Sunday, May 20, 2007

Our Consciences

Is our conscience genetic or is it acquired? It appears that having a conscience (for humans) is as genetically determined as a woman having menarche. However, what "triggers" that conscience is mostly acquired.

Studies have shown that it is very difficult and sometimes impossible for feral children who have been found after a certain age to ever acquire the impulse control and moral judgement deemed mature. Allowing everyone to answer only to their own conscience would certainly not be efficient at ensuring behaviorial conformity or tribal continuity. But is that the role of religion -- to ensure behaviorial conformity and tribal continuity? Whether one believes the answer to that is "yes" or "no", it's true that religion is used as a tool to do just that. However, there is that one-on-one with our Creator that each of us must deal with (or not).

While it's important, I'm not talking about our conscience's role in maintaining social order. I'm talking about its role in pleasing our Creator. I'm talking about our fealty to our conscience, regardless of whether the behavior such fealty precipitates appears good, bad, or ugly. We all have a choice at all stages of life to be true to whatever our conscience requires of us -- or to go against it. While our behavior is subject to praise or censure by others, adherence to our conscience can only be judged by our Creator.

This presents a behavioral dichotomy. Our behavior may be wrong, and rightly condemned by God and humans, and yet I believe we can be accepted by God if what we've done is what we believed was right. As a species, we govern the behavior of our members. We reward behavior we approve of and punish behavior we don't. We govern by authority of evolutionary instincts which have as their goal the survival of our species. The Creator's goal is to judge our motives, not our knowledge or success. If our conscience condemns us for eating meat, God will hold us accountable for wolfing down that pork steak. By the same token, if we believe we should do something and don't, God will hold us accountable for that also.

My ultimate point is that I don't believe it's the deed or belief that determines our sin or righteousness. It's our fidelity to our conscience, regardless of whether it's considered right or wrong according to books, laws, or dogmas. I could drop the hammer on Hitler, but I would not call it punishment. I would call it removal of something that harms people, the same as a bacterial infection or a hydrophobic dog. I would judge his acts as unacceptable and do what was required to stop them, but any judgement of him is out of my league.


They Are Not Us!

Excluding the "not us" is an example of a Fixed Action Pattern (FAP). A FAP is an animal's innate response to a particular stimulus. Among the many FAPs, there is the "not us" pattern of behavior that makes humans mistrust and exclude others who are not "us". We see it at work in cliques, private clubs, tribes, ethnic groups, and even national borders. FAPs care nothing for being politically correct and are responsible for homophobia, racial prejudice, class systems, and religious excluvisity. They are a vital tool to help ensure our genetics will survive natural selection. As such, they are very important for our survival as individuals and as a species.

However, it helps to recognize them in human behavior and not attribute their requirements to God. God is not the author of racism, sexism, or denominational confusion. We humans have trouble loving, trusting, and accepting our own families, let alone the world. So, we find means to exclude the "not us". We do it socially, politically, and religiously. Excluding ignorant-of-the-Gospel folks from Salvation because of their failure to have "faith in Christ" is an example of a human FAP. I think it's save to assume that the Creator of the universe is not governed by that particular human FAP.

I'm a follower of Christ. Christ's tracks were not made by "us-only" Christianity. When I see deer tracks, I don't think raccoon. A good tracker knows that "us only" tracks are made by humans -- and won't follow them expecting to find God.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Our Conscience

Repentence, restitution, prayer and good works to be "reconciled" with God appears to be common behavior for our species clear back to when we closed out Homo neanderthalensis 7-0. For that matter, it was probably even common behavior for the Neanderthals.

It appears that our species is (uniquely) burdened with a conscience. Perhaps when Paul wrote about the conscience accusing or excusing, he was tapping into a truth that is universal for all mankind. After all, isn't that what it really boils down to? Aren't we all governed by our consciences, regardless of the beliefs that trigger them?

So, where would sin fit in? Perhaps the only sin our Creator imputes is failing one's conscience. Perhaps an Egyptian whose conscience convicted him of offending Sekhmet was held by the Creator as guilty of sin as an old-time Baptist whose conscience convicted him of drinking whiskey.

