Saturday, November 29, 2014

Arguing with Bertrand Russell

One of the most famous anti-Christian works from the British world is "Why I am not a Christian" by my fellow philosopher, the late Bertrand Russell. It is not my purpose in this brief blog post to debate all the points that Mr. Russell makes in his work, perhaps I will do so in an essay at another time. However, I do want to debate one point that he made in this brief work.

As a believer in Jesus of Nazareth as the Savior of mankind and as the only perfect man who has ever walked the face of the Earth, I find no blemishes in Christ's moral character; rather I believe that as Jesus of Nazareth is in fact divine, it only follows that morality precedes from him. Without him there can truly be no morality.

Mr. Russell begs to differ. In his essay he says "There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ's moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. Christ certainly as depicted in the Gospels did believe in everlasting punishment, and one does find repeatedly a vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to His preaching -- an attitude which is not uncommon with preachers, but which does somewhat detract from superlative excellence. You do not, for instance find that attitude in Socrates. You find him quite bland and urbane toward the people who would not listen to him; and it is, to my mind, far more worthy of a sage to take that line than to take the line of indignation"

I find at least two problems with his argument. First, his argument that no who is profoundly humane can believe in hell. He is here attacking more than just Jesus; he is attacking all who labels themselves as Christian. He seems to not understand that hell is not something that God desires for people, but as he is perfectly just there must be a place for those who are at enmity with him may go. He further seems to believe as many Christians do that hell is a place of fire, while it is clear from the text that this imagery, not an actual account of what happens in such a place. At the end of the day, hell is separation from God from those who ultimately chose that path. Hell can be empty if we choose to make it so.

The second part of this argument that I have an issue with is his comparing Jesus to Socrates. He says that Socrates does not seem hostile to those who do not listen to him, while Jesus of Nazareth seems to show contempt and disdain for those who do not listen to him.

This is a silly comparison for several reasons. First, we do not have a very detailed account of Socrates life, so we do not know how he would have reacted if were put on trial to be crucified for his teachings. We see in the gospels that Jesus willing goes with captors, is respectful to Pilate, and dies with dignity, which shows his deep love and compassion.

Also, keep in mind who these men believed they were. Socrates was a philosopher, and knew that if people ignored him there would be no long term consequences besides laking knowledge in some form. This is not the case with Jesus of Nazareth. Ignoring his teachings meant that one could not inherit eternal life. So, in showing his ultimate and unique humanity, Jesus does show frustration was not heeded. He knew what the eternal consequences would be.

It is Mr. Russell's right to disbelieve as it is my right to believe. However, his arguments on this matter do not hold nearly the water that he erroneously believes they do.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Who is a Christian?

This week the book I read was "The Antichrist" by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, a great hero of mine and a man I consider the precursor to my philosophy in many aspects. This book could be titled "The Anti-Christian", since Nietzsche goes after the so called followers of Christ, rather than the man known to the world as Jesus of Nazareth.

In this work, Nietzsche states a true principle which many in the world disagree with: That Jesus of Nazareth was the only true Christian, and that those who claim to be Christians are just fooling themselves. He said "The very word "Christian" is a misunderstanding, truth to tell, there never was more than one Christian, and he died on the cross."

This begs the question "Who is a Christian?" And even more importantly, "Who can determine what a Christian is?" According to the Oxford Dictionary a Christian is "Of, relating to, or professing Christianity or its teachings." However, this was written by men who do not stand up to the teachings of Christ, who said in his Sermon on the Mount "Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect." The only person to have done this would be Jesus of Nazareth, making him the only Christian. A Christian is one who is as Christ is, and no man has or can accomplish that; therefore as Nietzsche said, there are no Christians.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Polygamy

It seems that some stories in life are always fun to bring up rather than focusing on whats important. This happened this week as the New York Times let out that Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism, was in fact a polygamist. Oh no! My testimony is gone! How could a seemingly innocent man be capable of such vulgar atrocities? Oh wait, I am not an un-educated Mormon so I knew about all of this years ago.

