Is happiness a 'Locke'? 10-21-09
October 21, 2009
Just a week ago here on the blog I wrote about "the pursuit of happiness," and my belief that the idea that all of us should be busy pursuing happiness is suspicious for many reasons.
One or two commenters that day mentioned that in the deliberations over the Declaration of Independence, where that language is found, the phrase originally was "life, liberty and property." The "pursuit of happiness" phrase was used instead of "property," perhaps to avoid the awkwardness of the reality that some humans then were considered property and that lots of people who didn't own property were not allowed to vote.
I want to return to that "property" phrase today to pass along some addition information about its source and what it might say about religion.
In his marvelous book, From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, Jacques Barzun reports that the phrase can be attributed to 17th century English physician and philosopher John Locke (an ancestor of my wife, whose mother's maiden name was Locke). (He's depicted here.)
Feeling pressured under the monarchy of the Stuarts, Locke spent eight years as "a wanderer in Holland and France," Barzun says. "When James II was forced out in 1688, Locke returned home and became the voice of the party that had effected the change. The Declaration of Rights that went with it needed a theorist to make it respectable. Locke was the man to do it. . ."
Later, Barzun says that "for Locke and the English who bargained with the new king, William III, the terms of the social contract were the 13 provisions of the Declaration of Rights. . . .The universal rights came down to three: life, liberty and property."
I generally avoid Wikipedia as a source because it has been shown to be inaccurate and unreliable at times, but it seemed to me that this entry on our subject today had some useful information, especially that Ben Franklin agreed with Thomas Jefferson that the Declaration of Independence should downplay the role of government in protecting property.
Well, the point is that, as the author of the book of Ecclesiastes wrote long ago, there is nothing new under the sun. Our ideas come to us via a winding path, and our "pursuit of happiness" today has antecedants. But most of the great religions teach that pursuing happiness is a self-centered enterprise. Rather, happiness is a byproduct of a useful, productive life that focuses on serving others.
* * *
A LESSON IN SIN'S ENTANGLEMENTS
You can get an idea of what original sin is all about when you ponder the recent Vatican criticism of corruption in Spain. The case had to do with money siphoned off from the pope's 2006 visit there. The pope knew nothing about it until recently but sometimes even when you abide by all the rules, those around you can draw you into what the Vatican called an "ugly case." One of the implications of the doctrine of original sin is that no matter how righteously we live, we inevitably get entangled in sin.
* * *
P.S.: My latest column in The Presbyterian Outlook now is oneline. To read it, click here. To read this and previous Outlook columns, click on the Outlook page on the right side of this page under the "Check this out" headline.
Its interesting that one of the philosophers who had the most influence on the development of political philosophy in the United States was a Christian who saw no conflict between reason and Christianity.
Some might characterize him as a "liberal Christian" that Christians are "evolving" into but he wrote over three hundred years ago and definitely wrote about Jesus as the Messiah and even wrote a work titled On the Reasonableness of Christianity. Guess those ideas weren't as "new" as the New Atheists like to pretend.
Posted by: Will Graham | October 21, 2009 at 07:10 AM
A particulary vicious post at 9:59 am yesterday compared the God of the Old Testament to Saddam Hussein.
(So, after elaborating on how bad Mr. Hussein was, I suppose Mr. Lunney fully supported Mr. Bush's invasion of Iraq.)
But the larger problem is the attack on Judaism that this implies; the charges are a misrepresentation of the Old Testament...Bill certainly knows this...but since we know Chuck and his buddies think the Old Testament is fiction, and since it was written by Jews, you have the argument used by Nietzsche and others that the JEWS have foisted a massive fraud on mankind. (In fact, that is what Hitler's favorite philosopher, Nietzsche, wrote in The AntiChrist)
So given the nature of those charges, and the companion claim that the Jews made all this stuff up, you have a particulary nasty attack on Judaism.
I mean, what kind of people would support such a religion based on such things?
