Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...

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Og3
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Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...

Post by Og3 » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:08 am

Seg wrote:Sure, I'll watch that Og, but I'm much more interested in what made YOU become a Christian. I'm gonna go out on a limb and make a prophesy. You had your indoctrination coming from initially your family, then authority figures and finally friends. You used confirmation bias to confirm your emotionally charged issues and deeply entrenched beliefs. Maybe someone recovered inexplicably from a life threatening illness like cancer and you jumped to God causing this recovery as a false effect. Or you were leading a "sinful" life and went to church on the advice of friends and had an epiphany all over the place?

Or did you ignore all of this wishful thinking/indoctrination and truly had an "honest and logical evidence-based examination of Christianity"? If so exactly how did you do this without any pre-suppositions and arguments you were taught as a child affecting your judgement?
Well, that's actually three predictions; a bit of a shotgun approach. One might even call it hedging one's bets. You guess that:

1. I was thoroughly and completely indoctrinated, and by using confirmation bias, am now blindly convinced of Christianity -- which would essentially be the sort of Kripkean Dogmatism that I talked about in the "New Proposition" thread, on the very first post;
OR
2. I saw someone recover from near death and made a sudden inductive assumption that God caused it;
OR
3. I was a sinner doing bad things and my friends told me to "Get Right or Get Left" causing me to have an epiphany;
OR
4. I think I reasoned out God, but really just confirmed all my biases while deceiving myself.

I'd ask you to pick one or more, but really, it doesn't matter. You're not going to be convinced based on my experience. My reasoning is not going to convince you. So why should I bother? Well, oddly, in the last two days, I've had this verse brought up to me from two distinct sources:
[1Peter 3:15 NASB] 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always [being] ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
What is the P-Value of that verse coming up twice in two days, given that one of those days is a Sunday, and that my pastor is currently preaching on apologetics and the resurrection, and that I just watched the Nabeel Qureshi video that I cited in the other thread? Probably fairly low. If you want to know more about P-Values of events, please ask Moonwood: He'll explain better than I can. But he may be a member of the Bayesian conspiracy, so be careful.

Alright, I'll share my testimony, and give an account of the reason of the Hope that is within me. I warn you, this will be long, circuitous, and will reference a lot of hard reading. If you don't do the homework, you might not keep up. I will explain my reasoning, but having lived a long time by the standards of today's youths, and having read many books, I may make some errors, particularly in my chronology. For example, I tend to recall that Tolstoy played a role in my re-dedication, but in fact it was a year or two later when I discovered and read _My Confession_ . I will make no apologies for this sort of error, especially when I remark on things that happened more than thirty years ago.

I may use specialized "Christian" vocabulary. Atonement, Sanctification, Re-Dedication, Profession of Faith, and such terms do not tend to be in the secular vocabulary, or at least not in common usage. I may or may not explain these on the fly. So you might have to look them up, or at least ask.

When I use a term that is commonly misunderstood, such as "Faith" or "Hope" I will explain these terms As I am using them. If that's not what you understand them to mean, tough. Deal with it. I will not debate whether the OED matches Hebrews 11:1 on the definition of faith.

I will cite the Bible. I will do it honestly, meaning that I will present passages only in their proper context, and not as a proof-text that doesn't mean what it appears to mean. If it is disputed, or more than one understanding is common, I will tend to say so, and may or may not cite commentaries to demonstrate that I am showing the mainstream understanding of the passage.

I will tend to use the NASB translation. Why?
1. It uses 1970s English vice 1611 "Shakespeare" English (Elizabethan/Jacobian) like the KJV.
2. It uses a very literal translation style while preserving the thrust of a passage.
3. It is translated from the same Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic manuscripts used by the KJV scholars, with additional comparison to new mss. from the DSS and to other English versions such as Douay-Rheims, Wycliffe, Tyndale, and the RSV.

Some of what I share here will be personal. It is a discussion of why I came to the inferences that I hold to be true. It may or may not convince you in the same way that it convinced me. I am not responsible for what goes on in your mind, and frankly, "I'm not that kind of doctor" (as the saying goes.)

If you're good with all of that -- speaking now to the entire forum, and not merely to SEG -- I will proceed, and at my discretion, may answer questions. I will not engage in "Is Too/Is Not" arguments, as they are not germane to what convinced and convinces me. If you feel that I should have adopted a different process, such as adopting a ZFC axiom set and reasoning from first principles, well, it's interesting that you feel that way. Be of good cheer.

