Absurdism and Appendix-itus in Ecclesiastes

The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes merits high marks in my opinion for its philosophical perspective of Absurdism, and its antidotal remedy of apathetic moderation.

The author of the early portion of Ecclesiastes is a realist, one who accepts the finite nature of all life, and thus one who realizes the futility in getting too caught up in the frustrating experience of the human condition. His acceptance of Absurdism as expressed in terms of “emptiness, emptiness, all is emptiness” could not have been expressed any clearer than by Camus; whereas his advised remedy “to eat, drink, and be happy” is Dudeism 101 as portrayed in “The Big Lebowski”.

Sadly enough, the afterthoughts of the author of the Appendix are a real buzzkill to the actual summary of the original author. The whole “fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man” concept is the supplemental commentary of someone who read the text and realized that “alas, this ain’t theology”; and so with a few scratches of the pen, a wonderfully fulfilling humanist existential writing fell prey to your stereotypical theological indoctrinating humdrum.

If ever there was a case of literary homicide by Appendix-itus; then such is the case of the latter verses of the book of Ecclesiastes.

The original text of Ecclesiastes, as concluded in 12:8; offers such deep, real life existential insights, then only to be later diluted by the imaginative indoctrinating theology of a “text tamperer” in the verses that follow.

I suppose that such is only fitting when considered in the framework of the content and the message of the unknown, existential author of Ecclesiastes; “because sometimes a man who has toiled with wisdom, and knowledge, and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by a man who does not toil for it… and who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool?”.

What a pity.

“Emptiness, emptiness, all is emptiness”…..

Damned To Pay Our Dues

Those who are born wealthy,
Use their money to stay wealthy.
Those who are born poor,
Work for money to be healthy.

A ceaseless quest,
To exploit Mother Earth.
Manufacture money from trees.
Then pretend there is a worth.

To a rectangular shred,
Manufactured and stamped.
To symbolize some value,
To we the living damned.

Damned to pay our dues,
For exploiting her so.
Damned to become earthworm feed,
And to help her flowers grow.

Reason and Compassion

There is a voice within,
Deliberating each moment.
The problem which is at hand,
Reasoning helps solve it.

There is a feeling within,
Which accompanies each encounter.
The older that I grow,
I’ve learned not to doubt her.

Reason and compassion,
Natural innate guides.
Experiences without.
Resolutions from inside.

The Second Coming of Jesus

While sitting on my deck today,
Enjoying the morning rain,
I had a weird thought,
Perhaps somewhat insane.

What would happen if one day,
Up there in Heaven yonder,
Jesus decided he’d had enough,
As on our deeds he pondered.

Would he turn to his left,
To look His Father in the eye.
And ask permission to depart,
From the sweet bye and bye.

And as he arose to split the scene,
Would he make this declaration:
“Got to go, Daddy-o,
To visit our favored nation!!”

So would he come to the USA,
This modern day Babylon,
To tune in to Faux News,
To hear the pundits babble on?

Or would he choose instead,
To visit that horrid place,
The secular pagan temple,
Of our entire race?

Yeah, would he go to Wall Street,
And rip up the ticker tape.
And overturn people’s desks,
As people stared and gaped?

And would he declare with anger,
As he looked into CEO’s eyes:
“Let not my Father’s world,
Be a mere place of merchandise!!”

And would he choose to dine,
With the President, and the First Lady.
Or would he rather keep company with,
Those whose character seems shady?

And would he heal the sick,
Oh, would he even dare!
To do the unthinkable,
By providing free health care?

And would he feed the masses,
The heathen and the slobs,
Or as he turned his back on them,
Would he say “Get a job!!”

And would his simple answer be,
When asked what he thought about Gays,
“I am no more hung up on that topic now,
Than I was in Biblical days”

And as he beheld bare mountain tops,
And saw the fracking of Mother Earth,
Would he appeal to our common sense,
For all that effort’s worth?

Or like that Indian in the commercial,
Back in the 1970’s.
Would Jesus be moved to shed a tear,
As his heart mourned woefully heavy.

And as he gathered his closest friends,
For his second grand ascent.
Would he speak of a spiritual kingdom,
Before away he went.

Or would he rather remind us all,
That existential is our being.
So we ought to try to alleviate,
All suffering that we are seeing.

Now, I readily admit,
These thoughts are pure speculation.
But I wonder what Jesus would do,
If he ever visited our nation?

Common Ground of Christianity and Humanism

Initially, it might seem that there is nothing whatsoever in common between Christianity and Humanism.  Yet I propose otherwise.

 

Granted, Christianity is based upon a theistic worldview; while most Humanists maintain a secular perspective.  And granted that Christians tend to interpret the Bible as sacred material; whereas Humanists rarely attach such sentiments to any writings whatsoever (although we typically value literature in general).  And whereas Christians usually maintain the historicity of miracles; at least those which are recorded in the Bible, most Humanists reject such based upon our secular worldview.  Yet these differences notwithstanding, I maintain that with reference to the most basic exercise of the human experience; that of social relations, Christianity and Humanism actually share core interests and concerns.  

