Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Same God or Different Gods?

(Note: This is an excerpt from an unpublished book of mine entitled "God Is..." It is copyrighted by the author, Randy C. Finch)

Do Jews and Christians believe in the same God? I believe that most Christians would respond in the affirmative. After all, Christians believe that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as Moses, is the same God that sent Jesus as the Messiah. They have to be the same God, right? I dare say that some Jewish people would beg to differ since their God never manifested himself in human form 2000 years ago.

Okay, how about this. Do Muslims believe in the same God as do Jews? Some think so since Ishmael, the supposed ancestor of most Muslims, was the firstborn son of Abraham while Isaac was his second son, thus meaning that Jews and Muslims both share a common ancestor that worshipped the true God. If indeed the Jewish people originated from the seed of Isaac and the Muslim people originated from the seed of Ishmael, how can anyone possibly say that these two peoples worship different Gods? Could it be that the concept of God—his nature, attributes, dealings with man, commands, and punishments—diverged over time between the two nations? If so, then wouldn’t this mean that both groups still worship the same God, but with some mistaken ideas about that God? After all, both Jews and Muslims claim to worship the God of Abraham. Abraham did not worship two gods, did he?

How does the Muslim God compare to the Christian God? Here are excerpts of what John Ankerberg and John Weldon have to say about the differences between these two gods.

Islam teaches that the true God is the Muslim deity, Allah. All other views of God are false because the Koran teaches, “The true religion with God is Islam.” …

But who is Allah? Is he anything like the God of Christian faith? As we will see, the Muslim God is entirely different from the biblical God. First, the Koran stresses that Allah is one person only: “They are unbelievers who say, ‘God is the Third of Three.’ … the Bible unmistakably tells us that God has revealed Himself as a triune Being, as One God eternally existing in three Persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit …

Second, the Muslim God has a different character than the biblical God. It is significant that of the “99 beautiful names for Allah,” which Muslims memorize and use for worship, not one of these names is “love” or “loving.” The Koran stresses that Allah only “loves” those who do good, but that he does not love those who are bad. … The biblical God does love the sinner—in fact, He loves all sinners. … But the Bible declares, “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:6).

Next, through predestination of all things, Allah is considered the direct author of both good and evil. This is not the God of the Bible. While the biblical God is sovereign and permits evil, He is not its direct cause. …

Third, Allah is ultimately unknowable and incomprehensible. In Who Is Allah in Islam, Abd-al-Masih writes, “Allah is the unique, unexplorable, and inexplicable one—the remote, vast and unknown God. Everything we think about him is incomplete, if not wrong. Allah cannot be comprehended.”

… Houssney goes on to point out the contrast between Muslim and Christian concepts concerning humanities’ relationship to God: “The Christian claim that humans can have a relationship with God is considered by Muslims to be a metaphysical impossibility. …”

All this stands in contrast to the biblical teaching that men and women can know God personally on an intimate, relational level. …

The above reveals that the Muslim God, Allah, and the biblical God, Yahweh, constitute two distinct and opposing concepts of God. Regrettably, because Muslims teach that Allah alone is the one true God, they claim that Christians worship a false god.

(John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Are Allah and the Biblical God the Same?,

The interesting thing about Ankerberg and Weldon’s comments is that if you compare Allah to Jehovah in the Old Testament rather than the New Testament, you will find that that they are very compatible. Consider these facts about Jehovah as revealed in the Old Testament that are compatible with Allah as described by Ankerberg and Weldon.

• He was considered to be One (Deuteronomy 6:4). We are never told that God was three persons in one.

• He only loved those who obeyed him. He hated those who did wrong (Psalm 5:5) and was willing to destroy any who disobeyed, even his own people (Exodus 32).

• He was the author of both good and evil (Joshua 23:15).

• He did not have personal relationships with people. Rather he had a command and control system and usually only communicated directly with leaders and prophets (Exodus 19:10-25).

So, it appears that Allah is very similar to Jehovah in the Old Testament, but radically different from Jehovah in the New Testament. If this be so, then that obviously means that the God of the Old Testament is also radically different from the God of the New Testament. I have pointed out many of these differences throughout this book. Below I list several not included above.

