The Universe and Me

Every day I observe life, death, and birth.
Everyday I read of each in the local paper (or my Facebook timeline).

Everyday people are born.
Everyday people die.
Everyday people experience being.

Everyday things happen which involve suffering and sadness.
Everyday things happen which involve jubilation and joy.

The tree is the product of the seed.
The seed is the product of the tree.

Certain trees provide sustenance for my existence.
A falling tree can end my existence.

A soft breeze can make me comfortable.
Violent wind can be the source of my death.

Water consumed can sustain my being.
Water consumed can kill me.

The effects of sunshine on my skin can comfort me.
The effects of sunshine on my skin can kill me.

The tree does not care about my well being, yet can provide me shade or sustenance.
The wind does not care about my well being, yet can be a source of energy for my comfort.

Water does not care, yet without such I would die.
The sunshine does not care, yet without such I would die.

The universe does not care about my well being.
Yet, the universe is the source of my very being.

No hard feelings Universe for the hardships of being.
Thanks just the same for being the source of my being.

Dave Henderson
Denison, Texas

Of Morality and Humanity

There is a myth relative to morality.

The myth relative to morality is that without God there is no morality.  The myth assumes the existence of God, then attaches the concept of morality to the concept of God. Thus, the case is asserted that morality not only proves the existence of God, but likewise that if there is no God, then there are no morals. Basically, the theory maintains that people would not know the difference between the concepts of right and wrong if God does not exist.

The first observation of note is that the concepts of right and wrong are relative to the individual. Many are the factors which play a part in the molding of each individual’s value system.  And I cannot overstress that each person’s value system is a making of their individuality and one’s own inner deliberation based upon one’s own experiences in life.  Depending upon the context of a person’s life, and depending upon one’s cultural conditioning, and quite frankly depending upon the values which the given individual adopts as their own, there are simply a variety of interpretations of and personal conclusions regarding that which constitutes right and wrong.

And oftentimes the one person’s right is the other person’s wrong; and vice versa.

Of such is morality and humanity.

One person thinks it’s wrong to shoot a sitting duck.  Another person says all game is fair to hunt.  Another person says it it wrong to kill the duck except for one’s own personal survival.  Yet another person says it is wrong to kill the duck except to put the duck out of an irreversible misery.

One person says it is wrong to refuse to take the pledge of allegiance to the flag of ones’ country.  Another says it is wrong to actually take the pledge of allegiance to the flag. Some say it is wrong to march off to war.  Some say it is wrong to march for peace.

Some say it is wrong for a couple to live together without being married.  Others say it is wrong for certain couples to get married.

On and on I could go.

Suffice it to say that personal perspective and the rules of social convention produce a variety of values and a corpus of conflicting notions as to that which constitutes right and that which constitutes wrong.  And each person tends to assume their values to be preferable to those of another.

Of such is morality and humanity.

For example, I myself believe that the values which are based upon the matter of the undue suffering of another are those which constitute the only natural concept of right and wrong.  I base my values upon what seems to me to be a natural aversion to one’s own personal discomfort of any degree, and an equally natural sensitivity to the suffering of others.  Hence, the moral compass by which I measure right and wrong relates to whether I cause or neglect the suffering of another being.

Now, inasmuch as I believe my values to be sound and certain, the fact is that not everyone interprets the concepts of right and wrong as I do.  Inasmuch as I am the only one who lives my personal experience, and who experiences my personal life, then who am I to judge those who opt for a standard differing from my own?  So all I know to do is to live my life the best I know how, and to leave everyone else to their own inner deliberations and subsequent deeds.

For therein seems to be the common denominator which ultimately unites us all as to the divisive topic of personal values. The fact is that most every person, regardless of background or upbringing, deliberates within themselves and subsequently decides for themselves as to their  values, and then acts accordingly.

Of such is morality and humanity.

Now, some might ask: “What about God?”.
To which I reply:  “What about God?”

God has nothing to do with morality, except in the mind of the one who chooses to incorporate a subjective concept of a deity into an ever transforming personal concept of morality. For everyone’s concept of morality is a work in progress and relative to each given circumstance, hence God is only relative to such when incorporated into the process of the inner deliberation of the individual believer.  To such a person of course their concept of their deity functions as a role in their own personal deliberation as to their specific values, which then in turn affects their given choices in life.

