A Fanatic Life or a Normal Life

 

What will our life be like if we love God and our neighbors as God would have us love? What will our life be like if we love God and our neighbors with a "lesser love"? These are very, very, difficult questions. It is intuitively true that if we love God and our neighbors we will give food to a starving child, water to a thirsty stranger, shelter to someone who is homeless and cold. This intuitive truth is strong and basic. Is it always good to give a drink of water to a thirsty neighbor? There may be situations where we must choose to give water to one of two neighbors who are literally dying of thirst, based on our evaluation of which neighbor must have the water immediately to live and which one can survive without water at that moment. There may be times when we are physically prevented from giving water to a thirsty neighbor, or when there may be other negative consequences of doing so. Yet it is intuitively clear that the basic, fundamental, statement "we should give water to a thirsty neighbor" is always true.

          So where does all that we have said leave us? Does it leave us with pragmatic, situation ethics, where that which is "good" is determined by individual circumstances? It does not. There is a single answer for all situations, that answer is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength" and "love your neighbor as yourself". As we have said, whether or not that which we do is good or bad, right or wrong, is determined by whether or not we love God and our neighbor as God would have us love.

          Perhaps God will forgive us if we love God and our neighbor with a lesser love, yet that does not change the fact that you can and should "love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength" and "love your neighbor as yourself", nothing more, nothing less, period. There is no question that if because I love God and my neighbor as God would have me love I give my neighbor something to eat or drink, then I have done that which I can and should do, I have done that which is good.

          If I love a neighbor who is hungry and thirsty what will I do? The answer is that I will give them food and water. No matter how hard I have tried to find another answer, if I love my neighbor and my neighbor is hungry and thirsty, I cannot imagine not giving them food and water. If you know and understand the love that God has given us, you know and understand that there is no other answer. This alone tells me that if we love our neighbor as God would have us love, we will not live a "normal life", we will live a "fanatic life".

          So what will we do if we live a "fanatic life"? If you love your neighbor as yourself, you will do what you can so that each and every one of your neighbors knows and understands that they can and should choose to do that which is good, that they can and should choose to do God’s will. We know that if God exists and there is a heaven, then if our neighbors choose to do God's will, our neighbors will live forever in heaven, there is nothing better. We know that if God exists and there is a hell, then if our neighbors do not choose to do God's will, they will live forever in hell, there is nothing worse. It seems clear that if I love my neighbors as God would have me love them, I will do all that I can so that each and every one of my neighbors will know and understand God's commandments, so that they may choose to do God's will and live forever in heaven. If you love your neighbor as yourself, how can you do anything less than the best you can so that each and every one of your neighbors knows and understands that they can choose to do God's will, and live a joyous life forever in heaven?

          What can and should I do? It seems absolutely clear that if I do God's will, I will do my best to visit my neighbors and help them know and understand God's word so that they may choose to do God's will. It also seems absolutely clear that if I do God’s will, I will give food to each of my neighbors if they are hungry, water if they are thirsty, shelter if they are homeless, etc. It seems absolutely clear that if I do God’s will, I will care for my neighbor who is sick until they are well, visit my neighbor who is in prison, and comfort my neighbor who is lonely. I do not see how I can reach any other conclusion.

          I strongly believe that this means that if I do God's will my life will be a truly "fanatic life". If I do God’s will, then every moment of my life for the rest of my life I will do the best that I can to communicate God’s word to my neighbors by word and by deed. If I do what I can and should do, I will go from neighbor to neighbor, conveying God's word to them and helping them if they need food, water, shelter, etc. I will stay with each neighbor only as long as is necessary to see to that neighbor's needs and to tell them about God's commandments. This is a very difficult life, yet I cannot imagine that I should do anything less. I simply do not believe that there is any other life that we can and should live.

