Monday, April 25, 2016

Can Our Flawed Human Nature Be Changed?

If human nature as a whole were capable of change, then Zeus, the ruler god of all gods in Greek mythology (by Homer, probably 2,900 years ago), wouldn't behave exactly like former President Bill Clinton. Zeus cheated on his wife Hera, seduced every maiden he could lay his hands on - using every trick and lie he could think of - and gleefully drove Hera insane with jealousy. Hera abused and wreaked vengeance on all who took Zeus's affections from her, or who got in the way. Hello, Hillary Clinton. 

Likewise, President Richard Nixon behaved like Richard III in Shakespeare's play. Even after Nixon won his landslide second-term victory in 1972, he acted in paranoid, wounded, and vengeful ways that eventually brought down his entire presidency. His enemies in the Democratic Party and national press behaved just like the raging crowds depicted in plays written in ancient Greece, Rome, and Europe, right up to our present day. 

The social media mobs of Facebook, Twitter, and use the same tactics and methods to threaten and destroy people that we've seen since humankind invented the first alphabets. The mobs rebelled against Moses, called for the release of the murderer Barabbas, and the crucifixion of Jesus. They fueled the witch hunts and the Inquisition of the past. 

Every person who ever lived recognized at one time or another that our human weaknesses must be dealt with, and that we're flawed beings; prone to rage, greed, vindictiveness, violence, and sloth. Among other things. 

No wonder, then, that we want a better world. But how? Childhood education has been worked, reworked, and reformed, since time immemorial, to weed out anti-social behavior at the outset, before it could become habitual. How's that working out for us?

Most of our world politics is socialist and communist, consumed with and dedicated to social justice (actually social engineering), which promises that human flaws can be trained, bred, or punished out of us. Over two-hundred years ago, beginning with the French Revolution, radicals threw out religion, believing it was the cause of human suffering. The results they sought never appeared, and a descent into mob rule and mass murder abated only with the dictator Napoleon. When he collapsed, France reverted to the monarchist and Catholic country it was before. 

Karl Marx, through his pamphlet The Communist Manifesto, succeeded in provoking a string of bloody communist revolutions throughout Europe in 1848-49, known as the Springtime of the Peoples. Every one of these upheavals promised peace, prosperity, justice, and a better life. But they all began and ended violently, collapsing within a year (Link)

Great Britain was the only European nation that didn't suffer revolution, due to her strong emphasis on individual human rights, Protestant religion, the rule of law, veneration for Queen Victoria, and the rising middle class of prosperous citizens with social mobility. Charles Dickens brilliantly chronicled the hunger and suffering of the poor, and was rewarded with great wealth. Countless charities were formed to relieve or mitigate poverty. 

The siren song of social "leveling" sung by Marx had been tried once before, during and after the English Civil War (1642-51) (Link). The war's provocateur, Oliver Cromwell, chopped off King Charles the First's head and ruled as a dictator until 1658, producing mayhem and misery unparallelled in British history up until then. 

Ironically, Marx found refuge in Britain, and lived there for 34 years. It was the only country with genuine rule of law; and where he was free to speak, publish, drink, and sponge off his followers. 

You would think by now the alluring tune of Marxist/socialists - with only centuries of failure to show for their efforts - would be ignored. But you'd be wrong. Now labelled Progressivism, it flourishes. Most recently Venezuela's late dictator, Hugo Chavez, engineered a Marxist coup that overthrew the elected government. Chavez handed out money to everyone he liked and while the money lasted, people were happy. But when he died of cancer the bankrupt state slid into chaos. Chavez's hand-picked successor, Maduro, is a clueless bully. Today Venezuela is in a state of collapse (Link).

Tragically, the one proven system that has never failed as long as the rule of law prevailed - free markets run by free people - is under constant attack by Progressives. Why? Because it closes off the possibility of dictatorship. Free peoples periodically desire changes and adjustments in their politics, and old power-hungry politicians are voted out of office. Tyrants hate this flushing action which removes waste and fraud. 

So what has changed in all of civilization's tumultuous existence? The wheel of history proves that, "what goes around comes around." We're stuck in an endless global cycle of repetition, and only the names, places, and costumes have changed. Funny how prophetic the Hindus have been in describing their Wheel of Life (Link). They see no beginning or end, except for the individual, who can escape by awakening to it.  

