Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Lovey-Dovey Christianity vs Reality

As must be obvious by now, I write a great deal about morality. In fact, it is my primary preoccupation. I might, however, be accused of being altogether too concerned with the morality of "mean Christianity", the Christianity of a vengeful god and absolutist rules. And that perhaps the morality of "Lovey-Dovey Christianity", that of the peaceful hippie Jesus, is a superior alternative ?

This is, however, not the case at all. "Lovey-Dovey Christianity" (henceforth to be called LDC) is no more rational, and no more desirable, than "mean Christianity". To make this case, I will look at the two main moral principles of LDC : "love thy neighbour as yourself" and the Golden Rule.

1. "Love Thy Neighbour As Yourself"

LDCers lash on to Romans 13:9, which says :

The commandments (...) are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

It then goes on to say :

Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

That's fine. Few people want to do harm to others, unless it's necessary. So this principle, while not original to Christianity, is not so bad. But what about "love" ? One thing which Paul does not examine at all is the nature of "love". What is "love" and why should we express it towards everyone ?

Love is, according to humanist psychology, a spontaneous affective movement towards beings or things which satisfy our values. While love is very complex, perhaps the most complex emotional phenomena, it has one thing in common : the feeling of well-being and happiness that the loved brings us, because we perceive it as being able to satisfy our values.

So how can we feel love towards all people ? There are people in the world whose value systems are quite opposed to ours, and some who even wish us harm. How do these people satisfy or fulfill our values ? If they do not, then how can we possibly love them ? It is impossible for anyone to love someone who wishes them harm. Even LDCers do not feel that way.

To love everyone is to love no one at all - such universality completely dilutes any meaning it could possibly have. It is difficult enough for a polygamist to keep a loving relationship with two people at a time, so how can we possibly imagine ourselves capable of loving everyone ?

Such love is not desirable, even if it was possible. A healthy cynicism about people's motives is always moral. When we abandon this, we abandon our desire for social truth. In a sense, the idea that "universal love" is a regressive concept can explain this problem. The regressive, childish view entails that everyone holds the same values, and that there is no moral difference between individuals. The Christian concept of "universal love" could only work if this was the case. Therefore it seems to me to be regressive.

2. The Golden Rule

In the Sermon on the Mount - perhaps one of the most evil moral discourses ever written - "Jesus" says :

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
(Matthew 7:12)

The first problem with this principle is that it is wholly incompatible with other parts of Christianity, such as the God-believer relationship, the priest-believer relationship, the saved-unsaved relationship, the husband-wife relationship, the parent-child relationship... basically every power relation prescribed in the Bible. But LDCs probably profess not to subscribe to those anyway, so let's continue.

The main problem of the Golden Rule is the same as for "Love Thy Neighbour" : it is a regressive, childish rule. It assumes that every single individual in the world has the same values. Otherwise, how can I know that I should do to them what I would want ? What I want depends on my values. What they want depends on their values. Therefore, by asking us to assume uniformity, the Golden Rule is a golden ticket to total social warfare.

And the other problem, which is also similar to the ones for "Love Thy Neighbour", is that no one can follow such a rule. In fact, many people err in the opposite way of moral relativism, completely dissociating values between those of the past and those of the present, those of one country and those of another country. And so does Christianity, for that matter. And so is Lovey-Dovey Christianity - the product of moral relativism !

So what is the general problem with LDC ? Its problem is that it is still working within the framework of Christianity, which is amoral. Therefore, the only way it can be Lovey-Dovey is by starting from the premise that everyone is the same. The only rational position - that everyone has different values but exist in the same world with the same moral principles - is completely outside of the limited amoral framework of Christianity. To be a moral person, you have to completely leave Christianity.

The only difference is that in the dictatorship of Fundamentalism, everyone's sad, and in the dictatorship of LDC, everyone's smiling - because they get shot if they don't.

Post a Comment


At 5/10/2006 6:39 AM, Blogger Mike declaimed...

It assumes that every single individual in the world has the same values.

See, it's stuff like this that makes your entire philosophy shaky. You're saying that the golden rule is in some way built on "humanist psychology," when it clearly isn't. It is ridiculously foolish to claim that the golden rule assumes everyone has the same values.

But what about "love" ? One thing which Paul does not examine at all is the nature of "love". What is "love" and why should we express it towards everyone ?

Huh? Seriously man, you're on crack. Paul doesn't examine the nature of love? Have you read the Corinthians love chapter? It's not an ontological analysis, but it's one hell of a kick ass ethical description.

Your blog is apparently dedicated to taking shots at Christian presuppers, but it is as if you've never read their material. It is possible to learn something from their theory of the presupposition, you know.

At 5/10/2006 9:06 AM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

Paul does give some characterization to "love" in 1 Corinthians 13, but it's not an explanation of what "love" actually is.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails;

It also goes without saying that this characterization of "love" is in complete contradiction to the idea of the Christian god as "loving."

