There is a popular idea that there is no such thing as an unselfish act. If you do something to help someone else you end up feeling good, benefiting yourself. And this is called selfish.

My answer to that is a story: Two high-school students have each spent the last year saving up to buy a good bicycle. They’ve given away their free time to work and do odd-jobs, all so they can save up for these bikes. On the way to the store, each with cash in hand, they talk with excitement about how great it will be to race through the town, and out into the country on their new rides.

On the way they run into a classmate. He’s a bit down, as he has been for some time. They ask him what is up. The classmate begins to spill what has been happening. His dad lost his job sometime ago. Their savings is running out. Now they have to make a decision between food and rent. He is on the verge of tears, uncertain what the future holds.

The two friends decide to do something drastic. They give their classmate their hard earned money. The problem may not be solved, but for this month, at least, their classmate’s family can eat without ending up on the street.

As the two friends change their course from the bike shop to home, one of them is overjoyed. He can’t stop thinking about how surprised the classmate’s family will be when they see the money. How overjoyed they will be that someone cared! He is beaming.

The other friend is beside himself. He can’t stop thinking about the bike he doesn’t have. All that work for nothing. Why’d that dad have to lose his job? It’s his fault his family has no money. And now he doesn’t have a bike. His wishes he could take his money back.

Now which one of these two friends is the selfish one? The claim was that feeling good about a selfless act is evidence of selfishness. But in reality, feeling good about doing something for the benefit of others is evidence the act came unselfishly. True selfishness would despise such an act.

I have come to realize this answer is too simple. Though I believe it is true, it is only part of the picture. In reality, doing something selflessly often does not feel good. A perfect example of this is trying to help someone with addiction. You give of your time, energy, love, and self to help them overcome their habit, only to find they’ve carelessly taken it up again. When you invest yourself in them, they turn against you, lashing out at you as if you were the problem, trying to take away something good.

It can be tempting to give up when the object of your care doesn’t even seem to care and returns your love with hatred. To see the results of unselfishness requires perseverance through undeserved abuse. If you do finally get there, to the turning point where help is received and cherished, that good feeling may be numbed through constant betrayals.

This is the shortcoming of my original response, and of the idea there is no such thing as an unselfish act. It limits the “unselfish” to small acts with an immediate good feeling. Giving some cash to a homeless person, giving up your spot to someone else. Little things that require no deep investment of self. It confuses feelings with unselfishness. Really the measure of unselfishness is the giving of yourself.

We need to have a deeper understanding of unselfishness. We can easily recognize it in others, but for ourselves, we often consider mere trifles the full depth of unselfishness. We need more people who are willing to suffer unselfishness. The really problems of this world are not solved by throwing some change in a cup, or prescribing a few pills. The root of the problem requires a service that may at times be unappreciated or unwanted, but is unrelenting and unselfish.


Hate to Hate

Sometime ago while trying to solve one of the numerous frustrations with my computer, I had a rather embarrassing and eye-opening incident. Looking through forums I found a thread that was addressing my issue. Reading through the thread I found one person who was having the same problem as me, and was quite frustrated himself. In kind, I vented my frustration to him and all the internet, thinking we were on the same page. However, I got an unexpected response.

The poster with the problem took my venting as to be an attack against him, and he was fed up. He was done with these forums, and people like me who attacked and belittled when he was just trying to find solutions. He vowed never to return.

Thankfully, I was able to get a hold of him, apologize, and explain I had not intended to attack him. He responded, not doubt somewhat embarrassed as I was. Though I was glad to have my apology accepted, it left me thinking about what I had done to make him angry.

It would be easy to dismiss them as another person overreacting on the internet, but I couldn’t brush it aside. I may not have been angry at this person, but I was expressing hatred for someone none the less. Some unknown developer out there whose mistakes were causing me problems. And my hatred, my anger and frustration had planted the seed of anger in someone else.

We like to think we are different. We are not hateful people. We’re not racists (well actually…). But then we excuse our cherished hatred while despising others. It’s okay to hate someone of differing political views. It’s okay to hate those who we find to be oppressive, or making life difficult for others. It is even okay to hate those who are inconveniencing us, or failing to meet our standards.

But hatred is not safe. As I found on that forum, hatred inspires hatred in others. It’s acts of cruelty or violence, both physical and verbal so easily inspire others to do the same. And it moves us to go further. We may think we are safe in our thoughts or gossip, but where do hateful acts spring from? Anger does not grow out of pity, nor oppression out of charity, nor murder out of love.

