God is real, and He is good

We believe in one God,

the Father almighty,

maker of heaven and earth,

of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,

the only Son of God,

begotten from the Father before all ages,

God from God,

Light from Light,

true God from true God,

begotten, not made;

of the same essence as the Father.

Through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation

he came down from heaven;

he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,

and was made human.

He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;

he suffered and was buried.

The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.

He ascended to heaven

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again with glory

to judge the living and the dead.

His kingdom will never end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit,

the Lord, the giver of life.

He proceeds from the Father and the Son,

and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.

He spoke through the prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.

We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

We look forward to the resurrection of the dead,

and to life in the world to come. Amen.

The more you study happiness, the more you uncover about the nature of happiness, going past the simple pleasures and understanding virtue, the more one image starts to stand out. God. Christianity is about happiness. This episode is about both. I’m going to explain Christianity. More than for you, this is for me. I want to reason some things out.

How do you be happy? Easy, just stop wanting things. The promotion, the new car, the six pack of abs, the girl. When you don’t want things, you are happy. It’s so simple.

How do you stop wanting things? The stoics said to practice discipline. The stoics were a smart bunch. “It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.” – Seneca.

Smart people, talented people, people with everything, have said to be virtuous. “Recommend virtue to your children; it alone, not money, can make them happy. I speak from experience.” – Beethoven.

Jesus, Christians, and other religious people have recommended virtue, which is the antithesis of vice. Many Christians were very smart.

“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” – Acts 2:38.

Most of religion is exactly this. The scripture is a how-to guide on how to be happy. Being virtuous is hard. It takes practice. Religion gives us a helping hand. God gives us strength. We ask him for strength. He reminds us when we slip, and he’s there to reward us when we do the right thing.

What’s the right thing? Being virtuous, following his commandments, not giving into vice. Be like Jesus. When we want to behave like Jesus, we want to be virtuous. When we want to be virtuous, we should try to act virtuous – like Jesus. When we act like Jesus, we do all the things that will keep us happy. Not just a momentary pleasure, but an unbreakable joy – that no one can take away from you.

Wisdom is happiness. YOLO is not. Don’t live life fast chasing fun will not lead to happiness. It will feel good, but the thrill is addicting, and mental addiction is the opposite of wisdom. John Milton said, “He who reigns within himself and rules passions, desires, and fears is more than a king.” The goal of wisdom – and the result, is everlasting mental, and spiritual freedom. I said that Christianity is about happiness. Well, Christianity is about wisdom.

Let’s dissect the Nicene Creed I started this with.

We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things seen and unseen.

We believe in one God. Not many. To believe in more than one god, as the pagan religions preach, is false for multiple reasons. One, the scriptures, the written testimony of those that preceded and followed Jesus, the ultimately wise being, say otherwise. And, as Christians, we believe Jesus was ultimately wise.

The second reason is secular. If you believe in multiple gods, you necessarily diminish the divine power associated with the one God. To honor multiple gods is to not be holding the priorities and honor of the one God as your ultimate priority. So don’t do it.

The pagan gods play a large part in the history of the world and the forming of religions and even in the Christian canon. This is because the pagan gods of the Greeks, Romans, Norse and others are used as an example to highlight the beauties of the world. The poetry muses, the hero warriors, and the gods of various natural elements – Aurora with her rose red hair – these are all used to paint a beautiful picture of human and nonhuman elements of life. However, when it comes to wisdom and eternal happiness, none of these gods hold a candle to the truth and beauty offered by the Christian God.

In fact, like idolizing anything – whether a career, a pretty girl, or you, the pagan gods offered a distraction from ultimate wisdom, and with that, ultimate happiness. If we focus our attention on becoming strong or pretty or artistic, this isn’t a bad thing necessarily. But it does take away from the attention we show to God – the attention we show to wisdom, and happiness right now.

For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made human. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried. The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.

