The Natural Standard for Social Conduct

What is your standard with regards to your conduct towards others?

There are many cultural standards.

Religious standards.

Civic organization standards.

Family standards.

Legal standards.

Is your standard based upon religious principles?

Is your standard based upon the principles of a civic organization?

Is your standard based upon family codes of conduct?

Is your standard based upon whether such is legal or illegal?

Perhaps the code for your personal conduct is based upon some other standard I have not listed.

I would like to suggest that in spite of the many different and various standards at our disposal, that there is; inherent to each every one of us, a basis for a universal standard for our social conduct.

The moment we are born we communicate consistently with regards to this standard as such applies to us, and soon thereafter we show an external application with regards to the same.

I daresay that so long as we are in our right minds, we never depart from this standard for our conduct.  Or shall I say that this natural standard never departs from us.

The standard that I reference is that which is based upon our seemingly inherent and most definitely natural aversion to discomfort of any degree whatsoever.

Every new born baby that cries is expressing a natural aversion to discomfort.

That discomfort may be the twinges in the gut of hunger, the dryness in the throat of thirst, the aches in the gut prior to a bowel movement, or may even be the discomfort of the soiled diaper after the fact.

That discomfort may be the feeling of being cold, may be the feeling of being too warm, may be the feeling of being tired, or may be the feeling of being alone.

Regardless:

Baby don’t like discomfort!!

Nor does ANYONE!!

As we develop, yet while still at an early age, most everyone eventually comes to feel a sensitivity towards the sufferings of another.  Even the sound of an animal in pain is the source of distress for most all of us, hence everyone at some point expresses the capacity to extend our natural aversion for discomfort to fellow beings.

Thus, a NATURAL standard is formed for our social conduct before we even deliberate the matter.

That standard being: It is naturally BAD for others to suffer, for the simple reason that it is naturally BAD for me to suffer.

It seems to me that upon examination, every standard which is a good standard is compliant to  this NATURAL standard.

In fact, I daresay that all standards for social conduct should be regulated by this natural standard.

For example, if a person goes by a standard that allows people to torture or be tortured, then that standard fails as a proper standard for that person’s conduct.

Or let us say that a person lives by a standard that allows people to suffer in poverty without being assisted while in their time of need, then that standard likewise fails as a proper standard for that person’s conduct.

Why?

Because:

It is naturally BAD for others to suffer, for the simple reason that it is naturally BAD for me to suffer.

Speaking for myself, I live by (or at least to live by) the following code of conduct:

  1. I attempt to avoid causing anyone undue suffering.
  2. I regard anything that does not cause others undue suffering as “right” (or at least “all right”)

For me, the question is never “is it legal”.

For me, the question is never “is is scriptural”.

For me, the question is always “will anyone suffer”.

Therein lies my code of conduct.

What’s in your conscience?

Dave Henderson

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An Atheist Analyzes Acts (Introduction)

Growing up in the Church of Christ; the primary book of the Bible which somewhat underpinned our faith was the Canonical book of Acts of the Apostles. (aka: Acts).  Every Campbellite kid (a fellow “COC’er” will get the Campbellite reference) grows up learning about the Acts of the Apostles, and in particularly the Missionary Journeys of the beloved Apostle Paul.  I daresay if there were but one book of the Bible at the disposal of the Church of Christ (COC), the book of Acts would suffice to establish the rudiments of our doctrine.

Routine references to certain select passages; many in the book of Acts, are second nature to a Campbellite.  For example, just recently a loved one was in the hospital.  When I went to visit my acquaintance, I learned that he was in Room 238.  I IMMEDIATELY referenced his Room number in my mind to Acts 2:38; which amounts to a COC slogan:  “Repent and be baptized”.  The reference is so universally understood among my fellow Campbellites that even an average member of the COC knows these words, and most can cite the reference as well as quote the words.

Recently I have been studying the book of Acts.  It is amazing how a change of perspective can alter one’s hermeneutic!  It is like examining a house from inside a room, then stepping outside and assessing the edifice from across the street.  The last time I really studied the book of Acts I was still a fundamentalist Christian.  I perused the pages through the filter of faith.  Now I assess Acts as an Atheist who studies so as to analyze and assess without feeling the need to believe in the deeds or the doctrines recorded therein.  I find the experience enlightening.