Perhaps being allowed through that Christ door is far more dependent upon our following our consciences than any particular dogma.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Called and Chosen

Matthew 22:14 …For many are called, but few are chosen.

Matthew 7:13-14 …Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

These verses appear to clearly say that most people will not make it through Heaven's gates. They are very influential in motivating evangelicals to "spread the Gospel" -- to reach the "lost" before it's too late. But are they really saying that most people will not make it through Heaven's gates?

We should always keep a very important fact in mind when reading Christ's words. Christ was a Jew whose audience was Jews. He did not direct his teaching and admonitions to Christians, or even Gentiles. In his own words, he put it this way: I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The "sheep" he refers to so often were not (as is often taught) Christians. They were, in Christ's words, the house of Israel. He did not talk to Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, or any other "Christians". As John stated, "he came to his own ...".

It is very easy to interpolate Christ's message to the Jews with a supposed message to Christians (or mankind in general) -- when in most cases this was not true. This puts a completely different spin on the verses.

Matthew 22:14 is not a declaration from Christ that only "born-again Christians" would be saved (chosen). Remember, Christ was speaking to the Jews. They are the "chosen". Christ was advising them that the "chosen" were not the only humans his Father was concerned with -- that He called many others (non-Jews) as well. Just previous to this (in verses 8 and 9 of that same chapter), Christ says, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. The "bidden" were the Jews -- the "chosen". But they "were not worthy", which opened the door for those on the "highway" (such as your's truly).

Matthew 7:13-14 finds Christ again talking to the Jews, which makes the "narrow gate" take on a completely different meaning than is usually given it. Christ was advising the Jews that the "narrow gate" would be doing his Father's will, not the "broad road" offered by just being a Jew. In other words, he was telling them that being descended from Abraham was not enough to prevent their "destruction".

In verse 21 of that same chapter, Christ says Not every one who says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. In other words, it won't be the Jew (or Christian) who says "Lord, Lord". It won't be the physical offspring of Abraham or the person who "accepts Christ as savior". It will be the one who does God's will (which is summed up in the two "love your God and neighbor" biggies).

Consider what he told his audience (Jews) in Matthew 8:11: And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. It's obvious that Christ is attacking his fellow-Jews' paradigm that made them feel comfortable as God's "chosen".

If someone says "His sheep are a very small number in comparison to the numbers of the damned", that person has a shallow understanding of Christ's character and message. That person does not understand who Christ considered "sheep" in his speeches -- and most importantly, that person does not understand Christ's mission to (and for) all of mankind.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Aliens -- ETs -- Spirits?

Until very recently, natural selection solely determined what was best for Homo sapien survival. We had no say in our evolution. However, we have reached the stage in our evolution where we are capable of un-natural selection. We have found our own genome and we are on the verge of controlling it. For the first time (as far as we know), matter will be in charge of it's own destiny.

In the short term, this will probably lead to longer lives by improving our physical bodies. However, as long as we remain in physical bodies, death will be our ultimate fate. Therefore, some future leap in our evolution will probably be to abandon our bodies. It could happen in stages, starting with our exchanging flesh and blood for something more durable -- but still physical. However, regardless of how durable, the life of all matter is still finite. The only way to finally put our instincts for survival at ease is to obtain immortality -- and the only immortality we know of today is that of energy.

It makes for good movie, but it makes little sense to imagine ETs being corporal beings of any kind, let alone bipedals with big eyes and big heads. Our technology is only a couple hundred years old and look how far we've come already. Imagine where any alien technology would be if it were thousands, maybe millions of years beyond ours. Undoubtedly, the evolution of any other sentience would be many years farther along than our own if they were capable of "visiting" us.

So, it's a fair bet any ETs will have evolved out of mortal bodies to some form of sentient energy. This sentient immortality may be what it means to be a "spirit". Unless Roswell-style ETs are the redneck, retarded cousins of the universe, I doubt if they exist. However, I would not be surprised if a true ET (spirit) is not looking over my shoulder as I type this.