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“I know everyone who gave their life that day, some of which were my best friends and my daughter. And I guarantee you, beyond any shadow of a doubt, they are dancing with Jesus today.”

 

The above quote from Pastor Frank Pomeroy of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs Texas captures one of the reasons why religion will never die.  It may diminish some.  It will certainly continue to change greatly. But die, no.

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This quote is from a sermon he preached on Sunday, Nov 12, 2017.  A week before this sermon a gunman had entered his church and murdered  26 members of his congregation, including his 14 year old daughter. He preached this sermon in a tent. At the front of the tent were the few remaining members of his congregation.

Many atheists say that religion will one day die out and be no more.  Some say it is already happening, that it is shrinking and will continue to do so until it no longer exists.   I believe that the number of atheists will continue to grow for awhile, but do not think it will ever become the dominant religious view of the planet. And by atheism, I mean the variety that does not believe in God or the supernatural.  Instead, I think some variety of religious belief, including in a God, will survive and still be the most common view.

The reason I think this is because I realize that humans are more heart than mind.  And, by the way, that is not a bad thing. While the heart can and has led to many evils, it is also the source of our morality and most of what is good too.  It is also an essential part of what gives our lives joy and happiness. Evidence, logic, reason all have an important role, but they are not the basis of what is good and right in our lives.

David Hume put it well when he said, “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.”

Many atheists may be surprised at this quote from Hume. After all, he is a one of the pre-eminent empirical and skeptical philosophers in history.  However, Hume realized that we do not use our reason to determine our morality and our goals, but rather, they are chosen through our passions and emotions. And reason is then used in aide of them (which can include modifying them to if needed) and, to justify them (unfortunately).

Consider, did you reason your way to loving your parents and siblings?  Did you use logic and evidence and rational thought when meeting people to determine your friends?  Did you reason your way to loving your children?

In moral decisions, do you use abstract moral principles and reason from them to determine if a given action that you have to make now is moral or not?  And do you use reason to determine whether to get angry or not when you see a man knock down an old woman and steal her purse, a woman slapping a child hard enough to mark them, a child tormenting a cat?

Reason has a role to play, but it is in aide and support of, not in substitution of.

Which is why religion will never die away.

What arouses more passion than both the idea and reality of death.  Not only our own death, but, often more importantly, the death of your loved ones – parents, spouse, friends.  Children.

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171105195446-14-sutherland-springs-church-shooting-super-169            For most people, such losses need more than what reason and logic can provide.  I wrote a blog a few weeks ago, “There is No Immortality, But There Are Times I Chose to Believe Anyway”, about why I find traditional atheist platitudes on death unsatisfactory, and  why, on an emotional level, I find myself vested in the belief in the rainbow bridge and will continue to happily be so vested.

This is even though I have been an atheist for over 43 years now.  And this is despite my love of science, my commitment to rational thought, my being a member of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry since its first day when its journal was called the Zetetic, and my highly analytical nature.

Consider Martin Gardner, one of the founders of the modern skeptic movement, and a founding member of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (called Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal at first). Even though a skeptic of the first order, he believed in God and immortality, even though he knew there was no evidence and that such a belief was irrational.

We are not rational creatures. We can harness rationality and use it, but the great majority of our pleasures and desires and goals are not the result of rational thought.  I did not sit down and say and make a list of things that I might like, put reasons by each of them, and then made a conscious choice.  I like to write because I love to read. And my love of reading did not come about by rational reflection but from emotional response.

And there is nothing wrong with this. It is an essential part of what it means to be human. Change it, and you are dealing with something that is something else than human.

So, when I see what atheism has to offer for comfort and support – atoms returning to the universe to last as long as the universe within the hearts of stars or in enormous gas clouds, living on in the memories and lives of others we have touched, living on in our memories and being one of the ones touched by the deceased, and so forth – and compare that to my friends and loved ones “dancing with Jesus” and waiting for me to join in when I eventually die….well, I know which one resonates more strongly.

One final thought.  While I enjoy discussing and disagreeing about various ideas and issues relating to religion – and do feel there is much that deserves strong condemnation – the most important thing is not religious beliefs per se, but an individual’s views towards choices.  Pastor Frank Pomeroy said this well in his sermon too;

“Folks, we have the freedom to choose, and rather than choose darkness, as the one young man did that day, I say we choose life. “

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I just recently came across this blog that perfectly highlights one of the reasons I eventually became an atheist – the philosophical and moral problems in believing in an omniscient, omnipotent, moral being, especially one who is concerned about our welfare and well being.

