Saturday, December 1, 2007

Getting the Essence of Religion Wrong

By Joseph Kellard

The Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby is an insightful columnist who usually goes awry once his Christian conservatism obstructs his thinking. An example is his Oct. 31 column about a group of self-described "Primitive Baptists," who openly call for various ills and catastrophes to befall homosexuals and Americans in general for their alleged unredeemably sinful behaviors.

www.tinyurl.com/2tq8zm

Jacoby's response to these religious fanatics is to appear objective in interpreting God and religion, and so he ends up appealing to non-essentials. His point is that these Baptists focus only on the Bible's negatives - God's punishments for (supposedly) wicked behavior. But, at root, objectivity demands, not necessarily a "balancing" between two sides of a subject, but an identification of its essence. Jacoby writes "that God's foremost demand is that human beings act with kindness and decency" toward one another.

Yet, as demonstrated by the foremost Ten Commandments, the foundation of Christianity's ethics is God's demand for man's blind obedience toward Him.
Whatever good moral lessons may be in the Bible are thus trumped by God's overriding command for unthinking faith in his word. But then what, in essence, is "the good" in Christianity? Well, as the foremost Commandments again demonstrate, it is self-sacrifice, a renunciation of the self, of one's reasoning, questioning mind.

Doing "good" in Christianity is, foremost, to be your brother's keeper. And even if the person you are, say, sacrificing your money for is wholly unworthy of it, so be it: the Bible demands it and you have no right to question or defy God's word - or else He'll punish such "wicked" behavior. How does an eternity in Hell sound?

Moreover, the Bible has enough instances in which God invokes his followers to initiate violence against violators of his word - including those who renounce Him to live, instead, by an actual rational moral code. As Ayn Rand's novels and non-fiction demonstrate, faith and force are corollaries - that is, the faithful of all stripes must ultimately twist the arms of such unbelievers. When faith is your primary means to "knowing," then rational persuasion is out; it's God's word and blind obedience toward it - or else!

In essence, the more consistent Christians are the very "Primitive Baptists" Jacoby condemns, just as the more consistent Muslims are those who crashed planes into the Twin Towers. And, remember, the widely respected Jerry Falwell believed these atrocities were God's punishment for America's alleged sins.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby is an insightful columnist who usually goes awry once his Christian conservatism obstructs his thinking."

I agree with your post but just to clarify, Jacoby is Jewish believe it or not. He is an example of an interesting trend I have seen developing, namely that of Conservative Jews defending Christianity against Islam and against the "secular Left". They see an attack on Christianity as an attack on them and they see the real enemy to be secular liberals.

Jews defending Christians despite the centuries of anti-Semitism perpetrated by Christians. The modern world is making some strange bedfellows.

John Kim

Joseph Kellard said...

John,

Thank you for pointing out these facts about Jacoby.

Joseph Kelllard

Burgess Laughlin said...

RE: "Well, as the foremost Commandments again demonstrate, it is self-sacrifice, a renunciation of the self, of one's reasoning, questioning mind."

The Biblical story that best captures these elements is the story (Genesis, Ch. 22) of Abraham about to sacrifice his own beloved son on an altar to God. When told to sacrifice his son, he proceeds to do so: no doubts, no questions, and no insistence on having a rational explanation. He robotically does what he is told.

Conservatives lie when they say America's roots are in Judaeo-Christian culture. The Founding Fathers were not Abrahams.

Joseph Kellard said...

Burgess,

Thank you for your informative post.

Joseph Kellard