Up to now I’ve never shared my personal feelings on my blog. That may be partly because I’m in touch with who I really am, and what I’m really like, and how un-like the majority of people I am, and so how few people can tolerate me! As my brother once said to me so succinctly, “You’re weird!”.
He didn’t realize it, but that was one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said to me. Weirdness has its benefits. Give me “weird” any time…
I remarked to someone the other day on the importance of talking to yourself. In open conversation we all make fun of the practice, but I suspect the reality is that a good many or most of us do it. After all, sometimes it’s the only way to have an intelligent conversation, right? So I said to this person, who I won’t name, that by talking to ourselves we stay in contact with who we really are. We reconcile ourselves to an otherwise hostile world. We organize our thoughts and make them more solid in our consciousness. We pragmatically consider both or all sides of the issues at hand (if we have any sense), and we provide friendship for ourselves which may not otherwise be available. Who can we trust if we can’t trust ourselves?
We may be afraid of being considered to be slightly insane if others see us talking to ourselves, and that’s understandable, because we all feel that those who do so with no self-consciousness at all may well be unhinged in some way. But surely we all have thought-conversations with ourselves, inside our minds, don’t we? It’s impossible not to (I think). And we don’t consider ourselves to be mad for that. So what’s the harm, now and then, with a little one-on-one conversation, when nobody else is around? We talk to our pets, we talk to the television, we talk to the driver in front of us: why not talk to our best friends-ourselves?
Looking at my view count lately, I may well be talking to myself now…
Ah, but someone else is always around-God. Statements like that one make the atheist and the unbeliever become certain that I and others like me are not playing with a full deck. They forget all the many benefits believers with great minds have given the world-men like Pascal, Francis Bacon, Kepler, Newton, Boyle, Tolkein, C.S Lewis and countless others.
God hears us. In fact, he knows our thoughts, and hears all our words. Herein is one of the potentially huge benefits of talking to ourselves, whether in our minds or out loud. When we do it within the knowledge and control of God’s spirit, and while also talking to our God, we can talk ourselves into a right way of thinking:
…be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).
Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits (Psalm 103:1-2).
Can we think a god into existence? Can we imagine an explanation for life, the universe and everything, and call it reality? Some people think their own ideas explain the meaning of life…
Today politically correct faith is governed by the idea that each individual can make up his own mind what God is like, “if” there is a god at all. I’m probably being generous when I say that people who think this way make up their own minds, because from my own experience it seems that such people never really do make up their minds. What they “think” about who or what reality is, or what God is, changes, in some cases faster than the weather.
And that’s no surprise. If there are no anchors of thought or conviction, no acceptance of or reference to an ancient or previous standard of wisdom, how can there be anything but confusion, vacillation, and shifting sands? What’s new ain’t necessarily true.
Ah, but how do I know that I’m right…right? Aren’t I being very arrogant and narrow minded to say that I am right?
In answer I’d say that my beliefs are on solid ground. Civilization was formed and shaped on the assumption that truth is to be searched out, and error discarded. Some things are right and some things are wrong. A teapot is not God, no matter how much you wish it were. It can’t create anything, it can’t speak, it can’t control anything or anyone, it can’t forgive you and it can’t give you love.
If, then, conclusions can be made by logic and evidence, what’s so bad about using reason and available evidence to come to a lasting, firm conclusion about reality, and believing it to be right? What’s wrong with holding the view that certain beliefs are clearly erroneous, and some are tangible, practical, meaningful and testable? Man didn’t get to the moon by encompassing a thousand different plans for how to get there: people put their heads together and came up with one method that would work.
We can hear a thousand different people say “I think…” then a thousand different ideas of who God “might be”; what he or she or it is like, how many gods there are, what sort of people it loves, which ones are going to be in heaven “if” there is one, and countless other variables. People decide what God is like based on what they think he should be like. They’re attempting to create God in their own image, when it should be obvious that we, being the creation, were made in his image. They are being at least as arrogant as they insist I am, because they have no more solid support for their thoughts than I do-in fact less. Yet what they think is intended to trump what I believe usually without any attempt to objectively compare or consider my beliefs.
People think what they want to think. But if there’s a God at all, he or she or it must have certain characteristics, and not others. He must like certain things but not like others. He must have certain plans but not others. Not all ideas about God can be right, any more than all the lottery numbers chosen by millions of people on any given day can be the winning numbers. Let’s search for the truth-not make up our own.
