Friday, February 20, 2015

The Non-Existence of Evil

Evil does not exist.

“What?!?!” you say.  “How could a conservative Catholic ever truly believe such a thing?”

Good question.  Glad you asked!

When I say that evil does not exist, I do not mean that it doesn’t exist in some progressive morally relativistic way.  I mean that evil, in and of itself, does not exist.  It is not the equal and opposite of good.  In fact, evil requires good in order to define itself, whereas good does not.  You see, evil is actually the absence of good, whereas good is not the absence of evil.  Evil is something contrary to God.  It is an absence of God, who is goodness itself.

“T. Paine, what have you been smoking?  I thought you were against illegal drugs!”

Hold on, a minute.  Let me explain.  And yes, I am strongly against illegal drugs, but that is a topic for another post.

Let me use an analogy.  Let’s take light and dark.  Dark only exists in the absence of light.  Its very dependence counts upon there being no light.  If you light a single candle in a massive warehouse, it is no longer completely dark.  Light and dark are not equal and dualistic opposites.  Light actually exists in the world.  Dark does not.  Without darkness, we could still scientifically analyze light.  We know its speed, its wavelength, and its particle-like properties.  What is the speed or wavelength of dark?  We cannot tell you because it does not exist.


Still not buying this?  How about another analogy then?

The same is true for hot and cold.  Cold is merely the relative or perhaps complete absence of heat.  It does not exist unto itself.  Heat actually exists.  We can measure heat’s temperature, which is a function of its molecular energy.  When molecular motion ceases completely, that is what we call “absolute zero”.  There is, however, no maximum temperature where “cold particles” no longer exist.  There is no “smoking hot” converse to absolute zero, with the possible exception of my beautiful wife.    

The same concept can be applied for evil.  As I said previously, evil is metaphysically dependent upon good.  It, like dark and cold, does not actually exist itself.  Evil is an absence of good.  Indeed we cannot understand the very concept of evil without understanding good.  The reverse of this is not true, however.  We do not do good things because we seek evil.  Conversely, we do not need to understand the concept of evil to understand and do good in the world.  Evil is not the opposite of good, any more than light is the opposite of dark.

“Whoa, T. Paine!  That is heavy, man!”

Lightness is not the opposite of heaviness; it is a lack thereof.

“Stop that, dude!”

Okay, sorry.  Back to our discussion on evil not existing.

As I was saying, evil is an absence of good… an absence of God.  As a “thing” in and of itself, it does not exist.  We can see the actions, the results, of this lack of good in the world though, just as we can see the darkening results as we extinguish more lamps in a room.  We can see what happens when we remove ourselves from goodness.  It is through that drawing away from good that we become selfish, greedy, and narcissistic.

Ironically, evil actually pays homage to good, not only in its very definition, but in the actions of it.  Evil is always perpetrated in the pursuit of some real or perceived good.  Someone may commit an act of evil in pursuit of a good such as pleasure, honor, love, etc., that they think will come from that act.  For that person, the ends justify the means.

Let me give you some examples.  Abortion is an evil that is unfortunately chosen for the perceived good of the mother sometimes.  The destruction of God’s creation in the environment is often done under the perceived good of economic development.  ISIS and other similar Islamic terrorist organizations see their acts of evil as necessary in order to convert the world to their perverted brand of Islam.  All of these acts of evil are paying homage to perceived goods.

And while evil actions and unspeakable atrocities occur daily throughout the world, the fact of the matter is that evil only exists in the world because of a consciously chosen decision to turn away from goodness.  It is through the misuse of our God-given free wills to turn away from Him… to turn away from good… that allows evil to exist.  It does not exist on its own.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Extremist Islam, Christianity, and a Prayer Breakfast

Nearly 1400 years ago, in 638 A.D. a large Islamic military force sacked the city of Jerusalem over the course of three days.  In the process of doing so, they destroyed more than 300 churches and monasteries and put many Christians and Jews to death or into enforced servitude.  Over the following four centuries, as the religion founded by the Islamic prophet Mohammed grew, so did the conquest of other Christian lands in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and indeed as far west as Moorish Spain.  Those people living under the rule of their new Muslim conquerors were constantly persecuted if they refused to convert to Islam.

In 1095 A.D., after putting up with over four and a half centuries of continued unprovoked Muslim aggression and oppression of Christian lands and people, Pope Urban II preached for men from all of Christendom to march to liberate Jerusalem.  Those Christian men, women, and children who were forced to live under Muslim rule in those lands were to be set free. Thus was the start of the first crusade.  Other crusades followed over the next several centuries.