I've heard the Golden Rule reinterpreted as something called the Platinum Rule. "Do unto others as they would have done to themselves." But this creates an onus on individuals to fulfill that values of others, which is immoral. Perhaps a Silver-Platinum Rule: "Do not do unto others that which they would not have done to themselves."

At 5/10/2006 6:03 PM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

Good points, Zach. In addition, I'd also point out that I Cor. 13 (and the bible in general) nowhere presents an analysis of love insofar as its relationship to one's values are concerned. This is all taken for granted implicitly, and yet once it's made explicit, the incompatibility of the Christian worldview and love as such becomes clear. Contrary to the claim that love "does not seek its own," love is profoundly selfish and revolves around what we value. A "selfless love" would be a "love" that is indifferent to one's own interests and the interests of those who are important to him. I.e., a self-contradictory notion. Let's not forget that Christianity instructs the believer to "deny himself." But one cannot love himself and yet deny himself at the same time. Again Christianity divides a man against himself.

Another point which goes over Christians' heads is the fact that love is not subject to commands, and yet the authors of the bible seemed to have thought that an individual's love can be directed about by a series of "thou shalts" backed up by threats. Doesn't fly.


At 5/12/2006 12:07 PM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

"Love is not a decision. It's a feeling. If we could all choose who we loved, life would be much simpler, but much less MAGICAL" - Mr. Twig, South Park.

Magical might be a stretch, but the point is that it is an emotion. You cannot decide to love someone in any sense of the word, or what you are feeling is not love, it is a form of autohypnosis at best. Paul was an opportunistic idiot.

At 6/06/2006 8:50 PM, Blogger Tim declaimed...

I think it is best not to get hung-up on the "love" word. I think what is meant is the idea of sympathy or fellow-feeling. We ought to treat others as we would like to be treated *without regard to our particularities.* Rawls used this approach to argue that a just society would be one in which we would agree participate in a lottery to determine our place in it. Under those conditions most of us would choose a fairly egalitarian society.

NOTE: these morality considerations apply ONLY to the sort of actions that we take with respect to one another; they tell us nothing about actions that affect only ourselves such as deciding whether to take drugs, have children or not, etc.

At 6/13/2006 2:49 PM, Blogger Johann declaimed...


I do not agree with the definition of love, as provided in the original post, but this statement applies only in a particular sense.

While it is true that the love one feels for those who shares a particular set of values, this is different from loving others simply because they are human.

If one reduces love to a concept that only applies to thos we agree with, we become not very different to the affinity a pride of lions feel towards those of the same pride, and aggression towards those of a different pride. Even that sentiment will be based on territotial values.

Humans are by nature not territorial. We are in fact gregarious, and prefer the company of other humans. Is this need to feel safe amongst others of the same species a form of love? Or is it merely an instinctive response to the perceived dangers that manifests in the human psyche of being alone and seperate from others of the same species?

To me, there is a bond between humans, irrespective of nationality. Religion imposes on us certain concepts of right and wrong, and creates within as the capacity to determine good people from bad people, but that is merely a religious effect. It divides us into groups, and from this position it controls people.

It is therefore easy for me to express love towards others who belong to a different society, a different culture, simply because they are human. The affinity I feel for them can easily be destroyed on an individual basis if a particular person does something that cuases me harm or pain, but the initial and preferable response is to give the person the benefit of the doubt, simply because they are human like me.

At 6/25/2006 5:33 PM, Blogger Boelf declaimed...

The golden rule works if we take it for what it is, a sound byte. Certainly we are alike enough in most cases that we can reach a certainly level of empathy. Morality demands that we take their interests into account although it might not be what they would ask for.

At 12/11/2006 10:05 PM, Blogger demon slayer declaimed...

Have you ever read any of Immanuel Kant's work? Have you studies his Categorical Imperative? His two main imperatives are similar to those you attempt to condemn here, though he'd probably have a hissy-fit if you summed up these as the golden rule and love your neighbor.

But please, please check your sources thouroughly and investigate them as much.

Both Jesus and Paul were not saying what they said based on human standards. These two practiced what they preached, they lived what they tought. Unfortunately those who practice the judeo/christian scriptures today are human, and can, as humans, get it all wrong.

At 12/11/2006 10:11 PM, Blogger demon slayer declaimed...

The love that Paul and Jesus refer to here is more of the unconditional love type. However, one must return to the greek manuscripts and the interpretation from that as most translations do not note which version of love is used, agape, or eros. We humans tend to function primarily on the eros type of love, and not the agape.

At 8/24/2010 10:01 AM, Blogger Kirk declaimed...

This is kind of delicate issues to talk about.
I love to hear other one's opinion, but I also like to be respected by people no matter what I believe in or not.
Giving respect to people is like giving them the chance to get some Generic Viagra is the want it
Thanks a lot for respecting my comment



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