CS Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:

“The teacher is able to form the letters for the child because the teacher is grown-up and knows how to write. That, of course, makes it easier for the teacher, and only because it is easier for him can he help the child. If it rejected him because “it’s easy for grown-ups” and waited to learn writing from another child who could not write itself (and so had no “unfair” advantage), it would not get on very quickly. If I am drowning in a rapid river, a man who still has one foot on the bank may give me a hand which saves my life. Ought I to shout back (between my gasps) “No, it’s not fair! You have an advantage! You’re keeping one foot on the bank”? That advantage—call it “unfair” if you like—is the only reason why he can be of any use to me. To what will you look for help if you will not look to that which is stronger than yourself?”

Jesus proved the existence of Heaven when he rose from the dead. We are told this from the authority that is the Gospels and other scriptures. I often refer to authority as a bad thing. “Challenge authority.’ “Make your own decisions.” But we all believe, and must believe authority to some extent. Life would be chaos otherwise. To quote CS Lewis one more time,

“Ninety-nine per cent of the things you believe are believed on authority. I believe there is such a place as New York. I have not seen it myself. I could not prove by abstract reasoning that there must be such a place. I believe it because reliable people have told me so. The ordinary man believes in the Solar System, atoms, evolution, and the circulation of the blood on authority—because the scientists say so.”

We trust authority. Even the most punk rock teenagers trust some authority. It just may not align with the authority you follow. This leaves us with a choice. We can choose the authority that is God and his followers that profess their own Gospels of the truth. Or, we can believe those who disagree. When it comes to science it gets tricky. The goal of Christianity is eternal happiness through not wanting things but instead honoring God. The goal of science is to make possible our wants and desires. So while scientific facts are not wrong, neither is that which I’m saying about God and which the Gospels have reported. You and I can live in the material world but live for the immaterial. And we should.

We look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and to life in the world to come. Amen.

One of the virtues that is unique to Christianity is hope. This is a theological virtue, meaning it exists outside of the simply human virtues such as chastity and humility. In hope we look forward to more great things. Dante had many levels to his Heaven, and without hope we imit ourselves to the greatness available. Again, in secular speak, we limit our own happiness by not living virtuously, including with hope.

To hope, as a virtue, is not to have a Disney fantasy about the world or the after-life. Hope is to believe in the spiritual truths accounted for in the Bible. It is to understand the nature of happiness – all that I’ve said already, and to understand there is the ability to be more. You can be more virtuous, a better Christian, with more of Heaven to love. You can be happier.

I used to be an atheist. I was guided by truth and science. Those were my religions. I thought happiness was the ability to overcome my fears. But John Milton didn’t stop his saying when he called us to conquer our fears. He told us to overcome our passions and our desires as well.

I didn’t want to believe the poet. I worked so hard to become sexy and strong. Now he was telling me not to indulge in the passions that I’d worked so hard to become sexy so that I could indulge. Deep down, I knew he was right. I knew it wasn’t the right thing to have sex with women just because I could. I knew it wasn’t the right thing to sell a product for profit to someone who doesn’t need it, but that person hopes it will make them happier.

So, I started following the advice of the great poet. I read the Bible and loved it for the wisdom and the stories. Then I read Christian literature. The CS Lewis, Aquinas, and others. I started going to church. I loved everything that I was reading, and I saw the wisdom of it. As I outlined above, I came to understand happiness from a secular point of view. It kept leading more and more towards the teachings of Christianity. I was an atheist, but now God was closer than ever.

The last thing I did was to want Christianity. To want to be Christian is to want to love God. It’s to want to live virtuously so that we don’t want things. To honor the theological virtues of faith, charity, and, discussed, hope. Knowing these virtues are incredibly difficult, and wanting the support of God to help us stick to it. It was wanting to be Christian, more than anything, that made me Christian. It was this wanting, with the understanding of happiness and Christianity, that made me love God above all else.

God is real and omniscient.  A common argument is why do bad things happen if God knows they’re going to – if he has the power to stop them?  Choosing God must be voluntary. There has to be a choice involved. If there isn’t, we are all just robots on autopilot. What’s the point of that? There’s no honor there. But if we choose to honor God, when there’s so much else we can choose – powerful, tempting options, then there is glory.

This is also why forcing Christianity doesn’t work. Since it requires voluntary submission, this must be allowed at the individual level and societal level. A Big Brother government from Orwell did not allow Christianity, but it forced virtue. The virtue is meaningless if it is forced – again there is no honor or strength required.

