Facing Up to Reality

Of late, I noticed numerous blogs discussing atheism and christianity.  Here are some thoughts about it.

Believing that some divine being will come and save us all from evil is shirking our human moral responsibility to each other.  We keep talking about human rights.  Maybe we should start talking about human responsibilities.  We should be responsible for our actions towards each other, regardless of whether there is a god or not.  Last I check, no being came in to stop hitler, or the japanese, or the a-bomb, or any of the despot regime on genocidal paths.  It is up to us to do the right thing and the last thing to do, is do the right thing and then attribute it to some god that may or may not exist.

Why should we blame our own flaws on some external evil and call it satan?  Convenient?  Yes!  Practical?  No!  We should stop and be answerable to ourselves and stop being whiny kids pointing fingers at some invisible fiend.

I wonder with amazement every time a talented person comes on stage to receive accolade for some good work he has done would begin or end with “Thank god … ” or “it would be impossible without god willing … “.  Why do we think so lowly of ourselves?  That human beings are incapable of doing any good except if god is around?  Is this a twisted evolution of humility?  Or is this a nascent form of humility that has somehow got stuck in social evolution and remain as part of human traits?

We should be confident of the good that we can do with our human effort.  That it is possible to bring about happiness and peace without the presence of some divinity or invisible friend or fiend.  Maybe if we can be honest with ourselves in this way, then we can be at peace with ourselves.  And with others.  With or without god.  Or heaven.

4 thoughts on “Facing Up to Reality”

  1. In life, there are apparently many questions without known answers, and many situations seen as hopeless and beyond our control. When “we” can’t understand or solve these problems at our level, we tend to turn to “higher entity” for answers.

    I guess it’s a lot easier for most of us to push the personal responsibility of our lives to an external entity. That way, we avoid the accountability for our own actions. Harmful actions can thus be proudly committed in the name of the “higher entity” without remorse or guilt.

    It’s always easier to simply believe and not question because we’ll have less work to do, less facts to verify, less concepts to learn and digest, and less cultivation to do. “Why so serious?”, some will say. Cos ignorance begets suffering. We all need that wisdom beyond mere faith to start taking responsibility of our lives. 🙂

    IMHO, Barry Schwartz’s secular statement below sums it up well, if you substitute “rules” with “dogmas” and “incentives” with concepts such as “believers will rise to heaven while non-believers suffer in hell forever”.

    Barry Schwartz: “… as we turn increasingly to rules, rules and incentives may make things better in the short run, but they create a downward spiral that makes them worse in the long run. Moral skill is chipped away by an over reliance on rules that deprives us on the opportunity to improvise and learn from our improvisations and moral will is undermined by an incessant appeal to incentives that destroy our desire to do the right thing. And without intending it, by appealing to rules and incentives, we are engaging in a war on wisdom.”

    If you are interested in Barry’s 20 mins TED talk titled “The real crisis? We stopped being wise.”, check out http://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_our_loss_of_wisdom.html

  2. Actually I would be quite happy if someone goes up the stage and thank god for his success. Here is the reason why. First we must put ourselves in the person’s shoes. Obviously the person must have put in a lot of hard work to earn his success. Hence the person could have easily just bragged about his own great effort. However no. This person recognizes that his great effort forms only part of the cause and effect of success. There are many other factors beyond his control, and are critical to the success, that happen to have turned out favorable. This person is not only not egoistic, but have a sense of gratefulness for things that he cannot control. Now if this person is a Buddhist, he would probably thank his Karma, and others’ Karma. But since this person is not a Buddhist, he would naturally thank the equivalent paradigm, which is god. I think such act of great humbleness is good. There is indeed some healthy degree of humility, but not to the extend of forsaking hard work or adopting blind reliance.

    Do you agree?

    1. Interesting thoughts, though I should say that blindly attributing results to something or someone out of faith (blind or otherwise) is not necessarily a sign of humility even if the practice was original intended in that way.

      You may note that when one thank god for one’s success, it is usually in the context that with and only with god’s blessings and will, that the success is possible. It is not just one of the factors, it is more like the main and only factor for success. It is a kind of humility I guess, I’m just not sure if it is the kind that is healthy.

      Take the saying of grace at a meal for example. One would thank god for the food. But how about the one
      who spent a few hours preparing and cooking? How about those who slaved over the fields?

      It would have been ideal if someone can give thanks for success and goodness, recognising all the factors and conditions responsible for them. And yes, ideally, that should lead to humility, in oneself and also in one’s god. However, it merely shifts the ego and pride from oneself onto an external being. It is still a form of ego. And I think most have received their share of “bragging” of their god’s greatness to attest to this shift of ego and not an absence of it.

      Karma and god are non-equivalent paradigm. Karma is impersonal and do not play favorites; god is very personal and has his chosen people. Please don’t be mistaken about it. 🙂

      You noted that one should not go to the extent of forsaking hard work or adopting blind reliance. How about ignoring the hard work of others? How about ignoring the goodness of many others just because they do not fly the banner of god? And in some cases, just because it is not the same banner of god?

      It would be ideal if one can avoid the above pitfalls and others, while giving thanks to one’s god(s). But humans have the tendency to go lop-sided.

      “不自生,不他生,不共不無因,是故說無生。”

      With metta, ^_^

  3. Preach it brother. Giving an invisible man credit for everything a person achieves is ludicrous. God never gets credit for the evil things people do. That is the work of the devil. This equates human beings into little more than puppets for the amusement of a two spiritual deities.

    Our life is what we make of it. Peace and joy are a choice each of us can make without the need of a primitive book to tell us how to do it.

    If god was responsible for everything, we wouldn’t have so many religious hypocrites wondering around.

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