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A Refusal To Reach For Heaven Means an Involuntary Descent Into Hell*

Life is transitory, but not meaningless and without purpose.  Uncovering that purpose, and recognizing the transitory nature of our time on earth, forces one to confront certain realities that the are unpleasant to a mind that has been trained brain-washed to focus only upon what it can see, touch and feel.

There are a number of terms that have been used to describe the nature of these realities.  They include transcendent, supernatural, and metaphysical.  The idea of First Principles also falls into this realm.

The notion of something being outside of nature is one that necessarily imposes humility on mankind.  Man is not big on humility, as a rule.  Man desires to be superior to nature, supposing that science holds all of the answers to controlling it.  Hence, we hear about movements for protecting the environment and saving the planet.  These might be fine sounding sentiments, but one should recognize them for what they are, an attempt to replace what C.S. Lewis called Tao, or The Way1.

If man is at the top of the hierarchy of being, then he need not be constrained by antiquated concepts like First Principles.  Concepts of right and wrong are totally relative and arbitrary, and have meaning only in the sense of a given situation.

I once had a discussion with an Indian friend of mine who argued this point, saying that human sacrifice, was at certain points in history, a moral good.  Because it was accepted by, say the Mayans, it was moral for them to worship in this way.

Morality by majority rule is subject to the same problems as that of democracy or mob rule.  Benjamin Franklin is purported to have said, Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner.

If morality is relative, and consists of what the majority of people say it consists, at any given time, then there will always be an incentive for people to try and define morality, via propaganda, the education establishment, and law.  C.S. Lewis refers to these people as The Conditioners.  These people, know what’s best, through their superior intellect and position.  Such cognoscenti are Rousseau’s legislators,

He who dares to undertake the making of a people’s institutions ought to feel himself capable, so to speak, of changing human nature, of transforming each individual, who is by himself a complete and solitary whole, into part of a greater whole from which he in a manner receives his life and being; of altering man’s constitution for the purpose of strengthening it; and of substituting a partial and moral existence for the physical and independent existence nature has conferred on us all. He must, in a word, take away from man his own resources and give him instead new ones alien to him, and incapable of being made use of without the help of other men. The more completely these natural resources are annihilated, the greater and the more lasting are those which he acquires, and the more stable and perfect the new institutions; so that if each citizen is nothing and can do nothing without the rest, and the resources acquired by the whole are equal or superior to the aggregate of the resources of all the individuals, it may be said that legislation is at the highest possible point of perfection. 

The core of humanism is the notion of the perfectibility of man, or perhaps the perfectibility of some men as Bastiat pointed out.

The claims of these organizers of humanity raise another question which I have often asked them and which, so far as I know, they have never answered: If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind? The organizers maintain that society, when left undirected, rushes headlong to its inevitable destruction because the instincts of the people are so perverse. The legislators claim to stop this suicidal course and to give it a saner direction. Apparently, then, the legislators and the organizers have received from Heaven an intelligence and virtue that place them beyond and above mankind; if so, let them show their titles to this superiority.

They would be the shepherds over us, their sheep. Certainly such an arrangement presupposes that they are naturally superior to the rest of us. And certainly we are fully justified in demanding from the legislators and organizers proof of this natural superiority.

Ironically, those who tout “equality” as one of the ultimate “goods,” quickly realize that all men aren’t in fact equal in ability or character and quickly seek to control the masses who are incapable of making the “right” decisions.  Christians recognize that people vary and aren’t “equal” in the sense that the world makes its judgements. But they are taught to place an equal value on each person not based on their actions, but because of a Transcendental Truth in which they believe.  God loves every one of us the same – regardless of our faults. Because God placed the value upon us, there is an outside standard, that doesn’t adhere to human notions and is not subject to change.

A belief in this inherent value makes human beings more than just mere cogs in the machinery of society, or clay to be molded at the will of the elite.

Respect for the human person and his dignity is the first pillar upon which any decent society rests.