God of Judaism                             God of Christianity
Keep the Sabbath or be executed         No need to keep Sabbath, worship on Sunday
Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth            Love your enemies
Death penalty for adulterers                  Forgive adulterers
Did not send Jesus as the Messiah      Did send Jesus as the Messiah
Man can divorce wife who is                   Man can divorce wife only if she
        displeasing                                                          commits adultery
Dietary rules                                                        No dietary rules
Animal sacrifices                                            No animal sacrifices
Under law                                                              Under grace

Ankerberg and Weldon make a compelling case for the God of Islam and the God of Christianity being two different gods. Given that, they really have no choice but to declare the God of Judaism and the God of Christianity to be two different gods also, regardless of what the writers of the New Testament say. That is unless God changes. If God changes, it is entirely possible that the God described in the Old Testament is the same God as the one in the New Testament. But this would mean that orthodox Jews who today worship God according to the dictates of the old covenant would be worshipping a false god since God as he was known in the Old Testament no longer exists. This would be very strange given that the Bible indicates God does not change (Numbers 23:19, Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8).

In the natural realm, change happens all the time. At one point during my journey through spacetime, I would have been described as a teenager with long thick curly brown hair, six-foot-three-inches tall, and weighing 160 pounds. Now I would be described as fifty-something, with short grayish brown / missing hair, six-foot-two-and-a-quarter-inches tall, and weighing 230 pounds. (For humans, unlike wine, change due to aging is not always for the better.) But, of course, this is only describing physical change. What if I were to change my thinking about morals and spiritual matters? Well, I have; a number of times. At one time I did not consider myself a religious person. Later I considered myself a Christian. Yet even later, I considered myself a Deist. But people who have known me throughout all those times still deem me to be me.

So, what type of changes would I have to endure for others to see me as a totally different person? Slimming down to my recommended weight? Losing a limb? Becoming disfigured? Becoming a Buddhist monk? Becoming a bank robber? Becoming a murderer? It seems that the answer is “no” for all these. Of course, sometimes a person can alter themselves so radically that friends and family might comment, “You don’t look like yourself,” or “Wow, you are so different,” or “I don’t know you anymore,” or “What happened to you?” In all cases, the observer still recognizes the person as being the original person they knew, but so different as to seem like another person. So, what makes you you? When you really think about it, this is quite difficult to answer. Is it strictly the forensic side of yourself like your fingerprints, retinal pattern, or DNA? Perhaps, but in reality it seems as if everything combined makes you you. For example, if you changed many things about your physical appearance, talked differently, and acted differently, then it would be hard for others, even people close to you, to distinguish you from a totally separate person. (Think of the Old Testament story of the unrecognized Joseph, once he came to a position of power under Pharaoh, having a bit of fun with his brothers when they came to beg for grain. (Genesis 42-45)) Yet, if you were able to remember things that only you could know, you might convince others that you are really you. So, perhaps a key part of this mystery is your path along the spacetime continuum. Each person has a unique path along this continuum, and that is a large part of who each person is.

So, what about God? How much can he change and still be the same God? Well, strictly speaking, if there is only one God, then he can change any amount and still be the same God since no other god can exist. So, a better way of approaching this issue is to ask, “If two people believe in God, but they each describe their God in differing ways, then how can we know if 1) both people believe in the one true God with one or both having mistaken concepts of that God, 2) one person believes in the one true God, but the other person believes in a false god, or 3) both people believe in false gods?” A simplified version of this question is, “How far afield must a person’s concept of the one true God go before we can no longer say that he believes in the correct God with a few misunderstandings and must begin to say that he now believes in a false god?”

Consider two people sitting next to each other on a pew at a church. Before services begin, they engage in a conversation about their faith. They both declare themselves to be born-again believers and on track for heaven. As the conversation progresses, one person says that he differs with most people in his church on the issue of drinking alcohol since the Bible clearly teaches that drinking in moderation is totally acceptable to God. The stunned second person vehemently disagrees with this assessment. The first person then goes on to announce that smoking is not sinful either. The astonished companion says, “I can’t visualize Jesus standing outside the temple smoking a cigarette.” This is countered with, “Well, I can’t visualize Jesus standing outside the temple eating a hotdog and sipping on a soda, but that doesn’t make it a sin.” As the conversation continues, these two people find that their understanding of God is quite divergent. They each begin to question whether or not the other person is really a Christian or not. Yet, since they each claim to believe in the God of the Bible, it is difficult for either one to declare that the other actually believes in a false god. They would most likely believe their counterpart simply has a greatly distorted view of the true God. Yet, if another person approached them from a totally different religion whose God was essentially the same as the second man’s God, then the first man would likely declare the third person’s God to be a false god.

