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C . The Great Idea

Much has changed in the last century; many would say that the changes of the last hundred years are more fundamental and spirit shattering than any previous millennia out of history as a whole. Alvin Toffler even wrote his book, Future Shock, about the shattering effect of change on the human spirit. It is no wonder that we feel disoriented by all which has occurred in our brief lifetimes.
Western Civilization has been blessed with more varieties of mass communication available to its greatest thinkers than was ever possible in any other civilization. It started several centuries ago with the invention of movable type for printing presses. Within just the last few decades, telephone, television, and computer data networks have circled the globe, allowing virtually instant communication to most of mankind.
Still, we are leery of our rapid progress, and many of us feel that much of what goes on is really more like a car careening out of control down a mountain road; at any moment, we could miss a turn and plunge over the side to our deaths.
Still, it is this mass media, and particularly the publishers of books like this one, which have preserved our heritage for all of us to read, whenever we wish. There is no need to travel to Delphi and question the oracle ourselves. The inquiries and responses of thousands of great men are preserved for each of us to use as we please.
Some of our great men have made it their life's work to study the business of what makes a civilization tick. Spengler drew our road map to what a civilization needs at its beginning. All civilization must begin with a spiritual experience, for it is this essential spirituality which motivates mankind to achieve its greatest possibilities. Spengler defined a spiritual Spring as: "Rural-intuitive. Great creations of the newly-awakened dream-heavy Soul. Super-personal unity and fullness." The first step is thus: "Birth of a myth of the grand style, expressing a new God-feeling. World-fear. World-longing."
Most conservative scholars would wonder at how anyone could hope to stir such thoughts in a population which is wracked with the moral decay of a dying civilization deep in its own spiritual Winter. Normally, a population which is wracked by the doubts of crotchety old age is incapable of even entertaining the great hopes of Spring-like ideas. However, as I survey the scene, I see those thoughts already among us. They are disorganized for now, and focused on only limited goals, but they are there nonetheless. If this book does nothing else, I hope that it sets those forces free to pursue greater goals than those upon which they are now focused.
So, what is this Great Idea which meets Spengler's definition? It has several parts, which I will first list, and then explain in detail:

A. Mankind Must Become One With The Universe, Living Harmoniously With All Natural Creations, And Wisely Using Those Creations For The Greater Good Of The Universe.
B. "God" Is The Life Force Which Organizes And Drives The Universe; "God" Is Not An Anthropomorphic Entity, Concerned In Any Way With Mankind's Follies.
C. Natural Disasters Must Be Expected To Occur; They Are Natural Creations, Not Acts Of A Vengeful God. Manmade Disasters Must Be Prevented, To The Maximum Extent Practicable; When They Are Deliberately Inflicted, The Perpetrators Must Be Punished.
D. The Three-Fold Mission Of Mankind Is:

None of the above is truly an original thought with me. Each of the above is deeply rooted in the thoughts of the best minds which Western Civilization has provided to teach me. I may perhaps be seen as merely the first to set forth as written words what many have felt for a very long time, much as even the words of Jesus Christ as set forth in the Christian Bible contain little which was new to the Jews of his own time.81
The historical Jesus merely called men back to their own better natures. That call could only have been issued in light of the prevailing world-view at the time Jesus lived. This naturally limited the scope and substance of what Jesus could call for. So it is with my own call, above. I call all mankind back to our own better natures, in light of the world-view which the best minds of Western Civilization have set forth for us to follow.

The first part of the Great Idea is: "Mankind Must Become One With The Universe, Living Harmoniously With All Natural Creations, And Wisely Using Those Creations For The Greater Good Of The Universe." This draws strength from environmental movements which are already forces to reckon with in politics. However, my intent is to temper an activist environmental attitude with the clear necessity of use. The natural creations are ours to use, but must use those creations wisely, and for the greater good of the whole of creation, including ourselves.
I believe this to be the essential distillation of the present environmental movement. However, my intent is to bring that movement home to the daily lives of all mankind. Presently, the environment is mostly a concern for larger social groups, and is only considered for major projects with significant and long term impacts on our lives. It is a mistake not to make all of mankind conscious of environmental concerns, and to try to motivate all mankind to convert to renewable energy and other resources and less pollution of the environment by acts of mankind.
We also need to change mankind away from the "disposable society" where the convenience of the user is the paramount concern, without regard to the long term environmental consequences. Casually disposing of valuable resources merely for the sake of convenience is wrong. But this should not be taken as a commandment to return to reusable glass milk bottles and the like. Trees are a renewable resource, and they are ours to use. Just make sure that the packages are biodegradable within a reasonably small number of years.
This is in no way intended to be radical environmentalism. This is intended to be a call to keep doing what we are already doing, more of it, and with a greater willingness of the population at large to participate. It is also intended to be a call to focus scientific research on problems in the environment before they reach crisis proportions, which will include assessing environmental impacts of products before they are marketed to the general public.
Mankind is the only animal which has been granted the ability to alter our own environment to such a degree that we can actually kill ourselves off as a result of our own incompetence. It is only within this century that we have recognized this risk, and we still grapple with the basic aspects of the consequences of this fact. Mankind must attempt to control our own population, because the alternatives of a lowered standard of living for all, radically unequal standards of living, and exhaustion of our natural resources, are each unacceptable to rational mankind.

