The Human Condition

Should we really be all that impressed with who we are as a species? I’m not even joking! If there is anything that is painstakingly clear it is that humans have a nature not all that different from animals. For instance, think about how territorial we are as a species. As much of a fan that I am of moral progress we cannot deny our inherent distrust for others, as well as our hatred of change. This is not to deny that we have a unique capacity to recognize the consequences of our actions, but we also possess an interesting naivety and tendency toward what has now developed into centuries of irrational behavior.

Christianity labels this as the sinful or fallen nature of human beings. However, this just doesn’t really fit the bill. Especially when we realize that the mythical Yahweh was a prime instigator of national dominance in the form of violent takeover of surrounding nations. I bring out these examples because unfortunately this inherent distrust that we have for others has often aided our own survival in spite of the wars and violence that it has also produced. It is a kill or be killed attitude that is not all that different from the thirst for dominance that lions and tigers and bears have, oh my!

Please note that I am not advocating murder and violence to continue as a the silent virtue that it seems to have been to spread our species all over the world and to advance in every conceivable way possible. Since we now have this capacity to understand how irrational these behaviors are in and of themselves, perhaps it is the time in our evolution to see humanity as the one tribe that we are, or rather can be?

It used to be that the population would grow and naturally groups of people would splinter off and charge forward into a different territory. The result of these differing territories and isolation from other people groups made coming back together an impossibility due to language, religious, and/or irreconcilable cultural differences that were not understood as universally normative.

There are two things that are bringing humans back together into one tribe, and there are two things that will continue to drive a wedge between us all. The use of technology and the free trade that results from it is bringing humanity back together and it is encouraging us toward adopting universal standards of ethics toward one another. Secondly, the use of the reason and science that has developed this technology is increasingly tearing down the barriers of ignorance that we have about our universe as well as ourselves. These things are consistently working toward bringing humanity to a unified understanding of the world.

The two things that will continually drive a wedge between humans of every ethnicity and culture is religion and politics. Religion no matter how we package it is inherently divisive. Sure, religions may have a unified understanding when they stand alone, but as long as humanity remains shrouded in faith rather than reason the relational barriers will remain airtight. Dogmatic creeds and confessions create an unbending mindset against reason and working together. In all actuality it is a voluntary suspension of reason.

Politics are driven by a thirst for power and who should be in charge. As long as hunger for control of a certain territory is the main focus of every nation we can bet our bottom dollar that these ambitions will continue to divide humanity as well as fuel more wars. Fundamentalist Christians go absolutely berserk about the idea of a one world government! Why is this? It wouldn’t have anything to do with dogma would it? Yes, as long as Christians remain convinced that the rise of the Anti-Christ is around the corner to establish a one world government of false peace, it is only going to impede progress and piss a lot of people off in the process.

Religion and politics breed a fear of change and produce alleged solutions that are all too short reaching. Isn’t it time that we put our thinking caps on and let the world focus on changing the present, rather than fearing the hell and brimstone that we invented in the past?

How Should One Logically Face Death?

    What are the implications for believing that it is highly unlikely that we will continue to live on after death? After all, one of our strongest drives in life is the desire for self-preservation, right? Is it wrong to want hope? To want joy and bliss after we die? No, not at all. This is an innate fact of our humanity. We seek the highest comforts and joys in this life in order to survive and pass on ambition and drive for success to the next generation.

    If there is anything that evolution has equipped us well for, it is to have optimism for the future! We can go on and on about the advantages in having optimism, but let’s face it, when the rubber hits the road, most humans in their right minds despise the idea of dying. I know I do. Then, to press this issue a little further, we hate the idea of those we love so dearly dying as well. It is a most searing and direct consequence that we must face. What hurts the most is the immediate permanence of death upon our lives, and our minds. How do we deal with the unthinkable?

    To put it simply, we need to actually think long and hard about how we should approach death before it happens. A most ignorant thing to do is to not prepare for what will inevitably affect everyone one of us. Be it a loved one, a friend, or ourselves. The best way to counteract the unthinkable is to learn to accept it before it happens. So what are some things to keep in our arsenal of knowledge before death rears its ugly head? 1) Death is a natural stage that every living organism experiences. Death plays no favorites. From the smallest single celled organism to the most advanced animal on planet earth, (arguably humans at this juncture in time), death in a sense, is nature’s way of recycling the old matter and replacing it with new matter.

    2) Death itself affects us in whatever way we choose to approach it. If we approach death unexpectedly, without having given it a thought, we are in for a rude and devastating awakening! This is the sort of approach/ lack thereof that leads people into alcoholism and irrational violence toward others and themselves. If however, we choose to approach death positively by spending time with our dying loved ones and expressing our deepest love and affection for who they are, as well as all the wonderful memories that we have had with them, this is an objectively healthy approach to accepting the permanence of death when it comes. Emotional investment, whenever possible, is beneficial both for our dying friend, as well as for ourselves. It brings a conclusion to the story of some of our most valued and treasured relationships.

