Early one morning, I heard John and Jeff discussing religion, one of them insisting that common sense must take precedence over religious faith. Given the nature of their conversation, I’d say that common sense should rule over extremism of any kind. For all the remarks to the contrary, Christianity is both a peace-loving and life-affirming religion, and it takes ignorance of the teachings of Jesus and a powerfully sinful human will to take a life, either one’s one or another’s.
I have written previously, I don’t see Christianity as a religion although it is a system of beliefs about God. Religion is also an explanation of what people must do for God, and humans have an amazing capacity for thinking up things that God needs them to do. It is in this that evil leaders can draw gullible people in; and in this, I can agree with that common sense should come into play. Does God need humans to do things he cannot do for himself? Does Allah need the faithful to kill the infidels? Does he require incense or stained glass or circumcised males?
The current crop of activist atheists attempt to blame religion or God for the world’s ills, but common sense suggests that the trouble is more basic than that, for evil exists wherever men and women are, whether they are
ardently religious, passively religious, agnostic, or passionately anti-religious. It isn’t the religious justifications
for evil that determine the cause; it is the soul of the individual evil-doer.
Common sense, by definition should be familiar, representing the normal way that people think. I find common sense to be rather uncommon, a way of thinking that seems often to be overruled by rhetoric, ideology,
manipulation, and ego. I believe common sense is what the Bible calls wisdom but warns that there is a false imitation:
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”—James 3:13-18
“Good life, humility…pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere”—now there’s a list that sounds evil, death-dealing, and irrational, right? What happens to people, religious especially, that leads them away from such things? Where is the “common sense” in that?
I would argue that twisted logic in defense of evil is on the “other side.” People with agendas, men who want power, women who have suffered and want to dish it out rather than take it, and those simply greedy and serving themselves are the ultimate creators of “big evil,” while noting that sin corrupts the heart of every human, making every person capable of far greater evil that any of us would like to admit.
Here is where the uncommon concept of grace offers hope. The anti-religion, anti-god folks assert the very thing that gets ever one of us into trouble. The ultimate wish is to have God’s place, to be creator rather than creature. They attempt to portray God like a rich uncle who humiliates his family by demanding servility and adoration, but the rich uncle didn’t create his relatives. He is merely another created being, no better or high or greater than his poor kinfolk. God, on the other hand, is a separate order of being, infinite, unchanging, all-powerful, and yet loving. I believe His desire for worship is less for His own ego, which makes Him far too human, and more for us humans, who are far too prone to exalt our own importance.
Such pride is the very center of evil for it imagines itself better than its neighbor, allowing all manner of evil against others. As a Christian, as I get older and, hopefully, a little wiser, I find myself less and less able or willing to harm anyone overtly, although I still struggle to avoid neglect and apathy. I struggle, sometimes, to deal with my own pain, but I have no desire to inflict pain on others; in fact, I can be wallowing in my own self-pity, but the pain of another person will immediately turn my attention outward.
I found this comment by Suzanne Fields quite timely and relevant:
“Boomers came of age eager to offend everybody but were so indulged that anything that offended them became taboo. The social slights sensitive adolescents always decried were writ large with narcissistic perception codified in political correctness… Diana West in her book, The Death of the Grown-Up, says trouble began when children started aspiring to adolescence rather than adulthood. They replaced information with animation: ‘More adults, ages 18 to 49, watch the Cartoon Network than watch CNN.’ An adolescent lurches within minutes from fear and insecurity to self-confidence and bravado. But a culture sustains perpetual adolescence at deadly peril. It’s our collective identity crisis.”
Bill Clinton has been the epitome of the perpetual adolescent; as such, he has demonstrated how ego so readily leads to evil. His chorus of enthusiastic supporters demonstrates the very “lack of common sense” that others would reserve for religious fanatics, but there is little of religion to blame here. This is an example of an ego that demands stroking, that sulks when the stroking isn’t there, but that turns on the charm to attract willing followers to stroke that needy ego (If wife Hillary fails to gain the Presidency, it will be due to the like of that final quality).
Poor Al Gore, himself another perpetual adolescent, had to live in the shadow of the Clinton egos, but he has come out of the shadow to find his own spotlight. Here, too, is another example of the failure of common sense as well as an almost religious following of fanatics. Al Gore is not a scientist; he does not have the expertise or even the basic scientific training to justify his pretentious assertions about climate change. Worse his ego is so strong, he dares suggest that open discussion is no longer acceptable and that skepticism about global
warming is comparable to believing the earth is flat (I wonder if Gore even knows enough science to refute a flat earth). He dared make such remarks in an attempt to refute John Christy someone who actually knows something about weather and climate:
“(P)art of the challenge the news media has had in covering this story is the old habit of taking the ‘on the one hand, on the other hand’ approach. There are still people who believe that the earth is flat. But when you’re reporting on a story like the one you’re covering today, where you have people all around the world, you don’t search out for someone who still believes the earth is flat and give them equal time.” (responding to John Christy’s remarks).
Common sense is sadly missing in many other areas of modern life—environmentalism, politics, the health care debate, education, and jury deliberations, to name a few. Its lack in science, or perhaps better to say pseudo-science, troubles me nearly as much as its lack among the faithful, especially when I read a statement like this one. The very nature of scientific research is to question, challenge, test, and discover new ways of seeing what we think we know as well as what we want to understand. Science is not about consensus. For that matter politics, Gore’s home field, isn’t even about consensus. True science is always about facts, data, hypotheses, and experimental verification, always open to experimental or theoretical refutation. Gore and his ilk would make global warming a matter of faith, trusting not even in an omniscient, omnipotent God, but rather in a self-important, forever immature latter-day celebrity like Gore.
Like the radical Muslims who drive their followers to suicidal attacks, Gore seeks to drive his unthinking disciples to attack the engine of capitalism and the roots of the very prosperity we enjoy. Ironically, after receiving both an Academy Award and a Nobel Peace Prize, a British judge has noted, “It is now common
ground that it is not simply a science film – although it is clear that it is based substantially on scientific research and opinion – but that it is a political film.”
As I said earlier, people with agendas and big egos manipulate people into ignoring common sense.
Religion is by no means the only place where this occurs, and “godly religion” isn’t the cause. Presumably
modern people find it difficult to accept that people would follow a religious leader blindly, but those same urbane people will follow non-religious leaders just as blindly. In both cases, a measure of common sense, of what the Bible calls wisdom, might spare people the rude, if not deadly, realization that they follow those who are “harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition,” people who are “earthly, unspiritual, of the devil,” and who create “disorder and every evil practice.” For myself, I am equally suspicious of anyone who suggests doing evil, hating other people, or ignoring common sense, whether it be a preacher or a politician.