does not feel the need to defend one’s self from something so plainly beneficial.

Mutualism further refutes the concept that morality is equal to justification. Justification is merely reasoning, necessity and does not imply morality. Morality instead thrives as an ideal all can hold themselves to yet, even if an individual fails to reach that ideal they have context for improvement. We cannot be content with immoral actions because they are justified, we must continuously ask ourselves how this interaction could better serve the greater good. As moral individuals we must learn from these perversions of morality called justification to better serve the greater good in the future.

To many this may sound as though the ends must justify the means. This is not true with respect to the greater good however. Any immoral means perverts your eventual end. True moral ideals cannot be established this way. The end justifying the means implies only justification. A logical decision when presented with few choices perhaps but the decision may change depending on the logical argument applied to it. The greater good however is an all encompassing morality which denies that any individual is ever put into circumstances in which a moral outcome do not or did not exist. It is the duty of the mutualist to aim for those moral outcomes in all situations.

One might ask what rights do humans have? With respect to the greater good the desired outcome for society is a society with as little individual hardship as possible yet with the maximum shared happiness it can obtain. In this we find that all humans must be guaranteed the right to seek happiness. At the same time we must remember this happiness is not found in the disenfranchisement of others but rather as a result of the cooperation of many to receive mutual benefit. Some have unconventional methods or desires to obtain happiness. These can be met so long as the desire is not perverse by a mutualistic standard.

Betrayal, revenge and punishment have also confused many philosophers. To the mutualist all of these concepts are considered immoral with but may be justifiable with respect for how their particular definitions are satisfied. Betrayal is considered justifiable but never moral. To betray someone is to violate their trust in you and by violating their trust you take from them what isn’t fairly yours. Similarly by seeking revenge you may be justified but you are never moral; even though they took from you attempting to find retribution at their loss is inherently wrong. The same system can be applied to any concept.

Mutualism deals slightly differently with respect to life and death. Life is of infinite possibility. Throughout our existence we are only limited by the time our death comes. If our death comes early we lose that infinite possibility. Thus, the death of any person must be considered an infinite loss. This infinite loss is infinite because of the nature of human perspective. We can never quantify what someone might have done, or become after the moment of their death because their timelines cease to exist after that moment. Thus to kill someone is to inflict an infinite evil upon them. In essence you are taking from them what they could’ve been, the possibility of vindication, as well as the possibility of rehabilitation.

This infinite evil has much further reaching implications than a perversion such as racism. It was the evil perception that life was disposable that made such weak racism powerful. It was the evil contained within the ideal. Not that an idea was worth dying for, but rather that an idea was worth killing for. No man can ever call a war moral and no man can ever call a murder moral. Limited as we are, our perception limits us to justification. No morality is to be had in this justification, thus with respect to the greater good one can never morally kill another. One can merely justify it. Justification must be seen as inherently flawed in its perversion. Morality is the ideal of not just one situation but every situation.

Only through steadfast confidence in the power of good to triumph over evil will we progress towards true morality and true utopia. One must remember that the good guys always win. While it might seem easier to run a lap than a marathon the accomplishment is so much greater. Nice guys do finish last but not because they’re racing against bad guys, but because the bad guys could never hope to perform the long term race that the success of humanity requires. The very things that erode relationships destroy both our future, and our utopia.

In the end no man can be considered morally perfect, but is not perfection our goal? So long as we measure ourselves against this morality and refuse to be content with the justification of weaker moralities we can progress towards goodness. So long as the greater good is served society will progress. So long as the greater good is served, individuals will thrive. The question is not, why should we be good, but rather, why wouldn’t we be?