There are many questions which come to mind now which I simply do not recall ever pondering in the past.  There are likewise many theories I now think on that I never would have postulated in years gone by.

For example, I now wonder why it was so important as recorded in the very first chapter to replace Judas Iscariot as the 12th Apostle, when the Apostles themselves seem to have played very little role in church history, at least per the book of Acts.  And I furthermore wonder why the Holy Spirit was given in such dramatic fashion to the Apostles in Chapter Two, yet for the most part of Acts the Spirit seems to have been primarily for Paul’s benefit.  I likewise ask myself why Jesus gave such a detailed dialogue to the Apostles about sending the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth, when in fact Paul seems to claim that privilege for himself.  I even wonder why Jesus did not merely foretell Paul instead of foretelling the Holy Spirit.

Then again, I wonder about such things as the dispute over the distribution of food to the Gentile widows as recorded in Chapter Six.  Was this historic, or is this symbolic I wonder?  And if symbolic, why is it the Gentiles who seem to be deprived, when history indicates that the poor Priests among the Jewish faith were deprived of food by the High Priests who were consorting with the Roman government?  Is this not a symbolic story which reverses the facts, I ask myself?  And why would such a reversal of the actual events be so portrayed, I ask myself?

I also wonder about the stoning of Stephen, as recorded in Chapter 7.  Odd that Acts would record the stoning of a relative unknown named Stephen, yet completely ignores the stoning of James, the brother of Jesus and Bishop of the church in Jerusalem, when that historic event occurred precisely where the book of Acts ends.  Why this omission I wonder?  Also, is it not odd that Josephus, the Jewish Historian, records the words of the dying James as being the same as those of Stephen, as well as those in fact likewise of Jesus as he hung on the cross?  Could in fact the stoning of Stephen actually be referencing the stoning of James the Just, I wonder?  If so, why change the identity of the victim?  And why change the time frame? Is there a reason that Luke (allegedly the author of Acts) would want to deter his readers from looking too deeply into the events surrounding the stoning of Stephen, I wonder?  Are there elements of the execution of James the Just that Luke would rather keep hidden?  Is this the reason why Luke did not record the stoning of James, if in fact he did not do so?

(I just reread the last few paragraphs and envisioned my dear cousin in Idaho who says that “I think too much” either rolling around on the ground laughing or banging his head against the wall saying “Don’t think so much!  Don’t think so much!”.   My beloved cousin is COC also)

These are but a few of the questions relative to my study of the book of Acts which I have been pondering and considering.

As to my theories (which are admittedly a work in process), I shall be sharing those one post at a time over this next year.

A detailed study and skeptical review of the book of Acts is my New Year’s Resolution for 2015.

Happy New Year’s everyone!!!

Dave Henderson

The Twelve Years of Christmas

There are two Canonical accounts of the birth and early childhood of Jesus.

By Canonical of course I mean texts that are deemed worthy of inclusion in the Bible per the standards of the Catholic scribes who composed such in the 4th Century CE.  There are several Infancy gospel accounts, but only those of Matthew and Luke met the approval of the Bible composers. I myself am somewhat partial to the Gospel of Thomas. Thomas relates several fanciful boy Jesus stories which did not merit Catholic scribe approval for inclusion in the Bible; yet which are both entertaining and enlightening nonetheless.  A topic for another day no doubt.

Now though the tone, topics, and even time frames of Matthew and Luke differ with regards to the childhood of Jesus, they each claim that he was divinely conceived and of a virgin birth.  Those two qualities in and of themselves were enough apparently to merit Catholic scribe approval in spite of the obvious differences in their accounts.

Matthew envisions Jesus as having been born during the days of Herod, and furthermore being proclaimed to be “the King of the Jews”.

Luke on the other hand envisions Jesus as having been born some 12 years later; during the days of the Census of Cyrenius (Governor of Syria), and furthermore indicates that his birth brings “Peace on earth, and goodwill to humanity”.