    3) Death alleviates suffering in the world. When we are living, breathing, capable people that can give a hand to those in need, it is without question that the same desire that drives us to avoid our own pain and suffering should be passed on to those less fortunate in this life. It is amazing how much science has helped progress our thinking about how to alleviate the suffering of ourselves as well as other animals. We can objectively see and understand the importance of helping life to flourish, it takes no Zoologist to understand that when a bird has a broken wing, we have the ability to mend it and allow that animal to naturally continue a healthy cycle of reproduction, aging, and eventually death. Apart from our own contribution to aiding the survival of our species as well as many others, we can also appreciate that when life has taken its toll on all of us, there is a natural escape root out of the suffering that would otherwise be inevitable to everyone. Whether it is disease, famine, or war, there is a limit to suffering. We can think of suffering as nature’s way of aiding that reality in order to allow us to finally cease, and once again return to the dust from which we came.

    Although there may not be a lot of reasons to invest our thinking in the notion that heaven exists, perhaps there is another way that we can come to appreciate the beauty of what nature does to propagate life in our universe. Life is cyclical, much like our universe. There is a time and a season for everything. By some astounding form of chance, we have all had the privilege to both live and die in this world. Since we realize how mysterious, majestic, and dare I say, fragile this possibility is, could this not give us reason to be thankful? A reason to not waste another minute on frivolity?

    Life is what we make of it. Whether we are born into poverty, or born into riches. Life and death play no favorites. We simply accept what we have been given from the previous generation and strive to live to our fullest potential within that paradigm, however it may unfold. Hopefully, along the way we have learned a few things such as: love, honor, loyalty, self-sacrifice, compassion, justice, honesty, courage, and respect. These things are sure to live on and benefit humanity even after we as a species cease to be.

The Erosion of Belief

    As I pointed out in my last post, it is an altogether fascinating thing in my mind as to what brings people in and out of belief in a supernatural God. Ultimately, I think I agree with the simple statement from many Christians that, “faith is a choice.” It is a choice that bears the weight of one’s eternal destiny in the mind of a believer. However, I think there is something very subtle that underpins this belief. The issue is not so much about one’s eternal destiny as it is actually about what someone desires both for themselves and for others.This is why I believe faith is a choice.

    After all, there are many positives about choosing faith in Evangelical Christianity. I am narrowing in on this brand of religion because it is the one I embraced seriously for many years. Prior to this I was raised Catholic, but the only thing I gathered from that was general belief in Jesus and God. Many of the positives that I saw starting up was a God that initiates a personal relationship, a loving community of believers to support me, and the excitement about being part of a worldwide movement of positive change.

    Christianity seemed to accomplish two great things in my mind, it made the present world a better place and it promised an even better one to come! Eternal life is a genius appeal to that part of every one of us that doesn’t want to simply suffer and cease to exist. Yet, could it also have the potential to cheapen what can be accomplished in the present? I’ll admit that I actually took the Sovereignty of God very much for granted by simply passing the buck to my unseen friend to alleviate suffering in the world.This is not to dampen the fire of any Christians that are doing a phenomenal job at feeding the hungry and clothing the poor, but my contention is that faith doesn’t seem to play a large role in getting droves of people involved. Faith just isn’t the only motivator to make a difference.

    All of that said, we shouldn’t just believe what we want to believe, should we? This of course doesn’t negate the freedom that each of us has to believe and practice whatever we want, but I am appealing to everyone’s deepest desire to know the truth. If we desire to know the truth then where is there room for faith? Faith as I have described in my first post is not substantiated by evidence. How does an assumption establish truth? How does it establish God?

    If the reality of the supernatural God of Christianity is so apparent then why the vast number of religions and philosophies throughout the world? There is seemingly no end to the number of ways human beings try to come to answers about what caused our universe and what place we have in it. I believe it is because we do not know. Yet in the desire to know we make up stories to fill in these gaps. If there is one thing that plagues us it is not having a concrete answer about the meaning and purpose to our existence.

    It is science and reason that helps us to begin to understand how the world and our minds actually work. Apart from this kind of objectivity we are left in the dark to wonder. Obviously people have spent thousands and thousands of years doing this. For instance: I think in large part that the concept of sin within religion can be explained because of God’s absence and utter silence in the world. Religion’s answer for God’s silence is that our sins separate us from God. We need only to repent and be restored, however even many believers are plagued by the silence of God still. I know I was.

