The Great Chain

The Great Chain

Friday, October 15, 2010

Theistic Self-Loathing

The idea that humanity possesses a tendency towards inherent goodness has been most unpopular with Theists.  It is incredibly saddening that so many possess such a vested interest in self-hatred that they cannot even view their own humanity without disdain and loathing.  By any conceivable metric, our civilization is infinitely better than the squalid, oppressive nightmare of the ancient world.  Our lives are far longer, richer, and healthier.  We are freer intellectually, physically, geographically, sexually, religiously than our ancient ancestors could possibly dream of.  We live in a world filled with wonders the ancients would only be able to describe as magical.  We can fly, we have touched the moon, we can see into the furthest reaches of space and can analyze the composition of the Universe, we understand our own genetic heritage, we are plumbing the structure of time and space and matter itself.

Moreover, our civilization has rejected the barbarism of the ancients.  Our civilization is repulsed at the thought of slavery.  The vast majority of our civilization feels revulsion at the thought of torture.  Bigotry and hatred are no longer tolerated in public discourse.  The vast majority of human civilization believes in and strive for racial and gender equality.  Our civilization conducts warfare with the specific aim of limiting civilian casualties.  Our civilization makes extensive efforts to ameliorate the effects of famine and starvation and natural disasters.  Our civilization actually makes great efforts to ameliorate the suffering of and care for the refugees of war, going so far as to provide shelter and food and water and medicine even for citizens of our enemies.  Such things would have been unthinkable in the ancient world.  Madness.

By any metric one chooses to use, health, wealth, education, generosity, longevity, peace, justice, equality our world is vastly better than anything that has come before in human civilization.  To be sure, our civilization is far from perfect, we still struggle with starvation in many parts of the world, and progress has been uneven, but to deny that in the aggregate our civilization has not progressed is simply intellectually dishonest.

And so Theists resort to a rather clever causal sleight of hand.  When presented with a specific human initiative that has made society more just, fair, egalitarian, the Theist attributes the TRUE causation to God.  The humans who spearheaded the Abolitionist movement were merely acting at the behest of God, therefore that progress is really God's.  Any progress achieved by humans is therefore discounted and cannot be used to demonstrate that humans may not actually be as wretched and despicable as they would like to believe.  Any harmful act, however, every rape, every murder, every war, every cruelty is simply cited as evidence of humanity's fallen nature.  Problem solved.  Overwhelming contrary evidence discounted by false attribution, individual exceptions used to prove the presupposition that humanity is inherently flawed, despicable and evil.

One still is left to wonder, however, why it is that the least religious nations on Earth, those who have consciously chosen to eschew Divine Guidance are the most generous, most peaceful, most egalitarian, societies on Earth and the most religious nations on Earth are the most warlike, oppressive, violent and totalitarian.  God apparently works in VERY mysterious ways.

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