This is the message that I got from being raised a Christian.
In summary, we are inadequate, and hopelessly corrupt. We have no power, no ability, no positive attributes that are in any way our own.
The only thing we own is our failings, our weaknesses, and our corruptions. Even if we accidentally do something right once in a while, we can’t take any credit for it because we’re still going to hell.
But through God and Christ, we get to take the short bus to the winners circle.
Without a relationship with God (and it has to be the right kind) we are incapable of good, and without God our lives have no meaning and no value.
I don’t believe that anymore. And I feel so much better. About my world, about myself, about my fellow man, and about God.
But the message is popping up far and wide across the media, and TV and the radio. Conservative Christians are trumpeting the message that we are all in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. I wonder why that message is considered to be suddenly so important now, at this particular time? *cough* Foley *cough*
Under that theology, Foley is no worse that any of the rest of us, and we are no better than him. We’re being told to feel bad about ourselves, and think about every time we’ve ever had a dark, creepy or selfish thought or urge, and we are being asked to admit that we are just as bad as Foley. How sick is that? Foley is a pedophile, and it’s my Christian duty to feel bad about myself? Screw that. People make moral choices all the time, whether they are Christian, Atheist, Pagan or whatever. Most of them make the right ones most of the time. And when they make the wrong ones, they are responsible.
See, now I believe that God gave us everything that we need. We live in the best possible creation. It’s still the seventh day, and God is still resting, thinking “Man, I did a bang-up job. Look at those Platypi (Platypuses?). I defintely topped myself when I went the Big Bang/Evolution route).
We have a world that works according to consistent and reliable rules. We have a biology that ensures that our kind can meet whatever challenges it encounters. Through random mutation and natural selection we evolved to last.
Through that mechanism, we were acquired the gifts of competitiveness, aversion to pain, a drive to fulfill necessary biological urges, and other traits that ensure our survival in the world. We also developed the ability to help others, to restrain ourselves from greed, avarice, gluttony, and cruelty. We have the human need to ensure our survival, and the ability to check those needs and develop moral and ethical standards that free us from being ruled by those needs. We have the ability to govern ourselves and decide to live together according to laws and rules and ideals.
Sure, some people don’t. Some people get elected just so that they can start wars to make their friends richer. Some people use their political power to stalk and harass children who are under their power. Some people get guns and invade schools and kill little girls.
But that isn’t because they are inherently powerless against temptation. It isn’t because they are inherently evil due to being human beings. It’s because they chose to do something that was wrong.
Most people will forego a little luxury to help a friend meet their basic needs. Most people will take a little extra time out of their busy schedule to show patience with a little old lady driver. Most people will refrain from urges they know are wrong. And they don’t need the direct intercession of God to do it.
When good people do bad things, is it because God blinked and forgot to send them an angel that day? No. It’s because for whatever reason, at that particular moment, those people did not use their own judgment or discernment in choosing their actions.
You don’t need God sitting on your shoulder with a harp every minute, day in and day out to be a good person. The ability is within you. In you mind and your heart. Just do it. Quit blaming your human nature, as if it only had one side, the bad one with the base urges. Quit blaming your connection to God, as if somehow your God Pipeline got clogged that day.
It’s in you. Everything that you are capable of is in you. What you do is your decision.
I happen to believe that God gave us everything we need. But you don’t have to believe that to use it. However you got it, you have it. You have love, power, reason, discernment, judgment, ability, drive, and resiliency. Use it.
UPDATE: Ben at Eclecticsanonymous has posted a response on his blog