Davy Hume

Davy Hume was a leading member of the Scottish Enlightenment. He was born in 1711 and was a professor at Glasgow University. He was a philosopher who followed on from the lead of Descartes, Bacon, Locke and Newton who were the initiators of the scientific thinking of the age.
Davy was a firm believer in reason, logic, the unchanging laws of nature. Like all true enlightenment philosopher’s, he used these principles to examine the whole spectrum of the universe and discover truths about the way it worked. His would take a hypotheses or theory and scientifically test it in an objective manner. He would view the results and through science and deduction reach a conclusion. This is the way science is supposed to work, unbiased from personal, financial or philosophical interest. But Davy used these principles in studying philosophy. His main subject was in investigating whether there was any proof of the existence of God.
Davy had a great analogy of a couple of billiard balls. The theory of cause and effect would be proved as one billiard ball connects with the other with the same mathematical result each time. Thus, the law of the universe was set and unchanging. There is no way to prove that God exists, unless you can prove a miracle and then prove that it was him that done it. You cannot prove God by human means as that would put man above God and therefore deny that theory anyway. Everybody has an individual attitude towards God anyway.
He stated that for a miracle to be proved the statistical likelihood of a miracle would have to be greater than the converse explanation. If that explanation was so unlikely that it was more likely to result in proof of God so be it, but it never happened. He said that there was enough self-interest and evidence of false miracles to throw doubt on it all. Reason and logic triumph over superstition, self-interested rigid belief structures and feelings based decisions every time.
But lack of proof of God, does not make him disappear in a puff logic. Christian Scripture indicates that Christians have faith not proof and make their own decision based on their own spiritual experience, which is not something that can be justified to anybody else. There is a difference between religion and faith. A religion is collection of like-minded people who share some beliefs in community, some will be followers and some will think for themselves, but ultimately spirituality is an individual thing. If a church fails then the market will correct itself, a true faith does not get effected by that.
So, I believe that Davy’s writing is a benefit to all. He created a solid foundation of what to base your life on, that is scientific and philosophical discovery of the 18th Century. It is probably the closest thing we have to truth, probably due to the Enlightenment’s rigorous, objective and selfless search after it. There are atheists like Nietzsche who refused to believe in God based on a bad personal experience. This is fine on a personal level, but unlike Davy who views the whole of human experience, this guy is pushing his own views down my throat. There were others of his ilk who are that ignorant and arrogant that they could not imagine a God as they were too proud to believe in anything more important than themselves.
Davy is important, you don’t have to agree with everything he says, but it is a seriously valid argument. He lay on his deathbed, writing to his friends, assured in his future oblivion. His faith and application of sensible principles did not promote atheism as such, but allowed people to decide for themselves within a logical, not superstitious framework that him and his friends created.
Davy, you will always live in your writing and as the Scots say, “Slange Vor” (My spelling)
Conway-Laird (2017)

Adam Smith

Adam Smith was a Scotsman who is widely accredited with being the inventor of Economics.

He wrote a number of papers. One was regarding the stages of man. From hunter, shepherd, farmer and commerce. His theory was that to survive we need to eat. The more developed we become the more efficient that process becomes and we are able to produce a surplus to sell and increase the population.

His main work is the Wealth of Nations, which is a treatise about the nature of trade. His main theory is that to trade there needs to be an admission of the selfish, ambition and nature of man that leads him to go after greater wealth. He believed that too much morality was a hindrance to the accumulation of wealth. He believed that the most important part was frugality, not spending money would increase the profit, by reducing revenue and increasing capital.

His proposal was that the main aim of man from birth was to better themselves. The main ways to do this would be to maximise profit. Other than frugality in spending there is efficiency in labour. He proposed the division of labour, where in a manufacturing process, different labourers would specialise in certain areas of production. In becoming expert in a special area, instead of being a jack of all trades, they could make the process more efficient.

Another inefficiency in profit-making was unnecessary laws and regulation that prevent the entrepreneur from maximising profit. If they are freed from these unnatural constraints they can make more money for themselves and therefore for the rest of society.

Having achieved that wealth, the businessman is able to parade that wealth in front of people for all to see. Thus demonstrating the success of their attempts to better themselves. By allowing people to see the fruits of your labour, this demonstrates to the world the success of your betterment and that is the ultimate goal of men.