          Even though you may agree with what we have just said, you need to recognize that it is incredibly difficult to live a "fanatic life". It is relatively easy to accept that living a "normal life" filled with love for our family and friends is far better than living a life filled with selfish physical and emotional pleasure. It is not as easy to accept that a "normal life" is not the life that we should live, that it is not the "good life". It is extremely difficult to accept that we should live a life filled with "fanatic" and total acceptance of that which God would have us do.

          This brings us to a troubling question, if you "love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength" and "love your neighbor as yourself", and you live in a world where some people do not choose to do God's will, will you ever do that which you would not do in a world where every person does God's will? If you love God as God would have you love, if you love your neighbor as yourself, will you ever do a specific act in this world that you would not do in a world where every person loved as God would have them love, where every person loved their neighbor as God would have them love? This is a very, very, difficult question.

          God has given each and every one of us the choice of giving food to our hungry neighbor or not. God has given each and every one of us the choice of doing physical harm to our neighbor or not. No matter what anyone else may choose to do, each of us has the choice to give food to a hungry neighbor or not, and each of us has the choice to do physical harm to a neighbor or not. I strongly believe that God would never have a neighbor choose not to give food to a hungry neighbor. I strongly believe that God would never have a neighbor choose to do physical harm to another neighbor. I simply do not believe that it is ever God's will that any of us choose not to give food to our hungry neighbor, or that any of us choose to do physical harm to our neighbor.

          If your neighbor has plenty to eat yet is thirsty, and your neighbor refuses to share their food, it is not God’s will that you say to your neighbor “give food to your hungry neighbor and then I will give water to you”, it is God’s will that you love your neighbor as yourself and give them a drink of water if they are thirsty. If your neighbor is doing physical harm to their neighbor, and your neighbor is homeless, hungry, and thirsty, it is not God’s will that you say to your neighbor “do not do physical harm to your neighbor and then I will give food, water, and shelter to you”, it is God’s will that you love your neighbor as yourself and give them food, water, and shelter. If your neighbor is doing physical harm to their neighbor, it is not God’s will that you say to your neighbor “do not do physical harm to your neighbor and then I will not do physical harm to you”, it is God’s will that you love your neighbor as yourself and not do physical harm to them.

          If we can kill one neighbor and prevent them from killing two other neighbors, it is not God’s will that two people be killed, it is not God’s will that one person be killed. It is God’s will that the person who would kill repent and that no one be killed. It is not God’s will that two people be killed, it is not God’s will that one person be killed. It is God’s will that we do that which is good, that no one be killed. If we do physical harm to reduce the physical harm done by another person, there is one more person in the world who is doing physical harm, not one less. It is only when the person who has chosen to do physical harm repents and chooses to do God’s will, that there is one less person doing physical harm, and one more person in the world who is doing God’s will. I am unwilling to conclude that God would have any of us do physical harm to our neighbor when each and every one of us has the choice to do physical harm or not to do physical harm, to kill or not to kill.


   
      If after you finish reading these notes you do not agree with one or more of the conclusions we reach, you may want to read our comments and notes, which discuss some of our views on complex questions and difficult topics, and perhaps read our original book which contains some additional text.


          It is not God’s will that even one person for a single moment does anything less than God’s will. It is God’s will that each and every moment of our lives each and every one of us do God’s will, nothing less, nothing more, period.

          My hope is that if we live a “fanatic life”, we will have done God’s will on earth, and after our physical death we will live a joyous life in heaven, nothing could be better. If we do God’s will we may suffer pain, or even death, at the hands of those who do not choose to do God’s will. I strongly believe that God would have us live a “fanatic life”, and that if we do, after our physical death the horrendous pain and suffering, all the horrors of our life, will be completely overwhelmed by the love and joy that is in heaven, and will “disappear” forever. I have absolute faith that, no matter what happens to us during our life on earth, if God exists and there is a heaven, if we do God’s will we will live a joyous life forever in the presence of God, the One alone who is good.

