Thursday, April 18, 2013

Christianity and Humanism

I've been promising myself that I would put Christianity through its paces, since I did give atheism a bit of a hard time a while back. It's only fair, right? The question was raised by a friend around Easter time, could Christianity exist without the resurrection? After pondering it for a while, I arrived at a resounding no. It's also one of the reasons that I don't think that secular humanism works. I always think of David Hume when I think about the possibility of separating morality from religion, "I should prefer the destruction of half the world than to risk pricking my little finger." This takes a harshly different look at a Godless world that those like Sartre and Nietzsche propose is the first step to a secular self-directed Utopia. The next obvious turn in this conversation would seem to be to now show the disparity between the moral behaviors of those that claim to believe in Christ's resurrection. I think that point has been a bit belabored and I am reticent to bore you with something that you can read to your heart's desire in the comment sections of the Huffington Post. Instead, I'd like to point out that modern Christians fail, not in their morality, but in their belief in Christ as God. I think that many people try to sit the fence between being a "believer" and a modern, enlightened thinker. I also think this leads them to not necessarily deny the divinity of Jesus, but to down play it. The common Christian attempting to exist in modern society tends to present himself as embarrassed to believe in the mystical or metaphysical parts of his religion. I feel that most "intellectual Christians" (The quotes are because I just made that up. It's not a real category of Christianity) would prefer to think of Jesus as this great teacher that set up a code of ethics for us to follow, like some Jewish Confucius. If you think the term "Jewish Confucius" is absurd, well good, that's what I was going for. I find a resurrection-less Jesus rings just as peculiar.

So let's go back to Hume. He obviously wrote volumes on why morality can't be separated from belief. Interestingly enough, he was a deist. He believed in God, as much as he is a higher power, but didn't feel he was knowable in the personal sense. This is also pretty close to the beliefs of many of America's founding fathers. I think this has seasoned the way that American Christians approach Christianity. They want it to be very clean and pragmatic; something reserved for Sunday worship and the occasional alms giving, perhaps giving up something for Lent and watching the kids in a Christmas pageant. The problem is Christianity didn't start with a proscribed set of rules and rituals. Look at the Acts of the Apostles. The founding of Christianity is a messy affair. There's a lot of martyrs, schisms, heretics, and plain turmoil. I know it shocks a lot of Bible-based Christian sects, but the Church existed before the Bible! These were people that lived the teachings every day. They expected Jesus to return tomorrow, not in 2012 or some day way off in the future. Can you really imagine that the Apostles, who were hunkered down hiding from the Romans and the Sanhedrin, all the sudden decided to bust out of hiding and travel all over the world guaranteeing that they will put to death in horrible, nasty ways without being visited by the resurrected Jesus? That they decided to record stories that made them look like doubters, and traitors, and deniers, and fools? If I was going to be the founder of a made up religion, I don't think I would've painted myself in such a poor light. What I'm trying to say is that Christianity doesn't even get off the ground without the resurrection. It's miraculous and it's necessary. People will die to defend a cause, or a way of life, or their loved ones, they don't roam the world seeking death to purport an idea. You can't find it anywhere else. I dare anyone to find someone who would walk into the middle of Northern Korea and start preaching the saving power of Capitalism. Only with that glimpse into the happiness that resides in full communion with God does commitment on that level exist. Jesus taught his followers how to feel that way through his teachings. So there it is, it's not a set of morals for morality's sake, as the humanist wants you to believe, it's a prescription for feeling the ultimate joy, a way to live your life that aligns you with the life force that powers the universe. It opens one's heart to feel the fullness of love in its purest state. Speaking of communion with God, that brings me to my next post: the Eucharist and Transubstantiation... (I know, a cliff hanger. Silly right?)