(SIN, EVIL MORALITY, and ETHICS)
As we move into this chapter, it is necessary to point out that it is not the purpose of this work to indict any religious concepts, although, we will do an objective analysis of many. There is no intent to weigh the good and bad effects of religious beliefs on the faithful of the past, as we are not sitting in some type of judgment over the positive and negative influences religion has had over our history. The concern is with how our belief structures might be influencing our world today. In fact, in this writing, it is seen as a given that the world is a better place because of religion, for at the very least, religion has been a stimulus to keep ethics in the forefront of debate. Religion has served humanity well by giving the hopeless, hope - by defending the oppressed - and by keeping alive the myths, sacred writings, and ideals which carry the inspired concepts of mankind's Divine origins. While all religions have had their share of self-serving hypocrites and unscrupulous leaders, it can also be stated that most the teachings, which make up the foundations of these faiths, came from individuals that seen injustice in their world. Individuals who tried to do something about those injustices within the framework of their understanding of reality, and constrained by the limitations of their personal beliefs, knowledge and cultural influences of their time.
With intent being stated, we need to say that morality is much more
cultural in nature; than it is Divine in origin. The problem of dictating what
is moral or not, especially in terms of the Divine Will, is that we are all too
individual to make blanket moral judgements. People
have a built in bias to condemn what they don't feel or understand for
themselves, while at the same time, looking for justification for what they do
believe. During the cold war, for example, many Americans called Communism
immoral, citing it denied people basic freedoms.
Actually, the whole essence of our moral dilemma, and the question of evil itself, is flawed because we have the tendency to see morality in terms of things we should not do. It starts with the Ten Commandments, nine of which are "Thou shall NOTs" (The third commands us to keep Holy the Sabbath). An ethical code that is designed to tell us what we cannot do offers us little incentive to do what we should be doing. It also encourages us to make exceptions when we violate the injunction, as we do with war for an example, which seems to be in direct violation of "Thou shall not kill". The very purpose of war is to kill. We have tolerated the oppression, exploitation and persecution of a variety of people because there is no injunction directly against it.
This is not to say that the Commandments did not serve to make the people they were written for more civil, but in reality, they offer us a very limited usefulness today. In fact, the teachings of Jesus are much more aligned with our responsibility toward one another, than, injunctions about what we should not do. Jesus tells us repeatedly to love God, and teaches that loving our neighbor is the expression of that love for God. The fact is, most religions see sin as a violation of the law of God (as declared by men); when, sin should be viewed as a shunning of our responsibility to love God by failing our fellow man and by recklessness toward the glorious creation God has placed us in. This is actually what Jesus taught.
Approaching this concept from another perspective; when we proclaim our love for our fellow human beings, it is not measured by the absence of mean spirited actions against them. It would seem to be a given that we will not be mean to, or hurt, those we claim to love. Most often, we express our love for people by doing for them, giving freely to them, and by being there for them. It is the extra mile we walk that is the sign of love - what we do for them!
Why do we approach God so differently? We put a lot of emphasis in our religious ideals on the concept of worshipping God in our houses of worship, which are often reduced to mere empty words when you look at the reality of conditions existing in the world. And, do we really believe that God is impressed by our magnificent houses of worship; when people starve within the shadows of those monuments? Can we really accept ourselves as moral because we compose beautiful music to sing praise - when we pollute the air, devastate our land, and use our waters as dumpsites? Is it moral to have employees working for us and improving our life style; if they can barely feed themselves on the wages that are paid? Is it prostitution that is immoral, or the state of our society, which forces some humans to sell their bodies? Are we moral because we have faith in something?
We have endless theological arguments proclaiming the evils of sex, but society tolerates bigotry, oppression, and the exploitations of people. Do you really think God cares more about what two people do in bed than She does about these other things? We are told not to kill, lie, cheat, or steal. But isn't this common ethical sense, and, wouldn't it seem God would expect as much based on such common sense?
