Thursday, August 17, 2006

Temporal Vs Spiritual

Jazzy Cat and I have been bantering back and forth about a variety of issues pertaining to religion, god, morality, conservative and liberal politics, and so on for the last several months. For the most part it has been an earnest and generally amicable debate.

The ultimate problem is that we are essentially speaking different languages, or to put it another way, our focus is on wholly different things. My concern is temporal - the here and now - life on this world. Jazzy is focussed on the next life. His view is that our life here is simply a precursor, an opportunity to qualify for eternal life in heaven. Failure means eternal hell. One must stay on one's toes.

I, on the other hand, believe that this life is all we get. There is nothing beyond.

Consequently, it is difficult, if not impossible to come to a consensus. This lack of consensus concerns more than the two of us. Christians, especially fundamentalist, pentecostal, evangelical and charasmatic, born again christians and true believers of other faiths more or less share Jazzy's view that our worldly existence is important only as it pertains to one's achieving entry into eternal bliss. Therefore, their take on the proper manner in which to live is perceived through a different prism as it were. They are playing one game. Secularists are playing another. Only rarely do the twain meet.

As it happens I stumbled upon the following definition of an atheist, if you will, from the American Atheist web site:

An Atheist loves himself and his fellow man instead of a god. An Atheist accepts that heaven is something for which we should work now – here on earth – for all men together to enjoy. An Atheist accepts that he can get no help through prayer, but that he must find in himself the inner conviction and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue it and to enjoy it. An Atheist accepts that only in a knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellow man can he find the understanding that will help to a life of fulfillment."

Ergo the difference in perspective.

People who were the original impetus for this blogging effort, the raptiles, are wholly focussed on the hereafter which they believe is coming soon to a theatre near you. Beyond that, they are not concerned with any coming attractions. It is difficult to get their attention. They are so preoccupied with being swept away to paradise that they can't be bothered by earthly matters.
While the raptiles make up a relatively small percentage of the born again, all believe as I noted at the beginning, that one should focus his or her efforts toward the next life, not this one. Their concern is with gaining the favor of god. Consequently , they define morality and proper behaviour narrowly primarily via interpretations of the christian bible or other supposedly "holy" books.

While I am sure most people would agree, whether they believe in a god or not, that enmeshed in the often difficult to decipher texts of these works are the bases of a generally sound morality - that rules for properly ethical behaviour can be found within their pages. However, such can be found in other, secular writings as well, both ancient and current, without all the otherworldly rigamarole, and the humbling of oneself before some higher power.

The problem I have with religious based morality, is that it ultimately falls short in dealing with the here and now. In the end, religious morality lacks true compassion for human suffering. Suffering is often looked upon by true believers as either just penalty for sin, and/or as say, with Lot, a means to finding one's way to god. "Let them suffer. It's good for their souls." That was pretty much the justification for the slaughter that came with the Spanish Inquisition and the dunkings and burnings of supposed witches at Salem.

It is not an accident that most fundamental christians are conservative republicans. Most share the puritan ethic of self-denial, intolerance and stern judgement of other's behaviour. (As to the latter, I don't know where "judge not lest ye be judged" fits in.) The notion of "compassionate conservatives" is, in my view, a contradiction of terms. Compassion is essentially contrary to the conservative world view. "One must pull one's self up by one's bootstraps." Unfortunately, millions of people have no boots, let alone straps on which to pull.



jazzycat said...

You are right about perspective. I think one's world view shapes his entire thinking.

Oddly enough, I have always had a conservative bent and never went through a liberal stage. I strongly disagree with the view that liberal equals compassion and conservative doesn't, therefore, I hate the term 'compassionate conservative' because it implies that a regular conservative is not compassionate.

Thanks for your thoughts on Shelley.