My conclusion is that it is not always easy to determine that another person believes in a different god than you. My experience tells me that typically a person will accept that another person believes in the same God when that person is a part of the same religious mega-group, such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc. In some cases there is crossover, such as Christians believing that Jews worship the same God. In other cases there is rejection within the mega-group, such as a traditional Christian who believes that Mormons do not worship the same God. All of this discussion may be purely academic to many of you, but it really is not. Worshipping the true God is generally considered to be one of the most important requirements of salvation since worshipping the wrong God leads to damnation. In many cases people believe that others who worship the same God, given that their view of that God is sufficiently distorted, are hell bound.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Review of "Man on the Moon"

This movie review was written for an Objectivist publication back in 2000; however, it was never published.

A Review of “Man on the Moon”
by Randy C. Finch

The magician waves his hands stealthily over the limp body of his beautiful female assistant. Suddenly, the magician’s hands change their motion as if they are lifting an invisible entity into the air. Telekinetically, the female assistant begins floating upward, suspended on nothing but air. She continues to move upward until her prone body is above the magician’s head. The magician gracefully slides large hoops around the floating assistant to show that no wires are attached. A look of wonderment floods the faces of the audience. Deep down they know it is an illusion, but what technique is being used? In the recesses of many minds, the possibility that the assistant is really floating is considered, as no other explanation is forthcoming.

Just as the magician makes the unreal appear to be real, so did Andy Kaufman the comedian and entertainer. But in addition, Andy sometimes made the real appear to be unreal. In the movie “Man on the Moon”, Jim Carrey does a masterful job of portraying the late Andy Kaufman. A few years ago, Mr. Carrey played the role of E. Nygma (a.k.a. The Riddler) in “Batman Forever”. In this offering, he plays a real-life enigma. He was brilliant in both roles, perhaps because he is a bit of an enigma himself.

If anyone could make Ayn Rand turn over in her grave, I believe Andy Kaufman could. His life was an infusion of the real and the unreal. This was true both on stage and off. As his girlfriend says to him in the movie, “There is no real you.” Not only did he have his fans confused about who he really was, he also had his own friends and family confused. When he announced to the people closest to him that he had cancer, no one believed him. They thought it was just another antic he was about to perpetrate on the public like his wrestling with women. Keeping his fans on their toes wondering what he would do next and then being puzzled as to whether he was for real or not was the apparent goal of Andy Kaufman.

However, even as Ms. Rand is turning over, she must also recognize many of the same traits in Andy Kaufman that she wrote into her fictional character, Howard Roark. Andy was fiercely independent, wanting to entertain his way without regard to what other people thought. When presented with the opportunity to portray Latka in the TV series “Taxi”, he was uninterested as it would require him to perform from a script that was not his own. He only relented when ABC agreed to his terms, which included several TV specials where he had artistic license. At one point in the movie, George Shapiro (Andy’s agent) asks Andy what the purpose behind his entertainment was, to make the audience laugh or to make himself laugh. It was obvious throughout the movie that the latter was the case.

You have most likely known of a practical joker that hated having practical jokes played on himself. Apparently, Andy Kaufman was not one of those people. When he traveled to the Philippines in a last ditch effort to be cured of his cancer, he was expecting a miracle. The healers there were burying their hands in the bodies of the sick and pulling out the offending matter without surgery. As Andy lay on the table, he noticed that the offending matter was already in the healer’s hand before the procedure began. He is then shown laughing his head off as he realizes that this healer had duped him just as he had duped people throughout his career. Yet, in the throes of death, he found the ability to make the unreal real to be extremely funny, even when perpetrated by others.

Yes, Andy Kaufman was an enigma. People typically either hated him or loved him. If you are one of the former, you will probably find this movie stupid or boring or both. However, if you are one of the latter, as I am, you will be spellbound by it. In either case, the movie is a good study in how people view that which is real and that which is unreal, and how it can be difficult at times distinguishing the two, especially when an accomplished artist is purposefully confusing them.