    Do you know what the common answer was by my Pastors and leaders?  “You just need to pray and read your Bible more.” It is actually precisely this admonition that has dissuaded many people, including myself, out of religion. The reality for so many people in the world is that when they pray there is only silent indifference. The more often prayer is sought, the more often this silence is compounded in a persons mind. It ends up being a rather odd picture of a relationship doesn’t it? Isn’t the whole idea of being in relationship to another person the reality of a meaningful exchange that serves to only strengthen that bond? A relationship entails having shared experiences with another person, correct? This is why Evangelical Christianity ought to stop using this concept, it just doesn’t exist for those who believe.

    There are of course many people who actually think that they are speaking to God and that God is speaking to them. For that we need to beg the question, on what grounds do you know that God is communicating with you? For the vast majority of Christians it is because they think that God has answered their prayers in everyday circumstances. “Dear Lord, please help my son get accepted into such and such a college.” The son has a great grade point average and did a phenomenal job filling out his application for acceptance. He gets accepted and this is seen as a wonderful answer to prayer. Thank God, to him be the glory right?  

    Do we even need to mention folks who believe that they talk to God everyday? How do you know you are talking to God?  “I just know in the deepest part of my soul, you can too!” Really? These folks see the doubt in my face and say, “Oh my, God is telling me that you have a very hard heart, you refuse to hear his voice.” God really said that, did he? No, it’s not the fact that I am being honest about the reality that never have I heard or sensed anything even remotely spoken to me from the heavens.  

    The silence of God altogether is in itself a very strong evidence of His nonexistence. Some folks will say, “wait a minute, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Maybe during the process of a criminal investigation, sure, but in a system that claims to work but really doesn’t, yes. What I mean is that within Evangelical Christianity one is taught that their sins have separated them from God and that repentance and faith will bring forgiveness. This forgiveness gives birth to a relationship with God.

    As I was saying earlier, a relationship is shared between two people who have regular meaningful exchanges between each other. This is not the case of any Christian that I know of. The praying, talking, reading and devotion is only going one way. The best answer that Christianity can give is once again, “you just need to believe, God is there and He hears you.”

    Faith is not a form of knowledge. It is a lack of knowledge that stakes a claim on someone or something being there on the other side. God is not someone or something that even a professing believer can know. This is precisely why I no longer believe.

Why I Once Believed

    The process of what causes someone to believe or disbelieve in God and other supernatural claims is a fascinating subject to me. Every one of us would like to think that what we believe is objective, logical, and supported by the best evidence, right? My contention is that very rarely is anyone led into belief in a supernatural creator by reason and logic alone.

    For the overwhelming majority of individuals faith is passed on by one’s parents as well as by individuals that appear to have some authority and credentials on the subject. My challenge to those who espouse faith in a supernatural God is this: Let us imagine that someone is born into an environment that does not have access to a Bible, or any holy book for that matter. Not only that, but this person’s family and geographical society has also never learned about any supernatural God within their lifetimes. It is a society without any concept of God.

    What are the chances that this individual or group of individuals is going to come to the same conclusions that are advocated in the Bible or even the Koran apart from human intervention? Some folks will assert that surely a supernatural God would or could reveal Himself to these geographically godless individuals. The best evidence that I can present to counter this is the vast diversity of religious belief that spans our planet.

    Is it more likely that all of these religions have received a true revelation from God, or that primitive superstition is the main driving force? Not all of these individual claims of either one or many gods can be correct, right? If only one view is correct, how would one even begin to validate one faith based claim over thousands and thousands of others? The problem of unsubstantiated belief is not a small one and it is important to realize that faith based claims are altogether eroding in light of scientific fact and discovery.

    In a later post I plan to discuss the evidences for evolution and how it is driven by natural selection and gene mutation. Though there are many people who embrace evolution in conjunction to their faith I will attempt to demonstrate why life arising by natural means is without a need for a supernatural creator. It seems that a Naturalistic view of the world is the most consistent with reality.

    So why did I personally invest ten years of my life into believing in the God of Evangelical Christianity? Ultimately, it is because it was the most exciting and seemingly life transforming worldview to hold at the time. It wasn’t based on hard evidence or a desire to look deeply into the best criticisms of religion and the Bible. There was another factor that also deeply affected my belief and gave me false confidence for many years. It was the influence of teachers that encouraged me to believe in supernatural revelation and gifts that I could receive directly from God.

    To any new believer this can be a very exciting journey to begin! A God that wants to speak to me directly? A God whose presence I cannot deny? The creator of the universe wants to live in my heart and empower me to make a difference in the world? After a few months of joining this small church on the outside of town I thought I was on the verge changing the world through championing the gospel of Jesus Christ wherever I went.

    There seemed to be clear signs that God was working in my life. I remember a time shortly after my conversion at an evening prayer meeting where about fifteen people surrounded me after I requested prayer for God to empower me to be a witness to the kids at my local high school. I was inspired by this passage in Acts 1:8 where Jesus said, “And you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” It presented a vision of God empowering every believer to spread the good news with His powerful hand being behind it all. Who wouldn’t want to be part of such a mission?

