Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Goats of Christendom

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

John 3:16

This sounds inspirational - if you are a sociopath.

The Christian Approach to Personal Responsibility

Several years ago when I was still studying in India, I had a conversation over lunch with a colleague of mine - and let me tell you, it's not just the food that didn't go down well with me. Back then, I was very much less inclined to question religious beliefs than I am now - I used to have this specious idea that I should respect whatever poppycock people happen to buy into just to avoid offending them. I have long since outgrown that, thankfully.

Anyway, thanks to my misguided non-confrontational policy at the time, the exchange was relatively one-sided. It was mostly him telling me how Christian morality is superior to mine. In the interest of protecting his identity, let's call him um, the Protestant.

"If you don't believe in God, how do you know if your actions are truly moral?" he said. "Without an objective gold standard of complete goodness as a reference point, isn't your morality relative? When morality is relative, anyone can make up any rule in any time in history and they would not be wrong - so long as it fits the context of the time. Morality would be meaningless."

I don't remember how I answered him at the time, but I know how I should have answered. I should have called him a liar. I should have told him that God is most definitely not an objective source of morality. Take the Ten Commandments, for example. One of them was "Thou shalt not kill." If this is an objective law of morality, it means that under no circumstances are anyone allowed to take another person's life. Within the same Biblical book, just some chapters ahead, God commanded the Levites (Exodus 32:27) to "slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour." 3000 people were murdered. Huge tracts in the Book of Joshua were basically Joshua committing genocides after genocides on God's order. In fact, God is so bloodthirsty that he gave Jephthah victory in battle in exchange for him burning his own daughter as an offering to Him (Judges 11:30-31, 11:34-40). These are just a few examples out of myriads.

And if "Thou shalt not kill" is truly an objective moral law - emphasis on objective - then God is immoral if he breaks it, regardless of context. And boy, just between the Flood which wiped out most of humanity, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Plagues of Egypt, he certainly act as if killing is a-okay if you're a cosmic super-being. Objective morality, my comfy ass. The God of the Bible is the greatest moral relativist I know.

By the way, we are all moral relativists. It's just that some people refuse to admit it.

The Protestant then said, in another part of the same discussion: "Humans are fallible. Humans can be tempted. There's no possible way we can avoid committing every sin God prohibits. Only Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, is perfect and blameless. He suffered and died for our sins so we don't have to. So, the only way we can be free of sin and go to Heaven is to accept Jesus's sacrifice."

Never mind that Jesus sacrificed nothing. Never mind that he didn't really die but supposedly strolled out of his tomb three days later as right as rain. Let us focus on the idea of allowing an innocent man to bear the responsibility of our wrongdoings. Let him be punished in our stead. Let him be scourged. Let him be crucified and abandoned to die a slow and painful death. My question is: how can anyone decent, righteous and moral partake in such a miscarriage and abomination of justice for their own personal gain? There's a word for what that is, luv. That word is scapegoating.

This is essentially what Christianity has to offer. They offer you the freedom from the culpability of all your sins so long as you choose to benefit from the torture and execution of this innocent fall guy from Nazareth. If you don't, you must suffer eternal agony at the hands of an angry God. If Hitler - a lifelong Catholic - sincerely confessed his sins and accepted Jesus' offer of absolution before he died, we are forced to believe he's in Heaven now along with every born-again serial killer who ever lived. Anne Frank however, is currently burning in Hell.

My purpose in writing this longish discourse is to combat the vigorous efforts evangelistic Christians expend in spreading what I consider to be a pernicious ideology in search of morality in a cruel and capricious deity, and salvation through bloody human sacrifice. Now, I do not have hopes of penetrating through any Christian blind faith-reinforced skulls with my reasoning but I certainly aim to inoculate the innocents, the undecided and the unschooled against the gooey, superficially feel-good woo the proselytisers peddle. Don't let Christians wave their holier-than-thou attitudes in your face. They are usually no better than the rest of us in practice, and their beliefs are monstrous things.


There's a shorter story I want to tell you which happened a lot closer to present times. I am not going to tell you what to think about it, so take of it what you will. I was in the vehicle of another colleague the other day - let's call this one the Catholic. As he was coming out of his parking spot, he recognised this other car parked nearby and gave an impromptu confession to me.

"I accidentally backed into that car once and dented it."

"So what did you do?" I asked.

"I ran away, of course," he said, laughing. "What did you think I did?"

I recounted an incident to him: "I accidentally reversed into a car in this same place a couple of years ago. I left my phone number with the security guard on duty and asked him to pass it to the car's owner when he or she returns."

No one saw my little oopsie - not even God because I don't believe he exists. I could have gotten away scot-free had I chosen to drive away like the sort of asshole most people are born to be but somehow, I just couldn't do it. I know my conscience very well and I'm sure it will give me hell long after I have left the incident behind. After all, it's not like I have a personal God to forgive me or to take my guilt away when I'm praying privately in my bedroom, right?

The Catholic laughed again. "In life, we shouldn't be too honest, Kok," he told me sagely.

"Oh," I said and changed the subject.

P.S. From today onwards, my pictures' captions will be written in the hovertext. Just hover your cursor over the image and it will pop out automatically.

Thinks that human sacrifice
is primitive and evil,
k0k s3n w4i


Phoebs said...

jesus has a very nice goatee and i want to look like that girl :3 she has awesome hair!

Azygous said...

Hey, I had a similar conversation with my college-mate months ago.

I remembered I argued that morality doesn't need religious adherence and all of us moral non-believers are living proof.

He immediately defended himself saying morals that we possess as humans were given to us by god, and later added that he as a Christian believe that we (non-believers) are definitely capable of having morals, just that we don't give credit to whom credit is due for the morals that we possess.

It's like a never-ending debate.

I wonder how you'll answer her if you're in my shoes...

k0k s3n w4i said...

Phoebs: oh-kay =.="

Azygous: i'd say that's it's theists who are trying to steal credit for god for the morality of godless people like us. typical. i'd also say that he has no proof that god is the one who gave us our altruistic nature, or that such a being even exists. i'd say that according to biblical accounts, god is pretty much an amoral bastard. i'd say that even before the old testament was written, humans already had laws against crimes like murder and stealing. i'd say that social structures like human society are build upon cooperation and reciprocity - the basis of morality - and tell him that in ethological studies, even social animals which supposedly have neither soul nor religion can display moral behaviour. i'd quote psalm 14:1 which says, "the fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. they are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good." how can god take credit for the morality of godless people when it's said that we are unable to display goodness at all according to his own holy book? tell him that his insinuation is an insult to the rest of us who don't believe in the same fairytale he believes in.