Thus, Matthew portrays Jesus as a Messiah sent to reclaim the throne on behalf of the nation of Israel.  The emphasis of the Matthew’s version then is that Jesus is a boy ruler who was in constant danger of being “found out” and executed by the reigning madman; Herod the Great.  Matthew thus depicts the parents of Jesus as nomadic refugees who lived life “on the lam” and lead a low profile existence due to the constant peril surrounding the boy king and Messiah of the Jewish people.

Now, like Matthew, Luke likewise envisions Jesus as being miraculously born to a Virgin mother.  In fact, he even “spices up” the story with a dramatic description of the setting and surroundings.  (The stereotypical Nativity scene owes much to the author of Luke; who was likewise the author of the imaginative and informative canonical Acts of the Apostles).

However Luke represents Jesus not as a ruler, but as a reconciler of humanity.  Rather than proclamations of rule and reign for Jesus, Luke emphasises Jesus as a savior who brings peace on earth, and goodwill towards humanity.  Thus, Luke portrays the parents of Jesus as leading a stable (no pun intended) existence which allowed them to function as normal faithful Jewish parents both in ritual practice and personal lifestyle.

The contrast to the versions of the story of the childhood of Jesus is quite clear:

Matthew envisions a baby Jesus whose life  is in constant peril, and whose existence brings grief, suffering and murder.

Luke envisions a baby Jesus whose life was publicly celebrated, and whose existence brings joy, peace, and goodwill.

The accounts of Matthew and Luke differ so drastically with regards to the birth and early childhood of Jesus as to merit a query and inquiry as to why the distinction.

It seems to me that the answer to the question is to be found by considering the local events of each world into which Jesus was born:

Matthew envisions baby Jesus being born during the days of the ever mercurial Herod the Great.

Luke envisions baby Jesus being born during the days of the Census of Quirinius (aka Cyrenius).

The generally accepted death of Herod the Great was 4BC.

The well recorded Census during the days of Quirinius was during the years of 6-7CE.

Since Matthew envisions Jesus as being two years of age when Herod allegedly killed all the babies of Bethlehem, and since Herod seems to have died shortly thereafter, then Matthew dates the birth of Jesus approximately 6BC.

Hence: Jesus’ birthday per Matthew:  6BC

Hence: Jesus’ birthday per Luke:       6AD

Hence:  THE TWELVE YEARS OF CHRISTMAS.

The distinction between the worlds into which Jesus was born is evidenced by the events of each respective era.

Now 12 years may not sound like a long period of time, but such can allow for an extreme social shift in any given society.   For example, consider our own culture in 1981 as compared to 1969. The differences in those two time eras in US History amounts to two distinct cultures.  Yet distinguished solely by time.  Indeed a dozen years can make a significant difference in the thinking and general disposition of any populace, and the world into which Jesus was born is a primary example of such.

And those social distinctions are likewise evidenced by each respective account of Matthew and Luke.

The world into which Jesus was born per Matthew (6BC)…….

Was ruled by a tyrant by the name of Herod the Great.  Now the fact that Matthew envisions Jesus as being born during the days of Herod is significant.

Herod was a ruthless individual;  and a paranoid personality.

Herod was especially ruthless with regards to his royal power and his personal pleasure.  When he wanted another wife, he married her, and had his wife and child banished.  In order to protect his royal position, he had several family members executed, including his favorite wife and two of his own children.  His ruthless nature and atrocious deeds even offended Rome periodically throughout this 33 year reign.

Herod was so paranoid that he reportedly hired secret police to walk the streets and monitor public opinion.  He likewise would not allow public demonstrations. (Herod would have fit in quite well in post 911 America.  Or so it seems to me)

It was in fact Herod’s reputed paranoid and ruthless nature which Matthew incorporated into the story so as to provide a context whereby the life of baby Jesus would be in mortal danger. The life threatened baby god/hero story was of course a common and recurring theme of the cultural myths of that era.  For example,  the Greek god Dionysus was in peril from birth, which lead to his being ripped apart by Titans.  And the mother of the infant Horus had to flee into the marshland of the Egyptian Nile Delta in order to protect the Egyptian god from those who sought to take his life. And of course, the Hebrew baby Moses was spared from a “mass baby execution” much like Matthew’s claims with regards to baby Jesus.  (The latter may in fact be the very story Matthew relied upon as he depicts baby Jesus in a similar circumstance)

