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.

Thoughts on wisdom

  • 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. 
  • The goal of wisdom – and the result, is everlasting mental, and spiritual freedom. 
  • To start, think about what makes you happy. Seek to understand that. 
  • But, go deeper than that. Seek to overcome the insecurities that are keeping you from being happy – why do you want what you want? 
  • Got to be confident to do that. So find something to be confident in. 
  • Build a skill. A sport, play an instrument, write or paint, box or wrestle. If you don’t know what to do, get good at lifting weights. 
  • If you do have a hobby and skill you work at, you should still lift weights. 
  • Be positive. 
  • You can always choose your attitude. Choosing to be angry toward others is a deadly sin – meaning it destroys the soul. 
  • The soul is your capacity to be happy. Don’t destroy it. 
  • Also, being positive is just fun. Other people appreciate it. 
  • Develop social skills. Learn to talk to strangers, flirt, speak. Practice. 
  • Social skills aren’t completely necessary to develop wisdom. But you need to have monk-like discipline if you plan to develop wisdom without social skill. These skills help with confidence, pressing others to learn from their wisdom and challenge your own, overcoming insecurities, and finding love. 
  • Social skills, like all skills, develop with repetition. 
  • But not mindless repetition. Old people hit the Elliptical machine all the time and don’t lose weight. People drive every day and remain awful drivers. 
  • Conscious thought needs to go into your reps. You get stronger at the gym by adding weight to the barbell. You become better at skills by thinking about your failures and doing it differently next time. 
  • Social skills, overcoming wants, everything I talk about here, requires work. Most of it is internal, rather than external. 
  • External work can take away from internal work that’s more important. Don’t let it. 
  • Don’t be slothful. 
  • John Milton said, “He who reigns within himself and rules passions, desires, and fears is more than a king.” 
  • Insecurities are fears. Am I good enough for him? Am I good enough for her? Don’t have any of these. 
  • It’s only after you overcome your insecurities that you know the “real you”. 
  • Don’t be arrogant, vain. While it is not weakness in ability, it presents a weakness of the mind, and the spirit. 
  • Be honest in all you do. 
  • That’s why “just act yourself” is poor advice, unless you’re so wise as to understand it means to act uninhibited, with virtue and courage. 
  • Virtue? How’s that fit in? 
  • The first part of John Milton’s speech – passions, desires. Money, fame, women, drugs, rock n roll, status. Power. These are all things we get passionate about, that instill desire. That desire seeks to have power over us. 
  • That desire – that temptation toward passion or things or feelings, in Christian terms, is demonic. The demon tempts. 
  • Christianity is true. 
  • When someone or something has power over us, we aren’t free to live how we want. 
  • Institutions, people, do not have your interest in mind. 
  • They are out to profit, to meet an admissions metric, and to look good for their boss. Mostly, they are out to make themselves look good to others so that they then feel good. 
  • The narcissist, the adolescent, does this. He puts on an external appearance to protect an inner ego. Without the good looks, the money, the status, the narcissist is alone. And the narcissist is not cool with that. 
  • Do not envy what others have. 
  • The wise man is happy alone. He is content with what he has, no matter how much or little. 
  • Material things – promiscuous sex, status, wealth – these are all advertised to us because they feel good. Because they make us feel good, when we are rewarded with these pleasures, it doesn’t make us not want them, it makes us want more. 
  • “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” – Mark 10:25
  • Do not be gluttonous. 
  • When something internal has power over us, we aren’t free to feel how we want. 
  • Our own psychology doesn’t have our interest in mind. I’m interested in happiness. Our own psychology drives us to survive and reproduce, not to be happy. 
  • Intimacy is a great thing. But it can distract from internal wisdom. Don’t let it. Enjoy your relationships, enjoy sex. But don’t be left wanting. 
  • Never want. Never lust. 
  • “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.” – Matthew 7:13
  • Most of us work our whole lives at a corporation so we can retire in a modest home and live like bums – sleeping in, reading, writing, hanging with family, and fishing. You can do that now. 
  • There’s an old fable of an Indian Chief. “Indian Chief “Two Eagles was asked by a white U.S. government official, “You have observed the white man for 90 years.  You’ve seen his wars and his technological advances. You’ve seen his progess, and the damage he’s done.” 

The Chief nodded in agreement.

The official continued, “Considering all these events, in your opinion, where did the white man go wrong?”

The Chief stared at the government official then replied,

“When white man find land, Indians running it, no taxes, no debt, plenty buffalo, plenty beaver, clean water.  Women do all the work, medicine man free, Indian man spend all day hunting and fishing all night having sex.”