In reality there are only two sides. When some murdered cops, claiming retribution for those murdered by cops, they really stood side by side with those murderers. One had killed fathers and sons of a different race, and so did the other. They claimed to be defending the innocent, but soon found the innocent distancing themselves from them. Likewise, if we cherish our hatred, we’ll soon find ourselves far from where we considered ourselves to be, and drawing closer to those we’ve loathed.


Love Letters

When reading a book in the Bible it can be easy for me to think of it as a collection of theological points. Recently re-reading 1 Thessalonians I was stuck by its true character. It is, quite obviously, a love letter. Paul is pouring out his affection for the people he once met with. A people he is, at the time of writing, hindered from returning to. From the beginning he is doting on them praises and affection, celebrating the joy his “brethren beloved” bring to him. Like a loving father, or an awestruck lover, he can’t help but share the beauty he sees in them that they may not see.

Like a father who has sent out his child to make his way in the world, he has heard how cruel the world has been to him. It has caused his son to doubt his worth, and perhaps believe the hateful slurs thrown at him. And so the father reminds him of the honor he was shown his child. He reminds him of his victories in times past. And most of all, he reminds him of how he cares for him, and that as his child, he has infinite worth to the father.

He mourns and comforts them in their trials. But he also celebrates with them in their triumphs, reminding them they are not without reasons to celebrate. There are theological points in there (not to say love is outside theology). However, reading it in the light of Paul’s love makes it hard to come away thinking it is just a dry recital of  religious facts for intellectual education. Rather, these facts are shared because they are meaningful to the hearers. Knowing them gives them hope. They are shared out of the same love and concern for them as the words encouraging them not to forget how precious they are to Paul. Every word is shared in love, to remind, encourage, warn, and bring joy.


So you’ve been hacked

I’ve noticed a lot of friends have been getting hacked lately. A number on twitter, and even worse, in g-mail. This post is to give you a bit of information on why securing your accounts is important, and how to do it. It’s a bit long, but I think worthwhile. I’ve bolded the most important points for those short on time and don’t care to see the importance behind some of these practices.

Now you may not think you’re at risk for some cracking into your account. You’re not important enough for some ex-KGB or Al Qaedi operative to discover your secrets. But hackers today aren’t usually concerned about breaking into one persons account. They are trying to break hundreds and thousands of accounts and make lots of money by stealing a little bit from everyone. At best they’ll send out embarrassing spam e-mails and tweets to all your friends, family, and co-workers. At worst they’ll convince grandma to wire thousands of dollars overseas to save you from a faked emergency. And frankly it would be bad enough to just lose access to all your e-mails, even for a few days.

Different passwords

Now it’s nice to think we can trust all these technology companies with smart employees to keep our information secure. But the sad reality is they are not good at it. And even if the important ones, the ones hosting your e-mail, or access to your financial information are secure, there is probably one fun little website you have an account on that isn’t secure.

But who cares if someone gets access to that account, right? You barely even use it. But are you using the same password for that account and all your other important accounts? And did you register all those accounts with the same e-mail address? If so, the hacker has both the password for all those accounts, knows your e-mail, and can probably get into your e-mail. From there it’s not too hard to find the rest of your on-line accounts. The security hazards from multiple accounts can get even more complicated as this Wired writer found out.

The first step you can take to prevent this is start using different passwords for all your different accounts. Or at least using different passwords for all your important accounts. Now, you’re probably thinking “How am I going to remember all those passwords?” The good news is you don’t have to.

I use KeePassX (a clone of KeePass for Mac and Linux). I only have to keep track of one password that gets me into KeePass, and KeePass keeps track of the rest of my passwords. They are encrypted and stored on my computer and not on the cloud, unless I choose to put it there. Though there is the extra step of opening KeePass to login, it has handy shortcuts to speed things up. Ctrl+U opens the selected account’s website. Ctrl + V copies and pastes your username and password into the website and logs in. Not only do you not have to remember your password, you don’t even have to type it (see the KeePass Tutorial to get you started). There is also MiniKeePass and KeePassDroid for iPhone and Android if you log in to a lot of accounts through your phone. I keep my passwords on my phone in sync with my computer with SpiderOak (also encrypted) so I don’t have to worry about keeping them in sync.