So likewise Matthew portrays baby Jesus being urgently relocated by his parents to Egypt in order to escape Herod after the paranoid and ruthless King  heard that another “king of the Jews” had been born in Bethlehem. Per Matthew, Herod had all babies less than two years of age in Bethlehem and in the coastal region executed in search of baby Jesus; whom he naturally viewed as a threat to his royal reign.  (Fortunately, there is absolutely no historical record to confirm this alleged atrocity, thus the claim by Matthew that this slaughter took place is more than likely mythical.)

Try as Herod might to find and slay the boy Messiah, revelations from God to the parents of Jesus kept the nomadic couple one step ahead of his dastardly intentions for baby Jesus.  First they were warned to flee with the baby to Egypt and await word.  Then, when they received word  that Herod had passed away, they made their way back to Judea.  Finally though, when they learned that Herod’s son was on the throne, they went into hiding in Nazareth.

And so Matthew’s account ends as it began:  Jesus a hunted boy, his parent’s nomadic ploys to rescue their son from the clutches of the powers that be ever hanging over their heads.  Like refugees they settled in Nazareth.

There is of course no indication in Matthew that the potential danger for the boy Jesus ever went away, but rather that his parents simply outmaneuvered and hence successfully hid their son from a sure death if ever caught.

Then, 12 years later:

The world into which Jesus was born per Luke (6AD)…….

Judea in general, and Jerusalem more specifically were in the embryonic stages of an emotional and radical social revolution.  The  social frustration which subsequently developed would span approximately 135 years; and its inevitable end would alter Jewish history forever.

Herod the Great had been dead for ten years, and his son Herod Archelaus would soon be recalled by Rome for evident incompetency in the light of his inability to suppress the populace that were under his rule.

The first decade of the millennium was a time of radical resistance and religious reformation for the Jewish people.  One movement lead by a “Judas the Galilean” rebelled against any form of Roman influence in the Jewish culture, including taxation and census calculation.  These were a matter of more than petty concern to Judas and his band, who were representative of a nationalistic revival among the people.

Judas was a patriot and a zealot, and the movement which he inspired would become known as the Zealot movement.  Judas would eventually pay the ultimate price for the cause he so believed in, as would his two sons after him (Both were crucified, the Roman type of execution for treason and sedition), yet the movement he inspired became an organic and influential faction amongst the Jewish people even into the next century.  Their dedication to Orthodox Judaism, and their willingness to fight for Jewish independence would in time be the catalyst for the uprising of the 60’s which lead to the Jewish Wars of the late 60’s and 70’s; and again to a similar yet even more violent uprising in 130’s CE.  The latter rebellion was crushed so extensively that the Jews were completely banished from Jerusalem after 135 CE.

Although Judas is recognized as the founder of this nationalized Zealot movement, the rumblings of dissent and dissatisfaction were already underway in the years leading up to the Census which so incensed the militant patriot.  These populist movements were in response to the perceived Roman involvement and influence in the practices of the Jewish religion, and resulted in organized demonstrations and civil disobedience in isolated instances.  One such instance stands out for its brutal response and subsequent ramifications.

The Golden Eagle incident began as a somewhat presumptuous and admittedly disrespectful act by Archelaus, but surely no one could have foreseen the blood bath to follow.  In defiance of Jewish law, Archelaus inexplicably had a Golden Eagle mounted on the Temple entrance.  The graven image in public display over the Temple entrance was too much for the more proactive Orthodox Jews;  hence two Instructors (named Judas and Matthias) along with a number of students removed the Eagle and destroyed it with axes.

Archelaus was furious.  His reaction was drastic, and his response was dastardly.

Archelaus had the two Instructors and approximately 40 of the students who were involved in the destruction of the Golden Eagle publicly executed by being burned alive.  The fury this action instigated was swift and brutal. In the evening, demonstrators and mourners throughout the city but especially in the Temple area made such a noise that Archelaus and those with whom he was feasting were disturbed.