Ultimately then, the concept of right and wrong is relative in general, yet case specific to the given individual.  For when all factors are considered, and all conditions have been figured, each individual decides for themselves what constitutes right and wrong to their own way of thinking.  Then we all act accordingly.

Of such is morality and humanity.

Some might say: “Well then, that means everyone can do whatever they want to do.”
To which I respond:  “Well.  Yeah.”

The fact is that everyone can do whatever they want to do, and actually do so on a daily basis; the concept of God notwithstanding.  When it comes down to what the individual person decides to do, the concept of God will neither hinder nor engage in the exercise thereof.  Every person can do whatever they want; regardless of the web of subsequent consequences relative to any given deed. We as individuals are simply free to do whatever we want to do, and no concept of God affects such one way or the other at the moment of truth.

Of such is morality and humanity.

Some people who believe in the concept of God live peaceably with their fellow beings. Other people who believe in the concept of God kill without mercy.  Some people who believe in the concept of God would not so much as step on a bug on the sidewalk.  Other people who believe in the concept of God torture and authorize the torture of their fellow beings.

Some Atheists live peaceably with their fellow beings.  Some Atheists are disagreeable personalities.  Some Atheist kill.  Some Atheists do not kill.

Some people who believe in the concept of God are good people.  Some Atheists are good people.  Some people who believe in God are rude and greedy.  Some Atheists are rude and greedy.  Some people who believe in God exploit their fellow beings for personal gain. Some Atheists exploit their fellow beings for personal gain.

There are Christians who believe in shooting the other person before he has the chance to shoot you.  There are Atheists who turn the other cheek.

People choose the values by which they live each given moment of their lives.  Some people factor the concept of a deity into their given value system.  Other folk do not.

But every person is experiencing an ever transforming value system of their own individual choice.

Of such is morality and humanity.

Dave Henderson
Denison, Texas

Of Gods and Myths

The discussion of deities addresses matters which are seemingly beyond human comprehension. Such discussions are communicated and related in terms of concepts and symbols as narrated in that which is known as the myth.

The myth itself has typically been culture based, hence there are a variety of concepts and symbols systematically depicted in such cultural narrative. The gods then have naturally been relative to any given specific culture, and the symbols so utilized would consequently reflect the values and everyday concerns of the people of each such society.

And so mythical tales have historically given people connection to matters seemingly beyond the grasp of comprehension, and have furthermore given people a sense of control where they otherwise feel somewhat helpless and hopeless.  The daily struggle to survive, ongoing battles between good and evil, the dread of bodily decay and death are among the primary concerns which relate to all peoples of all time.  Yet, the details are unique to each individual, and more specifically those details are case specific to one’s place and time of existence.

Though a common utility of antiquity, the myth is nonetheless an ongoing form of such communication.  The narratives evolve relative to each given culture and their respective time in history, yet the general struggles of humanity remain the same.  Hence, each culture seems to continue the exercise of the myth as individuals continue to attempt to connect with that which is incomprehensible and transcendent to real life. Furthermore, most everyone desperately aims to maintain a sense of control in the state of chaos known as human existence.

Though the yearning to connect with the incomprehensible continues even to this day, the discoveries of the natural sciences have somewhat altered the scope of inquiry.  Humanity is simply no longer in the same state of ignorance relative to the cosmos and our earth as were our social ancestors of two millenniums ago.  That said, even the most learned scientists readily admit limits to our knowledge on scales immeasurable. Even so, the discoveries of humanity as to the natural operation of our universe have rendered any concept of a creation god as lacking in historical value, hence all such creation accounts are most assuredly mythical in nature.

Nonetheless, there are those who continue to seek connection with the incomprehensible in terms of faith in a higher level of existence.  The nature of such is of course subjective to the perception of each individual believer.  Deities in this regard then are as various as is the volume of such respective subjective perspectives, and are only of value to those who are inclined to connect on the level of faith to a being who symbolically transcends the natural.

