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Human Nature: Good Or Evil


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I would really like a discussion on this. The other thread got hopelessly derailed so I will copy the on-topic posts over here.

 

Here's a lightly edited copy of an email I wrote to my Christian prof. There's more to it but this is all I'm copying here. I don't know if I'm smart of just plain stubborn but I feel like I have to have some clarity on this in order to write my thesis. I've sat under this man's lectures and also spent much time talking with him in his office. I have gotten the distinct impression that Christianity absolutely has to have evil humans so that there was a reason for Jesus' death. Paul says quite clearly that it is totally unacceptable that there is no meaning for Jesus' death (Gal. 2:21). I'm saying christianity got it all backward because humans are inherently good. Prof brings up things like the holocaust and proves that humans are inherently evil. He's accusing me of being stuck with the fundamentalist theology I was raised with. Those are the issues I'm responding to here:

 

There are two basic theologies in my head: the one I was raised with which corresponds more or less with fundamentalism and what I was taught at the seminary.

 

It seems to me that the entire edifice of traditional Christianity depends on humans being inherently evil. Apparently, you--and probably very many other people--go by attrocities committed by adults who had twisted psyches and value systems. That it is believed that the attrocities come out of twisted personalities is evidenced by the studies done on Hitler's childhood. I cannot cite authors but I have come across references to such studies; they believe something really terrible must have happened to Adolph Hitler for him to commit such abhorable crimes against humanity.

 

The present "war on terrorism" seems to be based on greed and/or fear. The human whose deepest needs have been met throughout life, and who chooses to uphold the values that met his/her needs, does not succomb to greed or fear or other negative human qualities. I am not hereby saying that all the soldiers in the command of people like Hitler or Stalin or Bush are twisted. They're not. Stanely Milgram organized a study

 

I don't know why this is the case; I only know that it is the case despite my determination to prove otherwise. Were this not the case, fundamentalism would not exist. I question whether Christianity would exist. It seems Christianity itself is based on, and designed for, adherence to authority. Authority is needed only when the general population believes that humans are inherently evil.

 

Individual will seems to have fair play so long as it ultimately submits to authority. So long as people can be made to believe that there is an almighty God at the top of the pyramid of authority, they are easily controlled. Since the culmination of Christian theology begins and ends with God, I think it makes sense to ask why people think God does things so backward.

 

I don't know how the universe or its inhabitants got to be here. I know that the Bible says God made it and that God looked on his creation and saw that it was very good. I understand this includes Adam and Eve, or humanity. If that part of the Bible is myth, as I am taught at the serminary, then the Fall didn't happen. Both the Fall and the goodness of humanity (God saw that it was very good) fit the picture depending what part of reality we choose to observe.

 

So we're back at the original question: Why does Christianity debase the human when debasement is not inherent? So far as I can see, it is so that there was a reason for Jesus' death. Like I mentioned in my first message, according to Paul it's simply not okay for Jesus' death not to have some major meaning.

 

I guess I should just be a robot and absorb and regurgitate everything I am told to believe. on how far regular humans will violate humane instincts in obedience to higher authority. I think he proved that regular humans reject personal instincts in response to higher authority.

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Grandpa Harley said:

 

I know Blaise Pascal gets a bum rap on here, what with his wager and all, the old lad did spout some sense too

 

""Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."

 

In some respects Christianity has supplanted the 'Government authority' that made the Milgram Experiment such a frightening thing.

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To the folks here, after I wrote that bit about being a robot I remembered that on the defect personality thread I did come out as a robot. Funny? Ironic? No idea.

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Notblindedbythelight said:

 

The most profound meaning in his death (whether fictional or not) is in an understanding I came to about an important concept: Salvation comes only through the death of the human form of God. Although it is written plain as day, it isn't recognized that this could mean the death of the human form of God in people's minds. They still go around worshiping an image.