I’m not saying it’s wrong to think, I’m saying that if God is formed by what we can imagine in our minds, God is not God at all, and we’re on very shaky ground.
Biblical scripture describes our creation, why we were created, who did the creating, what he’s like, what’s gone wrong with that creation, and what the Creator did and will do to correct the damage to that creation. Its narrative is supported by history, by nature, by real science, by human nature, by archaeology and by prophecy. The Bible claims to be a message from our Creator, and backs up the claim in many ways. It’s a complete package, with handles.
For many centuries, and in many countries and lands, people have been (and are being) killed for defending and upholding Biblical scriptures. Even centuries BC, the great prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah were harassed, persecuted and martyred because they took a stand for what they were convinced was the word of God.
Jesus had the very same problem in his own day, and he told the religious zealots of his day-those who later had him killed -that if they couldn’t pay attention to the writings of Moses-the leader they claimed to follow-there was no chance they were going to be able to recognize the one Moses foretold, even if he was standing in front of them…
It seems logical to me to base my beliefs on what is testable, solid, and worth dying for, rather than what I can cook up in my own mind according to my own tastes.There’s an explanation for life, the universe and everything which is tangible and reasonable, and there’s no need to attempt to invent another idea which “seems” right. Biblical scripture puts it like this:
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12 NKJV)
It occurred in my noncomfiousness that if for a crofty abrofty, and the tweaky aggregatioly of blahdiidation, there may be a morifuld, lumpidatious, or even linear augmentifold of interestiload re postulations. “Oh, arg-arg!” you may mully-mander, but given the globular augmentifold of blahdifidatious and wobbly sous- et-sur zonk and zombification, clarity clout and clonk bye-bye: so apede-facto, blahdidation is this very sun up and plop (nay, this moleoly) super-estalated upon these premise.
Donut wobble here “axprass” worky satisfolibold for sensi-nodules, ohno! Rock-skippy and jumpy to the humanitic, for “axprass humsalf”? My Rock! Now there’s poopostrus!
Imploration: dezonk! Unzombifold!
Augmentifold aplogias for those who are struggling to learn English!
My intention in this series is to debunk the notion that religion causes most or all war, and instead to show that war comes from the inner nature of man. Most particularly, as a way of demonstrating that very point, I intend to show that one of the out-workings of that nature comes via atheistic philosophies. I have shown that Marx and Engels were atheists who happily found Darwin’s theory to compliment their own view of historical, social evolution. This marriage of ideas helped to shape their entire view of history and their prescription for humanity’s “happiness” for the future, which included “the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions” 1.
I may have been a little hard on Marx and Engels for their whole-hearted acceptance of the ape-to man theory, even when they had nothing in the way of “evidence” to make such a complete commitment except Darwin’s hypothesis. To be fair on Marx, Engels and the other boys, they did demonstrate some evidence for evolution without realizing it. Note in the following pictures that the beards and mustaches gradually retreated as long ages passed, until they were no more than stumps or vestigial organs. Eventually they disappeared completely. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…
THE EVOLUTION OF THE BEARD (and mustache):
Having been a little critical in recent articles of John Lennon’s naive view of religion and nationalism, I remembered him singing, in the Beatles song “Revolution”:
“But if you’re talking about destruction
Well don’t you know that you can count me out…”
“But if you want money for people with minds that hate
Well all I can tell you is brother, you’ll have to wait…” 2.
So Lennon deserves compliments and respect for the right response to his view of the world, as well as a fantastic voice and song writing ability. If only Marx and Lenin had thought the same way…
A REVOLUTION: LENIN AND MARXISM
In “Part 2” I discussed and documented the teachings of Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels. Their views were in large part political, and their goal of empowering the working class, who were, without doubt, sometimes treated very unfairly, is arguably a very noble one. However, they advocated “force” to attain their ends, and force was certainly employed to an extreme degree by their admirers in the following century and a half. Further, it was not just the “rich” who suffered. Francis Wheen, partial to socialism, writes that “Mass campaigns for better conditions and shorter working weeks, advocated by Marx in “Das Kapital”, were dismissed by Lenin as a waste of time. Instead, the workers should place themselves at the disposal of professional revolutionaries such as himself” 3.
He went on to quote Lenin saying “The contemporary socialist movement can come into being only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge….The bearer of this science is not the proletariat, but the bourgeoisie intelligentsia” 4.