Finally, be aware that the movie was produced in a style that would have been pleasing to Andy. Although it answered many questions about what was real and unreal in his life, it left many unanswered and even presented new ones for the audience’s consideration. In fact, as the movie ended, I was questioning whether or not Andy was even dead or not. It would be his style to fake his death and remain in character for 16 years. Consider this. Most people know how great Andy was at imitating Elvis Presley. What if all those Elvis sightings are the “late” Andy Kaufman messing with our minds as only he could. It’s a thought.


Randy Finch is an engineer living and working in Alabama. He earned his BS and MS from the University of Louisville. He enjoys creating computer software and writing articles about computer programming. He has had over 60 articles published in magazines, journals, newsletters, and conference proceedings. He also enjoys reading, writing, and discussing philosophy, particularly Objectivism. Interestingly, Randy was born on February 2, 1955, exactly 50 years to the day after Ayn Rand was born. Also, notice that the name Ayn Rand can be created with just the letters in his first name (if the “a” and “n” are used twice). If anyone knows of any significance to these coincidences, please let him know.

The Truman Show: A Review (from 1998)

The following review was published in a philosophical journal in June 1998. The journal was Full Context: An International Objectivist Publication, Vol 10, Num 10.

The Truman Show: A Review
by Randy C. Finch

Are you ready to watch a major motion picture that promotes the integrity of the individual? One that vividly illustrates how a human being must be in control of his or her own destiny? Then look no further than “The Truman Show.”

“The Truman Show” is about 30-year-old Truman Burbank, brilliantly portrayed by Jim Carrey. This role is a bit of a change for Mr. Carrey. Known for his slap-stick humor and amazing facial and body contortions, the role of Truman Burbank allowed for little of this. Truman is a business man living a happy, peaceful, “Ozzie and Harriet”-style life. He has a beautiful wife who has his best interest at heart, a wonderful mother, an extremely loyal best friend, and a good, stable job. Yet with all this going for him, Truman is missing something. In some inexplicable way, his life seems mundane and he longs for more. Part of his longing is for the girl he was in love with in college that had been whisked away to Fiji by her father in the midst of their first date.

Truman decides to take control of his life and go to Fiji, only to be thwarted at every turn. Airlines are booked for a month, the bus breaks down, a forest fire blocks the road, and a nuclear reactor begins to leak. It appears that everyone is conspiring to keep him at home. Other subtle clues like a suspicious radio transmission and a fake elevator only add confirmation to his suspicions. He slowly begins to realize that he is being watched wherever he goes and his every move is known.

And indeed he is right, for unknown to him is the fact that he had been adopted by a corporation when he was a baby and has been part of a very popular, 30-year, around-the-clock TV show. Further, all events surrounding his life are just part of the script for the show.

But Truman is not a man to give up easily. He resorts to trickery to evade the unknown conspirators and actually overcomes his greatest fear to make his escape. Drastic attempts to stop his escape almost result in his death. But Truman’s desire to discover the truth and escape the directing hand of his adversaries does not let him turn back. In the end, when confronted with a choice of living in the safety and comfort of a world under another’s control versus an unknown world in which he could create his own destiny, Truman opts for the latter.

While the whole premise of this movie is far-fetched, the message is not. An individual needs, yea requires, control over his own life. Without it he is nothing but a puppet living at the whim of others. Don’t miss “The Truman Show.”

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Thoughts About "An Inconvenient Truth"

Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" was quite a good documentary. Gore is a compelling speaker and very convincing. However, having listened to both sides of this global warming, or climate change, or whatever the PC term for it is these days, issue, it really points up to me how very difficult it is to know truth. Both sides make compelling cases, so who are we to believe? It is of great interest to me how two people can look at the same evidence, or read the same document, and reach almost entirely opposite conclusions. We see it in the philosophical realm, the religious realm, and yes, even the scientific realm. Most of the differing conclusions come from the fact that each person has his/her own level of evidence that is required to become compelling in his/her own mind. Since we rarely have the evidence required to be 100% certain of most things of import, we see greatly varied opinions. In many cases the actual truth lies somewhere between the most ardent believer and the most ardent skeptic.