Then the Chief leaned back and smiled, “Only white man dumb enough to think he could improve system like that.”

  • That’s how the proverb ends. I propose an addendum. 
  • “Then the white man leaned back and smiled, “Only Indian man dumb enough to think he could maintain a beautiful system like that without having to fight for it.” 
  • You can be happy by yourself, meditating and virtuous, but the system you create that allows for that can come under threat. You can be happy, but if you want more people to experience that happiness, you need to help them. 
  • Material power doesn’t bring freedom. 
  • “Thereupon many statesmen and philosophers came to Alexander with their congratulations, and he expected that Diogenes of Sinope also, who was tarrying in Corinth, would do likewise. But since that philosopher took not the slightest notice of Alexander, and continued to enjoy his leisure in the suburb Craneion, Alexander went in person to see him, and he found him lying in the sun. Diogenes raised himself up a little when he saw so many people coming towards him, and fixed his eyes upon Alexander. And when that monarch addressed him with greetings, and asked if he wanted anything, “Yes,” said Diogenes, “stand a little out of my sun.” It is said that Alexander was so struck by this, and admired so much the haughtiness and grandeur of the man who had nothing but scorn for him, that he said to his followers, who were laughing and jesting about the philosopher as they went away, “But truly, if I were not Alexander, I wish I were Diogenes.” and Diogenes replied “If I wasn’t Diogenes, I would be wishing to be Diogenes too.” – Wikipedia
  • How do you remove the shackles of passion and desire? 
  • Don’t be greedy. Stop wanting things. 
  • How do you stop wanting things? 
  • The stoics said to practice discipline. The stoics were very smart. 
  • “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. 
  • It’s everlasting joy. It’s heaven on Earth. And God is with you. 

Stupid Believers

This was fun to write. 

It’s interesting how propaganda works. How many of you are religious? Believers of a book written 2000 years ago, long before modern science began to uncover worldly truths? 

I’m on your side here. Let’s make fun of the rest of the world. 

Religious propaganda has influenced billions of people. It influenced the founding fathers of the United States and it influenced the Bible Belt – the southern states that are stereotyped as not being as intelligent as us on the coasts. 

It’s the atheists, the agnostics, the non-believers, that are better than this cheap propaganda. 

Sorry, “better than”. 

You see, atheists, and the classes they populate, fall prey to another kind of propaganda. Advertising. 

These dumb hicks from ‘bama and east California, they don’t fall prey to your ads. They see an ad for an iPhone 13 and say, “Y’all don’t need that, y’already got a phone. That just ain’t no good.” 

The superior in intellect, those that resemble the founding fathers in courage and wisdom, but choose to write blogs to carry out their revolution, they say something similar, “You don’t need a new iPhone. The utility of adding three cameras to the back is not worth the opportunity cost of working weeks or more likely months at a job that doesn’t care for you. Plus the dopamine rush of having a shiny new object to show off to the neighbors won’t do me, or the neighbor any good.” 

It’s you heathen middle-brows, the average person, the basic bitch and hazy bro that gives into advertising. You, smart as you are for having disproved a man that peacefully recommended not wanting things and said by practicing virtue you can be better than your animal instincts. You told him he didn’t exist. 

In doing so, you reinforced your own ideas and your own shitty behavior. You are relegating yourselves to animals, prone to emotional whim and carnal desire. You let your lusts and fears drive your behavior, which makes you open to manipulation by marketing departments, which you are eager to see what they produce for you next so that you can incrementally raise your status over your neighbor. 

There’s a better way. I figured it out, and so did those Trump loving, gun toting rednecks down South. 

They are more capable of experiencing happiness than you. 

American Beauty is an essay on happiness

Controversial opinion of the day: American Beauty is a top 5 movie ever made. Anyone interested in psychology should love this movie and watch it a hundred times.

The first time I watched the movie, when I was around 20, I had the same reaction most people have: “It’s a weird movie about a creepy old man who wants to live out his fantasy to bang a young chick and a sexually confused maybe gay definitely angry neighbor next door.” But that’s not it. I’m telling you. Read my essay then watch it again. Then tell me I’m right.

Not him!

Him, silly.

American Beauty is an essay on how to be happy. It describes an “ordinary” man who has a wife, a child, a house in the suburbs, and works a white collar job he hates. He has everything promised in the “American Dream” – down to the picket fence. It could be any one of my coworkers.

The movie takes us on a journey where Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) confronts his inhibitions and desires and becomes a master over his mind. The chain of events begins when he lays on his daughter’s friend Angela. He’s inspired by his lust for her and soon quits his job without worrying about the financial consequence. He will figure it out.

