Pluralism, Tolerance, and Relativity; Post Note on Certainty and Agnosticism

I could not end this series without touching on these two topics for completion. As I pondered how to do that, even these parting topics had spinoffs, such as how do we find truth to start with (epistemology)? But I will let that go for now.

Certainty

In most religious sects, certainty is not only considered honorable, but the goal of belief. It is true of Islam, many of the eastern sects that I’ve had contact with, and certainly it was true in the Christian evangelicalism that I knew. I heard many evangelicals tell me, (let me be honest and say bragged about), never having a second of doubt about God’s existence and not only Christianity being true, but their particular denomination of Christianity being the truest of them all. It is a subversion of their understanding of the word faith.

In the 1990s I was an elder of an evangelical church. It was at a time that I was just rethinking some things I had been taught in that sect. I remember a mother coming to our elder board and was very concerned about her sixteen-year-old son. Her tears flowed down her freckled cheek, as she padded them off with a pink Kleenex. Her son had voiced that he didn’t want to come to church anymore. That he doubted if God even existed. Sobs ensued.

woman crying

A very conservative bearded head elder likewise seemed concerned. “It’s the devil! These kids play these video games and the devil gets into them. We need to pray hard. You need to get rid of all the video games, all the non-Christian books and other stuff . . . throw them in the garbage while there’s time to save what’s left of his soul!”

I heard a couple of other elders chime in with similar comments. I could not contain myself any longer and finally I spoke.

“I totally disagree! I am so happy that Jamie has doubts. That means he’s thinking. He’s not brain dead! I worry most about those kids that never doubt. I would love to lead a class for teens on the art of doubting boldly.”

The elders looked at me (this wasn’t the first time) like I had gone bonkers. But it was true. I worry about kids that follow in their parents religious footprints without missing a beat. The reason is, I’m afraid that it is often more of an issue of conformity, familial-peer pressure, than any deep conviction of their own. But I’ve said before, the path to truth begins with doubt. I thought about writing another nonfiction book, The Gift of Doubt, but . . . it would be a lot of work . . . and no one would buy it.

The path to truth begins with doubt.

Here is the problem for all of us. We have been given, by God in my opinion, but some of you will say evolved (and that’s okay) the facilities for finding truth. Truth is essential for existence. If we didn’t believe in any truth, we couldn’t last a day without getting killed by something. Our facilities include our senses for detecting information about the world. Then we have cognitive reasoning that sorts out that information into meaningful patterns. Then we have the emotions or limbic system as a system for rewarding or punishing those thoughts (e.g. if you had a thought you wanted to arm wrestle a saber-toothed tiger, you emotion of fear would tell you, from experience, that would not be a good idea . . . fear being an emotional response).

However, that system is finite. It is not perfect. The honest Christian should agree because one of the major tenets of Christianity is that we are “fallen” or not perfect. So, it is impossible for a finite human being to find absolute truth. It does not matter if you considered that we are created this way, results of some cosmic fall, or evolution not being a perfect shaper of the human organism.

The scientific method is the mathematical process that we use to limit our vulnerability to error, but even it is not always perfect. But people think they can ride above this inability to arrive at certainty by injecting emotions and calling something else like intuition or God’s voice. God’s so-called voice has done a lot of evil in this world, people assuming that God told them something. Then I imagine the real God looking up, with a Robert De Niro-look, and saying, “Uh . . . you talking to me?”

Good times | Enclothesed

The attitude of certainty is strongly linked to the attitude of intolerance. It goes like this. I am absolutely certain about belief x because my facilities are perfect in finding truth. Those facilities include my intelligence and morality or being so spiritual that God’s spirt sends me private messages inside my head.

I heard countless Baptist preachers growing up who said that atheists are going to hell because God has been clear that he existed, but only fools or idiots don’t see it. Or, if they see it, their immorality causes them to not believe in God. Usually, the story goes, the atheist can see God is obliviously there, but the atheist wants to have sex with his girlfriend without guilt, so he pretends that God is not there.

But I will take this further and link it back to what I said about the psychology of intolerance and go back to that example of the evangelical’s attitude toward gays. They believe that they are smart enough to see God, or moral enough to want to see God, but the gay isn’t. Therefore, the gay person is worthy of their hate . . . oh, and God’s hate.

So, with humility comes the opportunity for respect for those different from yourself . . . and to go as far as love. I have total respect for the atheists, because I spent years wrestling with atheism as a way out of evangelicalism. But I must add, some atheists have the same problem as the religious person. The only time I have not enjoyed being with a group of atheists was when they became just like the evangelical and condemning those who were not atheists because they were idiots or immoral (seeking to hide in religion).

Agnosticism

The word agnosticism must conjure up many connotations in peoples’ minds, but I mean it in the most literal term, without knowledge. On one end of the spectrum, there or those who simply mean without certainty. Frank Schaeffer, the son of the late theologian Francis Schaeffer, calls himself an “Agnostic Christian.” This is what he means. But on the other end of the spectrum, people call themselves agnostic and they mean nihilism, meaning that they have lost all hope of finding anything that resembles truth . . . that they have given up.

While we must recognize the limits of our ability to find certainty, we are well-equipped for finding truth. We do this constantly in our daily lives. Simple things, like is my car safe on the highway? We use our senses, logic, and emotions in language, otherwise there would be no communications between people. We also use these gifts in searching for the answers to the big questions. Does God exist? Is Christianity, Islam, or Hinduism true? We make real headway in those quests. But faith is not magical certainty. It is not faking a belief in something that we know is not true. Faith is the act of living as if something is true, even though our facilities do not know it is true with absolute certainty. However, intellectual humility gives us the space in which to have tolerance and love towards those who are different.

Mike

Pluralism, Tolerance, and Relativity Part III; Relativism

In 1992 I listened to a remarkable lecture titled, Possible Answers to Basic Philosophical Questions. Dr. Schaeffer, the presenter, had made the point in an earlier lecture that philosophy is really a remarkably simple discipline because, unlike biology or physics, there are only a handful of questions and an equal number of possible answers. The other disciplines have thousands of such questions, each with thousands of possible answers. The study of the history of philosophy is a different matter because in it, you must learn the biographies of hundreds if not thousands of philosophers and their ideas.

When we came to this lecture, Dr. Schaeffer made the statement (my paraphrase) “At the end of the day there are only about five people left standing in the room, meaning five possible answers.” This lecture, in its simplicity, left such an impression on me that I studied it much longer and developed my own workshop, which I held at the Peter White Public Library in Marquette, Michigan. I titled my six-week workshop, “Eastern Vs Western Answers to Basic Philosophical Questions.”

This final installment of my series on Pluralism, Tolerance, and Relativity may be the most important one. I say so because, here in America at least, we are losing our concept of truth. This idea of relativism cuts to the center of this issue. But I must define once again what I mean by truth. I’m not talking about “my truth” or “your truth” and certainly not some kind of religious or political truth. I’m talking about truth in the classical Greek sense of “that which is.”