 

Humanism is the theory that the intellect, and sensitivity towards the suffering of others, are sure and certain guides to sufficiently regulate the human experience.  Living in accord with reason and compassion then is to live as a Humanist.  In this context, it seems evident that Humanism is by no means an ideology which is exclusive from the Christian faith, nor the latter from the former.  For even the very namesake of the Christian faith himself lived as a Humanist. Regardless of whether Jesus was in fact a historical figure, or whether he was instead a mythical literary character; this much can be said on behalf of Jesus Christ:  His was a life which exemplified the basic precepts of Humanism.

 

Jesus was an independent thinker who did not allow laws and tradition to surpass reason and practicality.  When his disciples were hungry on a Sabbath day, and picked corn to fill their bellies, Jesus justified such as a practicality of the human experience, even reminding their authoritarian critics that the Sabbath was made for the benefit of man, and not vice versa.  When Jesus saw those in need of medical care on the Sabbath, he healed them in defiance of and in spite of tradition.  

 

Jesus was a practical man and one who was close to nature.  His illustrations and his teachings were oftentimes based upon nature rather than upon a text.  He reasoned with his hearers by challenging them to reason within themselves rather than to be merely lead around by authority figures and archaic traditions.  Jesus chided his critics for utilizing their intellect to read the signs of weather patterns, yet failing to be able to figure out right from wrong by reasoning circumstances to such an end.   

 

Jesus was a compassionate man, who realized the social responsibility to supply that which was lacking for those in need, not as an opportunity to capitalize upon the suffering of another for personal gain, but as the right thing to do.  When his disciples reminded him of the hunger of the masses, rather than question the lifestyle or initiative of the people, Jesus fed them.  When Jesus saw folks suffering and in need of medical attention, rather than inquiring as to their ability to pay for medical care or judging their worthiness and character, Jesus simply tended to their needs.

 

Jesus Christ; be he a literal historical character, or be he a literary mythical character was a man who was lead by his intellect, and who acted in accord with his compassion for the suffering others.  In this regard, Jesus Christ may very well be the greatest of all examples of what it means to live as a Humanist.

 

It is my conclusion that the major distinctions between Christianity and Humanism are primarily differences related to mere tradition and doctrines. As to more practical concerns; namely those of social relations and human suffering, the common sympathies between the two philosophies are basically indistinguishable. Hence, if we would but dispatch with matters spiritual for the purpose of mutual cooperation; and then focus those efforts on the plight of the human condition, I am convinced that Humanists and Christians alike can do much to alleviate suffering among humanity.
And so the apparent antipathy between Christianity and Humanism being merely philosophical, I suggest that a pact of cooperative efforts for the common good would be a practical benefit for the entire global community, and at the same time an opportunity for Humanists and Christians alike to exercise their respective heartfelt convictions.   

The Individual, Civilization, and Moral Goodness

Per the reasoning of many Christians (not all, but many), it would seem that atheists should murder, plunder, and steal at will, yet such has never been the case as a general rule. Granted, there are Atheists who do harm to their fellow human being, yet I am unaware of any evidence that they do so more than any other demographic representatives of the human race.

Now, my observation regarding such is that people seem to be naturally equipped to know how to treat each other kindly, courteously, and decently; although some admittedly choose to do otherwise. Yet in a collective sense, as in any given society, most people have figured out a way to do so in a civilized manner. Furthermore, in these societies, those who choose to live otherwise almost always represent extreme exceptions to the general practices of the society so represented. (This is one of the reasons I attempt to avoid grouping and classifying various religions and or cultures based upon the doings of extremists within their respective ideology. For those who practice violence are almost always the extreme exception to the general lifestyle of the overall majority within any respective group/culture. This was true of even Nazi Germany, and I don’t doubt this rings true for most any society one could consider)

Now, in light of the various and differing religions, ideologies, cultural distinctions, economic theories, social theories, and political ideologies ever present in any and every culture which has or ever will exist, the fact that most people within any such respective culture figure out a way to live together in peace and harmony, leads me to conclude that separate from each respective cultural ideology of all societies of all time, there seem to be qualities of humanness which are universal to our species, which serve as a foundation for peaceful and harmonious relationships.

Such as they are, these are my thoughts on the matter of individuals, civilizations and morality.

The Gospel: A Terrorist’s Terms

One thing about the whole gospel message thing that does not add up. Always did bother me.

So the basic scenario; at least as I was taught it:

1. Sin is our own fault (even though god made us this way)

2. Death is the consequences of sin (but that’s not good enough, you have to be eternally tortured as well)

Now, when you start questioning the ethics of the God for creating a scenario which leads to sin and subsequent eternal torture, invariably you get the whole “well, God gives you the freedom to choose, because you are a free moral agent. So if you die in sin, then it’s no ones fault but your own”.

Choice. So God gave me a choice, did he?