Those are the parameters.
EGO TE ABSOLVO, and there's nothing you can do about it.

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SEG
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Re: Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...

Post by SEG » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:19 am

Ok, I'm all good on that!
Premise One: If a compassionate God exists, then he would do things just as a compassionate person would.
Premise Two: God doesn't do things as a compassionate person would.
Conclusion: Therefore, a compassionate God does not exist.

Og3
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Re: Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...

Post by Og3 » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:55 am

I was raised in a Christian home, to some degree.

My mother was a Christian, and took my siblings and me to church every Sunday. My father was not a Christian. He did not dispute Christian with anyone, nor did he denigrate it in our presence -- probably not in anyone's presence -- but he did not go to church, smoked, sometimes said a bad word, and was not above a taste of alcohol on occasion (though there was never any in our house). He did eventually convert, and from that time on lived a Christian life, even becoming a deacon (a volunteer who works in the church to support its operations by assisting the pastor with various tasks).

I was, in fact, indoctrinated, and being a good student, I absorbed it readily. Sunday School teachers learned not to call on me, because I often knew the lesson better than they did. Sunday School is/was a form of RE classes taught before church services, and the teachers were volunteers recruited from parents and other adults, so this was not necessarily an amazing feat, but by my teen years, I knew the Bible very well. Even as far back as the fifth grade, I remember debating the doctrine of the security of the believer with my friends, who were of the fully Arminian persuasion.

It is sometimes raised as an accusation against Christians -- Penn Gillette loves this accusation -- that Christians don't read their Bibles. I can't speak for all Christians, but I can say that I was raised reading my Bible regularly, being taught from it regularly, and hearing it expounded at least once a week. In addition to this, I was raised singing the old hymns. Those of you with a church background will know which hymns I mean; some of you may laugh when I say that I still sing "Our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we meet" (the word "transport" was changed to "rapture" in the 1975 Broadman hymnal, and to "victory" in the 1994 hymnal and thereafter. The song is "To God Be The Glory; Great Things He Hath Done" by Fanny J. Crosby).

Hymnology is a theological study in itself. The deep doctrines of the faith are taught very clearly in the hymnals. The first Hymn in every Broadman hymnal is always "Holy Holy Holy," a hymn based on Isaiah 6 and Revelation 20-22, and the lyrics teach the Trinity very powerfully. From my earliest youth, I sang these hymns while reading them from the hymnal and hearing them from the congregation -- Sight, sound, and speech, together -- and I can tell you that the mutually complementary combination of sensory inputs are highly effective as tools of education and indoctrination. By my teen years, I knew most of the popular hymns by memory without ever actively attempting to learn them. My friends would amuse themselves by surreptitiously turning the page of the hymnal that I was holding (but not using) and then seeing how many verses it took for me to notice.

I say all of that to say this: By my teen years I had a deep theological background. I was not a nominal Christian: I was as fully committed as a young man can be. I had made a profession of faith -- that is, I had stated in front of the church that I had felt drawn into the faith, having prayed to confess my belief in Christ, and upon that profession, I was baptized by immersion -- Being fully submerged in water and then drawn out again.

As I said earlier, I was a good student. Speaking not as a boast, but merely to explain: On the one occasion when my IQ was measured, I was scored at a level that would be borderline for MENSA membership. I can reasonably assert that I am above the 99th percentile of intelligence. Having learned to read at a young age, I devoured knowledge as it came my way. My teachers in school became wary of calling on me, because they assumed that I already knew the answer. And it was a safe assumption.

This lead me into a fascination with science. Unfortunately, it also lead me to compartmentalize my mind. I felt at a deep level (that I dared not express) that to allow Science and my religious indoctrination into the same room would destroy everything that I believed. So I kept those bits of knowledge in different compartments. I fully believed all that I had been taught of the Christian faith EXCEPT when I was busy believing in Science, and vice versa. This began to be a problem for me in High School -- Secondary School -- and led me to have doubts in my faith, but doubts that I dared not examine critically. And this led to the first crisis of my faith.

I got through it by reinforcing the compartments. I doubled-down in both directions. It is noteworthy that during this period, when I would pray and read the Bible, the single most common thought that would come to mind would be the word, "Choose."
EGO TE ABSOLVO, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Og3
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Re: Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...

Post by Og3 » Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:10 am

I will not beg the question here and say that "Choose" was a message from God. It could easily have been my subconscious mind pointing out the incongruity. I believe that is was a message from God. But I will not insist on it.