Is All Truth Relative? | Embracing Brokenness Ministries

Right now, I am sitting on my deck, listening to the American Robins sing, my Saint Bernard snoring at my feet, under a seamless steel sky of azure blue. The official scientific name for this color is:

Sky blue

HSV (h, s, v)        (197°, 43%, 92%)

sRGBB (r, g, b)   (135, 206, 235)

Source  X11 color names

ISCC–NBS descriptor      Very light greenish blue

Now you can reasonably argue about the exact hue of the sky over me right now, but you cannot say it is red or yellow. You can also argue that in certain places and at certain times the sky may appear red . . . or even yellow. But the truth is, from my angle on my deck, at this moment in time, the spectrum of light coming to me is in this blue range. This is the kind of absolute truth I’m talking about.

When it comes to relativity, it is the process where we, for the noble pursuit of peace, erase the boundaries of truth that tend to cause divisions. It may have good intentions, but at what cost?

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In my previous article I discussed the basics of intolerance. One way to try to erase intolerance is to dilute truth into a bland soup that embraces all views as the same. This is the post modern view of truth and for the aspiration of harmony as the pluralistic society is becoming more so. According to some historians that was how Hinduism was birthed, with the merging of several large polytheistic cultures. This blending is the source of the word relativity, where one person’s perspective of truth is equal or relative to the others. The problem with this, while I respect the desire for peace and tolerance, is sacrificing not only truth, but the very aspiration of ever finding truth again.

Imagine that two other people join me right now on my deck and they each look up and tell me the sky is a different color than blue. Maybe there is a problem with their perception of color, neurologically. You may argue here that maybe something is wrong with my perception. But color can be measured and analyzed scientifically, beyond our perception. Just walk into a Sherwin Williams store and they can do it right there in front of you, then reproduce that exact color in paint.

Now imagine these two friends are deeply invested in their notion that the sky is either yellow or red. The three of you start to argue about it. The argument starts to get ugly until one friend, with a noble intention, says, “Wait a minute. We are all just saying the same thing. We see the same color, but from our experience we call it a different name. Let’s just merge (in a relative way) our different views into one and call the color sky which is yellow, red, and blue.” The three of us smile and the conversation becomes civil again . . . but the concept of truth is lost forever.

The above was an imaginative narrative, so I will use a historical example to make this clearer.

On July 9, 2018, Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to be a Supreme Court judge. His regular hearings for nomination were September 4-7. Then it was revealed that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford had made a written accusation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her, while intoxicated, in high school in 1982. Kavanaugh Immediately denied even knowing Dr. Ford. All my evangelical friends immediately said that Dr. Ford was a liar and fraud while many of my liberal friends said that Kavanaugh was a liar. This was without either side knowing the details or the character of the individuals and both sides chose the reality that they wanted to believe for political (culture war) purposes and without due diligence to find the real truth. Watching Fox News or MSNBC is not due diligence.

During the hearings, it became a clear “he said, she said” situation. Dr. Ford said she was 100% sure that her account was true, Judge Kavanaugh said the account never happened, period. But during this episode I heard people on TV, trying to be peacemakers in the situation, saying that both were telling the truth but from different perspectives, based on life experiences. That is an example of the relativity of truth or what is called “synthesis” in philosophical terms.

It is certainly worthy of debate if sexual misconduct in high school should disqualify someone from serving on the Supreme Court. I don’t know if it would. However, that was not the debate. It was a metaphysical debate. Brett said he had never met Ford and Ford said specifically that Brett had assaulted her. In classical logic, only one of those could be true. It is possible that both could be false, but both can’t be true without losing all aspirations of finding truth.

I did do some limited due diligence on the matter. My opinion? I have no clue as I was not there in the physical space in 1982 to witness what really happened. But I will never tailor my truth to fit my political point of view. If I were pro-life and expected that Kavanaugh would try to overturn Roe Vs Wade I would not assume that Ford was a liar, or as I heard one Baptist friend of a friend say, “Ford’s a slut, and I can tell a slut when I see one.” Put that in your head and think about it for a moment.

If I were pro-choice, I would not automatically believe Ford just so Kavanaugh would be disqualified, helping to preserve Roe Vs Wade. It would be easy for me for political reason to choose a “truth” but then that truth has nothing to do with reality. I do know that historically in “he said, she said” situations where the truth is later discovered (e.g. finding security camera footage) that the woman is correct more than 90% of the time. But that doesn’t mean that in this case Dr. Ford was either mistaken (wrong guy) or lying.

I want to say one more thing about tolerance before I move on. I am not saying here that we must stick to objective truth even if it causes intolerance. Hell no! We seek tolerance by respecting the other person despite their views, trying to understand their perspective, and by questioning our own views, but not by throwing out the concept of an absolute truth. On top of this, tolerance, at least for the Christian, should be a function of love, not agreement. But in America at least, most Christians have lost their interest in truth for the sake of the culture wars that they have, regrettably, decided to make their priority.

Now I will dive into the crux of the matter, the possible answers to the basic philosophical questions. I come to you as a stereotypical used car salesman, but I’m not trying to sell you a car. I’m trying to show you that every car on the lot is different from the other.

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The basic philosophical question #1 is a metaphysical question. Why does the material universe even exist? I call it the great enigma. We exist and that creates a huge metaphysical problem, why or how? The following will describe the simple options that are available. Some of you are already saying that this is stupid because they know x, y, or z is the answer. I say emotional certainty is the enemy of real truth.

  1. Nihilism. You can interpret this philosophical position in several ways. One is that nothing is there. There is no universe, we don’t exist and there is nothing to consider. Very few people try to hold that position. The broader interpretation is that something is there, but it is totally meaningless, and that view is more common.
  2. Impersonal Genesis. This is the idea that all that exist came about through some impersonal process, the laws of physics (Newtonian and Relativistic, different from how I used relativism above) caused the creation of the universe, and those natural laws has sustained it and caused it to evolve to the present state. This is the atheistic view. The holders of this view sometimes cheat and add meaning or even personality to the universe (“I guess the universe didn’t want me to catch that bus today”). Even the late Carl Sagan would do that in my opinion. But honest atheists cannot add personality or meaning, beyond implied meaning, “Our purpose is to survive.” Says who? Maybe the earth would be better off without humans.
  3. Pantheistic. This is the notion that God is not a person but a force within the universe. Hinduism and Buddhism are pantheistic in nature. But there is a lot of “pop-pantheism” belief systems that have developed in the west since the 1960s.
  4. Polytheistic. This is the view that there is more than one God, but each with personal traits. The Greeks and Romans were the prime examples of this belief system. However, as I’m mentioned, some historians believe that Hinduism and other pantheistic beliefs evolved from the situation where several polytheistic systems merged.
  5. Monotheistic. This is where there is one creative, personal God and is best represented by the Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. But of course, there are strong differences between those faiths, Judaism and Islam being more similar and Christianity making the claim that Jesus was divine. My Muslim friends used to say that if we say that Jesus is divine, then Christianity is a polytheistic religion and not in the same league as Islam and Judaism.