 

It seems that since it is not understood in this manner, they need another reason for his death. :shrug:

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mwc said:

 

I don't know the answer to your question. All it does it bring to mind the concept of bar mitzvahs (for Jews) and for xians the similar idea of an age of accountability where by and large people just cannot/do not believe that their god(s) hold children to the same rules as adults. Why? Because children of a certain age simply cannot comprehend their actions. So prior to partaking of the fruit of the tree A&E were like children in the bodies of adults. Should they not be held to the same standard as children? It seems logical do to so but they are not because xians need them held to a different standard in order to condemn us all and justify their twisted offering of salvation. Surely they believe that A&E will be among those given salvation "free of charge" as it were but their "crime" is not overlooked as are the "sins" of the children that have followed after them. It is a double-standard. This must mean that those who are mentally "retarded" in some fashion (either through birth, disease, accident or some other means) but beyond the physical age of accountability will be judged quite harshly by their god(s) though they don't have the mental faculty to know of their indiscretion. Until they can account for why it is that "mental" children and "physical" children are not equal in the eyes of their god(s) then their theology is on very weak moral footing.

 

mwc

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Mongo said:

 

Hi Ruby,

 

I only have a few minutes so please accept a half-baked answer.

 

Personally I think you are both wrong.

 

In as much as I am compelled to reject the notion that people are fundamentally evil, I find it illogical to adopt the other extreme.

 

Most things in life are held in a balance of two extremes that rarely exist. Your admonishment that we here not peg all christians as "literalists" is merely another of a host of good view points that rejects extreme thinking. (Thanks for pointing that one out to me - I'm still pondering the topic)

 

For me, the burden of proof that people are all good/evil lay with the extremists of which you have proported to belong.

 

What is odd is that your professor and yourself are at the core, are not to my mind, extremists.

 

Do you think your prof, uses the evil belief to engage god's grace so that he might somehow push the balance slightly toward good in his life. It begs the question of what he thinks of the wonderful atheists that shoulder up with the liberal xtians to help (without the gile of the fundies) relieve suffering in the world.

 

Perhaps this is a "minor" guilt trip he gives himself which then spurs him to move closer to the good side. Fundamentalism then is merely a more extreme guilt trip.

 

Perhaps the rationalization is not relevant because it is completely different for each individual. If the Lutheran construct works then you go to church there and if the (modern) Mennonite one works then you go there.

 

I have always believed that the essential doctrine of xtianity rests upon man's sin and/or depravity. I'm not sure how relevant the degree that one describes this depravity since it is clear that without god, humans can and do perform many good deeds.

 

Still, many people are attracted to an "utter" depravity doctrine even though non-xtians are clearly not utterly depraved.

 

What suprises me in your question is the idea that **any** xtian doctrine can support an idea that humans are fundamentally good. Is this Anabaptist theology? :twitch:

 

I thought believing that humans were primarily good was hippy/bhuddist talk.

 

Mongo

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Grandpa Harley said:

 

I'd agree, more or less... people are neither inherently 'good' nor inherently 'evil'... The have the potential to be either. However, 'good' and 'evil' are simply items of fashion. There was a time pederasty was regarded as 'good'... and I'm pretty certain no one today approves of that sort of thing wither gay or hetero. The Spartans thought that leaving babies out over night to see they were tough enough to survive was 'good'... and, except for some of the Southern and Square states, I'm pretty sure that noone thinks it's a good idea today, in fact its called 'abuse'...

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Antlerman said:

 

(Mongo @ May 4 2007, 04:00 PM) post_snapback.gifDo you think your prof, uses the evil belief to engage god's grace so that he might somehow push the balance slightly toward good in his life. It begs the question of what he thinks of the wonderful atheists that shoulder up with the liberal xtians to help (without the gile of the fundies) relieve suffering in the world.

 

Perhaps this is a "minor" guilt trip he gives himself which then spurs him to move closer to the good side. Fundamentalism then is merely a more extreme guilt trip.

Ruby (and Mongo) I think what Mongo here says really is touching on something important to recognize (in how I am seeing all this). What I get from what your professor said elsewhere and in this in my hearing what he is saying in intention, is that to call man sinful is not so much to really call man depraved, wicked, ugly, and in need of salvation, but the intent is simply to elevate God's grace by point of contrast. The focus isn't on how ugly man is, but on how great God is.

 

It's a vehicle to elevate God, but not a literal self-depreciation.

 

On the opposite side, you have those whose disposition is towards self-loathing, who will take this as an excuse toward self-effacement. This also then becomes a tool to manipulate and control others through this propensity towards self-loathing by holding access to God in their hands (say RCC). I consider this an unhealthy sort of religious belief. This is where I agree wholeheartedly that the doctrine of sin is anti-human and pro-religious manipulation and control.

