Who Are Human Beings?
Who Do Men Say That I Am?
I have senses that make me aware of my reality. I possess a will to survive, reproduce and to love. I am able to gain knowledge through interactions with the world, and by listening to persons explain what they hold to be true about human life. I am conscious of a self with deep feelings, emotions and thoughts beyond the sensual.
Psychology provides us with a mechanical model of human behavior and personality. Psychiatry reduces us to propensities, predispositions and traits. Modern medicine defines us as biochemical organisms in need of diagnosis for various disorders.
Governments of the totalitarian, authoritarian, or socialist stripe view human beings as raw material at the service of the more important political state machines. History has been revised from the once popular view that individuals are active agents in the world to a view in which impersonal forces cause people to react to the inevitable. Economics precludes the consideration of human behaviors and spirituality from its science of statistical probabilities, which it collates to create theories designed to maximize efficiency.
Science has de facto declared its objective facts to be good, true, and valuable; it has declared that subjective observations of persons are merely bias, prejudice, and unworthy of consideration, all while attempting to create an impenetrable wall between the observed and the observer. Industrialization, technology and standardization have sought to rid the world of human idiosyncrasies and individualities with little regard to social customs, traditions and values.
The internet has given human beings new hope of being restored to our rightful place at the center of creation. It allows persons the power to fully express their individuality without gatekeepers or a centralized authority that might subjugate, manipulate or disenfranchise them.
Rene Descartes (1596-1650) is known as the "Father of Modern Philosophy." He wrote that humans are distinguished by the ability to think. We are, therefore, nonmaterial minds housed in physical bodies. Descartes pronounced: "I think, therefore I am. I am a substance the whole nature or essence of which is to think, and which for its existence does not need any place nor depend on any material thing."
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) believed human beings were by nature selfish hedonists. His most famous quote is that human life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." Hobbes is considered the founder of materialism, which we will look at shortly.
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) wrote that the knowledge we possess that we will someday perish from this Earth renders us inconsolable in the deep recesses of our hearts, and that it leads us to seek constant diversion as an avoidance system. We dread the thought of not existing. Human beings are but grains of sand relative to infinity. Pascal studied faith and reason, soul and matter, death and life, infinity and nothing. His conclusion is known as Pascal's Wager: We cannot empirically prove nor disprove that God exists. We must bet on one side or the other. If we bet God does exist, we have nothing to lose.
David Hume (1711-1776) declared that human beings are nothing more than their perceptions. He rejected revelation and any connection between man and any supernatural world. Hume believed if you can't prove it empirically, there is no sense talking about it. He stated: "Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them. Morals excite passions, and produce or prevent actions. Reason itself is utterly impotent in this particular. The rules of morality, therefore, are not conclusions of our reason."
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) believed that the physical world is an illusion; an illusion which is perceived by humans as a collective delusion that no one will ever have the power to escape due to preconceptions which are taught to us by our parents, teachers and society.
Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) believed that God created humans as spiritual beings, a synthesis of the finite and the infinite, the temporal and the eternal. This paradox creates what becomes an internal conflict between virtue and vice. Kierkegaard wrote that Jesus Christ lived what has inarguably been the only sinless life, and that he therefore represented God on Earth—a revelation of God to man. He said, "What the age needs is not a genius—it has had geniuses enough, but a martyr, who in order to teach men to obey would himself be obedient unto death. I never forget how God helps me, and it is therefore my last wish that everything may be to his honor."
Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) was one of the greatest psychologists to ever write novels. I will only quote him once; one simple sentence that speaks for itself, "If God does not exist, then all things are permissible."
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) is one of the most influential figures in existentialism (the rejection of God, metaphysics, and the supernatural) and postmodernism (the deconstruction of values, traditions, and social customs). Nietzsche lambasted the concept that objective truth exists; he argued that morality only exists in the minds of individuals and therefore has no truth; he claimed that human hopes for an afterlife were fantasy.
And then there is the timeless William Shakespeare who spoke through Hamlet:
What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason,
how infinite in faculties, in form and moving,
how expressive and admirable in action, how like an angel in apprehension,
how like a god! The beauty of the
world, the paragon of animals; and yet to me, what is
this Quintessence of Dust?
Materialism is the belief that nothing exists except matter, and is therefore akin to Atheism. This means that intellect and emotions are mere chemical processes. Materialism reduces human beings to an assembly of nerve cells that are nothing more than random products of blind chance.
Generally, this leads to an assumption that humans are not responsible for their actions, that their childhood, the oppressive society in which they find themselves, or that even the more recently believed chemical imbalances in their brains are to blame for aberrant behavior—if there is such a thing. Humans are merely apes with thumbs; they have no inherent dignity or worth above that of any other animal. Princeton Professor Peter Singer says, "The notion that human life is sacred just because it is human life is medieval."
Marxism, which spawned Communism and Socialism, is the political offshoot of Materialism. Marxism views the human being as the product and subject of labor activity. Karl Marx famously said, “Religion is the opium of the masses.”
Scientists have determined that the value of the material in an average human being is worth $1.98. Back in his day, when the same chemicals were worth about half that amount, Martin Luther King famously asked, “But can we explain the whole of man in terms of ninety eight cents? Can we explain the mystery of the human soul in terms of ninety eight cents?”
George C. Williams, evolutionary biologist, states: “To some people, we just happened - a chance evolutionary development. Natural selection or the survival of the fittest is a concept that runs contrary to the divine law of love. This philosophy undergirds Hitler's justification for his 'master race' policies. Evolution is a system in which the message is always: exploit your environment including your friends and relatives so as to maximize our genes success."