The real crisis came when I joined the navy. How I came to join the navy is a long story in itself, but irrelevant to the point. I found myself surrounded by a large number of relative strangers who came from all over America and held all sorts of beliefs about a variety of things. I also found that for the first time in my life, I was exposed to that "life of sin" that I had always heard about, and that is supposed to be "Fun for a while" but lead to disaster. I experimented with alcohol (never with any kind of drugs) and began using the language used by my peers. This led to a further problem with my Christian faith. It is very difficult to explain to someone that Jesus died for his sins while using the sorts of terms that are commonplace among sailors.

As an interesting byproduct of this period, I am able to offend native speakers of several languages with vulgar remarks of a descriptive nature, and to this day I have to keep a careful watch on my tongue lest the wrong words escape. I cannot encourage anyone to take up a sailor's vocabulary: you will inevitably come to grief. It's much easier to learn than to unlearn.

Over time I became less and less active in my faith. I stopped attending church not long after arriving at Naval Nuclear Power School. I did not drink often, but when I did, I got drunk. I started well, intending to dominate "Nuke School" the same way that I had dominated my educational opportunities to that time. Unfortunately, it wasn't that easy. First, Nuke School was designed around making all students work equally hard. This meant that we brighter students (I was in the 11th section of 14, ranked by pre-testing scores) were given extra monotonous busywork and pointless repetitions of problems. I hesitate to say more about that for several reasons. The second problem was that my peers were now on an equal footing with me. Nearly everyone in my classes were also in the 99th percentile of intellect.

I remember being very frustrated one evening because I had used all of my self-taught skill at chess in vain against another sailor, and he didn't even have to study the board -- he moved faster than I did. After finally conceding a hard-fought and brutal loss, he told me not to feel bad -- he was rated as a Grand master (I've never been rated, but could probably eke out a 1600 imho. He would have been closer to 2400 on a scale that tops at 2700 or so). So I felt a bit better, but suddenly I was working very hard to stay in one place.

In retrospect, I also believe that I was entering a period of clinical depression. I am not given to depression per se, but at that time, I was almost certainly in a state that would have gotten me medicated if anyone were watching me closely. In time, the world came to an end. At some point in life, everyone's world comes to an end; that is, the worst thing that they can imagine happening happens. but the next day the sun rises, which is the most perplexing aspect of the whole thing.

To make a long story short, I found myself in the conventional navy, in a position of no particular glory, doing menial tasks. I also found that as an active religion per se, Christianity was almost completely faded out of my system. I did not attend church, did not read the Bible, did not pray, and did not talk about religion. I still felt like I believed, but it was a remnant, a stub, and a left-over. I was at the state that Tolstoy describes in _My Confession_ when he tells of the man on the hunting trip, who lost his religion because someone said, "Oh, you still pray?"

But I have always believed in rationality. I formed rules for myself. One of these was, "A man must believe what is true." That may strike you as a strange rule to make, but I held that rule to be central to intellectual honesty. And that put me back into the same conflict, except that now I was not afraid of letting my world come to an end. The world had already ended for me, and I had survived; so what if it happened again? Big deal.

I was reading things at this time such as Smullyan's The Lady or the Tiger and Salmon's Logic. I used to have talks with a Radioman who held to Existentialism, a philosophy I had always liked and now felt more free to explore. I was also reading Kafka -- re-reading, because I started reading Kafka while I was in Secondary school. I remember one of my peers in the engine room listening to a punk rock band that he liked, whose main song hinged on the tag line, "I shot the Arab." So I told him about Albert Camus' book The Stranger in which one of the critical scenes hinges on a character saying, "I shot an Arab." It turned out that the song was in fact based on the Camus book. I also found Will and Ariel Durant's book, The Lessons of History, and it was about this time that I got serious about reading Tolstoy's War and Peace. I mention these things to give you an idea of where my mind was at this time.

There was a particular thing that seemed to keep coming to mind during this period. It was a line from the Bible -- not even a complete verse -- "Why do you halt between two opinions?" (see 1 Kings 18:21). So I decided to put "Science" and "Religion" into the same compartment, and whatever came out, that was what I would believe. If one destroyed the other, so be it. I was prepared to become an atheist or a Christian, but I was going to finally stop straddling the fence.