 

To tell oneself you are ugly is completely unhealthy - period - whether or not you follow that up with saying God makes you beautiful. It's far better to say, God loves you unconditionally. Period. Unconditional, means unconditional. Not IF you believe, or do this, or do that.

 

I think what your professor and those like him do is not take things literally that they are BAD, but loosely by contrast, God is infinite good. I don't necessarily have a problem with that, however I think it’s a doctrine that in its very existence has perhaps done more harm than good. To take it loosely like this, is more about taking a system of God belief and making it more modern to speak to contemporary sensibilities. Those in the West desire to maintain a God belief, but we are not so ignorant as to accept the superstition of the dark ages. Hence the struggle of modernity and fundamentalism.

 

God evolves because we do. Those who try to keep God in the dark ages are the slower evolvers (conservatives versus liberals). :grin:

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Grandpa Harley said:

 

How is god 'infinite good'? I see nothing in the observable universe to back up the posited idea.

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Antlerman said:

 

(Grandpa Harley @ May 5 2007, 08:36 PM) post_snapback.gifHow is god 'infinite good'? I see nothing in the observable universe to back up the posited idea.

You're correct. However we're not talking the observable universe. We're talking about human emotional conceptions. God is a symbol of the ultimate of human desire. Poetry is not science. Poetry is irrationality, yet tastes good to the senses. It's about access to the "spirit", not linear thought.

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Dhampir said:

 

You're correct. However we're not talking the observable universe. We're talking about human emotional conceptions. God is a symbol of the ultimate of human desire. Poetry is not science. Poetry is irrationality, yet tastes good to the senses. It's about access to the "spirit", not linear thought.

 

I've been thinking about that, and I think that statement is as irrational as what it attempts to describe. I think irrational, where it pertains to ideas of god, and that statement among other things, is where people just come to a stopping point in their understanding, believing it to be sufficient, or feeling good about it, or simply being lazy, when in reality it is insufficient. They then try to align what they believe with reality, and in so doing, are told (rightly in all likelihood) that it is rubbish. One can have poetry, and feel-good notions without being irrational, but the belief that there are more things of that (irrational) nature than there are, is regarded as noble, and to hold that belief is seen as virtuous.

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Varokhar said:

 

Indeed; humanity is capable of both good and evil. What makes Xianity (and related cults) so insidious is that it feeds off the negative elements, and magnifies them to be these colossal insults to an ubergod. An ubergod who has all the right and privledge to roast us eternally for our awful, awful flaws.

 

Xianity doesn't recognize that humanity has good and evil both blended in our breasts (to paraphrase the Havamal) nor does it try to encourage us to improve the truly positive facets of our kind. It does not encourage excellence in any way, nor does it even encourage doing what is adequate for human survival and pleasure. It presents an unbalanced view of nature and humanity, and manufacutes shit-colored glasses for us to see ourselves through.

 

For that reason alone, Xianity is irredeemably wicked, and ought to be stamped out.

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mwc said:

 

(Antlerman @ May 5 2007, 06:33 PM) post_snapback.gifIt's a vehicle to elevate God, but not a literal self-depreciation.

So then how do you rationalize this with the concept of "the fall?"

 

To put it in to terms of beauty, as you briefly mentioned in your post, this is like saying we were beautiful like god...that is until we got into that disfiguring accident. Now look at us. This could be said to elevate god too but in reality it puts us down, way down, because god did not become more beautiful but we became less. This is also the same basic story that has been wrongfully cast onto Satan through "Lucifer."

 

This is exactly what "the fall" does. God doesn't get any "better" but we become worse. The change happens in only one of the two parties which is us. How are we supposed to feel? Good? Good that we let ourselves and god down somehow?

 

If the story went something more that we were basically equals with god and he chose <something> wisely and was rewarded with an elevated status but we remained the same then I would think your argument would make more sense. Then the bible would be the tale of our "friend" essentially trying to come up with ways to help elevate us to his level (or as close as possible). But it's not that so it really doesn't matter.

