Yes, and then again, no. It is one central, crucial concept in Christianity that I find abhorrent, anti-hominid, and an abomination unto MY lord, DNA-nature-reason. In words attributed to a supernormal spiritual advisor, the late Aleister Crowley wrote, "The word of sin is restriction." In his case, he may have had Victorian morality in mind, but he made a point. The Superman envisioned by Nietzsche (one of Crowley's gnostic saints, after all) is perhaps nothing but a rehashing of Taoism's Superior Man (Crowley was a Taoist as well) "worships" reason and fact over superstition and myth. But both men excoriated Christian morality. Once one accepts dogma as truth, one capitulates to antiquated, presentist impositions of restriction -- strictures. But the problem with "sin" does not end there.
Sin is the child of guilt. I write on learning that Matthew Warren, son of Rick, has died of his own hand. The Warren camp is closing ranks, telling the press that his son, Matthew, died of mental illness. The word tossed around is "depression," in itself ridiculous because depressed people don't ordinarily commit suicide, while seriously, chronically depressed people are hard to distinguish from bipolar syndrome, and a minimum of six months is required before any clinical psychiatrist worth her salt pronounces the specific character of the mental illness. The Warrens have told us nothing. Frankly, I should imagine that poor Matthew simply caved under the heavy burden of so much guilt. He could never measure up to Rick. That was a monumental task. Herculean. Sisyphian. But the Matthew we are not being told about probably saw the gargantuan hypocrisy of Rick Warren and could no longer tolerate it.
"Sin" presumes dogmatic wrong. It makes no room soever for individual drives and essential orientations. One is automatically a sinner for eating pork or shellfish; one must rest on the seventh day as God did and go to church; one must not go in public without a burka. The list is endless and, as Yogi might say, it never ceases. Mosheh's code, the Decalogue, is allowed on courthouse grounds because it is not a statement of Judeo-Christian morality but an illustration of the basis of almost all Western law, the principles on which our own American law was founded. And it is, indeed! All of our law, with codified exceptions, is based on much of the Top Ten shalt not's. People revile Crowley partly because of his personal habits and behavior, but also partially because they misunderstand his message. He was full aware that his "Holy Guardian Angel" was in reality his moral compass, his subconscious mind: he had no right not to become a heroin-addicted debauchee. This was his "True Will" (i.e. his personal essence, the "spirit" understood by Sir Richard Burton when he wrote, "He noblest lives and dies who keeps his self-made laws").
Free-thinkers and atheists have muchin common with all three men. Facing reality, the atheist has no bogey man to prick him with a fork, nor supernormal "lord" to reign him in when he errs, and when he fails, the atheist has no God to apologize to, certainly not to "His" "representatives on earth," The Priesthood, purveyors of poppycock and champions of confidence games played by wolves in sheeps' clothing preying on the sheep. These cowards sell imaginary "remission" and "God's" forgiveness, thriving on human weakness and guilt. The Priesthood is a cabal of confidence men who sell myth and superstition as if it were truth, then de-shekel the suckers to build McMansions with air conditioned dog houses. (Now that the televangelist scandals appear to be abating, the lifestyles of the rich and famous megachurchmen are going to be the next wave.)
Religion would perhaps be viewed in a more positive light if it were less determined to reject objectivity and rationality in favor of its own myth-based stories. The problem is that religion has in multiple incidences built a power base around those stories, and a considerable portion of its requirements for membership is believing in those myths without question. With that an immediate conflict arises between religion and any form of methodological science. Religion NEEDS ITS LIES to maintain its power base and therefore insists on those lies, while science makes a mockery of them practically by existing.
Add to this religion's insistence on a status quo and you have a pretty considerable problem. Religion isn't supposed to change because of the diktat of its primary players, whether you want to talk about Moses, Jesus or Mohammed. Science changes and grows with every new discovery, and frequently in so doing shows off repeatedly how religion has gotten it wrong. Religion then reacts by insisting that they are somehow RIGHT, drilling that into their followers and where possible, any government willing to consider their position. The result is that humankind is prevented from learning, growing and developing knowledge at the rate it is capable of.
