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faith & spirituality

Comparative Anthropology

Anesthetized in deep denial, modern man loses connected to the deep questions. Fighting "shadow issues" (Thomas Frank), we can trivialize questions of quality of life.
In a culture of "botched intelligence" and ketsup varieties, materialists and nihilists can be transformed.

By Jurgen Ehle

[This chart revised 7/2003 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.uni-essen.de/Ev-Theologie/courses/course-stuff/menschen.. Related articles can be found at www.mbtranslations.com.]






God doesn't play any role. Only
matter exists without any independent
spiritual reality behind or above matter.
The soul and spirit are nothing but
functions of the complexity of matter.
Therefore only material values are
universal values. Life is devouring
and being devoured. All life strives
to satisfy drives and needs. Poverty
and distress occur when these needs
cannot be adequately satisfied. The
goal of all life is securing the material
foundations of life.

Philosophical schools:
Positivism, Marxism,




All material being is only an image
of spiritual being. The origin and nature
of all being is spiritual. The spiritual
being seeks realization in the material
world. Since all being has a spiritual
origin, universal values exist for example
in philosophical idealism (Plato, Hegel):
Wisdom, justice, level-headedness and
bravery. The person is called to live a
moral life according to his reason (Stoa).
God is the good, perfect and absolute. In
romanticism, an intensive life of happiness
and community is possible in mysticism and
esotericism, freedom from fear and suffering.




God is dead, in other words God has no real
effectiveness in one's life world. Therefore no
objective meaning or objective values exist.
Everything is meaningless. Why does suffering
persist in the world? What exists in intellectual
existence, meaning and values is manmade. All
being strives to overcome the other, gain power
and exercise power. The stronger wins. Forcing
my meaning and will on another is central. The
physically, mentally and intellectually stronger
is.appointed to rule over the weaker. The basic
principle of the world and life is power and
mastery, struggle with victory and defeat.

Nietzsche's superman overcomes meaninglessness
by enforcing his meaning and overcoming his fears,
desires and nihilism.

Two schools of thought can be distinguished
in nihilism:

Schopenhauer's pessimistic nihilism of resignation
and self-abandonment.

Nietzsche's heroic nihilism of fighting and mastery.

Every nihilist knows that he will ultimately lose.
fighting and winning at least temporarily is his
existential meaning.




God is the God of love. God created all things
out of love and out of nothingness. God is Lord
over all things. There is no other God beside or
above him. God is a personal God who created
people as counterparts in his image. (The nature
of a person consists in freedom, creative power,
creativity, rationality and will). God reveals his
love spiritually and materially to people through
the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus

The person defines him- or herself from God and
not vice versa. The person as a person has absolute
freedom, even the freedom to decide against God.
He possesses creativity, will, power and reason.
The meaning of life and its basic principle is love.
The person only realizes his or her human existence
and destiny and finds him- or herself where he or
she lives love

I must first experience love really and existentially
before I can live love and impart love.

Christian love is different than in romanticism.
Christian love is not a transfigured rose-tinted
sentimentality but a basic attitude that must be
revealed really and materially in life. Christian
love is being for the other when he is in distress up
to self-sacrifice in life and death. The model and
standard for love is the life, suffering and death of
Jesus Christ. No one has described love better than
Paul in 1 Corinthians 13.

The person is God's representative on earth.

The meaning of history can only be understood.
from God. Without God, history is meaningless
and aimless.






Only what is physically perceptible exists and
can be known.

Knowledge = physical perception and
interpretation of the material world and
its material connections.

Method of discovery:
methodology of the natural sciences




Knowledge = uncovering
Revelation of the inner being hidden in

Method of discovery: conceptually and
logically interwoven thinking in philosophy.

Meditation in mysticism, esotericism and
Eastern religions; emotional rapture in




Ditto materialism




Knowledge capacity is given to the person
through his or her divine image. The meaning
of all being (world and history) and corporeality
can only be known from God and God's love.
Faith, hope and love are the bases of all true
knowledge. Discovering meaning is only
possible this way.






