Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tyrannical Health Tax

Today in the news, Obama is celebrating the newest revision of the Health Reform Bill. Being one of Obama's big-ticket items, the hype for this bill is absolutely insane. Previously, I've written about the the whole ideology behind such a bill being based on lies, and the unavoidable rising healthcare costs that would result from the passage of such a bill. As expected, the propaganda surrounding the present incarnation of the bill is as loaded with lies as usual.

Speaking on the steps of the Capitol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress was at a "historic moment" and lawmakers were "on the cusp of delivering on the promise of making affordable, quality health insurance available to every American."
While populist demagoguery always sounds appealing, it always promises what it cannot deliver. No entity can provide truly free (or cheaper than cost) goods or services to people. The simple fact of scarcity guarantees that "affordable, quality health insurance" for everyone is impossible. You can possibly have two of the three, but not all three. Affordable, quality health insurance could be provided to a privileged few. Quality, but expensive healthcare could be available for everyone. Affordable, low quality health care could be available to everyone. But, the laws of supply and demand ensure that there can be no such thing as affordable, quality healthcare for everyone. Liberals are very good at promising what they cannot deliver, and as we have conclusively witnessed with the economic bailout their fairytale promises demonstrate a clear ignorance of both basic economics and simple arithmetic.

Large firms would be required to cover their workers, and most individuals would be required to carry insurance.
The bill would require nearly everyone by 2013 to sign up for health coverage either through their employer, a government program or the new exchange.
Of course, while this would accomplish the goal of expanding healthcare coverage, I for one, think that mandating coverage is a horribly tyrannical idea! Not only will the cost of the healthcare rise, the quality and speed of service drop, and the government become even a larger and more extensive monster than it already is, but mandating coverage essentially amounts to a health tax. While pretending that they want people to be healthy and focus on preventative medicine, the government simultaneously forces healthy people who take good of themselves to spend money they wouldn't otherwise spend. Right now, since I eat well, stay fit and take good care of my body, my health is excellent and I have no need of health services of health insurance. Not having health insurance allows me to walk home with $1,300 more cash every year. If this bill passes, the government is effectively penalizing my health, responsible lifestyle by requiring to pay $1,300 in exchange for... wait for it... absolutely nothing! This "healthcare reform" bill is really just a tyrannical tax on being healthy.

For my own sake, for the sake of all Americans, for the sake of decent healthcare and for the sake of freedom, I will oppose this bill adamantly! Join me!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Female-Instigated Divorce

In some of the discussion generated by this post, I stated that I am "extremely radically opposed to vacuous female-instigated breakups and divorces." My sister then wrote:

I notice that you are "Extremely" opposed to the ones instigated by girls. I don't think that's right. Guys are JUST as depraved as girls. I am extremely opposed to girls not instigating break-ups for the right reasons. You should (in my view) be radically opposed to MALE-instigated divorce. Why are you putting down the girls here?
While I quite agree with her point that men are certainly as intrinsically sinful as women and are not morally superior to them, the radical relational disintegration that we see in modern America is not as much of a balanced issue as one might expect. It is true, that I am quite opposed to male-instigated breakups and divorces. However, these are far less common than female-instigated ones. According to Alfred Cohen's Statistical Analysis of American Divorce, originally published in 1929,

Women's freedom or the modern emancipation of the wife from dependence on the husband is asserted to be a leading cause of divorce by most judges. Their opinions are supported by evidence that 71 percent of all divorces at the present time are granted to wives. That the wife instigates the suit in divorce court has been preeminent in American family history. In 1867, when the divorce rate in the United States was only one-fifth its present size, wives were then granted 64 percent of the total divorces.
And, in the past century, little has changed regarding the instigation of divorce. Stephen Baskerville writes:

In the largest federally funded study ever undertaken on the subject, Arizona State University psychologist Sanford Braver demonstrated that few married fathers voluntarily leave their children. Braver found that overwhelmingly it is mothers, not fathers, who are walking away from marriages. Moreover, most of these women do so not with legal grounds such as abuse or adultery but for reasons such as “not feeling loved or appreciated.” The forcibly divorced fathers were also found to pay virtually all child support when they are employed and when they are permitted to see the children they have allegedly abandoned (1998, chap. 7).

Other studies have reached similar conclusions. Margaret Brinig and Douglas Allen found that women file for divorce in some 70 percent of cases. “Not only do they file more often, but . . . they are more likely to instigate separation.” Most significantly, the principal incentive is not grounds such as desertion, adultery, or violence, but control of the children. “We have found that who gets the children is by far the most important component in deciding who files for divorce” (2000, 126–27, 129, 158, emphasis in original). One might interpret this statistic to mean that what we call divorce has become in effect a kind of legalized parental kidnapping.
While I am opposed to male-instigated divorce, the simple fact of the matter is that American divorce is and has been an overwhelming female-instigated thing. In 1867, 1.78 times as many women instigated divorces compared to men. In 1929, 2.34 times as many women instigated divorces as men. Presently, 2.45 times as many women instigate divorces as men. That seems a bit lopsided to me. While, this overwhelming sea of female divorce might possibly be ameliorated if there were reasonable grounds for divorce, such as infidelity or abuse, the statistics clearly show that this is not the case. Most divorces are instigated by women and most of the divorces instigated by women are instigated for unreasonable and/or vacuous reasons such as "not feeling loved or appreciated" or wanting control of the children. This means that most female-instigated divorce is either based simply on emotion or is initiated out of a desire for control. Getting divorced is bad enough. Getting divorced for the wrong reasons is even worse. Given that women are instigating divorces overwhelmingly more often than men and mostly for unreasonable reasons, I am radically opposed to such destructive irresponsibility.

And destructive it is! Divorce is not simply the termination of a single romantic relationship. It's effects are far-reaching and horribly destructive. In his book, Fatherless America, David Blankerhorn calls the modern American crisis of fatherless children, "the most destructive trend of our generation." In his study, Is There a Fatherhood Crisis?, Stephen Baskerville writes,

Virtually every major social pathology has been linked to fatherless children: violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, truancy, unwed pregnancy, suicide, and psychological disorders--all correlating more strongly with fatherlessness than with any other single factor, surpassing even race and poverty. The majority of prisoners, juvenile delinquent inmates, high school dropouts, pregnant teenagers, adolescent murderers, and rapists come from fatherless homes. (Daniels 1998, passim)
Not only does is divorce a rejection of God's plan, an affront to one's partner and a sacred violation of one's vows, but it is horribly destructive for one's children, who must go on living life as fatherless. It is horribly destructive for society who not only has to deal with the initial fallout from a destroyed marriage, but also is directly harmed by the actions of fatherless children who go wrong because of growing up fatherless.

This is a subject that I am passionate about because it is destroying our society, wounding countless people, affecting many people I know and even affecting me personally. My grandparents, after being married for over 35 are in the process of getting divorced. My grandmother instigated the divorce out of a malignant desire for control. Since the whole fiasco began, she has been adamantly avoiding our family and won't even see us on holidays. Also, the toll it has taken on grandpa's health has been immeasurable. The past two years have physically aged him more than past fifteen years before that. It deeply pains me to see his suffering because of her wrong actions.

