natural theology

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volume II: Synopsis

page 2:

Compassion

From the evolutionary point of view, a good religion is one that looks after its adherents. It is not surprising that the traditional religions place strong emphasis on compassion, the feeling that a caring parent has for a child in difficulties. Compassion is the human answer to the hardships imposed upon us by the evolutionary process.

Science shows us quite clearly that the world came to be as it is by a process of evolution. Evolution happens whenever there are more possibilities than can be realized with the available resources. The resulting competition for resources selects from among the possibilities those best adapted to realizing themselves. Evolution - Wikipedia

When resources are scarce, starvation becomes a possibility. Life becomes difficult when we are starved of food, shelter, companionship, and any of the other inputs we need for a good life. Further, the evolutionary paradigm almost guarantees that there will be hard times. Our ability to reproduce exponentially will eventually bring our population up to the carrying capacity of our environment.

In a world of many religions, however, compassion for the members of one's own religion frequently comes at the cost of enmity toward members of other religions. Thus it seems that most wars have a religious element, one religious group trying to increases its population and the expense of others. Religious war - Wikipedia

One of the most important works of love and compassion is to bring peace. If conflict between religions is a source of war, the source of peace must be religious compatibility. If we seek global peace, we must seek a consistent foundation for all the world's religions so that our compassion can extend to everyone, not just the members of our own church, village or nation.

Although one may feel compassionate toward a person in pain, the feeling is not much help unless one has the resources to relieve the pain. A compassionate religion directs the rich to help the poor. We see a clear failure of religion in those cases where the rich not only become wealthy at the expense of the poor but resist any pressure to share their wealth. The result of such failure is ultimately revolution, war and a significant increase in suffering,

Wealthy people who deny the need for compassion generally argue that they have earned their wealth, it is theirs, they deserve it and the poor have no claim on it. They may go further and argue that the poverty of the poor is their own problem and oppose such compassionate measures as higher taxation to support social welfare. The religious rich may further argue that things are as God made them, and there is nothing to be done.

It is a fact of life that many great fortunes are accumulated by violence and corruption, but natural theology suggests that even those in possession of honestly acquired wealth have no grounds to deny the role of compassion in human society. Compassion is a necessary virtue if we are to enjoy long term survival in peace. In a divine Universe, life is to a large extent what we make it and we cannot pass off responsibility for our welfare to an invisible God.

The world is one, and the networked nature of the global system guarantees that local and global events are closely coupled. We see evidence for this in climate change and the enormous ramifications of the global financial crisis brought on by the irresponsible practices of unregulated financial institutions. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, United States Senate, Late-2000s financial crisis - Wikipedia, Climate change - Wikipedia

We relate compassion to peace and survival through Shannon's work on communication. Compassion motivates cooperation. Cooperation creates 'headroom', that is profit, a surplus of resources. Headroom, in its turn enables us to eliminate the errors that appear in human space such as hatred, pain, hunger, disease, war, loneliness and so on. Shannon

A good religion brings our behaviour into profitable harmony with our environment. On the assumption that we and our environments are divine, this is tantamount to becoming aware of and respecting the will of God. There is no doubt that the resources of the planet can support us all in comfort if they are properly used and not destroyed.

The good news from natural religion is that one can do anything with sufficient energy and information. The solar energy falling on the developed parts of our planet exceeds our current energy consumption by a huge factor. There is no limit to the ingenuity that can be brought to bear on internalizing all our impacts so that we minimize our impact on the earth and each other.

It all depends on cooperation. To cooperate effectively, we need a shared plan, a global religion broad enough to accept everyone, excluding only behaviour which is demonstrably dangerous to public health. A compassionate religion, with firm boundaries scientifically rooted in reality.

The aim of this site is to develop the theological foundations for such a religion, one that embraces global compassion.

(Revised 26 March 2013)

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Further reading

Books

Click on the "Amazon" link below each book entry to see details of a book (and possibly buy it!)