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In “No This Isn’t All Part of God’s Plan So Lets Stop Blaming It on Him”, by Dr. Benjamin L Corey, Dr. Corey tries to salvage the moral part of that description of God.  Unstated, and, perhaps, unrecognized, is that he does so at the expense of an idea of a God being all knowing and all powerful.

Dr. Corey starts off by discussing why he has a problem with those who, in the face of a tragic loss, say it is all part of God’s plan.  This bit here does a good job of summarizing this problem:

Not only does that line fail to bring me comfort, it also seems to impugn God’s character. The idea that a loving God would have a “plan” that involved wiping out thousands in earthquakes and tsunamis, giving people cancer, parents losing children, car accidents, trauma, abuse, and all manner of pain and suffering, is an insane idea.

Think about it: if this is all “according to God’s plan” and every life event is being directed and controlled by him, he’s really bad at making plans.

In some of my saddest seasons of loss, people have come along side of me and said, “Well, we’ll never really understand God’s plan.”

And every time I hear it, through my tears and suffocating sadness I just want to reply, “No shit, Sherlock.” How could a plan that involves so much heartache be understood?

………

Sometimes we’ll say God planned the suffering for our benefit. Other times we’ll be tricked into believing that God planned the suffering to chastise us for not measuring up. Yet, no matter how we try to rationalize or explain it, we end up at the same spot: if this is all part of God’s plan, God is the author and cause of evil and suffering

 

I agree with Dr. Corey on this. I have never understood how a good God could cause evil and suffering and still be considered a good God. However, I will say that the Old Testament writers had no problem in doing so.  God afflicted Saul with madness. He hardened the pharoah’s heart. He sent plagues to punish. He sent disasters to punish. As with Job, God could take away a spouse, children, wealth and home and health…and yet was still good and moral.

I believe that there were three reasons that these ancient writers thought this.  One was the mystery bit that God hits Job with at the end – were you there when I made the morning, shut the door to the seas, laid the foundation of the earth.  In other words, God is so great and we so small that we will never be able to understand his reasons. But, take his word for it, he is a Good God.

Another is that many ancients believed that those who suffered somehow deserved it. That is still another answer that many still believe, although I do not think as many as in these ancient times (during early Christianity, doctors did not look for physical causes of diseases, but, instead, looked for how that person had sinned and so called down this affliction from God, and what they could do to appease God – it is one reason that Muslim doctors became the more trusted.)

Finally, I think that the ancients believed that whoever had the power had the right to say what was good and what was wrong.  A more primitive version of the modern position that God is morality.

Over time though, societies and cultures grew and changed.  Ideas were tested and ideas discarded.  Among those were ideas about morality.  Today, the idea of might makes right is abhorrent for most people.  And the idea that all people who suffer deserve it is likewise seen by most as absurd (birth defects anyone).

Which leaves only the mystery one still surviving – that God has a reason that would make what seems evil into good and right. But, unfortunately, we are too limited in our understanding to ever be able to see this.

 

Dr. Corey quite rightly rejects this. But, in doing so he has also rejected the ideas of an all knowing and all powerful God, and either doesn’t realize it or chooses not to acknowledge this.  Here is his answer to the problem of evil and a moral God.

 

Instead, when we acknowledge that really hard and sad life events did not come from the hand of God, and were not in any way planned by or ordained by God, I believe we’re invited to get to know a God who joins in our suffering instead of causing it.

………………………………………………………………………………

Instead of trying to rationalize our suffering as being from the hand of God– thus making God an agent to be petrified of instead of a creator to be loved, I think we should be quicker to acknowledge that, no, a lot of what we experience in life isn’t God’s plan at all.

……………………………………………………………………………….

Because you see, if it’s outside of God’s heart and desires, God grieves that loss and brokenness with us– because it’s his hopes and dreams for our lives that end up getting smashed as well.

…………………………………………………………………………………

Instead of this idea of God having a master plan that meticulously dictates and controls what happens in our lives (often referred to a blueprint theology), I believe that God has hopes, dreams, and desires for our stories. When those things come true, he rejoices and celebrates with us.