So too the Nazis prescribed a Christian society. When Christianity is forced, it takes away the internal choice. By forcing the external, they made the internal less likely. Loving God isn’t just going through the motions. It’s about complete, voluntary submission to the greatness of God.

I leave you with a call to action. Stop wanting things, so that you will be happy today. If you want that, and it is very difficult, look to God for strength. Love God. Amen.

Literally Hitler – A Review of Mein Kampf

 I recently read Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler. It was one of the most interesting books I ever read. I don’t necessarily recommend you read it. Let’s talk about it.

Obligatory disclaimer: Hitler was an evil person. He is responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent people, most famously Jews. Good Christians, and good people generally, don’t hate someone that isn’t of their religion or race. Hitler wasn’t a good person.

That said, Hitler, like all people, was a complex person. He was incredibly smart. He spent his youth reading all the books he could get his hands on, and developing an appreciation for arts and high culture. When he was 11, he spent the money he earned working a job to pay for operas and symphonies.

Hitler was a patriot and wanted the best for Germany from birth. His idea of “best” was quite unique for leaders of strong nations. Hitler was racist. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. But race was more than something to like and dislike and matter of preferences for Hitler. It was his ideology. And again, he was very smart, and his ideology was well thought out.

The man saw racism as a positive. His thesis was that race – our DNA and blood, contains not only physical and mental characteristics, but the capabilities of an individual. Intelligence, strength, creativity – these are all a part of our blood, which is passed from generation to generation.

Hitler saw the preservation of these characteristics as the most important function for humans. As some people are smarter than others, and more creative, and stronger, these people should breed with others that have favorable genetics so that their children will be even stronger, or at least not weaker. If someone has ultimate genetics, breeding with someone with inferior genes will weaken those genes. If preservation of superior genetics is your goal, you don’t want to do that.

He applied this to groups of people. Races of people. Adolf saw the Aryan as superior in creativity and intellect, and cited scientific and cultural reasons for this. Therefore, Aryans must breed with each other and not with other races.

I haven’t done much race research, and there isn’t that much of it – it’s such a taboo especially within academia that there isn’t much funding. Whether it’s true, scientifically or not, if the goal of your society is the preservation of your society’s genetics, then Hitler went about it in a good way.

He’s wrong when he tries to make it a Christian calling. To be Christian is to be Christ-like, and it’s a hard sell to try to convince me that Jesus would have called for the separation of blacks and the death of Jews. Everyone on the planet is capable of being Christian, and with that everyone is capable of living virtuously and being happy. To rob someone of this opportunity is decidedly non-Christian.

Hitler saw what he was doing as Christian because he envisioned the ultimate man – superior in intellect, strength, and creativity, as closer to God. Not in a way that he was closer to creating a God – just closer to the image of God. In that way, the individual would best be able to honor God, who we are created in the likeness of.

Christianity defines “likeness of God” as having the ability to choose right from wrong and to have the option of honoring all that is good. Hitler defined “likeness of God” as the human element – being closer to God in terms of physical and mental ability. He thought the man that is closest to God can do God the most honor, and that is worth it.

Because his Aryan race was deemed ultimate and closest to God, his race should realize the rewards of their superiority. They would have creative and material freedoms not available to others. Other races would be put in their place, and would be forced to stay there so that the Aryan would not be threatened. He proposed to enslave other races, such as black people. This slave class would work for the Aryan and not be allowed to interbreed. This would keep them in a state of servitude and also allow the “best” race the best spoils.

The Jews were a different sort of problem. They were competition. Highly intelligent and with a (well-reasoned) ability to survive struggle, Hitler saw the Jews as a threat to the Aryan in the “race” to comfort and the top of the hierarchy. There’s almost a recognition that they are doing good things that Hitler wished to be doing himself. So, rather than making them slaves, he sought to make them out as evil and have them eliminated.