So that my friends are the five people standing in the room, or the five cars on the lot. They are different, very different.

Again, I know much more about Christianity than the rest, second most about Islam. While Christianity has many interpretations (see my previous article about intolerance) there are a handful of tenets or pillows of these belief systems, that once removed, the entire system degrades into something implausible as a religion. For Christianity, it is the belief that God exists, that God created the universe, that evil is real, that Jesus existed in history and is different from all other persons in that he alone is divine. I will add that Christianity states that there will be no other revealed information from God after the Bible.

While Islam holds the tenets that God exists and is the creator, it also holds that Jesus was a historical figure and a prophet. But in contrast to Christianity, it holds the belief that to imagine Jesus as divine would be a sacrilege. They also hold that since Mohammed came 500 years after Christ, and too was a prophet, that he would have the most accurate information from God (The Koran) and that information supersedes anything written in the Christian scriptures.

I won’t even try to show the contrast with Judaism as it would show my ignorance. But I will briefly mention Hinduism as the major pantheistic view.

Hinduism would share with the other systems that truth is absolute and eternal, but, and that’s a big but, it can we expressed by wise people in different ways. This is what opens the door to the relativism that makes Hinduism and pantheism so palatable in a pluralistic society. The three men on my porch could be looking at the same sky and come up with three legitimate colors because their interpretation of the absolute truth is relative.

More so, the difference lies in the character of God. Hindus believe in one creative God, Brahman, who is truth and reality, but is not defined in a creative being separated for his/her creation as in the Abrahamic faiths, but the creation itself is part of the God-force that permeates the universe.

I will stop here, but there are very fundamental differences that matter. In Hinduism, if you re-define Brahman in the Abrahamic traditions, a person outside of creation, Hinduism would collapse. Too complicated to get into here.

In closing this piece, I will switch back to Christianity, which I know best. Christianity in America is in serious trouble. But if you study church history, which I have and have taught classes on it, the church has always been in trouble with one nonsense or the other. Of course, it has done some good too.

Today, the more conservative branch of the Christian church has been completely neutered by being subdued, then absorbed into right wing political philosophy, including American Nationalism. This absorption is almost comprehensive. Jesus, not a fan himself of organized religion, gave the metaphor of salt losing its saltiness, then what is it good for . . . absolutely nothing (to quote Edwin Starr).

On the other side of Christianity, the progressive or liberal wing, it is being absorbed into this relativistic Christianity, blending pantheistic ideologies for the sake of tolerance. Noble cause but will result in the tragic loss of an aspiration of truth. To many progressive Christians, God is now a force within nature, part of nature, but did not create nature as a separate entity. To them, Jesus’ existence in history or his unique divinity is extraneous. Their common currency with all other (even radically different) religious systems is experience or mysticism. Therefore, it too will become useless as it fades eventually and completely into this new Hodge-Podge pantheism.

Islam is facing almost the exact same pressures as Christianity. On its conservative side, it is blending Islam with radical right-wing political ideologies to end up with such products as Al Qaeda or ISIS. I have spent time with the Taliban, and they sound remarkably similar as conservative Christians do now. But Christianity is non-violent, isn’t it? Just give them time. Jan 6th was a literal shot across the bow as the “Christian flag” was carried into the capital building to assault the police and representatives, not to mention our democracy. I’ve seen on Face Book that evangelicals are now buying up assault weapons at an alarming rate, taking their homeschooled evangelical kids to gun ranges, all in preparation for what they see is the coming real war (as opposed to just a figurative culture war of this day) with the “lib-tards.” American Christianity is seriously sick. Just like their pro-Al Qaeda counterparts, they too bathe their brains with nonsensical conspiracy theories, which they harvest from fringe websites and preachers.

But all five of these possible metaphysical answers have major issues. For the sake of space and time I hardly touched on the compromise in real Hinduism or atheism. I know that Hindu and Buddhist purest, especially those in the homelands (e.g. India and Tibet) are disturbed by how their religions are being cherry-picked by western pantheist-wannabes.

I also want to point out that someone who takes truth seriously, and can see the real differences between these five answers, must still be tolerant, loving, and cooperative. There are many things a good Christian and a Good Muslim and Buddhist can agree on, protecting nature and human rights are an example. You can gleam truth from other religions without compromising the pillars of your own.

I was going to close this series, but I think I should address two complimenting issues to this discussion, what I call “The Cancer of Certitude” and “Malignant Agnosticism.” Certitude is the real cause of intolerance and malignant agnosticism is often the hopeless place that people end up once they have left their original belief system.

Mike

A Dispensation of Grace

A few weeks ago I was the brunt of someone’s anger. It was one of those situations where you step into a stranger’s line of fire . . . and it had nothing to do with you. Now, I don’t even remember what it was about. But I started thinking afterwards, that we who live with one foot in the grave, the other on a banana peel, trying our damnedest to live as a mere mortals in the world inhabited by you immortals (so it seems), that we should have a special dispensation of grace. I was thinking a tattoo on our foreheads that read, “Be Kind, Under Duress” would suffice.

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But then I thought about it longer. No, what we really need is a special dispensation of grace . . . for everyone! Where we approach each person with the upmost respect and honor, almost as if they were created by God. That we would never assume a negative attribute on anyone, lazy, dumb, stupid, immoral, etc. without them working very, very hard to convince us that they deserve such a label. But, I’m not even sure about that. I think it would make a better world.

Joe, The Nocturnal Accuser

I tell these stories, not because I think they are unique to me. It is not about “my journey” but about the human condition. I tell them because I’ve observed them and like a correspondent, I want to write about the experience because I think many others have had the same. A good friend and professional colleague told me once that “When you talk about things like this, it makes you look weak.” I gave up on looking strong a long time ago.

Joe paid me a call last night, in the small hours of the new day. He doesn’t come as often as he did, thank goodness.

Cartoon Background clipart - Insomnia, Cartoon, Graphics, transparent clip  art

He’s a lanky man, dressed in a short-sleeved white cotton button-up shirt and dark pants, held up with a thin leather belt, looking like a memento from the fifties. So thin, he slithers into my bedroom without the necessity of the door being ajar.

My eyes had just opened. No reason this time. No pain, no twitching, nothing but sleep slipping away from me. The stillness told me it was early. The House Finch and Robin, not yet warming up their morning songs. Summer’s solstice sun not yet illuminating the eastern ridgelines beyond my window.

I heard Joe sliding the hard oak chair across the floor to my bedside. I feigned sleep. Between the slits of my lids, I could see he wasn’t buying it. Lit cigarette dangling from his lip, he sat beside me.