But when those hopes and dreams get smashed to bits, instead of saying “Oh, by the way– I actually did that,” I believe God sits in the dark and mourns those broken dreams with us.

And when the tears have subsided long enough to begin to hear his voice clearly, I’m convinced he’s also whispering, “And I know this can’t replace your loss, but when you’re ready I’d love to partner with you to try to make something good come out of all this.”

 

First off, notice that God no longer knows what is going to happen: “…his hopes and dreams for our lives that end up getting smashed as well” and “were not in any way planned or ordained by God”.  In other words, God is not all knowing.

Next off, not all powerful.  God cannot stop these events from happening and once happened he cannot “replace your loss”.

So, Dr. Corey gets to keep the moral part of the descriptor of God, but at the expense of God not being all powerful and all knowing.  And that’s fine. If you want to define God like that then our discussion should be on how limited is God, and when do those limits approach describing a being who cannot be described as God any longer.

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And , truth to be told, if you want to have an all-powerful and all knowing God who does not care about morals and morality, I think you have a stronger case too.

 

Take your pick.

 

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Normally I do just one blog during a week. But this week there will be two, my normal Wednesday blog, and this one.

 

 

It seems that we have reached a critical mass, a critical mass that has been set ablaze by the Me Too movement. It seems that women, and some men, everywhere are speaking up about harassment from the rich and powerful.  Harvey Weinstein, of course.  Then also, after Harvey, Ed Westwick, Kevin Spacey, Ben Affleck, former President George H. W. Bush, Louis C. K. and many others.  And the list is growing – and I hope continues to grow.

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Doubtless some of those or those of others to come, will turn out to be honest mistakes in communication or memory. Others will turn out to be lies or half truths done out of maliciousness or even to score political points. However, I am not going to make the mistake of so many on the right who question whether hate crimes and hate speech are increasing at all and who point to a few hoaxes as reason to question the experiences and reality of thousands of people.  Most, in fact, the great majority, of these women’s claims will turn out to be true. Just as is true for those who have experienced hate crimes and speech.

 

I should note that although I mentioned the rich and powerful, as well as listed the names of such, this is by no means confined only to the rich and powerful.  Would that it were. But this issue crosses all areas of society, the rich and the poor.  The rich and powerful though can often get away with such behavior on a scale that those poor can only dream about, whether that dream be bliss or nightmare. And, that the rich and powerful are much more visible than the average person.

 

Also, before going further, let me state this is not a political issue. It is not a liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican issue. Most of those coming out now are from the entertainment industry and heavily liberal.  However, a brief look at recent history shows that this is not only liberals and Democrats.  Need I remind people of Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Herman Cain, Dennis Hastert, Donald Trump and many others.

 

As I said, this is not a political issue, although it does have political ramifications.

 

Instead, this is a human and American societal issue and concerns all of us. Look at the names I mentioned in the preceding paragraphs. They range from one end of the political spectrum to the other. However, I am realistic enough to know that for many, and possibly most, they will see this as a problem mostly for liberals or mostly for conservatives. Of course, this could wind up working if the conservatives would take aim and take down the liberal sexual harassers and the liberals do the same for the conservative ones. But, again, my ability to see reality knows that this will not happen. It is too easy and too facile and the issue spread too widely and deeply for this ironic simplistic vignette to happen.

 

Let me start by briefly going over what I think are some of the causes of our societal addiction to sexual harassment. I think this is important because without understanding the root causes of a problem, not understanding how it came about and what supports it, all attempts to deal with it will work only by chance, with many being ineffective efforts and others actually creating greater harm. This is going to happen anyway, but knowledge and understanding will reduce the mistakes and increase the effectiveness of our actions moving forwards.

 

I do not intend to go into this in any sort of depth. For one, I am already going to bust my self imposed limit of keeping these to 1000 words or so. But, also, to do any sort of proper analysis would take much more knowledge and much more time than I have, and would take many thousands of words. I am, instead, just presenting some ideas of my own for consideration.

 

The first of these is that one of the main roots of sexual harassment lies in the idea of power coupled with the ideas of the proper roles of men and women in society.

 

Libby Ann, in her excellent blog “Child Brides, Teenage Sluts, and Roy Moore”, hits at some of this in discussing the views and attitudes of some conservative evangelical Christians.  Simplistically put (read her blog for a fuller discussion on this) the roots lie in this groups’ ideas of the proper role for men and women.