Yes, the way he went about quitting his job was arguably unethical. But that doesn’t matter too much as it relates to the main idea of the movie.

“BuT hE wOuLdN’t HaVe MoNeY” it doesn’t matter.

Kevin, line!

 

Lester would have been happy without the money. He would have been happy without buying the sports car. He would move into a tiny apartment if he had to, keep his job with “the least possible amount of responsibility” and enjoy the freedom that follows.

Freedom from what? He can’t buy anything. He can’t travel anywhere. And he can’t just bang all of his daughter’s friends.

Lester would forever enjoy freedom from wants. He doesn’t need to buy anything, travel anywhere, or even bang his daughter’s friends in order to be happy. Not even the one friend that’s a centerpiece in the movie.

The other protagonist that moves the idea of the movie along is the neighbor child, Ricky Fitts. The drug dealing “psycho” that almost murdered a classmate – back in the day, plays a complement to Lester’s character. He is going through life with much of the wisdom of Spacey, but at a young age. He is able to appreciate beauty, be happy, and love others. Lester’s final speech, as the credits begin to roll, incorporates lines from a speech Ricky gave when the plastic bag was flying around. This shares the common wisdom, but also goes a little further than Ricky, showing a calmness and acceptance compared to Ricky’s emotional speech.

It’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once and it’s too much. My heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst. And then I remember to relax and stop trying to hold on to it. And then it flows through me like rain, and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life. 

Another set of complementary characters are Lester’s wife, the Real Estate King, and Angela. These three people represent the antithesis to the wisdom and happiness of Lester and Ricky Fitts. They resent what’s “ordinary”, but in doing so just put on an appearance that’s not genuine and hides deeper insecurities.

The “villain” in the movie is the idea represented by these characters. The bad guy isn’t the macho mean Marine next door. It’s the idea that “In order to be successful, one must project an image of success at all times” – The RE King.

The three characters represent “success” in the material world. The RE King is financially successful and has a hot wife. Carolyn has a good job, her house is in order, and her garden is top notch. Angela is hot and presumably has lots of friends and suitors.

The problem with “ordinary” is that it isn’t exciting or fun, and therefore doesn’t lead to happiness. This is because so many individuals aren’t happy during the course of ordinary life, so they believe they must do things that aren’t ordinary to become happy. So they travel, they have affairs, they fire a gun. But these don’t lead to happiness. These things only magnifies the external image that’s supposed to make the individual happy without dealing with the problems inside.

Happiness isn’t found doing what’s ordinary. And it’s definitely not found doing the extraordinary. 

The worldly success these three characters experience doesn’t bring them happiness. It’s all a show. These characters project an external image to protect the sense of self they built up. They do this to protect themselves from their internal fears and insecurities. They are narcissists, and rather than face their internal demons, they mask them with pretty colors, expensive suits, and fun sex. The world sees this success and they are saved from sharing their insecurity of being alone. Is this true success?

The movie takes place over the course of a few months. It’s a small amount of time that Spacey is free and happy. He was miserable at his job and in his marriage, for decades. But if you asked him if he lived a happy life, he would say yes. I know that because he says so in the end, and also I relate to it. When you become a deeply happy person, you become happy forever. Not a fleeting good feeling, but a deep unshakable happiness. Happiness is a characteristic, not a feeling. Lester experiences eternal happiness. Heaven on Earth, for the Christians.

Eternal happiness is a real thing. More people should strive for it. I recommend it. Lester chose to find happiness in the last months of his life. He stopped caring about what other people thought of him. He allowed himself to be hated by his wife, his daughter, and his previous employers. He no longer lived for others and started living for himself. Of course, he never was really living for others. He was living to protect his ego from being damaged by the opinions of others, until he stopped.

I’m not recommending selfishness. I’m recommending loving others or having a family or working a job for the right reasons. The right reason is never to look good compared to others or to make yourself look good.

Lester started down this path inspired by a hot young girl. The man started lifting, eating well, and becoming stronger – physically and mentally. He did this with the hope that he might have sex with Angela. During his transition into a sexually attractive man, he comes to the other realization that he’d been living for other people, and becomes the wise, happy, misunderstood man that doesn’t compromise his values for others. When he is finally given the opportunity to have sex with Angela, she tells him she’s a virgin. In doing so, she admits that her whole persona has been a front, a fiction.

Lester, horny as he must be, steps back and refuses to corrupt her. To have sex with her as the cool, strong man he is would have the effect of encouraging her to have sex with strong men because it feels so good. These good feels and orgasms would make someone happy just like making more money selling real estate and firing guns will make someone happy – not for long. Lester realizes he is now a happy, strong person, and doesn’t need the validation of sex or any other form of validation. He is complete.