While it would be unreasonable to unfairly unilaterally blame either sex for the problem, there is clear evidence that the chronic American divorce epidemic is primarily female-instigated, and is typically instigated for vacuous or power-hungry reasons. There is clear evidence of the horrifying impact it has had on the personal, social and national health of Americans. So, while it is true that I am opposed to male-instigated divorce, that is not the bulk of the issue we face today. Female-instigated divorce is a major issue in our country, and it is clear that the blame for so many divorces primarily lies with women. I blame Germany for instigating World War 2, because they are responsible for their evil attempts to dominate Europe. Similarly, I blame American women for instigating the divorces that they do, because they are clearly responsible for a vast majority of the divorces in America, and consequently, they are responsible for the social fallout of such divorces. That is why I am extremely, radically opposed to female-instigated divorce.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Basic Christian Orthodoxy - A Discussion

As usual, I was discussing various aspects of Christianity with a bunch of atheists, agnostics and self-professed "ex-Christians." One of the "ex-Christians" I was conversing with responded to one of my arguments by saying,
Rize: Please don't answer this with a bunch of theological mumbo jumbo. I'm an ex-Christian, so I know all the BS reasoning already.
In this particular case, we were dicussing the fact that God is both merciful and just. Surprisingly many people, due to their misunderstanding of both mercy and justice, view the two traits as mutually exclusive. However, the doctrine that God is both merciful and just is one of the central Christian doctrines. Jesus' substitutionary death to make salvation available to sinners makes no sense apart from a clear understanding of God's merciful and just nature. Because of his demonstrated misunderstanding, I wrote,
TheoConfidor: I'm not really sure that you can reasonably consider yourself an ex-Christian. It doesn't seem that you are familiar with even basic orthodox Christian theology. If you don't understand the nature of God, the nature of evil and the significance of the death of Jesus Christ, then you can't possibly have been a Christian to begin with. From our discussions it seems that you don't really know all the "BS reasoning" at all
In response to this, he wrote,

Rize: If it doesn't seem that I'm familiar with basic orthodox Christian theology, then it's only because there are so many competing branches (and my rejection of all of them probably doesn't help) and the instruction manual is ambiguous. Define orthodox Christianity? The few things that 90% of Christians agree on our probably known to every slightly educated person in the western hemisphere. If you want to go into the nuances, who can pin those down? To use your own example, what Christian knows the nature of God and how have they deciphered it? The Bible lists dozens of attributes that are impossible to understand rationally and frequently seem to contradict one another.
Obviously, this raises the question, "What is basic Christian orthodoxy?" Though the full spectrum of orthodoxy can be quite complicated and involved, there are a few central beliefs that more than 95% of Christians believe (this includes Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant Christianity). One simply cannot be a Christian, or reasonably claim to be a Christian, without understanding these basic doctrines. Similarly, despite the fact that there are relatively few basic orthodox Christian beliefs, I doubt that I'd agree with Rize that "the few things that 90% of Christians agree on are probably known to every slightly educated person in the western hemisphere." I doubt this, because more often than not, when talking to seemingly educated people in the Western hemisphere, there seems to be vast amounts of confusion or misunderstanding over even the most basic Christian doctrines.

In this post, I want to establish a list of what I consider to be the most basic and fundamental orthodox Christian positions, and briefly explain the scope and meaning of each doctrine. Given that being a Christian necessarily entails an understanding of the gospel and a saving faith in Jesus Christ, any doctrine that is needed to fully understand the bare essentials of salvation is a basic orthodox Christian doctrine. These doctrines are:

1 - The Existence of God
All of Christianity is based on the fundamental idea that God exists and is the Creator of the universe.

2 - The Nature of God
Being a Christian requires having a basic understanding of the nature of God, namely that God is a personal Being who has communicated truthfully to humans, that He is loving, that He is just, and that He is merciful.

3 - Man's Sinfulness
The Bible clearly teaches that God has established a clear, propositional moral code for people to follow, and that all people have broken God's commands. As such, all people are sinners who bear real moral guilt before God, and deserve the penalty for sin, which is death.

4 - Jesus is God Incarnate
Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, is God in human form. He came to this earth and lived a sinless life, so that He would be capable of serving as a sacrificial substitute for sinful human beings.

5 - Jesus Christ's Death on the Cross
After living a sinless life, Jesus Christ died on the cross, which paid the penalty for the sins of the world so that God's wrath would be appeased for all who believe in Him, and all believers would then become positionally righteous before God.

6 - Christ's Resurrection to Secure New Life
Three days after Jesus Christ died on the cross, He came back to life, just as He promised before his death. His resurrection proves his victory over sin and death and gives new life to all who place their faith in Him.

All six of these doctrines are absolutely essential to Christianity. Consequently, I would say that no person can reasonably claim to be a Christian, be an "ex-Christian" or even be slightly familiar with Christianity unless they have a clear understanding of all six doctrines. Much as it would be silly to criticize vegetarianism unless you knew what vegetarianism actually is, it is quite absurd to criticize Christianity (or defend it) without knowing what Christianity actually is. One can only speak intelligently about a subject that one is familiar with. For that reason, I think it is quite absurd for someone who does not understand even what the Bible teaches about God being merciful and just and man's sinfulness to claim to know "the few things that 90% of Christians actually agree on."

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Practical Rejection of Determinism

One of the longest running debates concerning human nature is whether or not people possess freewill. Though I have previously written concerning whether freewill and foreknowledge are mutually exclusive, until this point I have not written any sort of essay concerning whether people actually possess freewill, which is obviously an important issue. Are peoples' actions determined or predetermined by some external cause, such that people have no true control over their lives, or do people have the capacity to make real choices, and through those choices exert real control over various aspects of their lives and the world around them? That is the central question of this essay. Before we begin our analysis let us define the terms "determinism" and "freewill," let us establish a criteria for what qualifies as an acceptable answer to our inquiry, and let us set boundaries on the scope of the question.

Fundamentally, both freewill and determinism are philosophies that declare the ultimate determinant of human action. In that sense, both freewill and determinism recognize that there may be a large numbers of factors that influence any given human action. However, at some point, any action is taken or decision made (including a conscious or subconscious decision to refrain from acting) based on one final criteria. This is where freewill and determinism diverge. Determinism states that after all the factors have been taken into account, all human actions finally result from something external to a person. Freewill states that considering all factors, all human actions ultimately result from the basis of an internal, freely chosen decision. By "freely chosen," I simply mean that a person has the ability to choose to act or not act in any particular way. For a more in-depth analysis on which definitions of "free" seem to relate to human freewill, please read my sister's blog post on the topic.

Having defined both freewill and determinism, I also want to add a couple of brief clarifying notes. First, due to their definitions, freewill and determinism, in their pure forms, are mutually exclusive. That is, if human actions are internally determined, then they cannot simultaneously be externally determined. Likewise, if human actions are externally determined, then they cannot simultaneously be internally determined. Therefore, if freewill exists, determinism cannot be true. Alternately, if determinism is true, then freewill does not exist. Second, there is a third possible answer to our question. Though pure freewill and pure determinism are mutually exclusive, there is the theoretical possibility that a hybrid exists, such that people have freewill at certain times or regarding certain events, but that some actions are externally determined. A thorough analysis must consider this possibility. Third, there are many different sorts of determinism. Some people postulate divine determinism, where God controls the human soul and chooses peoples' choices for them, leaving them with no final volition. Some postulate biological determinism, where genetic code determines both biological traits and the choices that a person will choose to make. Some postulate forms of sociocultural determinism, where people's values, opinions and choices are determined by the sociocultural influences that shaped them during formative years. I am certain that there are other such forms of determinism. However, because the various types of determinism vary in quality, but not in effect, it is reasonable to place them all in the same overarching category, since all forms of determinism hold firmly to the tenet that human actions are externally determined.

Next, we must establish a clear criteria for what constitutes an acceptable answer to our inquiry. For any philosophy to be true and consistent with the real world, it must meet two criteria. First, it must fit the evidence. Second, it must be practically applicable. That is the criteria that will be used to decide whether people actually possess freewill, whether determinism reigns supreme, or whether there exists some hybrid of the two.