“Why are you here?” I asked.

He didn’t answer, but pulled a piece of paper from his back pocket. Methodically unfolding it, white paper with thin blue lines and a serrated edge as he had torn from a spiral-bound notebook. He studied the page and then looked over at me, a Jack Nicholson smirk carrying his face.

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“I was just looking at the list of mistakes you’ve made and thought it was time I reviewed them with you.” His cigarette bouncing on his lip with each syllable uttered.

“Please don’t.”

He continued to study the page, took the cigarette out of his mouth and laid it on the edge of my bedside table.

“Please don’t do that. It burns a notch in my table.” I pointed at a dozen bronzed burns along its edge. He ignored me.

His smirk morphing into a chuckle, still a Nicholson style, he said, “You stabbed another kid when you were five?”

“Stop!”

“Oh, just wait until I get to the adult stuff . . . the betrayals, the selfish acts at the expense of others, some of them your friends, your family, even you wife. All your failures.” Looking at the papers in his hand, “I have five pages here.”

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“Don’t!”

“Hey, what’s the matter . . . too afraid to face it?”

“I’ve faced it. Now leave me the hell alone!”

“Hey man, I’m an educator and I’m just here to educate you.”

“But I already know this shit.”

“I’m afraid you might forget. You’re not getting any younger you know, and the memory slips.”

I put my pillow over my head. I heard the rustling of papers.

“Okay, let’s move on to how others have betrayed you. There’re some doozies.” I peeked from beneath my pillow and saw him pulling a pack of papers from his other pocket. He picked up his cigarette, knocking its long gray ash to the floor, and taking a draw. He returned it to the burned furrow now in my table. He released the smoke slowly from the side of his crooked mouth as he read the pages.

“Man, o man, you were thrown under the bus by those you admired and loved the most. That must have hurt. Brutal. You got to still feel that.”

“Shut up! That’s all history!”

“Maybe you should give it some more thought?”

“I’ve given it too much thought already. Put that away!”

He continued to read betrayals and mistakes, altering one with the other. With my eyes closed, I imagined putting my pillow over Joe’s face, coming down hard to suffocate any life left in him. Another mistake? He would survive anyhow.

The words were tearing into my soul, finding traction as guilt . . . as anger. No longer any chance of sleep for this night. Finally, I couldn’t take it any longer and I sat up in bed and screamed at him, “Joe, for the love of God!”

Suddenly he vanished. An empty chair. A smoking cigarette still resting on my bedside. I put it out and tossed it into the can. I laid back down and a warm, restful sleep was soon lapping over me like waves on Caribbean sand.

Mike

Pluralism, Tolerance, and Relativity Part II; Intolerance

The Art and Science of Religious Intolerance

To fully address tolerance, I believe we must look carefully at the substance of intolerance. I used the term “art” in the title, not implying a positive trait, but how we work creatively to dress up or decorate our intolerances to make them more palatable. Within the variety of intolerances I’m discussing religious intolerance. Of the many forms of religious intolerance, toward other religions, races, etc., I have chosen specifically the religious intolerance, specifically evangelicalism, toward homosexuality. I know I am a glutton for punishment. I suspect I will further piss off evangelicals during this conversation . . . and disappoint those within the gay community. But it is an intolerance that is easily identified and therefore makes a good example.

The Psychology of Intolerance

I’m sure there’s a plethora of papers, books, and lectures on intolerance by people more qualified than me. I write because . . . well, I’m a writer, or at least an aspiring one. Carpenters build. I am also quite curious about the world and spend much of my time thinking about these things. If I bring anything to the table, it is that I love to approach a topic with the upmost candor and my desire to deconstruct our thoughts and behaviors to their basic intent.

I have thought long and hard about the psychological motivation of intolerance. Intolerance can raise its ugly head in any situation where there is a difference between two groups.

In the small, conservative, Bible-belt community where I grew up, deep within the folds of Appalachia, we had a few gay people, probably many more that were too afraid to “come out”. They were treated as a circus sideshow and fuel for Satan’s furnace, at worst. Boys in my school who appeared to be gay had the crap beat out of them . . . and often. The rest of us were in fear of getting beat up for accidentally doing something the bullies would interpret as “gay-ish,” such as wearing a shirt that had pink in it. Homophobic slurs were as common as normal speech, at least boys around boys. Don’t be mistaken, our town was not unique, at least in the south, and it wasn’t full of bad people. Some of them were very kind and tolerant of gay people, like Jack our Baptist Sunday School and music director.

Dad: No Lisa, God does not have a penis or Y chromosome.

Lisa: So then, that makes God the first non-binary person in the universe.

Dad: Don’t you ever say something like that . . . that’s a sacrilege and God will be angry with you. He finds non-binary people disgusting!

We are not born into a heliocentric solar system … but an egocentric one. As babies, we are the center of the universe . . . so we believe. That model is quickly shaken as we interact with siblings, pets, parents, and eventually the world. The so-called “terrible twos” is part of that transaction, going from being the center of the universe to competing with others for value. But then it becomes a lifelong process. The fundamental motivation to much of our behavior is the search for significance or value. That’s why we try to do a good job at work. We want praise (or raises) which helps us to feel more valuable. That’s why we try to be wonderful parents, or good people. It’s even why we like those little “Like, Love, Laugh” icons that people can attach to our FB posts. Those who come up short in this area of self-confirmation (we called it “stroking” when I studied psychology in the 1970s), can feel worthless, carry a sense of low self-esteem … and even take their own lives.

The most common way that our value is threatened or enhanced comes within that area of comparisons to others. I call it “creating contrast.” The thinking goes like this, “They are smarter than me, better looking than me, more successful, healthier than me, or younger than me. Therefore, they are more valuable in society . . . and that’s threatening.” You can turn that on its head, imagining where you come out ahead in those areas, and feel more intrinsic value.

Anytime we encounter someone who differs from us, different skin color, different religion, different sexual orientation, different anything, it appears as a challenge to our value. To enhance our security in our own state, we often attach strong negative value to the areas where other people differ from us to create contrast to our own “good” selves.

Religious Intolerance

Religious intolerance is one of the most common corporate manifestations of intolerance along with brands of political nationalism. Just this morning I was listening to the news about the pro-Taliban group bombing and killing 80 schoolgirls. They say, and I’ve spoken to pro-Taliban people myself, that they are doing Allah’s will because if they educate girls, exposing them to western ideas, they become more rebellious and less desirous as wives or members of their society. But I believe the psychological factor is that the Taliban men see women as a threat. They want to feel valuable (and unfortunately; they don’t), so they must imagine that they are worthy in Allah’s economy, men greater than women. Assigning the moral blame to their Allah, as if he would want the girls bombed. It is a simple psychological cover.

