Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Friday, October 07, 2005

Moral projection in Christianity part 1

To continue my discussion (or given the dearth of comments, my monologue) on the stages of morality and Christianity's place within it, I would like to sidetrack a bit and talk about moral projection in Christianity.

As I hope you all know, projection is a common defense mechanism in cult-think, and Christianity is no exception. In fact, monotheistic religions seem to engender an inordinate amount of projection. Everything that Christians use to criticize their opponents is in fact a flaw of their own belief system. For example :

* A life without God is a life without meaning or purpose - vs - Being part of an incomprehensible and uncontrollable "divine plan".
* Without God, you cannot explain logic or science - vs - The contingent theistic universe cannot explain logic or science. Only materialism can.
* Without God, you cannot explain our origins - vs- "God did it" means nothing and does not explain anything. Only science can explain it.
* A life without God is a life of immorality - vs - Crime rates and other immorality statistics much higher for religious people than the non-religious, and much higher in countries with a high degree of religion.
* Only belief in God is comforting - vs - Fear of God, Hell, sin, "the world". "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom". Order-based morality that leverages fear.
* A life without God is morally irresponsible - vs - Complete denial of moral responsibility through "original sin", "salvation by belief" and Jesus' "sacrifice".
* A life without God is petty and narrow - vs - Refusal to acknowledge any part of reality that contradicts one's belief system. No commitment to freethought, honesty or progress.
* A life without God is hopeless - vs - Christianity dismisses all our earthly supports as irrelevant, creating hopelessness in the first place.

So I think it is obvious that the phenomena of projection as defense mechanism permerates Christian thought. However, as I discussed on an earlier post of this series, Christianity in itself has no values or virtues. Whatever values or virtues a Christian has qua Christian must necessarily be projected from somewhere else. So then we get two questions : how is X projected, what does Christianity really say about X, and where does X really come from ?

Let's start with Barna Research's List of Success Determinants, telling us what Christians think makes a successful life. While this is not a good indicator of short-term values, this gives us a good indication of what Christians value in the long-term. Apparently, Christians have five important long-term values : family life (lasting marriage, good child-raising), social accomplishments (being rich, educated, making a difference in the world), emotional fulfillment (good job, happiness, satisfaction with life), spiritual experiences and development, good health. Let's look at these in turn, using my concept of stages of morality as secuilar basis :

* Activist Christians use Christianity as a justification for their "family values" activism. These "family values" are in fact anti-family and anti-values, consisting of the repression of anything that is counter to the Christian model of the family and family life.
This is reflected in the Bible, where the only passages about the family are either against the family in general (as in Jesus demanding people to hate and leave their families to serve his goals), against specific kinds of families (homosexual ones, for instance), or against deviations from a given model (such as ones that do not place Christianity, and the will of males, as a central concern).
The secular explanation for the value of the family is obvious : both evolution (all primate species except chimpanzees have family structures of some sort, and there is a strong evolutionary pressure to maintain that link) and the emotional bond between child and parents contribute to establish this our psyche. As a rational moral agent, I may desire to continue to value my family as a source of priviledged relationships and helping hands (while I have never tried to hide my personal antipathy towards the concept of the family unit as a social construct, I certainly don't deny that such relationships can be very fruitful).

Due to its length, this article is cut in two parts. See part 2.

Post a Comment


At 10/07/2005 9:52 AM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

Franc: "Everything that Christians use to criticize their opponents is in fact a flaw of their own belief system."

This is so true, Franc. The constant yammering "there is no meaning in the non-Christian worldview" is particularly amusing since the bible does not even provide the believer with the kinds of conceptual tools one needs to apply meaning to anything. Christianity is not a philosophy, it's an unfolding narrative. Its "truths" are alleged historical events, not rational principles. The believer has no choice but to rely on non-biblical premises in order even to try to make sense of the narratives and allegories of the bible. That's why Christian apologists are constantly pointing to extra-biblical sources to defend their god-belief. They tell us to read Bahnsen, Van Til, Calvin, Augustine, Hodge, etc. But they don't tell us to read the bible. The bible needs certain personalities to "interpret" it for us (like pre-chewed rodent entrails vomited into the mouths of the hungry young).