Posted by: Will Graham | October 21, 2009 at 07:17 AM
The remarks about the Old Testament can be found in the 9:50 am post, not the 9:59 am post.
The implicaton, though, is plain. If the lying mispreresentation of the Old Testament were true, and this was all made up by Jews, then the implications about Judaism follow the line of propaganda promoted by Nietzsche and some of his followers.
Posted by: Will Graham | October 21, 2009 at 07:26 AM
Red Biddie: (last night 5:42PM)
"Bill said he hopes "we are not alone as we go through our problems" - I'm sure that is a comforting thought, like Susan's loving God but for those of us who do believe we are alone - except for one another of course - we have to stand on our own feet and acknowledge that this is is the only life we are going to know and we make the best of it and hopefully improve on it for future generations."
How can Humans make the best of it, since they have made the 'worst' of it on our Home Planet? Earth 'was' a Heaven 'in the beginning'. All GODs Earth Resources were Free and Equal for All Species. Purebred Humans were put in Charge.
The Clones did Fall from Celibate Males and Female Helpmeets, to Reproducing Children. Why would God/Us, 'say' to Reproduce Misbred Children, Own Property, and Kill Each Other?
What Good is it to Own Riches/Possessions on Earth and then Die? Humans were put in Charge of our Earth Home. Did God/Us Reproduce Havenots, or Body Birth Humans?
Luke 9:58. KJV. "And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head."
Celibate Jesus was Saved by God/Us. It is too late to Save our Eco System and Ozone Canopy.
Why would God/Us Humans want to Save Killer Humans off Earth, to take them to their Planet/Heaven? Jesus, a Celibate Male, was one Human without Property, that was Saved, Alive.
Why do 7 Billion Humans keep Reproducing Defective Genetic and Physical Misbred Children, and Nuclear Bombs to Kill Each Other?
IF Life Evolved from GODs Elements, it was on another Planet up to High Tech Science Humans, that Colonized Earth with Perfect Human Clones, not Imperfect Children.
Otherwise Earth could not have been Colonized, and Evolved Humans today will Die on Earth, without Spaceships to Escape the Planetary Fire.
Posted by: Dolores Lear | October 21, 2009 at 07:30 AM
Provide MULTIPLE EXAMPLES of your GRANDIOSE CLAIMS in your 1:53 pm post yesterday.
Provide as many as you can.
We will take them apart one by one.
Lets see who is lying.
Posted by: Will Graham | October 21, 2009 at 07:34 AM
Bill, when you talk about the pursuit of happiness, I'm reminded of what Hannah Hurnard wrote in her book "Hind's Feet on High Places" -- she wrote, "It is so happy to love."
The pursuit of this kind of happiness -- of learning to love others whether or not they love us back, and even when they hurt us tremendously -- is really the opposite of the pursuit of property. It's a laying down of our own agendas, to help heal hurts that maybe we didn't even cause. Just because the hurts are there, and the people are right in front of us needing our love and acceptance.
And it is a happy feeling to help turn death around and watch someone start living anew.
So we can retaliate by giving back pain for pain, in order to keep our pride and keep standing on our dignity. Or we can lay it down and just decide we're going to be a friend, rather than waiting for the other person to be friends first.
Will, from last night, you are right that I focused on the one comment Adam made where he seemed to me to be twisting the truth. Because I'm hoping it might lead you guys to look at how wrapped up you are getting in all your accusatory lists. When you let yourselves get in the habit of fabricating like this, you may very well find you're more pissed than you need to be, because you start embelleshing every interchange to make it fit with all the pre-assigned motives you've given to everyone.
You cease relating to real people, because you get addicted to the drama of sparring with the villains you've created in your head.
Posted by: Susan | October 21, 2009 at 08:36 AM
Interesting article about anti-evolution group trying to get hold of the minds of college students.