 

What it has become is the story of a people, the world, that is simply one large welfare state. We need god. We are utterly dependent on god. Without god we are unable to do for ourselves and we are ugly. Fortunately this god will give us a handout and he doesn't care what we look like. We're lucky to have him because we wouldn't be able to get anyone else. This puts us at a permanent disadvantage in my eyes.

 

mwc

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Grandpa Harely said:

 

(Antlerman @ May 5 2007, 09:25 PM) post_snapback.gif
(Grandpa Harley @ May 5 2007, 08:36 PM) post_snapback.gifHow is god 'infinite good'? I see nothing in the observable universe to back up the posited idea.

You're correct. However we're not talking the observable universe. We're talking about human emotional conceptions. God is a symbol of the ultimate of human desire. Poetry is not science. Poetry is irrationality, yet tastes good to the senses. It's about access to the "spirit", not linear thought.

 

As someone who understands mysticism better than literalism, I'd agree, however, the problem is that people take it literally. As my old mate Fr. Charlie points out 'Myth is not a lie, it's a metaphor. It only becomes a lie when one takes it literally.'

 

I don't think this place would exist if folk were taught that God is a metaphor not a literal stalker who'll kill you or torture you literally forever for breach of arbitrary rules....

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Florida said:

 

(Grandpa Harley @ May 6 2007, 07:26 AM) post_snapback.gifI don't think this place would exist if folk were taught that God is a metaphor not a literal stalker who'll kill you or torture you literally forever for breach of arbitrary rules....

There would also be no reason for it to exist if the law of sacrifice was not kept alive after the sacrifice was over. Churches "as we know them" would cease to exist.

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Grandpa Harley said:

 

Florida @ May 6 2007, 08:01 AM) post_snapback.gif
(Grandpa Harley @ May 6 2007, 07:26 AM) post_snapback.gifI don't think this place would exist if folk were taught that God is a metaphor not a literal stalker who'll kill you or torture you literally forever for breach of arbitrary rules....

There would also be no reason for it to exist if the law of sacrifice was not kept alive after the sacrifice was over. Churches "as we know them" would cease to exist.

 

 

thus literal is the only way to engage the Christian. If it's subjective, it's mystical experience, and there as many variations of that as there are people capable of it. Literal interpretation of myth is lie... It mistakes the pointing finger for the moon...

 

"If I take a lamp and shine toward the wall, a bright spot will appear on the wall. The lamp is our search for truth, for understanding. Too often we assume the light on the wall is God, but the light is not the goal of the search, it is the result of the search. The more intense the search, the brighter the light on the wall. The brighter the light on the wall, the greater the revelation upon seeing it. Similarly, someone who does not search, who does not bring a lantern with him, sees nothing. What we perceive as God is the by-product of our search for God. It may simply be an appreciation of the light, pure and unblemished. Not understanding that it comes from us, sometimes, we stand in front of the light and assume we are the center of the universe. God looks astonishingly like we do. Or we turn to look at our shadow and assume all is darkness. If we allow ourselves to get in the way, we defeat the purpose - which is use the light of our search to illuminate the wall in all its beauty and all it flaws, and in so doing, better understand the world around us."

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Skip N. Church said:

I've seen no reason to believe that humans are anything but slightly polished evil..

 

Indeed, some are capable and practice things that are on surface "less bad". Others are the historical sterotypical 'pilers of skulls' sorts.

 

Where is the 'average hooman bean'? Dunno. been my experience that most people taken out of their religious/regional/emotional/political strife tend to be decent towards each other dispite differences in the obvious.

 

*

 

You've not seen depravity until the visage of a village of 'natives', all who have been sexually violated, all ages and sexes, brutally tortured, then slain in the worst and slow methods bad_actors time permitted, finding that the murderers were a pack of 'kids', all less than 17 human years old.

 

Looking at that pack of monsters through the 'scope while eliminating them so you and team could go in and find the survivors..

Putting them 'down' more humanely than the village they just raped and pillaged..

 

Puking guts out looking at some of "Man's Finest Handiwork" and wondering "Where the FUCK did these little monsters come from?"

This in a spot not too far from "civilization" in a 2nd world country..

 

Looking at what is happening in America's formerly decent downtowns in the dying cities.. All kinds of human-shaped predators being grown in an enviroment of permissive lack of rules and laws. Total lack of self direction and control.