So I sat down with a pad and paper, ready to draw syllogisms and make deductions. I was going to treat it like a Smullyan puzzle, and test one assumption, then the other, back and forth, until one idea falsified the other. And... nothing happened. I realized that Science tells us nothing about religion. I had always heard that Science proved that old religious ideas were false -- thunder gods did not make thunder, because difference in electrical potential made plasma of a column of air, and the resulting sudden collapse of the column was the true cause of thunder. But I realized that science could not tell us that there were no gods; it could only tell us how the event occurred. To put it into philosophical terms, the existence of a proximate cause did not preclude an efficient cause or even a final cause.

It wasn't as easy to shake God as I had hoped. You see, at this point in life, I would have enjoyed (I thought) trying to live in a godless universe. Not having someone looking over my shoulder, not having anyone to whom I must account except myself -- it is a very powerful temptation. But I could not just allow myself to assume that; it would be cheating. And yet Science, the thing I had always feared to place near my religion, did nothing to dispel God. So I began reading philosophy. Philosophy, I reasoned, would succeed where Science had failed.

I talked over Philosophy with another peer, a fellow named O'Brien, who had studied a good bit of it at Penn State before joining the navy. I can still remember him attributing a quote to Schoppenhauer: "You cannot, by your objectivity, judge my subjectivity." I can't find that Schoppenhauer ever said that, but it was a thought-provoking quote. I was slowly coming to the conclusion that Socrates came to in Apologia, that the wise are merely reciting things they themselves do not understand. The Existentialists whom I revered, like Camus, did not start from a level playing field. They began with the assumption that there was no God, and thus they came to the conclusion that there was no God.

And, incidentally, no meaning to life, no purpose worthy of investing one's life into, and no answer to any of the really big questions.

A couple years later, reading Tolstoy's My Confession (I remember stumbling onto it in a bookstore in Vancouver, BC) I took particular note of where he described philosophy as an algebraic equation that always reduced to an identity: A=A, 0=0, X=X. The equation could never be fully factored because there was something missing. But this came as a confirmation to me; as assurance that I had reasoned well. It was not part of my reasoning at this time. No, it was Kafka and Camus who made me realize that searching for meaning after assuming that there was no God must inevitably lead to a dead end. If you want to see what I'm talking about, read one of Kafka's shorter pieces, called Before the Law. It's probably online somewhere.
EGO TE ABSOLVO, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Og3
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Re: Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...

Post by Og3 » Mon Apr 15, 2019 10:14 am

More to follow.
EGO TE ABSOLVO, and there's nothing you can do about it.

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SEG
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Re: Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...

Post by SEG » Mon Apr 15, 2019 11:08 am

Very interesting OG. You should be an author, you have quite a talent. I congratulate you on your honesty regarding the indoctrination, it sounds like the environment Dan Barker grew up in before he became an atheist.
Premise One: If a compassionate God exists, then he would do things just as a compassionate person would.
Premise Two: God doesn't do things as a compassionate person would.
Conclusion: Therefore, a compassionate God does not exist.

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Re: Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...

Post by Chapabel » Mon Apr 15, 2019 3:27 pm

I am enjoying your story as well Og. There are a lot of similarities in your early life and mine. Except for the extremely high IQ and nuke school. I’m looking forward to, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.

Og3
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Re: Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...

Post by Og3 » Mon Apr 15, 2019 7:03 pm

Thank you both. As for the IQ, while high, I hesitate to say "extremely high." There are (as I found at Nuke School, to my dismay) a great many people smarter than me. Moonwood might be, as one example. And SEG, I have dabbled in the art of fiction, but it is peripheral to where we now find ourselves.
EGO TE ABSOLVO, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Og3
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Re: Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...

Post by Og3 » Mon Apr 15, 2019 7:12 pm

I spoke of building principles for myself. I had two primary rules: First, that a man is obligated to believe what is true once he discovers it (yes, that requires a belief in objective truth). Second, that an idea cannot be dismissed, but must be held in limbo, until I can find out what is wrong with it. For example, what is wrong with the idea of putting an electric motor on one tire and three generators on the other three, and thus making a car that produces three times the electricity that it uses?

Well, that violates both the first and second laws of conservation. So it is impossible, therefore I can dismiss it from my mind and not waste thought on it any more. As another example, a man once pitched a scheme to me that goes like this: You pay an initial fee to join a "club" and you are given a 35mm camera and a roll of film. When you have exposed the roll, you mail it in, pay for the developing at a below-market rate, and get a free roll of film in return. So you're always only paying for developing, and never for film. What's wrong with this scheme?

Well, when you pay the upfront fee, you're paying for the camera, and for the film/developing, and then as you send in each roll, you're paying for it again. So you're really paying more, instead of less. So that idea also can be discarded; I never need to worry that I'm missing a great opportunity.