Mythical narratives have of course evolved from the days of the tales of supernatural gods to a more modernized form of the same. The heros of theatrical plays, dime novels, radio and television programs, movies, and most recently video games are all mythical displays of the ever present struggle between good and evil.  Be it the old West gunslinger in a Zane Grey novel, the hard boiled detective in a Raymond Chandler book, or a superhero in a modern day video game; each such literary figure continues the legacy of the symbolic hero entangled in a seemingly endless struggle with the forces of evil.  These figures, though fictional as to their nature, serve a practical purpose in depicting a sense of control on behalf of those who endure the conflicts of the struggles of everyday life in the context of the real world of the human predicament.

The substance of the myth then is its symbolic nature.  The characters themselves may be either historical or fictional, but in either case their role in the myth transcends reality.  The key question then relative to the myth is not “did this actually happen”, but rather “what concept does this narrative represent”.  The myth permits the characters, whether historical or fictional, to operate outside of or even beyond the laws of nature, for realism is not necessarily the point of any given such narrative.

Thus, the reader of the Zane Grey novel is by no means concerned with whether the gunslingers and outlaws of the old west reference therein actually lived. Nor are the readers of a Raymond Chandler thriller concerned with whether the hard boiled detective Philip Marlowe actually worked the dark and sinister streets of the inner city in search of villains and criminals. Rather, the characters illustrated within the western “shoot ‘em up” and the “who dun it” murder mystery symbolize concepts relative to the reader.

Granted, the middle aged man sitting in his easy chair on a Sunday afternoon reading a few pages of a novel between rounds of snoozing and snoring will never walk the streets of Tombstone or occupy a dirty, dingy Private Investigators office down on the waterfront or on the 4th floor of a poorly maintained office building.  Nor will he likely ever engage in a good old fashioned shoot out, or turn his latest love interest over to the cops for killing his partner.  Yet most everyone lives in a world with constant struggles between forces of good and evil, and thus when the hero saves the damsel in distress, or when the crime boss is brought to justice, then every person engaged in such a story experiences the thrill of the experience of right prevailing over wrong, even if such only be in a story.

Such is the power of the myth.

The substance of the myth then is by no means its historicity, but rather its symbolism.  The credibility of any given myth is not the point, but rather core concepts of the human experience as represented by the characters so depicted within the context of the plot itself.  Those concepts are thus the area of connection between the reader in the real world and the context of the characters who have been systematically mythologized to that very end.

And so it is with biblical interpretation.  For example, the question is not whether Adam and Eve were historical figures who lived in an actual Garden of Eden.  Nor is the question whether Jesus Christ was an actual person who lived and died in Palestine.  As with any other myth, the key to biblical interpretation is to ascertain the concepts which are symbolized in narratives involving these and other well known literary figures.

Without a doubt, the challenges faced by Adam and Eve, both from without and likewise from within, represent true to life struggles of everyday people. For most everyone works by the sweat of the brow in order to survive, suffers physical hardships throughout the natural course of the human experience, and is even tempted from time to time to test the potential consequences of sampling forbidden fruit.  Granted, everyday life is no Garden of Eden, but that is the very point being driven home by the myth of Adam and Eve.

The story of Adam and Eve is a myth which represents the struggles of everyday existence.  Once understood on the level of symbolism and representative narrative, the story of Adam and Eve is so true to life as to be accurately representative of the everyday lives of ordinary people. The concept so symbolized by their story is in fact much like Albert Camus’s Myth of Sisyphus, in which the main character spends his entire life pushing a large stone to the top of a hill, only to have it roll to the bottom again so that Sisyphus can repeat the process. If ever there were a biblical story to which we can all relate, it is the tale of Adam and Eve, for such is a myth of the struggles of everyday existence in the real world.

A biblical myth of another sort is that of Jesus Christ.  Now, I say of another sort, for unlike the tale of Adam and Eve; which symbolized concepts common to most every person in the real world, Jesus Christ symbolized concepts which are above and beyond even the best and most powerful of all living beings.  None of us quite frankly can relate to a virgin birth, or to the ability to walk on water, or to being raised from the dead before our corpse began to decay and decompose.  Yet such claims attributed to Jesus Christ represent concepts most every one of us wishes were ours.

For deep down inside, most everyone wished they could be perfect and immortal; each qualities attributed to Jesus Christ in the gospels.  And such concepts are enveloped within the Christian doctrine; that the believer can be both perfect and immortal in Christ Jesus.  For the doctrine of personal sanctification and the general resurrection of the dead in the last day symbolizes concepts so very highly coveted by believers in Christ.