To a degree, having such a brake to counter the accelerator may be a good thing, but riding that brake the way religion does remains counterproductive and ultimately reflects a dangerous desire for anachronism. Religion in general or christianity specifically may not be THE worst catastrophe in human history ... but if it isn't, name me what is.
Nice post, Loren. I agree with all. What you are saying is Man, once freed from the manacles of religious dogma, could progress exponentially, whereas today, we are kept in thrall of nonsense whose perpetuation is guaranteed by the religious indoctrination of believers. At least that is my take on your comment.
Ba-da-bing, James ... utterly, absolutely, ON THE NOSE.
This is where we hit our snag when we present our case to believers. Most of them take great offense to the implication that they have been indoctrinated. People generally want to think of themselves as skeptics and rationalists who know a con when they see it. They generally are. But its the fact that they don't equivocate religion with an elaborate con that they make special pleading fallacies (that's not my god) and so forth. I've tried using analogies in this situation before and it has been effective on occasion. Also, and this may be a bit off topic, but I don't understand how anyone could justify using the Bible to prove that the Bible is true. Indoctrination is the likely cause, but I look forward to your comments.
"I see all the trees, but where the F*** is the forest?!?"
That is their problem, Aaron: they've been so immersed in the bullshit that they have no idea that they're in it. Most of them have been scared out of thinking outside of the box. Others have had rote arguments which supposedly respond to the case we make, and those are typically as vacuous as the dogma they adhere to.
Personally, I've done my bit with arguing with people online about the whole belief vs. atheism business, and I'm tired of it to the point where, unless someone wants to be particularly persistent, I won't waste my time. In the real world, I will be polite with the JWs who come to my door, but their religion will get positively NO RHYTHM with me, nor will it get any respect, as it has earned none.
And the next time some JW says that we're of two different schools of thought, my answer will be, "You're right. I base where I stand on facts in evidence and proven, demonstrable theory. You base yours on myths out of a 2,000-year-old book which has neither corroboration nor second source, which contradicts itself too often to be credible, and is more violent than the craziest piece of celluloid Sam Peckinpah ever shot. If you want to live in the first century, be my guest. Do not presume for one instant that I want to forsake the 21st century for that horror."
It's time they learned that they are WRONG.
Me, too, but we go on preaching to the choir. You should pardon the expression.
Your "off topic" next to last line illustrates the circular logic of trying to prove the existence of God with reference to the Buy Bull, which believers always claim to be proof of the existence of the deity. "I know God exists because the Bible tells me so." (Yes, and that is like saying Jesus told you so. In fact, let's write a song about Jesus loving us, for the Bible tells us so.)
I understand what you're saying completely. I get tired of the usual back and forth with believers too. I find myself arguing in the defensive stance 90% of the time ( I don't generally like confrontation) but when these arguments are made they need to be challenged. I think it would be immoral if we didn't. That however is a place where atheists can and should be in their element when debating theists. Familiarity with the Bible (and the atrocities within) are a powerful weapon against their indoctrination.
I believe that oftentimes believers think that they have the morality card in their back pocket ready to play it like a foul at a soccer game. But when one points out that the Abrahamic God not only condones but sanctions the practice of slavery, slaughters entire cities full of people, has a very peculiar idea of what righteousness is (see the story of Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah where two angels are about to be raped and he decides it would be better to let his two daughters be raped instead of dying like a man the way any real father would), the idea of this being's benevolence comes into question. This is especially potent in mixed company where they would have either admit that these things are wrong and their god isn't great, or say that slavery is OKAY in public.
You may disagree friends, but that's just how I feel about it.
As usual I totally agree with both of you, Loren and James. I couldn't possibly add anything more except to repeat what my Grandpa always said. He called religion the scourge of the Earth. How can you reason with someone who has an invisible friend that they would do ANYTHING for?
Smart man, your Grandpa. It's kind of scary to think about what they believe their god does for them, too. Yeesh...
My friends are VISIBLE ... ALL of them. An invisible friend who may or may not be there and may or may not help based on some inexplicable whim is of no interest or use to me. My REAL friends are infinitely more reliable, more enjoyable in good times and more support in the bad ones.
Why should I bother with an invisible friend?
Yes, I agree, by all means!