My paraphrase: “only educated people like me know what to do – the rest of you are too stupid to be involved in decision-making – we just want you to do all the dirty work and the killing” (refer to George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”). Wheen comments that in these sentences can be seen in embryonic form what eventually became a monstrous tyranny.
Lenin, in a paper he wrote on Marxism, referred to Marx’s “revolutionary tactics”:
“The editor of the Encyclopedia, for their part, have, for censorship reasons, deleted the end of the article on Marx, namely, the section dealing with his revolutionary tactics…I only remember that in the concluding part of the article I quoted, among other things, the passage from Marx’s letter to Engels of April 16, 1856, in which he wrote: “The whole thing in Germany will depend on the possibility of backing the proletarian revolution by some second edition of the Peasant War. Then the affair will be splendid.”5.
As I said in Part 2, some writers are keen to separate the teachings of Karl Marx from the horrors of twentieth century communism. Vladimir Pozner, himself a socialist, while admitting that “Marx did call for the use of force” 6, takes the position in his introduction to “The Communist Manifesto” that Leninism has very little in common with Marxism: whatever happened after 1917 was the responsibility of Lenin, not Marx 7. However, the revolutionaries, including Lenin, all clearly regarded themselves as Marxists, even if they did reinterpret some of Marx’s methods and ideas. Francis Wheen wrote that both Lenin and Stalin made of Marxism what they wanted, then froze it into dogma, but he also said that the architects of the 1917 revolution “all cited Marx, and “Das Kapital” in particular, as the divine authority for the correctness of their views” 8.
But even if Lenin had not been a Marxist, he was an atheist, and a man who wished to rid his nation of religion. This position was consistent with Marxism, and is most relevant to the thrust of my series of articles.
THE BOLSHEVIK REVOLUTION AND VIOLENCE
Unfortunately, the Bolsheviks’ thirst for violence was not satisfied by a simple punch-up in the committee room. Robert Gellately begins his discussion on the October 1917 revolution in Russia which was headed by Lenin and the Bolsheviks, by noting that the twentieth century was to be “the bloodiest ever” 9.
He describes how, in the early years of the century, Lenin had gravitated towards the fledgling Marxist movement, and busied himself in revolutionary activities, becoming more radical all the time. His writings advocated a party of professional revolutionaries dedicated to the cause. Instead of planning elections and democracy he recommended small cells of revolutionaries who would use “violence and all means necessary” 10.
Lenin began to gain leadership of the movement by the second congress of the main Marxist party, the RSDLP, in July 1903.
The Bolshevik wing of the RSDLP had nothing to do with the “liberal” March revolution of 1917, when “only” two or three thousand were killed. Lenin, Trotsky and Bukharin was absent from Russia, Stalin was in exile in westernSiberia.
However, they soon made up for their absence. In a pamphlet he wrote on August-September of 1917, Lenin said that:
“The dictatorship of the proletariat… would not be created without a violent revolution” 11.
While Russia was engaged in a desperate war with the Germans, Lenin, hoping for his own nation’s defeat, applied more pressure on his party to move against the government. In mid-October he won over the central committee, and the politburo was established which included Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin. While the October coup proceeded without a great deal of violence, Lenin’s aims were not achieved, so he made the case for forcing through a vanguard dictatorship, saying:
“We have always known…that Socialism cannot be ‘introduced’…that violence is always the midwife of the old society…”
“Dictatorship implies and means a state of simmering war, a state of military measures of struggle against the enemies of proletarian power” 12.
To stamp out resistance, the regime established three new institutions: the Cheka, or secret police; concentration camps; and the Red Army.
On January 6th, 1918 an article published in both Pravda and Izvetsia, Lenin announced that he was prepared to use terror “in the interests of the workers, soldiers and peasants” 13.
Violence and disruption was not limited to the “wealthy” or the bourgeoisie as a whole: it affected everyone. Gellately writes that whereas the peasants had at first been enthusiastic about Bolshevism, before long the lines for food which was not coming, and the failures of promises of land without payment, “there were thousands of riots and revolts as peasants fought back…” Their attitudes, and their protests, were then labeled as “kulak” (regarded as bourgeois) rebellions, and savagely repressed 14.
In an effort to route out all enemies of the revolution, the Cheka robbed and plundered and in drunken orgies raped and killed their way through one village after another. They killed and abused their victims without mercy “Suspected enemies could expect cruel torture, flogging, maiming or execution”, writes Gellately 15.