Now, the point is neither the historicity nor the divinity of Jesus Christ, for neither matter is relevant to the intent of the story of his life and deeds. It does not matter whether Jesus actually walked on water or arose from the dead, for these accounts merely symbolize concepts which are most significant to every person who has ever lived.  Jesus as a literary figure transcends natural laws which restrict even the most routine human activity, and furthermore goes beyond the border which restrict all human existence; that being life ending death.

Whether Jesus the literary figure actually did such, or actually was such, or even actually was, or even actually did anything at all is not the point.  The point of the myth of Jesus is that he symbolizes the concept of a perfect nature and eternal being, which are concepts which all people would willingly aspire to were it not for our frail and finite nature. Literary Jesus lived as no one had lived before, both in terms of his earthly experience and his post life presence.

And so unlike the biblical myth of Adam and Eve, which represents everyday struggles to which most everyone can relate, the biblical myth of Jesus Christ represents personhood and a state of being which most everyone would want, yet which no one can relate with due to our own shortcomings and finite state of existence.  In this regard, literary Jesus Christ represents a concept of human nature and being which most everyone wishes for, but can only be experienced through his symbolic being.

And so we return to the original topic:  The discussion of deities.

As mentioned from the outset, any discussion of deities is one which communicates through symbols and concepts, as narrated in the myth.  And as further discussed, the myths which narrate of gods and god like figures are for the most part culturally based. Thus, history is aplenty with gods, super heroes, and seemingly ordinary people who live larger than life within the annals of antiquity.  Consequently, the deities of the major monotheistic religions of the 21st Century have evolved from the spiritual and social superheroes of ancient cultures.  It might be said then, that today’s gods are yesteryears’ super heroes.

And so the lifeline of the gods is maintained through the medium of the myth, hence, such concepts are sustained through the symbolic actions and traditions so related. Therefore; the basic aspects associated with most religions; the rituals, the traditions, the ceremonial practices, and such like, for all practical purposes serve as the life support system of the literary figures known as the gods.

Thus the deities of antiquity; Beelzebub of the Canaanites, Yahweh of both the Canaanites and the Hebrews, Zeus of the Greeks, Orisis of the Egyptians, Mithra of the Persians, and even others, are the literary symbols of the concept of the divine as depicted by each of their respective cultures.  Quite frankly, these gods survival is dependent upon the faith of each individual believer who believes in the cultural myth so depicting each respective god.

For such is the way of gods and myths.

Dave Henderson

Denison, Texas

On Suffering as the Measure of Ethics and the Existence of God

The question regarding the existence of a personal god must be discussed critically in the light of the ever present reality of suffering before the validity of the theory may be established. For since there is the evident reality of suffering; then the matter of whether a supernatural being exists would have to be critically examined within the context of such. Furthermore, the reality of suffering being self evident and all too easily established, then it seems only reasonable to begin by studying the matter of suffering, and then to measure the theory of the existence of God against such findings.

From the moment we are born, discomfort is our nemesis and comfort is our need. With each breath we take, from the moment of our birth, until the moment we pass away, each thought is to instinctively seek comfort and to avoid any degree whatsoever of discomfort. We cried on the day of our birth due to the discomfort of the pain of hunger, due to the discomfort of thirst, due to the discomfort of being cold, and due to the discomfort of our own soiled diapers. As adults, we adjust the thermostat in the morning when we wake up, and dress ourselves in attire suitable to avoid discomfort relative to the daily temperature. We do so because, like a dog who seeks shade in the Summer heat, we likewise have a natural aversion to discomfort of any given degree.

And so it is, that just as suffering is a natural reality, our most basic instinct is that of a natural aversion to discomfort of any given degree.

In fact, the depths of our aversion to suffering are by no means limited to negative reactions regarding merely our own personal discomfort. Are we not likewise distressed at the sight of or by the sounds of the suffering of even a stray animal who is screaming out in pain? (Note: Would not an exception to such be so extreme as to confirm the observation?) Granted, the question as to whether such reactions are a matter of an inherent or a conditioned response has of course long been a matter of philosophical debate. However; our distress in such scenarios nonetheless manifests a natural aversion to the suffering of others, just as we have an instinctive aversion to our own discomforts and pains.

