Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ultimate Justice

Sura 86, The Morning Star, describes the day of judgment:

The Day that (all) things secret will be tested,
(Man) will have no power, and no helper.
By the Firmament which returns (in its round),
And by the Earth which opens out (for the gushing of springs or the sprouting of vegetation),-
Behold this is the Word that distinguishes (Good from Evil):
It is not a thing for amusement.
As for them, they are but plotting a scheme,
And I am planning a scheme.
Therefore grant a delay to the Unbelievers: Give respite to them gently (for awhile).

Every secret will be revealed, it says, everything that everyone has wanted to be kept hidden.  All that is done, good or evil, will be revealed, and shown for what it really is.  The Good will be declared good and the Evil will be declared evil, without excuse.  This is something, the Quran says, to be feared, not taken lightly, for true life and true comfort and true punishment occurs after the day of judgment.

The skeptic scoffs at this.  "What proof do you have for a day of judgment?  And can't people accomplish the good without judgment?  There is no need for such a thing."

In every system of human thought, however you read it, there must be a form of ultimate justice.  In Hindu thought, this is accomplished through karma, the law of the universe in which every living individual is given what they objectively deserve in the next life what they accomplished in this one.  Most justice systems see themselves as the final right in objectivity and giving criminals what they deserve.  We need this in order to function well.  We need to know that justice will be done-- in this life or the next-- or else we will live in despair every time an injustice is done.  If injustice isn't righted, either now or later, then what use is any action?

Humans must believe that justice will happen.  Modern secularists see justice done through democracies.  In the natural rhythm of democratic societies, justice comes about.

Really?  Is that really true?  Tell that to the African slave, kidnapped and sold to "democratic" societies.  Sure, perhaps a limited sort of justice was accomplished over centuries, but only after the deaths of millions.  And millions of  those who suffered in slavery didn't see justice, ever.  Where is their justice?

What about the millions of natives in many lands, killed, enslaved or abused, stolen from and moved from their lands?  Are they, even now, getting justice?  Will they ever get justice?   

What about the victims of genocide in democratic lands (remember that the Nazi party was democratically elected).   Perhaps we say that we have gotten past such evils and are now able to accomplish justice better than ever.  Tell that to the homeless, who are told by cities that they are criminals because they don't have homes, and then the churches who want to help them are told that they can't because they don't have a sprinkler system. 

I am sorry.  No matter how you look at it, no matter what humanity accomplishes, justice isn't to be found on earth.  Not in our lives.  This doesn't mean we don't work toward it.  It doesn't mean we give up  on justice.  But please don't tell me that we can accomplish this.  Our prejudices and ignorance is just too deep.

If we recognize this, we are on the edge of despair.  

And so is the woman forced to watch her children starve because she lives in Southern Sudan or Uganda.  So is the man falsely accused of raping a child and is sent to prison for the rest of his life.  So is the child who is abused but no one knows, and no one will know. 

God gives us an answer.  He tells us that, yes, there is injustice now.  It is evil and, try as we might, it will continue.  Children will continue to go hungry, the innocent will continue to be falsely accused, the good will continue to be hurt and those who harm others will continue to live satisfied, even successful lives.  

But this will not continue forever.  God will finally get fed up with the injustice and stop it.  And every single person-- good and evil-- will stand before their Judge and receive a verdict.  God is just and merciful.  He sees all and will take into account all extenuating circumstances. But all who have had to live with injustice will be justified.  Those who hunger and thirst for justice will be satisfied, even as the unjust who are satisfied now will be punished.

Perhaps you just can't accept this, you don't believe it.  That's fine.  Deal with despair your own way.  But two things:

-Don't deny us our comfort given to us from God.  Our anger is only pacified by a God who accomplishes justice patiently and mercifully.

-Don't use your disbelief as an opportunity to harm others.  Look at all you do, and see how what you do effects others.  If you live a life of harm, of hurting those who needed mercy, then you WILL get your day of justice.  You will.  If you think harming others is just something you must do to live your life, then live in fear, great fear.  For the tables will be turned.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Intellectualism, Religion and Happiness

(Based on Sura 80 "He Frowned")

Muhammad was quite unhappy.  He was doing his usual poetry reciting when an intellectual interrupted him.  Now, mind you, Muhammad wasn't much of an intellectual.  Tradition says that before God spoke to him, he couldn't even read.

For most intellectuals, that is enough to dismiss a man.  There are so many books, so many arguments, so many  interpretations, so many details.  All of this is essential to the intellectual.  They have to discuss every iota of every atom.  Everything must be analyzed.  And if one doesn't have the capacity to know the analysis of the last thousand years, that person need not be paid attention to-- nay, they must be dismissed.

Nevertheless, Muhammad knew a thing or two, despite his lack of book knowledge.  He knew that life, as complicated as it is, is better approached with simplicity.   He says there are only a couple things that are most necessary to remember:

1. God made us all and provides for all our needs.  If we remember and acknowledge God's constant action in our lives, we will remember to live lives of gratitude and contentment.  And even the intellectuals have to admit that the studies show that those who are grateful and content with what they have live happier lives. Summary of science on happiness and gratitude.

2. God will judge us for our actions.  Our future can't be seen intellectually by anyone, but our future is dependent on our present.  What we do now effects our life in the future.  And our future after we live, for all eternity, is dependent on how we live now.  If we live for God, do good to all, then we will live in happiness for all eternity.  This cannot be analyzed, but it has been communicated by God again and again by all of His prophets and teachers.  And even the intellectuals admit that being moral and compassionate beings happiness. Study on altruism and happiness.

Religion and intellectualism CAN meet!