So these were the kinds of tools that I was tying to use in order to crack the mysteries of the universe.
EGO TE ABSOLVO, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Og3
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Re: Be ready always to give ... a reason of the hope that is in you...

Post by Og3 » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:18 pm

I have to make a few side-tracks here, to explain some of my readings. One of the books I read was the book of Ecclesiastes, in the Old Testament. I first read it while I was in junior high school, because I got caught up in the "All the rivers run into the sea, and yet the sea is not full; and the water hastens again from whence it came" poetry of the first chapter. But here's Ecclesiastes in a nutshell:

Solomon of Jerusalem, the Jewish equivalent of the Greek Croesus (but 500 years earlier), had wealth, power, and dominion beyond any of his peers. He is said to have had 300 wives and 700 concubines, most of whom were political marriages. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon sets out to understand the meaning of life. He keeps repeating a phrase, "Vanity; all is Vanity." He then lays out a series of things that are "Vanity" or "Striving after the wind."
[Ecc 1:1-15 NASB]
1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2 "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity."
3 What advantage does man have in all his work Which he does under the sun?
4 A generation goes and a generation comes, But the earth remains forever.
5 Also, the sun rises and the sun sets; And hastening to its place it rises there [again.]
6 Blowing toward the south, Then turning toward the north, The wind continues swirling along; And on its circular courses the wind returns.
7 All the rivers flow into the sea, Yet the sea is not full. To the place where the rivers flow, There they flow again.
8 All things are wearisome; Man is not able to tell [it.] The eye is not satisfied with seeing, Nor is the ear filled with hearing.
9 That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one might say, "See this, it is new"? Already it has existed for ages Which were before us.
11 There is no remembrance of earlier things; And also of the later things which will occur, There will be for them no remembrance Among those who will come later [still.]
12 I, the Preacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem.
13 And I set my mind to seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven. [It] is a grievous task [which] God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with.
14 I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind.
15 What is crooked cannot be straightened and what is lacking cannot be counted.
Heavy stuff, right? In a Philosophy class, incidentally, I once got extra points on an exam for not only pairing Xeno's "Nothing truly changes" with Heraclitus' "We never step into the same river twice" -- that was expected, and the point of the essay question -- but capping it with Solomon, from 500 years earlier than Xeno and Heraclitus, "All the rivers run into the sea, and yet the sea is not full. To the place where the rivers flow [from], there they flow again."

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon names dozens of things that seem to make life meaningful and then explodes each of them as vanity, striving after the wind, and foolishness:
Compiling wisdom? Foolishness. Where does it lead me?
Public works? But after me they may be torn down.
Large family? But after me, how will it be better?
Fortunes and wealth? But after me they will merely go to others. And so forth.

In the end, without connecting the dots, Solomon suddenly says, "So you need to serve God."

The conclusion can be reached from the thesis, but only with a great leap. Solomon effectively demonstrated that life is pointless and vain, but then out of the blue he drags God into it. Perhaps in 1000 BC that was a leap that made sense, and we can still kind of get his idea, but it is Tolstoy who really fleshes out the connection, much much later.

What did that do for me? Well, from reading Solomon, I was prepared for Kafka. Franz Kafka took a similar tack: He would take someone's meaning for living, and then drag it down and stomp on it until it was obvious that there was no meaning in it. I will summarize a few of his fragments for us:

In "A Country Doctor" -- a story told with a kind of dream-state story-line -- a doctor is called out in the middle of the night for an emergency patient. He calls for his cart, but it is snowing, and his horse has died. The horse represents the power to drive his altruistic mission, you see; his mission to save the patient. In the natural state, there is no reason for him to wish to do altruism, so getting out of bed and gathering his instruments is pointless and futile.

He is starting to tell his servant girl to forget it, and that he is going back to bed, when a horse-groom, a strong man with immense arms, emerges from the pig-sty, pulling behind him two powerful stallions. The groom attaches these to the cart, and loads the doctor into it. Only then does the doctor note the lecherous eye that the groom casts on the serving-girl. The doctor starts to dismount, to save the girl, but the groom slaps the horses, who launch the doctor on a dizzying ride towards the patient. The groom represents carnal lust, and Kafka is telling us here that all of our powerful emotions arise from the pig-sty, from our base and vulgar instincts. Not to put too fine a point on it, Kafka is telling us that we only do good things because we want to get laid.

