The Philosophy of A Modern Ape
Recently Jehovah’s Witnesses came to our home. I invited them in to talk because I wanted to impart to them my interpretation of life and concepts of God as much as they wished to do the same for me. I didn’t do a satisfactory job, in my own opinion, of giving them a perspective satisfying enough in their minds to have them nod in agreement.
It is my contention that they appear at our door, Bible in hand, and with what they have learned in that Bible they stand ready to offer me comfort and a life direction. I always like to talk to them because I have the same belief about what I can say to them on those very subjects.
But after several days I am still displeased that my words were not put together in a good enough arrangement to represent what I believed versus what they believed. The words placed here now, is an attempt after many years of religious study and philosophical mental journeys to put my thoughts down in the most comprehensive and rational form.
I am in the middle of my fifth book at this time, a collection of short stories along the vein of Twilight Zone or other genre of science fiction. Other writings have detailed my growing up in the 1950’s Middle America, or have discussed politics and history. But the words I am currently writing are the most important to me in my life. I want to record the very basis for how I see life, my concept of our Universe and any perceptions about a God and how we can exist best, side by side as human beings.
Wish me luck.
The first objective I have is about God – whether there is a God, who God is and how and why we are here. My yearning for knowledge of religion and God goes as far back as my childhood but I continued to ask questions into my adult life – studying the Bible with the Witnesses, members of the Methodist church, reading portions of both the Douay and St. James Bible versions.
After a Russian co-worker named Katya took me to her home one evening to meet her American-born Mormon husband, his speaking to me caused me to write on this subject in a piece entitled, “Thoughts on God, Religion and Human Purpose”. That was in 1998 so you may consider this an update or an embellishment of my beliefs from then.
Katya’s husband, Richard, asked me three very poignant questions that evening. Where did we come from? What is our purpose here? Where are we going after our life ends? In the nearly twenty years that has passed since that evening I believe I am better prepared to marshal the words properly to truly express my answers.
But first I need to structure the framework for the desired overall perspective for the reader’s benefit. Those topic headings will be: What I believe about God – What I believe about people and, What I believe about humanity. Hope you are willing to stay on the ride until its end.
What I believe about God
God to me is a combination of energy and intelligence. Based on current scientific evidence of a “big bang” creating the Universe – that in my estimation was God. Was it the intent of this intelligent existence to create life as it is today by a complex design or was the ball nudged from the hilltop’s edge and let happen what would happen by circumstance or unplanned result as it rolled downhill. I believe it to be the latter.
Religions of the past and those still existing began as a result of human beings having an insatiable desire for answers. What was lightning and thunder? What were the celestial bodies in the sky supposed to mean? Were the Sun and the Moon Gods?
Before science advanced to its present level men and sometimes women, wrote or spoke about what they “believed” the world around them meant. That is why I believe that God was created in man’s image with the male gender and use of the term of “Father” to represent God growing out of the male dominated cultures of long ago. Religions that grew into being across our planet were the attempt by clan and tribal elders to give an explanation about the world – this done in order to strengthen their position as shaman or priest or medicine man.
If Intelligence created the Universe, being so miraculously complex and so intricate on its own – then to me that intelligence is so beyond the comprehension of human beings that even theological scholars of our day can only guess at exactly what God is. Siddhartha Guatama, Buddha, was resolute in refusing to impart his ideas of what God was during his teaching days. This caused him to lose some followers but in his mind he had no right, privilege or information that qualified him to give those answers.
I share that same belief – refusing to accept any doctrine that makes that very attempt. I just let it go as something that is unanswerable during my life in this world. Some people, however, cannot accept not knowing and insist on their or some previous interpretation of just who or what God is.
For me, if I cannot give you the answers, I have no right to even speculate. I accept that in life those questions may never be answered and I accept, not knowing for sure that there is an afterlife, that they would ever be answered. I accept that and am totally comfortable with that. Many with whom I have discussed that belief choose to give me argument and tell me things like the Witness did recently, that I am stubborn and I need to “get the cobwebs out of my head”
That’s when belief in any specific religion can lead to disharmony among peoples. I personally will not fight over God. For centuries and even today, many lives have been taken over those very differences.
