Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Moral development and Christianity

So far I've looked at what the different stages of morality contain and how they work. In this post, I'd like to look at development within this system and how Christianity runs counter to it.

Our parents give us orders because they want us to stay alive and follow the mold of parental authority, hopefully in order to develop good material values. So the passage from stage 1 to stage 2 is mainly a matter of staying alive and well. But if the individual is gravely indoctrinated in fear or made dependent on his parents, then he might have a lot of trouble to go beyond his childhood and mature. The role of parenting is not to control but to support development.

What is our purpose at this stage ? It is to fear and serve the parent’s will. Perhaps this sounds somewhat cynical, but when there is a dynamic of utter dependence, purpose is logically dependent on whoever exerts the power. When one surrenders utterly, or is forced to do so, then there can be no more purpose invested by the surrendered, because purpose depends on value-expression. This is similar to the basis for the Argument from Moral Autonomy.

As I pointed out in my post "Why Christians cannot account for morality", natural morality can give us the independence, the individualism, and the love of honesty and reason we need to continue to stage 3, depending on which moral aspects win out. We get individualism from our brain development, independence from teenage rebellion and detachment, and the love of honesty and reason from our natural desire to progress.

As discussed earlier, Christianity fits perfectly within stage 1 morality. In fact, it also fits the purpose - to fear and serve God/God's Word (the expression used by theologians to try to make this sound better is "Divine Command Morality"). But Christianity does not serve a role of immediate survival. It is not for babies, but for grown human beings (and the unfortunate indoctrinated children), who already know how to survive. So how could it possibly serve any useful role in that regard ? Apart from concerns which are wholly irrelevant in our modern world, such as trichinosis, nothing in Christianity serves this purpose.

So what Christianity does, is really to keep people who should already be approaching life at stage 2 or more, into the regression of childhood. "Jesus" had the right idea when he said believers should be child-like, obedient and unquestioning. That's the essence of Christian morality. But Christianity cannot prevent people from getting life experience and their brains from developing. So there are still stage 2 pressures existing within and completely opposite to the regressive context, that can create tremendous tension. This is the conflict between "God's Word" and "the world", "the holy" and "the profane", "the spirit" and "the flesh".

The dependency created by Christianity is so great that its believers deny en masse that any other avenue is possible. Part of this, I think, is an attempt to reconcile the obvious cognitive dissonance between salvation by faith and belief that good people shouldn't go to Hell. If both are true, then one way to reconcile both is to believe that there cannot be any good non-Christian people. Another way to explain it, is that Christians tend to either be brainwashed by birth, or need change in their lives because of moral deficiencies, and therefore have not experienced any alternatives.

The notion of "sin", as central to Christian morality, is another expression of stage 1 morality. To sin is to disobey God's will. Even though God is not the moral agent, he is so important to the agent's morality that to act negatively - to sin - is to disobey God. I remember debating Jason Gastrich and asking him what "God is perfect" means. He replied that it means God was sinless. You see how this is circular : God is perfect by virtue of being the master, and we are imperfect and in need of guidance by virtue of being in submission.

What is a master ? A master dictates what the slave can do or not do. A master, indeed, must "think for" the slave, even if that is impossible. This is why obedience must always be reinforced. A master can dispose of his slaves as desired : they are not fully human but rather extensions of the master's will. And we can dispose of extensions of our will literally as we please ! A master can also make his slaves commit crimes. In this case, the slaves are only "following orders".

You will note that these properties are reflected, to a smaller extent, in all collectivist belief systems. Christianity is no exception. God, as infinitely powerful parent, is the ultimate expression of the mater/slave mentality. God dictates what the believer can or cannot do, is supposed to be the source of the believer's cognition and moral sense, can dispose of humans as it desires, and makes believers commit crimes routinely in the Bible.

In the mater/slave mentality, the slave has no moral responsibility whatsoever. How can it be, when the slave must completely surrender his value-expression ? We no more hold our feeling of, say, shame, or joy, as having moral responsibility. They are not autonomous human beings ! And likewise the believer in Christianity is not considered to be an autonomous human being.