          One of the greatest fears of all living creatures is fear of death. It is human nature to resist death as though somehow it can always be put off one more day. Instinct urges you to do whatever it takes to survive, but only those who have never really thought about death can deny the utter futility of resisting at all cost the inevitable. It is not death you should fear, but what may lie beyond. If you have done that which is most likely to lead to an eternal life of happiness if such eternal life exists, it makes no sense to do anything to destroy that possibility. If you have done that which is most likely to lead to an eternal life of happiness, you should not fear anything at all, but should be filled with hope and joy.

          What if I am wrong about God wanting us to live a “fanatic life”? I understand that if I am wrong, the consequences of choosing to live a “fanatic life” may be devastating. I strongly believe that we can and should live a “fanatic life”, yet I do not believe that during my lifetime on earth I will ever be able to say in good conscience that I am absolutely certain that I am right. I have noted that what I find in my heart, mind, and soul to be true may not be. Perhaps I have not completed my search, and I simply do not know, or will not admit, that I have not? Perhaps the hundreds of millions of people, including virtually every theologian and philosopher, who believe that we can and should love God and family and friends with a more complex love are right. Perhaps those who believe that we should use minimal physical force to prevent or minimize physical harm are correct. If so, perhaps the "normal life" that the majority considers to be a "good life" is the life that God would have us live.

          Perhaps many people will choose to live a “normal life”, believing that they are doing that which God would have them do. Perhaps many other people who understand that they can and should live a “fanatic life”, but are unwilling to do so, will also choose to live a "normal life". I am not in any way saying that many, or most, or even all, who live a "normal life" will not be forgiven by God. Indeed, while I cannot be sure, I strongly believe that God will forgive many, most, perhaps all, people who choose to love God and their neighbors, yet choose not to love as God would have them love. I strongly believe that God will forgive most, perhaps all, of those who choose to live a "normal life".

          Let us take a brief look at a “normal life” that most would consider, for a middle age man or woman, to be characteristic of a "good life", a life where each individual has:

1. Strong spiritual beliefs and faith:

          Faith in God. Strong spiritual beliefs and faith that provide a foundation for daily living. Active membership and participation in a church, synagogue, or other place of worship.

2. A strong family unit:

          Marriage to a spouse who has strong positive characteristics, few negative traits, and is both loving and supportive. A life long relationship filled with love between husband and wife. Living as "one flesh" with our spouse, never lusting after him or her, but rather loving our spouse and out of that love welcoming the physical pleasure that accompanies sexual relations. Two children, a boy and a girl, who are healthy, bright, energetic, loving children. Parents and close relatives who are healthy, supportive, loving, individuals. Friends who are loving members of an "extended family".

3. Economic and personal security:

          A well paying job that gives employees plenty of time at home and provides sufficient income for the family's comfort, including a pleasant, yet modest house in a pretty setting that has enough room for the family, a yard for the children to play in, and that is in good repair. Modest furniture, including a nice couch, soft chairs, pretty tables, comfortable beds, etc. A simple but nice television, vcr, stereo, stove, refrigerator, microwave, personal computer, etc. Two late model, medium size cars with safety and basic comfort options. Nutritious and tasty meals, including reasonably priced restaurant meals several times a month. Protection from criminal activity and threats from foreign governments, provided by government agencies using social programs, diplomacy, and the minimum police and military force necessary to prevent one person from doing physical harm to another person.

4. Recreation and sports:

          Participation by the adults in a sport at least a few hours a week. Participation by the children in one or more sports. Two to four weeks of family vacations each year in pleasant, inexpensive locations. Hobbies such as electronics, photography, crafts, woodworking, cooking, etc., that cost little to participate in.