The universal aversion of humanity to suffering then is a natural moral compass by which to measure “right” from “wrong”.

Every culture to my knowledge; whether secular or spiritually based, maintains laws relative to physical assault of a variety of degrees (Note: As with the individual, so with collective, communal humankind. For if there is a culture which would prove an exception in this regard, then such would likewise be so out of the ordinary as to establish the point at hand). These seemingly universal restraints against physical abuse then would seem to be founded upon and rooted in our natural aversion to discomfort and suffering. And so it is that societies are generally known to utilize the concept of suffering as a natural and therefore reasonable moral compass by which to measure “right” from “wrong”; at least in terms of physical actions.

Hence, the basic understanding of humanity as a whole is that in general:

It is wrong to hurt someone, in any shape, form, or fashion; and .
It is wrong to allow someone to suffer when we have the means to adequately address such suffering.

These common understandings then form a natural basis for each person’s moral code. Now, as with most everything in life, the principles so stated must be governed by common sense relative to each specific situation. In that regard, there are of course exceptions to the first principle, but each such exception is nonetheless still based upon a natural aversion to suffering. For example, the doctor who performs surgery inflicts pain in the process, and furthermore knows that the person will have a degree of pain during the recovery period. Yet, the reason the doctor performs the surgery is in an effort to prevent suffering of a greater degree, or to even save the person’s life. Thus, although there is pain in the process, such is inflicted systematically in order to prevent further pain. Or the person who hurts someone while restraining them from inflicting injury upon another does so with the intent and purpose to prevent further pain and suffering. In fact, in such instances, the person inflicting the pain actually does so as a means to comply with the second principle as so stated. For in the case of the doctor, the means at her disposal to adequately address a person’s ongoing or potential pain is to perform surgery, even though that process naturally entails a degree of pain of its own. Or in the case of the person defending the person under assault, the means at his disposal is to restrain the person carrying out the assault, even though that act in and of itself may hurt the assailant in the process. Yet the suffering so inflicted under such circumstances, is clearly inflicted in order to prevent further pain.

Having established then undue suffering as the measure of “right” and “wrong”; we now turn our attention to the role of the Universe with regard to such. For the reality of suffering being ever evident; the role of the Universe in the process is key to understanding the nature of all things.

For I would suggest that the Universe is both an active party in afflicting humanity with all forms of undue suffering, and that the Universe nonetheless remains ever indifferent as to the effects so inflicted, regardless of how so extreme. As to the former, a mere newspaper or world news television should prove the point. Tsunamis, diseases, tornados, floods, droughts, fires, and any other number of “natural disasters” (aka in certain circles as “Acts of God”) manifest the active role that the Universe exercises in the affliction of humanity and all sentient beings with undue suffering. The fact that the tree that falls in the direction of the helpless child will do so without swerving to avoid inflicting the toddler with bodily harm, or that the body of water into which the small child falls will not transform to a state of buoyancy but will rather envelope the child and fill the toddler’s lungs to the point of a traumatic and painful death, or that the tornado will not divert its trek in order to avoid killing men, women, and children indiscriminately are but a few of several examples that the Universe is absolutely indifferent as to the effect of the suffering and the misery so inflicted.

The Universe then is indiscriminate suffering with indifference as to effect.

The fact that the Universe remains indifferent as to its effect upon sentient beings one way or the other, leads to one of two seemingly inescapable conclusions regarding the nature of the Universe:

The Universe is an impersonal reality; and thus unable to feel for the misery of sentient beings; or
The Universe is a malevolent personal being (or the agent thereof); and thus is
insensitive to the misery so inflicted.

The fact that Nature is seemingly devoid of any qualities of personality would seem to invalidate any theories of a personal deity of any given nature, malevolent or otherwise. The former theory however; makes sense in the light of the daily reality of indiscriminate suffering in an indifferent Universe.

And so, in the light of the daily reality of indiscriminate suffering in an indifferent Universe, I conclude that an indifferent Universe encompasses all reality, and hence there is no personal God.