 

The religious blame we who are 'godless', letting anyone who may listen how it is the atheists fault that America is falling from grace and such feel good preaching.. Yet the animal in the streets wear xtian crosses and thank Jebuzz for their gains.

 

Want an easy answer? Jar's still empty, but I suspect that when things burn out, figuratively and literally, that the 'evil' that infects our cultures will either be taken by dhimmitude or reason. I hope reason wins, but that hope dims daily..

 

Mankind is greedy, amoral, and will do anything to survive, even at expense of its family and friends. Not yet Soylent Green cannibalistic, but growning fuckin' near closer seemingly daily..

 

k, skippin church daily, FL

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Antlerman said:

 

(Grandpa Harley @ May 6 2007, 06:26 AM) post_snapback.gif
(Antlerman @ May 5 2007, 09:25 PM) post_snapback.gif
(Grandpa Harley @ May 5 2007, 08:36 PM) post_snapback.gifHow is god 'infinite good'? I see nothing in the observable universe to back up the posited idea.

You're correct. However we're not talking the observable universe. We're talking about human emotional conceptions. God is a symbol of the ultimate of human desire. Poetry is not science. Poetry is irrationality, yet tastes good to the senses. It's about access to the "spirit", not linear thought.

 

 

As someone who understands mysticism better than literalism, I'd agree, however, the problem is that people take it literally. As my old mate Fr. Charlie points out 'Myth is not a lie, it's a metaphor. It only becomes a lie when one takes it literally.'

 

I don't think this place would exist if folk were taught that God is a metaphor not a literal stalker who'll kill you or torture you literally forever for breach of arbitrary rules....

 

That’s well said how a myth is only a lie when it’s taken literally. I agree and did mention the downside of the metaphor of the Fall is that some people in fact do take it literally. Taking it literally in fact creates an unhealthy perspective about us as human beings, IMO.

 

But then the question is how many do and how many don’t? Then for those who don’t, is there value in the use of the metaphor to them? The fact that some may take anything to unhealthy extremes doesn’t necessarily mean that that thing itself is inherently bad for everyone, and should therefore be done away with.

 

To hear some who once took it as literally true, but who now take it as literally false conclude that it is therefore evil and should be done away with, to me is exactly the same sort of thinking that made literalism appealing to them in the first place. The problem seems to have less to do with the belief, whatever it may be, as it does with the believer.

 

(mwc @ May 6 2007, 05:41 AM) post_snapback.gif
(Antlerman @ May 5 2007, 06:33 PM) post_snapback.gifIt's a vehicle to elevate God, but not a literal self-depreciation.

So then how do you rationalize this with the concept of "the fall?"

 

As with any metaphor there are layers of “truths” that someone can see; many ways to look at it or interpret it, either for positive things or for not so positive things. All I am suggesting is that there are many ways people look at the metaphor, and it seems possible that they can do so without walking away from it with an image of self-depreciation. However, if taken literally, that would in fact be the logical conclusion.

 

(mwc @ May 6 2007, 05:41 AM) post_snapback.gifTo put it in to terms of beauty, as you briefly mentioned in your post, this is like saying we were beautiful like god...that is until we got into that disfiguring accident. Now look at us. This could be said to elevate god too but in reality it puts us down, way down, because god did not become more beautiful but we became less. This is also the same basic story that has been wrongfully cast onto Satan through "Lucifer."

One other possible way to look at it would be to say that it speaks of our own recognition that we are disconnected from the world around us, from each other, and from ourselves, and creates some mythical event in our past to express this realization. We desire today to become more than we are, to experience a state of balance or “perfection”. “The Fall”, is a common theme in mythologies to express this.

 

I would say that the message of this could be taken (and I suspect in the majority of cases it is), to be about the path to reconciliation with this mythical state of unity with the universe, each other, and ourselves. “The Fall” was the beginning of dualism, the world of opposites. God and the Garden become symbols of what we came from, and what we now aspire towards – a return to unity. God and the myth of the Fall were and are creations to express this anxiety of man in a world understood in the language of opposites. In “heaven” there are no opposites but perfected unity.

 

A Literalist will typically take a myth like the Fall and completely miss the point of it, instead calling it either absolute fact, or the opposite, “absolute crap”. The point isn’t about how “bad” man is, but about how God is something to aspire toward. Man recognizes his own disconnect with the world, so man created God to become Him and to motivate themselves and others to promote unity in society for the purpose of self benefit. God serves Man, by Man serving God.