5. Lifestyle:

          Several hours a day with our children, helping them with homework, games, sports, reading, learning, etc. Several hours a day with our spouse, talking, playing games, working around the house, etc. Several hours a week with other members of our family and extended family, enjoying games, sports, hobbies, etc. Several hours a week for volunteer work at hospitals, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, etc. Several hours a week for volunteer work with children and adults who are lonely and need companionship. Generous donations to international, national, and local charitable organizations. A pleasant, happy, positive attitude toward all our neighbors – including family, friends, and strangers. A pleasant, happy, positive outlook toward our “normal” daily lives.

        This is a “normal life” that most people would call a "good life". It appears that thousands of years of human biologic development, modified by human communication and intellect, have led to the majority view that this is the life we should live. Indeed, most people believe that this is the life that God would have us live. It is a life that focuses primary love and attention on family and self, and secondary love and attention on friends, while at the same time providing what each individual considers to be their fair share of love, care, and help to those outside what is commonly known as an extended family.
 

The collective wisdom of generations of human beings who want to do that which is good, is that God would have us live a "normal life". The vast majority of people believe that we should do the best that we can to maximize the positive physical aspects of our lives on earth, while minimizing the negative. Most view life after death as a separate existence from life on earth, where those people who lived a normal life on earth will live a joyous life in heaven. Human beings intuitively believe that they should do the best they can to make physical life on earth as “good” as it can be.

 

Is a "normal life" the life God would have us live, or not? I return to the question, if I love a neighbor who is hungry and thirsty what will I do? The answer is that I will give my neighbor food and water. My conclusion remains the same, I strongly believe that God would have us live a “fanatic life”. I strongly believe that if I am wrong and God would have us live a normal life, God will forgive those who live the “fanatic life” we have described. Yet I may be wrong. You must complete your search of your heart, mind, and soul and find the answers to these questions yourself.

          Even though I strongly believe that each and every one of us can and should live a “fanatic life”, I intuitively believe that very, very, very, very few will choose to live such a life. Almost everyone who chooses to love God and their neighbor will choose to love God and their neighbor with a “lesser love” than God would have them choose. Almost everyone who chooses to love God and their neighbor will choose to marry and have a family, to have a successful career, to support government use of minimal physical force to minimize physical harm, etc. Almost everyone who chooses to love God and their neighbor will choose to live a life that maximizes the positive physical aspects of their life on earth, without causing what they consider to be unacceptable negative consequences for their neighbors.

 

I am sickened when I realize that if I live a fanatic life and do not use minimal physical force to prevent physical harm, then my neighbors who I love will almost certainly suffer torture and death. If we do nothing to physically stop them, there will almost certainly be people who inflict excruciating pain and almost unimaginable tortures on helpless infants and children. I strongly believe that we should live a “fanatic life”, and that if we do so we will not do physical harm to our neighbor, yet I tremble with fear that I may be wrong. It would seem that only those who have extraordinary faith in God, who strongly believe that they know and understand God’s will, and who have almost absolute faith that God would have them live a “fanatic life”, would be willing to accept the horrors that would probably accompany a fanatic life. I cannot imagine that, even among those who have extraordinary faith in God, there are many people who have a strong enough belief that they know and understand God’s will that they have almost absolute faith that God would have them live a “fanatic life”.

 

Among those who believe that God would have us live a “fanatic life” and who want to love God and their neighbors, only a very, very, very, very small number will choose to live a “fanatic life”. I strongly believe that almost all people who want to love God and their neighbors will choose to live a “normal life”, and that God will forgive most, or all of them. I may be wrong, nothing we have said alters my strong belief that we can and should live a “fanatic life”. Perhaps if we know and understand that God would have us live a “fanatic life”, God will not forgive us if we choose to live a “normal life”.

 

Yet one of my strongest beliefs is that among those who are unwilling to live a “fanatic life”, God will forgive most, or all, who choose to live a “normal life” like the “normal life” we described. A “normal life” where we love God and our neighbor with a lesser love that is less than the love that God would have us love him and our neighbors with, yet is more than the least love that we can love God and our neighbors with. A "normal life" where you love God with as much of your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength as you are willing to love him with, and love your neighbor as much as yourself as you are willing to love them. A “normal life” that, perhaps, is a “good life” that God will forgive us for choosing.