The Bolsheviks wished to wipe out entire classes and ethnic groups, such as the Cossacks, who they executed by the tens of thousands in the few years after 1917 16.
I could give many lengthy examples here of the kind of events that followed the 1917 revolution, but you can find such details in just about any serious writing on the works of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, unless it is something akin to the writings of Holocaust deniers, and there are such writings. What occurred was essentially a war on Russia’s own population.
R.J. Rummel, a political scientist and peace researcher, has spent many years estimating the number of victims of numerous wars, revolutions and purges around the world, having studied as many documents and historical records as possible. From his book “Lethal Politics: Soviet Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1917” his estimate for the number of victims in Russia during the revolution and civil war period – 1917 to 1922- is 3,284,000, and for the “NEP” period, from 1923 to 1928, it is 2,200,000 17:
These figures do not include the millions who were displaced from their homes and separated from their families.
LENIN, MARX AND EVOLUTION
Lenin was entirely committed to evolutionism and naturalism. He said:
“All of Marx’s theory is the most consistent, complete, well thought out and essential application to contemporary capitalism of the theory of evolution. The great value of Marx’s statements here, too, is to consistently apply materialistic dialectic and the theory of evolution, and to regard communism as something developing out of capitalism.” 18.
Marx and Engels’ teachings on dialectics and evolution included the idea that nothing is fixed in this universe – not even human thought and ideas:
“The great basic thought,” Engels writes, “that the world is not to be comprehended as a complex of ready-made things, but as a complex of processes, in which the things apparently stable no less than their mind images in our heads, the concepts, go through an uninterrupted change of coming into being and passing away…. For dialectical philosophy nothing is final, absolute, sacred. It reveals the transitory character of everything and in everything; nothing can endure before it except the uninterrupted process of becoming and of passing away, of endless ascendancy from the lower to the higher. And dialectical philosophy itself is nothing more than the mere reflection of this process in the thinking brain.” Thus, according to Marx, dialectics is “the science of the general laws of motion, both of the external world and of human thought.”19.
This was their way of saying “there are no absolutes” (sound familiar?).
Did anyone ask them if they were absolutely sure that there are no absolutes? Of course, if we did indeed evolve out of nothing, or a singularity, or soup, then they are right. If you wish to accept it, look out, because your world – your very life and everything you have – is up for grabs, and life is all about the survival of the fittest. If nothing is absolute, it’s not absolutely yours, and what you think you own can be claimed by someone else, including the government. If someone rubs you out, they are simply living out the “truth” of evolution. This was the view of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, and plenty of others.
Referring to and affirming Darwinism, while at the same time noting the link between Darwinism and Marxism, Lenin said:
“Just as Darwin put an end to the view of animal and plant species being unconnected, fortuitous, ‘created by God’ and immutable, and was the first to put biology on an absolutely scientific basis . . . so Marx . . . was the first to put sociology on a scientific basis . . .” 20.
Did you notice there the word “absolutely’? It’s funny how those “absolutes” can just come and go, depending on what fits your argument.
LENIN, ATHEISM AND RELIGION
“Our Programme is based entirely on the scientific, and moreover the materialist, world-outlook” 21.
In the same speech, he said” “The proletariat of today takes the side of socialism, which enlists science in the battle against the fog of religion…”
Pospielovsky wrote “As far as atheism is concerned Lenin made it the immediate political task of the party…Lenin believed atheistic propaganda to be a necessity”. 22.
In 1905, while still claiming a willingness for everyone to believe what they wanted to, Lenin was already demanding that religion be “a private affair”, in other words, that public expression of it should be illegal 23. Does that sound familiar?. You can “believe what you want”, but they are going to make very sure that you are indoctrinated into evolutionism and hopelessness anyway. Lenin continued:
“Complete separation of Church and State is what the socialist proletariat demands of the modern state and the modern church” (sound familiar?).
Lenin described how socialism had come to rescue the worker from religion and any hope in the hereafter:
Thanks a lot, Vlad, but I’ll keep my hope: you can be as hope-free as you wish.
In 1909 Lenin stated:
“A Marxist must be a materialist, i.e. an enemy of religion; but he must be a dialectical materialist, i.e. his struggle against religion ought not to be an abstract one….but a concrete one, based on class struggle” 24.
This is in keeping with Marx’s own statement that “Communism begins from the outset with atheism” 25.