All things strive for egoistic satisfaction of drives.
only what is materially useful and helps satisfy instincts
is meaningful. Creation of a world where this is possible
for every person, for example Marxism and capitalism.




Philosophical idealism: Leading a rational, moral life
according to human nature.
Individual ethics.

Fanatical, unrealistic emotional life. Healed
world. Dreamers,

Mysticism and esotericism:
Individual self-perfection




Striving for power.
Forcing my meaning and will
on the other and the world.
Fighting and winning
over suffering and

Pure egoism.




Love is the elemental force of all true
human motivation. Love must be first
experienced as safety or security before
love can be effective in us. Therefore
the experience of God's love is the
beginning of all permanent motivation
as a source of power and refueling






The person has no dignity from him- or
herself. The person is objectified. What
material advantages and benefits does the
other bring to me? The other person is
only valued in contributing to my social
benefits (= material satisfaction of needs).

Criteria for human dignity:

Capacity for labor
Material benefits





Philosophical idealism: The person gains
his or her dignity through reason. This dignity
appears in the ability to lead a life appropriate
to the person. Sharing in the divine being.

Criteria for human dignity:

Sharing in the divine reason

Mysticism and esotericism:
Ability to be one with the divine
Nature of the universe through meditation
and individual self-perfection.




The person has no dignity from him- or
herself. The person gains importance
through will to power. The weak one
has no dignity. He has value to me when
I can force my will and my meaning on him
and make him useful in concretizing
my power. The better and stronger must
rule and prevail. The weaker must yield and
be subjugated.

Criteria for human dignity:

Usefulness for my purposes
Capacity for fighting and winning -
Forcing my meaning and stamp on the





The person does not have any dignity from
him- or herself, only from God's love. This
dignity cannot be taken away by anything or
anyone. The rest of nature only has its dignity
from God's love. The creation account
proclaimed: "And God saw that it was good."

The term dignity originated from the Christian
religion. No other religion knows this term.
dignity derives from becoming:
Awarding dignity to anyone means enabling
him or her to develop to God's image and
God's determination. If I rob the person of this
appointment or determination (freedom,
creativity, will and love), I rob him or her of
dignity. Only love gives and respects the
dignity of the other.









The search for a meaning outside myself
and beyond death leads to philosophical
idealism, the search for perfection.







God's love received, experienced, understood
and known leads to the Christian view of the






Radical exploitation of the person and nature.
Elimination of everything non-material.
Euthanasia, desire for wealth, health and
youth are useful. Utilitarianism.

I: What is my goal in life? I want to
have as much from life materially as
possible. My meaning is the satisfaction
of my passions and desires.

You: My relations to my neighbor, whether
husband or wife, friend, colleague or
acquaintance, are purely material. What
do you bring to me? I am also ready to
bring this to you. What will you give to me
if I give this to you?

World (nature, culture, politics and the economy):
What material advantages can I draw from all this?
Economy: How much money do I receive for my
ability? What party represents my material interests?
All mineral resources must be exploited. The material
usability of nature is unquestioned. Wealth and
material prosperity overshadow all other concerns.
culture, religion, art, science and technology are
probed for their material advantages. Does religion
abolish hunger and poverty? - No - It is only opium
for the people.

Time: What helps me to process the past,
to shape the present and open the future?
This is all purely material.

Question of meaning: I, you, the world
and time are only meaningful for me
as they bring material advantages. The
meaning of life lies in material

Ultimately the materialist is driven by
the fear of losing everything on which
he depends. He knows that he must
lose everything at the end because he
cannot bring anything along into the
grave. He is lonely and yearns for love
and safety without finding them. Life
affects him like Scrooge in Charles
Dickens' "A Christmas Tale"




Philosophical idealism: individual
self-realization, individual ethics,
morality and virtue.