Dalenoort, G J, The Paradigm of Self-Organisation: Current Trends in Self Organisation, Gordon and Breach 1989 Jacket: 'This volume discusses the principles and mechanisms of self-organisation in a range of processes and disciplines, providing a unique and characteristic multidisciplinary approach. 
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Damasio, Antonio, Descartes Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain, Avon Books 1995 Amazon Customer Review: 'Ever since the Renaissance roughly two different camps have existed. One (still the predominant paradigm today) is the rationalistic school represented by Descartes et al., the other represented by Hume, Rousseau et al. The latter group postulated a great many things about how emotions and feelings were important, but no proof could be produced at the time. With Antonio Damasio's book, however, we finally have the proof we have waited 400 years for! Emotions are indeed important, and the body and mind are not seperate entities but rather a united whole. This is not just a philosophical matter now, but a scientific theory corroborated by clinical evidence. Damasio even describes accurately just how these emotions and feelings influence and guide us. ... ' Jesper, 
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Miles, Jack, God : A Biography, Vintage Books 1996 Jacket: 'Jack Miles's remarkable work examines the hero of the Old Testament ... from his first appearance as Creator to his last as Ancient of Days. ... We see God torn by conflicting urges. To his own sorrow, he is by turns destructive and creative, vain and modest, subtle and naive, ruthless and tender, lawful and lawless, powerful yet powerless, omniscient and blind.' 
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Reynolds, Vernon, and Ralph Tanner, The Social Ecology of Religion, Oxford University Press 1995 Jacket: 'No society exists in which religion does not play a significant part in the lives of ordinary people. Yet the functions of the world's diverse religions have never been fully described and analyzed, nor has the impact of adherence to those religions on the health and survival of the populations that practice them. . . . this extraordinary text reveals how religions in all parts of the world meet the needs of ordinary people and frequently play an important part in helping them to manage their affairs.' 
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Runge, C Ford, and Benjamin Senauer, Philip G Pardey, Mark W Rosegrant, Ending Hunger in Our Lifetime: Food Security and Globalization, International Food Policy Research Insitute 2003 Amazon product description: 'At a time in history when conflict erupts daily in far-flung corners of the world, ending severe deprivation may be critical to global peace and stability. Yet we are far from reaching the goal of reducing hunger by 2025. The authors of this book bring good news: hunger can be banished in our lifetime. They first distill what is already known about fighting hunger and then report on important new research findings and projections that show it can be done, through new and renewed institutions, scientific innovation, global economics and investment, and sustainable environmental practices. Although the book encompasses a wide array of ideas, arguments, facts, and figures, it is not a dry, academic text. Anyone wanting a better understanding of poverty and hunger and how to end it will benefit from reading it. The text is strikingly illustrated with photographs by the renowned Brazilian photographer, Sebastião Salgado. 
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The Dalai Lama, An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life, Little, Brown 2001 Amazon product description: 'Compassion - sympathy for the suffering of others and the desire to free them from it—is wrestled with in all spiritual traditions. Yet how does one actually become a compassionate person? What are the mechanisms by which a selfish heart is transformed into a generous heart? When His Holiness the Dalai Lama came to New York City in 1999, he spoke simply and powerfully on the everyday Buddhist practice of compassion. Weaving together the contents of three sacred texts-- one by the eighth-century Indian master Kamalashila, another by the fourteenth-century Tibetan Togmay Sangpo, and a third by the eleventh-century sage Langri Tangpa--His Holiness showed that the path to compassion is a series of meditations. An Open Heart lays out this course of meditation, from the simplest to the most challenging, describing the mental training techniques that will enable anyone of any faith to change their minds and open their hearts. In this book the path begins with simple and clear ruminations on the advantages of a virtuous life and moves on to practices that can temper destructive and impulsive emotions. Such practices can be undertaken at odd moments of the day, at once transforming the aimless or anxious mind into a disciplined and open mind. Gradually, the book introduces the more challenging and sustained meditation practices. In these meditations the deepest and most profound insights of Buddhist practice become part of one's way of knowing and experiencing the world. An Open Heart is a clear and simple introduction to the Buddhist path to enlightenment, by its greatest teacher, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. 
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Links
Charter for Compassion Charter for Compassion 'The Charter for Compassion is a document that transcends religious, ideological, and national differences. Supported by leading thinkers from many traditions, the Charter activates the Golden Rule around the world.' back
Climate change - Wikipedia Climate change - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 'The most general definition of climate change is a change in the statistical properties of the climate system when considered over long periods of time, regardless of cause. Accordingly, fluctuations over periods shorter than a few decades, such as El Niño, do not represent climate change. The term sometimes is used to refer specifically to climate change caused by human activity, as opposed to changes in climate that may have resulted as part of Earth's natural processes. In this latter sense, used especially in the context of environmental policy, the term climate change today is synonymous with anthropogenic global warming. Within scientific journals, however, global warming refers to surface temperature increases, while climate change includes global warming and everything else that increasing greenhouse gas amounts will affect.' back
Evolution - Wikipedia Evolution - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia '. . . Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace were the first to formulate a scientific argument for the theory of evolution by means of natural selection. Evolution by natural selection is a process that is inferred from three facts about populations: 1) more offspring are produced than can possibly survive, 2) traits vary among individuals, leading to different rates of survival and reproduction, and 3) trait differences are heritable. . . . ' back
IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 'The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been established by WMO [World Meteorological Organization. www.wmo.ch] and UNEP [United Nations Environment Program, www.unep.org] to assess scientific, technical and socio- economic information relevant for the understanding of climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. It is open to all Members of the UN and of WMO.' back
Late-2000s financial crisis - Wikipedia Late-2000s financial crisis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 'The late-2000s financial crisis (often called the Global Recession, Global Financial Crisis or the Credit Crunch) is considered by many economists to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. . . . The financial crisis was triggered by a complex interplay of valuation and liquidity problems in the United States banking system in 2008.' back
Religious war - Wikipedia Religious war - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 'A religious war (Latin: bellum sacrum) is a war caused by, or justified by, religious differences. It can involve one state with an established religion against another state with a different religion or a different sect within the same religion, or a religiously motivated group attempting to spread its faith by violence, or to suppress another group because of its religious beliefs or practices. The Muslim conquests, the Crusades, the Reconquista, and the French Wars of Religion are frequently cited historical examples.' back
United States Senate Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: Anatomy of a Financial Collapse 'In the fall of 2008, America suffered a devastating economic collapse. Once valuable securities lost most or all of their value, debt markets froze, stock markets plunged, and storied inancial firms went under. Millions of Americans lost their jobs; millions of families lost their homes; and good businesses shut down. These events cast the United States into an economic recession so deep that the country has yet to fully recover. This Report is the product of a two-year, bipartisan investigation by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations into the origins of the 2008 financial crisis. The goals of this investigation were to construct a public record of the facts in order to deepen the understanding of what happened; identify some of the root causes of the crisis; and provide a factual foundation for the ongoing effort to fortify the country against the recurrence of a similar crisis in the future.' back

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