I had a fascinating conversation at lunch today that helped shed some insight on one of the many reasons why I reject Christian doctrine outright. Here’s what how it went down:
I went to grab a bit to eat at the office cafeteria.
As I was eating, this man sat a table nearby, then suddenly stood up and remarked that he thought he might have forgotten to pay for his food and promptly walked back to the cashier’s table.
When he returned, I mentioned it was very moral/ethical of him to pay for the meal even though he could have pocketed the money without anyone ever noticing that he hadn’t paid. I mentioned that I would share this experience with my young son because it was a good example of how morals/ethics are not about doing things to receive a reward or avoid punishment. Instead, it’s all about doing something because it is inherently and objectively the right thing to do and you should do said thing even if nobody is watching.
When I mentioned this to him he was quick to point out that as a born-again Christian, he felt compelled to do it because he figured God/Jesus would frown upon him if he didn’t do it. He then asked “how about you?” as in what do I believe in.
Instead of showing him my full hand, I simply stated that my mother, aunt, and other folks in my immediate family are also extremely devout born-again Christians. Several of them are actually ordained ministers and I spent a significant amount of my youth attending Christian churches and even went as far as to accept Jesus Christ as my savior and subsequently evangelize about the virtues of Christianity. That said, I explained that I no longer adhere to any such doctrine.
He then remarked that I must be the “black sheep” of the family, which I found fascinating, since it seems to lend insight into the viewpoint of born-again Christians (e.g. if you’re not going our way, then something most be wrong with you and/or you must be shunned or pitied).
We then continued to talk about the fundamental nature of morals/ethics. I restated the idea that being moral and/or ethical should have nothing to do with pleasing any authority (including any deities) and that it should instead be all about doing the right thing because it’s the right thing (note: we can discuss how you arrive at what the “right thing” is in a future discussion. For now, let’s just use the golden rule as a starting point). He actually agreed with me, and then went on to quote a bible verse (from the book of Romans to be exact) that he believes to be the way that people who have never been exposed to the bible are judged on judgement day.
I’m guessing that he’s not familiar with this story about a tribe that didn’t even have a word for the concept of god in their vocabulary, but that’s neither here nor there.
Anyway, my main takeaway from this somewhat obscure bit of scripture is that the Christian doctrine has come up with a creative way to circumvent the self-evident reality that morals and ethics are not derived from the bible (otherwise, where would these “gentiles” to quote the Romans verse, get their conscience from?) while simultaneously preserving the fundamental tenet of Christianity, which is that you cannot get into Heaven through actions (e.g. behaving morally/ethically). See, you can only get in through the Grace of God/Jesus/etc. and you only get that grace if you accept Jesus as your lord and savior.
Yeah, um, I’m not buying that.
Sounds like a severe case of double think to me, but I’d love to get your thoughts on it.
Hey Hugo, I’d like to touch on a few points that popped into my mind. First, that morals/ethics have always been associated with religion in one form or another and absolutely pre-date Christianity by several 100′s to 1000′s of years. That being said, the idea of good/bad & right/wrong are not exclusive to Christianity or any Religion for that matter because they are as old as humanity. Even before we could write them down, we must’ve had some idea of them. So, it wasn’t on the day that Moses (whose existence as well as the veracity of the Exodus story is disputed amongst archaeologists and Egyptologists) brought down the 10 commandments that morality started. It was way, way before that, as other far older, ancient cultures already had systems of ethics and laws in place, such as the Sumerians, and other much older religions, such as Zoroastrianism had higher moral systems.
But it’s funny that Virtue and God have come up because that is the subject of one of my favorite parts of Plato’s Republic when Socrates has a discussion with Euthyphro and asks hims, “What is piety?” To which Euthyphro answers, “What the Gods love, of course.” But the real beauty of that is when Socrates then asks, “Well, is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” To which Euthyphro has no answer and uses the old, “I think I left something cooking in the oven” excuse to get the hell away from Socrates. LOL – of course they had no ovens. And what I take away from that is Socrates assumed nothing. He only asked questions. And in the end, Euthyphro’s bubble was burst cause he himself realized there was no true validity to associating pious acts (good/bad) to the Gods.
But to me, the religion of Christianity (and I say it like that because I feel that the teachings of Jesus are something totally different) is much more anxiety provoking and fear invoking to humanity because the crux of it is simple: “Believe in this, or go to Hell.” I never took away when Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21), he meant Hell was waiting for you too. As a matter of fact, it is only mentioned once in the Gospels by Jesus for as important to the religion as it is, and he uses it in the slang terms of the day to describe “Helenism” or being under Roman rule as a kind of Hell (see that, Hel-enism = Hell).
I simply reject the concept the way the religion holds it, as well, also for the simple reason of skepticism. Did God somehow not account for Hindus, Buddhist,Taoist or Zoroastrists when the whole Hell thing came up in the Bible much later after their religious/moral beliefs had already been established?Well, I know men didn’t account for it because the Bible was written by men who had no knowledge of the millions of people nor the many civilizations thriving in the far East. And to sound a bit skeptical, I’m pretty sure God would’ve accounted for that.
Anyway, in short. I am a Non-Dualist. Right and Wrong are nothing more than ideas to me. What is supremely more important is that ALL is only Oneness. So to hate on anyone else is essentially to hate on yourself. Only our personalities have bought into this narration of division (I go to Heaven, YOU got to Hell). And so my moral compass is much closer to the Golden Rule in fact because there is only Oneness. So, it is: “Do what is right by Oneness.” That includes bugs and all other living things. I am a pacifist and I don’t eat meat. I have to eat something, so I eat plants, but I also defend nature to the utmost.
In conclusion, Being a good person has nothing to do with God. But as Nondualist, everything is included in Oneness (including the opposite thought, and the fundamentalist Christian ideology we both disagree with), so if someone thinks that’s what it is right, then cool. I have no problem with that. Let them.
Thanks for sharing that, Gabe. You make some very valid points, and though I don’t agree with the idea of being alright with things like fundamentalist Christianity (or Islam, etc.) I respect your right to hold a different point of view. That said, I’m admittedly more inclined to accept your point of view because I know that you utilize critical thinking skills like skepticism in order to temper your personal/subjective opinions and therefore lack the unmitigated hubris that would make you think that a) what you subjectively believe is definite and absolute truth b) you should vote for people and laws that will force other people to live life and have a society that adheres to your personal standards and beliefs, which again, you believe to be definite and absolute truth.
Hence, why I’m not cool with fundamentalism and do have a problem with it. My adherence to non-dualism (and pacifism) only go so far.