MR. NICE GUY

As a result of the unwavering nature of most religions and the fact that there is more than one perspective of God, we have feared, and fought, and killed each other over our beliefs. I recently engaged in fairly flaccid challenging of loved ones’ declarations regarding the condemnation of others by God to an eternity of suffering. This soft approach was dually motivated. I do not want to alienate my loved ones. But more importantly, debating would not seem to change minds. It only renders a winner and a loser. The loser is not likely to change his or her mind as a result of the loss. In fact, when it comes to a thing like religion, something that requires a certain amount of faith, such a loss may only require an individual to strengthen his or her faith. Logic which defies a religion’s beliefs becomes the enemy of the religion no matter how logical it may seem. It is this process that causes a thing like evolution to continue to be dismissed by many as simply a theory.

I was at our state capitol this weekend when I witnessed a man yelling at the people walking by. His message was clear and was one I heard many times before: “If you don’t believe what I believe, you will be punished for an eternity.” I disagreed with what he was doing, but loved him for his willingness to engage in this public display which seemed to alienate the people passing by in an effort to save them from having to experience the pain he believed they would inevitably experience. The man engaged me very briefly and handed me a pamphlet entitled “ARE YOU A GOOD PERSON?”. A video version of the pamphlet can be found here: https://youtu.be/TCSUKIhjevo.

The title, “ARE YOU A GOOD PERSON?”, is founded on what I believe to be a falsehood, the idea that there are “good” and “bad” people. I’ve theorized that empathy is the source of morality. Mirror neurons in our brains cause us to feel empathy. As this part of my brain does not distinguish between my pain and someone else’s pain, doing to you is very much like doing to myself. Without empathy, we could feel free to engage in completely selfish behavior. But people often engage in selfish behavior anyway. This is because personal history tends to define perspective. And perspective defines justification. Justification may work to counteract empathy. One common form of this is revenge: “You hurt me, so I’m justified in hurting you.” Or better, “You hurt an innocent, so I’m justified in hurting you.” Does revenge make one a “bad” person? In many parts of the world, this is called “justice”. This topic could take up chapters. The bottom line is that morality is relative. The idea that there are “good” and “bad” people divides us against each other via fear and a feeling of superiority.

The pamphlet/book goes on to condemn the main character, “MR. NICE GUY”, for being human: “HAVE YOU EVER TOLD A LIE?…HAVE YOU EVER STOLEN ANYTHING?…HAVE YOU EVER LOOKED AT SOMEONE WITH LUST?…HAVE YOU EVER CURSED GOD’S NAME?” The pamphlet/video proceeds to tally up MR. NICE GUY’s “SINS” and present them to a judge(God). It says God won’t forgive Mr. NICE GUY. But wait, the rules God is said to have put in place leave a loophole. The only way he could be forgiven is “IF A SINLESS PERSON OFFERED TO TAKE” his “PUNISHMENT…”. This would be “JUSTICE”. It would be “JUSTICE” to have an innocent person die for MR. NICE GUY’s wrong-doing… So God sent his son to die for Mr. NICE GUY. That’s right, the rules of the world God created require God to have his innocent son die so that MR. NICE GUY doesn’t have to be tortured for an eternity. For God so loved the world that he required an innocent man to die in the place of those who he deemed deserving of an eternity of pain and proceeded to send a majority of them to this tormentous afterlife anyway?
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As illogical as this may seem to many of us, this pamphlet/video is based on the story which works as the foundation for many people’s beliefs.

So what can we do to put an end to this battle, this judgment and anger over others’ beliefs and their actions as a result of their beliefs? We just have to keep loving them. One is more likely to alter his or her perspective as a result of a loved one’s opinion. So let’s tell them what makes sense to us, not because we know we are right, but because we love them and want them to be able to be motivated by love instead of fear.

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Which Box?

We humans like to see the world as one painted in black and white. Things are either completely one way or they are the opposite. There is no ambiguity or middle ground. This absolutist nature tends to inspire a sense o control. We can anticipate future events as a result of our complete understanding of the world around us. But these simplistic views of our world pit us against each other. If your absolute perspective of the world differs from my absolute perspective of the world, only one of us can be right. By definition, theists and atheists hold fundamental oppositions. The Website at http://dictionary.reference.com defines “Theism” as “noun – 1. the belief in one God as the creator and ruler of the universe, without rejection of revelation (distinguished from deism ). 2. belief in the existence of a god or gods (opposed to atheism ).” Likewise, the site defines “Atheism” as “noun – 1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God. 2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.” We apply to others and subscribe to these absolute labels regarding our perspectives on the existence of a higher power. An apparent middle ground for many would seem to be “Agnosticism”. But “Agnostic” is defined by the same site as “noun – 1. a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.” This “middle ground”, which deals with the topic of knowledge, would seem even more firm than the two extremes before it which deal with belief. The two perspectives, Atheism and Theism, would seem to look to very different places for answers to life’s questions. For Theists, the answer is often an easy one. If we can’t understand it, God made it so. According to Karl Marx, “Religion is the impotence of the human mind to deal with occurrences it cannot understand.” On the other side of things, Atheist generally rely on logic to understand how things come to be in our world. If we can’t understand it, we don’t understand the process of cause and effect that caused it to be. My question is why must these two thought processes exist in opposition? If a higher power created the world as we know it, the cause and effect processes with which we are familiar are products of his/her/it’s creation. If the world in which we live is solely responsible for every beautiful thing on our planet, is it not, in a way, a god? It would seem like we are using different words to describe the same things and arguing over our correctness in our chosen words. When the people of our world paint the two philosophies as a choice:
Which box
the reality of perspectives held by people who adhere to the two would seem much more like this:
Which box2.

HMED

As a heterosexual male of European descent, I find myself a part of a very unique minority group. The group to which I belong has, in recent history, run our country. The United States was founded by heterosexual males of European descent and those belonging to this culturally defined group of people have historically been privileged above all others. This privilege has inspired the spawning of numerous interest groups. In the name of equality, groups for women’s rights, LGBT rights, and ethnic minority rights, have all come forward to make their voices heard, demanding rights for the minority group to which they belong. Shows like Latino USA focus on how global issues affect individuals who belong to specific minority groups. The group to which I belong can be classified as a minority group only because belonging to this group means one is not socially permitted to demand privilege for himself solely because he belongs to this group. Further, belonging to this group has often meant being blamed for the oppression of members of other socially defined groups. In the words of Ben Folds, “It wasn’t my idea”.

Although the goal of most interest groups would seem to be a level playing field, these groups would seem to largely be concerned with their being treated fairly and not equality on a universal scale. Further, this forming of interests groups according to the socially predefined classifications of people in our society would seem to support ideas that we are different, that certain people need more assistance to achieve. There is evidence to support the idea that we are living in a society that still favors people like me. It is thought by some that the history of our country requires that we now pay privilege to those who were once oppressed. Programs formed in the pursuit of equality, like Affirmative Action, have historically imposed racial and gender quotas on college admissions and employment. This kind of policy places a person’s socially defined classification over his or her ability and merit. The path to equality is not to give anyone preferential treatment. This preference instills the idea that we are different.

It could be argued that preferential treatment for certain socially defined groups is needed for a limited time in order to level the playing field. But this division of the human race we have so readily adopted will only work to instill belief in these made up classifications. In the end, we cannot change the world for the better by implementing regulation. We can only change the world by changing hearts. Forced repression will only work to strengthen an idea. But numerous individual acts of love will change the world for the better. The way to change the world is to stop telling others what they can and can’t do and start trying to be the change we want to see in the world.