Friday, April 9, 2010

God's Punishment

I heard a Holocaust survivor, David Faber, speaking on Focus on the Family this morning. The program is online at . The things he went through were absolutely horrendous and difficult to even think about, let alone live through. On listening to this gentleman, I was reminded of an article I read about ten years back by Hank Hanegraaff in the Christian Research Journal. The article is still online at . It is about the necessity of hell. Please read it before reading further. I sent an Email to Mr. Hanegraff right after the article was published. Here is its content.You will see the relevance to David Faber near the end.

Dear CRJ,

I would like to comment on the article "Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here" by Hank Hanegraaff in the Practical Apologetics section of Vol 23 Num 1. The theme running through this article is that if there is a heaven, then there must be a hell of eternal torment. In fact, the opening paragraph states, "Are you absolutely certain that one day those who have died in Christ will be resurrected to eternal life in heaven? If you are, then you can be just as sure that unbelievers will be resurrected to eternal torment in hell." The article further implies that if there is not a hell then there is universal salvation.

Why only these two choices? Why could it not be that there is a heaven and another place where God punishes evil people according to their deeds and then releases them into heaven? Or how about eternal non-existence for evil people? In other words, isn't there a better way to punish people than to torture them for an infinite amount of time?

At one point, Mr. Hanegraaff has a quote saying, "Evil is contagious and must be quarantined. Like a deadly plague, if it is not contained it will continue to contaminate and corrupt." Putting this together with the statement above where he says, "... unbelievers will be resurrected to eternal torment in hell," we get a very simplistic view of the world that says that all unbelievers are evil and all believers are good. Come on, surely Mr. Hanegraaff doesn't believe this. Just a little observation of the world reveals that there are many unbelievers that are very moral and good people while there are many believers that are evil. Is justice really served by making belief in the divinity of Jesus the deciding factor between eternal bliss and eternal torment?

Later, Mr. Hanegraaff says, "Without hell, the wrongs of Hitler's Holocaust will never be righted. Justice will be impugned if, after slaughtering six million Jews, Hitler merely died in the arms of his mistress with no eternal consequences." Has Mr. Hanegraaff really thought through what he is saying here? Of course, most people would like to see Hitler punished for his evil deeds, but eternal torture? This makes a mockery of justice! And to top it off, what will happen to those six million Jews that Hitler ordered to be killed? Well, since they are unbelievers according to the New Testament, they're going to be there in hell suffering eternal torture right alongside Hitler! Some justice for the victims. If this is really true, then God is infinitely more evil and unjust than Hitler himself. Come on, give me a break!

Randy Finch

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Letter to Matt Friedeman

Matt Friedeman has a radio program on American Family Radio. Recently, he was talking about how he believed that some people claim that God told them to do thus and so as a means of justifying what they want to do. I sent the following Email to him in response.


On your radio program this morning I was glad to hear you talk about the supposed calling of God in many people's lives, especially how it mostly seems that preachers are called to move to a bigger church with a higher salary rather than into a poverty stricken area with low pay. I have noticed that also and expressed that same sentiment myself. I also found it interesting that you said that you have gotten to the point of just telling people that God did not say that when it conflicts with the nature of the Biblical God.

For these same reasons, I have concluded that much of what the Bible says that God told Moses was not really God speaking, but rather simply what Moses "thought" God was saying or what the Biblical writers "thought" God was saying. I base this on the following:

1. God does not change. (Numbers 23:19, Malachi 3:6)
2. God is love. (I John 4:8)
3. We should love our enemies. (Matt 5:43-48)
4. What love entails. (1 Cor 13:4-7)

If these four things are true then I find it impossible to believe that God ordered the destruction of entire nations, including all the children. If we think abortion is bad, what must we think about the Israelite soldier, serving under Moses, who took a sword to the pregnant woman's belly, killing both the woman and her unborn child?

Our conclusion should be that either: 1) God DOES change (meaning he was bad to begin with but has improved with age), 2) God is NOT love, 3) we should NOT love our enemies, but rather destroy them, 4) the definition of love that the Apostle Paul gave us was NOT accurate (meaning that it IS possible to love an innocent person while murdering them), or 5) God did NOT order the murders of all those children and other innocents in the nations they attacked.