 

Men are meant to support and protect women. Women are meant to be submissive and obey men. To be supportive and able to protect their family, men need to be older and well established financially.  Women though need to know how to cook and clean house, bear and raise children, and be submissive; something a woman can do as a girl of 13.

 

What is interesting here is that this idea of the proper roles of men and women was at one time the dominant one in our society.  It has only been in recent times that a new ideal has taken hold and become the dominant view of most of society – that of a woman being the equal of a man, due the same rights, respect, and opportunities as a man.  Something that, even when disagreeing on particular situations, is usually given at least lip service by all sides.

 

However, it is important to note that first, this change of ideals is not uniform, and the understanding of how this new ideal works in specific situations varies considerably.

 

Second, although ideals may have changed, attitudes have lagged.  As is usual.

 

And third, that all progress also generates a push to not only stop but to go back to the way things were before, or at least as they were perceived as being.  Currently we have started living through such a dark period.

 

Which makes the light being shone by these women willing to speak up during our time of moral eclipse even more amazing.  During this time when, for whatever reason – ignorance, fear, denial, greed – we as a society are no longer concerned and working towards creating a more just society these women are speaking up, often at personal risk.

 

I only hope that even though mistakes will occur, tensions created, people hurt, and society roiled, that these and more women continue to speak up, because there are many more women as the Me Too movement showed.  Continue to shine not only to just limit the darkness but to reverse it.

 

This is a time for women when, like so many other issues such as racial discrimination, many point to laws passed and progress made and say no more needs to be done. And too many then go on to say too much has been done, and start darkening people’s lives.  In doing so they ignore that in actuality not enough has been done.  In fact, only the easy parts have been taken care of, and those imperfectly.

 

Shine on through the storm.

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I confess. My title is misleading.  The Gospel of Judas (not Iscariot) has not been lost at all, just well concealed and its knowledge revealed to a carefully selected few. For example, Cardinal Richelieu had read the Gospel of Judas (not Iscariot) and successfully absorbed its lessons. However, today, with more and more Christian leaders having read this once secretive gospel and following its teachings, as is evidenced by so many of them endorsing and supporting Donald Trump and his subsequent election, the time for such secrecy is past.

Now, I do not intend to post the whole of this Gospel (it is the longest of all the gospels), only parts. My intention is to make Judas (not Iscariot) well known and force the publication of a new, revised Bible with this Gospel, the most influential of all the Gospels, taking its rightful place before Matthew and Mark as the first of the gospels.  So, without further ado, here are some select passages from the hitherto hidden Gospel of Judas (not Iscariot).

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JnI 1:1 – 21

And certain of the Pharisees and certain of the Herodians were sent to Jesus to lure him and catch him in a trap of his own words.  And when they came they said unto him, Master, we know that you are true, and care for no man over that of God for you teach the way of God in truth.  So teach us Master so that we should know the way of God, is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not? But Jesus, knowing their hypocrisy and deceit said to them, bring me a penny that I may see it. And they brought to Jesus a penny.  And Jesus said, Whose is this image and superscription?  And they said unto him, Caesar’s. And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. And they outwardly marveled while their hearts were filled with anger.

After the questioners of Jesus and the crowds had left, Judas (not Iscariot) approached Jesus and asked him, Lord, is not Caesar God’s too?  And Jesus smiled at Judas (not Iscariot) and said, Truly, God has given you the discernment to see this.  And Jesus took Judas (not Iscariot) aside and said to him, Listen well most favored disciple, and learn these secret teachings of God. And I charge you to listen and learn and only reveal these to those whose discernment is the equal of your own and who can make Godly use of this wisdom.  And Judas (not Iscariot) listened well and followed the words of his Master, the Lord.

JnI 2:1 – 4

Jesus said that mankind is foolish and in their foolishness they follow their own thoughts and desires over that of God’s. For the glory of God and the furtherance of his will use those thoughts and desires against God’s foes. Sow confusion among those who oppose God’s will by using the confused minds of one against the desires of another so that neither can speak the same language, so that neither have the same cause, and so that both will fall when confronted by those following the way of God.

JnI 2:16

The ways of Caesar are not the way of righteousness and justice. Therefor when working with Caesar to bring forth the intent of God, your ways too do not need to be righteous or just.

