Monday, June 18, 2007

Greed, fear, hell, and the search for happiness

Let me share another email with you:
Putting aside for a moment your own sad future -- and please don't bother telling me that you don't believe you're going to Hell, because it will not change my mind nor your future -- what is the point in making the "questioning" site? Please, do not answer this with bunch of "freeing the mind from the bonds of religion" rants. Just mull this over.

I stumbled upon your site by searching on the Internet for "Jesus happiness" in hopes of finding ways to turn from sinful, materialistic greed and look to the Lord for guidance. Lo and behold, your site turned up instead.

Your site basically is trying to get us to "question" Christian beliefs, correct? *My* question is...why? If you are an ex-Christian, fine. I'm very sorry to hear your story. But why do you feel the need to try to undermine others' beliefs? Suppose you are wrong -- you have effectively led all those who read your essays against Christianity and believed them into Hell for the rest of eternity, and away from Jesus for the rest of their life. Suppose you are right -- you have effectively relieved them of going to Church once a week and given them "wiggle room" on sin. Sin, whether or not you believe it is God's law, is not only spiritually but also morally wrong.

Your reasoning for putting up the website, unless you have no concern for anyone but yourself, is terribly flawed. By even creating this site, you assume that you are completely right on the existence of God and nature of Jesus. Now, you may have heard this argument before, but can you name the number of dust mites in a square yard of floor in Beijing off the top of your head? It's relatively safe to assume you cannot. Therefore, you do not know everything. Actually, humans generally do not know a tenth of a percent about everything. You must know everything to say with absolute certainty that any given thing does not exist. For instance, for me to say that there is no iron in the United States whatsoever, I would need to thoroughly know every square millimeter of the United States, every person's home, even underground. However, to prove the existence of iron in the US, I would need to see but one fleck of iron within US boundaries to say with absolute certainty that iron existed in the USA.

Even if you knew an incredible one percent about everything, is it possible that in the 99% of everything you did NOT know, there is sufficient evidence to prove that God exists?

Please think over your reasons for putting up this website. I'll be praying for you.

-Ms. V.

She asks me for my reasons for putting up the website, and then asks me please to not answer her question by speaking of freeing the mind. If she begs me not to answer, why does she ask?

I have already made it clear on my opening page why I put up the site. I want people to understand why I have changed my mind about religion. Many have found this helpful to them, and I am glad to help other people.

She explains to me that I do not know everything, and that I do not know, for instance, the number of dust mites on each square yard in Beijing. Yes, of course, that is true. I do not know everything. I readily admit that. That is the basis of agnosticism. We don't know everything, and even the things that we do "know", we know only because our senses have determined it. But could our senses be fooling us? Could there be things that our senses have not yet been made aware of? Yes, of course. And since we cannot know everything, we can not know things with absolute certainty. Thus we cannot be dogmatic when we make claims.

Seeing that she agrees with me that we don't know everything, then may I ask her why she makes dogmatic statements about hell? Why does she tell me my views of hell won't change her mind, and that she is right about my future? Surely she does not know everything, does she? To use her illustration, she does not know how many dust mites are in every square yard in Beijing, does she? Okay, if she does not know everything, why does she insist that she is right about hell and that those who disagree with her are wrong? And why does she ask those who disagree with her not to present their arguments? If she will not hear my argument, how can she be sure that her argument is right and mine is wrong?

She tells me please not bother answering with my beliefs. She asks me only to mull over the concept of hell. Perhaps she should read my story at my site. I grew up with the fear of hell, a crippling fear that destroyed much of my happiness as a child. I mulled over the fear of hell many times. So by asking me to mull over hell once more, she is asking me to take a step backwards, to the fear that once dominated my life. Why?

She says that to prove with absolute certainty that something doesn't exist one would need to know everything. That is true. And so for her to prove with absolute certainty that Allah will not send her to hell for believing in Jesus, she would need to know everything. To prove with absolute certainty that the Greek gods are not reigning down terror from on high, she would need to know everything. Does she lie awake at night, worrying about the wrath of Allah or Zeus? I don't think so. Since she cannot prove with absolute certainty that there is no space alien hidden behind her at this moment, is she living in panic that she will be hit by its laser gun? I don't think so. Why not? Although she cannot prove with absolute certainty that the fear of Zeus or a space alien is groundless, the chances that such things are true are so remote, she doesn't worry about them. Could the same reasoning be applied to the fear of hell?

We cannot spend our lives in fear of all the things that might possibly be true. If she wants to propose that something might be true, and wants to give me a reason for believing it is true, I am willing to listen. But when she demands that I fear things without reason, she seems to be asking me to take a step backwards.

Is it possible that within the 99% of knowledge that I don't know, there exists a proof of gremlins, demons, gods, aliens, or monsters? Uh, yeah, perhaps it is possible. But is it plausible?

Okay, now tell me, Ms. V.: Do you have any proof of your claim? If not, why explain that there might be a proof somewhere?

Ms. V. reiterates a version of Pascal's Wager, which I have addressed many times. I have been asked often, "What if I am wrong?" Okay, what if there really is a being who will damn all people who are wrong in their beliefs? But somehow many people don't apply the same logic to Allah. What if Allah exists, and will damn all people who believe in Jesus? Will you embrace Islam, just in case? If you do not ask me to embrace all possible religions, just in case they might be right, why do you ask me to embrace one, just in case?

Ms. V. suggests that I write to give people wiggle room to do moral wrong. That is completely wrong. I certainly have not written for that purpose. Many of us have found that setting our minds free builds our moral strength. We are now free to love others, not out of the fear of hell, but by seeing the need for cooperative relationships and by feeling the feelings that our actions cause in others.

Ms. V. says she found my site by searching on the internet for "Jesus happiness," searching with "hopes of finding ways to turn from sinful, materialistic greed." Human greed is understandable. We evolved in circumstances where food, clothing, shelter, tools, and other material things were in short supply. To the extent that these things provide necesities for survival, they are essential to happiness. So we have a natural urge to obtain such things. But the human mind is not good at shutting down those urges. Even after we have had our basic needs met, the unhappy person can find herself continuously greedy for more, with the mistaken hope that more stuff will bring more happiness. The solution to greed appears to be that of overcoming the natural urges by use of reason. We have many natural urges, but reason can show our urges where they must back off.

I could explain to her that I have found true happiness by setting my mind free to think, by exploring the world around me, and by setting out in cooperation with others to build successful lives. But unfortunately, she asks me not to "rant" about such freedom, but rather to retreat to mulling over the fear of hell.

It appears from her email that Ms. V. is not happy. Else why would she be searching on the Internet for "happiness" and looking for relief from materialistic greed? I wish I could help. But as long as she begs me not to present my views about happiness, I cannot do much to help her.

But perhaps others will want to hear what I say. I have found happiness in setting my mind free, in exploring beyond the religion I inherited. Perhaps others will also find this satisfying, and will find it far better than a life of materialistic greed. If this does not help you, then please feel free to surf on. But if it helps, I am glad I was able to help.

1 comment:

Noogatiger said...

Many new Bible are being published without "Hell" in them. Why?
Because Hell was a pagan idea added to the Bible in the early days of Christianity to scare the hell out of people.

There is no such place as Hell, never was, even in the Holy Bible.
It was not in the original writings of the the Bible itself.

Now with this in mind, it makes you wonder, what the hell else was added, changed, or just plain lied about in this book?