Posted by: Susan | October 21, 2009 at 08:47 AM
Susan Referral (8:47 AM):
"Giberson and others said that part of the reason they can promote more discussion of evolution today is the prominence of Francis Collins. Having the director of the NIH be someone who talks about his own Christianity challenges the idea that there is a clear divide between science and faith. And, indeed, some scientists have expressed discomfort with Collins' faith."
Why do Universities, Colleges and Primary Education, Omit High Tech Colonization in Schools?
Ever since High Tech Science Knowledge was Used to make all our High Tech Conveniences and www.com, and Scientists explored High Tech Colonization, why is it Not included as a Way that Life began on Earth. Look what Humans have done in 100 years.
From ancient writings of Supernatural Acts of God/Us in Genesis Creating Life on Earth and Reproducing Humans 'Supernaturally'?
When the Bible states, A Thousand Years on Earth is as a Day with the Lord, that would make Each Day of Creation/Colonization 6000 years on Earth, not 6 days.
The 1000 years Day of the Lord, could include the Space Travel of God/Us Humans in Genesis.
At least High Tech Science as Humans Know it today, can explain the High Tech Colonization of Earth vs. Evolution.
Unless we find another Way for Life as we Know it to begin in the Universe by GODs Elements, Evolution may be the Way Human Life Evolved up to High Tech.
It is how it happened on Earth, for the Past 100 years. After the High Tech of the Noah/Atlantis Planetary Society, like we are today, was Drowned in the Planetary Flood. A few Humans were Saved on Earth to begin again.
It is fantastic the High Tech Knowledge that is in All Religious Scripture and Myth, with a High Tech Science Translation.
Posted by: Dolores Lear | October 21, 2009 at 09:41 AM
Susan, there were NO fabrications in my list; you are simply trying to evade your buddies vicious, repeated, lies.
And there was NO embellishment...those are ALL things your pals said.
And you know it.
As to the "hassling" remark, my girlfriend said that if a guy likes Iggy asked her about her clothes, she would definiitely consider it HASSLING. LOL!
And I haven't created it in my head. Your buddies have been providing this stuff for years now! And their stated purpose is to bet people to SHUT UP.
Eventually they will realize they have failed.
The fact that you are defending their drooling says more about YOU than me, lady.
Posted by: adam harrison | October 21, 2009 at 10:15 AM
Susan, amusing article about anti-evolution groups trying to get hold of the mnds of college students.
As if atheist groups are trying to get hold to the minds of college students by pretending that Science equals Atheism and pushing Scientism and Reductionism? (You can look those up on your Wikipedia.)
You aren't seriously trying to pretend that your buddies are really about "free"thinking are you? LOL!
Posted by: adam harrison | October 21, 2009 at 10:19 AM
Part of the pursuit of happiness on this blog includes being able to escape libel, defamation of character, invasion of privacy, and cyber harassment. Sometimes people forget that comments in blogs such as this are saved for a long time, and that constitutes publication. So people need to be aware of that in asking "What is the right thing to do?"
The Kansas City Star has a presence is in Missouri. Recent cyber-bulling cases in Missouri make it against the law to reveal private information for no other purpose than to harass, intimidate or to successfully cause real emotional distress. Private information is that which serves no public interest. And when such incidents are repeated, it becomes criminal stalking. Tough laws were enacted in order to stop bullies, who enjoy inflicting emotional harm on others by revealing personal/private information. Such laws arose because of public outrage over a prominent suicide.
Bloggers here are treated much like the press. Kansas has criminal defamation laws. A reporter in Kansas was sentenced to a couple of years in prison for defaming a political candidate, even after a retraction, for falsely claiming that they did not live in the proper district!!! Accusing and/or insinuating mental illness is libelous if it cannot be proven, and even if it can be proven, it can still qualify as defamation of character because it is information that is rarely of public concern and, therefore, rarely serves any public purpose. So it can be defamation, even if TRUE. Such accusations go well beyond reasonable debate 'tactics.'
