On Biblical Standards and Natural Understanding

The Bible is a volume of writings which were hand selected (and in some cases hand edited) by the early Roman Church in the 4th century CE, and subsequently deemed as the exclusive and sacred word of God. About a thousand years later, these same writings were divided and organized into chapters, verses, and into a two fold division of an “Old” and a “New” Testament. The earlier major section of these writings reflects the personal, social, and religious values of a relatively isolated, desert people of an era of some two millenniums past; whereas the latter section reflects the ethical values of the Greco-Roman era of a slightly later time. The latter section likewise seems to serve as the subtext for a 2nd CE struggle between two general factions of the then recently conceived religious movement known as Christianity.

Each of the two major sections of the Bible center upon creative tales and embellished claims of the development of a select chosen people of God into an influential and powerful collective. In the first major section, that collective was visualized as the great and powerful nation of Israel. In the latter section, the collective so visualized was the institutional Church. There is a sense of validity to the existence of the respective collectives themselves, though in each case the chronology of the claimed circumstances are debatable, and the actual extent of influence and affluence are seemingly overstated, that is if taken literally.

The writings of the former major section are primarily composed of ancient Hebrew mythology, poetry, preaching, and the biased, fanciful tales of the over exaggerated national empire heretofore mentioned. The humble state of the allegedly once significant people is attributed to sin and faithlessness of the people themselves.

Meanwhile, the latter major section (evidently written primarily in the 2nd century CE) opens with the narrative of a wildly popular itinerant preacher who captured the interest and following of the local peasants, who conversely drew the ire of the religious establishment of the day, and who eventually was executed as a blasphemer. This young cleric’s claims of an impending apocalyptic crisis, coupled with the conclusion to the narrative being an empty grave and a claim that he was resurrected, lead to ever evolving claims of immortality, ascension, and even deity.

Although the content of the biblical narratives are primarily mythical tales, nonetheless there is no denying their worldwide influence even to this day. The first major section of the Bible is the forerunner for and serves as the foundation of the three major global monotheistic religions; namely Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The latter major section though is primarily the domain of the numerous sects of the Christian religion. In this respect, the influence of these texts in a variety of cultures simply cannot be overstated or underestimated.

Perhaps the most profound such influences have been realized in the realm of social relations. The adaptation of ancient thinking and harsh standards to modern societies has involved a predictable share of problems and unfavorable influence. Unfortunately, a number of unseemly social and systemic issues which plague contemporary cultures have precedent in and therefore may be founded upon biblical ideology.

Such include:

Patriarchy, Sexism, and Misogyny.
State sanctioned murder (aka Death Penalty, Capital Punishment)
Theocratic justifiable murder
Infanticide
Genocide
Religious Bigotry
Institutional Slavery/Exploitation of Labor
Sex Slavery
Militarism
Imperialism
Colonialism
Homophobia
Xenophobia

This list is not necessarily totally exclusive, and by all means some the of cited issues may overlap with each other. For example, the Old Testament authorized (even commanded) that non virgin newlywed wives should be executed for crimes against Israel. Such would constitute both Misogyny and Capital Punishment, which are each social issues to themselves, but in this case, they clearly overlap. There are several other such instances, but this example suffices for the moment.

The presumption then that biblical writings are of a sacred nature unfortunately can leave the false impression that the thinking of the people and the way of life of those depicted in biblical literature are somehow just and correct simply as a matter of record. And so to many people, mere biblical statements and examples are their basis to justify debatable social practices. And so, one might quote “an eye for an eye” to justify Capital Punishment, or “if any will not work, neither let him eat” to justify cutting funding for Food Stamps, with no need for further deliberation or alternative considerations. There is undoubtedly a “the Bible says it, that settles it” mentality among a large demographic of our society, but such is based upon the heretofore mentioned presumption that biblical writings are sacred in and of themselves.

Now, to be certain as to the matter; not all Jews, Muslims, and/or Christians are bigoted, homophobic, or misogynists; and for that demographic of religious monotheists I have the utmost respect. It is not easy for a Christian to take a “live and let live” perspective with regards to the LGBTQ community while they hear homophobic propaganda from their Preachers, nor is it easy for peaceful Muslims to conduct their lives while being slandered for the deeds of extremists Islamists. But the fact remains that the social values of many monotheists; especially here in the Southern region of the US, are based upon the social values of a desert people from an isolated region of over 2,000 years ago.

And thus the conclusion of the matter at hand:

Shall we, as individuals and as collective societies, base our standards upon our own natural understanding of “right and wrong”, or shall we allow our natural senses to be influenced by ancient writings from harsh and somewhat barbaric cultures? Shall we trust our common sense and natural sense of compassion as a moral guide, or shall we trust the harsh standards of a people of antiquity?

I suggest that such queries are not so much a matter of faith or religious ideology, but a much more basic reality of natural existence and common sense.

As for me, I choose to trust my own natural understandings.

But to each their own.

On The Horizontal Nature of Humility

“Humility in a person of high position sheds luster on that position. Humility in a person of lower position no person can exceed.
Thus humility is the ultimate goal of the noble person, regardless of one’s class status or social position in any given context.”

(My paraphrase of the T’uan commentary on the 15th hexagram of Ch’ien of The Book of Changes; aka “The I Ching”)

Humility and deference are often thought of as a “downwards up” perspective. In other words, those who are traditionally regarded as “subordinates” are conditioned to defer to their “superiors” with an attitude of humility and respect.