While I cannot subordinate my self to any one religious doctrine, don’t think that religions have not been a benefit. I find the first four commandments of Christianity arbitrary but I fully accept commandments five through ten. I was told I could not “pick and choose” what I wanted from various religions – but on the other hand, world religions have provided my palette a wonderful array of colors and concepts with which to paint the great and beautiful canvas of my beliefs – beliefs that give me comfort and solace in spite of those who try to diminish my thought processes in order for me to accept theirs.
From Christianity and Judaism I have some of the commandments, from the Muslim faith I see value in resisting the consumption of alcohol and women blatantly presenting themselves as sex objects. From Confucianism and many other religions, have come many pronouncements of wisdom. Those same types of wisdom are carried forward by what I call “the rules of community” – or anything that in a common sense manner allows us to coexist peacefully with our neighbors. Speed limit signs are just one example.
So I will leave what you believe about God up to you. I see God as being so infinitesimally beyond our comprehension I will not attempt to define God. When you wish to tell me that Jesus changed water to wine or raised Lazarus from the dead, I put you on par with the Mayans who believed that humans were created by the Corn God – or very nearly those primitive peoples whose cave drawings attempted to explain the unexplainable. When a sibling told me that a jungle people that had never been exposed to scriptures would never be “saved”, I suspected that belief was primitive at best.
What ever you wish to believe is up to you. When you can accept that others may have differing beliefs you will be okay. When others cannot accept what you believe and feel justified in taking your life as a result – that is the real sadness about God and how God is perceived in the world.
Whatever you wish to believe is up to you. I only pray that it gives you comfort and not distress. I am comforted by my ability to live my life not knowing. If I were such a valuable individual in this Universe, God could have taken the opportunity to speak with me. To date, he, she or it has chosen not to. I’m okay with that.
What I Believe About People
Sciences indicate that our planet has had several near extinctions of every living thing on earth. In each instance enough living things seemed to crawl back from disaster and repeatedly expand a foothold here. Being an empiricist I make my observations about humankind on how humans have developed, what contributed to their behavior and where this all might be taking us as a species.
I can easily see why evolutionists believe we ascended from lower species. There is plenty evidence to support this theory and while some are totally devoted to religious explanations, such as God making Eve from Adam’s rib, I find those beliefs inadequate. Also, I take no offense whatsoever in believing that the Almighty Creator allowed humans to develop through evolution. I take no offense that it may have happened this way.
Proof of our coming from lower species can be found merely by observing human behavior. As I wrote in my 1998 article, if you put a bowl of food down for puppies they will shove one another aside to feed themselves. As shown in a nature program, the wild Grebe, a migratory bird, revealed two of three young in the nest pecking at the weakest of their siblings, successfully driving him from the nest and to his death as a survival measure when the parent could only find limited food supplies.
In many ways we are no different than animals. And in many ways we have excelled and domesticated our world in a way that no other living species has. But the dichotomy of human kind is that some humans can be caring, giving, loving and benevolent – and some humans are just the opposite – lying, taking, being selfish and murderers.
My 1998 article spoke about the humans that adopted compassion, forgiveness and generosity, to borrow now from the Buddhist teachings. Those are the ones whose intellect and reasoning helped them reach an imaginary Plateau of human existence. The Hindus might call this Nirvana. Strikingly, in spite of our building skyscrapers far into the air, harnessing the power of the atom and scientific research that has wrought medical miracles, we still have that portion of people who are takers, not givers, weeds and not flowers.
Many explanations have been put forward why one human turns into a flower and another a weed, but I do not have the wisdom to say on my own why that is. I just have to accept it just like not knowing or being able to define God.
When nomadic peoples found they could domesticate grains and not have to rely on hunting and gathering for survival, they started to settle down in geographic areas amenable to their existence. But long before, as Anthropologists tell us and is reinforced by DNA studies, humans more or less had come from one location on our planet – Africa.