Hitler did this by using propaganda. This was a very conscious maneuver. Hitler was well-read and had a great understanding of history and psychology. He used propaganda to persuade the masses. His book is a masterclass on propaganda and political influence. He brilliantly targeted his audience – the masses of the middle class and lower classes, to carry out his strategy. He did not make arguments to appeal to the intellectuals, but made his appeals to those suffering from economic hardship.

He blamed the hardships on the competing Marxist ideology which directly opposed into his thesis on race. Marxism was the ultimate evil according to Hitler. And the idea that people should be equally rewarded went directly against his idea that rewards would be handed out by race and, within that, merit.

Hitler isn’t wrong that Marxism is perhaps the most evil, harmful ideology ever invented. But the way he went about solving the Marxism problem was quite evil. What do they say about the road paved with good intentions?

The book gave me a new for the American Constitution. The Founding Fathers knew that if people are forced into a Christian world by tyrannical hands, that the individual would not be more likely to be Christian at heart. The choice that God leaves us must be made on our own accord. Hitler didn’t allow that for his people. The Founders did. They built the country on both individual freedom and strength, while Hitler built his on strength, intellect, and propaganda.

I prefer our way, although there are downsides to the American Constitution. Because of our liberal economic policy and freedoms of speech and media, the citizens are exposed to massive amounts of propaganda. While Hitler used the state, America uses television and advertisements to persuade the masses. This robs people of their ability to freely choose God (or not to) in similar fashion (psychologically speaking) as Goebbels’ pamphlets.

The book is fascinating. It’s biographical, and I’m always interested in reading how leaders of nations get into power and about their lives. Every president has a great story. Hitler’s no exception. It was hard to read because of the prejudice I had going in. I knew how evil he was and the destruction he caused to the Jews and the world. To continue reading and challenge myself to be objective was a battle and was rewarded.

It was rewarding to challenge my ideas and to be objective in challenging his. Again, they were well-reasoned. But it was also rewarding because there are some brilliant, wholesome ideas in his book that should not be ignored.

Hitler had theories on education that are still relevant today. He wrote the following on the study of history in high school:

Instruction in world history in the so-called high schools is even today in a very sorry condition. Few teachers understand that the study of history can never be to learn historical dates and events by heart and recite them by rote; that what matters is not whether the child knows exactly when this battle or that was fought, when a general was born, or even when a monarch (usually a very insignificant one) came into the crown of his forefathers. No, by the living God, this is very unimportant. To ‘learn’ history means to seek and find the forces which are the causes leading to those effects which we subsequently perceive as historical events.

At least when I was in high school, 85 years after this was written, we were still big on memorizing dates rather than learning to be critical of history and how we can learn lessons from understanding it.

He was not a big fan of foreign language being taught in lower levels of school, even though he knew that’s when foreign languages are best acquired. What is important is to learn your own language, and to understand the structure of languages. He didn’t want to the youth to learn French, and he wouldn’t want his Californian children to learn Spanish.

He was a big proponent of physical education. He thought that all youths should have two hours of gym time each day – an hour in the morning and evening. This would mold them into physically strong individuals and tamper energy that could be spent on less productive pursuits. He promoted general strength and aerobic training in addition to combat training. At young levels this meant boxing and Jiu Jitsu. When the war picked up, these students were physically ready to pick up a gun and fight.

Part of Hitler’s political idea was that of strength. The strength of the nation is of utmost importance in order to protect what is valued – in Nazi Germany that being race. This national strength relies on soundness of mind by leadership, strong individuals that are able to endure hardship, and technological superiority. While I disagree, and probably most disagree on his central value, Hitler’s Germany was a strong nation.

I recommend very smart people read this book. Like, really smart people. Not average, and not just smart. Kind of smart people with left leaning politics won’t get past the Jew stuff. Pretty smart people with right lean will agree with the reasoning, when you shouldn’t.

My other recommendation is we should work hard to protect Constitutional freedoms. They exist for a purpose that rewards every single citizen with the chance of happiness, a chance we don’t even have without them. America was founded by Christian rebels. They didn’t ask for conformity. The founders want us to rebel against tyranny. Tyranny in the form of oppressive government, in the form of corrupting ideologies – a la Marxism, and tyranny in the form of psychologically oppressive media.