What if I Love Debating and Bullying People Online? A Strategy for Change

Here is a recent comment from a reader named Rob:

I’m utterly discouraged. I try to turn around and be better so I’ll be on the way to heaven, but I still love things I should not, like bullying people online. I get off on being right and defeating someone in a debate, and I can be very rude and self-righteous. Even if I stay away from political forums, I still want badly to go into the fray, and sometimes I give in. My attitude towards people is very hostile still, and it doesn’t change. How can one not be discouraged? Obviously I care enough to post this and read the articles here and elsewhere, but I wonder if I’m just soothing my conscience. I still want to stand on people’s necks, so to speak. It’s the worst thing about me, but I only fear hell, not the thing itself. And often I just don’t care, especially right after I wake up. I just go right to it.

It seems hopeless, from my point of view.

Yes, it’s very discouraging. But it’s not hopeless.

CyberbullyingWe humans are stubborn beasts. Even after we take a hard look at ourselves and don’t like what we see, we keep right on thinking, feeling, and acting in the same awful way.

This does not mean we are doomed to be jerks forever. It does not mean there is no way off the slippery slope to hell. We can change. But a will to change is not enough. To bring about real and lasting change in our character, we must adopt effective strategies and methods.

It helps to have an understanding of the difference between our inner self and our outer self, and where to begin our attack. Contrary to popular belief, changing ourselves from the inside out is not the most effective strategy.

For more on a strategy for change, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Spiritual Growth

Cancel Culture: The Young and the Rootless

Cancel culture.

Its supporters see it as a way for marginalized people who previously had no voice to make their voice heard against the rich and powerful people who have oppressed them in the past, and continue to oppress them today.

Its detractors see it as the present-day equivalent of frenzied mobs swarming through the streets wielding torches and pitchforks, executing vigilante justice without proper inquiry or procedure.

Unlike the mobs of old, this piling-on takes place online, in the virtual streets and alleys of social media such as Twitter and Facebook. Yet its effects on people’s lives can be very real. Cancel culture has indeed taken down some rich and powerful offenders.

But life on this earth is not fair. Ordinary people who find themselves in cancel culture’s crosshairs are the most likely to have their lives ruined. The wealthy and powerful can usually ride it out. It can even increase their wealth and power. The free publicity of being “canceled” raises their public profile, which can lead to increased sales of whatever they are selling.

Cancel culture is strongest among young people (see the statistics in Wikipedia -> Online shaming -> American public opinion), where it had its origins. That is also one of its problems.

In a moment, we’ll step back from the frenzy and reflect on these points in reference to cancel culture:

  1. Young people are not ready to run the world.
  2. What people are doing now is more important than what they did in the past.
  3. There will be justice for people who continue to engage in oppression.

But first, let’s tell the story of a figure from the past who is now being “canceled.”

For more on cancel culture, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Current Events

Black Lives Matter

George Floyd (1973–2020)

George Floyd (1973–2020)

Here at Spiritual Insights we have watched with concern the debate raging in the United States over the saying “Black Lives Matter.” For many years we’ve been appalled by the systemic abuse of the police power against our black and brown neighbors. Accordingly, we were appalled at the death of George Floyd from excessive force by the Minneapolis Police Department. (And for every abuse that is filmed, you can be sure that a number of others occurred that were not filmed.)

When we started Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life, we committed to never taking the easy way out when addressing difficult subjects. We have worked hard to offer substantive answers on sensitive subjects. “No hollow platitudes” has been our commitment.

And so over the years we have posted articles about racism and the abuse of power. Some of them are linked at the end of this article. We invite you to read them.

Short version: Racism is derived from a corrupted love of self that leads people to love only people who are like themselves. Abuse of power coupled with racism is a recipe for a hellish existence for all people—including the racists themselves, who live in their own little hell of self-absorption and fear of the “other.”

Lost in the acrid debate over “Black lives matter” vs. “All lives matter” is the deeper question of why God created different races of people on our earth.

For more on Black Lives Matter, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Current Events, Science Philosophy and History

Our Experience Moving to Soweto, South Africa

Dear Readers,

This blog is not about us. It’s about spiritual insights to help you in your everyday life. However, given the big move we have made from the United States to South Africa, some of you may be curious about our experiences along the way.