Now, as I said from the outset, to me the logical course to pursue in ascertaining whether there is a god is to evaluate the theory in the consideration of the reality of suffering. Such is what I have done, hence in my mind the matter has been sufficiently investigated and the case has been adequately made that in the light of the daily reality of indiscriminate suffering in an indifferent Universe, there simply is no evidence whatsoever of the existence of a personal God.

Yet for the sake of social convention, I will consider briefly the Judeo-Christian theory that the Universe was created and is maintained by a benevolent god, as per the Hebrew Bible book of Genesis. As the theory is so commonly accepted in our society, I am compelled to address the teachings in the context of the current discussion. However; the same course of study will be pursued: The theory of a personal Creationist God by the name of Jehovah must be evaluated in the light of the evident reality of indiscriminate suffering in an indifferent Universe. Only then can we maintain the integrity of a sound discussion based upon fact and reality.

As I have already reasoned, since the Universe exhibits no qualities of personality, then there is simply no evidence to support the theory that a personal God exists and maintains or regulates such. Hence, I would suggest that the theory of Jehovah has already been sufficiently discredited on those merits. Yet a consideration of the Creation account of Genesis 1; assessed in the light of indiscriminate suffering in an indifferent Universe, even further tends to discredit the theory of Jehovah.

The Creation account of Genesis 1 and the reality of indiscriminate suffering in an indifferent Universe are seemingly irreconcilable concepts.

The reason being is, that if there is an omniscient God who created the Universe, then that God would have known in advance what would come to pass as a subsequent result of that act. Jehovah would have had to have known about every moment of suffering that would have naturally been experienced since the moment that he made the decision to create the Universe. To be clear on the matter: The decision would have been his to make. No one would have forced God to follow through with that decision. God then would have willingly and with complete foreknowledge of the suffering that would come to pass made the decision to create the world, thus having created the circumstances that serve as the context for any and all suffering.

The questions that must then be asked:

What did Jehovah know?
When did Jehovah know it?

If in fact, Jehovah is an omniscient and omnipotent God, and if the record of Genesis 1 be true, then it is the case that He Himself is responsible for the premeditated act of creating the context of all suffering which would ever come to pass. Such being the case, I myself simply cannot reconcile the concept of a deity being benevolent, and at the same time having been responsible for knowingly creating the context of all suffering which would ever come to pass. Under such circumstances, then God could have prevented all suffering that ever would have come to pass by simply not creating the Universe in the first place. But by choosing to do so, then God becomes responsible for the inevitable suffering which only He Himself could have foreknown, and only He Himself could have prevented. Thus, by the premeditated act of creating the context of all suffering which would ever come to pass, then God instead manifests himself to be a malevolent being, rather than the benevolent God of the Judeo-Christian tradition (Incidentally, such is the very reasoning for the Christian Gnostic and Marcionite Christian teachings that Jehovah was indeed a malevolent being, and not the Father God of the New Testament. Although I do not adhere to such, the logic behind the theory is consistent in the light of indiscriminate suffering in a Universe which is indifferent to such misery).

In the light then of a Universe of indiscriminate suffering and indifference as to effect; then the words: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” would actually be an indictment of the most irresponsible and insensitive act ever recorded in history.

In conclusion, the ever present reality of indiscriminate suffering in a Universe which is clearly indifferent to such seems to encompass all reality. Furthermore, there seems to be no evidence to support the theory of a personal deity. Hence I personally do not believe in the existence of any personal God whatsoever. I believe the Genesis Creation story to be the Hebrew myth in a time when such myths were common to many cultures of antiquity. Finally, it seems to me that the best a person or a society can do is to seek comfort for self and others, and insofar as it is possible, to refrain from hurting anyone in any way.

Such as they are then, these are my thoughts on the matter of suffering, ethics, and the question of the existence of God.

Dave Henderson
Denison, Texas

We Live And Move And Have Our Being

“In Him we live and move and have our being”

In whom do we live and move and have our being?  Why not a “her” in whom we live and move and have our being? Is there actually an ultimate being within whom we live and move and have our being?  Or is being merely the ultimate in and of itself? Why even the concept that we live and move and have our being within a whom?  Do we not live naturally?  Do we not move naturally?  Do we not have our being naturally? Do we not exist naturally?

This much is knowable:  We live and move and have our being.

All else seems to be speculation and superstition.

Dave Henderson
Denison, Texas