We should each police ourselves in regard to appropriate blogging, and we should help our neighbor when they wander into dangerous territory, too, so that they don't wander over the line. It's good sense, it's good etiquette, and it's the right thing to do.
Posted by: Just Thinking | October 21, 2009 at 10:20 AM
Will wrote: "But the larger problem is the attack on Judaism that this implies; the charges are a misrepresentation of the Old Testament."
I wasn't attacking Judaism as it is practiced now -- note I was referring only to the specific descriptions of God listed in the Old Testament -- which are NOT the entire structure of modern Judaism. There has been a lot of rabbinical teaching and exposition on the import of the Torah, such that for most Jews (except the uber-conservative ones), the tales told in the Torah are not necessarily literal, but simply stories to provide guidance and teaching.
Will wrote: "but since we know Chuck and his buddies think the Old Testament is fiction, and since it was written by Jews, you have the argument used by Nietzsche and others that the JEWS have foisted a massive fraud on mankind. (In fact, that is what Hitler's favorite philosopher, Nietzsche, wrote in The AntiChrist)"
1. Even if it is fiction, there can be many good moral/ethical teachings from it. But the God as depicted in the Old Testament doesn't show much of that.
2. What I wrote has nothing to do with modern Judaism or their interpretation and explanation of the Torah.
3. Hitler was also used Martin Luther to justify his atrocities against the Jews. Gee, you know -- the same Martin Luther who started the whole Protestant movement (of which you happen to be part of).
Will wrote: "I mean, what kind of people would support such a religion based on such things?"
Yeah, I agree. Anyone who thinks the Bible is 100% literally true and infalliable is an ignorant fool. Good thing the vast majority of Christians and Jews don't. What about you?
Posted by: Chuck Lunney | October 21, 2009 at 12:56 PM
Will wrote: "A particulary vicious post at 9:59 am yesterday compared the God of the Old Testament to Saddam Hussein."
What was "viscious" about it? Just because you personally don't like the comparison doesn't mean it's invalid.
Will wrote: "So, after elaborating on how bad Mr. Hussein was, I suppose Mr. Lunney fully supported Mr. Bush's invasion of Iraq."
Ummm, no. I've written previously about the Iraq invasion and the lack of planning, justification and support it was given by Bush & Co. Saddam Hussein was a ruthless, arrogant, petty, manipulative, lying dictator who did everything he could to subjugate his people, eliminate opposition and maintain power for over 30 years. But none of that was enough justification for a pre-emptive full-scale attack.
Yet the comparison to the Old Testament God is apt, in my opinion -- both ordered followers to commit genocide. Both used intimidation, force and violence to maintain control over their rule. Both endorsed rape and murder to indimidate and subjugate people. Both considered their rule absolute and any dissent was considered a direct challenge to their authority (and ruthlessly quashed).
The main difference, as I see it, is that Saddam Hussein at least had the excuse of being a falliable human. God gets no such pass, if one takes the Bible as a literal description of history.
Of course, to be able to make such a comparison you have to have read the Bible for comprehension.
Posted by: Chuck Lunney | October 21, 2009 at 12:59 PM
JT wrote: "We should each police ourselves in regard to appropriate blogging, and we should help our neighbor when they wander into dangerous territory, too, so that they don't wander over the line. It's good sense, it's good etiquette, and it's the right thing to do."
A very sensible, reasonable and judicious post. Thank you.
Now, are you going to apply that standard to both sides, or continue to only beat it over the head of the atheists? I expect you to not be hypocritical in your condemnation of offensive, impolite and defaming comments.
As you say -- it's the right thing to do.
Posted by: Chuck Lunney | October 21, 2009 at 01:02 PM
"Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear." --Thomas Jefferson
Is there any chance Will, Adam, JT, Trapblock or any other Christian here who would accept/agree with President Jefferson? Have you ever, even once, questioned the very existence of God? Do you use critical thinking, reason and strict questioning when examining the claims of your religion?