I hesitate to add a section solely to preempt those who will point out the obvious exceptions and extenuating circumstances that would cast my conclusion in a dubious light, but given the prevalence of those who would swiftly contribute irrelevant anecdotes and hypothetical situations rather than debate my thesis on a rational, evidential basis, it seems to be a practical necessity. When contemplating the question of whether humans possess freewill, we will limit the scope of the inquiry to normal, non-altered human capacity. As such, this inquiry is not concerned with whether physically or mentally impaired people are capable of making genuine choices, nor does it take into account those who are in physically, psychologically or spiritually altered states. Instead, for clarity's sake, our fundamental question is, "Do normal humans, operating in normal conditions, internally choose their own actions, or are their actions externally determined?"

The first criteria leads us to weigh the evidence for determinism and freewill. Since, volition is a very personal thing, which cannot be directly observed externally, let us first consider practical human experience. Whenever I take actions, I have the distinct impression that my actions are chosen by me, and are not externally compelled. Right now, I am convinced that I am writing this blog because I chose to. If I were to become bored, hungry or decide that my argument was weak, I am convinced that I could choose to cease typing and do something more entertaining, munch on a snack or take a break to clear my mind. There are no actions that I recall taking which seem to me to have been externally determined in any way. Supposing that this constitutes as evidence, all of my personal experience serves as evidence that freewill does in fact exist and that none of my actions are externally determined.

Now, the use of my personal experience as solid evidence is predicated on the assumption that my impressions and memories are correct and that my brain is functioning properly. It is entirely possible that I am deceived, uninformed or mistaken concerning the choices that I think I have made. If it can be conclusively determined that I am deceived, uninformed or mistaken concerning the choices that I think I have made, then my personal experience cannot be counted as sound evidence, and should be discounted. In fact, it is entirely possible that if determinism is true, I would be the final determinant of none of my actions and yet simultaneously be convinced that I do possess freewill. Supposing this hypothetical case were true, then it would quite impossible for me ever to know which of my actions are internally chosen and which are externally determined. Because of this, supposing this case were true, I would be incapable to find any evidence for it. If I am unable to find any evidence that both my actions are externally determined and that I am deceived into thinking that I maintain internal locus of control, then this hypothetical situation can be reasonably discounted under criteria #1, since there necessarily is a complete absence of evidence for such a case.

Therefore, having considered the alternate case, it is rational to assume that, given the present absence of evidence to the contrary, my personal experience can be counted as acceptable evidence since it stems from a sound mind. Similarly, I would like to submit your personal experience as evidence in favor of freewill, since I am convinced that you are consciously capable of making decisions to take actions, since you are consciously capable of refraining from such actions, and since in the normal course of life you are not aware of having taken any actions which were not also chosen by you. As I did for myself, I will also consider you to be of sound mind, and include your personal experience as acceptable evidence. If, for some reason, you consider your own mental state to be compromised, or your perceptions to be inaccurate, feel free to exclude your experiences from the evidence in favor of freewill.

Having examined the personal experience evidence for determinism and freewill, let us now consider the various sorts of external evidence. When observing the behavior of others, no one can directly ascertain whether actions taken by another person are done of their own volition or because of some external sort of determination. As such, when considering the actions of others, we can only hear their testimony concerning whether or not their actions are freely taken or externally determined. As such, any ordinary observation of the behavior of others will result in evidence of the same sort as the first category. Therefore, there are no new additions to our list of evidence from ordinary observations of the behavior of other people.

Concerning hard scientific evidence for determinism, some scientists have suggested that neuroscience provides clear evidence that a person does not ultimately have control over their own actions, but that instead, the biology of the brain means that the final determinant of human actions is the brain, which is formed by genetics and operates under the laws of biochemistry. There are numerous intellectuals and scientists who postulate that the discoveries made by neuroscience research serves as solid evidence that we live in a world of biological determinism, which would categorically disprove human possession of freewill. Joshua Greene, Jonathan Cohen, Daniel Dennett, Daniel Wegner, and many others hold the stance that freewill is an illusion based on the evidence of biology. However, there are several major problems with such arguments. First, as Lucretius of the Mises Institute points out in his brilliant essay concerning neuroscience and freewill, proponents of biological determinism mistakenly create a false dichotomy by suggesting that a person and a person's brain are separate entities. Second, even concerning what the evidence of neuroscience shows, there is no consensus about what it actually shows. For this reason there are a great many books which have been written in the past few years and many more which are being written. As neuroscience is a fairly new branch of science, it will be quite some time before there is a large enough body of research and enough scientific saturation to reach any sort of scientific consensus. Third, because neuroscience and indeed, all science, is categorically limited to the study of that which is empirical, all arguments in favor of biological determinism necessarily rest upon the premise that their exists no non-physical component of a person. Because of this inherent limitation, no neurological research can possibly establish or disprove the existence of freewill or a state of determinism so long as there may exist such a thing as a human soul or spirit. And, indeed, since there can be no empirical evidence supporting or refuting the existence of a human soul, the validity of any scientific evidence on the matter necessarily rests upon philosophical evidence or non-physical evidence of some sort. As such, there can be no conclusive evidence of biological determinism that is self-supporting. We see then, concerning any form of scientific evidence for or against freewill or determinism, none is self-contained, and therefore no acceptable scientific evidence has yet been discovered nor can ever be discovered concerning the existence of freewill. Because of the logically flawed nature of the present arguments in favor of biodeterminism, the lack of scientific consensus on the matter and the intrinsic limitations of the scope of neuroscience, no valid evidence for our inquiry can be admitted from the hard sciences.

Next, we must consider the evidence from sociology and psychology that pertains to our inquiry. There are some that argue that the choices people make are based on the social and cultural conditioning a person undergoes as part of growing up and functioning in a society. They argue that since one's decisions are, to a large extent, based on the results of past decisions, which often stem from the reaction of other people and the environment to one's choices, then all of one's decisions are not made freely, but are determined by the sociocultural environment that one lives in, which psychologically conditions people to behave and think in certain ways. Whether nature or nurture most dictates a person's potential and realization of such potential, sociological determinism suggests that all of a person's actions are ultimately based on their own prior choices and the response of their physical and social environments in response to such choices, which means that ultimately all of a person's choices are finally a result of operant conditioning, similar to Pavlov's dog. Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx are notable advocates of such theories, believing that people are ultimately slaves to their upbringing or their economic class, respectively. However, these sorts of theories, while interesting and even plausible, lack sufficient evidence to be considered conclusive. Though it is certainly possible that people are inescapably products of their own culture and that all human actions are determined by psychological and sociological forces, it has not been established that this is the case. While testing on animals has shown the power of operant conditioning, humans are very different sorts of creatures and are not as functionally limited, due to their established possession of higher-reasoning capabilities. For that reason, even people who have been psychologically conditioned to act certain ways because of their past, are capable of breaking the cycle and learning new patterns of behavior, either on their own or with the help of cognitive behavioral therapy. Given that there is much documented evidence of the efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy, it is clear that while humans may learn certain patterns of behavior, they are also capable of unlearning them. Additionally, given the nature of sociology and psychology, though it is quite clear that social and cultural forces influence behavior, there is no evidence that people's decisions are completely determined by them. The existence of people who are non-conformers in all groups, regarding many aspects of life, even to their own detriment, would provide evidence that people are not solely molded and shaped by cultural and social forces. If it is granted that people's actions are not simply the result of social and psychological forces, then it cannot be clearly established that all people lack freewill, nor that all human decisions are sociologically or psychologically determined. If there is a case for sociological or psychological determinism of some form, it has not been sufficiently established. Additionally, due to the fact that humans are extremely complex beings, whose behavior often does not fit the predictive models of sociology or psychology, while it is reasonable to utilize such models to attempt to predict or explain human behavior, there is clear consensus that no one model in either category is empirically solid enough to make strong claims of any sort. For this reason, both sociology and psychology are considered soft sciences. As we are seeking only to admit solid evidence into our inquiry into freewill and determinism, no evidence from psychology or sociology can be considered acceptable.