JnI 2:20 – 22

While the meek shall indeed be one of the inheritors of the kingdom it is the rich and the powerful, the loud and the boastful who control the things of Caesar’s. Such men act upon their own desires, even to choosing to believe lies as truth and ignorance knowledge.  Let such men grab the secret parts of women and cheat the weak and powerless, so long as they listen to your words and so do God’s will.

JnI 4:14

When necessity calls, promises made in the past are of the past.apostle-saint-jude-thaddeus

 

JnI 4:24

When a man is harmed to advance the glory of God, then harm him severely such that his vengeance need never be feared.

 

JnI 6: 20

Faith need only be kept with god. Mankind is too fickle, weak, and greedy to expect or deserve faith. Keep faith with God and break faith with others when it serves your cause or God’s.

JnI 6:31

Do not hesitate to sin if it furthers God’s will. God will forgive such sins.  He will not forgive those who do not so sin and so fail to further God’s will.

JnI 7:3-8

For the things of Caesar, what is right is what those who have power say. Work hard to be the ones with power, for the furtherance of God’s kingdom.

JnI 9:1

Men are deceitful creatures.  Because of that they are easily deceived. Use that to bring about God’s glory.

JnI 9:3-5

Men are nothing compared to God, only fools braying into the night, concerned only with what will get them through from moment to moment. Use that and you will always be able to deceive them for the glory of God.

 

JnI 12: 3

Only God commands both love and fear.  For man, if one cannot be both, then be feared,

 

 

I thought it apt to close with JnI 12:3 above because today we have every cause to be fearful as those of God and the followers of this gospel work through an immoral fool concerned only with his needs and his desires.  When Godly men to the devil turn, tis time for all good souls to be concerned

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Let’s face it, humans are usually shallow in their thinking and in their arguments.  It is something inherent in being human. This is especially evident when trying to defend a strongly held belief, position, or person.  And it is even more evident when that belief, position or person is wrong.

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One example of this shallowness is how often we only look at the form and not the content. We see some points of similarity and ignore the even more points of dissimilarity, the differences that make a difference.

One example of this is how often I have been told by Trump supporters to get over it.  That I sound just like they did when Obama was President and that now I know what it’s like to have someone you don’t like in the White House.

Now, on the surface, they are right.  I am complaining loudly and long about Trump and his actions.  Just as they did about President Obama.  We both complain and shout that Obama or Trump is going to ruin the country, do in our rights, and harm our standing. The form is the same.  However, the content is different.  In other words, the specifics of what was said matter and not just that they both are proclaiming doom and gloom.

President Obama did not confiscate all guns.

President Obama did not invade Texas under the guise of a war game.

President Obama did bring the country out of a recession and left it in much much better condition than we he started.

Trump has caused the US to lose the respect and trust of most of the world.

Trump has caused global tensions to rise.

Trump has rolled back civil rights protections for the gay and transgendered community.

Trump has cut back on environmental regulations that protect us and keep us from becoming what China is now trying to get away from.

Trump has worked to improve the wealth of the already rich.

Trump has shown himself to be just as much a liar as president as he was as candidate.

Now, I freely admit that some of the things I have said have not happened yet.  Emphasis on the  word yet.  I have said for most of these it would take one to two years before it would be obvious enough for all to agree.  Trump is not even one year in, so give it time.

Oh, and the investigation that I said was justified and which was blown off as so much nothing – well, it seems as if it was not nothing but very much something. And that too is only in its beginnings.

Now, I should mention that this form matching doesn’t have to be a point by point match as in my above example. Sometimes it can have just one point in common and it will be loudly proclaimed to be the same. Of course, this not only ignores the content, but also the many differences in form too.  And the space left from ignoring all of this – the content and the other aspects of the form – is then filled with baseless speculation and, often, lies – the stuff of conspiracy.

 

Saying that since Hillary had contact with the Russians for the dossier then that is the same as Trump’s staff contact with the Russians.  Never mind that the Russians came calling direct to the Trump campaign, Hillary’s was through the research of a firm paid to do research.  Which means that in Trump’s case the Russians controlled the information. In Clinton’s case, not so much.  And that is just one difference in the form and content.

emptyOr trying to equate Trump’s administration problems with the Russians to Hillary’s uranium scandal.  The only point in common is Russia.  However, Trump’s administration has been shown to be active with the Russians. In the Uranium one, not so much. They ignore the fact that this decision was made by a committee of which she was just one member. And the fact that most of the time, if not all, she had a representative attend and vote. And that Canada had to buy off on it too.