 

(mwc @ May 6 2007, 05:41 AM) post_snapback.gifThis is exactly what "the fall" does. God doesn't get any "better" but we become worse. The change happens in only one of the two parties which is us. How are we supposed to feel? Good? Good that we let ourselves and god down somehow?

Or we are what we are – imperfection seeking perfection. I think where people like Ruby’s professor are coming from, those in the ELCA for example, is that the emphasis is on God’s grace, on how good God is, not so much on how man is depraved. They seem to be emphasizing the qualities that a parent would show to their child that even though they are “imperfect”, they are loved unconditionally.

 

A distorted emphasis on the imperfection part of it would be like telling your child constantly how horrible they were, and by contrast how good you are by telling them how much they don’t deserve your love, yet you give it to them anyway. That’s in essence the message of a messed up, abusive parent who doesn’t understand love at all. This is the message of the fundamentalist, and I can’t help but wonder how many of them grew up in a home where the parent was like this towards them, and hence why their understanding of God looks like this to them? God is telling them how bad they are because they deserve it, they are at fault and to blame. God is their abusive parent they grew up with at home.

 

To me the emphasis of “God’s grace” in probably the majority of mainstream xtian belief is not about how BAD the child is, but how much like a loving earthly parent God can be to them, showing unconditional love. No matter how much we may not love ourselves, we are loved. No matter how much we fall short of being what we hope to be in ourselves, we will never be rejected by God.

 

I see this as an extension of human society onto God. This is the evolution of beliefs. As we move further and further away from tribal gods, God becomes more and more universal and personal, because we do as part of our evolving societies. The Fall, has undoubtedly been understood throughout the ages with as many faces as societies have had. Mythology is characterized by its flexibility. The Literalist sees it in rigid, inflexible terms. It MUST be believed, or it MUST be rejected.

 

(mwc @ May 6 2007, 05:41 AM) post_snapback.gifIf the story went something more that we were basically equals with god and he chose <something> wisely and was rewarded with an elevated status but we remained the same then I would think your argument would make more sense. Then the bible would be the tale of our "friend" essentially trying to come up with ways to help elevate us to his level (or as close as possible). But it's not that so it really doesn't matter.

Many read the story of Jesus as exactly what you say above: That we are the brothers and sisters of the Lord. “I now call you friends”. We have the ability to move beyond this separation from “God” and attain reconciliation and that connection of mankind with the universe as it was before the mythical Fall.

 

(mwc @ May 6 2007, 05:41 AM) post_snapback.gifWhat it has become is the story of a people, the world, that is simply one large welfare state. We need god. We are utterly dependent on god. Without god we are unable to do for ourselves and we are ugly. Fortunately this god will give us a handout and he doesn't care what we look like. We're lucky to have him because we wouldn't be able to get anyone else. This puts us at a permanent disadvantage in my eyes.

The message of utter dependency is not shared by many Christians. Again, emphasis. Not everyone emphasizes the depravity of man, and instead emphasize the beauty of man being created in God’s image. Since man creates God in his own image, then I question those who create a God that makes man ugly. What’s up with them?

 

It’s all a language to express how we view ourselves and the world. Our image of God is an image of ourselves.

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Grandpa Harley said:

 

"Dunno. been my experience that most people taken out of their religious/regional/emotional/political strife tend to be decent towards each other dispite differences in the obvious."

 

I'd agree...

 

"You've not seen depravity until the visage of a village of 'natives', all who have been sexually violated, all ages and sexes, brutally tortured, then slain in the worst and slow methods bad_actors time permitted, finding that the murderers were a pack of 'kids', all less than 17 human years old.

 

Looking at that pack of monsters through the 'scope while eliminating them so you and team could go in and find the survivors..

Putting them 'down' more humanely than the village they just raped and pillaged..

 

Puking guts out looking at some of "Man's Finest Handiwork" and wondering "Where the FUCK did these little monsters come from?"

This in a spot not too far from "civilization" in a 2nd world country.."