Finally, Archelaus sent a General and a few men to quiet the crowd and appease their anger.  The General and his men were stoned, with many killed in the process. After killing the King’s men, the mourners continued to wail and lament the awful experience of the atrocious execution of the two teachers and the 40 or so students.

Realizing now that he had an uprising in the making, Archelaus sent the entire Army in to invade the temple and break up the crowd.  It was after midnight when the Army entered the Temple.  The result was a melee that developed into a massacre.  By the time the fighting ended there were over 3,000 dead.  Relations between the Jews and the Romans was never the same again.

As for Archelaus, this incident cost him his royal position.  He was recalled by Rome and given a less volatile domain to rule.

As for Jerusalem and Judea; the next 12 decades would be marked by a continuous struggle and a seemingly constant friction between the Jewish people and their Roman overlords.  The attempted assimilation of  the Roman influence into the the religion of the Jews merely intensified the resentment of the nationalist zealots; who likewise rebelled continuously against the concept of the assumed authority of the Roman government over the national identity of the Hebrews.  The feelings were ever intense and emotions were seemingly always at the breaking point on both sides.  These were difficult times, and social frustration was to be a way of life from that time forward until the Jewish people were completely subjugated and subsequently banished from Jerusalem in 135 CE.

And so it was that Luke envisioned the birth of Jesus at a time of intense turmoil and social instability.

Is it then any surprise that  Luke records  the arrival of baby Jesus at precisely the very time that the region of Judea were so badly in need of:

“Peace on earth and goodwill towards humanity?”

In closing, it is evident to me that Matthew and Luke each envisioned a Jesus who, like Jeff Lebowski in “The Big Lebowski” was a “man for his time and place”.

Matthew envisioned the Messiah, the deliverer, the king of the Jews.  Thus Mathew depicted Jesus being born at a time when he could draw the attention of the oppressive Herod, and be confirmed as the rightful ruler of the Jews by outmaneuvering Herod’s efforts to kill him, thereby establishing the superiority of the rightful “King of the Jews”.

Luke of course envisioned a Reconciler, one who would bring peace to a time of war, and bring tranquility to a period of chaos. Thus Luke depicted Jesus being born at a time when the message mostly needed was:  “Peace on earth; Good will to Humanity”.

If ever there was a time when these words had true meaning, it was then and there.

If ever there was a time when these words had true meaning, it is here and now.

I don’t particularly care whether Jesus was born in 6BC.

Nor do I care whether Jesus was born in 6CE.

In fact, I honestly do not care whether Jesus was ever born at all.

What I care about is:

“Peace on earth, goodwill to humanity”.

Because with or without Jesus, there will never be the former, unless we all begin with the latter.

To all my Christian friends:  MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

To all my Jewish friends:  HAPPY HANUKKAH!!!

To all my fellow Humanist friends:  HAVE A GREAT DAY!!!

Dave Henderson

The Manifestations of Social Frustration

Peaceful demonstrations of social dissent stem from social frustration.

Social frustration as of late stems from injustice, inequitable exercise of the law/judicial system, and quite frankly: Social hypocrisy and systemic corruption.

Peaceful demonstrators are not to blame for the very few extremists who transform their social frustration into vandalism and/or violence.

If anyone is “to blame” for the violence of an extremist (other than the clear blame due to the extremist himself); then look to the root cause of the social frustration in the first place.

Cure the cause for the social frustration; and then there will be no demonstrations of any type of social frustration of any sort; for there will then be no cause for social frustration.

An Ode To The Odious

The women of Gaza weep;
O’er babies mutilated by bombs.
Sent special delivery,
From the chosen children of God.

A Missouri woman weeps,
The bullet riddled body of her son.
Lies uncovered on the street for hours.
While the Police cover up (AKA: “Report”) is done.

A War Criminal smiles in the comforts,
Of his mansion down in Texas.
Knowing damn well he will never be accountable;
Regardless of what the facts is.

Some people on paid vacation,
Other people demonstrate.
The wheels of injustice succeed,
There will be no court date.

Christmas bells are ringing,
Lip service to God one can hear.
The suffering of foreigners and black folk,
Will not hinder our Holiday Cheer.

