Freedom and Law

This is in response to a blog post concerning Freedom and Law.  Maria wrote:

“Freedom” is a cherished concept in America… …In our contemporary culture, freedom has become “freedom from,” or what used to be called licentiousness. The emphasis now is on each person being free from constraints to do whatever they desire. Usually, there is the caveat that whatever we do, we should not infringe on others’ freedom or welfare. This would suggest that freedom and law (which constrains our choices) would be in opposition to one another. I think this is misleading.

True freedom comes only in the context of embracing obedience to God’s law. Did you react to that statement? I imagine that this is a surprising, if not shocking, idea. However, consider this: Human beings tried for hundreds of years to figure out how to fly like birds. For hundreds of years, we failed to fly. It was only after we discovered and obeyed the laws of aerodynamics that we became free to fly all over the planet.

Yes, I reacted rather negatively to the oxymoron that true freedom comes only in the context of a supreme dictator that is God’s law.  It’s ironic that she chose a scientific principle like aerodynamics to demonstrate truth and couldn’t rely on prayer, faith, or belief as the context for our ability to fly.

For example, it has become exceedingly common for couples to live together before marriage. This is often rationalized as “we need to see if we are compatible.” God says we should not live together before marriage. Turns out, God is right: high quality research has shown over and over again that living together before marriage increases the risk of divorce, affairs, domestic violence, etc. So in this case, if you follow God’s instructions, you are less likely to experience these outcomes.

Turns out, the primitive humans that wrote about not living together before marriage have no greater authority over the subject than any other societal view.  I can quote from Christian sources that cite government surveys to say that as cohabitation has grown it is no longer correlated to divorce rates. The correlation to divorce rates could also have been attributable to the fact that the type of people that wait to live together might be more likely to stay in unhappy marriages because they view divorce as contrary to God’s law.

That, in a nutshell, is my approach. Whenever I am confronted with a decision to make about how I will live, I ask “What is God’s intention?” I turn to the Bible, God’s little flight manual, and I see what God has to say on the subject. If it is not addressed directly, I look for the principles God has provided that are relevant to the question. And then I am free to live my life to its fullest potential, and that is very satisfying indeed.

Yes, it’s an approach and some people are happy running their lives with confusing fairy tales from our primitive ancestors.  They fill in the gaps, conflicts, and confusion with their own principles that they then claim are clear biblical principles.  I challenge Maria to write out some clear principles for modern society, particularly political principles, and see if all other bible believers believe she has it right.  If it worked without dispute then I could agree that the bible has enduring principles.  I’m not even going to argue if those principles are worthy of following or not,  since it can clearly be questioned if there are clear and enduring principles in there to even discuss consistently.

What do we do without God’s law?  Are freedom and law in opposition?  We have human law and it depends on which societies we live in as to what that means.  Freedoms may be in opposition and we should work together to always improve human laws to balance our freedoms with our restrictions.  We shouldn’t infringe on others’ freedom or welfare without a justifiable reason in the interest of the public good.  There are basic examples such as speed limits for public safety, food inspectors, etc.

This was a typical article that seeks to say that we would be worse off and possibly in complete chaos without God’s law when that’s the furthest from the truth. We already have a much better system of human laws that can be changed and hopefully improved over time since the laws of the time of the bible.  It’s not a guarantee that we improve but at least the laws we create clearly identify the human needs in them with the motivations and benefits for having the law.  “God says so” is as meaningful as us saying “because I said so” to our own children.  I’ve done much better in teaching morality with human rules and laws with their human reasons for following them.

When you are wondering if you should or should not do something, actually think about who it might impact and the real ramifications if everyone did or didn’t do the very same thing at the same time across the world.  That simple thought exercise will guide you much more clearly than most anything written in the bible.

I’m a Rebellious Son

Sins are defined as a violation of God’s will. I’m a rebellious son for not keeping the Christian faith of my parents and for continuously rejecting their beliefs. Sometimes I do drink and engage in gluttonous behaviors. Therefore, I would be stoned to death as a sinner and rebellious son if our laws were based on the Bible. I’m in clear violation of God’s will defined by Deuteronomy 21:18-21. What if our lawmakers actually took the Bible literally including passages like these? It’s not hard to imagine this type of nonsense when one actually presents himself as a true believer in a morality defined by the ravings of our primitive ancestors.

Read the Huffington Post article: Charlie Fuqua, Arkansas Legislative Candidate, Endorses Death Penalty For Rebellious Children In Book

I sent my mom this article and her only reply to it so far is “I don’t think so…” I should hope she actually knows this aspect of God’s will should be ignored even if she believes in God. I’m really glad my parents didn’t think like Mr. Fuqua when I was a child. I may not have been stoned because they tell me I wasn’t a bad kid, but what about my brother or my sister? They were rebellious children and maybe they would have been stoned to death. Well, maybe not my sister since apparently the Bible only wants to kill sons for this crime against their parents.