Owen Gingerich, professor of the History of Science and Astronomy at Harvard University, observes: “One consequence of self-consciousness is that we ponder our place in the universe, and we seek to find meaning and to find God. The search for God is subtle, but perhaps it is this long journey, this search, more than anything else, that makes us human. We are the thinking part of this vast and sometimes very intimidating universe, and our quest could well be the purpose of it all."
Who Are Human Beings in Secular Humanism?
Secular Humanists believe that the Universe came into existence all by itself, and that human beings have evolved accidentally from what was primordial slime. They believe that the existence of any supernatural God is imaginary and contrary to science, and that all laws, values, and morality are man-made.
Humanism posits that Socialism is the ideal form of economics. It believes that humans have outgrown religion, and that any idea of God impedes human development, that God is detrimental to human growth.
Secular Humanism declares: "Religions that place revelation, God, ritual, or creed above human needs and experience do a disservice to the human species. There is no divine purpose or providence for the human species. Promises of immortal salvation or fear of eternal damnation are both illusory and harmful. Human beings are a biological organism transacting in a social and cultural context. Thus, humans should simply enjoy the pleasures of the world, and be blown on the winds of technologies and pharmaceuticals. Heaven is a dream. This world is a fact."
Who Are Human Beings in Buddhism?
Buddhists do not believe in God. The Buddha says that human beings are fictions; there really is no self, only a series of occurrences that appear to be persons. Buddhism accepts what science says about the evolution of man from apes—and posits that humankind is still evolving. A human being may be a reincarnated animal or may be reincarnated as an animal in the future.
Essentially, human beings are seen to suffer because they crave, and if they can eliminate craving they can reach Nirvana, which means they cease to be altogether. So the goal of every human person should be to be extinguished, since life is suffering.
Who Are Human Beings in Hinduism?
Hindus believe that human beings are divine and possess an eternal soul—a soul that experiences spiritual evolution over many lifetimes or reincarnations, some of which may be lived as animals. Therefore, it follows that Hindus avoid injury to any living thing, that they respect all life unconditionally and completely.
Our conscious personalities—our individual selves—are less than fully real and will not exist when we get off the wheel of life and join the ultimate deity. There is a spiritual realm, which is real and permanent that takes primacy over this illusory, temporary world.
There are 330 million gods and goddesses in Hinduism, and each of them are a part of a single deity named Brahman—who exists in trinity as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
Human beings are created, and their lives sustained by a God. Every thought or action a person thinks or does results in karma (consequences for the action). Humans suffer because of their own negative actions—either in this life, the last life, or the next one.
Persons are divided into four groups, or castes. Only the top three castes are eligible for salvation. Yoga and meditation are central to salvation for human beings in Hinduism.
Who Are Human Beings in Islam?
Islam teaches that human beings are created by God, the Jewish God to be exact, and are born into an orderly cosmos. Humans are created to both obey and worship Allah (the Muslim god), and to fulfill Allah's creative work in the Universe. People represent Allah on Earth.
Humanity began when God breathed His Spirit into dry mud; this act of God resulted in the creation of man. Since God is the most exalted and sacred being that exists, and mud is the lowest thing of all, human beings are a combination of the two.
There is an evil spirit being roaming the Earth named Satan, who is at war with the lower-half of persons. Humans are the only living beings on Earth with free will, and the only beings that can act contrary to their nature. For example, only man will voluntarily fast or commit suicide. Not all humans are viewed as equals, but they are all a part of the brotherhood of man. Persons will be resurrected after death to face judgment.
Who Are Human Beings in Judaism?
Hebrew Scripture states that human beings were formed from dust into the image of God, who breathed life into their nostrils.
Human beings were made to rule over the Earth and everything that lives on it. They were made to multiply, fill the Earth with people, and to subdue it. Man was made to work and take care of God's creation; he was made rational and creative.
Woman was made from the man and is therefore flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. She was created to be man's helper and to keep him company. Humans were created as social beings. Human beings are of few days, days that are full of trouble.
People are to meditate upon, and delight in, the laws of God, which are instituted not for His benefit but for the benefit of humankind. The ways that may seem right to a man are not God's ways.
Satan is a real personage; he is the adversary and tempter of humans. God loves and cares about human beings, each of whom he personally forms within the womb. God’s creations are perfect, each and every one.
Who Are Human Beings in Christianity?
Christianity presents the origins of the human race in exactly the same way as Judaism does. Christians are to seek God first, and to serve God above all else.
Christian men are to marry Christian women, and when the two are joined together they become one flesh. Sin entered the world through the first man, Adam, and death came through his sin. All human beings sin, and are therefore all deserving of death.
Salvation unto eternal life, after death, is a gift given by grace through the sacrifice on the cross of the divine man, Jesus Christ, who was the first person resurrected from the dead. Human beings will face judgment after death and most—those who have rejected Christ as their Savior—will perish in the eternal fire of God.
Christians will be transformed, during this life, into the likeness of Jesus. Satan and his demons are alive on Earth, though they are invisible. Christ offers the power to humans—who believe in and serve His Father—to defeat the wiles of this devil and to resist the temptation to sin.
The believer should live a life of repentance, which is contrition over sin and determination to avoid future sin. Repentance results in God's forgiveness and restores right relationship between human beings and God.
Prayer—fellowship with God—is stressed as of high import to a Christian person. Faith in God—that He is who He says He is—is a central tenet of Christianity.
Life on Earth for human beings is like a vapor: it appears and then it is gone. We are instructed to study God's Word and to worship Him. The Holy Spirit of God will dwell in Believers, and they will represent God on the Earth.
Who Do You Say That I Am?
Man is tiny compared to the Universe, and yet he towers over it. Only humans can see the Universe and comprehend its wonders. Only human beings can do mathematics, create art, invent, build, codify, and write books.
This Hub is a followup to my previous effort entitled What Is A Human Being?