Primitive peoples figured out these basic virtues thousands of years ago, and were better at it than us. Yet, even these clear injunctions do not apply to so much of our everyday lives. In our businesses world, we often overprice, proclaiming the rule "whatever the market will bear". But, if we in fact charge more than the value for something, isn't that a form of stealing? When people are working for us, and we pay them less than we can really afford (often less than they can live on), isn't that cheating them? When we advertise a product to create an image, or out and out distort our claims just to get people to buy - isn't that lying? Aren't war, allowing dangerous bacteria in food supplies, pollutants, and cancer causing agents - KILLING! Yet, all these practices are seldom challenged in our so-called Christian based theologies.
The plain truth of the matter is, we should need no "thou shall not's" if we concentrated upon ethics that would lead us to a sense of spirituality and responsibility; rather than, just proclaiming what we need to avoid in order to spare ourselves God's wrath. We need to concentrate on developing the love in our souls, which makes us in God's image; instead of focusing on our weaknesses brought about by some original sin. Theology needs to shift its focus from the avoidance of evil to the cultivation of our goodness. The Christian Church needs to quit preaching the Gospels, setting the example by showing us how to live the Gospel's message of love. Above all, we need to quit viewing the world in a perspective, which sees it as being the devil's dominion, and recognize the Divine Essence that created it.
Wouldn't it make more sense for religion to accent the positive, than proclaiming the negative? If we really encouraged people to respect and cherish life, you wouldn't need a religious injunction against killing. If we stressed the importance of honesty and integrity, particularly in our actions, which speak louder than words, you don't need a commandment that tells people not to lie. If we concentrated our efforts on getting people to treat others, as they want to be treated, you don't need injunctions against stealing or cheating.
Aside from those points, we need to realize that wrongdoing cannot be defined by the nature of an act in itself. Lying is not always wrong, for example. To tell our mother, or one's wife that they look good, when they may not really look so good to us, is better than hurting their feelings. Even killing isn't always wrong, as in, killing someone who may be threatening our family, our children or us. The solutions to this dilemma aren't in making laws and decrees in the Name of God, and then putting bunches of exceptions to them. The solution lies in encouraging people to develop a set of ethics whereby they base their decisions on the consequences of their actions. Something becomes wrong; not when it violates some decree, but when the consequences of an act become threatening or harmful to others in some way.
This type of thinking turns our religious moral structure on its head. It not only requires us to seriously consider how our actions affect people, it also makes us responsible for the suffering our indifference causes. For example, children suffer and starve all over the world, and in some countries, they are exploited by industry to make cheap products. But when we walk into our local stores, we often buy the cheaper product with no thought or care of what makes it so cheap. In such cases, we are as much to blame for the child's suffering as the individual who exploited them - for we gain selfishly from their suffering!
These things can happen because we are conditioned to avoid the "don'ts". We religiously learn what we shouldn't do; but, how often do we think about what we are doing and the consequences of those actions? We learn to avoid, when it would appear, that God's real desire is one of expectation from us. This statement becomes self-evident when we face the social realities of the world around us. The Christian Gospel has been preached to the ends of the earth, but where is the love, compassion, egalitarian ideals and responsibility of personal messiahship that is the essence of their moral message?
As we move forward in this unit, we will strive to look at moral and ethical questions from a very different perspective than those of theologians before. In mankind's ability to love; by reason of our intellect; because of the virtue which is our potential; and because we are in God's Image: we need to look at things in a manner which makes us better - not just meet the status quo. We need to approach moral issues in light of the knowledge of the time, drawing upon the ethic of inspiration, while maintaining a relevance to the everyday reality of our world. We will strive to create a thought process that tends to encourage the solving of human problems rather than create a morality that seems to ignore them.