Lester confronted his fears and inhibitors, destroys them, and becomes happy. He’s able to have everything he ever wanted – in his case, young pussy. He realizes when it’s right in front of him that he already has everything he needs and that having sex with the girl will only fuel her to want more. So he does the right thing, and leaves her with a hug. Again, for the Christians, he becomes a preacher of the word of the Lord, rather than a strong devil.

            You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry, you will someday. 

 

Atheists are hardly ever self-aware

Atheists are hardly ever self-aware. Atheists are often false intellectuals. They are given a hypothesis – an answer to some of life’s hardest questions, and they choose not to build the premises to support the argument. The atheist says, “That doesn’t exist,” while taking a simplistic definition of “that” and focusing more of their efforts on straw arguments aimed at religious people. Some of which has merit.

God takes many forms across the world. To many, god is a man in the sky that created the worlds. To more, it’s hope in an afterlife. To some, god is an ideal – it’s something to pursue, something we can become. God is a goal, and gives not only answers to “what next?” But also answers “how?” How do I live out an ideal life? To simply say these definitions of God do not exist means that there must be other answers to the questions “What next?” And “How?”

Atheists are false intellectuals because they take the words in the Bible as historical truth and argue that science will never determine the absolute truth in the reading. There is no experiment that can be conducted to prove the existence or non-existence of a god as a creator and judgmental being in the sky.

This is the route and thinking of scientists, but it does not pursue the meaning of God as an ideal. The words in the Bible can be disproven from a historical standpoint, but the meaning of God depicted in the Bible and other sources is the story of all of us.

Atheists argue against the former. They choose the historical God to argue against, without delving into the meaning of God. When God is defined as an ideal, the criteria that makes God ideal can be argued – and should be argued. So should the validity of presenting a single ideal way to live.

Christianity presents an ideal way to live. So do other religions. The characteristics vary, although slightly, from religion to religion and tradition to tradition, but they each present an ideal way to live.

Atheistic views are simplified and do not extend to the next level of analysis. What is the ideal? Does this vary from individual to individual, or group to group? Buddhism, Christianity, and other religions really say, “No, ideals (embodiment of God) do not vary from individual to individual, or group to group. There are universal ideals that anyone can follow, and be happier and freer if they choose to follow.”

Self-awareness is the level that we know ourselves. It is our ability to know we are in control of our own thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. We are in control of our happiness, or our lack of happiness. It takes a self-aware person to be happy when faced with difficult external situations.

People that believe in God, by any definition, are in pursuit of happiness by following the path of their God (their ideal). The God-fearing police their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. If they believe in an afterlife and a moody man in the sky, they will police their thoughts and actions because of their fear. If they believe in God as an ideal, they will act in accordance of that ideal, knowing it is both a challenge and a reward. Reward can be the psychological reward of not being dependent on vice, or it can be the satisfaction of knowing that the day’s actions were in line with the ideal being strived for.

Atheists deny the need for this policing. They argue it is best to be “unfiltered,” when really they are promoting action without direction. By acting without direction, individuals necessarily aren’t working towards an ideal – or anything.

It is easy to argue that there are good things to work toward. For instance, if you work for a company, you work to maximize profits. If you are in a relationship, you may have a goal to be more intimate. When you define these things to work for, these can be seen as your ideal. The highest ideals ever imagined and documented have been named “God” and published in Bibles and religious texts.

There are many religious followers that do believe the stories in the texts are literal events that occurred. These people deny published science that define how the earth ages and wage wars over non-believers, instead of understanding the meaning of the passages and the God they worship. It is these extremist, non-intellectuals that atheists choose to fight their intellectual battle.

Even these religious nut-cases can exhibit self-awareness that exceeds the simple atheist. These guys still do the policing of their thoughts and behaviors. They do these as God-in-the-sky fearing people that don’t wish to defy their moody god. Still, this policing is more than the by-the-book atheist pursues.

Now, not all atheists are the false intellectuals I described. However, I defined the common arguments atheists put forward, and the problems with that. Many atheists still create a code of ethics and morality to follow. What they don’t do is equate that perfect morality with God. Perfect morality has been defined and refined and documented for thousands of years. The most complete, eloquent definition of perfect morality is called God, and it is documented in the Bible.

It really is a circular argument only the most intellectual of atheists get into. They say, “there is no god. We can be moral without god. This is how to behave morally. This moral living is ideal.” What they don’t add is that this is how god has been defined – over and over. Just more eloquently and beautifully than the atheist’s academic paper.

