Saturday, April 6, 2013

It's up to us

I was raised by a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the daughter of another. I was raised in a home in which we did not turn on the television on Saturday because it was understood to be a day of rest which God commanded us to observe. I was raised by parents who believed that violence was evil. Our parents lived on a pastor's salary and our father drove school bus and raised bees for their honey and did whatever he could to supplement that salary. Churches who called him to serve provided Dad with a home while in their employ, but had he not inherited his mother's home, I don't know that he would have been able to retire to a home he owned. Our parents spent much of their lives trying to be of service to people even less fortunate than themselves.

Even as a teenager, I was troubled by things which those in church kept saying, which didn't bear out in reality. Like when people said that God would not let you be faced with more than you can handle. But some people do lose it, some do die in the worst possible circumstances, like soldiers in battle. Or like the man I helped search for, who was found months later, just outside our search area. He had died alone, in the cold, when his daughter had gone for help and could not find her way back to him. At least one of the Psalms says God will punish the wicked and the arrogant and the evil ones. It is clear that the wicked reach out and take what they want, and it is rare that one is punished. Innocent, faithful people, on the other hand, contract terrible diseases, are wrongly convicted of crimes, are abused by those they trust, and even murdered. Consider Stevie Ray Vaughan, who had just gotten his life together after overcoming drug addiction, who died in a helicopter crash at the apex of his career. Or George Harrison, who encouraged his band-mates and fans to take personal spiritual journeys rather than just focusing on pleasures, and who organized the first celebrity fundraiser concert for Bangladesh when it had been ravaged both politically and by flooding, but died of throat cancer at the age of 58. Or Abraham Lincoln, who would have been more compassionate toward the Confederate States than those who succeeded him. Or Robert F. Kennedy, who started his career in the service of Joseph McCarthy but became an advocate for the unfortunate and would probably have been the next President of the United States. Or James A. Garfield, who was nominated for President almost by accident, was a most beloved President, and died because of the intransigence of American doctors to accept the idea that antiseptics could save lives. At least his death (and the encouragement of a woman who hoped for the best from him) resulted in the transformation of Chester A. Arthur from a political puppet to a President of considerable integrity and foresight. But what about Lyndon Baines Johnson, who succeeded in enacting measures like the 1964 Civil Rights Act after the death of John F. Kennedy, but was undone by his commitment of American armed forces to Viet Nam. Sure, those are names that are well known, but what about my friend whose sibling stole their parents' trust fund and moved their mother to another state so they learned about the death of their mother in the newspaper, then discovered they had a very virulent form of cancer? Or my other friend who had a child kidnapped but ended up being a federal fugitive though they had not done the things of which they were accused, and then discovered they had a terrible cancer?

Large forces, many of them seemingly beyond comprehension by the human mind, are at work in nature, and sometimes we get in the way of those forces. Sometimes, as in the case of global warming, we interfere at our own peril. Sometimes we can escape and sometimes we can recover, and sometimes we can adapt. Sometimes we can't. What is, is what is. Science is the means by which we come to understand those forces, and ourselves. We are the universe seeing itself, after 14 billion years of existing. This is why I have faith in science: If a theory doesn't work, you change it to match what is empirically observed, rather than trying to impose a framework on the world, which doesn't fit what meets one's senses or scientific instruments. This does not mean that I have no use for religion, for faith. It just means that I understand that I must approach it from an open-ended view. I need to modify or reject a theology or ideology if it does not reflect observed reality. I cannot accept a theology which says the Earth is only 6,000 years, because geology, paleontology, and others all confirm that this is not true. I can not assume to know the truth anymore when observed events contradict a supposition.

This does not mean that I simply reject everything about religion. I have simply come to realize that the Universe is structured without fairness, and not according to what humans find reassuring. "Mother Nature" has no fury, either. Nature simply is. It is up to us humans to bring fairness and justice into being. As Carl Sagan said "For me it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is, than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

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About Me

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I've been a number of things over the years: husband, father, environmental technical specialist, college instructor, carpenter, volunteer firefighter and ambulance driver, student of Lakota and Japanese languages, technical writer, process engineer, research technician, IT technician, emergency dispatcher, etc.