Bolshevik atheism allowed for no compromise on religion whatsoever. Even the beliefs of Feuerbach (see part 2) were scalded as being too soft by Lenin, who said in Marxian style “Religion is opium for the people. Religion is a sort of spiritual booze, in which the slaves of capital drown their human image…” 26.
The Russian Social Democratic Workers Party Programme adopted at the Second Party Congress under Lenin’s leadership as early as 1903 promised the “confiscation of all lands belonging to monasteries and churches” 27.
Pospielovsky writes that Lenin developed a more pragmatic atheism than Marx. For Marx the critique of religion was just one of many revolutionary acts, for Lenin and the Soviet Marxists this critique was the first and most profound step towards communist self-determination 28.
In 1995 Reuters reported on a Russian presidential commission’s confirmation that 200,000 clergy were systematically murdered under Soviet rule, beginning in 1917.
The report by the Commission for the Rehabilitation of the Victims of Political Repression also found another 500,000 religious figures had suffered persecution. The document goes into some detail of the extreme brutality of this treatment, which included crucifixions, and was even carried out on nuns. Of 48,000 churches inRussiabefore 1917, only 7000 remained by 1969. Jews and Moslems were often victims of similar treatment 29.
TROTSKY: ATHEISM AND COMMUNISM/ SOCIALISM GO HAND IN HAND
Lenin’s views on religion were shared by all others in his party, or they would not have survived as party members or even as living men. Leon Trotsky, one of the original members of the politburo, in The Revolution Betrayed (1936), Chapter 3: “Socialism and the State”, said
“Marxism sets out from the development of technique as the fundamental spring of progress, and constructs the communist program upon the dynamic of the productive forces….Marxism is saturated with the optimism of progress, and that alone, by the way, makes it irreconcilably opposed to religion.”
Again, he said:
“Religion is a sop and a leash. Religion is a poison precisely during a revolutionary epoch and in a period of the extreme hardships which are succeeding the conquest of power. This was understood by such a counter-revolutionary in political sympathies, but such a deep psychologist, as Dostoevsky. He said: ‘Atheism is inconceivable without socialism and socialism without atheism. Religion denies not only atheism but socialism also.’ He had understood that the heavenly paradise and the earthly paradise negate one another.”
“We must go to them with the propaganda of atheism, for only this propaganda defines the place of man in the universe and draws out for him a circle of conscious activity here on earth” 30.
LENIN’S ATTACK ON THE FAMILY
Orlando Figues also discusses at length the Bolshevik attack on the family structure, and said that the Bolsheviks rejected the idea of abstract or Christian morality as a form of “bourgeois oppression” 31. I mentioned Marx’s view of the traditional family in Part 2. Marx said that the “bourgeois” traditional family structure had to go.
Figues, observed that the civil war waged by the Bolsheviks was not just a military struggle against the White armies (who were loyal to the Tsar); it was a revolutionary war against the private interests of the old society. Part of this attack was “a war against religion, persecuting priests and believers and closing hundreds of churches…” 32.
He noted that even if they retained their religious faith, the parents of Soviet children were less likely to communicate it to them, partly out of fear that the exposure of such beliefs could have disastrous consequences for the family 33. The testimonies of people who lived through that time are recounted, such as that by Boris Garrilov, born in 1921, who said “At school I was taught to be an atheist” 34.
Perhaps one of the worst aspects of Soviet life for the family was that so many people were separated from their families, their homes and their communities. Collectivization destroyed a way of life that had developed over many centuries:
Figues adds that millions of people were uprooted from their homes and dispersed across theSoviet Union. Old ties and loyalties were broken down, morality was dissolved. The whole population was subordinated to the state and forced to depend on it for almost everything. 35.
Lenin appointed Stalin as the new general secretary of the secretariat. Stalin replaced Lenin upon his death. Stalin was an even bigger monster than Lenin had been, and was himself an atheist.
Again, I do not mean to say that all atheists are evil or violent.
I may decide to publish something a little “lighter” next week, in which case the Stalin post will appear the week after, around June 29th-30th.
There is a “revolutionary” war on today, for your hearts and minds, and for your eternal soul. Pray hard.
God bless you all with hope, light, love and truth, which is found in His Son, Jesus Christ.
1 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, with an introduction by Vladimir Pozner, The Communist Manifesto (Bantam Dell, New York, p 1992) p. 48.