Much more common than this intellectual that gets into this circular debate is the teenager who heard a few buzzwords that science must be repeatable under double-blind experiment and understands that the events in the Bible are not historical. Therefore, God doesn’t exist. This is usually a rebellious phase – a way to rebel against the ideas of our parents and “old people.” Many people do not stop this rebellion and never stop to consider the moral ideals that have been presented and discussed in academia and in church.

Atheists are hardly self-aware for these two given reasons. They do not explore the possibilities of the different definitions of God, and they do not seek or provide answers for the “what next”s and the “how”s without connecting it to an ideal, which many of us call “God.” Because of the rebellion against the definition and existence in a god, there is no attempt made to police or monitor the thoughts and behavior. Because there is no attempt made to monitor thought and behavior, there is no awareness brought to that thought and behavior, at least, no consciously. Because there is no awareness brought to thought and behavior, atheists often lack self-awareness.

Western civilization has been in decline for at least 150 years

Western civilization has been in decline for at least 150 years. The western world is built on individual freedom – the freedom for the individual to choose his own success or failure. The two systems that have most facilitated these individual freedoms have been capitalism and Christianity. These systems and, through that, the individual freedoms, have been eroded over time.

Capitalism is the ability to profit from the excess in labor. This depends on division of labor, so that the producer is motivated to over-produce so that he may trade for other stuff he wants. It is unselfish in that a producer is producing for more than himself. It is selfish in that the producer will almost necessarily ask for the largest amount of compensation for that excess. Capitalism is the ability to sell your neighbor what he needs for profit.

In a capitalist society, the individual can choose how much he wants to produce. A man can be a broke writer or a wealthy banker. This depends on the individual’s skillset, profession, and how the market values the output of that work.  He can live a life of stoic poverty, un-stoic poverty, or wealth and abundance of things. It depends on how much the individual produces.

Christianity tells us to treat others how we want to be treated – to be nice to people. There’s more to it – there are more specific virtues to follow and specific examples (Jesus) to follow, but for the most part Christianity is about treating others with respect while pursuing an individual’s mission. That mission can be about anything (that doesn’t negatively impact the individual or others).

Christianity is freeing because the mission of the individual is up to the individual. The individual’s mission isn’t dictated by a government but is chosen by the individual. In addition, Christianity recommends virtue, which is a way of being free from want and societal expectations – like status, simple pleasure, and prescripted employment paths.

Capitalism is declining for multiple reasons. One is the rise in the popularity of socialism in developed nations. Natural and unnatural influences (examples below) on the capitalist markets have created divisions in economic status. When these divisions appear unjust, the groups that feel slighted often blame the capitalistic system for the unjust outcomes.

Another reason for the decline is the inflationary impact of policy that has debased the global currencies. Monetary policy, handled in almost all cases by a central government, can be used to manipulate the price of goods in the market, including the currency. Monetary policy often serves to give an appearance of helping the lower classes while really only benefiting the banks and governing bodies. Whether inflationary or deflationary, monetary policy moves more value into the hands closest to the policy creation (banks, governments). This negative impact on lower classes pushes even more people towards socialism.

There’s also an impact of division of labor that extends beyond mere exchange of goods. Unlike external (to the free market) policy, advertising is a natural evolution of capitalism. That doesn’t mean it’s good. It’s good for profits. But it’s not good for people. Advertising targets people’s insecurities and makes them want more. When people want more, they need to work more which means they contribute more to the systems that create insecurities and inequalities. Markets are fueled by wants. Companies create wants. Wants keep the individual from experiencing the present.

Christianity on decline as religion becomes less popular. Religion is way down in the Western world. The increase in popularity of science has had a lot to do with this. STEM is where the jobs are, so STEM is where the education is. STEM has a public appearance of being opposed to Christianity, which is unfortunate and inefficient (another essay).

In addition to science in education, church scandals – especially in the Catholic Church, have put a negative light on Christianity. There have been tons of media coverage of the pedophilia that occurs in the Catholic Church. It’s not bad that there’s coverage, but this scandal does shape public perception through the negative press. There is very little positive in the church news.

Last, the glorification of vice is a major reason for the decline in Christianity and the decline in personal freedoms. With the decline in virtue, more people look to the outside world to bring satisfaction. Although external reward cannot bring eternal internal satisfaction, businesses are quick to exploit this search with the promise of fulfillment. New cars are promised to fill a void in status. Alcohol promises the reduced inhibition and the social grace that will come with faded nerves.