Smart passwords

Using different passwords isn’t enough. You also need to use smart passwords. Let’s do a quick math lesson. We’ll start by restricting ourselves to a two character long password, and look at how adding more choices for each character increases the possible number of passwords. We start with numbers, add letters, uppercase letters, then some punctuation.

Characters and options per character Possible passwords
00-99 numbers only (2 characters, 10 options) 100 passwords
00-zz add letters (2 char’s, 36 opt’s) 1296
00-ZZ add uppercase (2 char’s, 62 opt’s) 3844
add common punctuation (2 char’s, 80 opt’s) 6400

Now obviously a two character password is a bad idea. Even low powered modern computers could churn through those options in moments. But hopefully it illustrates that point that more options per character are better. Now let’s just look at increasing password length using numbers only.

Characters and options per character Possible passwords
00-99 (2 characters, 10 options) 100 passwords
000-999 (3 char’s, 10 opt’s) 1000
0000-9999 (4 char’s, 10 opt’s) 10000
00000000-99999999 (8 char’s, 10 opt’s) 108

Here the increase in possible passwords is more dramatic. And it’s even better when we have more options for characters.

Characters and options per character Possible passwords
6 characters, 80 options 2.62144000000×1011
8 characters, 80 options 1.6777216×1015
12 characters, 80 options 6.871947674×1022
15 characters, 80 options 3.518437209×1028

These are some ridiculously large numbers. Passwords from the first two tables take seconds to days to crack. At the bottom of the last table it starts taking years to centuries. Now you understand why some sites require a long password with some numbers and characters in them. It’s not just to make your life difficult.

Unfortunately most people are lazy in their passwords and hamstring the effect of longer passwords with more characters. And because a lot of people are lazy this gives hackers the advantage. If you want the gory details, check out Why passwords have never been weaker—and crackers have never been stronger. In summary, hackers have been able to break a large number of passwords, and they now know the types of passwords people use.

Typically, to meet tough password requirements but make something they can remember people will make something like this: HappyDuck96! This seems like a good password. It’s twelve characters long, using numbers, lower and uppercase letters, and punctuation! That means hackers have to go through 6.87×10²² passwords to crack it, right?

Wrong. This password follows a common pattern to make it easy to remember. Two common words, each starting with an uppercase letter, followed by a number, ending with a punctuation. If hackers only try to break passwords that follow this combination they only need to try around 5.88×10¹³ (171,4762 ×102 × 20) passwords. This stills seems like a lot, but this number is about one billion times smaller than the first number, with about one billion fewer passwords hackers need to cycle through. The key lesson is don’t use words in the dictionary (or even common misspellings), and mix in the capital letters, numbers, and punctuation.

How will you ever remember a password like that? There are two solutions. First is using something like KeePass which I’ve mentioned above. It can even generate strong passwords for you so you don’t have to struggle to come up with a new one. But there may be some sites where you don’t want to be dependent on KeePass, and need a strong password that you can remember. Here’s where the second option comes in.

To come up with your password, first think up a phrase. Then take the first letter of each word in the phrase, mix in some capitals, numbers and punctuation. For example, we get “bgw0Mhgb4!” from “boldly go where no(0) man has gone before(4)!” The phrase behind it makes it easy for you to remember. But it’s difficult to guess as the phrase behind it is not obvious. There are a couple of caveats. One, don’t use common phrases (like in our example) but just make up a phrase on the spot. Then only you’ll know the phrase. Two, don’t always stick punctuation at the end. Predictable patterns are always a benefit to hackers. Three, make sure you memorize that phrase, and what tweaks you’ve made to it. Do you remember which letter you capitalized? Which letter you swapped for a number? For this reason, it’s always good to store the password in something like KeePass just in case memory fails you.

2-step verification

This is probably the easiest solution to use, but it’s not always available. Many websites now are offering two-step verification. It works like this. Any time you log in from a new computer you’ll be asked for a verification code. This code will either have been texted to your phone, or generated by a special program on your phone. To access your account you need this second code. This means even if a hacker discovers your password, they also need your phone to log in to your account. Pretty unlikely since most hackers have no idea who they are even hacking. Of course, you’ll want to confirm that this system works. If you don’t get the text messages, you may find yourself unable to access your account.

There can be a bit of setup to this, and problems like losing your phone. If you can’t  But there is a great walk through for two-step verification for g-mail that makes it pretty easy, and shows where some of the challenges come in. And there are a lot of other sites that use 2-step verification. If there’s a web site that stores a lot of important information for you, and it’s not using two step verification, why not request they start?