Do you agree with the last statment about which one Jefferson thinks God would approve of more?
Posted by: Chuck Lunney | October 21, 2009 at 01:18 PM
"Well, the point is that, as the author of the book of Ecclesiastes wrote long ago, there is nothing new under the sun.'
Earth Under the Sun, had High Tech God/Us Humans in our Image, in Genesis. They Colonized Earth, and traveled in Spaceships. They also Reproduced Purebred Human Females, from the Male Rib, in their Image.
So Far Today, our High Tech Science Knows how to Colonize a Planet, but do not have the High Tech Equipment to do it, even though we have Infant Spaceships.
Humans do Reproduced Human 'fetus' in the Lab. Still under our Sun, is Reproducing the High Tech Womb to finish reproducing Humans, in the Lab.
Humans again have had High Tech Science, the past 100 years, 12,000 years After Colonization, or millions of years after Evolution.
Nothing can Keep Humans from Reproducing Human Fetus' in the Lab, but Religious Complaints did Stop Humans, from Reproducing Humans in the Lab.
So Humans Reproduced, Toxic Pollution that Cannot be destroyed, and Nuclear Bombs that can Kill All Life on Earth and our Home Planet.
If Humans can Reproduce Nuclear Bombs, they can Reproduce a High Tech Womb for Perfect Humans, with High Tech Science Eternal Life After Birth.
Instead, Misbred Genetic and Physical Body Birth Children began Generation Birth, Death, and Rebirth on Earth, with Hate, Greed, Inequality, Killing Each Other, and War.
Ecclesiastes 1: 9, 18. KJV. "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. - For in much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow."
Humans with High Tech Increased Knowledge, increase Sorrow on Earth, with Greed, Capitalism, and with Atom and Nuclear Bombs and Pollution.
Posted by: Dolores Lear | October 21, 2009 at 01:22 PM
Are you being intimidated, bullied, libeled, threatened, or having your privacy invaded, Chuck? If that's the way it looks to you, then say something, and many of us will chime in. Most of the rest of the senseless chatter I ignore and read past. Most of it is just harmless, on all sides. And some people's posts are so riddled with such things, that you could waste your whole life trying to deal with everything they write. I usually only scan those posts--it doesn't pay to read them.
When it wanders toward the line, then somebody could get themselves into trouble. And, honestly, we don't want that here. Those lines are there for a reason: when people start creeping up on those lines, then tempers flare and people get upset, and the next thing you know it's a problem that's out-of-control. That's why those lines are there. Those lines implement rules of common decency and observing those lines keeps everyone out of bar fights. Good neighbors watch out for each other that way.
We all need to be asking, "What is the right thing to do?" instead of "How can I get my way and please myself?" And that should be independent of what others do or do not do. When we start to justify bad behavior based on behavior that we don't like, then we're just as guilty as anyone else.
If there are specific things that you think others here to correct, then, by all means, address those specific actions. I'm sure that many others will speak up. It's not up to me any more than it's up to you or anyone else. But it is up to *each* of us to watch each other's backs. That's definitely part of being good neighbors.
Posted by: Just Thinking | October 21, 2009 at 01:51 PM
Bill quoted from Ecclesiastes. I think that if someone has not read Ecclesiastes, they would find it fascinating.
What I've quoted points out the futility of human effort, but points to the necessity of toil anyway, which also relates to original sin, too, because we are destined to toil all the days of our lives, until we return to the dust. God created thistles and thorns, and every other kind of obstruction to everlasting life on this planet or in this Universe. That was part of the judgment against us. Ecclesiastes points how we better learn to accept and like futile toil, because we're stuck with it.
"So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless."
"A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work."
Posted by: Just Thinking | October 21, 2009 at 04:47 PM
Just Thinking, I think it's wonderful that you've made this resolution to start policing your posts. I agree that we all should follow suit.