This is different from the rest of the world because the whole world doesn’t allow everyone to be free. The eastern world is full of socialist states or countries that enforce cultural rules. Others are tribal and each tribe has their own rules to follow. These strict rules suppress the meaning of freedom for individuals, let alone the positive ends that can be realized by allowing those freedoms.

These freedoms have been in decline for a long time. As Logan Allen, author of the unfinished theses, says, at least 150 years. This fall has been part political, part economical, and part the morality and values of the individuals.

Politically, the West is far less conservative than it was 150 years ago. Republicans in 2019 are going to battle over abortion being allowed until childbirth, rather than going to battle over women receiving a right to vote. Each loss for conservatives because it meant that there were more people who would be more likely to side with the collective instead of the individual.

Over the long run of history, conservatives have never one a single battle. After the women received the right to vote, gays have been allowed into churches to marry, and taxes have grown to cover – not only services that don’t benefit every individual but also, services that benefit the collective rather than the individual. At least, in theory it benefits the collective over the individual.

Socialist dogma since the beginning of time has praised the collective over the individual. But these are the dogmas the eastern world had to overcome through war and suffering. They had to learn hard lessons that cost millions of lives that it is not beneficial to value the collective over the individual.

Western civilization has been in decline for at least 150 years. Western civilization is based on the individual freedoms promised by capitalism and Christianity, which are both declining. Christianity is on the decline due to the war with the science community, scandal, and the glorification of vice. Capitalism is on the decline because of the socialization of the population due to wants instilled by free market results and politics.

Through annihilation of the ego, each person has the potential to realize that they are God embodied. Jesus Christ did this.

God is an ideal. In any religious text, the words spell out an ideal way to live – a peaceful, virtuous spirit that reigns over the heavens.

Unfortunately, religion steps in and tells us to hope and pray for the acceptance of that all-mighty spirit. This is not to what the biblical stories really symbolize. The biblical stories give us an answer to how to live now. Not just now meaning before death, but now meaning right now, in the moment.

It is in the moment, when we aren’t wanting for the future or fearful of what comes next, that we find this peace and that we find happiness. Happiness is available to anyone that chooses happiness. That peace comes from rejecting the fear that religious leaders instill about undesirable afterlife. It comes from rejecting all fears. That peace comes from rejecting the fear our boss instills about meeting deadlines and showing up on time.

The peace comes from within – from understanding that we have everything, because there is almost nothing we really need. Any wants and fears are nearly all externally pushed onto us – whether from teachers, preachers, bosses, or marketing departments. We can reject the wants that all these individuals push onto us, and then we can be free from the burdens that come with chasing those wants.

Rejecting wants from others means risking that we won’t be accepted by others. It means being courageous and risking humiliation from others that judge us based on our ability to satisfy the wants encouraged by others. Having the courage to say no to all these people – many of them our colleagues, family, friends, and potential lovers, means we must reject the ego that holds onto wanting the affection and acceptance of these people. By destroying the ego that holds onto the want of acceptance, we can be free from the need of this acceptance.

Jesus Christ did this. The story of Jesus is an archetypal example of a man who rejected the need to be accepted by his friends, teachers, and potential lovers. He led his loved ones and promoted peace and virtue, and was unwilling to compromise his values when those loved ones did not have the strength to stand by him. The death of Jesus was the extreme example of a man standing by his conviction. He did this by accepting humiliation from the crowd, instead of giving in to the wants of the crowd – wants that Jesus did not agree with.

The death on the cross was the most extreme example of the carrying out of the death of the ego. Even when faced with public execution in a horrific manner, Jesus refused to give in to the people that wanted him to want to fit in. In doing so, Jesus died living out his ideal. It was an ideal that he wanted – one of virtue and determination to never give in to the wants of others.

We can be Jesus like, but the struggles he faced are struggles we must endure if we are going to be free. Freedom comes at the cost of rejecting the wants and ideas that society places on us. We may not need to become martyrs for our freedom, but we must be so strong in our sticking to our values that we would rather face criticism and dislike than to fit in – if it means compromising those values.

To want to fit in is to keep the ego intact and to prioritize acceptance from others over our own free will. We can only understand our free will when we do reject all wants – materially and the expectations of others. By doing this we can become the decision makers of our own fate. We can choose to follow others or we can lead our own life wherever it takes us. We can control the heavens and find beauty and positivity in the world when we choose to look for that everywhere. That beauty and positivity is found in the present moment.

When we reject the need for our ego, when we drop the persona that faces others and start living our own ideal, we can truly be at peace and in control of our lives. And we don’t need God or anyone else telling us what to do. We are ultimately powerful when we are not controlled by others. God is not controlled by others. We are god embodied when we are not controlled by others.