 

War zones, places of 'police action', or in 'peace keeping' roles, one isn't going to come away thinking man is the paragon of animals. Anyone, given sufficient license and lack of accountability will behave in just that way. I read Schindler's Ark (as it was called when it was first published) when I was around 15. The only character I fully understood the actions of was Amon Goeth... it was like a spoiled child trying to see what he had to do to be stopped. People like Oskar Schindler, John Rabe, or Frank Foley are more of a puzzle to me. Schindler, being a gambler is more straight forward, but the other two... you may as well be explaining the principles of Heisenberg to a house brick...

 

As an addendum, I wrote this about Schindler, Rabe and Foley some time ago...

 

Three very disparate men. Men who, without side or cynicism, I admire. They did what they knew to be the right thing to do. In other places or times, they may never have been anything more than husbands, fathers, industrial drones or, in Schindler's case, a confidence trickster. In war, they found something greater. I was asked why I was interested in Rabe, but the answer extends to these men too.

 

"Rabe is one of the rare birds, like Foley or Schindler, who shakes my faith in the essential venality of humanity. Men, who had nothing to gain and everything to lose, doing what they knew to be right. I read Schindler's Ark (as it was called in the UK) when I was 15. I like to be reminded that nobility is possible, and folk will do what is good, rather than what is expedient. There are people who will swim against the tide for a principle, despite the risk of imprisonment, torture, or death.

 

Rabe was probably the best of the ones I have listed, although Foley was a man of iron will.

 

Rabe stuck to his principles to the end, despite threats, despite ruination. The man was a living Buddha to the victims of Nanking, an atrocity we can't discuss, unlike the final solution.

 

It's bad for 'business'. The Japanese refuse to acknowledge any part of it, and quietly re-write their history to white wash Nanking, The Burma Railway, the infamous Unit 731, "Comfort" Women and a thousand other half told horrors of the rise of Japan from 1933 to 1945.

 

There again, Lady Justice has always had an eye for a man in uniform and has expensive tastes :)

 

Men like Rabe give me hope in a world where 'hero' means 'sponsored by Nike'"

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Somehow, I missed seeing that this discussion was still "alive." UPDATE: Prof did not respond to these questions. I'm not too surprised because that email was a challenge to one he had written earlier in the week and it seems he has only so much time to respond to one student. Which is understandable.

 

(Mongo @ May 4 2007, 05:00 PM) post_snapback.gifHi Ruby,

 

I only have a few minutes so please accept a half-baked answer.

 

Okay, I will accept that it is "half-baked." I think you missed the point of what I had meant to say--maybe I wasn't all that clear. I'll go through your post and explain. That might answer some other people's questions too. I'm only referring to the questions directed to me; I see that other discussions evolved in my absense which is okay, but that is not what I'm not responding to at the moment.

 

 

In as much as I am compelled to reject the notion that people are fundamentally evil, I find it illogical to adopt the other extreme.

 

I'm not sure what you mean by "evil" so I am equally unsure re what you mean by its opposite. Humans are not perfect and pure like the fundy god. But neither are they evil like the fundy devil. Nor do I understand anyone anywhere to be saying they are. Depraved is the word the evangelical Lutherans use. I'm not sure what that means but it sounds pretty awful when applied to humans. I think you are correct in that they use "depraved" in the service of elevating and emphasizing God's grace. All the same, in my mind this equals to: Human need to change in order to be acceptable creatures. I disagree with that.

Most things in life are held in a balance of two extremes that rarely exist. Your admonishment that we here not peg all christians as "literalists" is merely another of a host of good view points that rejects extreme thinking. (Thanks for pointing that one out to me - I'm still pondering the topic)

 

For me, the burden of proof that people are all good/evil lay with the extremists of which you have proported to belong.

 

What is odd is that your professor and yourself are at the core, are not to my mind, extremists.

 

Yes, I think he and I are not extremists. However, he and I are on opposite side of the belief/unbelief line. The reason for that is that he accepts that humans are depraved and I do not. Thus, if we take these two things together--the ELCA's habit of emphasizing human depravity in order to elevate God's grace, we get a religion that depends on an inherently bad human.

 

 

Do you think your prof, uses the evil belief to engage god's grace so that he might somehow push the balance slightly toward good in his life. It begs the question of what he thinks of the wonderful atheists that shoulder up with the liberal xtians to help (without the gile of the fundies) relieve suffering in the world.

