Sunday, September 26, 2010

Everyone's Fault But Mine

The prevailing human explanations of the world typically have three main components: creation, fall and redemption. They attempt to answer the questions of how we got here and what the world was originally like, how that state was fouled up, and how that state, or perhaps a better one, might be attained. This structuring of worldview yields some interesting comparisons, and I think that one of the most interesting is between secular and religious views of the fall.

Let's consider three secular worldviews: Marxism, the Sanger-Kinsey sexual view and the new atheism. Marxism regards competitive capitalism as the cause of man's fall, and its replacement with cooperative socialism as its remedy. The Sanger-Kinsey view regards Christian sexual morality as the guilty party, and sexual liberation as the great human hope. The new atheists regard religion itself as the primary source of evil in the world. What these, and other secular worldviews have in common is that their proponents will admit no responsibility for the sorry state of the world. It is always some other ignorant and wicked forces who are to blame.

Now, as much as there are irreconcilable differences between the world's great religions, I think that they agree on this - all persons have a share in the fall. The primeval history of Genesis tells three stories in which humankind's attempts to make itself like gods bring the judgment of the true God upon them. While these stories place the blame with specific individuals, Christianity especially has emphasized the participation of all persons in sinning and thereby bringing about God's judgment. This sharing of blame extends even to the teachings of Buddha, who regarded human desire as the cause of suffering - Buddhism's fall.

This, in my view, explains much of the appeal of secular worldviews. It is no fun to suggest that I am a foremost cause of bad in the world. But what is even more interesting to me is the prevalence of a fall story, and of a persistence of global value judgments even in a worldview so thoroughly materialistic and supposedly so value-neutral as the new atheism. It is telling that Richard Dawkins can't simply keep his mouth shut and say that wars and suffering are the result of Darwinian competition and an indifferent universe. I cannot be sure, but this seems to suggest a strong religious impulse even among militant secularists.

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