 

Don’t remember seeing all of those items in regards to Trump’s staff dealing with the Russians.  Which is why now you are getting those blanks in the form that I mentioned earlier filled in with a grand conspiracy theory.

So, the form may be very similar, but content matters more.

Something to remember the next time you have two people shouting outside your window at 2 am.  Before calling the police on both, listen to what each is shouting first. For the one shouting that the Ice Cream King will leaving his home on the moon and landing on your house – yeah, go ahead and call the cops. And check to make sure you windows and doors are locked.

For the one yelling, Fire, Fire, you may want to pause and consider their words. Especially if you smell smoke. Look beyond the simple, the superficial, the shallow.

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So often I hear people say to stand firm on your principles.  As I have gotten older and thought about this, and had my thinking influenced by several conversations with several people and by watching current events and reading of past events, I have come to the belief that principles are not for standing upon.  They are for pointing a direction.

Too often when a person takes a firm stand on principle they wind up building a wall instead. And the problem with walls is that they actually can keep you from going anywhere, especially forward. They fence you in.

 

In fact, I think most of the times, the great majority of the times, that standing firmly on your principles can be the worst thing that can be done; that there are instead many times when a compromise, even an evil one, can be the right thing to do.

 

For a grand example of this, let me use something from the history of the United States, the creation of our Constitution.  The compromise was called the three – fifths compromise. This compromise  not only allowed slavery to continue to exist, but gave the southern slave states more power in the House and in Presidential elections.

 

The three –fifths compromise came about due to a heated disagreement on who to count for the census. This was important because the population of a state determined how many representatives it would have, and also how many electors a state has for presidential elections.   The Southern States wanted to count their slaves as part of the census.  Those opposed to slavery, and the northern states, did not want to count the slaves as they felt that would make the slave states too powerful (and I note the irony here that those against slavery wanted to have slaves not even count as being a person).  The compromise that was agreed to was that slaves would count as three-fifths of a free citizen.  Which still gave the southern slave states a great deal of power within the federal government.  Because of this the southern slave states were dominant for most of the pre-Civil War United State.   Something that can be seen in the fact that ten of the first 16 Presidents (all the Presidents before Lincoln) were from Southern States.

 

Now consider the principle of “All men are created equal”. No one at our Constitutional Convention stood up firmly for that principle. In fact, they gave way and made what I would characterize as an evil compromise (I will note that those opposed to slavery argued for slaves not being counted for the census in order to reduce the power of the Southern states).  They agreed to continue the belief and practice of treating some people as nothing more than property and, even worse, gave those with the greatest interest in promoting this belief and practice the means to continue it.

 

 

Why did those who opposed slavery agree to this compromise?  They did so because they hoped that a United States would one day be able to resolve the issue of slavery, and end it.  In other words, they hoped that more good would result from a United States than from there not being one. Because without this compromise the United States would not have existed.

 

 

And I would say that history proved them right in making this compromise, in not standing firmly on principle.  Why?  Because if they had not, if they had not made this evil compromise, I do not think slavery would have been abolished in North America until the 20th century at best. And once abolished those states that did abolish it in the 20th century instead of the middle 19th would still be going through their version of Jim Crow or worse.

 

Before going further let me acknowledge the complexities and difficulties in predicting what might have been. Let me also say that I am giving a very simplified version of what could have happened in order to try to keep this blog as close to 1000 words as possible.  Just to give some of those complexities, the United States could have broken down into three, four or more separate countries each going their own way and pursuing their own interests, with all the resulting conflicts, alliances, rivalries and wars attached to doing so. Some may have even become part of the British Empire again.  That’s not even considering the effect of several individual countries trying to expand westward.

 

But, in order to keep this short, I am not going to try to cover all of those aspects. Instead, I want to focus on just one simple part of this that illustrates what I am saying  about principle and compromise.

 

Consider this: if the United States had not formed there would have been at least two separate countries formed – the Northern States that would have abolished slavery and the Southern States that had already made slavery an integral part of their society and economy.

 

Consider also that the Northern States and President Lincoln did not go to war with the Southern States to abolish slavery, but to preserve the Union.  If there were no union to preserve, there would have been no war.  There would have been no war that resulted in abolishing slavery in North America in the 1860s.