Self righteous hypocrites on Sunday,
Sing, pray, and listen to a sermon.
Indifferent to the suffering of the afflicted,
Then justify scum and vermin.

The stench of social injustice.
The indifference of hypocrites.
The filth of society’s sins,
Smell of sewage and piles of

Be Good For Goodness Sake

Some folk believe in God,

For reasons A, B, and C.

Some folk reason and conclude;

Somewhat differently.

Some folk are good folk,

Just because they choose.

Some folk are good folk,

For fear their soul they’ll lose.

If good is what you choose,

Then good is what you’ll be.

Regardless of whether or not,

You believe in a deity.

No matter how you reason;

And ration your A’s, B’s and C’s.

Does not affect one iota,

Whether there actually is a G-O-D.

No matter how you reason;

And ration your A’s, B’s, and C’s.

Does not affect one iota,

Whether you are G “double oh” D.

Good without a god,

Is what I choose to be.

For goodness is a most noble,

And desirable human quality.

Dave Henderson

Denison, Texas

Beware The Written Word

Beware the written word,

When choosing right from wrong.

Words are human expressions,

As the lyrics of a song.

Even this poem,

Merely my personal thoughts.

Reflect beyond such words,

When choosing not from ought.

Written words may be a guide,

Yet interpretations deceive.

Be selective what you read,

Even more so what you believe.

For laws and regulations,

Verses and scriptural citations.

May be the utility of the deceitful,

To confuse church and nation.

I would hope the Christian’s life,

Bible values would exceed.

For sensitivity to suffering,

Is a noble quality indeed.

Even a lawyer’s written decision,

Was our past President’s alibi.

When torture and human suffering,

He sought to justify.

Beyond Book, Chapter, and Verse,

Beyond Code and Ordinance.

The worth while guide to right,

Compassion and kindness,

Noble qualities of humanity.

Felt and experienced,

A sure guide for you and me.

Beware the written word,

When choosing right from wrong.

The standard and the guide,

Was within you all along.

Dave Henderson

Denison, Texas

daveylee1961@gmail.com

America: Won’t You Please Come To Your Senses

They bound and gagged Bobby Seale;
Just to shut his mouth.
‘Cause they did not like the truth,
That the man was putting out.

Nixon shredded the papers,
And erased 18 minutes off the tape.
So that accountability for his ways;
He could then escape.

Our troops shot four unarmed students dead,
At the Kent State Massacre in 1970.
A tragic day for America,
Or so it seems to me.

Illegal US wars in Latin America,
While Reagan simply smiled and waved.
Propaganda his main device,
His image was successfully saved.

O for shame, for shame.
America finally learned to blush.
When President Clinton,
Got a BJ in the White House.

And then the Great Snipe Hunt,
Of the 21st Century!
Off to war Bush sent us,
In search of WMD’s!!

Our troops do torture,
Our drones indiscriminately kill.
But “Onward American Soldiers”
Perpetual War is Conservative America’s will!

Cops get away with murder,
The Grand Jury has the final say.
Troops get away with torture,
Presidents simply get away.

But listen up War Hawks,
Listen up apologists for torture by our side.
Listen up those who gag informative mouths,
And force truth revealers to go overseas and hide.

You can sing “God Bless America”,
At the Ballpark in the 7th Inning.
But you cannot change the facts,
That America has done a lot of sinning.

So pledge allegiance to your flag,
And sing God’s praises on our land still.
But why not a “Come to Jesus” meeting,
And come clean about our social ills.

Once and for all,
Bring America off our high horse.
And admit we are a nation like all others,
With merits and demerits of course.

Admit when we are wrong,
Hold the guilty to account.
Let’s clean up our act,
And actually be what we claim to be about.

Recall our troops,
Regulate our cops.
Time to clean house,
Grab a bucket and a mop.

Let’s embrace open democracy,
Welcome dissent as social input.
Restore the Free Press,
Time to get off on the right foot.

Won’t you please come to your senses,
Let care and compassion prevail?
May hatred, weaponry, and bigotry,
All be sent to hell.

We can change what we want,
But we have to want the changes we need.
Let’s change the shape we are in,
For America is in a shameful state indeed.

Dave Henderson