I know the evangelical paradigms well. I think I can speak of the Islamic perspective because, while not a scholar in the matter, I have spent a lot of time talking to Muslims. I can say less about eastern religions because I don’t know them so well. But I will share one story about them before I move back to evangelicalism and their intolerance of gays.

I had a conversation with a young man (mid-20s) at a party and he told me how he had just left Michigan and moved to India because he wanted to be a student of Hinduism. I asked him why he chose that path. His answer intrigued me. He said he was sick of the Christianity-inspired racism in America and wanted to embrace a more just system.

“Really?” I asked with my mouth gaped open. “The Hindu caste system is the most blatantly racist social system in the world. Where the tone of your skin dictates your value in society, and you cannot change your place via hard work or education. If you are at the bottom, the untouchables, you are so devalued that the only thing you are fit for is shoveling shit out of public latrines. But to decrease the moral responsibility of the system, the practitioners of it, say that it is the behavior of the individual in a previous life that makes them born with a darker skin and lower class.”

But back to white American evangelicals, who like the pre-mentioned groups, reinvent intolerance as a religious discipline. Evangelicals have selected two major issues of their cause in their culture wars with the secular American society, sanctity of marriage (meaning anti-homosexual), and sanctity of life (meaning only anti-abortion, not really about the general sanctity of life). If you listened to and observed the political and public statements of the white evangelicals, who claim all their views originate in the Bible, an outsider would assume that the Bible is filled with prejudicial statements and commands from cover to cover about those two topics. It is not.

LGBTQ religion activist: it's time to talk about America's faith-based  homophobia problem - Vox

If you were to pick up the Bible and read it for yourself, looking for these prejudices, you would be shocked to learn that of its 783,137 words, the writers devoted zero to abortion and about a dozen to homosexuality, a few more if you have a vivid imagination and a determination to see what’s not there through inference. More so, Jesus himself never said a single word about either topic, even though both issues were present in Jesus’ contemporary society. He had three years of ministry and he made his priorities clear. He certainly did not share the priorities of the American white evangelicals. In contrast, Jesus spoke continuously about the holistic sanctity of life, all life, and the love thereof. He preached against greed and religious pretentiousness as his key message, and that we should not seek political kingdoms but the invisible kingdom of God, where people from all spectrums come together in mutual love and respect. The issue that Bible, including Jesus, prioritized was truth. Not some religious truth, as it is now defined. Every church has their “truth” or doctrines that you must believe to be part of that group. This was not what the Bible was talking about, but truth in the classical definition, that which is consistent with reality. As I’ve said before, if God exists, then the more in touch we are with reality, the better the chance we have of seeing God.

I have written before and will say it again. The further you live from Galilee (Jesus’s homeland), the less you really know about the historical figure. I think the American white evangelicals, while boasting knowledge of Jesus, know him the least of all the Christians in the world. Here he is a franchise, an ego-centric mystical experience, a hobby, a political power source, and nothing more. This became blatantly apparent in 2016 when, in the blink of an eye, the white evangelicals threw any remains of a historical Jesus far under the bus to grasp that shiny gold object, Donald Trump, who is the very embodiment of the antithesis of the real, historical Jesus . . . and they did it for the lust of power.  

Evangelicals Warn 2016 Candidates: Don't Support Gay Marriage

I will pause here before I go down a long twisting rabbit hole and give a link about the scriptural support for an anti-homosexual position, and scriptural support of homosexuals (I’m not breaking this down into the whole spectrum of transgender, queer, gay, and non-binary but using an old term for simplicity’s sake).  I will not, nor am I qualified to get into this substantive debate about what does scripture really say or doesn’t say but it is not a slam dunk like evangelicals want you to believe. But my focus here is the true basis of intolerance, not specifically about homosexuality or any other specific topic. But a good neutral jumping off point for your own research could start with this New York Times “debate” on the topic: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/06/05/us/samesex-scriptures.html?.?mc=aud_dev&ad-keywords=auddevgate&gclid=CjwKCAjwhYOFBhBkEiwASF3KGZJ0Phg4ZOhKKzKAZdaziw240h6YG-FJKus1XXn2LEfPQq_Z_PrcihoC8MAQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

When I was an evangelical, we used to say, “love the sinner, hate the sin.” That is a farce, religious bullshit. There was no question we hated gays. I cannot count how many times in church, or among Christian friends in a social setting, that I heard a story where the evangelical friend found out that someone renting an apartment from them, or doing business with them, took a same-sex partner. So, for the evangelical landlords, they had “no choice” but to evict them, throwing them out on the curb with their suitcases. They said that they did it in love, because by them (the evangelical) obeying God, homelessness may force the gay couple to repent and turn to Jesus. The evictor was received as a hero in that evangelical context. That’s loving the “sinner?”

I also cannot count how many times I heard evangelical men talk about seeing a gay person (effeminized man) and it “made them sick to their stomachs . . . wanting to vomit.” Is that loving the “sinner?” Taking it back to my childhood in the Bible belt, I heard men say that they would like to “hang” or “behead” gay men . . . you know, in the name of Jesus’s love. Do you see why I say “bullshit?”

But what is really behind this hate? The evangelical will argue until they are blue in the face that it is because their Bible says its sin, and they are on God’s side.

But here’s the question. If the Bible hardly mentions homosexuality, yet speaks constantly about love, justice, truth, materialism, adultery, why do these same evangelicals almost never talk about those issues and certainly not with the fervor as they do homosexuality or abortion?

Homosexuality has faced hatred around the world in a wide variety of societies, some religious and some not. But clearly, in this age, the Abrahamic religions persecute homosexuals the most. It is a capitol crime in many Muslim countries and sub-Sahara Christian countries.

But even secular societies have persecuted homosexuals. I saw a news clip of a group of white evangelicals in 2016 who said that they welcomed Russia interfering in our elections to get Donald Trump elected because they have more in common with the Russians, who arrest gays, than they do with American Democrats who tolerate homosexuality. But the Russian intolerances toward gays is not rooted in any religious conviction. To them, Orthodoxy is just a memory, a formality, in a society that functions on an atheistic-communist foundation. My point is this hatred toward gays is based on psychological factors, not commands of a religion.

So, the reason I believe evangelicals hate homosexuals is in this area of personal self-esteem of the haters. They draw contrast because they have never been tempted in same-sex romantic love. Having now many friends who are gay, I can say with confidence that they are wired differently from me. That wiring is most likely from birth. The evangelical paradigm is that gays are the way they are because they made immoral choices. We enhance our self-esteem the most when we identify someone who differs from us and we believe they are different because of bad moral choices, meaning that we made the right moral choices, and this contrast between them and us strokes our egos. It props up our delusion that we, our tribe (white evangelicals or whatever) are superior to those who are immoral.

But this is not the genuine case. If the evangelicals were really concerned about morality, they would be concerned in the same proportion as their Bible is. They would be anxious about the loss of truth, rather than filling their minds with bullshit conspiracy theories. They would be about injustice, materialism, infidelity in marriage, the poor. Just read the historical account of what Jesus emphasized. But the reason they don’t make those “sins” a priority is that they are tempted by them.