 

 

There are two reasons to make evil compromises.  One is because all the other options are even more evil.  The other is that that compromise has the potential to lead to a good, a potential that the other options do not have.   In this example, I think most of the founders who were strongly against slavery – such as Alexander Hamilton – made this compromise not only because they believed that a United States with slavery was better than numerous countries in conflict, many of which would also have slavery as an institution, but because they believed that a United States would be better poised to eventually eliminate slavery – although they did not know how.

 

So, they made their evil compromise instead of firmly standing on principles. And then they hoped, they prayed, and they worked to make that hope come true.  Something that would not have been as possible, or as quickly possible, had they stood firmly on principle.

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Death, an eternity of not eating,  not drinking, not being with loved and liked ones, not dancing,  not playing or listening to music, not walking the nature trails, not playing with the grandchildren, not playing with your four legged or winged family, not seeing a sun rise/set, not seeing the moon and stars, not going to the movies, not watching baseball, football, basketball, soccer, sports, not talking, not napping, not enjoying the rhythm of the ocean beach.  An eternity of not, when all that we have experienced is is.

Most people find that thought disturbing. Some find it frightening, the thought of never seeing a loved one again, of never experiencing anything anymore. It is one of the reasons so many people believe in a life after death. It is a belief that I, unfortunately, cannot share.

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Some atheists take comfort in the idea that our bodies are made of the stuff of stars, that the elements of our bodies were forged in supernovas and colliding neutron stars. And that once we die, our body returns to the universe in many forms, and not only in many forms but over and over again.

 

Personally, I have never understood the appeal of this. It is not my component elements that make me me, but, rather, it is how they are all arranged and work together. Once I die, that working together is irretrievably, irrevocably lost.

Other atheists take comfort in having lived a good and full life. Call me greedy, but that too does not fully satisfy. There are so many things I want to see and do that cannot be done in just one lifetime.  And then there are the things I want to see –what is going to happen with the United States, with the world, with humanity, both good and bad; how hard will climate change  hit, and how will we, humanity in  all its many pieces, respond?  What will be found out in the future about other planets, about our planet, about our history, about ourselves?  And what about all the wonderful books, movies, plays, musicals, music still to come?

No, I can live a very full life and still want more.  It is likely to be a position I am forced to take because there is no better alternative, but it is not one I will be totally happy with.

And all of this is dealing with merely the selfish fear of death, that of my own death. There is the other aspect of death to consider – that it happens to everyone.  Not quite as selfish as being concerned about my own death, but still, focused on what the deaths of a father, mother, friend and so forth mean to me and impact me. After all, they are dead and do not exist anymore and do not care either way. And that, of course, is what does bother me.

Which is one reason why, despite it all, I act as if the Rainbow Bridge is real. Act, and s1846dpi34more than a little believe.  Our four legged family members lives are so short compared to ours, and their love and devotion and need for us (yes, even the cats) so touching in such a fundamental way, that the thought of such love being gone forever is too much to take. And so, I believe because it comforts me.

I am fortunate in not having lost any close family members yet. But, both of my parents have already lived long lives. I can’t help but wonder if after they are gone, after they die, will I sometimes hold conversations with them as some believers do with their loved ones. Go to the cemetery and talk to the headstone.

In fact, there are moments, rare, but still there, when  I am already doing so with my father. He has lost his short term memory and cannot follow conversations well any more. In fact, he tends to avoid them. The days are gone when we would hold discussions (usually disagreements) about political and social issues of the day; discussions that we both so enjoyed.

If I do, I will not condemn myself for not following some sort of rigid atheist orthodoxy in regards to death.  I will not do so with my belief in the Rainbow Bridge, nor in my possible future conversations and talks with my parents after their death.  To my mind, life is challenging enough and the losses and challenges frequent and traumatic enough that to stop that which comforts you just to conform to some sort of orthodoxy is both petty and foolish.

As for myself, I imagine towards the end of my life, provided I am given enough heads up that it has sped up its approach and is now rapidly overtaking me, I will take the path of saying I have lived a full life  – helped people, fought for causes and ideals I believe in, enjoyed a wonderful family complete with grandchildren, saw musicals and the beach, visited other countries, and had an overall good time.  However, at the end , internally, there will be no stoical acceptance of the inevitable, but rather, a cry for not yet and for more.

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