Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Moral projection in Christianity part 2

* Wanting to improve one's own situation, as well as that of others, is rarely projected. The only example I can think of is "help yourself and Heaven will help you" - which, by the way, is nowhere in the Bible. There is one aspect of this value which is more commonly projected, and that is the desire to help others through charity. Charity is commonly claimed to be a core Christian value, and the notions of solidarity and charity are sometimes attributed to Jesus.
Christianity and the Bible, however, tell us a different story. First, consider the problem of "Christian charity". As the Moral Argument from Evil makes clear, charity fundamentally contradicts any belief system which includes the notion of a just attribution of good and evil (both in the form of karma and omnibenevolent divine plan). To desire to "make a difference" in the world, which is to say to improve it, is to assume that the world is not just. This is an admission of Christian defeat. In the Bible, Jesus clearly does not seek to eradicate poverty, indeed he mocks it in Mark 14:3-7, but rather preaches poverty (in view of the approaching end of the world) and claims that only the poor are holy, in Mark 10:25.
Once again, this value, which is really a set of related values, is easy to explain from a secular perspective. Rationally, we desire to improve our own condition because this improvement opens up more possibilities of value-expression, and because it improves our social visibility. And we desire to "make a difference" in the world because we have empathy for other human beings and their plight (stage 2), desire to validate ourselves and be made visible as an individual through other human beings (stage 2 and 3), and value a world which maximizes our own value-expression (stage 3).

* Christians project happiness and fulfillment as exclusive to their religion, or at least that "true" fulfillment can only be achieved through Christianity.
The Bible, however, seems to have little to say on these topics. Rather, it puts an emphasis on the use of narrativism to impose dread, fear and doubt in the mind of the believer. It makes the point that earthly values are irrelevant or sinful. The most important requirement for happiness and satisfaction - pride and success in expressing one's values - is contradictory to the stage 1 morality of Christianity.
As for the secular justification, I'm afraid I have to diverge from the survey here. I follow David Kelley's lead in saying that happiness and satisfaction are not values in themselves but emotional responses to one's value-expression. But this also implies that stage 2 and stage 3 secular positions are more likely to grant emotional fulfillment compared to Christianity.

* Spirituality is another interesting issue, and I have grappled with it for a time. I even had a short-lived column on Suite 101 called "Rational Spirituality" (I dropped it due to lack of interest). There I have proven that spirituality, properly and rationally defined, is founded on the realization of the place of human beings as part and parcel of the universe. This view based on integration is the antithesis of the strict ontological dichotomies that monotheistic religions like Christianity preach, such as matter/soul, natural/supernatural, Creator/created, saved/unsaved, and so on. By indoctrinating us into believing in such dichotomies, Christianity is therefore an important obstacle in our spiritual development.

* Health is not commonly projected, although some do say that prayer can help one's health. Indeed, a major part of Jesus' ministry is described as healing the sick, although this is done through magical means (exorcism, laying of hands). This anti-science attitude, consistently taken throughout the Bible, affects the efficacy of health care. It is interesting to note in passing that the United States scores very low on objective measures of health care (such as infant mortality and mortality amendable to health care).

Christians also project many attributes on God and Jesus, within a context of symbolism. I will look at this in a future article.