And I will state here that whatever derogatory things people have said about me, I am willing to let it go and move on from here. None of you need ever worry about any possible lawsuit coming from me. And if I crawl under a rock and die, it is my own fault and shame on me!
I hope this sets everyone's minds at ease ... anyone who has bad-mouthed me can just relax and enjoy being a forgiven soul, loved by God and welcomed by me to keep sharing in this wonderful world.
Posted by: Susan | October 21, 2009 at 07:09 PM
Chuck, just to get this straight...you believe the Jews of the Old Testament were genocidal war criminals.
And the fact that they were a former slave people fighting for survival is irrelevant.
So, you agree with the approach they took in World War Two, where did not fight, and Six Million were slaughtered?
You can't have in both ways in the constext of the historical situation.
BY THE WAY, as to your hero Thomas Jefferson...he was a slave holder who not only had plenty of slaves but he had plenty of sex with them too.
Where did his glorification of reason fit in there?
And as to JUST THINKING beating atheists over the head, THE ATHEISTS ARE THE ONLY ONES HERE WHO HAVE THREATEND ANYONE.
AND THE ONLY ONES WHO HAVE BRAGGED ABOUT THE GUNS THEY OWN.
Posted by: adam harrison | October 21, 2009 at 07:17 PM
That's good, Susan, that you're agreeing to police your own posts. Yes, we should police our own posts. And, as I said, we should all watch the backs of each other. If anyone starts drifting into dangerous territory toward defamation, libel, threats, cyberbullying, harassment, or invasion of privacy, then it's our duty to correct them *before* they cross any line. I hope we can count on you to help in correcting those who so wander. We don't want a friendly blog turning sour for anyone. Nobody wants to see lawsuits or legal action, and it's easier to steer things before it builds to that point. Don't you agree?
It's a little like trying to convince a friend to hand over their car keys if they've had too much to drink. That's being a good neighbor. A lousy neighbor is afraid to speak up, and waits until the person gets in their car and then calls the police, or does nothing at all to deal with recklessness that could easily endanger the driver or others, because they're afraid to speak up. That's the case of a lousy neighbor.
Let's be good neighbors to each other. Minor junk shouldn't be a big deal. Reasonable neighborhoods can still ENJOY noisy playing children, busy-bodies, obnoxious types, troubled types, kind people, helpful types, etc. It's all good. But neighbors should try to get along without screaming, threatening, throwing punches or ending up in court. Who needs that?
Posted by: Just Thinking | October 21, 2009 at 09:36 PM
Adam wrote: "Chuck, just to get this straight...you believe the Jews of the Old Testament were genocidal war criminals. Right? And the fact that they were a former slave people fighting for survival is irrelevant. Correct?"
No. Try reading for comprehension next time. I wasn't talking about the PEOPLE, just the description of God. The ancient Jews were no more violent, genocidal, or otherwise different from any other culture of the time. Standards, ethics and morality change over time, and like most groups, the Jewish people have kept pace.
God, however, is supposed to be unchanging and immutable - so a description of God from 3500 years ago shouldn't be any different from what God is today.
Adam wrote: "So, you agree with the approach they took in World War Two, where did not fight, and Six Million were slaughtered?"
Considering I wasn't even talking about the PEOPLE who wrote the bible, but the Deity described therein, it doesn't matter a whit. Get it through your head -- I'm comparing God and Saddam. If the ancient Jews fit into the analogy anywhere, they would be comparable to the Iraqi people.
Adam wrote: "You can't have in both ways in the constext of the historical situation."
Well, if you actually read what I wrote with comprehension and understanding of the analogy in mind, you might actually figure out the intent. As it stands, you're so focused on finding anti-semitism in every little thing, you can't figure out what to do when none actually exists in an argument.
Posted by: Chuck Lunney | October 21, 2009 at 10:48 PM