"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Friday, January 25, 2019

A Better World–No Harm In Hoping, Although Since All Signs Point In The Opposite Direction Why Bother?

Bob Maslitt had never despaired about the slow and irregular progress of humanity towards a more perfect world.  He knew that despite his and others’ efforts, God was not to be denied; and that eventually He would see fit to back his and other progressives’ attempts to reverse the course of history.  God was, after all, on his side; and if He chose to be more dilatory than one might wish, so be it.  Earthly and heavenly rewards would be forthcoming.

But where did such divine optimism come from? Certainly Jehovah tracked his Creation but was more often than not disappointed, and in acts of divine justice and retribution destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and the entire world in The Flood.  If the world was headed for a fiery Armageddon, then it must be ordained; and no amount of staying tactics could possible restrain ‘the fateful lightning of His terrible, swift sword’.  Yet Bob and his colleagues thought that there must be some loophole, some way out of divine determinism.  Would not faithful commitment be enough to stay the fatal blow? If one were acting in His name to slay the idolaters, to rid the world of worshipers of the false god of progress , would that not count for something?

Image result for images old testament god

Where in the Bible does it say that mankind can stay the hand of the Divine? The book of Job suggests that God might be open to imprecation, and the Old Testament God might not be so doctrinaire as it would seem; but nowhere except perhaps for a slight diversion in Ecclesiastes, would Yahweh ever budge from his authoritarian principles.  He and no one else would be the determiner of the fate of mankind.  After all he created Adam and Eve; and if they had not turned out as he might have hoped, righting the boat was his responsibility.

Image result for images book of job

Then comes Christ with his message of good news.  Old Testament laws and regulations might have been formerly valid to sustain and further extend the authority of Yahweh,  the arrival of Jesus whose message of forgiveness and redemption offered hope to millions who had thought themselves condemned for eternity, changed the rules of the game.  One had to no longer feel a pawn in a divine, universal drama – thumbs up or thumbs down.  Jesus, his disciples, and his spokesman Paul offered human hope.  Faith in the Lord might not guarantee salvation, but would likely be high on the list of God’s criteria for entry into The Kingdom.  Human action for one’s own salvation was problematic at best; and any personal investment in the spiritual evolution of others was not on the table.  Only God’s grace – his election – could determine who would be saved and who would not be.

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Yet Bob, even knowing that he was swimming upstream – that Jesus, according to his own subjective, personal criteria, would choose who would and would not be saved; and that his Father, although optimistic about his son’s commission would still always revert to his old ways.  If the human race did not shape up (criteria not well-delineated), He would destroy us all.  Whether a Jew or a Christian, the outlook looked bleak.  There would either be another Flood or a fiery End of Days Armageddon.

Bob suggested that God’s reasons for universal destruction had never been clear.  Yes, the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah were lewd, lascivious, and no longer mindful of God and His Kingdom; but were they that bad?  And were there not occasions of sin far more insulting and immoral?  The regimes of Hitler, Stalin,and  Pol Pot in the Twentieth Century alone ought to have been enough to condemn the world.  So, since Jehovah’s mighty sword was capricious at worst and subjective at best, then maybe there was a role for human intervention after all.  Perhaps there was such a thing as a divine Doomsday Clock whose hands could be set back through secular efforts.

Image result for images doomsday clock

Assuming that Bob were right – that human action could set back Armageddon and could hasten universal salvation – who could ever read God’s mind? and what would the mile markers be?  Jesus’ temptation in the desert was yet another parable of faith.  Who is to say what modern day temptations would be.  Perhaps the political demons of the Twentieth Century were put in power by God himself to test our resolve; and that, contrary to Bob Maslitt and his fellow progressives, our rejection of socialist/communist political oligarchy is part of God’s plan?  All of Bob’s concerted efforts to restore some semblance of socialist universality might be exactly against God’s wishes.

Humanism has always been a problematic philosophy because it has no foundation.  It is a canon based on objection and opposition.  True, enlightened human beings, for centuries enslaved by autocratic theocracy but now freed from it, can mature into secular divinity.  Because such humanism has no foundational, absolute values, it can be anything – a philosophical chameleon, a love-the-one-you’re-with easy rider.  While Bob and his friends may demand social change based on such secular, moral values, they are erecting social movement on shifting sands.  Who said?

Then there is the niggling question of historical relativism.  Who can say that the Twentieth Century, one of the most violent in history, is a more evolved human era?  Or, who is to say that the Enlightenment and the Renaissance, models of intellectual clarity and insight but the bulk of whose citizens lived in penury and despair?

Last but not least is the question of genetic determinism.  The human race has not changed one iota since its emergence as Homo Sapiens 300,000-50,000 years ago.  We are still as territorial, acquisitive, aggressive, expansionist, and self-interested as we ever were; and unless there is some serious tinkering with the double helix, we will continue to be.

Image result for images prehistoric humans

How then can Bob possibly imagine such thing as ‘a better world’ let alone a perfect one.  How can he not conclude that no matter what well-meaning investments he and his fellow progressives might make in the course of world events, they will amount to nothing?

None of this philosophical fol-de-rol matters one single bit to Bob and his compatriots.  No logical, compelling, or even irrefutable philosophical argument can persuade them to relax.  Not only does it feel right to act, but it seems morally wrong not to.  It matters not that such conclusions have few religious, philosophical, or historical foundations.  The view of the committed progressive is that while history provides the necessary context within which socially activist interventions are designed, it is not determinative.  One can escape from its confines.

It takes all kinds, the saying goes.  Not only is there room in the big tent for optimists, realists, and pessimists; but all are welcome.  Racial, ethnic, and gender diversity aside, the true plurality of American society is philosophical.

All well and good.  In the practical, street-level arena of partisan politics, it is good to have differences of opinion based on world view.  If there is one thing that distinguishes conservatives from progressives it is this - either there is such a thing as progress, or there isn’t.

While most conservatives never stop to consider the logic of their beliefs and argue as hysterically as liberals about current issues, more temperate, objective observers know otherwise.  We are still as acquisitive, destructive, and aggressive as ever before – traits which have led to the growth of civilization, culture, and society; but which may have impaired reflection, introspection, and spiritual evolution.  Who is to say which is better?

it turns out that the much maligned ‘Que sera sera’ , ‘la cultura de la hamaca’ may indeed be the most sensible if not right one.   Things are not getting better, they have never gotten better (or worse), and they are unlikely to. 

A common inscription on ancient Roman tombs read,  “I was not, I was, I am not, who cares?” The best attitude of all.

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