Where this pillar is in place, the formal and informal institutions of society and the beliefs and practices of the people, will be such that every member of the human family; irrespective not only of race, sex, or ethnicity but also of age, size, stage of development, or condition of dependency,; is treated as a person — that is, as a subject bearing profound, inherent , and equal worth and dignity.2  Robert P. George

Reaching beyond mere human understanding toward Transcendent Truth provides the stability a floundering society needs to ensure that the weakest among us are protected.

Human beings selectively crave justice.   Just watch any kid whose sibling gets something they do not.  “That’s not fair,” is sure to be heard coming from the mouth of the sibling that didn’t get the goody.   The reality is, human beings are eager to impose “justice” on others but, do not wish to be judged by the same standards they would impose.  Thus it is that truly believing in the equal worth of all human beings requires an act of faith, because it doesn’t jibe with human measurements.

If there is no Transcendent Truth, everything is relative, then there isn’t much meaning to life.  Instead of believing in something bigger and better for each and every person, what remains is a world where everything is subjected to a system of equations and proportions.  What is perceived as the greatest good for the greatest number trumps all.  If the value of a human being is relative, some can be said to be worth more and others less.  Setting aside the issue of who gets to assign this valuation, a purely utilitarian system will logically determine that people in certain stages of dependency have become intolerably burdensome – in essence “Life Unworthy of Life”  (lebensunwertes lebens) and should be sacrificed for the greater good.  Only a philosophy that denies the inherent worth of a human being could argue for abortion, euthanasia, eugenics, — or the “Final Solution” implemented by Hitler and his minions.

As is pointed out in this scene from God’s Not Dead, Christians believe that morality is a straight line that leads directly back to God.  A failure to grasp this line is a refusal to reach for heaven.

1 The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis
Conscience and It’s Enemies by Robert P. George

* The title of this article was taken from a line in E.F. Schumacher’s A Guide For The Perplexed

6 comments

1 Howard Nelson { 09.16.14 at 12:22 pm }

What you speak of, and quote others of as well is a state of being sought after by all humanes.
Regretfully, whether these humane principles are promoted by a Supreme Creator is in doubt, as witnessed by the millions of children, women, men being maimed, raped, enslaved, and murdered down through the 1000’s of years of human existence. Inadequate adoption of the humane principles enunciated by Moses, Buddha, Jesus, … have prevented these depradations against the innocent. Is the Supreme Creator deficient in quality control of his creatures? Does the Supreme condone the use of ‘free will’ to allow some to torture others?
Even the Golden Rule is defective, as it urges the masochist to behave as a sadist.
Better to struggle with living by the Perfecting Principle: Do no harm, but if you must do harm do as little as necessary and repair the harm done, as necessary. Deciding what is necessary is the job of the authentic humane; no cookie-cutter manual is adequate.
The governing rule of truth/reality is: If it’s true, it must be true at all the extremes as well as at all the in-betweens. If not, at best you have a correlation subject to failure or misapplication depending on opinion and/or situation.

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2 Martin { 09.16.14 at 10:02 pm }

Howard,

I don’t presume to understand God or have all of the answers. I can only look to the evidence and try to frame a picture of reality based on the parallels within my limited scope of experience.

As a middle-aged adult with nearly grown children, I’ve now experienced growing up and trying to guide my kids along their starting paths.

Perhaps it is a matter of perspective. I remember that things I thought were super important became inconsequential as I grew up. At one time, it seemed like a year was a very long time, ten or twenty a veritable eternity. Now, not so much. Children don’t have the same perspective as parents do.

People don’t have God’s perspective.

In the grand scheme of eternity, this life is the blink of an eye.

Just as it is impossible for a child to conceive of what their life will be like as an adult, it is pretty tough to understand what comes after this life. We don’t know. We can have hope, we can have faith, that this can’t possibly be all there is.

In Schumacher’s book, he talks about the planes of existence that we can see, and surmises about that which we cannot.

Rocks exist, but can in no way be considered living things.

Plants are indisputably living things set apart from rocks, although they share some of the same chemical makeup.

Animals which live in a different realm of existence, sharing some aspects of plant life, but are inescapably different although both are “alive.”