Today, no thanks to revisionist history and Hollywood license, the crusades are synonymous with the evils of the Christian faith.  Indeed, there were certainly atrocities committed during the Crusades by Christian Knights and warriors, just as there are in any war.  That said, the overall stated purpose of the Crusades as preached by Pope Urban II was a noble cause.

Nearly a millennia later, President Barack Hussein Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast last Thursday pointed to these supposed “evils” of the Christian Crusades in a seemingly school yard attempt at saying, “See!  They did it too!”

“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ. Michelle and I returned from India -- an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity -- but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs -- acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhi, the person who helped to liberate that nation.

So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith. In today's world, when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. But God compels us to try."

 ~ President Barack Hussein Obama 2/5/2015

Yes, we as fallen and flawed men and women of faith - of ALL faiths - will always fall far short of the lofty ideals and tenets of doctrine espoused by our various religions.

But, there is indeed a profound difference.

Christian “extremism” is largely something that was last commonly found centuries ago in the Middle Ages.  Islamic extremism is something found occurring this week.  Christian “extremism” is something largely relegated to the history books.  Muslim extremism is a clear and present danger today and is a very real threat to all of Western civilization.

So, what was the point of President Obama bringing up real or imagined evils of Christianity at the prayer breakfast when such have not been a threat to America’s way of life in anyone’s lifetime today?  It would seem that he invoked those “evils” as a way of trying to mitigate the recent actions of Islamic extremists.

President Obama further gets it wrong in pointing out the evils within our own United States history.  Indeed it was Christians following the true dictates of the faith that were abolitionists and were largely responsible for the precipitation of our bloody civil war to right the wrongs of slavery.  God created us to be free men and women and we are charged with the moral and ethical duty to “love thy neighbor” accordingly.  Nowhere else in history has a nation fought amongst itself to champion such a Christian ideal.  It was indeed true Christianity that ended American slavery; it was not the justification for keeping such an evil institution in place.  Indeed, slavery still exists in the world today, and is largely practiced by adherents of extremist Islam. 

Despite President Obama’s tale of seeming moral equivalence, and the implied statement that “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” rhetoric, there is a profound difference between Christian extremism and Muslim Extremism.

The Christian faith teaches us to “love our neighbor” and to “do unto others as we would have them do unto us.”  Unfortunately, for millions of extremist Muslims throughout the world, the new crusade of hate that al Qaida, ISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood, Boko Haram, and other such groups are waging is one they see as being commanded by their god and countenanced by his holy book.  It is a war, not unlike the one waged 1400 years ago against Jerusalem, where the Islamic extremists wish to kill or enslave all those who refuse to convert to their perverted brand of Islam.  Even Muslims that do not hate enough are subject to the extremists’ persecution.

The Islamic faith is waxing ever stronger across the world today, while Christianity throughout much of Europe and indeed the entire world seems to be waning.  With the growth of mainstream Islam, so too will the number of extremist Islamic adherents increase.  And, with that growth in Islamic extremism, the battle will continue to be brought ever closer to our own doorstep yet again.

America, as a Christian nation, is very tolerant of those having differing faiths and cultures, and this is indeed a very good thing.  That said, we must not kowtow to political correctness.  It is not racism, intolerance, or bigotry to point out evil wherever it might be found.  The ability to fight evil is greatly weakened when we refuse to call it what it is.  Sadly and most dangerously, President Obama seems to fail to acknowledge that extremist Islam is even the enemy.  Instead he equivocates and says “we all do it”.
How do we fight, let alone prevail, against an enemy that we refuse to even name?

How is it that we have turned our backs time and time again on this existential danger after seeing first-hand the convictions of Islamic extremist hatred for us as evidenced in Beirut, Mogadishu, the U.S.S Cole, Khobar towers, the embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya, the World Trade Center on two different occasions, the Pentagon, and myriads (more than two) of other such terrorist events.

No, Mr. President; the sins of extremist Islam and extremist Christianity are nowhere near in moral equivalency.  In fact, if we are to survive as a nation, I would submit that robust Christianity and a willingness to protect and fight for all that is good and holy as predicated by this faith founded in God’s love, is indeed going to be our last and perhaps only hope.  Extremist Islam is the enemy and the problem.  It is only through true Christianity that we may find the solution to this problem, Mr. President.