"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction." ~ Blaise Pascal
God and Faith Are Not Incompatible With Individual Liberty
Exclusive to STR
February 21, 2007
In his column Dueling Dogmas, Emiliano Antunez warns Cubans not to choose Christianity as an alternative dogma to their present Communist rule. He proceeds to make a number of casual assumptions, prejudices, generalizations, scriptural errors, contextual misinterpretations, and stereotypical crudities to make his argument.
Mr. Antunez claims that it is 'dementia' to think that thousands of (or apparently even one) Cuban(s) have left the island to be free to practice their Christian faith. He instead makes an absolute claim that Cubans are instead leaving the island solely for economic reasons. How does he knows this? Has he interviewed all Cubans who have escaped? He certainly offers no data to back up these claims. Should the reader just have a 'blind adherence to faith' that his statements are accurate? Is he not making the same sort of sweeping statement to make his argument that Maria Anastasia O'Grady used to make her contrary argument? Mr. Antunez apparently did not think it worth the effort to link Ms. O'Grady's commentary, so I will.
In a futile attempt to slam Christian ethics, Mr. Antunez makes this statement: 'The Christian faithful are asked to deny themselves earthly pleasures in the promise that these sacrifices will win them eternal bliss in heaven.' This idea is completely false and I challenge the author to prove that Christ made any such demand. Experiencing earthly pleasures does not separate one from God--after all, he created those wonders. What is discouraged is loving those material pleasures more than the spiritual joy of knowing God and his love. Eternal life in heaven is not contingent upon earthly abstinence from fun and pleasure but on the individual's acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (John 3:16). This misstatement reveals an ignorance of basic Christianity.
Mr. Antunez makes a ludicrous comparison, claiming communist re-education and repentance to God are identical. Re-education is a tyrannical, institutional attempt to redefine knowledge, truth, and even the spiritual life within the mind of an individual. Of course, this is only successful if the abused individual accepts such an effort. Repentance is requesting forgiveness for transgressions against God and the strength to avoid such self-perceived sin in the future (2 COR:10; 2TIM 2:25). The use of repentance as a tool of self-discipline is discussed here.
Mr. Antunez makes the claim that 'communist and Christian dogma make the present so bland, boring and hopeless, both systems pin their victims' hopes on the future.' Institutionalized, state-enforced Communist dogma certainly creates a bland, boring present and hopeless future. The present, earthly life of an individual following the Christian ethic consists of loving God, his neighbor and himself. Spending your earthly life in these pursuits brings a joyful adventure and liberation of the spirit. Look at, listen to, and read Christian influenced art, music and literature produced the last two thousand years. Is it not full of enlightening beauty and inspiration? Certainly, it does not reflect the dire, dull existence Mr. Antunez subscribes to Christians.
'From each according to his ability, to each according to his need' is commonly and erroneously linked to Christ's 'alleged' call for compassion to the materially needy. Perhaps, those who Mr. Antunez describes as 'unworthy and ungrateful' should be ground into fertilizer like so many worthless eaters rather than treated with love and mercy--despite their failings. 'Blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy (MAT 5:7)'. What attitude does the reader feel more conducive to living in a future stateless society--treat others as you would want them to treat you or brutal neglect and banishment of those who have fallen? The Beatles provided a more modern take: 'The love you take is equal to the love you make.'
Connecting 'From each according to his ability, etc.' to Christian ethic is additionally fallacious in that Christ's call to help the needy can only be realized by voluntary acceptance of that ethic. However, the Marxist creed must employ state or institutionally enforced redistribution. One doctrine is accomplished through voluntary compliance, the other by thugs with guns.
Mr. Antunez then employs a real stretch of logic in connecting the Marxist slogan for state-enforced wealth redistribution to Christ's claim of, 'Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (MAT5:5).' The term 'meek' has absolutely nothing to do with an individual's earthly wealth. Being meek is living in a spirit of patience and humility. This allows one to relax in God's unconditional love unto which everyone is invited and universally accepted. This gift adds to one's spiritual wealth, not one's material well being.