Lastly, let us consider philosophical arguments that relate to the question of human freewill. Of these, there are more arguments for and against freewill than can be examined in detail in this paper. Though there are countless books, papers and resources written on the subject of philosophical arguments supporting or opposing determining, here is one by Norman Swartz that summarizes and analyzes a number of the most popular arguments on the subject. Among these are logical arguments in support of determinism, epistemic arguments in support of determinism, and causal arguments in support of determinism (which include the sorts of determinism that we examined in the last two paragraphs). Even in the realm of theology, there are countless proponents and opponents of divine determinism. These arguments rest either on the alleged incompatibility of freewill and foreknowledge (an epistemic argument), or on various unscriptural and illogical doctrines of God's sovereignty. The philosophical debate concerning determinism and freewill has been going on for over two thousand years and probably will not end anytime soon. However, given that suitable rebuttals have been written for every philosophical argument laid forth in favor of determinism, and also given that it is likely that a consensus will never be reached, we may either consider there to be a complete absence of evidence for determinism, or we may consider there to be a complete absence of evidence in support of both freewill and determinism. Since I am not presently aware of any arguments positively establishing the existence of human freewill, only of arguments showing that that there may be freewill, then we will consider there to be no evidence for or against determinism or freewill. As such, no sound philosophical evidence will be admitted pertaining to our inquiry.

Therefore, in conclusion to our examination of the evidence for freewill and determinism, we find that the only admissible evidence is personal experience, which provides support for the case of freewill, and offers no support for determinism. Though this is only one sort of evidence, it still is evidence, nonetheless. Any sound answer to our inquiry must properly explain why people think they have and seem to have freewill regarding their actions. An examination of the evidence leads us to the conclusion that our final answer must be one of the following:

1 - Human beings actually possess freewill and an awareness of their ability to exert control over their own lives
2 - All human actions are externally determined, including a determination that humans will have the illusion of freewill
3 - Human beings sometimes possess freewill and sometimes do not, and when they do not they still think they do

Having examined the evidence, we will next consider the case of freewill and determinism in regards to practical living. As stated above, the second criteria for an acceptable answer to our inquiry is that it must be practically applicable. We will now examine the practical implications of each of the three possible answers.

In the first case, if one believes that human beings possess freewill and an awareness of their ability to exert control over their own lives and the the world around them, then there are a good number of practical implications. First, we may trust our own brains and senses, since the information our brains provide (thinking that we choose our own actions) is trustworthy. This also means that, for the most part, we can trust our brains to provide us with mostly accurate information regarding ourselves and our world. Though our thinking may be wrong in some ways, at least the raw data that we process may be reasonable and acceptable. Second, since each person chooses their own actions, each person is capable of shaping their own life and is responsible for who they are, how they act, where they live, how happy they are and so forth. Additionally, if a person is unhappy with their life, they have the capacity to improve it by taking practical steps to increase their well-being. In psychology, this is referred to as "internal locus of control," and is a sign of mental health. Third, because each person is capable of impacting the world and other people, they also are personally and morally responsible for the impacts of their actions. This means that people can reasonably be held accountable for their actions and rewarded or punished based on what they do, how they impact the world and how they treat people. These are the primary and most important practical implications if people actually do possess freewill.

In the second case, if one believes in determinism and holds to the ideas both that all human actions are externally determined and that people maintain the illusion of freewill, there are also quite a number of practical implications. First, the fact that a person is being deceived by their own brain into thinking that they possesses freewill, when they do not, must lead to the conclusion that one's mind is not reliable and therefore no mental or sensory data can be rationally accepted. In such a case, your brain and all your thoughts are demonstrably untrustworthy, and therefore should be completely discredited. Second, since no person has any control over their own actions, every person is completely incapable of shaping their own life or the world in any way. Each person's actions, personality, living accommodations, and happiness are completely out of their control. If your life sucks, there is absolutely nothing that you can do about it. In psychology, this sort of thinking is referred to as "external locus of control," and is a sign of poor mental health. It is nearly identical to learned helplessness. Third, because each person is incapable of controlling their impact on the world or their treatment of others, there can be no personal or moral responsibility. All crimes that are committed could not have been prevented or avoided in any way, neither by the volition of the criminal nor by the choices of third parties, since no person has any control over their own actions. This means that all morality, laws and heuristics are ultimately powerless, unnecessary and ineffective. Nothing could occur any way other than how it does, and no person is capable of acting differently than they do, nor of volitionally changing in the future. Everything proceeds exactly how it must. Fourth, because of those previous implications, not only is freewill an illusion, but nearly everything about human existence is an illusion. Personality, relationship, thought, discovery, love, adventure and emotion are all ultimately vacuous. There can be no such thing as rationality. In this sense, the deception of determinism is even more profound and pervasive than simply being massively deluded beings, as depicted in The Matrix, for at least in such a case the deception may not be permanent, and even though the brain is deceived, there still exists real people, real choices and the potential for real impact in one's world. In the deterministic case, even the concept of personality is a delusion, for not only is the world illusory, but people do not exist as they seem to. This is the necessary and inescapable practical implication of believing in both determinism and the human possession of the illusion of freewill.

In the third case, if one believes that sometimes people possess freewill and sometimes their actions are externally determined, but that even when actions are externally determined, people still think they possess freewill, one is led to similar conclusions as in the case of pure determinism. So long as there are more externally determined actions than internally determined ones, then one cannot trust one's own brain regarding physical or cognitive information about oneself or the universe. Similarly, since for any given action you are more likely to lack control than have control, a majority of your actions, thoughts, situations and personality are not under your control. This leaves you in a similar psychological position, where most of your life you are helpless to change or alter. Not only will this leave a person with learned helplessness, but also there is the constant doubt and confusion over whether this is one of the times where one has freewill or whether this is one of the times where one's actions are externally determined. The case for moral and personal responsibility is the same as in the previous example, for no-one can be certain whether they or others are acting under their own volition or are externally controlled, which makes it impossible to establish reasonable culpability of any sort. In summary, a belief that more actions are externally determined than not must lead to a practical belief that most of life is an illusion and that when it isn't, the illusion is indistinguishable from truth. Practical living in accordance with this philosophy inevitably leads to a perpetual confusion, and a denial of personal and moral responsibility for one's life and the impact of one's actions.