We realize we are god embodied when we live out our ideal and refuse to compromise that ideal for anyone. This takes detaching ourselves from our ego that holds onto the wants and expectations of others. We, like god, are subject to no one’s control when we are able to do this. Jesus Christ demonstrated this when he died on the cross.

Nietzsche mistook the message of the Church for the message of Christ

Nietzsche said, “Christianity is the biggest destroyer of man.” Nietzsche, one of the great thinkers in world history, was incredibly negative on the subject of Christianity. He viewed Christianity as the ultimate weakness.

Christianity, according to Nietzsche, glorifies weakness. It glorifies illness, weak people, and promotes those individuals as the virtuous, rather than the strong and the risk-takers. It does this through several traditions. A couple of these are the sacrament traditions. Confession removes the incentive to be good at all times and not give in to weakness. Anointing of the sick gives courage and hope to the weak and sick. There is less public glory for the strong and healthy. Equating heaven with the afterlife is damaging. Heaven gives a final out – you don’t need to be good all your living days to experience a blissful eternity.

Christianity is the organized religion centered around Christ and the Bible’s New Testament. It is the religious organization that follows the pope and meets on Sunday to celebrate together. Christianity is the practice of worshiping Christ. That is different from the message of Christ. The message of Christ is the words and meaning behind the words that Christ embodied. The message of Christ is captured in the Bible. The message of the church is captured in the public statements by priests, the Pope, and members of any attended clergy.

The church is global as well as local. One church may tune the message from the rest of the churches. The message of the Bible is universal and constant. That is, the words of the Bible are constant. These words can be interpreted differently.

Jesus Christ had one motivation – to remove suffering from the world. He showed people how to remove suffering from the world through his example. He lived the perfectly virtuous life and inspired others to do the same. When given the choice to flee his death or become a symbol of righteousness, he was stapled to the cross in gruesome fashion.

The church has other motivations. The church, as an institution, will decline to nonexistence if it does not maintain membership. The church must compete against other churches, against other religions, and against other activities. It must appear positive in media in order to not degrade the image of the members or the leaders.

The church, therefore, must have an ego. It must have mechanisms in place to appeal to groups of people. This goes directly against the teachings of Jesus. Jesus taught that one is only happy when he is virtuous, and that the ego must be destroyed to live in virtue. The church must guard its reputation to continue to please people. So, while the church can reach the message of Christ, it necessarily cannot live them out.

Nietzsche mistook the message of the church for the message of Christ. This is shown in his contempt for Christ, which he articulates in a couple of his books. The message of Christ is not the same as the message of the church. For example, to have no ego is the message of Christ but not the church. It is the church that makes more sense for the academic attacks by Nietzsche, not the message of Christ.

Christianity is literally true

Christianity is literally true. By that, the story of Christ in the New Testament is a story that actually happened. If a story has happened before, then it is true. Because the story of Christ happened, it is necessarily true.

Many people confuse the story of Christ with historical events. Not all the events in the New Testament necessarily happened in Jerusalem in the year zero. That doesn’t mean the story isn’t true. Every story in the New Testament is a story that happened, and continues to happen.

The story of Jesus is an archetypal story. That means that it is a typical story – one that happens frequently. Archetypal stories are told as lessons or warnings. They have happened before and are sure to happen again. If your story can end as a tragedy or a comedy, its best to align yourself with the right version. We can learn from archetypal stories because they are symbolic of what is possible, and they are easy to relate to, since we experience similar trials.

Jesus’ story is an archetypal example of the hero’s journey. The hero’s journey is the cycle of myth that Joseph Campbell documented. A man takes a risk by stepping into the unknown. He learns to make sense of the unknown, he conquers the fearful while undergoing a transformation of his spirit (becomes wiser), and returns from the unknown stronger and more prepared for the world.

Jesus ventured away from home at a young age. After his baptism, he goes into the desert and fasts for 40 days. He rejects pleasure and temptation during this fast. He then returns to the world to share his knowledge and recommend virtue to others. His teachings were rejected by many people. They didn’t just reject his teachings, they chose to silence him from preaching to those that wanted to listen. He continued to fight for what he most believed in – the spread of virtue. In the end, he was put to death in the most humiliating, extreme way possible. When he rose from the dead, he returned to the world to continue preaching virtue.

Jesus lived this journey that we all experience. We all are called to adventure at different points in our lives. We choose to accept to go into the unknown at some points, and those are the ones that change us. This could be going away to college to develop skills and gain knowledge. This could be a promotion to a new job position where we are initially unfamiliar with the requirements for success. This could be tackling an addiction.