Many of our great philosophers and historians have noted that many of the essential attributes of traditional god entities are anthropomorphic, which tends to indicate that it has been mankind who created each of these gods in our own images. The Durants spend a chapter of The Lessons of History looking at religions used by various civilizations down through time. Based upon history, you cannot truly argue for a god which favors one religious group over another. Misfortunes are visited on mankind with predictable randomness and without regard to the piety of the population in question.
So, if God is not this anthropomorphic entity which we, as Christians, were trained to adore, then what actually is God? Since God is indifferent to mankind, we are left to our own devices to decide this question for ourselves. I reject the atheist belief that there is no God, because the atheists have no basis for knowing that. In fact, the atheists are the ultimate skeptics, at least on the subject of God, and skepticism is simply one more aspect of the end times of any civilization. It is the agnostic belief that rings most true: we do not know the true nature of God, and perhaps we will never know. But those of us who look at the universe say, again and again, there is so much order here that it cannot really be just one cosmic mechanistic accident. There must be some life force which moves the universe at the most basic level. Since we clearly do not know the nature of God, our scientific training compels us to advance a thesis on this subject, and that thesis seems to be: God is the life force which organizes and drives the universe towards creating order out of chaos (i.e., God is anti-entropic). With a choice only between random chance and such a life force, the life force is the only rational answer.
For reasons which are discussed at length in the Durants' book, past civilizations have always enlisted God as part of the police mechanism of the state. This naturally required that God have both anthropomorphic and supernatural capabilities so that the chosen God could fulfill its mission of "divine surveillance and sanctions." The "Santa Claus" syndrome actually trains our children that our God is at least an imperfect enforcer of such sanctions. As life goes on, people learn that they can get away with the most horrible atrocities, with consequences only when caught. The people of the United States are insecure in the here and now because they have, in essence, placed their faith in a policeman who does not exist. Modern man does not fear the anthropomorphic God of the Christians. Of course, there is no reason to fear the God defined herein. But at least we will not place our faith in a false God, which we will know to be false the moment that no aid is supplied in our time of need. As Lincoln said: "you may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can't fool all of the people all the time." This is, in essence, the epitaph of all anthropomorphic Gods. With our new God, defined herein, we are at least not subject to such failure.

There has long been a tendency to blame God for natural disasters. Our generic term for such events is "an act of God." I am certain only the fact our anthropomorphic God does not really exist has protected mankind from the wrath of God for all this false blame for otherwise natural occurrences.
If you look intellectually at known natural disasters, each is a result of mankind getting in the way of occurrences which mankind ought to have expected to happen. High winds, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, droughts, plagues, and so forth all occur with great regularity in those regions commonly subject to them, and with less regularity even in other regions of the world.
One thing is certain: these are not acts of a vengeful God. The innocent is just as likely as the guilty to be afflicted. In fact, since the innocent predominate in the population at large, the innocent are truly more likely to be afflicted by any particular disaster.
But we must sometimes ask: how innocent are these innocents when they have chosen to stay in the known path of disaster, but have failed to take adequate precautions against that known disaster? One or two hurricanes strike Florida each year. Should not buildings in Florida be constructed to withstand the most devastating hurricane which can be expected during the lifetime of that building? And how is it that every few years the midwest suffers through yet another "hundred year flood?" Even our own government is growing tired of shelling out disaster relief on such a regular basis.
In my opinion, all disaster relief ought to be accompanied by a risk assessment, and the disaster relief ought to be conditional on the recipients taking reasonable steps to prevent the need for future relief. If we not only allow rebuilding, but even finance it with low cost disaster relief loans, then the rebuilt structures ought not be subject to being destroyed by the same disaster occurring again. This is only common sense.
As for manmade disasters, these are simply criminal. Whether due to criminal neglect or a designed plan, manmade disasters ought to subject the perpetrator to the usual penalties of the law. And to some degree, this principal can interact with the above one for natural disasters. If a structure has been negligently or deliberately placed in the path of a natural disaster, then the person or persons responsible for so placing it ought to also be subject to penalties as defined by law.
But the true bottom line for us is that all mankind ought to be responsible for its own actions, and that includes responsibility for avoiding natural disasters.

81 Jesus mostly taught from the Torah and the prophets, the holy scriptures of the Jews.

Copyright 1994-1999 by the Agnostic Church

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