Such a perspective is quite common in the Western world, and is conditioned into the fiber of our very thinking from an early age onward. Western folk are conditioned to be humble and to defer to all forms of authority figures, commencing from childhood with reference to parents, and continuing throughout our adults lives with reference to any number of a variety of such symbols of superiority. Yet symbols of superiority are all that a person of elevated social position actually represent, for in truth no individual of any setting is superior to any other, regardless of the context.

The natural equitable status of all people being the reality of an unconditioned perspective, then humility should be universal, and respect should be reciprocal in all situations and settings.

In this regard, it has become my observation based upon decades of experience in “the working world” that harmony in such a setting is best accomplished when people of all levels of management and manufacturing share common respect one for another. If the burden of respect for one another is reciprocal, then management and manufacturers share common concerns and seek the common good. This is but one example of an area where universal humility can lead to ultimate harmony, yet such is a most practical place for the application of the process.

Regardless then of one’s “position” or one’s “status”, humility is the ultimate goal of any such person who seeks to be noble and decent.

On Ruism and Humanism

Confucianist Ruism and Secular Humanism share common ground in that each ideology maintains that the human being is naturally equipped with the capacity to be kind, courteous, caring and compassionate. In essence, the theory is that goodness is naturally developed from within rather than being driven into the person from without.

The Confucian Ruist then does not depend upon being motivated or moved by an exterior being, but rather trusts the natural inner feelings of compassion and concern for others as an effectual guide for establishing a personal code of ethics (Note: The very term “Ru” means softness).

I believe this quality is very well termed by the Asian Studies scholar Philip Ivanhoe when he describes Confucian ethics as “virtue ethics”. Indeed, Confucian Ruism is the theory that all people have within the natural virtues necessary to be humane and to live in peace and harmony.

And so the daily walk of the Confucian Ruist and the Secular Humanist is that of seeking to cultivate and develop our natural virtues from within as we socially engage and casually interact with others without.

For such is the good and natural way of the person who trusts our natural sensitivity and softness as a reliable and reasonable social guide.

The “Me Within Me”

The Confucian thinker Mencius said “All humanity has the mind which cannot bear to see the suffering of others”
(Mencius 2A.6)

My thoughts:

Introspection is the key,
To realize the “Me Within Me”
A common mind we all share,
Upright, sincere, and based on care.

This mind I often throw away,
And act contrary to the Way.
This mind distressed at the pain of another,
I cherish more than any other.

On The Root of Humaneness and The Rudiments of Harmony

The Confucian thinker Mencius maintained that “all things are complete in oneself”. Confucius himself said that “Humanity is born with uprightness”.

It seems to me that within each person is the root of humaneness and the rudiments of a peaceful and harmonious way. The cultivation of such qualities is a daily endeavor accompanied by a host of distractions and obstructions.

I sincerely maintain that the cultivation of our nobler qualities, which should be our primary effort according to Mencius, is the most natural of all experiences and the most necessary of personal endeavors.

A daily work in progress.

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.

On Compassion As A Moral Code

The intellect and sensitivity,
Natural guides for existential being.
Feelings are for ethical behavior,
The eyes are for the seeing.

Pain is bad,
Comfort is good.
Sensitivity is a guide,
To function as we should.

Why seek pain,
When comfort will do?
I have an aversion to suffering,
I can only assume the same for you.

The intellect and sensitivity,
Natural guides for existential being.
Compassion as a moral code,
The eyes are for the seeing.

A Moral Code Based Upon The Bible

When a society bases its moral code on the Bible, that society utilizes the moral code of the Hebrews of some two to three thousand years ago as its standard for right and wrong attitudes and activity. The Hebrew culture of some two to three thousand years ago was sexist and homophobic; and its national way of life was based upon imperialism, militarism, and institutionalized slavery. It would seem then that any culture which bases its moral code on the Bible would surely be destined to become a society which is sexist and homophobic; which would invade and control other cultures, and whose economy would be based upon the exploitation of human servitude.

The Bible as a Guide for Morals and Ethics?

The Bible as a guide for morals and ethics:

-Teaches the Master to be a good Master, and teaches the Slave to be a good Slave.

-Teaches the Master to screw his slave to have a baby if his wife is barren.

-Teaches the Father to kill his son if he hears a voice that tells him to do so.

-Teaches the Father to offer his daughters to be gangraped in order to save his friends.

-Teaches that women are commodities, and that men are the kings of their castle.

-Teaches the Soldier to slaughter men, women, children, babies, and animals indiscriminately.

-Teaches the Soldier to take sex slaves after killing young ladies’ parents and brothers.

-Teaches that those who are not faithful followers of God should be killed.

-Teaches that we should treat others as we wish to be treated. Big deal. Do you think that if the principle of social reciprocity was not taught in the Bible that people would not how to treat each other? Do you think that if the principle of social reciprocity was not taught in the Bible that the Mother would not know to teach such to her children? Every society teaches the principle of social reciprocity. Every religion teaches the principle of social reciprocity. Every parent teaches the principle of social reciprocity. 500 years before Jesus taught such Confucius taught the principle of social reciprocity.

The Bible as a guide for morals and ethics?

To each their own I suppose. But as for me, I cannot think of a single good moral and/or ethical principle that the Bible teaches; that I could not have figured out on my own based upon the natural sense of care and compassion which is apparently inherent to humanity. On the other hand, I can think of several principles of social conduct that are taught in the Bible; which if I put into practice, would make me a real jerk and a lousy person.

Choose ye this day the guide for your moral and ethical conduct.

As for me, I think I will just “wing it” with my natural sense of care and compassion.

Dave Henderson