Finally, we have concluded the analysis of determinism and freewill in regards to both of the established criteria. The final answer to our inquiry must be one that is both consistent with reality and practically applicable. In the category of evidence, we find that there is no solid evidence for determinism and their is one type of evidence that strongly supports the existence of freewill. The personal experience of each and every normal living person supports the hypothesis that people do possess freewill, since all are convinced that their actions are freely taken. Concerning practical applicability, there is no incompatibility between a belief in unfettered freewill and a real participation in human living, in every aspect of life. There is clear incompatibility between any form of belief in determinism and practical living, for a belief in determinism means that one cannot trust their own brain or sensory experience. Also, a logically consistent belief in pure determinism necessitates a belief that all of life is ultimately an illusion, and that no thoughts, people or choices exist, in any real sense of those words. Alternately, a belief in partial determinism necessarily entails a perpetual state of confusion about oneself, the actions of others and the resulting state of the universe. Partial determinism is, in many ways, even more mentally deadly than pure determinism since it entails a perpetual belief that the universe and the self is being tossed about by invisible entropic forces. Therefore, based on the evidence, the only rational conclusion to reach is that freewill exists. Similarly, concerning practical applicability, no human can logically and consistently live with a belief in any sort of determinism. On this basis, the only rational and consistent stance to take is that humans do possess unfettered freewill, and that they are aware of it. Normal people, under normal circumstances are in control of their lives, since they choose each and every action that they take.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Heartless and Unreasonable

Sometimes I am truly shocked by the sort of behavior that people are allowed to get away with. Recently something happened to a friend that I consider completely heartless and unreasonable. In his own words:

So, I just got dumped by my girlfriend of two years... I'm really not sure why. I just got an email yesterday saying that 'she couldn't do this anymore' and that I'd better not be at the house when she got home. I have no idea what brought it on... we had some problems earlier on, but we hadn't really fought in like a month or two. It just seemed like she had her mind set on it not working, so she wouldn't let it... and things seemed really calm and normal between us. She left for work yesterday morning and told me she loved me as she did...

So, aside from the normal heartbreak of losing a serious lover of two years, there was also the latter part of them email. I had been living with her for over a year at this point, and since I apparently had no idea this was coming, that leaves me homeless. Like, very literally, I slept on an acquaintance's couch last night, and I have no idea where I'm going to be in a few hours from now or any following night. I lack any real close friends in Boston - she was pretty much my only one. So, it's not like I really have anywhere to turn.

So, here I am: heartbroken, friendless, and homeless.
There are two major things wrong with this. First of all, the breakup itself sounds completely ludicrous and unwarranted. As with most breakups, it was female-instigated and apparently done for typical female reasons. By typical female reasons, I mean vague, undisclosed and trivial reasons typically accompanied with words such as, "Of course, I still love you, but..." "I can't do this," "We're just not compatible," or other similar vacuous phrases that convey nothing of truth or practical pertinence. While there might be some legitmate reasons for breakups, this instance does not seem to be such a case. Even supposing that there were legitimate cause for a breakup, this one is a textbook example of an immature breakup. It was instigated by e-mail, rather than in person, which is a sure sign of cowardice. There obviously has been some pre-breakup deception and/or lying on her part, otherwise there would be clear indicators of relational issues and she wouldn't have acted as if everything was alright in the morning, when it clearly wasn't. Additionally, if she really cared about him after dating for two years, then she would be willing to have a mature conversation regarding the reasons for the breakup, rather than offering vacuous phrases and leaving him completely confused and clueless about the whole ordeal. The breakup, even supposing that it might be warranted in some small measure, was clearly instigated in a cowardly, immature and deceptive manner. That is utterly reprehensible and should be socially unacceptable.

But, as horrible as that is, that's not the worst part. While it might possibly be understandable to breakup with someone on a capricious whim, and while perhaps there may be a few unique excuses for why a relatively mature person might behave in a immature and cowardly manner, for the second part of her behavior there can be no possible excuse. When people are living together, and when one or more of them is away from their hometown and natural support network, outside of extreme violence or majorly destructive behavior, there is no humane reason to forcibly evict someone who has done nothing wrong without warning. To kick someone out with zero warning is downright cruel, heartless and ruthless. She should be ashamed of herself!

But, given the moral depravity of today's society and the lack of even common decency, I'm sure that right now some of her girlfriends are consoling her and telling her that she did the right thing. If we, as a society, view this sort of behavior as a normal part of adolescence or as a morally neutral action that is simply part of the game of "love and war," then we are complicit in her actions. Personally, I believe there are moral and social lines that should not be crossed. I see this sort of behavior as outrageous and inhumane. While modern combat dating has conditioned people to behave like horrible people in order to achieve romantic success, people of integrity and character need to stand up against the tides of cruelty and dishonesty that permeate the dating world and refuse to accept or approve of any sort of behavior that is cowardly, immature or dishonest. As Cless Alvein insightfully writes, "In truth, the single most important aspect of being a great girlfriend is being a great friend, and more important to being a great friend is being a great person. Only if people are held accountable for their actions will they choose to behave honorably. We need to set high personal and moral standards and verbally stand against such atrocious behavior.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Arguments with the Logically Challenged

Ours is a generation that combines two things in a very oxymoronic sort of way. Modern people boldly declare their love for reason, rationality, logic, and empirical truth while simultaneous remaining completely unaware of what any of those things actually are. They vocally denounce those who believe things that are logically inconsistent, while arguing that such things are logically inconsistent using contradictory arguments themselves. Many freely engage in religion-bashing, but when asked to point out specific things they object to, their statements are crafted in ways that are as elusive and insubstantial as possible. Personally, I place a high value on reason, rationality, logic, and empirical truth. Therefore, whenever I encounter someone who pays lip-service to any or all of those glorious concepts and yet fails to exhibit the slightest comprehension of how to actually speak or argue rationally, disappointment and frustration quickly fill my soul.

I wish this were a rare occurrence. However, I am ceaselessly confronted with our generation's rational impotence. Within the past week alone I have had discussions with several people that perfectly exemplify the lack of ability to argue logically. Evidence is something important. When one is referring to an external source, it is typical to provide a specific quote or cite a specific phrase from the original source, rather than simply using a paraphrase. Even if one doesn't initially provide a reference, it is only reasonable to provide one upon request. One fellow I was conversing with alluded to a Biblical passage that illustrates that God changes His mind. When I asked him for a specific example, he simply offered a loose "paraphrase" that bore no similarity to the original passage whatsoever. Rather than even looking at the original source, he just assumed that he knew exactly what it said and meant. Even when challenged on it, he never provided me any solid references or direct quotations. Lack of evidence, or an improper recollection of a quote is the perfect way to ensure that one develops a straw man argument, rather than building any real philosophical case against an actual stance.

Similarly, earlier in the week, someone was commenting on the blog I posted on Christianity and Violence. He proceeded to develop a case opposing one of my statements in the blog. As the discourse continued and the evidence continued to mount against his case, the discussion began to turn towards semantics. Eventually, he suggested that for my statement to be correct, I must be using some odd and unusual definition of the word "violence." Once a dictionary definition of the word violence was provided, he still remained happily oblivious to that fact and accused another commenter of ignoring conventional definitions. From that point on the rational content of the discussion dropped to zero as his final argument was essentially, "You can think what you like, but remember, that's just your opinion." Honestly, I don't intrinsically object to reasonable discussions of semantics. However, when someone is claiming that others are using non-dictionary definitions of words, it is very important that they know what the actual dictionary definition is. If one is going to using evidence to support one's argument, it is vital to be sure that the evidence actually supports one's argument rather than rendering it inert.

Evidential problems are one sort of thing that I frequently face when having discussions with people. Another common issue is logical inconsistency. I was having a discussion with one fellow about whether freewill and foreknowledge are mutually exclusive. For some reason, he seems to have a stance that necessitates a categorical rejection of any possible synergism between the two. Of course, any sort of stance of categorical rejection is a problem because it prevents any rational consideration of arguments for a given position. However, categorical rejection, though dangerous to rational thinking, isn't necessarily a deal-breaker for having a rational discussion. It became worse when he began to use arguments whose conclusions did not logically follow from his premises, and when the premises of his arguments directly contradicted other statements that he made. Obviously, the glaring inconsistencies led me to ask for clarification. Did he agree with the statement that he had made, or did he hold to the implied premise of his argument? Rather than acknowledging the contradiction or clarifying his stance, he assumed I simply wasn't understanding him correctly, and attempted to argue through use of analogy. Needless to say, the analogy itself was logically inconsistent and simply served to reinforce the contradictory premises previously laid forth. It's quite difficult to argue with someone who has no problem with presenting an argument that is self-defeating and yet still believes that it is a powerful and sound argument.

