The Great Chain

The Great Chain

Friday, October 8, 2010

Why I Don't Believe - Humanity Doesn't Need Saving

Recognize that the genetic difference between you and a chimpanzee is less than .004 percent.  Recognize further that the genetic difference between you and a single-celled flatworm is less than 10 percent.  It is critical that we recognize where we came from if we are ever to attempt to understand where we are going.  We are, each and every one of us, animals.  Revel in that fact.  Revel in the fact that we are not apart from the natural world, but an integral part of it.  We are the product of billions of years of evolution and we should be overjoyed at the fact that after countless quadrillions of genetic mutations, nature has finally produced a species so advanced that it can actually ponder the significance of its own existence and its relationship to every other living thing, a species so thoughtful that it can actually appreciate the intricate mechanics of its own emergence.

In many ways, we are the eyes and mind of nature.  No other creature appreciates beauty as humans do.  No other creature looks up at the night sky and appreciates the pure aesthetic grace of the cosmos.  No other creature is moved watching a sunset.  No other creature ponders the meaning of its existence or its relationship with the world around it.  We are a truly amazing and marvelous species and it is deeply troubling to me that nearly every faith takes it as an article of faith that humans are a fallen or broken creation that requires some manner of redemption or saving. 

Are you evil?  Are you flawed?  Are you a bad person?  Are you sinful?  Do you require some manner of external force or presence to redeem you or make you whole?  To make you worthwhile?  To make you worthy of salvation or eternal life or whatever you believe lies at the end of this corporeal existence?  Are all of us evil, flawed, sinful and broken creatures?

If you believe any of the foregoing, there is a simple question I would like to ask.


Why do you believe you are evil, flawed, bad, or sinful?  Why would you believe that any of us are evil, flawed, bad or sinful?  What compels you to believe that our existence as humans requires any kind of external redemption to make us worthwhile, or to make you worthy of salvation?

Because a book says so?  Because a book written thousands of years ago during a barbaric, tumultuous and extraordinarily violent epoch in human civilization says you are?

Do those beliefs enrich your existence?  Do they increase the joy you feel on a daily basis?  Does it salve your conscience to believe that your existence is plagued by sin?  Does it enhance your appreciation for life?  For your fellow man?  Does it help to believe that your neighbor is a sinful and fallen creature?  Do you feel a greater sense of purpose and meaning by believing that your life, your very existence, is fundamentally, irrevocably flawed and that both you and humanity as a whole can only made whole through the application of some external force?

Have you ever stopped to consider the social and psychological implications of an entire society that accepts the idea that humankind is, at its most fundamental level, a fallen, flawed, sinful, depraved creature, whose only hope for peace and wholeness lies in complete and utter reliance on some invisible, unknowable force?  What kind of assumptions does this kind of belief structure lead to?  What does manner of actions spring forth from those basic assumptions?  What kind of worldviews arise as a result?

Strangely, the idea that we are a depraved, flawed, sinful, fallen creation is one of humankind's oldest and most ubiquitous assumptions.  This assumption is so prevalent, so common that it goes largely unremarked and almost wholly unexamined.  This assumption forms the fundamental firmament of all three of the world's great religions and is a critical element of nearly every faith.  The Abrahamaic faiths believe as an absolute, unquestionable tenet of existence that we, humankind, are individually and collectively, so flawed, so sinful, so corrupt, so depraved, that without the direct intervention of some “perfect deity” to redeem us, our lives are without meaning, without purpose, and that we can never be whole.  That without external redemption, we can never know peace.  This tenet of existence is absolutely paramount and utterly necessary for the Abrahamaic faiths because their entire view of salvation and redemption depends entirely on the assumption that because we are a flawed, fallen creation, we require their external guidance to attain any measure of wholeness or peace.

This assumption is simply and completely wrong.

It is Wrong.

Not only is this assumption wrong, it is counterproductive, it is harmful to our psyche both individually and collectively and it is empirically and demonstrably false.  This assumption flies in the face of our entire history as a species, a history that time and again, demonstrates in vivid fashion, the ultimate triumph of reason and peace and justice and hope over barbarism, tyranny, cruelty, hatred and oppression.

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