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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Is Christian morality harmonious ?

I have examined at length where Christian morality is located within the context of individual development. But what of the claim that religion in general is conductive to social peace and stability ?

Well, there is a way in which the question is trivial. From a memetic standpoint, Christianity, like all other religions, survives insofar as it follows the flow of other memes in society. In this sense, we can say not that Christianity is a stabilizing element, but rather that the stabilizing elements in society normalize Christianity (albeit slowly) and integrate it as a working mechanism of that society. The principles of memetic Christianity (i.e. the actual memes it is composed of, in the minds of believers) are conductive to social stability insofar as its repressive attitude supports social institutions and governments.

But nothing that pursues social stability by repression can possibly contribute to social peace, as peace is the opposite of repression. So a purely theoretical memetic answer would be pretty much negative : Christianity in itself is powerless, and is only a bludgeon of social stability because it is molded that way by impersonal forces.

From an emergentist standpoint, we have to be equally negative. Social interactions are composed of individual moral decisions. If those individual moral decisions are dysfunctional (as Christianity is), then the resulting social interactions will be dysfunctional as well.

Going from the theoretical to the practical, do we have tangible evidence either way ? Definitely. A much-discussed recent study by Gregory Paul has demonstrated that higher levels of religion cause higher levels of social ills such as homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion. Furthermore, it has been obvious for a long time that the United States is the msot dysfunctional of all developed countries - to the extent that sociological studies do not include it within the group of developed countries, as it is an outlier for most social variables. Finally, regions with the greatest levels of religiosity (The Middle East, West Africa - 99% and Latin American - 96%) exhibit higher levels of violence than regions with the lowest levels of religiosity (SE Asia - 77% Western Europe - 88%), except in the area of suicide, according to "Epidemiology of violent deaths in the world", by Reza, Mercy and Krug (note that I don't agree with every conclusion of this study, but the violence data is clear). The United States also shows higher violence than the average of developed countries in all aspects except suicide, the same pattern of religiosity repeating here. Finally, the individual correlation between society-disrupting behaviour and religiosity is well-established, including the correlation between religiosity and criminality.

Can there be a harmonious Christian society ? Even the United States can hardly be called harmonious, at least compared to the average. There is a certain level of disharmony to be expected, by virtue of human nature. So the question becomes - does Christianity improve on this, or regress ? Christians would say the former, but the data shows the latter.

How can we explain this data, and prove causality ? Well, we can say that Christianity is immoral in its doctrines and its principles, and that this immorality is reflected in the individual's decision-making process, and therefore his actions. This is a perfectly valid argument, even if it is rather generalized...

Now let's look at the issue from the perspective of moral development. As I've proven before, Christianity is an order-based morality - a morality adapted for babies and little children - imposed on adults. So you necessarily have a tension there. What you get, is a society full of repressed children, grown adults who hoot and holler at sexuality and bodily functions as if they were schoolchildren, like a lot of Americans. People who are morally retarded in this fashion cannot truly appreciate the finer things of life. This tension results in the fight against alternative lifestyles, alternative worldviews, censorship, and the breakdown of responsibility and civility (for example, people dealing with each other by lawsuits and public recrimination).

The second tension is between order-based morality and natural morality. As adults, Christians still have the brain development, the instincts, the desires that all adults have. But on the other hand, their order-based morality directly contradicts all of these elements, in fact attacks these elements as being of "the world", "anti-Christian".and "sinful". So we end up with a situation where people are conflicted and feel tremendous guilt about their own mind and their own actions. This is not the recipe for a healthy society, but rather the recipe for an oppressive society. We see the results of this tension in high teen pregnancy, high rates of adultery and divorce, high rates of obesity and preponderence of violent crimes born out of insecurity and frustration..

The third moral tension is between Christianity in general and Western civilization. This civilization of ours, regardless of its many faults, was founded on the tearing-down of authority, on the progress brought about by reason and science, on trade and material progress, on the freedom of being (through "human rights"), belief and lifestyle. Although we may have strayed from these ideals in the past century, we can still identify living Western values, such as material gain, romantic love and sexuality, equality, tolerance and respect, the importance of life – as well as our most noble and venerable institutions – the discovery and application of scientific principles, peaceful trading and commercialism, as well as acting and being judged based on one’s values.

In this cultural struggle, therefore, Christianity stands directly in opposition to these foundations, values and institutions. Christians proclaim, as an order from God, that doctrine is more important than science, that doctrine is more important than lifestyle or love, that spirituality is more important than material progress, that salvation is more important than human rights, equality or tolerence, that the culture of death is more important than the culture of life. That is "Christian valuing". So this form of tension also creates a tremendously destructive ideological current in our societies.

The individual, of course, is not "Western civilization" or "Christainity". The individual, however, can decide to promote and affiliate himself with either, or in my case, a rational alternative that sees the good in many Western values but would rather see them validated by rational thought once again, as they were during the Enlightenment. Either way, such a decision must be taken from the foundation of one's personal values, not on the basis of child abuse, indoctrination, intimidation or political wrangling. Individualism is really what we're fighting for. Individualism we shall have, or Western society will sink to the depths of the culture of mysticism, repression and death that Christianity represents.

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3 Comments:

At 10/26/2005 3:59 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

A forceful argument supported by numerous links chock full of facts. I really liked your call to individualism at the end. Promoting individualism is vital IMO and Im glad to see you doing it.

 
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