    What affected me most about this moment was the powerful emotional experience that ensued as this group of loving people surrounded me in prayerful intercession. I felt a pleasant almost electrical energy wash over me from the top of my head and going down to my toes. It was like a wave of power and love and comfort. It brought me to tears. I thought this was the very presence of God himself uniting with my spirit to change the world. My life was seemingly forever changed by a very real God intersecting into my life and calling me to be one who would herald this message of hope to everyone I could!

    Over the years I had many similar experiences that all seemed to confirm the reality of Jesus living in my heart and guiding me to go into the ministry of preaching and teaching. Eventually I would realize what a monumental mistake it was to count these subjective experiences as somehow being evidence of God’s presence in my life. These experiences were never accompanied by a voice, a vision, or any objective evidence of any kind that God was actually there. I simply felt for a very long time that it was so. I even called it undeniable proof.

    It was a combination of my own life experiences and the stories of many others that would finally bring me to question my confidence. For instance, I came to realize that many religious and nonreligious people have had the same kind of experiences through practicing meditation. It is the very fact that such phenomena is common to human experience that has diminished my belief in special revelation. People have times of spiritual ecstasy at rock concerts, sporting events, religious ceremonies, and even during a romantic scene in a movie. It’s just part of being human!

    All of this paired with the reality that miracles do not actually happen served to bring me out of the delusion of the Charismatic movement that is sweeping across America. I’ll be honest, I held on for a year or so longer to Christianity after I moved away from subjective explanations. I thought that Christian Apologetics upheld the divine inspiration of the Bible and the miracles of Jesus being legitimate in light of the evidence. It turns out that all of the best evidence that can be given demands us to just have faith.

    I am here to express that to just have faith is not good enough! It shouldn’t be for any reasonable person. If there is a God then He has done a terrible job at making the truth easily discernable and a phenomenal job at keeping Himself hidden and vague. Without thousands of years of tradition doing the interpreting of the Bible, this book in and of itself is extremely vague about the nature of God, His will, and His purpose for humanity. Even in light of tradition there exists many irreconcilable divisions within Christianity as to what constitutes as orthodox teaching.    

    It is these kinds of inconsistencies that bear the hallmarks of it being a religion wholly contrived by people. Just like all other religions in the world. These are primitive beliefs about how to explain the universe and our existence. I personally think that we no longer have to be so naïve. May we remain open minded about wherever the truth may lead. It is religious dogma that impedes thoughtful discovery and moral progress. Many things are immoral Biblically simply because God said so, not because there is any objective evidence to justify these claims.

    Bertrand Russell had it right when he said, “Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes….A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men.”

The Next Ten Years

 

My name is Kalvin. I’m a small town guy with some big aspirations. I originally grew up in central Wisconsin, but have since lived in Minnesota during my college years and now in Austin Texas! Like many folks in their mid-twenties I’m still pinpointing how to define and practically work out my talents effectively. Up until recently I thought I had my vision for life figured out, and yet here I am to humbly say that I am back at square one.

Starting this blog is for me a way of expressing my desire begin a journey of being the kind of individual that inspires people to have a vision of life that will undeniably bring transformation in the present as well as last for generations. My vision to be a motivator of positive change and influence has not at all wavered, however my previous framework that was supposed to be my springboard into action so to speak has completely eroded from my mind.

What was the previous driving force for positive change you may ask? It was my former Christian faith that I held to very strongly for ten years, hence the title of my blog. Words can’t even describe how deeply affected I thought I was by the person of Jesus and the Bible’s alleged vision of grace. Grace was the one concept that I could not shake! I really bought the idea that the love that Christ displayed on the cross is undeniable. I thought that no open and objective mind was justified to say that this is not the highest form of love.

I won’t deny that there is still a small part of me that is attracted to the idea of a God who would suffer and die for His creatures. Also, I will never disagree that one of the highest forms of love we can express as human beings is an unconditional love for others that is demonstrated by a willingness to lay down our lives for our friends. The biggest contender that has now won out in my life is what I like to call reasonable nonbelief. My capacity to reason and test the claims that I once held so dearly has diminished faith as having any kind of role in discovering truth. Faith is admittedly an assumption that cannot be substantiated by evidence.

This post is just a taste of what is to come. In my future posts I plan to delve into what things brought me to believe in Christianity, as well as what things have recently eroded my belief in God and the supernatural. I also plan to work out what I believe to be the best motivators for positive change in light of my recent conclusions about the role of faith in my life. I welcome your feedback!

Do you agree that reason and faith are contradictory? Is faith really not able to be substantiated by evidence? Does anyone have a similar story, and what is your vision of life for the next ten years?