Recently, Annette wrote a two-part article recounting some of the events of our move to Soweto for our church’s official publication, The Messenger. It appeared in the June and July/August issues. Here are links to the two issues, in PDF format:

Enjoy!

Soweto Towers

Soweto Towers

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Posted in Current Events

What about 2 Corinthians 5:21? Didn’t God make Christ to be sin for us?

Note: This post will be a little more technical than most of our articles here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life. That is necessary in order to deal with a common objection to the Christian beliefs we present here.

The Lamb of GodIn the King James Version of the Bible (KJV), 2 Corinthians 5:21 reads:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21 is often quoted to support the Western Christian doctrine that by his death, Jesus Christ satisfied the justice, or the wrath, of God the Father. This is known as the satisfaction theory of atonement.

Satisfaction theory was originated by Anselm of Canterbury in the 11th century. In the centuries that followed, Peter Abelard and Thomas Aquinas, among others, modified it into the currently accepted Catholic doctrine of atonement. In the 16th century, Protestant theologians developed its penal substitution variant, which is widely accepted within Protestantism today. (Eastern Christianity never accepted satisfaction theory. It continues to hold to earlier Christian views of atonement.)

According to satisfaction theory, we humans are unacceptable to God because of our sin. And being sinful by nature, we are incapable of satisfying God’s justice (in the Catholic version) or of assuaging God’s wrath (in the Protestant version). However, since Christ was sinless, he was able to satisfy the demands of God’s justice, or take the punishment demanded by God’s wrath. Anyone who accepts Christ’s sacrifice is accepted by God as righteous.

How does this happen, according to the theory? By Christ’s merit and righteousness being imputed to us. The idea is that Christ’s righteousness gets attributed to us even though we are sinners, whereas our sin gets attributed to Christ even though he was sinless. God can therefore accept us as righteous even though we are actually sinful.

That’s what 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, doesn’t it? In a slightly more modern translation:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (New Revised Standard Version)

There’s only one problem. That’s not what Paul was saying. Here is translation that gets much closer to what he was saying:

God made this sinless man be a sin offering on our behalf, so that in union with him we might fully share in God’s righteousness. (Complete Jewish Bible, italics added)

For more on sin offerings and righteousness, please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God, The Bible Re-Viewed

What is an Angel of Death?

Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named Mpho Montsho:

Let me share a question I was asked. It will be good to have you answer it on my behalf in depth:
“What is an Angel of Death? Isn’t an angel a regenerated soul?”

Thanks for passing on this question, Mpho.

I’m glad the question is, “What is an angel of death,” not “What is the angel of death.” Contrary to popular belief, there is no figure literally called “The Angel of Death” in the Bible.

Yes, there are figures in various religions and cultures around the world that people sometimes call “the angel of death.” For example, there is Azreal in Islam, Shinigami in traditional Japanese culture, and the increasingly popular Santa Muerte in Mexico and surrounding areas.

Yes, in the Bible, there are certain figures, such as the one named Abaddon and Apollyon in Revelation 9:11, that people sometimes call “the angel of death.” But the Bible itself never calls them that. At most, it calls them “destroying angels” or “evil angels.” The closest the Bible comes to “the angel of death” is in Proverbs 16:14: “The wrath of a king is as messengers of death; but a wise man will pacify it” (King James Version). In Hebrew, the word for “angel” is the same as the word for “messenger.”

People usually fear the angel of death. And yet, from a spiritual perspective, if there are “angels of death,” they are the highest and most loving of the angels. They are the ones who greet us at our time of death, and welcome us peacefully into the spiritual world. These are indeed the souls of people who have been “regenerated,” or reborn, to the highest levels of heavenly love and wisdom.

But first, let’s look at those celestial (or infernal?) agents of massive death and destruction in the Bible.

For more on angels of death, please click here to read on.

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Posted in The Afterlife, The Bible Re-Viewed

Two New Online Swedenborg Discussion Groups

Swedenborgian Community OnlineAre you looking for a place to discuss the Bible, Swedenborg, and issues of spiritual life with other people in an open format? If so, please check out these two new online Swedenborg discussion groups:

New Church Discussion Group
Swedenborgian Community Online

The first one is moderated by an independent Swedenborg reader from New Zealand.