 

I don't fully understand his beliefs here. He does not believe in hell. He believes something happens to a person when he or she is baptized. He was baptized at the age of two months and it seems this baptism (which I am sure he does not remember) has profound meaning for him. As a Mennonite, I was baptised as a teenager with believer's baptism. But social control was a bigger part of it than conviction. I was not convinced then or now that I needed to be baptized. What is different now from then is that I did not as a teenager have the gumption to stand up for my beliefs. I trusted the older folks when they said I would understand religious stuff when I got older.

 

Back to the Lutheran. He did not tell me what changed. Is that because he couldn't or because he wouldn't? I could not tell--and believe me, I questioned him hard. I also asked him if that thing that happened would still be effective after a lifetime of unbelief. I used the example of a person who was baptized as an infant and never darkened a church doorway as an adult, and was dying of old age. All he would say is "I don't know" or "I think so." I forget which it was for this specific question. It seems he does not believe in evangelizing. It's been perfectly safe for me to talk to him about my unbelief. He told me at one point since my deconversion that he believes the force of love in the universe is so powerful that it will ultimately overcome evil.

 

 

Perhaps the rationalization is not relevant because it is completely different for each individual. If the Lutheran construct works then you go to church there and if the (modern) Mennonite one works then you go there.

 

Neither work for me at this point.

 

 

Still, many people are attracted to an "utter" depravity doctrine even though non-xtians are clearly not utterly depraved.

 

My point exactly! Or one of them.

 

 

What suprises me in your question is the idea that **any** xtian doctrine can support an idea that humans are fundamentally good. Is this Anabaptist theology? :twitch:

 

Okay, this was the other point that it seems either you didn't get or I wasn't clear. I don't get my idea of a good human from Christianity. I get it from observation of the causes for bad behaviour in humans. If we want bad humans we have to make them; if we want a good human, all we have to do is nurture and guide the infant human to maturity and provide love and support throughout life.

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Grandpa Harely said:

 

"Okay, this was the other point that it seems either you didn't get or I wasn't clear. I don't get my idea of a good human from Christianity. I get it from observation of the causes for bad behaviour in humans. If we want bad humans we have to make them; if we want a good human, all we have to do is nurture and guide the infant human to maturity and provide love and support throughout life."

 

OK... that's profound... dammit... I wish I'd said that...

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Jun said:

 

He believes something happens to a person when he or she is baptized.

 

Well yes of course, you get wet.

 

I bet there are those who believe something special happens when they are circumcised too?!

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Shankboy said:

 

I thought believing that humans were primarily good was hippy/bhuddist talk.

Nope. Buddhist believe "good" and "evil" are human creations. Humans are primarily... human. That's about it.

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Jun said:

 

(Skankboy @ May 8 2007, 01:16 AM) post_snapback.gif
I thought believing that humans were primarily good was hippy/bhuddist talk.

Nope. Buddhist believe "good" and "evil" are human creations. Humans are primarily... human. That's about it.

 

 

:grin:

 

Buddhism is not dualistic and therefore does not divide phenomena into "good" and "evil." In fact, there is no term in Buddhist usage which exactly corresponds to the term "evil" in European/Abrahamic religious usage. In Buddhist thought, "evil" is most characteristically seen in its three root forms: greed, hatred, and delusion.

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Grandpa Harley said:

 

(Jun @ May 7 2007, 10:55 AM) post_snapback.gif
(Skankboy @ May 8 2007, 01:16 AM) post_snapback.gif
I thought believing that humans were primarily good was hippy/bhuddist talk.

Nope. Buddhist believe "good" and "evil" are human creations. Humans are primarily... human. That's about it.

 

:grin:

 

Buddhism is not dualistic and therefore does not divide phenomena into "good" and "evil." In fact, there is no term in Buddhist usage which exactly corresponds to the term "evil" in European/Abrahamic religious usage. In Buddhist thought, "evil" is most characteristically seen in its three root forms: greed, hatred, and delusion.

 

 

In the Abrahamic religions, the words for good and evil aren't like those in Classical philosophy... Evil is 'unfinished', 'unripe', 'incomplete'... Good is the converse 'finished', 'ripe', 'complete'... at least they were. Post AD 70 the death grip of Hellenist culture changed the way Jews viewed their own definition...

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