ExtremePerspective

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Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Freedom to eat Trans-fats Vs Nanny State

Posted by Paul on January 11, 2007

C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity:

“One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up. That is not the Christian way. An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons—marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning.”

One of the things that annoys me in politicians and public discourse is the notion that I need to be told how to live my life. The current wave of hysteria in New York these days is about banning “trans-fats”. This supposedly to protect “the people” from their own lack of self-control. Now in the interest of disclosure I am not fat (135 lbs and 13% body fat), so it is difficult for me to sympathize with people who struggle with their weight. But the greater point is not whether we should ban trans-fats, but whether the government should be in the business of imposing their will on everyone on whether they need “saving” or not.

In this aspect, both the left and right politically in this country behave in much the same way. Each operates with religious fervor to “save” the general population from the evils they perceive – whether it be second-hand smoke, pornography, carbon emissions or gay marriage. The religious right thinks that God justifies their position. The left think that because they are not religious that their position is “holier”. In fact, both sides are mirror images of each other.

I think C.S. Lewis got it exactly right in the quote I referenced above. As a Christian my first responsibility is neither to judge nor impose my will on others, it is to change myself. I try my best to be a good role model for my children in my ethical behavior. I am more likely to try to lead by example then give lectures to my kids. Now when in public discussions with others about moral, ethical or political issues, I don’t lay down and just let others opinions go unchallenged. Whether the topic is religious, global warming, morality or anything else controversial I will state my opinion and the reasons for it. But I do not get into arguments and try to convince others to adopt my opinions. If after hearing my opinion, others choose to lead their lives differently, so be it. We all have free will.

It would be nice to live in a world that respected others free will, but I guess that is too Utopian an idea to have much merit. For now we are dropping more and more into a Nanny State that will force us to live the way the left and right zealots insist. Will this make us happy? Not really, happiness will only come when you become empowered to control your life.

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Is it holier to be poor?

Posted by Paul on December 18, 2006

A retired gentlemen that clips coupons made a strongly worded criticism of a post  I made the other day:

“It seems that you and a good majority of the world measure success by monetary value. Those that die with the most toys win”

He thought it more important to “help others” by serving food rather than working to generate wealth. Is he right? Are only poor people who “help others” assured of a blessing in the afterlife?

There have been several ministers that I have heard speak in the past 20 years or so who would disagree with that idea. – such as Norman Vincent Peale (The Power of Positive Thinking) and Robert Schuler (Move Ahead with Possibility Thinking). Another excellent book I have read that disputes that idea is Paul Zane Pilzers God Wants You to be Rich.

There are many Christians who point to the Biblical admonition

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God”

and think it is holier to live a life without money. Few pay attention to the parable of the talents.
The most insightful part of this parable is the most severe condemnation that Jesus gives to the servant that did nothing with his talents:

“And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Jesus also says something about those that create more money with what they are given

“For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.”

This passage tells me two things

  1. God’s given you something and you better do something with what he gave you
  2. If you do something he will bless you with abundance

when I was involved with Amway in Network Marketing business I showed the business plan to hundred’s of people. Many had been blessed with much in the way of gifts that would have made them very successful in Network Marketing. But, for one reason or another they declined the opportunity or started with great enthusiasm only to quit after a few days or weeks. I believe they were gripped by a scarcity mentality that didn’t allow them to believe they could get rich.

Now my critic may have thought I was attacking him for clipping coupons. I was not, as I shop for good deals and don’t believe there is anything wrong with being a good steward of your money. The point of my post was that people driven by scarcity mentality tend to focus on what they don’t’ have which leads to jealousy. Now, don’t get me wrong – I am no saint (I’m sure I’ve broken every one of the Ten Commandments). Just as being too focused on getting money at the expense of others can lead to sin, so can being focused on scarcity.

We are all given different abilities to produce something in this world. Someone with disabilities certainly may think that they have fewer opportunities to others but there are countless examples of those who have overcome every form of disability to do something astounding in the world.

