Emotions, Sins, and Virtues

A Christian view of ethics defines a set of thought crimes claimed to be the seven deadly sins. This ultimate list of the most evil emotions have seven virtues to counter them and guide Christian lives. Here’s the apparent do’s and don’ts for being emotionally right:

Vice : Virtue
Lust : Chastity
Gluttony : Temperance
Greed : Charity
Sloth : Diligence
Wrath : Patience
Envy : Kindness
Pride : Humility

Religions oversimplify their fictional guidance and it’s usually easy for me to see huge flaws in their charlatan sales pitches now that my mind isn’t clouded by blind faith. Hidden underneath this obvious attempt at controlling human behavior are some of our most basic emotions. These real emotions are as much a part of our humanity as the molecules that make up our bodies. Where’s the love, laughter, and overall happiness in this scheme? Where’s the healthy fear of dangerous situations that kicks in for the self-preservation and continuation of our species? Where’s the positive side of feeling anger at perceived injustices that drives us to act in defense of others?

I can look at this list and see some right in the vices and wrong in the virtues because emotions aren’t this simple. Would it really be bad if my desire for my wife or any woman is on the lustful end of the spectrum? Unleashing wrath against people that are screwing over others usually improves the situation. The religious didn’t stick to patience in World War II. Too much charity can promote dependency on the givers and isn’t a virtuous situation in the long term. The caregiver could abuse people’s dependency and that might be the real motivation for religions to promote charity. The thought often crosses my mind every time I see religions spreading their message through charitable acts.

The Christian sins and virtues try to tell us how much of an emotion we should have and where on the scale we should have them. Emotions aren’t this simple and the main flaw here is thinking they come from some higher order act of creation instead of from our most basic biology. Ekman’s list of six basic emotions is: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise. A newer classification list from Plutchik lists eight primary bipolar emotions which blend into additional emotions on a wheel of emotions: joy versus sadness; anger versus fear; trust versus disgust; and surprise versus anticipation.

Love and awe are emotions built from the more basic animal emotions I see in my cat and dog. You would think our most basic desire is to keep experiencing good emotions and avoid the bad ones. However, doesn’t it sometimes feel good in our core to experience some of the generally bad emotions? Having just come out of Halloween it’s easy to point out that we do seek out the excitement of fear and sometimes find humor in disgust. I can find good and bad in each emotion depending on the situations we experience them in considering the full spectrum of human emotions and life situations.

The seven deadly sins aren’t deadly and they aren’t as clearly negative as the label of sin might suggest. The same holds true for the supposed virtues. Our emotions are complex and we each have to struggle with how we feel them and what we do with those feelings. The only thing I know is that each emotion isn’t permanent as they come and go. I think we can change how we feel and how they impact our overall moods because what we do helps impact which emotions we encounter. I think love and joy can be emotions we choose to build up in ourselves from our more basic emotions coming from the choices we make. Happiness has nothing to do with religions and gods and has everything to do with what we do with our own bodies and minds.

I may not know exactly how or why existence came to be, but it’s obvious from my observations that we’re naturally emotional creatures lacking any specific natural disposition for our emotions. Agnosticism should lead you to question the guidance and motives of anybody claiming special knowledge that we were created as sinners and their beliefs are needed to become virtuous.

Self Awareness Experiencing the Universe

This is a really cool thing to think about…

self-awareness

It’s breathtaking to consider:
You have two eyes, each composed of 130 million photoreceptor cells. In each one of those cells, there are 100 trillion atoms – that’s more than all the stars in the milky way galaxy.

However, each atom in each cell in each eye formed in the core of a star, billions of years ago, and yet, here they are today, being utilized to capture the energy released from that same process.

All to expand the consciousness that is YOU.

The universe has an interesting sense of irony, in that you are the universe experiencing itself – All you are is a thought.

My atoms will return to the universe around me when I pass away. I’ve borrowed them for only a human lifetime but the atoms aren’t mine to keep. My thoughts may just dissipate into the ether… like tears in rain… These thoughts remind me of the beautifully sad Blade Runner soliloquy:

I’ve… seen things you people wouldn’t believe… [laughs] Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those… moments… will be lost in time, like [coughs] tears… in… rain. Time… to die…

I Fell From The Sky

I sometimes joke that I wasn’t born and that I mysteriously fell from the sky one day. It’s a bit of a play on the tall tales like the stork bringing babies or finding them in cabbage patches. I sometimes tell my children that they also fell from the sky and I think I do that because it makes it sound like they’re more unique than a simple combination of me and their mother. However, they definitely have characteristics and traits of us in them that let me know they are clearly a product of our physical human bodies. They don’t have their own spark of life and humanity that is completely separate and apart from us. If I were to imagine that the essence of our being was something supernatural like a soul then I would imagine they wouldn’t adhere to a physical ancestry like I see in my family.

I have to rely on the universe around me for any clues it may reveal concerning the truth in what my fellow humans tell me. I’m told by some people that we have an eternal soul, but then our personalities appear to be dependent on our genetics. Our individual creations are physical and the idea of our souls always existing doesn’t match what I’ve experienced. I can’t take any stories from my ancestors as an unquestionable truth just as everyone that comes after me shouldn’t take my words as an absolute truth regardless of how many or how few people concur with any of it at the time. Eventually the real knowledge may be found and believed for what it is.

The Scientific Method

I trust in the scientific method more than faith for the simple fact that it seeks to let reality speak for itself in determining what should be considered knowledge. Where religion demands unquestioning faith, the scientific method supports a theory only when its predictions can be confirmed and will challenge a theory when its predictions prove false. The scientific method has characterized natural science since the 17th century and consists of systematic observation, measurement, and experiment leading to the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses. A hypothesis is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon that could be right or wrong. This is in stark contrast with a religious assertion of truth that insists it’s right simply because it’s based on a religious belief.

Think: Can you accurately describe the builders for the underside of the exterior of your home and what they think of the current occupants by examining the carpet under your feet?

We’re still very primitive in our understanding of the universe and how it works. I’m not here to say there are easy answers to any of our questions. We’re far from knowing and understanding everything about this universe and anything that could be beyond it or before it. Not having these kinds of answers from science or anywhere else isn’t a good excuse for clinging to primitive myths in place of what we don’t know.

Modern humanity doesn’t possess the full knowledge of the universe as it exists or how it was created. We know much more now than we ever have, but only a fool would tell you they know everything there is to know. For example, human scientific theory for our first origin currently centers on the Big Bang theory. That theory doesn’t ultimately explain from what or why this existence could have occurred. It’s just a theory for how it all started and it was developed from the vantage point of existing inside this universe after the event occurred. It’s very difficult and potentially impossible to explain the root cause or source for the origin of the universe from this vantage point. We may never know the actual first origin because we weren’t there and we can’t currently view the universe from any other perspective than from inside it.