Once millennia passed with people being stationary, they began to share physical and cultural characteristics that would define them. Some Anthropologists have theorized that people migrating from Africa to northern climates where forced by the challenges of survival to be more developed in mathematics and sciences, thus yielding the industrial advances typical to Europeans of the post-migratory eras. The very struggles they had to survive in harsher conditions spurred their mental processes. Those in climates with less sun developed lighter skin colors for instance, to absorb more Vitamin D from sunlight.
Be that as it may, we are still all one and the same by DNA. One can recognize that a harsher environment and the need to survive can cause a more advanced use of the brain than those peoples who, once upon waking, walked to the nearest fruit tree for sustenance.
As time went by the cultural differences became more glaring. The Spanish came to the Americas in the great days of sailing and used their advancements in weaponry and warfare to conquer the natives in the Americas. Likewise Mongol hordes and the Huns would use violence to sustain themselves, taking from those who might have lived peacefully planting and harvesting. Europeans came to the Americas, seeing a land of milk and honey, subordinating the natives.
Through military muscle and technologies, indigenous peoples have been conquered throughout history. And don’t believe Liberals trying to rewrite history, African tribes conquered and subjugated other tribes, eventually allowing them to sell some of their African brethren into slavery. And the noble Native-Americans, depicted as being in harmony with the earth, likewise fought amongst themselves – killing the clansmen against whom they fought, enslaving their women and children. No one culture on our planet is so noble as to not have indulged in conquest.
We are all the people from those beginnings. Parental nurturing can breed children of kindness or warriors. Depending on that culture and its predicaments of the day guided how the younger people viewed and used their worlds.
I have met flowers and weeds in my lifetime. The flowers I have met have given me something so much more wonderful than weeds can take away. So, I am able to rejoice having human counterparts, the flowers anyway. If it should come to pass that through some world event would make all humans’ blind, differences, dislikes and hatreds would develop from how we smell or how we sound when speaking. Call it human nature – as inexplicable as God.
What I Believe About Humanity
My definition of Humanity is inclusive of all human beings on our planet. Having absorbed literally tons of historic information I can spend hours with you, telling stories of what has happened in the past. But having all of that historic information in my mind, it is much easier to portend or forecast what our future will hold for Humanity.
As already discussed, human kind has as much a penchant for achievement as it does for destruction. While the earth held a billion people just a hundred years ago it now holds six billion. It is inevitable that people, cultures and beliefs are going to bump into each other somewhere, sometime.
The big difference today, however, is that the messages that cause people to follow one leader or another, messages that are destructive in nature, can bring to bear all of the modern technology of communication to have followers fall for those messages and abandon their own abilities of self-will and self-governance.
Couple that with the weaponry our sciences have developed, primarily those we might call, “weapons of mass destruction’, the harm that can come to the human species would make Hiroshima look like child’s play.
The very differences described in “What I believe about God” are so magnified as to foresee great conflict and destruction of nations and cultures worldwide. Those who employ “God” to promote the justification of harming others are as sick as it was when Hitler tried to eradicate the Jews. Lessons of the past seem to fall on deaf ears as millions willfully give up their own logic and reasoning to adopt ideologies that have repeatedly been miserable failures each time they have been employed in the past.
With cultures and religions so close to mass destruction, only some kind of miracle can save human kind from the perils that loom ahead. Humanity, for all of its wondrous scientific advancement and achievement, is destined for hardship and grief, since the weeds of the world are so bent on working for their own wants and desires. Billions will be victimized – a victimization brought on by the few who could not reach the Plateau and put that animal portion of themselves to the back burner.
My advice, if you wish to stick to the convictions of your society and culture, arm yourself but prepare to die. At least the struggle for your own survival will be no different than that of all the peoples that have lived before you. If this represents nobility in your mind be prepared to go into the melee.
Food, clothing and shelter at best will offer a temporary respite from the forces of the “takers” but like all that fought and died for justice and equality, you can die with a clear conscience. Like the Phoenix, we as a species will rise from the ashes.
Don’t loose any sleep over all of this is my suggestion. As anyone from New York City might say to you, “Fuggetaboutit!