Human being share many characteristics with animals, but unlike animals, they may be governed by things other than instinct and are “self-aware,” and unlike rocks, plants, and animals, man can surmise about things beyond him and aspire to them.

The higher levels of being can stoop lower and encompass the characteristics of the lower, but the reverse is not true.

A monkey can never be a man, but a man can act as a monkey.

God is to man what man is to animals.

We can act as barbarous animals or we can strive to higher goals and seek to imitate God.

If we place all of our emphasis on what is right in front of us, we miss what it is that sets us apart from the lower orders.

Part of that is free will. We are not automatons.

You note that what is True is always True. I agree.

But your “perfecting principle” is at odds with this.

Perfecting Principle: Do no harm, but if you must do harm do as little as necessary and repair the harm done, as necessary.

That sounds remarkably like, Lenin’s remark about breaking eggs to make omelets or those who simultaneously argue that there is nothing wrong with abortion, but then want to make it rare. (If there is nothing wrong with it, then why seek to make it a rare things?)

The ends never justify the means — especially when one looks at things from the perspective of eternity.

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3 Howard Nelson { 09.17.14 at 7:33 am }

Thank you Martin for your very pertinent comments. The principle I spoke of was to emphasize the need to evaluate what is truly necessary, moment-to-moment, situation-to-situation. What serves the need to live and let live, to help the needy helpless without being overbearing?
Lenin’s comment fails to make the case that making ‘omelets’ are necessary; why not make an organic greens salad? Where’s the evidence or analysis to support the bloodiness and injustices of his revolution?
Civilizations, cultures, societies, communities develop their own rules for living together. ‘Do no harm’ is fine unless that by doing so you permit others to do unnecessary harm.
A humane culture would, perhaps, permit abortions if the mother’s life was endangered were an abortion not performed and the mother had agreed. The culture answers, “Who’s rights dominate? Those of the fetus or those of the mother?”
If you were the fetus how would you reply, assuming you had a mature understanding of the situation? Would you choose to sacrifice your mother or yourself? No easy answers.
In the continuity of happenings their are no ends, only a stream of means, and I agree with you that the ends never justify the means; the means must be justified — by God, or His agent, Man.

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4 Marcia { 09.17.14 at 7:28 pm }

“The means must be justified.” But that is the rub. What is necessary? To pull some “justifications” out of the headlines, the environmentalists think that to “save the planet” they are justified to impose all sorts of draconian measures upon the rest of us. Richard Dawkins wants to reduce suffering in the world and advises a woman carrying a Down Syndrome baby to abort it. In his view, it is immoral not to do so. He says the issue of who should be born comes down to a calculation based upon possible suffering. “Yes. Suffering should be avoided. [The abortion] cause[s] no suffering. Reduce suffering wherever you can.”
Good discussion. Thanks for commenting.

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5 Howard Nelson { 09.18.14 at 6:07 pm }

Marcia, you have hit on a most important point, the justification, the necessity of our actions.
We have been given, by incarnations of God, saints, and sages, commands, recommendations, suggestions and some powers of critical thinking and compassion to guide our thinking and actions.
Being decent human beings, ‘ humanes’, we struggle to do what is proper in every situation. The challenge is enormous; we do our honest and truthful best, and on occasion suffer the consequences of painfilled decisions. In the court of Heaven on what basis will we be judged? I suspect that it will be whether or not we did do our best given the circumstances and wisdom available to us.
John Carse speaks of ‘infinite players’ playing infinite games whose purpose is to expand boundaries and keep the game going, growing, thriving. We try our best to do our best, not out of desire for reward, but because that kind of doing is naturally rewarding for all participants and onlookers; it’s part of the ongoing play, glad or sad as it may be.
Thank you for your courtesy and meaningful comments.

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6 Howard Nelson { 09.18.14 at 6:29 pm }

Somewhere in Nisargadatta Maharaj’s “I Am That”, a compendium of Q&A conversations about reality, he is asked about what the purpose of a fully enlightened being’s actions are. He replies that such a being says and does only what is necessary, both being expressions of Infinite Love. Suffering and joy are the banks between which the river of life flows and from which it draws nutrients for those downstream in time.

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