While most people think that the world is a zero-sum game, this is an illusion. As Pilzer correctly writes – “any increase in wealth of an individual, always results in an even greater increase in wealth for society“.

God created the world with abundance, more than any of us can comprehend. God created each of us with abundant talents and has given us abundant opportunities to use those talents. Most of us have declined the opportunity (I plead guilty!), and we are left with a coupon clipping mentality. Now if you are putting the savings from your coupon clipping to good use for investments or business opportunities or charities, I’m sure you are using your money wisely.

I don’t believe that those pursuing a life of poverty through scarcity consciousness have the corner on holiness, nor do I believe that those who pursue money just for the purpose of having more things are in the right either.

What I do believe is that God created a world that the more successful I am, the more wealth there is for everybody. By working and creating and sharing we make a better place for all.

My perspective is that God was the Creator and he created us in his image – so we were made to create. That is our role.

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Good and Evil or Christianity Vs New Age

Posted by Paul on December 17, 2006

Since it is Sunday, I thought that I would philosophize on spiritual issues for a bit. I was raised in a Catholic Church but rebelled against it’s teachings in my twenties. When I was in my thirties I was involved in the “New Age” movement which has a strong Eastern slant. I was especially taken with the Tao te Ching and still think it is quite a beautiful piece of work.

One of the most important things I learned from the Tao te Ching was the concept of spiritual paradox. Spiritual paradox is essentially about embracing opposites. Here’s an insightful quote from the Tao:

“When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly. When
people see some things as good, other things become bad”

In the Taoist philosophy, as I understand it, it is our own understanding that creates opposites, The opposites in and of themselves do not exist. So, if I understand it correctly, evil does not really exist apart from our own understanding.

Now this concept has been seized upon by the New Age group and is what drives their politics, lifestyles and financial concepts. I was an integral part of this for a while and have a lot of respect for the philosophy. I’ve read much of Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra and many other advocates of this line of thinking.

However, I began reading a series of books in the 1990’s by M. Scott Peck, MD who started with the Road Less Travelled and wrote a long series of books. In so doing, he documented his conversion from a Zen Buddhist to a Christian. His logic seemed impeccable to me and I could not dispute his arguments, so, I decided to re-investigate Christianity. Over a period of time I came to realize that the difficulty that I had with Christianity was due to my lack of understanding of paradox. Christianity is filled with many wonderful paradoxes:

  • Jesus is 100% God and 100% human
  • we are all sinners, but are completely forgiven by accepting Jesus
  • whoever wants to be first shall be last
  • we cannot have evil unless God created free will
  • God is all powerful but by giving us free will He is powerless

In the Christian world evil is not a fabrication of the mind – it is real. And I think that this is where Christians and New Age proponents part ways. For example, the common New Age political means of solving all world problems is dialogue. If we only talk to the people that are trying to kill us, they are sure we can reason with them.

In my mind I have come to see that the New Age view of evil cannot be true. I do not claim there is nothing to this view. There is no doubt that by thinking of evil we can create it. If we read the demonic into everything with which we disagree (as some Christian do), then we do not promote love (which is what Christianity is really all about).

The New Age movement has spread the simplistic view that if we could just change our thinking, we would realize that there is no such thing as evil and it will just go away. But the reality is that there are people out there who take great pleasure in killing, maiming and torturing other human beings. Certainly videos like this demonstrate it graphically – these are not people that can be reasoned with – this is pure evil. And the problem with evil is that, if it is not confronted, it grows in power. Denying that it exists will not make it go away.

So now we stand at a great cross-roads in our civilization. A large segment of the world has lost all perspective about the concept of good and evil. No one will judge another actions as evil – we are taught to be tolerant of every one and everything they do.

Perhaps God has a final paradox for us to ponder. One last quote from Road Less Travelled –

It was evil that raised Christ to the cross, so we could see him from
afar”

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