While inspiration does offer help, the inspired men of the past can not provide us with the answers for the complexities of today's world. Issues like human sexuality, birth control, and abortion can only be approached from the perspective of our time. The ancient world didn't have problems such as overpopulation, depletion of resources and the shrinking of an ever so diversified world. The ancient world could not have imagined an economic system of global proportion and technology that can clone human beings. They could not have conceived of a business market that was driven by creating a need for a product; over the necessity for a product. In their simplistic beliefs, they did not have to consider the relationship between their conception of God and the reality of what God created, for they had a limited understanding of the creation. Their understanding of God made sense of a world they could not begin to understand, so therefore, the Creator made sense to their world. But their understanding of God makes no sense in relationship to the creation, as we now understand it - and when the Creator is not harmonious with the creation as understood, the foundation of religion begins to crumble. This doesn't have to be, but we need to change the way we approach things if the Creator is to remain a visible part of the creation.
This topic of morality and evil has been placed here, within this work, for much of the observations here are the foundation for some of the practical conclusions addressed later in this work. One cannot have a sound and responsible theological basis if they ignore the reality in which we exist. We can only cite inspiration if the questions are approached within the framework of the people they relate too. You cannot liberalize the inspiration of another people from another time to dictate morals for a people that are far removed from that ancient world. Our world is in a dire spiritual condition, not because of its lack of compliance with the "thou shall Nots"; but because of its avoidance of its responsibility to love! We do not come to God by avoiding the metaphor of the devil; we are not washed of our sins by renouncing the things of Satan; but rather, we come to God by choosing to love the things that are from God.
When we talk of values, morality, ethics, or virtue, we are not talking of a system based upon laws and decrees. We are talking of a system of common sense based upon the ultimate moral ethic of love, which includes: responsibility, compassion, and unselfishness. It is necessary for a society to have laws to govern its orderly function, and this is the role for government. But religion, however, needs to rise above the concept of law and rule, focusing its attention on improving the human condition by encouraging individuals to love in a manner which allows them to determine their own morals. Laws that come from without can only be enforced by the threat of punishment. Virtues that come from within need no enforcement.
Humankind is not a slave to evil as so often is implied. Humankind is psychologically conditioned to accent their weaknesses by religious ideals that justify our darker side by placing responsibility outside of our personal control. In the Christian teaching, which translates into Adam sinned and Jesus atoned for it, the Devil in his battle with God tempts us; and the theology that postulates a weakening of the human will: we have the seeds of projection that justify our shortcomings, weaknesses, and indifferences. These concepts stand in the way of any effort to elevate the human condition by lessening the human character that religion claims is in the Image of God. This work will challenge the psychological and spiritual implications of these concepts, offering some alternative perceptions, which might give incentive to better our world.
Jesus told us that we are all messiahs. The first realization of that messiahship is in realizing that the true evil within mankind is in the indifference that leads to the social inequality, greed, and selfishness that breeds crime, causes unnecessary suffering, and keeps us immune to the atrocities of human misery all around us. Despite all the moral teachings of the Bible, Koran, Veda, and all sacred inspirations - we fail to solve some of the most basic problems of our world. Poverty, hunger, exploitation, hatred, bigotry, and ignorance - all flourish on a global scale today. The reason is that we look at these problems from a perspective of our hands being tied. We project the solution unto Christ by the mere assertion of belief. We often try to make up for our failure by uttering words of prayer.
Yet, it would seem: that a world that can build glorious houses of worship; beam the message of faith by satellite all over the globe; go into space; and build a worldwide communications network - it would seem we could solve some of these older problems if only we had the will and self confidence to do so.
Perhaps by reexamining some of our beliefs, discussing some alternative and realistic ways of looking at them - maybe we can plant positive seeds that will give us the self-confidence to overcome injustices. If one truly believes in God, in an unselfish manner, they will strive to be God's active instrument of change, instead of waiting for Him to come back and save us from ourselves. They will realize the gift God has already given is far more than we deserve; thus, the gift of life is God's self-evident act of love. They will come to know that what we abstain from is not what makes us holy, but rather, it is what we contribute to the creation which is our gift of thanks to the Creator.
The state of our religious morality is in a state of confusion. As a
people, especially in
Until we get our relationship with God right, how can we ever hope to be able to properly relate to each other? We can never have morals until we have an ethic upon which to base those morals - and the highest ethic is love, which is the core of the Nature of God. It is what makes us in Her Image!
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