2 The Beatles Revolution, The White Album (EMILondonUK) 1968
3 Francis Wheen, Marx’s Das Kapital: A Biography (Atlantic Monthly Press,New YorkNY, First US edition) p.98-100
4 Ibid, p. 100
5 VladimirIlyich Lenin, Karl Marx: A Brief Biographical Sketch With an Exposition of Marxism (from Lenin’s Collected Works,Moscow, 1974) Vol.21, pp. 43-91- preface. Thanks to “Marxists Internet Archive” for this.
6 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, with an introduction by Vladimir Pozner, The Communist Manifesto (Bantam Dell, New York, p 1992) p. xix.
7 Ibid, p. xviii.
8 Francis Wheen, Marx’s Das Kapital: A Biography (Atlantic Monthly Press, New York NY, First US edition) p.98.
9 Robert Gellately Lenin, Stalin and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe (Vintage Books,New York,NY, First Ed., Aug. 2008) p. 23
10 Ibid, p. 26
11 V. I. Lenin, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, Vol. 33, 123-307.
12 V. I. Lenin, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii, Vol. 35, p. 191-194
13 Robert Gellately Lenin, Stalin and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe (Vintage Books, New York, NY, First Ed., Aug. 2008) p. 49
14 Ibid, p. 61-65
15 Ibid, p. 65
16 Ibid, p.65-72.
17 R. J. RUMMEL Lethal Politics: Soviet Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1917 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1990)
18 (Viladimir I. Lenin, Devlet ve Ihtilal, Marxist Devlet Ogretisi ve Proleteryanin Devrimdeki Gorevleri (State and Revolution, Marxist Teaching of State and Duties of the Proletariat in Revolution) Vol. 1)
21 V.I. Lenin, Socialism and Religion, from Collected Works, (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965) Vol. 10, pp. 83-87 (Thanks to “Marxists Internet Archive” for this one!)
22 Dimitry V. Pospielovsky, A History of Marxist-Leninist Atheism and Soviet Anti-Religious PoliciesSt. Martin’s Press,New York,NY p1987) chapter 1, p.18.
23 V.I. Lenin, Socialism and Religion, from Collected Works, (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965) Vol. 10, pp. 83-87 (Thanks to “Marxists Internet Archive” for this one!)
24 ‘Obotnoshenii rabochei partii k religii’, as cited in: F. Putintsev, ‘Lenin i bor’ba s religiei’, Pod znamenem marxizma, no. 3 – (1932) p. 65.
25 Karl Marx “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844: Private Property and Communism”.
26 V. I . Lenin, Collected Works, 5th edition (M.: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962) vol. 4, p. 2.
27 Dimitry V. Pospielovsky, A History of Marxist-Leninist Atheism and Soviet Anti-Religious Policies St. Martin’s Press, New York, NY p1987), introduction.
28 Ibid, p. 25
29 Original Report: Philippa Fletcher, Reuters, Hobart Mercury, (Australia, November 29, 1995).
30 Leon Trotsky, The Position of the Republic and the Tasks of Young Workers, Report of the 5th All-Russian Congress of the Russian Communist League of Youth (1922) Published in the Bulletin of the Fifth All-Russian Congress of the Russian Communist League of Youth (Moscow: Molodaya Gvardiya, 1923). Translated by R. Chappel, published 1972.
31 Orlando Figues, The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia (Metropolitan Books, New York, NY, First US edition) p. 33.
What is the meaning of life? This question has been asked for as long as humans have been around…
I’m told that in this post-modern age the question of the meaning of life is no longer an issue, since nothing is regarded to be objectively “true”, and evolutionism has sucked any spiritual meaning out of life.
I think the meaning of life is probably a non-issue for those people who are determined not to notice God at all, and for those who claim to be atheists, but I’m sure it’s still being asked a billion times over, all around the world, every day. Perhaps the question is only asked inside minds, because it’s true that looking for meaning has become unfashionable. I offer here three views of the meaning of life.
In Douglas Adams’ wonderful, witty, imaginative “Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” trilogy*, which no spoof writer has yet equaled, an alien race of philosophers build themselves a super-computer designed solely to find the answer to the meaning of life, and name it “Deep Thought”. After performing the necessary calculations for seven and a half million years, it finally announces that the answer to the meaning of life is “forty two”. The philosophers are shocked and bewildered that they’ve waited so long only to find that the answer to the meaning of life seems so meaningless. Deep Thought then offers to design a computer which can calculate what the question is.