I want to make just two points in this brief article. First, that being a polygamist does not disqualify Joseph Smith from being a prophet. Second, that polygamy is not really as bad as it is made out to be. Lets take a look...

It seems in their effort to discredit the Prophet that the issue of polygamy comes up. Yet, these Bible worshipers seem to forget that Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon were all polygamists. In fact David was given some of his wives by the Lord himself according to the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12:7-8). If a prophet must be single or monogamous then these men are disqualified to. That would put the Jews and the Christians in a tight spot, don't you think?

As a philosopher, I am aware that people will object to this argument with this "David was given his wives because of culture, not because he was ok with polygamy." Hmm... So God is bound to a culture even if it is at odds with his will? I seem to recall him telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in order to disprove that he approved of child sacrifice, a common occurrence in Abraham's day. If polygamy was sinful, certainly God would have said something.

But he commanded kings of Israel to not take multiple wives in Deuteronomy 17! Lets quote that scripture :"Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.

 16 But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.

 17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold."

Hmm... it seems the problem is not polygamy itself, but who is married. The problem was that if a man married foreign women, there was the possibility that he could turn away from Jehovah and worship the idols of Canaan, as happened with Solomon. But polygamy is not forbidden.

Ok, but a prophet would not marry another man's wife while he was still living! Hmmm.... You have me stumped there. Not. Keep in mind that while Joseph was sealed to many women, there is a difference between marriage and sealing. Sealing is a priesthood ordinance, marriage is an agreement for a man and woman to live together. Joseph for the most part did not live with any of his other wives, and often when he was sealed to another man's wife the husband stood as a witness. Rather strange for a man to do if he knew the man was after his wife's skirt.

Also, Joseph only had children with one women, his first wife Emma Hale. If the Prophet were the horny toad his enemies make him out to be, he surely would slept with all these women. He had many children by Emma, but none of these other women bore him children. Perhaps the Prophet was an true husband after all.

Ok....... But he married teenagers! Hmm, I take it the Bible worshippers don't like the Pocahontas- John Smith story. No matter. The problem here is we are putting 21st century standards on a 19th century man. In the Prophet's time, the legal marriage age was 10, and it was not uncommon for a man to marry a women that age. Contrast that with today, when the legal age in most states is 16. Puts a little perspective on it eh?

It seems I have vindicated that the Prophet could practice polygamy and be a prophet after all. Oh dear, I have to to church on Sunday now? Tears....

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Reflection On Election Night

No one expected the Democratic Party to have a good night on Election Night. But they probably hoped they would at least be able to maintain the control of the United States Senate and win a few governorships. Luckily, that was not the case as the Republican Party took control of the Senate and picked up a few Governor's Mansion's, including in some very liberal states such as Massachusetts, Illinois and Maryland. A few days before the election, President Barack Obama stated that while he was on not on the ballot, his policies were. America did on Tuesday what it should have done in 2008 and 2012: Rejected Barack Obama.

While they did have great wins on Tuesday, I hope that the Republican Party realizes that this election was more of a rejection of Obama than it was an endorsement of them. This is their time to prove that they have the correct path for America, and also that they will stand by their principles. In his 2008 acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, the presidential candidate John McCain stated "We were sent to change Washington, but we let Washington change us." Hopefully the party recognizes this and also recognizes that this may be their last chance to make changes. If they mess this up, there may not be another chance. It may be the death of the Republican Party.

Republicans must realize that now is the time to make the change. It cannot wait until 2016 when they have a chance to take the White House. During these last two years, they need to show what their plan for America and pass as much legislation as they can. Sure, President Obama may veto it. There is nothing they can do about that. However, they can show America where they want the country to go and build upon in 2016.

In particular, legislation should be passed to reform the tax code, secure our borders, and pass a bill for the keystone pipeline. While Obama may veto all of these, if they come together they can get a 2/3 majority and pass them over his veto.

The key point is this: Don't celebrate yet. There is much to be done, and now is the opportunity to do it. Mitch McConell and John Boehner have the opportunity for greatness, will they capitalize? We will see.