Unsecure sites

Another key thing to do to keep yourself secure is recognizing sites that are blatantly unsecure. The most obvious sign is if a website ever sends you your password in plain text. This isn’t your initial password that was automatically created which you are supposed to change immediately. Of course you need them to send you this. But if you’ve created your own unique password and forgotten it, if they then send an e-mail with that password in it, that means they are storing your password in an easy to read file.

Most servers store passwords in an encrypted state. They don’t know what your password is. The way you can log in is once you enter your password, they encrypt it and check it against the encrypted version. But if a website sends you your password in plain text, it means a hacker only needs to break into their server, and they have your password. You should stop using this website immediately and let them know why.

Recognizing hacked friends

It is usually pretty easy to recognize friends that have been hacked. They start sending out short e-mails with links and not much explanation, or posting racy videos on facebook that are out of character for them. It’s important to recognize this for two reasons. One, you can be a good friend and let them know. They need to change their password immediately and the sooner they know the better. Two, you don’t want to click on that link. Often there are security flaws where clicking on a link can allow someone to log into your account. These aren’t too common, but it’s best not to click on the link anyways.

In the more serious case you won’t be getting sent a link trying to sell you something. Instead you’ll be getting an e-mail with a horror story of what happened to your friend and pleas for money to help them out. The first thing you should do is call this person. Call even if they claim to have lost their phone. You owe it to them to check.

Second, see if there’s a way you can help them let people know they are alright. If you can see the people the e-mail was sent to, e-mail them once you’ve talked with your friend to let them know everything is all right. And make sure the people who are least Internet savvy, and who are most likely to be sympathetic to their plight, like close family members, are contacted quickly.

Finally, if things are really bad, help them through getting their account back. Usually they just need to log in and change their passwords. But it the worst cases you’ll need to be in touch with the company the hacked account is with. They’ll need someone who is calm to help them through the process of finding who to contact and what to do.

Wrap up

Getting hacked is one of the downsides of the technology age. I hope this educated you on what steps you can take to protect yourself on-line, and now you can be a digital citizen with more confidence. If you have any questions please ask in the comments. And if you’re a tech savvy friend who has spotted an error, or has recommendations, please comment.


Freedom of Religion, Just Not Here

I did a little more reading on one particular issue mentioned in my earlier post on the Separation of Church and State: the birth control mandate from HHS (Health and Human Services).

Accommodating Religious Objections presents a solution on how an agreement could be reached that allows the government to continue to enforce the law it sees being for the public good, while allowing religious groups their freedom. Certainly the government should be allowed to create and enforce laws even in the face of religious objections, but allow for exclusions for decisions of conscience. Though I think the solution presented to allow the religious groups to act according to their conscience feels a bit like money laundering for morals, and not all that different from the solution the President proposed. “As a condition for receiving an exemption from the HHS contraceptive services mandate, religious organizations should agree to dedicate whatever funds they save from not having to provide the otherwise-required contraception coverage to some other public service, identified by the government, that is consistent with their beliefs.” This type of solution has long been accepted, for instance regarding service of conscientious objectors, though whether it allows one to follow their morals is another discussion.

Mandate Tests Faith looks specifically at the scope of the exemption the government has provided for “religious organizations,” being defined as groups where:

(1) its purpose is the inculcation of religious values,
(2) it employs “primarily” persons who share its religious tenets;
(3) it serves “primarily” persons who share its religious tenets; and also
(4) it qualifies under the IRS code as a church or religious order and has more than 50 employees.

This narrow view of what is a “religious organization” is very troubling as it restricts what is considered protected religious practice to a very limited scope. Restricting to organizations solely focused on “inculcation of religious values” then places the practice of many organizations outside of legal protections. Once a religious group begins to care for the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, and others in need, according to their beliefs, it is now safe to say they can no longer adhere to other components of their faith without retribution. One shudders to think how much higher the government’s healthcare expenditures would be if all religious groups felt that they must close their hospitals in order to avoid violating their conscience. Let alone what would occur if they also closed their homeless shelters and rehabilitation programs. And they are hit on two counts here as these groups serve so many people outside of their faith.