Let's move on to, 'It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (MAT19:24).' This does not suggest that wealthy people cannot go to heaven, as a discussion of the scripture's context will show. The culture of Jesus' disciples looked upon material wealth as a sign of God's favor, and therefore, those blessed in this way were considered righteous. This is why the disciples (a materially poor lot) were astonished and asked, 'Who then can be saved (MAT 19:25)?' Jesus was referring to the spiritual state of the rich and the likely possibility that the temptations of wealth, coupled with the love of money (1TIM6:10), might separate them from God and take His place in the human heart. Wealth can certainly be a powerful distraction to all important spiritual matters. Jesus condemns those who are attached to the goods of this earth--not the fact that they possess them.
This view is confirmed when Jesus responds, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." This gives rich men hope as long as they recognize that they cannot be saved strictly through wealth, merit, or deeds, i.e, 'with man.' Salvation is possible only though God's grace, not through one's works.
Mr. Antunez seems distressed that murder victims of Guevara and Castro would scream, 'Long live Christ the King, down with communism!" immediately prior to their execution. Their brave resistance is apparently irrelevant to the author. He appears more disturbed by their loyalty to a 'dogma' rather than a fierce resistance to tyranny. He appears equally distressed that the condemned used their rock solid faith to vilify their opponents. Perhaps they should have been more polite before having a bullet pass through their skull. Perhaps the victims should have quietly acquiesced to their execution by remaining silent. Then their murder would have been more acceptable to Mr. Antunez. He should be pleased that individuals noisily rejected their fate at the hands of murdering hoodlums. It should be irrelevant to Mr. Antunez that these victims raised the name of Christ in the moments preceding their deaths. If they had screamed, 'All praises to MungaBunga,' or any such nonsense, it certainly would have been more impressive than whimpering submission. What business is it of Mr. Antunez that these individuals resisted with their spiritual strength? The important fact is that they did resist and they resisted with the only power they had left--their faith. Their act does not 'verify the existence of God' or anything else. It is certainly admirable for someone to rebel against an illegitimate, tyrannical authority that does not respect individual liberty. This should be something to celebrate, not jeer. Jesus never "asks for the ultimate sacrifice." Those who choose this fate do so freely, as they have freely accepted Christ into their lives (REV 3:20). Only institutional dogmas and power-mad, state despots make such a demand.
The author takes Jesus to task for allegedly destroying private property at a Jerusalem market place (the Cleansing of the Temple). One important detail lacking here is that this 'market place' was not on private property but in the court of the temple. This event occurred just before Passover, and Jesus disrupted the buying and selling of animals used for sacrifice, a practice he thoroughly denounced. Being a rabbi, Jesus certainly had the authority to make such a claim on temple property. In all four gospel accounts of this event (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), those who provided the animals for sacrifice were the primary focus of Christ's outrage. Jesus (as well as Jeremiah, six hundred years earlier) accused those at the Temple of making God's house into a "den of robbers." The Hebrew word that was translated to 'robbers' is 'priyts' (per-eets'), defined as "violent, i.e., a tyrant--destroyer, ravenous, robber." Jesus and Jeremiah were condemning the killing of innocent victims during the process of sacrificial religion. Jesus also threw out the money changers for being part of the operation. Understanding the purpose of these money changers will identify their business as an early version of the Federal Reserve. Mr. Antunez should therefore applaud Jesus' act and praise him for protesting a plank of the future Communist Manifesto.
Armed with scriptural ignorance, Mr. Antunez claims it is doubtful that Christ's resurrection occurred, though he offers no reasons why. Perhaps he should take some time to examine the evidence that such an event did occur.
He also describes it as ironic that, 'if Castro were to ask God for forgiveness and accept Jesus as his savior, even just moments before his death, he would enjoy eternity in heaven.' Why is this ironic? Communism offers no such grace, but Mr. Antunez insists on a relationship between it and Christianity.
Since the author is describing events that occurred in Cuba, I will safely assume that the 'Christianity' Mr. Antunez refers to is, in reality, Catholicism--the most prevalent religion in that country. Catholicism, in fact, is not pure Christianity. It is more a sect of idol worship whose dogma claims "church" (meaning institutional) power over others while claiming itself a gate keeper to God's forgiveness. Protestant denominations share many of these same failings as well. Please note: When Christ said, 'No one comes to the Father but through me (JN14:6),' he means just that, HIM--not some self-appointed, proxy, snake handling imposter. It appears that a large number of atheists became so after being raised Catholic. Perhaps that is Mr. Antunez' experience. I can't say I blame them after suffering such lies and abuse. Christianity is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, requiring no membership to any institutional hierarchy created by man.
