simple division

simple division cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

Some of you might have noticed the posts on Twitter, Google+, Linkedin and Facebook last night concerning a post about me over at Friendly Atheist. I want to be clear: Hemant Mehta and I are friends. His post about me is fair and playful. But the ensuing comments make something even more obvious to me, and it is this…

The urgency our minds have to label things is what is causing the problems of this world. The division in the world is birthed out of the division in our own minds. Until we realize this we will continue destroying each other and this earth.

I’ll write in more detail on this tonight. Stay tuned.

Do you want the original drawing? Or you can just buy a print of this cartoon.

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  • Jeff Shurow

    AMEN! That is truth.

  • Jacquie

    I’m with you, David, and with Jeff too. I’m thinking your words are very applicable to a lot of the prejudice we see around us too (GLBT as an example). More to come tonight you say? I’ll be watching out for it 🙂

  • One of your best, so simple and so true. Funny how the universe keeps repeating itself into higher and higher systems of complexity…bought the print.

  • Dennis N

    So true, David. Our very human nature of development includes ‘labeling’ things – that is how we learn. However, as we get older, that labeling process becomes somehow, corrupted – leading to all sorts of bad things, bad thinking and false truths.

  • I didn’t know I was an Atheist until I came back to the USA from 12 years in Asia where Asians did not care what I believed. Here, Christians told me what I should believe and the eternal consequences for not believing what they believed and told me I was an Atheist.

    Then Christians’ kids told my kids that they were Atheists and that they were going to Hell and so I started blogging. Christians turned me into a proclaiming Atheist.


    When the Friendly Atheist wroted, “I need a Label for you” , I hope that was tongue in cheek.

    Thanx for directing us to his post.

    I agree with those objecting to the philosophical nuances your quote saying:

    Some atheists are the best Christians I know.

    But I figured that you were using it to soften Christian bigots using their own jargon, so I didn’t care — I know you don’t think about people the way the critics worried you may.

    Concerning commentors trying to handle being both Atheist and Christian:

    Some atheist commentors were fine with you being ambiguous (count me amongst them), some felt it an ugly contradiction (well, it is a bit slippery – but who cares), some identified with you and supported you, and some were vehemently opposed to you.

    Congrads, you hit the whole spectrum.

    It was funny to read those comments.

    My feel: the tension you are causing is good for both side. Keep up the fine work!!

  • PS — And don’t let the negative comments weigh you down. They are just Atheists afterall!
    (just kidding) 🙂

  • It’s the labels that make me crazy and why I find I can’t talk to many people who define themselves by a label or group. I understand the need or desire to apply labels for the sake of organizing thought, but I have to leave that to others as it is no longer something I’m interested in. Is there the possibility of being too open? Maybe. But that’s where I am right now – a walking contradiction. If that makes people uncomfortable, *shrugs shoulders.*

  • Gary

    I hate labels David and I think you know this about me. However I am forced to agree with some of the commentors there. I believe Christian and atheist are mutually exclusive concepts.

  • Syncretism has always made sense to me. Christian/atheist syncretism is just another example. You’re running into the problem that syncretists always do — both of the “syncretized” belief systems include a purist tradition that objects to polluting their Truth with anything from any other source.

    I think it comes from a natural desire to want simple, straightforward answers to complex questions. Me, I’m suspicious of simple answers.

  • Thinking a bit more on this, I think labels can be very helpful and useful. But like any tool, we can forget their constructive use and instead use them to coerce or harm others.

    I am working hard to teach my children critical thinking and this includes understanding the use and limitations of categories. We certainly don’t want to say “Labels are stupid” for as Jenny said above, “it comes from a natural desire to want simple, straightforward answers to complex questions.”

  • @ Gary ,
    Challenging David, you said,

    I believe Christian and atheist are mutually exclusive concepts.

    You are of course right from perspective. But I think there are a few important caveats (among several) that help David rightfully avoid that chiding:

    (1) Terms have uses that vary between users. Terms are not fixed by dictionaries. Term are political in nature and meant to influence others — we call it “communication”. So depending how they are defined and used, they usually exclusive but some (as we have been shown) use the terms differently. There is no fixed definition — there are only people who try to fix definitions. History shows us language continually changes.

    (2) People have multiple selves and partitioned aspects of themselves. Many times the different selves (or different personas) have different purposes and thus they could be two apparently contrary things at once. And thus they could use both words fairly accurately and still apply to themselves.

    Many people would disagree with #1 & #2. But I think those points are often why disagreement happens, not because there is some truth about the actual terms.

  • carol

    You got it, David!

    When we stopped teaching the contemplative mind in a systematic way about 400 to 500 years ago, we lost the capacity to deal with paradox,
    inconsistency, and human imperfection. Instead, it became “winners take all” and losers lose all. Despite all our universities and churches in Western Christianity, we learned to choose one side over the other and if possible, exclude, punish, or even kill the other side. That’s dualistic thinking at its worst; and it’s the normal mind that has taken ver our world. It creates very angry and often, violent people. Peace and happiness are no longer possible, because there is always a crusade to be waged and won. That is ego at work and surely not soul. ~Richard Rohr