Another problem that I encounter when discussing intellectual topics with people is that some people are unable to critically analyze their own stances and provide a rational basis for why they think what they do. My best friend is one such person. He's an amazing fellow and quite often his stances on things are dead-on. However, every so often we'll have a discussion about some topic where we disagree. When I press for details on why he holds a particular stance, he is unable to offer any rational reasons or logical basis. At those times he'll say things like, "It just is," or "I don't understand why you don't get it." At those times, I really don't understand why he thinks the way he does, which is why I am curious to learn his basis. Yet, he also does not really know why he thinks a certain way, and therefore remains unable to extrapolate a rational reason for his stance. Because of that, whenever we do hit a topic like that, I have to remind myself that I'm not going to be able to understand why he thinks what he does, even if I really want to.

Because of the many people I talk with who are rationally challenged, it is always refreshing to have a discussion with someone who is capable of clearly following an argument, dissecting it's premises and providing a clear and logically consistent response. Such people are not as plentiful as I wish they were, which means that rational discourse is not always a possibility. I think that although most modern Americans claim to like the ideas of reason, rationality, logic, sound evidence and empirical truth, a great majority are quite incapable of utilizing such mental resources or assessing their usage by others. If you're going to argue for something, know why you hold your stance. If you're going to use evidence to support your argument, make sure that you cite the evidence and that you actually know what it says. Most importantly, learns the rules of logic so that you are capable of rationally arguing in the first place.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Divine Brutality

Last week, while writing a blog on Christianity's stance on violence, I pondered many of the examples of violence and brutality in the Bible. Quite frankly, the Bible has numerous exciting stories and wondrous tales. Not only are there countless examples of heroic men and valiant fighters, but God Himself is responsible for countless killings. One thing that I personally found fascinating is that God kills people in various assorted ways. He rarely uses the same method more than once or twice. Quentin Tarantino is renowned as a movie director because of his creative scenes of violence. As creative as he is, God's violent creativity far surpasses anything Tarantino has ever done. Here are several brutal tales of divine slaughter:

-Massive global flood, killing nearly all of the world's population (Genesis 6-8)

-Fire and brimstone rain from the skies and annihilate two cities (Genesis 19)

-Angel of death kills all the firstborns in Egypt (Exodus 11)

-Watery deathtrap, as the parted Red Sea drowns an entire army (Exodus 14)

-The earth split apart and swallowed Israelite rebels whole (Numbers 16)

-Raging fire from heaven selectively consumes over 200 men (Numbers 16)

-Wild, venomous serpents kill numerous whiny Israelites (Numbers 21)

-Diseased rats are sent to spread tumors, decimating the Philistines (1 Samuel 5)

-A deadly assassin angel kills 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night (2 Kings 18-19)

-King Herod was struck by worms and devoured instantly (Acts 12)

While God loves it when people live righteously and honor Him with their lives, He's perfectly prepared to deliver justice in the most vivid, deadly and powerful ways possible to those who reject God's way of living by embracing rebellion and wickedness. As someone who doesn't especially relish the idea of being buried alive, drowned, bitten by a viper, consumed by fire, eaten by worms, nor slain by an assassin angel, I try to live my life in accordance with God's moral law and honor Him with my words and actions. However, we live in a world where all people have freewill. If you think that you can mock God, deny His existence and remain completely unafraid of God's wrath as you try to sleep at night, then go ahead. Richard Dawkins is trying out that strategy. Personally, my money's on the most creative and brutal instigator of violence in the universe.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Salvation, Love and Justice - A Discussion

A couple of months ago, we were discussing whether anything is knowable. Recently, we have been discussing the nuances of salvation. Though I often disagree with Ulcer, I have great respect for him, simply because he actually cares about the topic and offers occasionally brilliant insights. Our discussions are always scintillating and require me to critically think through various philosophical and theological issues. Here are some excerpts from our most recent discussion on salvation and my responses:

Ulcer: If "God cannot simply ignore or forgive the sinner and require no death, because that would make Him unjust," then it follows that grace and forgiveness are not intrinsically just, and since God is just, then grace and forgiveness are not godly qualities. So it follows from that, that Christ's crucifixion has nothing to do with my sins being forgiven, but rather appeasing the outrage of God as you have so succinctly explained. So if it is justice to condemn and punish, why even bother to send a sacrificial lamb to take the punishment? Why not just throw us all into the incinerator, wash your hands, and be done with it? The reason cannot be because God loves us. If love had anything to do with it, God wouldn't need to punish anyone. Consider what the apostle Paul had to say about love: "Love is not provoked, it keeps no record of wrongs." (1 Corinthians 13:5) So yes, he really could simply forgive the sinner, if the sinner was truly, sincerely, deeply remorseful.
First of all, I must say that your reply is very comprehensive and clearly represents a great deal of thought on the issue of salvation. However, it does appear that you don't fully understand the Christian position.

It seems that you view God's love and justice as mutually exclusive traits. This is not the Christian position. Rather, God is both perfectly loving AND wholly just. Because God is just, He must condemn those who break the moral law and enforce the stated penalties for a given offense. Because God is loving, He desires personal relationship with each person and desires the best for each person. Though love may keep no record of wrongs, the nature of love requires chastening not only for the sake of the relationship, but also for the sake of the chastened individual. Hebrews 12:6 points this out, "For whom the Lord loves, He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." Based on that fact, let us revisit your question. Why does God not just throw us all into the incinerator, wash His hands, and be done with it? Because God's relentless love for each person leads Him to desire relational restoration, absolution from moral guilt and righteous living for each individual.

There are a couple of things wrong with the appeasement philosophy of Christianity, besides the love problem. First of all, you deserve credit for the creative answer you gave to explain how the sacrifice of the one can pay for the many. It does make sense that is if you believe in God in the first place. There's still a problem though: Is Jesus in Hell right now? Will he be in Hell for eternity? If the punishment for my transgressions is eternal torture (or separation from God), then it doesn't matter how much Christ suffered on the cross or how pure and holy he was. You cannot outsize eternity. If it is a one-for-one trade, then only way Christ can redeem us for our sins is to be in Hell for eternity.
Now you are changing the punishment. The wages of sin is death, not eternal torture. As I stated before, death includes both the physical component and the spiritual separation. Death is not an eternal state, it is a temporal occurence which may last for a very short time, or an eternity. In the case of the unrepentant sinner, he is dead now (being spiritually separated from God), and he will remain dead eternally, supposing no change of heart. In Christ's case, He experienced a spiritual separation from God the Father while He was on the cross, dying physically. In Jesus' case, the death was a very short occurence, for death had no lasting claim on Him. He was physically dead for 3 days, and spiritually dead for no longer than that. In a like manner, for Christians who believe in Jesus Christ, death is powerless to hold them. Therefore Paul writes, "So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?' The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 15:54-57)

Still another problem is this: Even though I may have been absolved of my sins, I am still a sinner - one who sins - and I have a hard time believing that the God who was about to throw me into a pool of lava for stealing a candy bar won't eventually get irked at my mere presence again. Eternity is a very long time to go without another blood sacrifice. This is similar to the situation that a woman in an abusive marriage would be in. If her husband strikes her in a fit of rage, should she believe that he won't ever do it again? Now if God loved me unconditionally, I don't think I'd have much cause for worry, but we've already established, according to your explanation of Christianity, that my reconciliation with God has nothing to do with love and forgiveness.
Again, you have artificially divided God's loving nature from His just nature. God loves you even when you do sin or steal a candy bar. Even if He, to fulfill justice, throws you into hell, it is never because that is what He most wants to do. God, for some uncomprehensible reason, loves us in spite of the fact that we are sinners. The only reason He sends someone to hell is because of two things. First, justice demands it. Secondly, the sinner has willfully rejected God's love and His sacrifice and insisted on separation from God. Because God is just and because He respects the free choice of each person, God will send a person to hell who meets those two conditions.