Conway-Laird (2017)

Jesus teaching compared to Paul

Evangelical Christianity had been a very successful movement over the last 300 years. It is a rational faith based on personal acceptance of Christ and reasoned interpretation of the Bible. It has is a very good fit for interpreting the Bible. But it is an interpretation and not an absolute fact. Its operation appears to lie within the boundaries of the patriarchal society and relies very much on the bond of heterosexual marriage. The challenge for Evangelicals is that for many people are rejected by or fail in the Patriarchal society. They appear to have no answer to the social revolution of the 1960’s in England. Now I don’t for one instance believe that this successful interpretation will disappear, but the rigid application of their principles excludes many. People may be accepted into the Church with love, but there is usually an expectation that will change to be like them.

The problem could be historical, in that Luther encouraged people to make their own mind up about the Bible. This led to a number of different philosophies and religious wars. The 18th Century saw rejection of this by Enlightenment reason, desire for trade and the start of Evangelicalism under Wesley. The philosophy succeeded in their 19th Century as reformers, such as Wilberforce, managed to adjust the moral compass.

But no philosophy holds sway forever. Many Evangelicals concentrate on Paul’s letters to his missionary churches. There is excellent codification of the doctrine of Christianity, sensible instruction about the Holy Spirit and ethical instruction for the Church. My opinion is that the first two are inviolate, but the ethics are specific to those places at those times. These writings are meant specifically for full time Christian workers and are expected to live to a higher moral standard in a hostile environment.

Jesus teaching had a different emphasis. He developed many personal relationships where he demonstrated his radical love, truth and forgiveness. I believe that his ideas in the Sermon on the Mount were to get people to consider other options than merely self. He encouraged people to consider self-sacrificial agape love. It was not practical for people to stick to these ideas religiously, it was an idea to consider. He appears to be more a man of the people, turning water into wine for a wedding party and practicing socialist principles. He was not one of the religious elite. Paul was and taught his missionaries in that fashion.

There is a different emphasis between the two. The Bible allows people to find out for themselves what the principles are that guide their life. Having one true life path, being told what your doctrines and ethics should be, is acceptable for those that choose to be led. But it is not for all. The same applies to other belief structures. For me atheism is an elegant solution, but don’t force it on me. Political correctness is neither political nor correct. Neo-liberal capitalism is only about money. And don’t even get me started on Freud. Feminism that assumes superiority over men by lies and manipulation may be the worst of the lot.

People in this country seem to be fighting to force their principles on others. It is no better than religious wars. Whether you believe in God or not does not exclude you from this idiotic bitch fight over the soul of this country. We are supposed to be human and have the freedom to make our own decisions. What happened to freewill, our children are not educated to think for themselves, but are brainwashed into being part of the machine.

The country is supposed to be about the people. To be free to follow health, wealth and happiness as the American’s said. But there are many parts of this country that seek to serve themselves, not the people. It is not what you believe, but how you believe it that counts. If you give up any principle to justify your belief structure you have lost. Why fight to justify an idea. Debate to promote an idea.

My personal ideas are formed, my lifestyle is my own and will not be coerced by anyone. I see no point in following a church or a movement if it has been corrupted and refuses to accept me as I am. No other organisation is going to force me to be like them. My heart is free and I will follow it whatever the cost. If you seek power over people, you better take responsibility for managing that person properly. We are all different and some people cannot change and why should they.

Invest in the individual and empower them to live their life by their own principles. If anybody takes decisions for someone else without their consent, then they have dehumanised them. If a Christian organisation does it, it has given up the principles of Jesus, the Bible and the Protestant church.

If you can’t accept people the way they are, then leave them alone. The Bible has many different books and writers. It is dangerous to allow people to make their own mind up about it. But people have to have the choice to accept an interpretation or not. It is supposed to set you free not to imprison you in a religion you can’t accept. It is an attractive idea to believe in absolute truth. But if that truth is forced on others then you have become intolerant. If you can allow yourself some doubt that allows others the opportunity to be right in part. Christian doctrine and ethics can only come from debate and teaching. You cannot impose it on others.

Conway-Laird (2017)

The Children of Israel and the Torah

People who are interested in reading the Bible often start at the beginning and work forward. Seems like a good idea, some great stories in Genesis that say a lot about the relationship between the individual patriarchs and God. Unfortunately after the Exodus readers can get bogged down in miraculous events that require faith, and then some indiscriminate warfare that does not seem to be appropriate for our times or a supposedly peaceful religion. I believe that the Bible should be approached as a library. Take a book at a time, not in chronological order, but research the books to find out what they are about and if they are relevant to you in your life. The Jewish law written down by Moses in the desert is probably the most difficult part of the Bible to read and needs some context.