Christianity or any other faith (including atheism) is nothing more than personal conscience that guides an individual's behavior. Being part of an individual's conscience, religion gives an individual absolutely no power over others (Satanists may disagree). Only the state has that power in this day and age. Mr. Antunez seems to fear that Cuba might become a "Christian" state by becoming allied with the pseudo-Christian Catholic church. Being that the Catholic church is not Christian, this fear is, by definition, baseless. Even if it was Christian, name one country in the world that has a "Christian state" controlled by an institutional Christian church. Some may argue that the US government is Christian, but how can an organization that steals, kills, and tortures claim itself 'Christian?' The American state is an amoral, secular institution that hijacks the 'Christian' label to pacify those it rules. The state, as a rule, can never be honestly described as 'Christian' because a true Christian's loyalty is to God, never to the state. Condemning Christians for the actions of a falsely labeled 'Christian' state is as irresponsible as condemning all atheists for the actions of a materialistic, Communist state. Condemning Christians in general for the actions of a few, twisted, self-described believers is as irresponsible as condemning all Muslims or atheists for the actions of a small, depraved minority. Condemning Christians for the actions of so-called 'Christian' institutions they have no control over is equivalent to condemning the entire, enslaved populace of a country for the actions of the ruling state that claims to represent them.
The 'dogma' to fear is not Christianity but pseudo-Christianity. Again, Christianity is a personal relationship between an individual and Jesus Christ. That relationship implies no collective responsibilities beyond recognizing the body of fellow believers, not the earthly, state-abiding institutions that some insist on constructing. Key components of the Christians faith include individual responsibility, self reliance and treating others with kindness and respect (The Golden Rule).
Religious doctrine, in and of itself, has no collective power over others. It has no armies or thugs with guns to enforce its edicts. An individual needs no state or private security apparatus to defend himself from such doctrine if it is intellectually or morally disagreeable, but merely the use of his God-given reason and self-education. The state, however, is a secular/godless construct only attractive to those with no moral conscience. It is an instrument of force, legitimized by fraudulent doctrine and promises, and used to control others by force rather than honest, forthright, peaceful persuasion.
Atheists are continually frustrated by their lack of success in converting others to their way of thinking. This should not be surprising when they collectively attack Christian institutions and Christian morality as one and the same. This offends the thinking, 'church-less' Christian and only alienates the institutional Christian whose loyalty resides with his institution, not the word of Christ. Using atheist evangelism to spread the cause of liberty will not be effective. God-centered people will not accept the premise (and rightly so) that their God-centered spiritual life must change in order to live as free individuals.
Atheist author Sam Harris has written: "I hope to show that the very idea of religious tolerance--born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God--is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss." This is the same ignorant, intolerant, anti-religious, anti-individual freedom attitude that inspire and attract those who subscribe to the idea of a secular/materialist state! Knowing this, perhaps Mr. Antunez should fear his fellow atheists more than non-institutional Christians.
Free individuals need only be accountable for their actions and behavior. What comprises a person's conscience is no one's business--a claim that is consistent with libertarian philosophy. Institutional church dogma should be rightly criticized for the enslaving mechanism that it is. However, even if an individual does choose this dogma to formulate his conscience, how is that anyone's business? What matters is how that person treats others and their property. What comprises an individual's conscience, whether that conscience is based on naturalistic explanations or faith in the unseen is, frankly, no one else's concern. Finding freedom in an un-free world requires a stout, resolute mind and spirit. If religious faith is a key component strengthening an individual's mind and spirit, so be it. If that faith is Biblical Christianity, a faith synonymous with resistance to tyranny, even better.
I may sound harsh in my criticism of Mr. Antunez' piece, but I felt these corrections needed to be made. In the past, the author has proven to be a friend of individual liberty. However, those not aware of this fact may conclude, by reading his harangue, that he is just another religion-hating bigot.