I believe that Moses was like many of the leaders of other nations. They tell their people that the killing they are going to be doing has been sanctioned by God in order to assuage their consciences. It is a difficult thing for good people to kill other people. But if people can be convinced that the creator of all things is commanding the killing, they can better swallow it. As you may recall, sometimes the Israelites still had problems following Moses' commands. In Numbers 31:7-18, we see that Moses became angry when his soldiers had mercy on the Midianite women and children and ordered them to kill all the boys, but keep the virgin women for themselves. I dare say that if a general in the US Army acted in such a way, Christians would be calling for an immediate court martial.

What do you think?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

On Wealth and Giving

This morning I heard David Jeremiah on the radio talking about tithes and offerings. He talked about how he and his wife had recently discussed what they felt like the Lord was leading them to do in the way of giving. He said that the older he gets the more he realizes how little a person really needs to live. Although he didn’t state it explicitly, Jeremiah seemed to be implying that Christians needed to scale back obtaining things they simply want and give more to the Lord instead. I would like to express my view on this matter.

First, one has to be clear about what is meant by needs and wants. Do needs only include those things required to survive at a subsistence level or can they also include things that elevate us some degree above subsistence level. If the former, then it really is true that very little is needed. These would consist of: a small shelter to protect us from the elements, a minimal amount of basic foods for nourishment, and very basic clothing to protect us from the winter cold and the summer sun. Multi-roomed brick houses with fine decorations are not needed. Twenty-dollar steaks and other high end culinary delights are not required. Designer clothes are not essential. Throw out those TVs, radios, game machines, phones, computers, fine furniture, dish washers, clothes washers and dryers, plush mattresses, etc. None of those things are necessary to maintain a subsistence level existence.

But I doubt seriously that Jeremiah was talking about scaling our lives back this much. He hasn’t done it and I don’t see a mass movement amongst believers to leap into a poverty level existence. So, if God’s people are allowed to live above the poverty line, how far above it can they go? Once one steps above that line, I can see no logical stopping point. At every step along the way, one can question his own actions. You want to sleep on a nice $500 mattress rather than the floor so your back won’t hurt. But is preventing your hurting back more important than preventing a destitute person from starving to death? Is the convenience of having a machine wash your dishes more important than providing shelter to a person exposed to the elements? And on and on the questions can be asked. At what point should the answer be that my comforts are less important than another’s survival?

Rather than questioning his spending habits, a person could choose to go the route that Jesus told the rich ruler in Luke 18 he must follow to inherit eternal life: sell everything and give to the poor. This Biblical story has been repeated so much that we sort of gloss over how incredibly radical this command is. Sell everything and give to the poor! I have often wondered how this would play out in real life should a person actually do this. First, the rich man would himself immediately become poor and need the assistance of others who are selling everything and giving to the poor. That is unless the rich man had a source of income to sustain him in the future. Assuming he does, is he required to continually sell all new possessions that come his way or is this just a onetime event leaving him free to accumulate wealth in the future with impunity? It would seem that the answer to this is that he would have to continually turn over his wealth to the poor lest his new possessions take control of his life as the old possessions had.

I personally think that as long as a person has earned his possessions honestly, then he is free to live at any standard of living he can afford. In countries where this has been allowed, wealth beyond what even a king could have imagined 500 years ago has been created. Look at society today here in the US as well as in other relatively free nations around the world. It is absolutely phenomenal! Now think with me about what would happen if everyone decided to quit buying things not necessary to simply exist. The world economy would be decimated. If people quit buying TVs, iPods, appliances, large houses, fancy clothes, and so on, worldwide unemployment would probably top 50% or higher. This is due to the efficiency in the current production of necessary items. It does not take the entire working population to produce these things. So, for there to be work available for everyone else, they of necessity must produce wanted items rather than needed items. Just look at what has happened in the last couple of years with the economic downturn. Just a small number of people withholding spending on luxury items has caused unemployment in the US to top 10%. That is nothing compared to what would happen if there was a mass exodus from high-on-the-hog living.

So, is it better to stop living an affluent life, thus putting billions of people out of work; or is it better to continue to acquire more and more unnecessary stuff, thus keeping billions of people employed. It seems to me that it is much, much better for everybody to live as affluently as possible and keep people employed than live modestly and cause many to go on welfare, assuming there’s any welfare money available under such conditions. In addition, it is affluence that allows us to provide an abundance of emergency help to people in dire straits like the people of Haiti. If those who are able to live abundantly fail to do so, then they can cause as much devastation and suffering for the poor of the world as can a natural disaster.