With the serving girl dashing into the house, and the groom trying to kick down the door, the doctor is pulled away into the night, and is helpless to stop the powerful visceral reaction he has triggered. On arrival at the patient's house, he is escorted to a sickroom and finds that the patient is apparently in perfect health. The doctor weeps that he has made this trip in vain, and that the serving girl was sacrificed for nothing. But then the patients family pulls back the sheets, and in the patient's side there is a gaping wound, stinking of gangrene and covered in maggots. Kafka is telling us here that even though we all seem perfectly normal and clean, we are actually filthy and unspeakably evil within; when seen without the nice coverings, we're all just animals, and our lusts are rotting us away.

Now, I was not so cynical as Kafka. I did not accept his premise: That our most powerful drives, and particularly our altruism, all arises from the pig-sty of our carnal desires. After all, to satisfy the desires of the flesh, whether sexually or through gluttony or through a thousand sins of excess -- that too is vanity. There is no purpose in it.

The navy took me many places, and among them were cities built atop sewage canals, where bars and brothels competed for space down a winding main street devoted to the satisfaction of the carnal desires. I have been told that places like Magsaysay Avenue have been cleaned up in this present day, and that the Wan Chai district no longer looks as it did when I saw it. Still, the philosophical eye easily realized that the satisfaction of carnal desires was merely another futile path, leading nowhere. So Kafka had to be wrong: Carnality might be a powerful driver, but it was as futile as everything else. I dismissed the country doctor.

Kafka also wrote a fragment called "Before the Law." It concerns a man who had suffered an injustice, and sought the judge in order to make it right. He finds that the door is blocked by a huge doorman, scary to behold. The doorman tells him, in confidence, that even if he somehow got by him, he would only find a bigger doorkeeper at the next door, and even this doorkeeper was afraid to look that one in the eye. But the man persists, and for many years he tries to bribe the doorkeeper, to befriend him, to cajole him, to lecture him, and to persuade him. The doorkeeper is utterly unmoved. Finally the man is too old for justice to do him any good, so the doorkeeper stand us an closely the door. The man asks one last question:

"In all the years I have been here, waiting, no one else has ever come here seeking justice. Why is that?"

The doorkeeper smiles and says, "This door was only ever intended for you."

So Kafka here is telling us that we can never find justice. Our attempts to create a just society are continually undermined by our human frailty. The structure of power is against us, and will always be against us; our courts and our laws are a mockery to the idea of justice.

Again, as fascinating as I found this fragment, I did not accept that justice -- absolute justice -- is unattainable. Here, though, Kafka had a better point. Human justice can be difficult to achieve. Many in this life will die without reaching it. But in contrast I had read Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis, who claims that the unattainable nature of perfect justice merely shows that we are designed for a universe where such justice is possible. And this resonated with me. Still, to accept Lewis answer and reject Kafka's seemed like begging the question, because it agreed with my indoctrination and my early bias, so rather than take Lewis at face value, I held the question of human justice in abeyance.

And then there is The Metamorphosis. A man wakes up one morning and finds that he is a cockroach. Literally. A huge cockroach.

Through this, Kafka compares what the man's life had been about: He had been a businessman, always scurrying to and fro, accomplishing nothing of importance, and earning a pittance to support his parents and his sister, all of whom lived with him. Now, as a cockroach, he cannot do those things any more, so his parents have to find a new method to support themselves. They try renting his room, but -- well, there's a huge cockroach under the bed. Finally, the father takes a job as a train conductor, the sister (who had been a homely wallflower) begins to blossom into an outgoing and vivacious young woman, and they are all so happy that they forget the huge cockroach under the bed. The cockroach dies and the family is at last happy.

This is Kafka's happiest ending: Someone is happy at the end. But he has just argued that this man's entire reason for being -- supporting his family and maintaining his life -- was pointless, and that he actually crippled those whom he was trying to help. He held them back, and kept them in a dependent state, when they could have been happier without him.

This is the premise that I most strongly rejected, even though Solomon seemed to agree with it in part: That life had no meaning, and that the things we devote our lives to are pointless. I felt, deep within me, that Life had a meaning. Solomon even said that God had written eternity on our hearts. The Existentialist and everyone who wrestled with meaning in life could all have been happy if they had simply rejected meaning and lived hedonistic lives, eating drinking and being merry, for tomorrow we may die. So why did that idea feel so very wrong?

But to reject the meaningless of life, I had to show that it had meaning, as my principle called for: You cannot reject an idea until you know what is wrong with it.
EGO TE ABSOLVO, and there's nothing you can do about it.

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