Romanticism: Dreamers,
ivory-tower existence

Mysticism and esotericism:
transmigration of souls,
magic, individual

For example: Philosophical

I: What are my goals in life?
self-realization and morality.

You: My relations to my neighbor,
whether husband or wife, friend,
colleague or acquaintance
are purely spiritual.
(eros = love of the perfect)

World (nature, culture, politics
and the economy):
Through labor, the world is
shaped or made perfect and
discoverable for me (Hegel).

Time: What helps me in processing
the past, shaping the present and
opening the future? The
4 cardinal virtues.

Question of meaning: I, you, the world
and time are meaningful for me as
they open up possibilities for self-
development of my personality.

The idealist seeks the good but
lacks strength for the good. He has eaten
from the tree of knowledge but not from
the tree of life. Doing good is hard. Staying
power against outward resistance,
setbacks, blows of fate and death, suffering
and guilt is lacking. Ultimately the idealist
is broken in the harsh reality of life, in his
own sinfulness and weakness. Resignation,
despair, cynicism and frustration over the
depravity of others and the world remain.




Oppression of the weak. Desires for power
and rule, struggle and victory. Elimination
of everything not useful for my goals.

Egoism, naked careerist thinking,
Machiavellianism and all management
thinking based on shaping public
opinion through manipulation and
not through argumentative persuasion.

I: What is my goal in life? I seek
power and influence. Forcing my meaning
on others is my purpose.

You: My relations to my neighbor, whether
husband or wife, friend, colleague or
acquaintance are directed purely at
victory and conquest. Who is better or

World (nature, culture, politics, and
the economy): How can I make them
subservient for my goals, values and purposes?
My goal is power and rule up to brutal exploitation.

Time: What helps me process the past,
shape the present and open the future?
My readiness for struggle and victory,
my will to power.

Question of meaning: I, you, the world
and time are only meaningful as they
make possible my freedom, autonomy,
calculability and reliability. The meaning of life
consists in fighting and winning.

The nihilist wants to conquer over
the other, over his life, his suffering and sickness
(cf. Nietzsche). Still he knows that he must
ultimately lose (against suffering, death and guilt).
Only the desperate hopeless heroic struggle for the
sake of struggle is left to him (Sisyphus),
Nietzsche's heroic nihilism or resignation and
self-abandonment in Schoepenhauer's
pessimistic nihilism.




Try to understand the world realistically
and bring love on time. Draw strength
and courage, faith and hope from God's
experienced love for everyday life.

I: What is my goal in life? 1. Thankfully
accepting God's love. This love works and
encounters me in the love of my partner,
family and friends. This love meets me
in the strength that God gives me everyday
to survive the daily grind, rejoice in all things
and be happy. 2. To pass on this love through
my work to others in marriage/family, friends,
in the workshop and in society.
Love is effective.

World (nature, culture, politics and
the economy): The world is subject to the person
to be preserved, not destroyed. He or she receives
the world as a benefice from God for a time. The
person is the vineyard owner who should cultivate
and plow the vineyard (world) on behalf of God in
love. Thus our task is to cultivate nature and shape
culture, politics and the economy meaningfully
toward the future.

Time: What helps me to process the past, shape
the present and open the future?
Only love.

Question of meaning: The meaning of life consists
only in love (love according to 1 Corinthians 13).
Only love builds up and does not destroy. Only love
can establish community between people.

The Christian knows his sinfulness and the weakness
of his will. He sees himself realistically as a person
and does not boast. He knows that he is too weak to
hold out by himself, to the other, partner, friend and
colleague. He knows that he fails again and again.
Therefore he trusts God's love that forgives him again
and again and raises him again and again out of hopelessness
and despair. Without the experience of this love, meaningful
life cannot survive in marriage, business or in society. The
Christian draws courage, strength and energy from this love
- as from a wall socket -
to begin again and face his freedom.

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