Dialogue with Ben

Ben: If I understand you correctly, you may not be able to comprehend why some people would hurt others, but you wouldn’t say that their path in life; their ultimate goal, is any less valid than your own. Have I represented you accurately?
Thomas: Not exactly. I can’t comprehend why people hurt others because I’m not in their skin, soul, whatever and because what I have learned about myself has made hurting others on purpose incomprehensible. I have no way of knowing why others do what they do and don’t see how I can judge them.
Ben: You said that in your worldview, the world should be a place “where everyone accepts everyone”. Why?
Thomas: “Should” is the operative word in that statement. It is not the way the world is, it will not be that in my lifetime and probably never but my view of a perfect world, heaven, if you will, is one in which everyone accepts everyone else. I use the word “accepts” rather than “love” because love is a word that has too much emotion and misunderstanding attached but I am basically talking about Christ’s central message of love for everyone. The reason everyone should accept everyone, other than because it is what Christ wanted, is that to do otherwise is frequently a source of conflict.
Ben: What if butchering another human makes someone happy?
Thomas: Accepting a person as they are does not include accepting certain behaviors.
Ben: Should we judge or encourage a serial killer like Tommy Lynn Sells?
Thomas: Judging his actions is a no-brainer. Putting him away forever or killing him is all fine with me.
Ben: Why should everyone accept everyone?
Thomas: It’s really hard to love someone if you don’t accept them for who they are. Accepting is not condoning or agreeing with; it is “I see you as a person.”
Ben: Why should we love everyone?
Thomas: Maybe you think Satan wrote Matthew 5: 43-48 and Luke 6:27 or are you picking and choosing? But rather than rely on the Bible I’ll give you my own answer from my own life. While trying to follow the advice from your savior, Jesus, I have found that the more successful I am at loving neighbors and enemies the happier I am. Hating Tommy Sells may make you feel better and if that is the case, it is what you should do. Finding it in my heart to love him, while difficult, makes me feel better. Do I love him enough to think he should be running around in society? Hell no.
Ben: Is your worldview morally superior to the worldview of Tommy Lynn Sells?
Thomas: Sells is a character in my life similar to the ghosts in Pac-Man. I have no morally superior worldview
Ben: Do you exist in a worldview of total relativism where anything is right for anyone?
Thomas: I exist in a place where there is only one person I can change and, thus, only one person to judge. Put me on Sell’s jury and I’d judge his actions unacceptable and I wouldn’t care much what happened to his body but I might feel some compassion for his soul (if I was in a dualistic mood). I have no idea what is right for you or for Sells or anyone else.
Ben: Would you appeal to the Bible? But if you do, why reject so much of it while taking just the parts that you like?
Thomas: Gosh, Ben, it seems to me you are rejecting the passages I cited above. Of course I take the parts I like as do you. There is enough contradiction in the Bible to make everyone happy.
As an aside, I’ve done some research into religion and serial killers and haven’t found one that came from an atheist upbringing so I was further amused at Sells statement: “I’ve made my peace with my maker.”

Does God Exist?

After satisfactorily proving his own existence Descartes went on to try to prove God’s.

I recognize that it would be impossible for me to exist with the kind of nature I have–that is, having within me the idea of God–were it not the case that God really existed. By ‘God’ I mean the very being the idea of whom is within me, that is, the possessor of all the perfections which I cannot grasp, but can somehow reach in my thought, who is subject to no defects whatsoever. [Meditation III, paragraph 38]

Descartes says that his existence includes the perception of a perfect God and that the perception was not learned but came directly from God. When God made Descartes he programmed him with a belief in a perfect being. I accept his perception that his understanding of God was implanted in his existence. How could I possible challenge it? If he were alive, we could discuss the difference in our perceptions. However, it is unlikely that either of us would be changed. Anyway, he’s dead.
I believe that my knowledge and understanding of “God” (the god most religions refer to) comes from things that have shaped me since my birth. I joined a church, went to Sunday school, listened to sermons, read the Bible, read many books that expressed ideas concerning God and have listened to many people express their understanding of God. I classify the experiences in the previous sentence as second-hand or coming from others of my species in this perception that I recognize as my life. I have also experienced blazingly colorful sunsets, towering mountains, the ocean’s roar and power, the tinkling sound of a rill in a brook, a baby’s grip, the smoothness of a thigh, and the explosion of flavor released by a vine-ripened tomato. I classify these experiences as first-hand and not coming from others of my species. They come through the senses that are attached to my body, the vessel that is central to my perceptions. To which should I give more credence in my search for an understanding of a god, that which comes from others of my species or that which comes from I know not where?
If Descartes had been raised by wolves and had no contact with belief passed on through people, his argument would be excellent. As is, it holds no water.
Is there a God and, if so, what is the nature of God? I exist and I perceive this thing that I call my life and everything contained in it. I don’t know anything beyond that. I don’t perceive through first-hand knowledge anything beyond that. The notions of things outside my perception that I call my life come from others–notions of life after death, reincarnation, heaven, hell, a supreme being watching over me.
One of those notions is the big bang theory of how the universe came to be. That is based on scientists’ perception as they study the universe that everything in the universe is moving away from everything else at a rapid speed. They determine this by the color of light they can see and an understanding that the color is a wave and that changing the wave length will change the light. Light moving away from the perceiver will be different from light moving toward the perceiver because the wave lengths are elongated or compressed respectively. I have not directly observed this phenomenon but I am willing to accept it from the things I have read. All the scientists know is what they are observing, the color of the light coming through space. They believe the color indicates that everything in space is moving away from us. From that they have formed the theory that the universe is exploding.
Our sun was a bit in the explosion. It got spinning around and some chunks were thrown off forming our solar system. Our planet cooled down and as it cooled life came into being. Single celled life that evolved into life as we know it on Earth today.
If you buy that, as to how we came to be, and I do, you are still left with how did the material form that was involved in the big bang? I am not aware of any scientific theory answering that question. It is an interesting question to ponder; however, it seems unlikely that I will ever, within this life, come to an assurance of how the universe came into being. Even if science came to a reasonable answer… Well, I can’t imagine such a thing so I can’t finish that sentence. I like the ancient explanation that the world rides on the back of a giant elephant and the elephant stand on the back of a giant turtle. When asked what the turtle stands on the subject was changed.
Rather than search for something for the turtle to stand on or anything in between I am content to credit “God”. What is God? My creator. What am I? A thinking being that perceives what I call my life which includes everything within my perception. Please don’t add any frills or extras to “my creator”. I have no notion what kind of an entity “my creator” might be—if I was created in its image, if it is a committee, a blob, a vapor or something totally inconceivable. My “creator” or “God” is nothing more than a word to use for the dead end that my thoughts and thinking through the ages have come to.
Don’t, for a moment, confuse “my creator” with the God of the Bible. Religion has co-opted “creator” so, perhaps I will have to find another word for the concept. Perhaps “Programmer”. I’ll give that some thought.