This loss of protections does not just apply to faith-based organizations like hospitals, but also to those who would uphold their religious beliefs in their business like the owners of Hobby Lobby. Essentially this policy is saying that individuals are not free to practice their religion outside of their private life. Once you enter the public domain or the world of business you can no longer be a person of faith. As already seen with charitable organizations this is not possible for the person of faith. Looking to my beliefs, if I were to start a business and the government were to impose a law in regard to keeping businesses open on Saturday for economic reasons, I would personally be free to keep the Sabbath. But as an employer I would not be allowed to keep the fourth commandment in its entirety by giving all my employees the Sabbath off simply because this is outside what the government considers to be the religious realm.

My religion, as are others, is inherently communal, not just concerned with evangelism, but with benefiting others regardless of their relationship to, or their view of my religion. Any law that forces religion to keep to itself or presumes it can define what constitutes true religious practice is a violation of the first amendment protection that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” I must conclude that this particular policy in regard to the HHS mandate is unconstitutional. Just as we should stand up against the government trying to inject others religions into the private lives of individuals, we should oppose attempts to restrict the practice of religion in the public domain.


Comforting Lies?

An accusation made against Christianity is that it is a comforting lie. Those who claim it is not true say that this belief system has managed to stick around for so long in the face of reality because  it allows its adherents to avoid facing up to death. The idea of God giving us eternal life is just to ease the minds of those who are too weak to deal with the idea of there being nothing after this life. Instead they’ll get to live on without having to deal with all the people they don’t like and who they consider to live objectionable lives. The only other people that will be there are their loved ones.

But  Christianity does not always provide easy comfort. I just finished reading Death in the Family by Clifford Goldstein. It’s a short reflection on the loss of his father. “He shot his wife in the head, crawled into bed next to her, put the gun in his mouth, and shot himself.” This is a tragic and difficult situation for anyone to go through, and also for the Christian. For this, Christianity provides no simple, ignorance is bliss, escape from this reality. In fact, our beliefs may add extra challenges to the situation. There are times when it seems we have lost loved ones, not just for this life until we experience the release of death, but we have lost them in the life to come and for eternity.

But for the committed Christian who deeply pursues a Christ-like life, this challenge is not limited to our loved ones. For those it is not enough to take comfort that friends and family will be with them in the life to come.  Nor is it enough to hope for a change of heart in those who are casually dismissive of the gospel. “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” – {Matthew 5:44 KJV}

The Christ-like Christian does not reserve their compassion and hope only for those who love them, but for those who hate them. They will not be content with only those close to them entering into everlasting life and eternal joy. They also long to see those who are cruel to them reconciled to Christ that they may be friends in heaven. For the very ones who call them fools for what they hold dearest, the Christian holds out hope that they may call them brother or sister. Even for those that take the lives of those they hold dearest, and even when facing their own murderers they pray “Father, forgive them” with hope that this one won’t be lost for all eternity.

This, I believe, is why when Revelation 21 speaks of the new earth and the beginning of eternal life it says “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” The first thing the mind of the Christian will turn to is not themself and the eternity that waits before them. Rather their mind will turn to others who could have been there with them, and mourn for them. There is still comfort for them, but it is not an easy or vain one. It is not one that can brush aside tragedy without confronting it.


Separation of Church and State

Read Freedom of Religion, Just Not Here for some additional thoughts on this subject.

Some have taken a fight against legal acknowledgement of homosexual unions as a means to push their religious beliefs. But Adventists should not seek to push our religion in the government. Some time ago reading arguments regarding Prop 8 I saw one saying it was not mixing government and religion because they gave no religious reasoning for the law. But around the same time I heard the same arguments being applied to Sunday laws. They were not establishing Sunday as a religious day, but a time for families, a time to escape the hustle and bustle of our world. This should give Adventists pause.

Just as America did at its founding, Adventism holds the idea that government should not impose religion in high regard. This is not something we should abandon, to move towards compulsory religion over compelling religion, just because there’s the opportunity to enforce ideas we like.

Laws Free of Religion

I found a very interesting response to one article regarding homosexual marriage and church backed laws. The response followed the argument out of not having a religiously motivated laws. It pointed to history; how marriage, as a governmental institution, had been in place in both religious and areligious societies as a means of encouraging procreation. If we are to keep religion out of government, this is a perfectly reasonable argument in the debate over whether same sex marriages or unions should be legally recognized. If the purpose is procreation then only those marriages capable of producing offspring should be recognized.

Though on the flip side if government recognized unions were to be about caring for children, even through adoption, then homosexual marriage we also be valid from an areligious viewpoint. This would also mean childless marriages would not be recognized, and perhaps that single mothers should be recognized in some similar fashion.