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't go giving credit to 'holy' texts for being sources of morality and ethical standards - - while some of what they say can qualify as such, MUCH of what they say does just the opposite - and people pick and choose what to believe when it suits their particular prejudices.
Take that scene from 2nd Kings for example - when god sends bears to eat 40 children for poking fun at a bald man in god's favor. God sends bears ... to eat children ... who make fun of somebody for being the Bible.
Boy - lets all use this book as a foundation for living!
If it should suit Bush's needs - we could see programs arranged wherein children are fed to bears for being insolent.
Then again - do that too often and where will all the soldiers come from when we are still feeding them to the meat grinder in Iraq in 15 years?

Moral or Insane? Maybe its better if I don't ask - knowing what a fundamentalist might say is enough to make me want to pack my bags.

Terry S said...


I am well aware of the inconsistencies, contradictions and the horrors to be found in the good old christian bible.

I am also very cognizant of how evangelists, politicians among others pick and choose elements of the bible to further their agendas while ignoring those passages which don't work for them. The same can be said for radical muslims.

Again, though, if you pick and choose the proper stuff, a good moral base can be put together.

Personally, I would much rather refer to more current, more accessible and more logically consistant philosophy for such guidance if I felt the need.


provoked said...

Even though I'm a Christian (or something to that effect. I'm not sure where I sit on the rainbow), I have a tendancy to agree with you.

I'm not sure about the "hereafter" and I'm one to focus on being "good" now and not for the sake of some carrot on a stick. And though there may be the chance to actually devour said carrot, I can't help but wonder if Christians, hell, if PEOPLE, would quit worrying about the injustice and evils of the world and actually engage in making the world a better place here and now (whether the world believes in Jesus or not), the evil and injustice would, somehow, be balanced.

I said on Zoe's blog (which is how I got here) that we as people focus on the evil. We try to defeat evil through spirituality alone and I have a tendancy that people are inherently good but that they focus on evil and injustice to the point that they are numb to the current pains that are on the streets and in our homes. And I think that our numbness is part of the cause of the pain.

I better stop before I get all lengthy and preachy (still trying to get over that) - hopefully I made sense. In fact it is an idea I may engage on my blog. Anyway, thanks for the post, I enjoyed it.

Terry S said...

Zoe is great. She finds good material and presents it effectively. I steal from her a lot.

I visited your site via Zoe's space. I did so briefly, but it looks as though you also have good material and it is attractively presented. I will visit again when I have more time.

I appreciate your comments and I'm happy you enjoyed the posting.

If I'm correct in reading your comments I assume that you are not suggesting we go through life wearing rose colored glasses so to speak.

Certainly, there is a danger of becoming morose or even depressed if one allows the often horrific events of this world to overwhelm them.

I would say that in order to "engage in making the world a better place here and now" one must be aware of and work against the evil that exists.

While I often use humor through sarcasm and irony to make my points, I am very serious about most of the issues I have written and I am dubious regarding the future. As I have stated, I believe we live in a far more dangerous world now than at any time during the cold war.

But, while I use this space as a kind of wake up call, I do so because I am also aware that people can, and often do, reach great heights. It is my hope that in the end, calmer, more considered minds will prevail as they did through the cold war, and we won't be thrust into a conflagration with the muslim world or anyone else.

I believe that requires that people in positions of power focus their efforts on this world, not the next.


provoked said...

No, I don't believe in looking through rose colored glasses.

See the world and the things that happen in the world as they are, after all screwed up things happen all the time. But I think that part of the cause of that is, and I'll point to Christianity because it is what I know, because a majority of Christianity has the pie in the sky when I die mentality that dictates (or allows if I'm being nice :D) that they can do nothing to make the world a better place.

Granted, I can't speak for all of Christianity, or anyone else, for that matter, but it is what I see often.

Anyway, getting back to the point. I agree that there is the acknowlegement of evil (or should be), or there would be no need for a push for good. I just think that focusing on the evil without hope pushing us to strive to do good in our circle of influence is a diservice to our world. I hear people griping about evil yet don't realize that, while things may never be utopian, things can be much, much better than they are now.

And I feel I must clarify that all people can make a difference in their world, I merely speak from what I know and at the edge of the of that culture.