Picture the scene. Moses was tasked with rescuing the Israelites from the oppressive Pharaoh and returning to the Promised Land. He had spent forty years in the desert pondering on his faults before taking on this task. If we cut past the plagues and the actual Exodus we see a large group of refugees fleeing from the Egyptian army with chariots. Many of us know about the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. But if you look at where the Israelites were, the Geology of the sea floor of the Red Sea and the amount of wind it would take to blow it back, the whole event seems preposterous. The problem is that the Kings James version of the Bible translated 400 years ago, has traditionally referred to the Red Sea as we know it today. There is some doubt about the translation, some learned scholars translate it as the Reed Sea, which would refer to shallow lakes on the Sinai Peninsula. Others would say the Red Sea refers to them as well. Either way, a translation is only as good as the translator and without detailed geographical knowledge, the tradition that had been established has stuck. But the Reed Sea was a shallow lake that would have been much more likely to have been the venue for the miracle. It was on a route that was far more likely and it could have been crossed if the water had subsided. Hollywood epics show great walls of water being held back by the wind and it is quite a lot for people to accept. With faith you can accept anything, but it is better to reason out the truth from scientific methods. If the Children of Israel were caught up against the Reed Sea and the wind blew back the water and they escaped it is easier to believe. There is no point forcing people to try and believe in miracles if they were not actually what happened.

Having escaped the clutches of the Egyptians, the Israelites were in the desert as nomads for forty years. The whole area was nomadic. The tribes in the area would have heard of some sort of escape never achieved before. It may have indicated to them that they had a God capable of performing miracles. What follows is controversial as there are many battles and readers find it uncomfortable. After all one of the main messages of the Bible is peace. But the Israelites had achieved something remarkable, the other tribes would have known that. To stand up to the Israelites was like standing up to God. Moses sent word to the tribes that they wanted to pass through on the way to Canaan. Most opposed them, some did not. The few tribes that did not oppose them were accepted as specially treated allies, those that opposed them lost battles.

It is important to realise that they were living in barbaric times and the value of human life was less. Desert life was harsh, warring tribes was the norm, and living to your mid-thirties was just average. Also Egypt was the most advanced country in the Mediterranean basin due to the fertility of the Nile that produced plenty of wheat. Their culture was not one we could endorse now. The Pharaoh would marry his sister to keep the bloodline pure, interpreting hieroglyphics indicate that there were no sexual rules at all and worst of all, and they practiced human sacrifice to their sun gods.

The desert tribes and the inhabitants of the the Promised Land, the Canaanites were less sophisticated, but still had behaviour you cannot condone. They worshipped fertility gods like Baal and Molech. They would make little statues and dance round fires and sacrifice their children to their non-existent gods.

In one sense the exodus from Egypt was a new beginning for humanity. There was a rejection of the barbarous human sacrifices and lawless behaviour. The Children of Israel could have been a life boat for humanity or even a spiritual evolution. The Jewish code established, in the desert, could not be described as perfect, but they sacrificed animals and in my mind that is better than humans. For Christians, Christ’s sacrifice ended that practice too. The Ten Commandments, that Moses received, were almost the first recorded set of laws in existence. The Assyrians had laws, but they were quite barbaric. There were laws like, if you kill someone’s daughter they could kill yours. The Ten Commandments gave the basis for a legal system ever since. Whether religious or not, I believe this was progress.

There were many other laws Moses gave to the people. There were many to do with family relations. Coming from the licentious Egyptians, the people were being brought back to common sense and back to the patriarchal society necessary for farming. There was a lot of teaching about food. Pork was declared unclean. If you think that people would generally cook on an open fire, in pans maybe. Beef and lamb could be burnt or rare and that would be acceptable. But pork needs to be properly cooked. Gut infections arise out of poorly cooked meat. In the hot desert, with no sanitation and little water, dysentery could wipe out many people. Shellfish were also dangerous and were banned for the same reason I guess.

The point I am trying to make is a practical one. To me what happened from the exodus from Egypt to the settling in what is now Israel, was an evolutionary process. Spiritual, legal, familial and public health issues all improved. In training these chosen people and eradicating human and child sacrifice humanity moved on. It is less about religion and more about its practical application. The three monotheistic religions were born out of this movement of people.

One hundred years ago in England, the church turned against war after the horrors that had happened on the Western Front. But sometimes you have to fight for what is right. The Children of Israel, to me, were a lifeboat for humanity and a leap forward. They were not perfect, but they had the framework to know that.

If you want to look at the Bible, I believe the most important way is to look historically with good common sense. You may be able to explain away the miraculous if you are not comfortable with it. But don’t write it off because other people have told you what the interpretation is. It is translated by dedicated but imperfect people. But it is in your language for you to decide for yourself. It is not the only book of wisdom, but it is an explanation of how God deals with humans in many different situations. Different personalities, cultures, sexualities, races, professions, experiences and religions. And as the enlightenment teaching shows us, the concept of God is out there and can’t just be explained away. What matters is what you believe yourself. Get informed and work it out for yourself.

Conway-Laird (2016)

Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu was a military strategist and philosopher who was alive in the 6th Century BC. His context was that China had been fighting wars, inside its borders, almost continuously for one thousand years. His strategies outlined how a leader could win a war with the least amount of damage to both his army and even his enemies, and do it swiftly. Essentially he was not someone who glorified war or the victors of a war. He was someone who understood war and the horrors that it brings. He was someone who sought to avoid it all costs, but he knew if the time came to fight he could do it decisively, elegantly and quickly.

His philosophy was outlined in the Art of War, which is now a 2,500 year old treatise. This book is set out like a collection of proverbs which give insight into how a war, or more importantly, the preparations for war are organised. One of his most important quotes is,”If you want peace, prepare for war.” It is a philosophy that should coloury our thinking and help us to apply its message in our particular situation.

There are those that say war is stupid and hope that it will just go away by sticking your head in the sand. Unfortunately there are those who wish to take advantage of this and exploit people’s apparent weakness. This is why you need to be prepared.

Thomas Hobbes was a 17th Century philosopher in England and he said that, “The condition of man is….a condition of war of everyone against everyone.” Although I do not accept this entirely, Hobbes was a pessimist who lived through the civil wars in England, Scotland and Ireland, it is a useful maxim in avoiding being taken advantage of either deliberately or by misunderstanding.

Since Sun Tzu’s philosophies are more about political manoeuvring, then they can easily being be applied to many areas of your life. There could be a personal conflict dealing with an illness, lack of confidence or an addiction. There could a conflict in your environment, in a relationship or between two organisations. Ultimately this could mean war in the traditional sense.

There are a number of useful rules of thumb dealing with conflict. He starts with the five constant factors; the moral law, heaven, earth, the Commander and method and discipline. He considers the terrain, and this could be real or metaphorical. He considers the enemy and how their personality would react. He considers travelling and how to take advantage of supplies, preferably by stealing the enemies. But above all he considers everything as a whole and prepares the best strategy.

In relationships this strategy can lead to the potential of rejection. But this can come about after a failure of communication, or when one person is expected to submit to the other. In such a case that person is left with the choice of submitting or rejecting. Essentially Sun Tzu sees conflict as the resolution of differences when politics breaks down.

Traditionally in England, people look to the Second World War as the obvious example of a conflict. Often military strategists would look to Clausewitz on War as the leading philosophy. That basically stated that war is won by the destruction of the enemy’s ability to fight on the battlefield. Now the military look to Sun Tzu more often, as there are rarely any actual battlefields anymore. War is fought on television, the internet, in homes, shops, families and in civilian areas.

People talk about WW2 as an example of a just war. This is usually said by people who were not in it or any other war. Some historians regard WW2 as a continuation of WW1 and there is some validity in this. The allies barely won WW1. The Germans ceased to have the ability to fight, and they were asked to lay down their weapons and walk home. Officially they had lost, but there was a lot of doubt as to why the war was fought in the first place. 20 years later it started again and this time the Germans were more dangerous. In the end the unconditional surrender and the revelation of the Nazi death-camps finally made the German people realise that they had followed an evil man in Hitler.

In 1964 a German historian called Fritz Fisher discovered documents pertaining to the Schlieffen plan which was to conquer Belgium and Northern France. He also discovered the top Generals knew about it. This might suggest that both World Wars were started due a desire for German supremacy. This is a belief that was part of German culture, Wagner is a good example of one who promoted it. Saying you are better than your neighbours may start off as harmless enough but left unchecked could start conflict. To defeat the Nazi’s the allies had to defeat the philosophy of the German supremacists, otherwise they would come back.

War is not about glory, political advantage, gaining greater wealth, lands and titles. It is not something that should be viewed on someone’s camera phone. It is hell, it is death, it is futile, and it is desperate and despairing. It rips communities, families and people apart, both physically and emotionally.

If you get involved in conflict then you need to find a brilliant strategy to end it. Sun Tzu said, “The Supreme excellence of a general is not winning 100 victories in 100 battles. That is subduing your enemy without fighting.”

For many life is constant struggle and maybe that struggle is what life is about. When you struggle, think about how you do it. Maybe you can win, but if you don’t do it properly and in a way that minimises casualties, either real or metaphorical, then your enemy may come back to haunt you directly or through those close to him that have been inspired by hatred and revenge.

We have enough to deal with without fighting each other. We do not need pride, jealousy, ignorance, lack or forgiveness or lack of communication spoiling our lives or those of our loved ones.

Sun Tzu said that fighting a few is the same as fighting many. It is just a matter of organisation. Whether you have a personal struggle or if you a world leader with an almighty arsenal at your fingertips, learn his philosophy.

Fight with love, confidence, humility, patience, ruthlessness and when victorious with mercy.

Conway-Laird (2016)

Paul and the Corinthians

Evangelical Christians love to quote from Paul’s epistles. And why not, there is his solid doctrine where he uses his legal training to codify Jesus message. There is sensible and wise advice about the work of the Holy Spirit. Vital teaching, as there is little elsewhere in Bible about these things. There is also some lifestyle advice which tends to be treated with the same direct interpretation. But I would say that solid Christian doctrine and teaching about the Holy Spirit does not change. Lifestyle teaching is individually and culturally specific. In Corinthians 1 6:9-10 Paul describes various behaviours that exclude Christians from inheriting the kingdom of God. Now the huge port city of Corinth was, according to archaeology, decadent in the extreme. Paul’s desire was to keep his church pure from the evil licentiousness around them. But to me it is an instruction to get in line with a threat. I don’t believe the threat simply because Jesus message is essentially one of forgiveness for all that accept him. Perhaps the focus by the Evangelical church is too strong, as this verse is a specific instruction, at a specific time to a specific group of people. Not only that, but they were effectively a small isolated missionary church in hostile moral territory trying to demonstrate a different way. They had to be different both spiritually and in their actions, as they were basically missionaries.

The trouble I have is that these verses become extrapolated to cover any activity referred to, but not in the specific cultural details. I have mentioned in a previous pamphlet about homosexuality, and the Corinthian behaviour was extreme, abusive ad unacceptable and should not be used to create a blanket ban on the behaviour. Getting drunk on wine in Corinth involved drinking bowls full of wine as quick you were man enough, throwing up and doing it again. The wine was certainly not the same as we have now. In a different culture, Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding. This was not so that the good people of Cana could have a small glass for politeness sake, this was a party. Also everybody was married in Cana, and would have no need of any love substitutes like the lonely, isolated people of today.

I definitely do not condone the actions of the Corinthians. Some of the things listed would certainly be verboten for me. But the Greek behaviour was extreme and it was the spirit in which these actions were carried out that troubles me.

But to take one verse out of context and apply it to all cultures for all time is wrong. To challenge this interpretation threatens people’s belief structure which can be difficult. But to narrow the lifestyle options for the whole world, to a one verse instruction to a missionary church in a single hostile city 2000 years ago without any latitude is mean. Everybody else is denied the love, faith, wisdom, forgiveness and truth they may have otherwise found within a church.

Lifestyle is a personal issue that people have to decide themselves. Obviously the affects people’s relationships. But it is nobody else’s business.

DO not constrict biblical passages to the point where only you and your friends can use them. Let people be free to make their own interpretation. But help them learn how to use the Bible, just as the Alpha course aims to help people to find out for themselves.

Conway-Laird (2016)      

Marquis de Condorcet

Condorcet was a mathematician by training. When he applied his practical skills to the Royal Mint in France he began to consider philosophy and become more of a polymath like Franklin who he worked with. He was a leader at the beginning of the French Revolution. He opposed the death penalty for Louis XVI and drafted the Girondin constitution. But he was not radical enough and had to go into hiding. His popularity was helpful in keeping him alive perhaps. His optimism, even in hiding led him to write “The future progress of the human mind.” This was Condorcet’s utopian vision for humankind was that being able to observe the natural world and record history, we could look to the future advancement of our species in confidence of continual improvement. An improvement that would, with its ongoing progress, perfect itself as reason leads us in the onward march to a greater, more fruitful and happier existence. Not wed to scientific discovery but constantly changing as new data would correct the previous theories. The key would be education, based on true learning, not tutelage. Leading to a constitution that defines equality. Equality in world affairs and in individual nations and the opportunity for all to better themselves. As agriculture and industry improve so does the lot and the prosperity of humans. Casting aside the hypocrisy, venality and corruption of the monarchy, aristocracy and the church. Maybe there were those whose progress had been backward in the way they treat natives and slaves in far flung colonies. But with the correct application of reasonable laws and procedures, humanity can only improve itself as human life carries on its onward march of perfection. He was someone who designed the education system in France. Initially being run by the educated savants. But this was too elitist at the time. He was dedicated to equality for gender and race.

Conway-Laird (2017)