 

If you are unwilling to live a “fanatic life”, if you want to live a “normal life” that may be a “good life”, communicate God’s word to your neighbors so that they may choose to love God and their neighbors.

 

If you love God and your neighbors, if you want to live a “normal life” that may be a “good life”, you may focus some of your love and attention on a spouse, children, and other members of your extended family. Yet if you love God and your neighbors you will not focus all of your love and attention on your family and your extended family. If you focus all of the love and attention you are willing to give to your neighbors on your spouse, children, and extended family, then you do not love all of your neighbors. I strongly believe that if we love God and our neighbors, we will love each and every neighbor, focusing love and attention on our spouse, children, and other members of our extended family, while at the same time giving to neighbors outside our extended family as much as we are willing of the love that God would have us give to them.      

 

One of the most difficult requirements of a “fanatic life” is not to do physical harm to a neighbor to minimize the physical harm that they do. Almost everyone accepts and encourages self-defense and the defense of others. Almost no one is willing to live a “fanatic life” that would allow a parent to savagely beat an infant, or a sadist to torture another human being. Almost no one is willing to live a “fanatic life” that would allow a mass murderer to kill innocent children, or a brutal political leader to commit genocide. Almost every human being who wants to love God and their neighbor accepts physical violence that they believe will “minimize” physical harm.

          If you are unwilling to live a “fanatic life”, and you want to live a “normal life” that might be a “good life”, then love your neighbor with a lesser love, supporting social programs and diplomacy that might prevent violence, accepting only the minimum police, military, and personal force necessary to prevent one human being from doing physical harm to another human being. Love your neighbor, do your best to communicate God’s word to your neighbors who would do physical harm to their neighbors, so that they may choose to repent and not do physical harm to them. Do your best to inflict the minimum physical harm necessary to minimize the physical harm that is done by both your neighbor and by you.

          My intuitive feeling is that unless you have almost absolute faith that God would have us live a fanatic life, if you choose to live a “fanatic life” you will be unwilling to accept the physical consequences, and you will turn from that life. My intuitive feeling is that many, perhaps almost every one, of those of you who have almost absolute faith that God would have us live a fanatic life, and who choose to live a “fanatic life”, will be unwilling to accept the physical consequences, and you will also turn from that life.

 

Unless you are willing to accept the probable physical consequences of living a fanatic life, as the consequences of choosing to live a “fanatic life” unfold you may witness horrific events, perhaps including the torture and death of adults, children, and infants, and you will be tormented by fear that you are wrong and that it is not God's will that we live a fanatic life.

 

If you do not have almost absolute faith that God would have us live a “fanatic life”, do not be paralyzed by fear, choose to live a “normal life” like the “normal life” we described, with the hope that God may forgive you.

 

If you do have almost absolute faith that God would have us live a “fanatic life”, yet you are not willing to accept the physical consequences of a “fanatic life”, choose to live a “normal life” like the “normal life” we described, with the hope that God may forgive you.

 

You must be absolutely certain that you complete your search of your heart, mind, and soul, and know and understand the true, pure, real, love that God has given us. You must be absolutely certain that you complete your search of your heart, mind, and soul, and know and understand God’s will, what God would have you do. You must decide for yourself what you will do. You will make your choice.

 

You cannot go back, even a single moment. The choices you make every day of your life can never be taken back. Every moment that you choose not to love is a moment when you could have chosen to love as God would have you love, or to love God and your neighbors with a lesser love and live a “normal life”.

 

If you are not willing to accept the physical consequences of living a “fanatic life”, live a “normal life” like the “normal life” we described. If you are unwilling to live a “fanatic life”, love God with as much of your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength as you are willing to love him with, and love your neighbors as much as yourself as you are willing to love them, with the hope that God will forgive you.

         
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