You don’t have to wait seven and half million years for the answer to the meaning of life. The Bible gives us an explanation, and gives it in a very succinct, clear to understand way. We don’t need to go through life without an answer, we don’t need to go to some guru in the Himalayas, and we don’t need to ask Stephen Hawking or Richard Dawkins (they don’t know it anyway).
HAMLET AND PAUL
In giving the answer, I want to share with you a striking contrast I’ve noticed between the apostle Paul’s view of life and that of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”. You may well ask what Hamlet has to do with this. Of course, he is a fictional character, but in his famous and eloquent soliloquy we find one view of life and death which is very prevalent in these days, and which we may have found ourselves sharing at some time. You can skip the following quote and go to my summary if you wish, but in order to catch the drift of Hamlet’s philosophy, let’s look at a part of his speech, found in Act 3, Scene 1:
“To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?
To die: to sleep; No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?”
To summarize Hamlet’s thoughts in my own very amateur way, Hamlet is extremely disillusioned with his world, and with life in general. He’s been wronged significantly, and hurt by those closest to him. He finds nothing of merit within human nature. He sees life as a weary battle to fend off the evil which comes from all directions. He can’t make up his mind which is worse: to live through the troubles of life, or to die by suicide and face whatever may be on “the other side”, in the after-life. There he may wish he’d stayed in the land of the living.
Who can empathize with Hamlet? I know I can. There have been times in my life when I have had very similar thoughts, and if you have not, you are very fortunate. Perhaps Hamlet speaks eloquently for many of us. It’s no wonder that Shakespeare is considered by many to be almost comparable to the Bible in his literary power, and his insights into the mind of man and human character.
However, it’s clear to all of us that this is extremely negative thinking. It’s perhaps an expression of paranoia. It’s a dark view in which there is no hope or salvation, but suffering and fear only.
Consider now the words of the apostle Paul. When he wrote the following, Paul was chained up in a Roman jail. He lived in the knowledge that his life could be taken from him at any moment, such was the opposition he faced daily for many years, including the threat of execution. For full effect I should quote this in “King James English”, but I want it to be clear to everyone, so it’s in late 20th C NIV English instead. Notice the similarity of subject matter, but the contrast in Paul’s view of life and death:
“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body” (Philippians1: 10-24).
In summary, Paul, chained and one step away from execution, sees his priorities as being the exaltation of Christ, and the shepherding of those he has led to faith in Christ. Though he is always near to death, he has no fear of it. In fact, he expresses a desire to leave his earthly body so that he can be with his Lord. Paul’s wish is that he will glorify Christ: whether it is by his life, or his death, he does not mind.
Here we see the incredible faith of a man who had once been a persecutor of Christians, but who now lived for Christ and his followers.
The contrasts between Hamlet’s outlook, and that of Paul are almost breath-taking. Hamlet lives in defeat and fear: fear of life and of death. His primary, and only concern is himself and his own feelings and pride, whereas Paul can say triumphantly, “to live is Christ and to die is gain”.
To Hamlet life is just a struggle with evil and human nature, only to arrive at a fearful ending where the afterlife may even be worse. To Paul, life is about glorifying Christ and taking care of others’ spiritual and physical well-being, until ultimately, the believer has inexpressible joy of union with Christ. There is no loss, only gain.
In another place Paul said of Christ, “All things were created by him and for him” (Colossians 1:16). That’s the key: we were created for Him, and not for ourselves. This is the meaning of life.
We tend to think that we’re here to get what we can out of life in the form of pleasure and stuff. We think that those who have lots of stuff must be far happier than we are. The truth is that people can be happy with very little, when they are aware of what brings true happiness. I can clearly remember my ninety-two year old grandmother, totally blind, spending most of each day alone in a room with very few possessions and nothing in the bank. She would sit and sing praise to God, with a contented smile on her face. She was waiting to be ushered into His kingdom. She was full of peace and joy, and she was a loving, kind woman without an ounce (or gram) of bitterness or fear in her. She had achieved what many or most millionaires do not.
How do you wish to feel about your life, and about death? It’s not dependent on your income, or your vocation, or who you’re dating, or what kind of experiences you’ve had. It’s dependant on your willingness to live primarily for your Creator, and also for the benefit of others, and not for yourself.
*Don’t bother reading any more than the first three books-the rest are no good…