This is what the Western Tradition of Judeo-Christianity offers. Permanent escape from death and misery. But you and I must act alone to seek God and escape. We can help each other, but we can do it even without human assistance by acting with love, charity, forgiveness, and generosity (Link)

                     Homer, writer of The Iliad and the Odyssey, whose 
                         insights into human behavior dazzle us today. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Why Is Judeo-Christianity Different From Other Religions?

Buddha (who lived between the 6th to 4th Centuries B.C.E.) sought to eliminate human suffering caused by ignorance and craving. He discouraged speculation about life after death, saying, "It is like asking where the flame went when it is blown out." He believed such speculation led people into fruitless arguments and power struggles. 

Buddhism teaches its followers to meditate and cleanse the mind of "desire, aversion, and delusion"; to achieve "stillness of mind", or Nirvana (literally "blown out").  (Link)

Hindus believe there are many gods, and they worship those they like as guides for their future incarnations. While they believe in a unifying creator, Brahman, they also believe this creator is unknowable. Because Brahman is expressed through all creation, you can worship creation.  (Link)

Muslims believe in many tenets of the Jewish Old Testament, but consider Jews apostates, or deniers of the one God, Allah (literally "the God"). They believe Christians also are apostates, and say Jesus was not the son of God, and was not crucified or resurrected. Jesus was only one of many messengers sent by Allah. (Link)

While the majority of Muslims are peaceful, the modern resurgence of Islam's Sharia Law (Link) is drenching the world in blood. Sharia is merciless and extreme. Thieves have hands chopped off. Adulterers, deniers of faith, or those who become members of other religions are stoned to death, hung, or have their heads chopped off. Sharia dictates that only devout Muslims such as the Sunnis or Shi'ites will be given salvation and Paradise. Ironically, Sunnis and Shi'ites each consider the other to be apostates, and violators of Sharia, so they've been at war since Islam (literally "submission") started, in the mid 7th Century. Today, ISIS is a Sunni army, and Al Qaeda is Shi'ite.  
The Muslim Paradise, Jannah, is purely material, a Garden of Eden, that guarantees all the pleasures we have known on earth. Sixty virgins are the reward for jihadist martyrs.

Judeo-Christians believe that the Creator of the Universe is knowable, and wants us to know Him. He favors those who seek Him, like Jacob (Genesis 32:22) and Job (The Book of Job). We are rewarded and brought into God's presence when we question the meaning of our existence, mourn for those who are suffering - including ourselves - and plead with God for answers. The word Israel means "who prevails with God". (Link)

Faithful Jews still wait for a promised Messiah, and don't believe Jesus was it, even though Jesus was Jewish. But they place a high value on laws, compassion, and love, which they believe are the primary aspects of God. Christians carry this a step further, and Jesus said the whole point of our existence was to, "Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37). 

These words from Jesus are unique among all religions, and would turn the world upside down if they were honored: "He that is greatest among you shall be your servant, and whoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted" (Matthew 23:11-12).

Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). He asks us to worship the Creator, not the creation, which is beneath us. The Christian heaven is far beyond the material world, and infinitely more fulfilling; an eternal existence of joy, love, peace, glory, and honor. (Link)

Who will be going to heaven? Those who seek it, and who do God's will. What is God's will? Everyone who believes in God must find out for themselves what God wants them to do. Don't be concerned if you have neglected God previously. What you have done doesn't count. What you do from this day forward does count. A lot. 

To a group of worshipers at Solomon's Temple Jesus said, "There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go to work today at the vineyard.'
'I will not', he answered. But later he changed his mind and went.
"Then the man went to the other son and said the same thing. Then the son answered, 'I will, sir.' But he did not go.  
"Which of the two did their father's will?"
'The first', they answered. 
"Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God ahead of you. For John [the Baptist] came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him. But the tax collectors and prostitutes did..." (Matthew 21:28). (Link)

We are all different, and even when we agree on the nature of God, our personal gifts, talents, temperaments, and skills equip us to do different things. The above is a road map for you to choose which path to take. Know that the stakes are huge, nothing less than your existence through eternity. 

                               The words of Jesus regarding the End Times,  Matthew 24:3