    And teaches us to say yes
    And allows us to be both-and
    And keeps us from either-or
    And teaches us to be patient and long suffering
    And is willing to wait for insight and integration
    And keeps us from dualistic thinking
    And does not divide the field of the moment
    And helps us to live in the always imperfect now
    And keeps us inclusive and compassionate toward everything
    And demands that our contemplation become action
    And insists that our action is also contemplative
    And heals our racism, our sexism, heterosexism, and our classism
    And keeps us from the false choice of liberal or conservative
    And allows us to critique both sides of things
    And allows us to enjoy both sides of things
    And is far beyond any one nation or political party
    And helps us face and accept our own dark side
    And allows us to ask for forgiveness and to apologize
    And is the mystery of paradox in all things
    And is the way of mercy
    And makes daily, practical love possible
    And does not trust love if it is not also justice
    And does not trust justice if it is not also love
    And is far beyond my religion versus your religion
    And allows us to be both distinct and yet united
    And is the very Mystery of Trinity

    Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

  • Gary

    I agree with the paradox that is within us Carol. Recognizing this is essential to growth I believe. And I get David in that he draws from both worldviews.

    To me it is a bit like looking at two colors…both of which are pleasing in their own right. Take red (my favorite color) and blue for instance. Sometimes I like the red…other times the blue. And it could even be pointed out that they both contain some common hues. But no amount of philosophizing about their commonality, or recognizing my wavering preferences, will make the blue become red.

  • Carol, I want a Like button (or better, a Love button) to click on your Rohr quotes.

  • carol

    How long do you think it will take for our species to begin to realize that “WHAT” we think will not begin to become authentic until we begin to change “HOW” we think?

    Certainly our new information technology has the potential to affect positive as well as destructive social change, no?

    “We exist in a bizarre combination of Stone Age emotions, medieval beliefs, and god-like technology.”—Edward O. Wilson, esteemed Harvard biologist

    The moral challenge of our day is to put a human face on our technology. -Bernard Haering, C.Ss.R., Redemptorist Moral Theologian

    The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom. -Isaac Asimov, scientist and writer (1920-1992)

    I don’t think any of us can do much about the rapid growth of new technology. However, it is possible for us to learn how to control our own uses of technology.
    The “forum” that I think is best suited for this is our educational system. If students get a sound education in the history, social effects and psychological biases of technology, they may grow to be adults who use technology rather than be used by it. -Neil Postman

  • We have centuries of deep irony where god-speculators (“theologians”) decry,label and try to minimalize speculators & lovers of wisdom (“philosophers”: lovers of Sophia).

    Philosphers use to be burned at the stake for trying to bring discussion of wisdom out of the clenched fist of theologians to public discussion. Now, in the West, the best Theologizers can do is belittle non-religious wisdom-seeking.

  • A simple but profound truth!

    A divided mind leads to the following:

    When we scapegoat the scapegoaters we are joining them in the religious act of sacrifice.

    As we condemn the condemners we step out of Spirit into the heaving body of the mob.

    Who can save us from this toxic rivalry?

    Only the One without ego.

  • carol

    Unconditional love is not a concept that is easily apprehended. The realization that God loves Hitler as much as S/He loves Mother Teresa goes against the grain. What kind of justice is that?

    The problem is that Hitler didn’t love God as much as Mother Teresa did. Has anyone here ever googled *Hitler’s paintings*? I have read that they were mediocre at best; but I found some of them to be serenely evocative, not at all the sort of artistic expressions one would expect from a “moral monster.” Some people speculate that Hitler had Jewish blood, he also claimed to be a Christian.

    The Shoah should have taught us that we can’t dehumanize others without dehumanizing ourselves; but too many still don’t get it.

    As we judge the Middle Eastern Islamists, we moderns often forget the bloody history of European *christianity.* In the Balkans we recently experienced the dark side of religion at its worst: Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Islamists all justifying their tribal blood lust by a claim to special Divine Favor.

    The *natural* reaction is to demonize the aggressors; after all, as Edmund Burke and others have pointed out “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” But then there is the warning from an anonymous source to “Beware your enemy, for he is the man you will become most like.”

    Religious people often glibly say, “We must love the sinner; but hate the sin.” Ever try to pull that one off? Easier to do when others are the victim of another’s aggressive hatred. Impossible to do when the one to suffer is oneself. Even minor lapses of consideration for oneself in others evokes dark anger, judgementalism, resentment. The personal moral choice is between embracing the dark emotions or forgiveness. Forgiving does not mean forgetting. Discernment is not judgmentalism, it is wisdom; but discernment includes the recognition of our own sinful tendencies, including the instinctive self-righteous response, and reminds us, as Sister Helen Prejean discovered in her ministry to those awaiting capital punishment in prison that “people are more than the worst thing they have ever done in their lives.”

    When religion is in the hands of the mere natural man, he is always the worse for it; it adds a bad heat to his own dark fire and helps to inflame his four elements of selfishness, envy, pride, and wrath. And hence it is that worse passions, or a worse degree of them are to be found in persons of great religious zeal than in others that made no pretenses to it.–William Law

    Weapons are the tools of violence;
    all decent men detest them.
    Weapons are the tools of fear;
    a decent man will avoid them
    except in the direst necessity
    and, if compelled, will use them
    only with the utmost restraint.

    Peace is his highest value.
    If the peace has been shattered,
    how can he be content?

    His enemies are not demons,
    but human beings like himself.
    He doesn’t wish them personal harm.
    Nor does he rejoice in victory.
    How could he rejoice in victory
    and delight in the slaughter of men?

    He enters a battle gravely,
    with sorrow and with great compassion,
    as if he were attending a funeral.”
    –Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching