Thursday, March 31, 2011

A False Dichotomy

Random thought:

We do a great disservice to the universe by tending to think of everything in absolute opposites.

Nothing defined as 'good' comes without at the very least the possibility of 'bad'.

Take, for instance, the rain storm we're having right now. The rain is good, in that it is natural, and the plants and animals native to Florida need it to survive. However, it brings with it flooding, lightning, hail, tornadoes.

In antiquity the religions didn't try to separate good and evil the way we do now. Each god(dess) had a helpful aspect and a harmful aspect. Yes, the faithful thought that they could bribe or pay the deities in order to be in favor of them, which didn't work because they were worshipping nature and nature doesn't give two figs about how much beer you keep in the temple or how many doves or goats you sacrificed to it. But the point it the thinking was different. Good and bad were seen as intertwined. One existing in the same space as the other.

As opposed to now, where we see them as opposites that repel.


  1. So why are things different now? How did we get away from this thinking? Good thinkie post!

  2. Things are different because the predominant faiths are monotheistic. Once people started to really shift toward a single, all-powerful god they started to separate good aspects and bad aspects. And that's when the 'devil' started to form as an idea.

  3. I've just read Carl Jung's "Answer to Job" - which is an interesting read - and he makes the point that there is darkness in Yahweh which is shown in the book of Job, and that even though Christianity focuses on the warm loving side of God, the dark side still comes out in John's subconscious through the visions in Revelation (a wrathful Lamb on the throne etc). As you say, in nature the good and the bad (from the human point of view) are all mixed up, and so it's inevitable that our view of God will reflect that.

  4. Sarah, I hear people say that Jesus came the first time calling people to himself. You remember he was like the great physician coming to "heal" the sin sick.But then the second time he comes - as shown in Revelation - he will be the judge. So, yeah, there is that loving and judging side of Jesus. The love side hopes to draw us into fellowship with him and we are fully forgiven through his work on the cross. Yet the judge side gives people what they chose basically. If you chose Christ, eternity with him. If you rejected him, you get your wish: eternity without. I saw you share this on another blog and found it interesting to consider.

    Amber, oh, I see. Hmmmm So maybe it's just all made up like many people think these days. I thought what you were saying was a much more modern thing.

  5. My theology prof talked about this issue a bit. He likes to comment that this good/bad dichotomy (and on a related note, blaming bad things on Satan) really turns out to be duotheism and that if there really is only one God then everything must be a reflection of God in some way. I think good and bad are very subjective labels, and they describe how we feel about things rather than some objective idea of what they are. But we aren't actually the center of the universe, and the fact that thins sometimes wind up hurting us doesn't mean it's "bad" from a perspective not centered on humanity.

  6. Really liked your comment Sanil, on duo-theism, very interesting concept indeed. I do think we tend to forget that there's usually good and bad in everything. Also, in the same note as what Amber posted, we might love weeks with no rain and lots of sunshine, but it might be a nightmare to the farmers.

  7. Sarah,


    It's true Job is closer to a pagan version of God than the very cut and dried good God that we picture later on.

    I think the separation was so new at that point, even when John was writing Revelation that they were more comfortable with it being there. Nowadays we're more used to the absolute separation of the two.

    It should be natural that we see the intertwining of the two concepts, but a lot of people don't seem to any more.

  8. Susanne,

    Well, it's modern in a relative sense of the term, in comparison to humanity. :)

  9. sanil,

    I tend to agree, actually. Everything in creation has to be a reflection of some aspect of God, or there is at the very least duotheism and likely edging into polytheism.

    But we aren't actually the center of the universe, and the fact that thins sometimes wind up hurting us doesn't mean it's "bad" from a perspective not centered on humanity.

    What? Humanity isn't the center of the universe? Since when?

    We don't see everything, and we're, by nature, very self oriented and self centered. So everything must be about us and it's all about how it affects us. If it's good for us, then it is good. If it's bad for us, it's bad. That doesn't take into account the effect that the action or event may have on the person next to us, or down the street.

  10. Becky,

    That's exactly the point, illustrated very well.

    Or even think about it this way: If we're having weeks and weeks of rain, which is good for our farmers and plants, etc. then somewhere else is not getting the rain that they need.


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