I’m going to jump off from only one small part of David’s most recent blog and I hope that in doing this I don’t unintentionally appear to be firing off shots in a debate I’m not actually engaging. 🙂 My body has been so full of processing my own journey these last couple of weeks that I have not found anything that I wanted to blog about here, but reading David’s blog did spike one thing I love saying and and never get tired of saying.
I reject categorically the idea that humans are inherently “sinful”.
Indeed I reject categorically the term and concept “sin”.
Let me be clear here, I have a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and was a student of Christian theology for the first forty years of my life. I was deeply invested in fixing what I believed was the huge problem of sin in “the world” and in people. I am not an outsider throwing rocks at a system of belief that is somehow threatening or alien to me. I am an ex-insider who’s identity developed within the christian system of belief and within a family and social networks entirely self identifying as “christian”.
I am no longer the least bit interested in fixing the church or challenging christians to think differently than they want to think, my gaze is outward, inward, connectionsward and to honour the intent of that gaze I do feel free to challenge “christian” concepts and theories that impact people in our societies who have nothing to do with church or christians beyond being unconsciously impacted due to the way “Western” culture has absorbed ideas and frames from the christian system as if they are self evident truths, which they are not.
The idea that humans are intrinsically and fundamentally “bad” is one of those ideas which I find both disgusting and far from self evident.
Humans are clearly imperfect, we all fall short of our highest aspirations, we also often achieve magnificent goodness in pursuit of our aspirations. Why make a particular focus of either aspect? No logical or rational reason to do so.
Humans make horrendous and depraved choices and we make glorious and generous choices.
Do most humans make selfish or generous choices more often?
People often offer the opinion that if more humans acted better the world could be a far better place with far less needless suffering. I agree with that idea.
Do you agree with that idea? If you do, then you could notice that you think humans could make things better on this planet.
Do you also recognise that humans could make things worse on this planet?
Most of us recognise that places in the world we identify as truly awful and overflowing with suffering are that way because people (Usually overwhelmingly men with power.) constantly make the most egregiously selfish choices in pursuit of power and money.
Such places are instructive in one particular way – they illustrate how the world would have been thru all of human history if all humans had acted aggressively and systematically selfishly at every turn. Indeed I think it likely that there would not have been much human history if we all behaved constantly selfishly and destructively.
In case my point is unclear, here it is again – if humans were fundamentally sinful/bad/evil/selfish how do we explain human progress? Before a christian readers suggests that “god” and christianity are the explanation, please go and read “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond first. You might also consider the long history of Chinese civilization that had no “christian” influence.
Anyway, moving away from a theoretical approach to illustrate my point, I’ve worked in counselling roles for almost thirty years and in that time I’ve listened to a great many stories from people who have been treated in the most horrendous ways by other human beings, including members of their own family. I have learned that the goodness of the human sitting in front of me always far FAR outshines the selfishness, malice, depravity of the human(s) who hurt them.
Most people do not return “evil with evil”, because if most of us did that we would not have the world we now have, we would ALL be living in a literal hell, or we would have wiped out our own species already.
The only way humanity could have prospered and advanced, and that is what has happened regardless of the religious beliefs humans have shared in various places at various times, is if humans and human societies are more good than bad, more safe than unsafe, more creative than destructive.
Most people I’ve met have been motivated to be good and to do good. All were also selfish and self interested. Do you know the fable of the goose that laid the golden eggs? If you want the golden eggs to keep being laid you need to keep the goose alive, self interest ensures you care for the goose. Self interest in humans is not a problem, its a fundamentally rational and necessary stance. It is self interest that makes me disinfect a cut in my skin, or makes me step away from the angry person with their fist raised in my face. Nothing wrong or bad about that self interest – the opposite – self interest, the way most of us exercise it most of the time, is healthy, sensible and desirable.
If you, gentle reader, worry about your self interested ways just do one thought experiment and see if it helps you work out the difference between ethical self interest and destructive self interest. Imagine that everyone in the world was going to adopt the attitude or choice or principle you are thinking about adopting or enacting. Would you want to live in a world where everyone did what you are about to do? This is not a foolproof thought experiment but it can help you see that many of your self interested choices are entirely healthy and legitimate, nothing bad or destructive about them at all.
MMMMMM, I’ve been chewing this over here for a thousand words and am probably starting to repeat myself, so I’ll call it quits for now.