If we are to keep religious reasoning out of the law then we should either be debating it on grounds like these or saying government should not recognize marriages at all. Such unions are between the couple, God, friends, or family. Just the recognition of the marriage institution could end up showing some religious preference. Perhaps this is best as either of the above two arguments, though separate from religious reasoning, could be favorable to a religious viewpoint, just like Prop 8 or Sunday laws could be.

Subtlety in Church/State Interactions

Another issue along these lines is the recent issue over Catholic groups being forced to provide contraceptives. Clearly this is something that goes against their religious teachings. And I have to admit I was surprised to find such silence on the issue from religious liberty groups, especially among my own church. Even though we have vast theological differences from Catholics, we should still stand for religious liberty regardless of whose liberty.

Very recently I found an article that gave me better perspective on why there was silence. The only reason the government had any say in what the Catholics did was because the Catholics were accepting government funding. They had crossed a tricky line where as a church organization they were now beholden to the government. If they wanted to get out of this obligation they could just stop receiving funding.

The author made a good point, that if you don’t want government meddling in your church, then let your church stand apart from any government support. But again this is tricky, as funding could end up being tied to obligations that are discriminatory to some religions. Contraceptives are viewed much more favorably in most protestant faiths, and so other churches could continue to receive the funding while the Catholics are placed at a financial disadvantage.

Where to Draw the Line?

The question for me is, when do I need to jump into the political process? What laws should I push for? And what laws should I stand against because of religious imposition, just as I would a Sunday law? It is difficult to say. Even the idea of rejecting state imposed religion is based on my religious principles, understanding how God allowed Adam and Eve to follow him or disobey.

I think for any person with a strong relationship with God it will be difficult to disentangle their religious principles from societal principles. Should I oppose welfare because it imposes Christ’s calling to feed the hungry on everyone through state taxes? Shouldn’t citizens have as much freedom to say who their money goes to as they do what day they worship on or whom they marry?

An Unbiased Government, Not Agnostic

In fact, regarding our founders, they were not opposed to the idea of religiously influenced laws, but rather government sponsored religion. This is why the Declaration of Independence talks about men’s rights “endowed by their Creator.” This is why Washington in his farewell address cautioned that “reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” This is why the first amendment forbids laws either establishing religions or preventing their exercise rather than forbidding religious thought from influencing laws. Though with increased diversity in religious thought it becomes more difficult to walk the line of allowing religious influence while preventing religious bigotry in government.

Whatever laws we choose there will be some philosophical motivation that takes some stance toward religion, whether favorable or antagonistic to one, or antagonistic to all. Though rarely explicitly stated, I find many seem to think that if we went with atheistic or materialistic reasonings we would be free of religious prejudice. But in reality it would institute severe religious prejudice, and in fact many have lost their jobs for their personal religious beliefs because of such prejudice (you can watch Expelled for a somewhat heavy-handed cataloguing of many of these in education).

Further, from a materialistic philosophy, there would be no basis for many of the laws everyone values. I find that there would be no basis for any laws as materialism cannot speak to morality, and would at best, have to defer to popularity. But that can be just as oppressive as one church dictating the laws. We can’t actually exorcise belief based biases from the law, but should choose what biases we allow and ensure they are guided by a principle of not imposing beliefs on others.

What’s troubling is there is a tendency is towards the principle of “Do what you want as long as you don’t harm anyone else.” But this is also a central tenant of a religion: Satanism. Should it be good enough to say government is just there to keep us from hurting each other, but you’re on your own when it comes to helping each other? Though I don’t know if this would play out as government rests somewhat on the idea that we are working together for everyone’s betterment. And the idea of “do what you want but do no harm” is a false dichotomy as you can’t do whatever you want and expect it not to have some effect on others. Just try driving through a red light.

Where Does This Leave Me

I haven’t yet sorted out my opinions on this on how it plays into specific laws. I do need to recognize that because I am religious I will be influenced by religious thinking when it comes to laws I support. Thus I should be careful not to think I’ve dodged religious imposition by creating an areligious argument for my stance. The laws I support should only govern how individuals interact with those around them, but not dictate a relationship with God, for which God himself allowed liberty to pursue or neglect. But I should stand strongly to protect other people’s religious freedoms and let it be known that I do these not in contradiction to, but because of my faith. And I should give others the opportunity to enjoy the blessings I have by my faith through friendship and encouragement, not compulsion.

March 2017
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