God’s will is supposed to be the eternal definition of absolute morality. If a believer asks me to stone their rebellious son to death to “purge the evil from among you” then I will be sinful yet again when I refuse to participate in such nonsense. I can’t imagine applying this rule to my own children. I’m glad very few people define their morality with the Bible even though believers claim they do. Some of them also claim our country’s laws trace back directly to the “wisdom” of those crazy ancestors of ours. Read every word of the Bible if you think it is full of nothing but wisdom. I have read it and that’s why I no longer believe in it.

I assume my mom’s next reply to my email is that she doesn’t follow the old laws of the Old Testament as a Christian. She’s given me that advice before. However, if you believe that God’s will is the eternal definition of absolute morality then either it’s not eternal or it’s not absolute.

If God changes his will over our passage of time then how do I know that somebody else’s writing today aren’t superseding the written word of the Bible? Maybe the ravings of some random agnostic such as myself is now the current communication of God’s will. The Bible is an old snapshot in time so we should be looking for the latest version of God’s will if it isn’t eternal.

If God’s will isn’t an absolute standard of morality and it is actually subjective, then what does that say about a morality defined by God’s will? If it is subjective then we are left to define morality based on the situation at hand. There is no purpose or requirement for the existence of God’s will to define morality for us. Human standards of morality are a more expansive and useful set of standards that are adaptable for the modern world. The passage of time and continued evolution of human societies continue to expose the Bible and all other religious teachings as simply the ancient fictions of our primitive ancestors based on their views of the world. I don’t want to live my life based on primitive views.

The answers we’re looking for can’t be found with our ancestors. They’re not better than us at understanding the universe we live in. The universe has yet to reveal to us the true first cause and origin of our existence. Currently, unknown IS the answer. Unknown may always be the answer for us simple humans. We need to just live together as humans instead of fighting each other over what we imagine to be the answers to these potentially unanswerable questions and dreams of an eternal existence and power for ourselves that is merely an illusion born out of our fear of death.

It is because of this belief in our lack of knowledge and my faith in the real truth about it all that reveals itself to me in agnosticism that I’m a rebellious son. Sorry, it just doesn’t feel right in the core of my being to believe in any of the gods my fellow humans try to sell me. I’m an agnostic and the one thing I’m sure of is that we don’t know.

Billy Graham’s Prayer For Our Nation

My mother forwarded yet another religious spam email. This one was titled Billy Graham’s Prayer For Our Nation and ends with a call for a return to “One Nation Under God”. According to Snopes it isn’t from Billy Graham but that doesn’t really matter much regarding the intent of the email. The general text of the email sent to me is in that Snopes article if you’re interested.

Taken on face value as simply human values what does most of these items have to do with anything written in the Bible and a supposed dictated word of God? Does that book really give an exact recipe for a Christian-only government and such things as the nuances between a government sponsored form of charity and an overly dependent welfare system that is detrimental to society? The Bible does say certain things are punishable by death (usually a stoning) so how is the killing of an abortionist contrary to the general morality of the Bible? I do believe in the wisdom and values of the forefathers of this country but they didn’t create One Nation Under God as this email implied. Kenneth Davis had a good article on CNN recently about this. One Nation is inclusive and Under God is exclusionary so this phrase never made any sense to me.

Look at this fantasy art piece I came across while searching for information about One Nation Under God. I found this to be hilarious because the artist honestly believes in Jesus as the origin of our government and the Constitution for the people even though the Constitution has zero mentions of God, Jesus, or any creator reigning over “We The People”. It is a great visual depiction of what a Christian nation would be if one existed because the Constitution would have dictated the leadership of God and Jesus over the People as central to the government with a setup for worship and fidelity to that specific structure. This contrasts to the actual setup we have of a self-governing organization of checks and balances that were an attempt to protect individual liberties and societal justice instead of defining an exact and unchanging morality dictated by a religious leadership under the direction of One Nation under One God and following the literal word of the Bible as the rule of law.

Oh well, most people get these emails and just say it sounds good and it matches with the feel-good things they think they believe. This is cotton candy for the mind that reinforces “God is good, humans are evil, and we should listen to the God-believing humans to tell us how to think and what we should do with our resources.” The same goes true for politics and I wish people wouldn’t consider themselves Republicans or Democrats even if politicians are doing it. We should actually think for ourselves without labels while expecting the same from our political leaders. If we really had One Nation Under God in practice we could have just one political party because the religious right version of the Republican Party would be the only one true party needed under God.

Instead, since we are in practice a country of E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One) then we really should have more choices and parties representing our political beliefs and all of the variations in the reality of humanity. It seems like we’ve been reduced down to a country of Out of Two, One with one side of that really pushing One Nation Under God to kick out the views of the other half of the two.

Bertrand Russell’s Decalogue

I added Bertrand Russell’s Liberal Decalogue to the Agnostic Universe online library. It’s a much better guide to morality than any religious writings I’ve read that usually cover obvious ethical viewpoints such as murder being a bad thing. Do we really need a god to tell us murder is bad?

Here is what an agnostic by the name of Bertrand Russell wrote in 1951, as good a year to write down words to live by as anything written 2166-440 BC or 50-95 AD:

1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.

2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.

3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.

4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.

5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.

6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.

7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.

9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.

10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.