The second one is moderated by Rev. Cory, pastor of the Swedenborgian Church of North America’s online Swedenborgian Community.

The discussion groups are hosted on the Discord website. Discord was originally set up as a forum for video gamers. However, because of its ease of use and low data requirements, it has expanded far beyond the gaming community.

If you are not already a user on Discord, you will have to set up a username and password before proceeding to the chatrooms. You do not have to reveal your real name and identity if you don’t want to.

You do have to be considerate of other people whose views may be different from yours. These forums are open to Swedenborgians and non-Swedenborgians alike.

See you there!


Update: I have removed the link to one of the discussion groups due to some unfortunate events and overcharged statements that took place there, to which I do not wish to subject my readers. (July 2, 2020)

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Posted in Current Events

Coronavirus: Act Sensibly for Everyone’s Good

In The New Jerusalem #100 Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) wrote:

Kindness is doing things sensibly so that good will come from them.

Microscope image of SARS-CoV-2

Microscope image of SARS-CoV-2

As I write this, fear and panic are spreading around the world about the coronavirus, which has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Schools, churches, and businesses are closing, either voluntarily or by government decree. People are panic-buying non-perishable items such as toilet paper, resulting in empty shelves at stores. Xenophobia and racism are on the rise, and conspiracy theories are proliferating, as people look for someone to blame.

Our suggestion in the midst of all this:

Step back for a moment, take a deep breath, and engage your thinking mind. No matter what mayhem may be going on all around us, the best results will come from acting based on sound information, from a good heart, to bring about the best possible outcome—even if that means the least bad outcome.

We therefore recommend that you:

  1. Inform yourself about COVID-19 from reliable sources.
  2. Put current events into a wider context.
  3. Take reasonable steps to protect yourself and the people around you.
  4. Act sensibly so that good will come from it.
  5. Put current events into a spiritual context.

For more on acting sensibly for good results, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Current Events, Science Philosophy and History

Spiritual Insights is Expanding to a Second Continent

Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life has been international in outlook and outreach right from its beginning seven years ago in September, 2012. Not only have we covered people and stories from many countries around the world, but we have had visitors from almost every nation in the world.

Here are the top ten countries and regions from which our readers come:

  1. United States (over half of the total visits)
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. India
  5. South Africa
  6. Australia
  7. Philippines
  8. European Union
  9. Nigeria
  10. Singapore

Now Spiritual Insights itself is going international!

For more on Spiritual Insights going international, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Current Events

Are We Headed for an AI Apocalypse?

It’s a staple of science fiction. 2001: A Space Odyssey; The Terminator; The Matrix; I, Robot. The plot: Humans create machines with artificial intelligence (AI). The machines become conscious. The machines turn on their human creators and kill or enslave them.

Popular movies and novels commonly reflect the hopes and fears of present-day society, even if they’re set in the distant past or future. And the fear of AI taking over the world is a very real one for some very smart people. Famous theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking issued an ominous warning that “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” Technological entrepreneur Elon Musk joined the chorus of fear, saying, “Mark my words: A.I. is far more dangerous than nukes.”

Others disagree. Computer scientist Michael Littman wrote an op-ed piece arguing that “the ‘rise of machines’ is not a likely future.” Computer Science professor Subhash Kak agrees in his recent article, “Why a computer will never be truly conscious.” Neuroscientist Anthony Zador and computer scientist Yann LeCun argue that since AI didn’t need to evolve in a competitive environment as humans did, it didn’t develop the survival instinct that leads to a desire to dominate others (see: “Don’t Fear the Terminator”). Besides, LeCun argues elsewhere, “One would have to be unbelievably stupid to build open-ended objectives in a super-intelligent (and super-powerful) machine without some safeguard terms in the objective.”

And so the debate continues.

Personally, I’m with the optimists. Yes, I enjoy an exciting apocalyptic sci-fi flick of the humans vs. robots variety. But in the real world, I don’t think machines will ever develop consciousness and enslave or exterminate humanity. Aside from the inherent scientific limitations of electromechanical devices, and the supreme stupidity of designing machines without safeguards, robots do not have a soul—and I don’t believe they ever will.

For more on artificial intelligence and the end of humanity, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Science Philosophy and History
Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

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