It goes like this. Because I’m tempted to be materialistic, unjust, selfish, hateful, unfaithful, etc., I prefer not to think about those things because it hits too close to home. As a heterosexual man, I am tempted by other women, but never by a homosexual relationship. So, I feel superior to focus on those who have homosexual relationships . . . because I’m not tempted in that area and it is quite convenient for me to condemn those people.

Donald Trump makes no excuses for being known as a sexually promiscuous man, even while married. If he were a woman, you would call him a slut. But the white evangelicals love him because they are tempted in the same areas. If they were really interested in the morality of the Bible, his materialism would have appalled them as his lies, and infidelity. But enough about him.

I will rest my case here. I want to finish this series next time with a shorter and simpler ending, relativity. I hope I was clear in this article and I’m sure it could be a spring-board for many other discussions.

Mike

Dancing Naked in the Window

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One of my favorite movies of all times was Awakenings. It was my favorite for several reasons. It was based on a semi-autobiographical novel written by Oliver Sacks, a neurologist and brilliant writer. I knew his work well as I spent 38 years in neurology. I also loved the movie because it featured Robin Williams as the co-protagonist, one of my favorite actors, a favorite due to his versatile and deep talents. Robert De Niro also did an excellent job, although his roles tend to be more monochromic than Williams.

The story itself was inspiring and intriguing. It was about a group of people who had suffered neurologic catatonia for decades. The condition being caused by a brain infection called encephalitis lethargica (aka sleeping sickness). In this condition, you lose the ability to move . . . at all. You are statue like, but with a sound mind. This type of “locked-in” scenario has to be one of the most nightmarish things a human can experience.

Walking Man



But then the Robin Williams’ character, a brilliant and imaginative neurologist, Malcolm Sayer, starts to experiment with ways to help these, previously considered helpless, patients. He stumbles onto L-Dopa, a precursor to dopamine, a powerful neurotransmitter. It worked! These people who had been like statues for decades began emerging from their granite sarcophagi and becoming normal again. It was challenging for them to re-enter society after spending thirty years warehoused in a nursing home, no more animated than a piece of furniture. However, after a brief window of weeks of normalcy, L-Dopa started to lose its effectiveness. Raising the dose helped at first, but then the side effects became unbearable. Eventually, each of the individuals had to be taken off of the L-Dopa and drifted back to being encased in stone . . . somewhat like Han Solo in Carbonite, never to arise again.

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I feel this kinship with these patients, of returning to a bit of normalcy after a period of hell on earth. And like them, at least toward the end of their freedom, realize that one day the window will close yet again. There’s a time bomb within my marrow. But it could not be for weeks, months, years, even decades. You can’t live within the shadow of that fear, because what if it were decades before I become seriously ill again? What a waste it would be to fret about that now. It is the realization that living in the movement is our only choice because living in the future, the “what might be” is too horrible to live with now. But, that is true for everyone, isn’t it? That is everyone who worries about the future, at least sometimes?

During their wonderful reprieve from catatonia, Leonard Love, the De Niro character, loved to dance. He took the other patients out to dances where they had a wonderful time, dancing the hours away into the small hours of the morning, within the utopian window of recovery. They were emotionally naked, without pretentiousness, didn’t know it was only a window at that juncture . . . thinking it was a door.

From Jan 2019 until about Nov 2020, my life was a living hell, so awful that I don’t even want to mention it now.

As I said before, now, I feel like dancing. The sky has never been bluer, the trees greener, Greta’s fur softer, fresh rainbow trout tastier, a down sleeping bag warmer, a long lost face of a friend more consoling, Denise’s love more faithful, air more rich with oxygen, the smell of black earth more rich, more organic, the blue mountains dipped in lacy icing more grandeur, and the soft yellow sun more comforting than it is now. Euphoria. Few blessed people ever enter hell . . . and leave again. Dancing in this window of time, the respite, the oasis from suffering. But there’s a dilemma.

During the worse of my experience, I reached out to an online Multiple Myeloma support group. In many ways, it was a breath of fresh air. There were some people who started just like me, just as grave, and now they were alive and doing okay years later. But it was the other people in the group that forced me to leave. No, not bad people. Good people. Well-meaning. Honest. There were two types of these people that I could not handle.

The first were those who were doing remarkably well, whose MM was diagnosed by a routine blood test and had never suffered symptoms. No broken bones, no renal failure. They were climbing mountains, traveling the world, starting businesses, preparing to run marathons. Shut the fuck up! I don’t want to hear about your damn wonderful life! Stop with your photos breaking the tape at the iron man finish line! Do you not understand I can’t walk to the car without assistance! A month previous, I was preparing to trek across Greenland. That’s the trouble with all social media isn’t it. People can show you a side of themselves that’s built in magical thinking. I know, selfish . . . profoundly selfish on my part to not want to share in the sunlight of their moment of glory.

Then there were the others, those who suffering was clearly WORSE than mine. Fractures in their cervical spines, quadriplegics, in severe unrelenting pain, locked up in an ICU bed or nursing home at age 55. I remember one woman describing her husband, who had been her hero, the bravest man she had ever known, screaming at the tops of his lungs, bawling day and night because the ugly cancer had invaded his brain. She was praying for his death . . . and that he could find a window once more. That could be me?

I pulled the plug on the support group.

So, while I’m not running marathons . . . yet, I am getting quite close to normal. If it were not for the 10 weeks of diarrhea and side effects from the steroids, which I’m taking to treat the diarrhea, and the diarrhea a side effect itself from chemo, I would be normal. Hmm, maybe it’s the steroids that adding to my euphoria? But regardless, I feel fantastic in body and soul. But here’s the problem. While I’m now in the glorious window of the normal, basting in glory of my own sunlight, for others I know, that window is closing. They are suffering. I feel this guilt. “Who the hell am I to relish in that warm yellow sun when others cannot?” Why don’t I shut the fuck up? Even others who come to this blog are suffering more than me right now, some, much more. I can’t feel their pain, truly, but well enough.

I feel things deeply. Always have. It is a gift and as Monk the homicide detective with OCD would say . . . “and a curse.” I don’t want to lose it. If I have any hope of becoming a decent writer at this age, it is because I feel profoundly and with great empathy for the experience of others. They say that if you as a writer don’t cry when you write, your readers never will. Compassion made me a good pain PA. It gives me some redeeming character as a person . . . a little. Yet, how to I merge this window of feeling so good, personally right now, with the brokenness I feel for the suffering in the world . . . and do it without guilt? I pray for them. I wish I could throw them a rope and pull them into my window . . . and we could dance together, emotionally naked, and hoping for a door.