Another example is the claim that critics take bible verses "out of context." But this assumes there's an overarching context when in fact there often isn't one. In the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7), for instance, the ethical pronouncements are given in the fashion of bullet points. They lack explanation and resist being integrated into a coherent whole. They're just thrown out there, one after another, without any serious concern for understanding them. (But some of them make the believer feel good.) Take for example the exhortation "resist not evil." What's the context there? The context is that it is supposed to be obeyed, period, because it's coming from an unquestionable authority that holds a stick over everyone ("obey or go to hell"). There's really no context beyond this, other than that it is contrasted with earlier bible ethics ("an eye for an eye") which are no longer to be followed. But when it is pointed out that following such an exhortation leaves men defenseless against those who would do evil, we're accused of "taking the verse out of context." What's actually happened is that the believer has supplied his own context to the verse in question so that it can be construed to be sensible. But he never really clues us in on what context would make the exhortation "resist not evil" a sensible injunction to practice. He just wants to accuse non-believers of some kind of infraction, and this makes him feel better.

What a miserable mental disorder Christianity is.

At 10/07/2005 11:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous declaimed...

Just a few prelimary comments on this discussion. First, I think you are misrepresenting Barna a little. His study is not on what Christians think make a successful life, but what all Americans think make a successful life. And even though atheists rank it lower than Christians, there is a significant percentage statistically that count successful family life as being an indicator of success.

As to your point that the Bible has little explicitely to say about Family Life, there is no question you are correct. But there are two primary reasons for this. First, not much needed to be said to a time and society that counted family life as a given. There were very few unmarried adults and very few who would want to be. Second, the primary focus of the New Testament was on building a community of believers that differed radically in the way they treated others.

As a Christ-follower, I believe that the North American brand of Christianity is flawed severely. This emphasis on family life as a value is not wrong, but misplaced as to its force. Jesus himself was unmarried, and even though Peter (his main man) was married, we see virtually nothing of his wife and children and are only introduced to his mother-in-law because she was sick. The primary emphasis of the Gospels is on the establishment of a radical community that bases its actions on sacrificial living for others...even at the expense of family life.

Good observations even though I don't agree with all of them.

At 10/07/2005 11:22 AM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

Thanx for coming in and speaking nicely, Pastoral Team. You said:

"The primary emphasis of the Gospels is on the establishment of a radical community that bases its actions on sacrificial living for others...even at the expense of family life."

Honestly that sounds pretty disgusting (no offense). I brought up the issue of sacrifice on my appearance on Gene Cooks "The Atheist Hour"

Pastoral Team, do you think sacrifice is a good thing? I dont. And what you said earlier that I quoted you on just now only emphasises the evil of sacrifice.

There is no value in a community that bases its morality in "sacrifical living for others." This kind of community will literally destroy itself.

To declare that the sacrifice of any person, much less the sacrifice of an allegedly perfect and innocent human being, for the redemption or benefit of others, is repugnant.

I would never want to be sacrificed for anyone, nor would I ever want anyone to be sacrificed for my sake. The very centerpiece of Christian theology, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, is a horrible story that reflects a bankrupt value system, and to teach it as virtuous to little children IMO cripples the proper development of their value system.

The only good things Christians EVER do in life are things that they DIDNT learn from the Bible.

At 11/13/2005 10:42 PM, Blogger The Uncredible Hallq declaimed...

I wonder if there's something a little subtler at work here.

It seems a lot of arguments use God to poof away philosophical problems in a very unsatisfactory manner. Why does anything exist? Because of God (but why does he exist?) Where does objective morality come from? From God (objective=His whims?) Etc. They don't want to face these problems head on, so they just say "God" and run around yelling that other people haven't solved them

At 8/16/2010 3:20 AM, Blogger ming declaimed...

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