This adventure can destroy us mentally and physically, or we can conquer that which is unknown. We can get fired from the job, fail our classes, and start drinking again. Or, we can excel in the new job and realign ourselves for the next promotion. Either way, we are changed in the process. We acquire new knowledge or skills which allow us to return to the known world better prepared for anything that can happen.

New skills or knowledge is required to return to civilization. Without it, the adventurer is unable to make sense of the unknown, and he is unable to return. If he is unable to return, the unknown either breaks him down until he is left with nothing, or he continues to try to learn and make sense of it. Like Jesus when he rises from the dead – we rise out of the struggle of an addiction or a new job where we are incompetent to a level of mastery over the known world. Our mastery could be over the known world of addiction, the new job, or virtue as a means to eternal joy.

Jesus’ story is both archetypal and significant to all of us, and it is also an extreme example. His story gives an extreme example of every major event that we all experience on our own hero’s journey. He chose the most extreme adventure – one that would seek eternal joy but kill him in the process. Likewise, we choose our adventure, and we face the same obstacles – temptation and fears, that Jesus faced.

In summary, Christianity is literally true. It is true because it happened. The story of Jesus not only happened once, but it happens all the time. It is the story we all go through as we venture into the unknown then acquire knowledge and wisdom to return stronger and more prepared for any events.

Buddhism and Christianity

Buddhism and Christianity are closely linked. Deep Eastern philosophy and classic Western philosophy agree on the same core values.

So, too, do many great books. Those of Homer and Virgil and Shakespeare. Apparently. I haven’t read them yet.

The primary thing they agree on – do not give in to pleasure. Pleasure is the root of all evil. All suffering.

From pleasure we see the deadly sins emerge. Lust of the pleasure of women. Gluttony of the pleasure of food and drink. And five other sins.

Pleasure is at the root of the commandments. Thou shalt not seek pleasure in thy neighbor’s wife. Thou shalt not seek pleasure in killing someone, even if your life would be more enjoyable. More pleasurable.

In fact the devil, the tempter, represents the temptation to simple pleasure. The forbidden fruit, the mana in the desert.

In Buddhism, we learn pleasure is the root of all suffering, and that this suffering is inherent in all humans. In psychology, Buddhism is validated.

All disciplines are connected. Even different philosophies.

In psychology, we learn that the brain evolved to seek pleasure in order to fulfill two animalistic functions: survival and replication.

The modern world feeds on this evolution. It takes advantage of the evolution of the brain. It takes advantage of natural selection. Of our base nature.

We are sold candy which appeals for the same reason fruit of a tree appealed – its sweetness was once a sign of nutrition. Today that sweetness is replicated with processed sugars to give us pleasure.

Sex is awesome and has more obvious survival and replication implications. You either had sex or your genes didn’t replicate and your bloodline thinned and your tribe became smaller and weaker and more threatened by other tribes.

Sex, even the natural act that precedes replication, can be abused.

It is in the search of these pleasures that we find ourselves removed from the moment and we, according to the Buddha, suffer. We are living in the future. Being hopeful of things to change.

Buddhism says to eliminate the need to want pleasure. Buddhism teaches us that this can be reached by meditating. When we meditate, we learn to focus. We focus our thoughts and eliminate being subject to feelings, thoughts, and behaviors we don’t want.

The Bible also teaches us to not seek pleasure. Not just in the commandments, but in the imitation of Jesus. Jesus was repeatedly tempted with pleasure by the devil, which he rejected.

Eve ate the apple god forbid because it was the most attractive. She gave in to pleasure and lived her life in shame.

Now, one doesn’t have to live in shame because they chose pleasure once in their life. But it is shameful to always be needing a high – whether drugs, alcohol, food, or sex.

This chase of pleasure is shameful because it’s enslaving. Needing pleasure is voluntarily submitting to that pleasure and the need of that pleasure.

To be free, one must reject pleasure.

Pleasure is a powerful force with powerful bounds. Those bounds become stronger when pleasure is given into.

Psychology tells us the brain rewards pleasure. We are likely to repeat what is pleasurable, since it feels better than not pleasure.

If a caveman ate a fruit and didn’t die of poison, he was likely to return and eat that fruit. He was rewarded with nutrients which reinforce that he should be eating the fruit.

So, too, the pleasures today encourage us to return. Only now there are billboards and TV commercials and lingerie stores that throw pleasure at you.

If one follows the Buddha and Jesus’ example, he will see that the billboards and TV commercials and lingerie stores are only offering to tighten your own shackles.

At least, according to the Bible, Buddha, psychology, and me.