You are quite right to say that reconciliation has nothing to do with love and forgiveness. Reconciliation is a legal concept, related to true moral guilt. Love and forgiveness are relational attitudes. However, because of God's love and desire for a joyous, personal relationship with each person, He is not indifferent to a person's choice. Because of His love, God desires that all people would choose absolution and reconciliation.

You have failed to make a good case for salvation through Christ. Now let me try.

When you offend someone (sin), you severe your relationship with them. Think of love as a cord that connects you to someone; it is the dynamic between you and I. Unselfishness, or giving consideration to the opposite end of that dynamic, keeps that connection strong and healthy. Selfish acts, from the subtle (refusing to help you with something) to the overt (physically attacking you), cuts that cord. This is something that you do, yourself. Its not that the other person - the opposing end of the dynamic - has stopped loving you, its that you have stopped loving them.

In most cases, anyone who truly is sorry, and feels the full gravitas of the unlove that they have committed against someone else, will not want to be forgiven! If someone arrives at a thorough understanding for what they've done to someone, and comes to have respect for social connection, they will want what's coming to them! But you don't have to give it to them. Instead of condemning them, you can redeem them through loving them again. You can mend the severed cord, just because. And why not? Which is better: the severed cord or the mended one? (Consider Matthew 8:5-8)

It is not possible to forgive someone who isn't sorry for what they've done (and, by the way, you also deserve credit for correctly stating that the sacrifice of Jesus must be accepted in order to work. Obviously, it doesn't matter how much you love someone; if they don't love you back, you don't have a relationship with them). However, if the offender is truly, deeply remorseful, the loving thing to do is to forgive the offense for the sake of love itself, and nothing else, no matter what. Love is awesome enough by itself to be the only thing ever needed for sins to be forgiven. Love is the meaning of life. Love is the whole reason why we exist. Why do you think God created us? He created us so that there could be a dynamic between Him and us, because it is only by that dynamic that love can exist. No one can love themselves; that's not what love is. Loving is not being obsessed with oneself; it is being obsessed with everything that surrounds you.

Indeed it can be said that Jesus Christ suffered horribly on the cross of crucifixion so that sins can be forgiven, but how, or in what way, does this get sins forgiven? Does blood and death get sins forgiven? Let’s look to John 15:13 – Jesus says “A greater love hath no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.” So, God had to prove to himself (as well as us) that he really did love us enough to forgive us for anything by becoming flesh and demonstrating his commitment to that love in the greatest way that love can be expressed: self-sacrifice.
And that, Theoconfidor, is how you make the case for salvation through the sacrifice of Christ; because love - not blood and death - is what gets sins forgiven.
If salvation were merely the restoration of relationship between God and man, your case would be powerful and compelling. However, salvation involves not just one, but two things:

1 - Absolution from real moral guilt stemming from a person's choice to sin
2 - Restoration of the broken relationship between God and a person

Therefore, no case for salvation is complete unless it includes both legal absolution to satify God's justice and relational restoration. Love, blood and death are all necessary for sins to be forgiven. That is the Christian position. It may not be appealing to the modern person, but it is the truth.

Do you know what the irony is this time? I am an atheist. I do not believe in a sentient, personal creator. I believe that morality is relative. I don't believe that there is any ultimate meaning to life (which is OK because life doesn't need meaning) aside from simply enjoying it. I do believe it is very likely that a historical figure named Yeshu existed, but he was no more divine than you or I. You are the devout Christian, here. You are the one who would, presumably, claim to have a personal relationship with God. And yet, even I can make a better case for Christianity than you can. Why do you suppose this is?
If you truly do make a better case for Christianity, then why do you not believe it? I find it hard to consider a case that is unconvincing a very good one.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Violence and Christianity

The Bible is not opposed to violence. Christianity is not opposed to killing. Nowhere in the Scriptures will you find a place where all killing is considered immoral. Instead, Christianity is opposed to certain kinds of violence and killing. This is a vital distinction that our generation has conveniently forgotten. Our modern American moral stance on violence, which used to be based on Christian morality, has strayed vastly from the actual teachings of the Bible. Where the Bible is quite clear about what sorts of violence are reasonable and righteous and which sorts are wicked and cruel, modern squeamishness has taken those biblical moral rules and twisted them into something very different. Allow me to illuminate this point with some illustrations.

"Thou shalt not murder," taken directly from the 10 commandments is indeed a valid precept that serves as a pivotal part of Christian morality. When understood in context of the rest of the Judaic code, it's importance and applicability makes sense. However, when it is stripped from its original context, that simple phrase morphs into a new moral standard. Modern people have taken the mandate not to murder and altered it to the point that the modern commandment is: "Killing is inherently wrong." For this reason many Americans strongly oppose the death penalty.

In fact, we have gone far beyond that as we expanded and added our own contemporary interpretations to that law. As America has grown into an increasingly feminized nation, we have become increasingly opposed to violence of all sorts. Not only is killing wrong and immoral, but now even spanking your own child is considered child abuse and is punishable by incarceration and state-sanctioned removal of your parental rights. Yelling or giving your spouse an angry look is now considered domestic violence. There are increasingly strong supporters of weapon control laws, which reflects the modern sentiment of many that even carrying an instrument of violence is nearly immoral. This excessive opposition to violence is quite opposed to Christian morality.

Most generic opposition to violence reflects a very effeminate view of the world. Though women are born with a natural distaste for violence and a predisposition against it, men do not naturally have a distaste for violence. In the masculine view of the world, violence is either considered simply a fact of life, glorified as an exhibition of manly prowess, or even enjoyed for it's own sake. Men are born with a fighting instinct. Boys need almost no external impetus to play games and use their imaginations in various violent fashions. From the time they are 2 or 3 years old, boys are already picking up sticks and pretending that they are guns or swords. Nor it is just an adolescent phase that men eventually grow out of. At 22 years old, I quite enjoy violence, for it's own sake. It's enjoyable to watch, which is why all of my favorite movies have pivotal, climactic fights and battles. Men love movies like The Matrix, Equilibrium, Fight Club, Kingdom of Heaven, Gladiator and Braveheart. All of those movies would be quite dry and dull without the raw masculinity that they exhibit through the brutality of the fight scenes. Likewise, all of my favorite board games, card games and video games have copious amounts of violence. Given the choice between playing Pandemic, a board game where you must cure diseases that threaten the world's population, and Risk, a game of world domination where the only way to win is by exterminating the other players, nine times out of ten my brothers and I will choose to play Risk.

In fact, many of my close friends and male acquaintances have a similar disposition towards violence. My roommate loves excessive brutality. He has a collection of various medieval swords and typically carries around one or two dangerous pocket knives. Another friend of mine bought a .45-magnum handgun just a couple of months ago. An acquaintance of mine who lives in Seattle is a Mixed Martial Arts fighter who competes in public tournaments. Two guys I grew up with have served in the Marines for several years, one of whom just returned from active duty in Iraq two weeks ago. Yet another friend of mine has been taking jujitsu classes at a local community college. Two brothers I know from my church have a collection of guns and savage, improvised melee weapons. Men naturally accept violence.