Mike

A Brief Word on the War in Palestine

I am still working on part II of my article on Pluralism, Relativism, and Tolerance. The part II will deal with tolerance by looking at its counterpart, intolerance. To heighten your interest, I will disclose that I have decided to be very specific for the sake of example, and that is looking at the psychological basis of religious intolerance of gays. I could have easily picked a general intolerance of people based on race or religion. So, it is taking so long with many rewrites because I know this article will be walking into a minefield . . . but it shouldn’t be.

But tonight, I will interrupt that train of thought to talk about the present war in Palestine. It is a war because missiles, bombs, and bullets are killing people. At last count, over 216 Palestinians have died and 12 Israelis. I wanted to mention two aspects of that chain of wars that are deeply troubling. The first is the idea of fatalism, both the atheistic and theological forms. To summarize, it is the statement that “There will be always be wars in the Middle East, certainly always between Israel and the Palestinians and therefore peace is hopeless.”

The atheists that hold the fatalistic or view, and I haven’t run into very many, do so from a deterministic view of evolution. The way things are, are the way that the laws of evolution have made them and because the universe is a long chain of irrevocable events, cause and effect, and we are hopeless to change history. Therefore, why try? Why make the effort to bring peace.

The second, theological fatalism, I find most troublesome. This is the idea that God is so sovereign and powerful that things are exactly the way that God planned them. But those who believe this, often apply it to things they don’t want to change or to justify their own responsibility in something. For example, as I spoke to several evangelicals and brought up Donald Trump’s unsavory character, they, who supported him, threw up their hands and said, “But God is in control. He would not be president if God had not wanted. It is all going to end soon as Jesus is coming back.” However, the same evangelicals did not believe that God put any Democrat in power.

The third, and most disturbing to me, is the “theological basis” of these wars. This goes beyond a simple fatalism. I could discuss the Orthodox Jewish view or the Islamic view (preserving the Dome of the Rock and it’s holy places). But the one that is most troubling is the one that is unique to American evangelicals. This is the idea that the Jews are still God’s chosen people, unique in all the world (although I’ve heard some evangelicals come up with the idea that American is chosen tribe, you know, God’s favorite) and anyone who has conflict with Israel is having conflict with God.

About 35 years ago, believe it or not, I traveled the country preaching in evangelical churches. We were preparing to be missionaries, specifically to work among refugees from Lebanon’s civil war, living in Cyprus. Most of them were Muslims, although there were Christian, Druze, etc. But often, after I spoke, I would have a member of that church where I was speaking come up and remind me that “Israel is God’s chosen people. The Muslims are the enemy of God because they are against Israel.”

I love history, because true history, not revisionist history, helps us make sense of the world in which we live. I will give a historical synopsis of this evangelical basis for tolerating the situation in Palestine. For the first 1850 years of the Christian church’s existence, Israel was considered having only historical significance. Jesus allude to, Israel had been replaced as “God’s chosen” by a new kind of kingdom of faith, rather than race. Many times within that 1850 year period, the church was even guilty of anti-Semitic views. Jews were swept up in several of the inquisitions, persecuted and killed as the “people who killed Jesus.”

John Nelson Darby - Wikipedia

An English theologian, John Nelson Darby, in the mid 1800s came up with the notion that God works with humans in grand epochs of approaches and we are near the final or seventh one, when God would, once again, choose Israel as his holy people and work through them. This was during a time of the great diaspora of Jews, scattered throughout the world, but no nation of Israel since about 70 AD. I will point out to reach these conclusions, you have to have a good imagination, pulling statements out of the Bible out of context.

An American lawyer, and swindler (based on his arrests) named C. I. Scofield picked up on Darby’s ideas, became enthralled with them. Eventually Scofield not only went around the country preaching this new theology, but wrote his own Bible, with the King James version of scripture, but his own notes printed in the margins explaining vague passages with this new idea of these epochs, when he called “dispensations.” Many readers didn’t know where scripture ended and Scofield’s words began.

C.I. Scofield

Scofield’s Bible became the best selling Bible in America for a generation, and created this new theology as the backbone of American evangelicalism (no other church in the world adopted this view except for those churches planted by American evangelical churches). The last step was in the 1970s, Hal Lindsey wrote a best selling (the actual best-selling book of the decade of the 70s) called, The Late, Great, Planet Earth. In this book, Lindsey wrote out conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory on how we are living in the last days and that Israel will be the final great battle between Satan and God and that we must support Israel at all costs.

The Late, Great Planet Earth cover.jpg

I will point out that virtually none of Lindsey’s predictions came true in the subsequent 40 years. But it further enamored Israel in the eyes of the evangelical. In order to seduce the evangelical vote, the Republican party has very successfully picked a triad of token causes, anti-abortion, anti-homosexual marriage, and pro-Israel.

I did not even mention how the nation of Israel was formed after World War II, as that is another long story built on the evangelical notion of Christian Zionism and the rightful sorrow for what Germany had done to the Jews.

When I’ve had discussions about this with evangelicals, like when I was on my preaching tour, they would sometimes suggest that I was anti-sematic. My most cordial answer to that is, hell no. Of course the Holocaust happened, and it was worse than our feeble imaginations can conjure. Like all other peoples, I see the Jews as created in God’s image and worthy of our respect and love . . . but is same for the Palestinians. I do think the creation of the nation of Israel was one of many great blunders the west has imposed on the world, but I do not want its destruction now. What has happened in Israel since 1947 is a horrible racism and profound injustice. The evangelicals give a free pass to Israel for what they do because of their Scofield and Lindsay theologies.

Last year I had a virtual conversation with a Palestinian who had come to America to work. He asked me, “Why do Christians in American hate us? I don’t understand. What have we done to them to deserve this?” I answered the man with the same historical account as I posted above. His response was total disbelief . . . jaw dropping disbelief.

When respect and dignity is afforded to all people, it takes away the oxygen in which war breathes.

While the Bible says NOTHING about Israel becoming a nation again, it is profoundly clear from cover to cover about justice, about dignity, respect, and Jesus making it clear, love for all people. This is my calling. To do justice, love kindness, and try my damnedest to walk humbly.

We can bring peace to the world. When respect and dignity is afforded to all people, it takes away the oxygen in which war breathes.

I wrote this quickly as I meant to work on my previous article. But the death and destruction of both the Jews and Palestinians is heart breaking to me.

Mike

Pluralism, Relativism, and Tolerance Part I

A long time ago, I attended a philosophical lecture with the same title as this piece. While I don’t remember all the details, the way the speaker approached this topic left a lasting impression on me. I am writing about this now out of my continuing concern about our collective loss of truth. This loss of truth is present throughout our western culture, but I think more so in America than the rest. This loss of truth has been a long time coming. You can trace the history of this trend going back at least two hundred years. It is also not the first time that western societies have divorced itself from the notion of truth. A similar thing happened during the Middle Ages.