Well. I don’t recall ever having a choice in whether I got to live in the first place.

I don’t recall ever having a pre-birth orientation explaining the full scenario, and being allowed to read the fine print before I signed on the dotted line and gave my free will consent to this arrangement.

And what is this arrangement? What details would I like to have been privy to before being thrust into this situation?

Well, let’s cut to the core, so to speak.

The arrangement per life is that you have a 50/50 shot at winning the Celestial Lottery, a grand sweepstakes at an all expenses prepaid stay at the Grand Heavenly Hotel; while the suckers in life who did not make the right choices will be eternally tortured in the dungeon below.

But don’t worry, the eternal torture chamber is sound proof, so the endless screams and agony of your friends and family members (perhaps even your own children) who made the wrong choices in life will not disturb the solace and serenity of eternal life in paradise with the other grand sweepstakes winners who were like you, and knew how to kiss up properly, and who were scholarly enough to know which holy book to believe in, and therefore you knew which deity’s butt to kiss sufficiently so as to be named a winner when the drawing took place.

No…..

I don’t recall having such an arrangement explained to me before giving my consent to live.

Hence, this 50/50 gamble was thrust upon me, even as I was thrust into this life involuntarily, and without giving my consent to such.

I don’t know about others.

But being thrust into such an arrangement hardly seems fair or even just to me.

And so as to the possibility of my being eternally tortured being my own fault because God gave me a free choice?

Poppycock!!

God never gave me, or anyone else a choice under such an arrangement.

God gave me a terrorist’s terms under such an arrangement.

And I don’t care much for being blackmailed by anyone.

And it is certainly not a matter of freedom of choice.

For if the terms would have been explained to me sufficiently, and had I been give the free will opportunity to choose to simply not live, then I would not be typing these words even now.

And so that is what bothers me about “the gospel”.

The gospel are a terrorist’s terms which dictate that I kiss his royal butt sufficiently, or be eternally tortured.

I am a victim of circumstances. And without giving my consent to such.

And so is everyone else.

That is: If the Bible is in fact true.

Misogyny and Myth: Genesis 19

There is a Bible story that has always bothered me, and it was one of the stories that lead to my doubts regarding both the validity of the story itself (as fact; it works fine as a myth, though still a myth with lousy values), and regarding the values which the story teaches (reveals the sexist thinking of that day and time). The story I refer to is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, as recorded in Gen 19. Among my issues with this story:

1. As a father of a daughter, I have always found this story disturbing. Lot, who is later referred to as “righteous” in the NT; offers his daughters to be gang raped. That REALLY bothers me. How can any decent father offer his daughters to be gang raped; and to protect two perfect strangers at that? Horrible values taught here.

2. The very next day, “Lot’s wife” is murdered by God on the spot; for the sin of looking back. Okay, so firstly: Why is Lot’s wife not named? And secondly: Why kill her for merely looking back; and yet never say a word to Lot about offering his daughters to be gang raped? (Daughters also not named. Very bothersome).

3. THEN; after their mother is murdered by God, Lot’s two daughters are so concerned about their father’s progeny, that they get him drunk and have sex with him. Where is the grief for their mother? And why be so concerned about father’s progeny, when he had offered them to be gang raped?

Conclusion:

This story reveals itself to be mythical and misogynistic. I regard the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Lot and his family; as a horrible story which totally disregards women as mere commodities; and is clearly patriarchal and sexist.

The lesson to be learned in my judgment from this story is that we should be cautious about forming our values based upon the writings of ancient Hebrew myths. Our natural sense of compassion, kindness, and fair play will guide us to be a better person than sexist material such as Genesis 19.

Dave Henderson
Denison, Texas

A Brief Commentary on Ethics

In my opinion, the only concept of “right” or “wrong” which has any sense of consistency, relates to the seemingly universal natural aversion of humanity to suffering. If we would but heed our natural feelings of kindness and compassion, as experienced when encountering a sentient being in pain or suffering; and act, accordingly, we cannot go wrong. Just my opinion on the matter, you understand.

Now, most concepts of “right and wrong’ which are not based upon our natural aversion to suffering are usually culture based, and hence have no basis for application beyond the self. It is unfortunate that many assume antiquated, cultural biases and bigotries to be the benchmark for all peoples of all times just because they were written in some “holy book”. No one needs a holy book to know natural “right” from natural “wrong”. No one needs to believe in a deity to know natural “right” from natural “wrong”. All we need, in my opinion, is to recognize the natural aversion of all humanity as a natural basis by which to forge one’s personal code of ethics, and then to live accordingly.

I sincerely believe that that which is “good” is not driven in from with out, but is rather derived and developed from within. And in that regard I consider the effort to cultivate one’s own natural capacity to do the right thing in the context of living consistent to our natural aversion to suffering of self or others, to be the most noble endeavor of one’s day by day existence.

Such as they, these are my thoughts on the matter of the concepts of “right” and “wrong”, and one’s personal code of ethics.

Dave Henderson
Denison, Texas