If there is a masculine objection to violence it is generally either a moral objection to specific uses of violent force, or else simply an opposition to the harmful consequences of violence. In the latter case, it is not that men are opposed to violence itself, but only to the natural consequences and effects of such violence. Death or injury to oneself or a loved one is something quite undesirable. Robert E. Lee, general of the Confederate army during the American Civil War said, “It is well that war is so terrible, lest we should grow too fond of it.”

Contrarily, violence is seen as naturally repulsive from a feminine perspective. When I was growing up, my mother always told me, "Don't practice what you wouldn't do in real life." The context of this typically was in regards to some boyish play-violence that I was involved in. As I reached adolescence, frequently various computer games were banned from our house simply because they were violent in nature. Command & Conquer was banned because mom didn't like the screams of the dying soldiers. Descent, which didn't even have living creatures, was banned simply because the game involved weapons and destruction. Eventually, all first-person shooter video games were banned in our household until the age of 18. My dad never had a strong stance towards violence, and wasn't the primary rulemaker in the family. All of the anti-violence rules in our household were enacted and enforced by my mother.

Therefore, though it is reasonable for women to be opposed to all sorts of violence, it is not reasonable or natural for men to have a blanket opposition to violence, nor for a society to be completely opposed to all sorts of violence. As our nation has become increasingly feminized, and as men are systematically emasculated either through subversive cultural indoctrination or by forced subjection, America's opposition to violence increases. This is not a reasoned, rational, philosophical objection to violence, but instead is simply a gut-level reaction to violence that has no grounding in reality, and certainly no foundation in Christian morality. Those who suggest that violence itself is universally wrong or immoral are making a faulty appeal to emotion, rather than any sort of rational, logical claim.

Now that is it seen that the general modern American stance on violence is nothing more than a vague and baseless appeal to emotion, I would like to examine the Biblical stance on morality, so that we can reach a reasonable, rational stance on morality and come to a fuller understanding of the nature of God. In such a critical examination, I would first like to point out that the Christian moral stance on violence is not a simple and easy-to-understand one, but instead is highly nuanced. The same God who declares, "You shall not murder," (Ex. 20:13) also says, "The avenger of blood himself shall put the murderer to death; when he meets him, he shall put him to death" (Num 35:19). God commands the Israelites not to murder, but He also commands them to put certain people to death. The biblical stance on violence is that some sorts of killing and violence are just and righteous, while other kinds of violence are unjust and wicked.

Not only does God command certain instances of violence while forbidding certain kinds of violence, but also, God Himself is a violent God. Throughout the pages of Scripture there are countless references to God directly killing people. Genesis 6:17 is quite a brutal passage where God says, "And behold, I myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die." Yet, never is the violence of God purposeless and random. His violence is very intentionally, very specifically based on one condition. In the above passage, why did God send floodwaters to kill 99.99% of the earth's population? Genesis 6:5 yields the answer, "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." God's violence is always done in response to the evil actions of a person or group of people.

Likewise, when God commands killing, it also follows the same criteria. Evildoers who violate God's clear moral code are to be put to death, so that the community will be purged of evil. For example, "That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the Lord your God... You must purge the evil from among you." (Deut. 13:5) Concerning a rebellious son who will not obey but instead is living wickedly, "Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall put away the evil from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear." (Deut. 21:21) There are countless more lists of moral offenses for which the Jews were commanded to put violators to death. Similarly, when God commanded the Israelites to exterminate the inhabits of the promised land, He was quite clear that the Israelites were both not to emulate the deeds of the nations and also that all the false gods of the nations should be destroyed. Exodus 23:24 is a prime example of this mandate, "You shall not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their works; but you shall utterly overthrow them and completely break down their sacred pillars." The inhabitants of Canaan were not just killed so that the Israelites could have their land--they were slaughtered because of their wickedness and idolatry. Those whom God kills and who God commands His people to kill are those who act wickedly and transgress against the God's clear moral decrees.

Similarly, non-lethal violence that the Bible advocates is always directed in response to evil behavior and is used for the sake of correction and instruction in righteousness. Proverbs 19:18 says, "Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction." Proverbs 20:30 says, "Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, as do stripes the inner depths of the heart." Hebrews 12:11 attests to the goal of chastening, "Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." Jesus Himself, in one of my favorite scenes in the gospels, fashions a whip for Himself and violently drives merchants and lenders out of the temple, overthrowing the tables and pouring money all over the ground (John 2:13-17). Jesus' violence wasn't just a symptom of an anger control problem. He intentionally threw people out of the temple to remind them that God's house is holy and must be treated with reverence and to shame them for their disrepect.

Of course, this is not the whole story of Christianity's stance on violence. While the Bible is extremely pro-violence when it comes to violence used for justice, correction and slaying evildoers, it is also adamantly against many kinds of violence. At some point in the future, I will write another article considering nonviolence and Christianity and looking at what sorts of violence God opposes. As Ecclesiastes insightfully states, "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven... a time to kill and a time to heal... a time of war and a time of peace." (Ecc. 3:1, 3:3, 3:8) While many people either strongly oppose or strongly support violence, Christian beautifully unites opposites by expressing strong support for some kinds of violence and strong opposition to other types of violence. For this reason there are numerous examples of both stoical nonviolence and fierce bloodshed in Christianity. Medieval monks and priests would never lift a finger to physically harm another soul, while the crusaders soaked the earth with the blood of the Saracens. As G.K. Chesteron memorably writes, "It is true that the church told some men to fight and others not to fight; and it is true that those who fought were like thunderbolts and those who did not fight were like statues." Similarly, God Himself is both the glorious giver of life, and a fearsome, unrelenting bringer of death. Christianity has a stance on violence that is comprehensive and consistent, yet highly nuanced.

Sadly, in modern society's twisting of Christian morality and our wholesale rejection of masculinity we have become a nation that allows our consciences to be driven not by a godly desire for righteousness, but by the capricious whims of our emotions. Not only have we sought to label all violence as intrinsically evil, we have also rejected the fiercely masculine God of the Bible, simply because He doesn't line up with our distorted view of morality. Nor is the modern church exempt from this charge of distorted thinking. John Eldredge, in The Way of the Wild Heart, alludes to this fact, "I don't fully understand the modern church's amnesia-plus-aversion regarding one of the most central qualities of God understood for centuries before us... Our God is a warrior, mighty and terrible in battle, and He leads armies." Exodus 15:3 declares, "The Lord is a warrior." It is time to return to a proper understanding of the appropriate place and purpose for violence, rather than using emotion as a basis for a wholesale rejection of all violence.

In summary, we see that the God of the Bible is a fiercely violent God. His killing is not whimsical and random; it is always directed towards evildoers. God has no qualms about brutally exterminating those whose hearts and deeds are characterized by wickedness. Likewise, the violence that God commands is always directed towards the elimination of evil, for the sake of preserving and encouraging righteousness. Our modern moral indignation is quite misplaced, for we oppose violence more than we oppose evil. We take violence too seriously, while taking justice too lightly, evil too lightly and righteousness too lightly. We are a nation that has begun to believe that nothing is worth fighting for, that nothing is worth killing for. Christianity stands firmly opposed to those stance. John Eldredge attests on this fact, "Our God is a Warrior because there are certain things in life worth fighting for, must be fought for. He makes man a Warrior in his own image, because he intends for man to join him in that battle." In the same vein, British philosopher Edmund Burke says, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Christianity is a violent religion that adamantly believes that righteousness is worth fighting for and that evildoers are worthy of death. The God of the Bible is a fierce and vicious God--and there's nothing wrong with that!