Again, I will remind the reader that I’m talking about the general concept of truth, not particular truths. For example, I am not disturbed that people don’t believe x, y, or z, which I may believe. I hear my evangelical friends talk about how horrible people are these days because they no longer believe in “God’s truth.” That is not at all what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the loss of the aspiration of finding truth, any truth. I defined this philosophical truth as simply consistent with what is, not that which I agree with. There are plenty of truths that I don’t like but are consistent with what is. War makes some people rich, and as long as some people benefit from war, we will always have it. I don’t like that truth. I wish it were not true, but it is.

The way the pursuit of truth is being lost is within the moral desire for tolerance. Tolerance is a good thing, mostly. No, I don’t want to tolerate the child molester, but I do for most others. But before I dive into this topic, I want to define these three terms and how I will use them here.

Pluralism. The word is akin to diversity, however I would define pluralism as a simple state and diversity as an attitude that welcomes and cultivates differences. Pluralism is where people of different perspectives and beliefs inhabit the same space. That space could be as big as a country or as small as a family or community. With the internet, in ways the entire world has now become a confined space. The political tribalism that we have seen in America in the last ten years are attempts to escape the inescapable pluralism of our society.

A few years ago, Denise and I spent a week in a lovely palace within the old walls of Marrakesh, Morocco. That city enthralled me, so I spent a lot of time reading about its history. It is an isolated oasis city, surrounded by twenty-foot red adobe walls, that has existed for a thousand years or more. During that time, except for passing caravans of camels, crossing the Sahara from north to south, the desert cut the people off from the rest of the world. It is a Muslim city, so during that period of isolation I suspect that the population was near 100% Muslim. Maybe a stray Christian or Jew wandered in off a caravan. But to those inhabitants, their entire world was homogenous, sharing the same concept of God and religion. That is an example of a mono-culture, the opposite of a pluralistic one. Within that society, it was very easy to maintain a belief system because it was unchallenged.

Pluralism appeared in world history in certain spots prior to the modern age. One such example was when the Aryans entered the Indus Valley of what is now Pakistan and India 3500 years ago. They brought with them many polytheistic religions and cultures. As these different religions merged, pluralism’s reality caused an evolution within the local religious belief systems, ending in pantheism, which we now know as Hinduism. It was an adaptive change to accommodate contrasting views by broadening the concept of the divine to an infinity.

With the invention of the airplane, jet engine, and the internet, the entire world is experiencing this same melting pot of ideas as happened in the Indus Valley. Now, the evangelical couple in Arkansas may have neighbors on one side that are Muslim, and a Hindu married to a Sikh on the other side. Across the street, a gay couple, who is also Hispanic and on the other side, a black Catholic family.

Journey from Fez to Marrakech - Steppes Travel
The Walled City of Marrakesh, Morroco

Tolerance. Tolerance is love’s “gateway drug.” A starting point. While it is minimalistic, it means much more than just tolerating someone with different views. The way I used it is to accept, respect, and eventually love those who are different … even those who are very different. When you cut away all the cultural fluff, this idea was the cornerstone of the historical Jesus’s teaching. I think for the Buddha likewise.

Image

Relativism. This is the term that devalues the concept of truth. It promotes the idea that all views are the same, simply different opinions. Did Donald Trump win the fair vote count in November 2020, or was the election stolen from him? In classical logic, both can’t be true. Math cannot lie. But in relativism, people who have opposing views of this specific matter may seek peace between themselves, harmony within families, by agreeing that it is all relative.

Tolerance is love’s “gateway drug.”

Relativism has eroded away our sense of truth to where reality itself is now ambiguous. This is the problem. But I want to put relativism within the concept of the other two factors, pluralism, and tolerance. While we have turned to relativism with an excellent motive, to find peace and tolerance, the resulting loss of the concept of truth will be as calamitous as it was in the Middle Ages.

krish kandiah on Twitter: "“A writer who says that there are no truths, or  that all truth is 'merely relative,' is asking you not to believe him. So  don't.” Sir Roger Scruton (

Next time I really want to explore tolerance more thoroughly and the idea of maintaining an aspiration of truth while morally living in tolerance and love toward others who are different. I want to explore the real roots to intolerance, which masquerades as fighting to maintain “truth,” but is really something more primitive and ego-centric.

Mike

Health Update: 4/29/2021

It is only fair, since you dear folks bore with me during the times I was contemplating putting a bullet through my head, that when there are times of good news that I should share that too.

First of all, I reported in January that my cancer had a sudden surge (one of about about four markers). My light chains suddenly tripled, which can often mean the cancer itself is coming out of remission. But then it plateaued and now it is back to the pre-surge level (still three times normal, but stable). I am deeply gratefully for that as it indicates my cancer remains in good-partial-remission since the bone marrow transplant.

My Boat Restoration Project

My renal labs returned yesterday the best they have been since I got sick. In case you are medical, my estimated GFR was 26.7 (started at 4 two years ago). While this is still less than half of normal, it puts me further away from dialysis.

Related to improving renal function, my electrolytes are now staying very normal. When they were running high (a year ago) it created a culinary nightmare (a little melodrama okay, starvation is much worse). I had gone off meat. But then I couldn’t have any sodium (salt) and no foods, such as most fruit, many vegetables like tomatoes, that were high in potassium. I was eating plain noodles most of the time, with an egg thrown in for protein now and then. But now my palate has been liberated! I could eat spaghetti WITH SAUCE, three times a day. I am looking forward to making authentic Neapolitan pizza.

I am feeling very good for most part. My anemia, which I will always have now, limits me. But still I climb Mount Erie twice a week and do many other hikes in-between. I did my first 2-mile run. Not fast, but it felt good.

It was about as devastating for me as the cancer itself, being laid off by my employer when I tried to go back to work. My clinic lost money when I was sick (duh) and therefore I no longer had value to the institution. But, I’m recovering from that awful setback. I am volunteering doing COVID vaccinations for the county. I hope to do it even more when I get the diarrhea under control. So good to be with “patients” again. I love patients!

To keep my sanity during my forced retirement, I’ve been very busy. I just built a pizza oven, official Italian design and of restaurant size and quality. I am restoring my wooden sailboat, which was left delict in the weather during my illness. It had been taken over by a very pregnant squirrel, who found it accommodating. I just wish she didn’t have to chew up my sail for her nest. I’m almost done with that. I’m doing many other chores including getting our land ready for goats and a stone cottage, I hope to be building soon. As I mentioned last time, I’m taking a break from working on my new novel while a group of “beta-readers” (like a focus group) review it for suggestions.

I did have a set back of 5 weeks of continuous diarrhea, which was wearing me down. It is most likely colitis, which is a common post-transplant complication. However, going back on steroids seems to be working.

Lastly, my neurological symptoms, which were a friggin nightmare, continue to slowly improve. I have chunks of time, maybe an hour or so, with no twitching.

I want to thank you for your continuing prayer and support. I’m feeling some light, although the tunnel is still long.

Mike

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