Why Christian Moralism Is Bankrupt… According To Jesus.

A lot of the stuff in the bible seems to center around the definition of sin, what it actually means to be a sinner.  And a big theme found consistently throughout the bible is that sin requires understanding.  It’s not merely doing x bad thing, it’s doing x bad thing with eyes wide open. 

In the adam and eve story they were capable of doing things considered sinful and shameful before they ate from the apple, being naked, conspiring against’s god’s decree and so on – but they were only capable of sin when they understood the difference between right and wrong and had a choice.  A virus can kill a million people, but it is not capable of “sin” because it lacks understanding.

This concept is found in legal theory and philosophy to this day, every crime has two elements in determining the guilt of a defendant, actus reus, the physical act of committing the crime, and mens rea, the “guilty mind”.  The person when they commit the crime must understand that what they are doing is wrong in order to be found guilty.

This idea is found throughout scripture, from the adam and eve story to christ’s words on the cross, “forgive them father, for they know not what they do”.

He also said to the pharisees after curing a blind man “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”

So we see that “sin” in both a secular legal framework and a christian framework is dynamic, it’s not simply the act itself but the thought behind the action.  So if someone honestly in their heart of hearts doesn’t think being gay is sinful and gets married to a person of the same gender then even if we grant that it is a guilty act, without a guilty mind there is no sin.  Any more than adam and eve tromping around the garden nekkid was sinful before they understood it was wrong (within the context of the society for which the story was written that is, I’m not meaning to get into the morality of nudity which actually changes drastically depending on the culture).

So I posit that there are two types of morality we ought to be concerned with – one is a sort of practical morality, ie protecting people from harm, helping the poor etc, and the other is an appeal to peoples’ conscience to try to enrich our understanding of morality and thus (from a secular and religious perspective) raise the bar a bit higher.  But with the understanding that moral rules which don’t have intrinsic bad consequences (ie victimless “crimes” such as masturbation) are sinful or not depending on the conscience of the person engaging in them.  Remember when Jesus said “judge not lest ye be judged” he didn’t say we would be judged by his standards, but by our own standard of judgement.  By our own conscience.

This is why I think the moralism and judging the living crap out of people who don’t share your values is a waste of time, both from a secular and christian perspective.  Gay people and pot smokers and people who fuck on the first date are all going to be judged by their own yardstick according to jesus, not yours.  So why moralize to them?

I think it would be nice if we had a society where the only time people were condemned sharply for their actions is when their actions actually did harm.  Of course drinking, drugs, promiscuity etc do do actual harm but rather than moralizing we should be simply warning people.  Especially young people to whom “don’t” means “do twice”.

Your thoughts?

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About agnophilo

Nerd.
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41 Responses to Why Christian Moralism Is Bankrupt… According To Jesus.

  1. jmallory says:

    It all goes back to, “Why do you look at the speck of dust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the log in your own?”It’s like Tony Campolo says, “The bible doesn’t say, ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’. It says ‘love the sinner, hate your own sin’.”Outside the church, we condemn no one. Inside the church, we hold one another accountable in a non-judgmental way.

  2. If I say to you” don’t walk on that area of grass,it’s covering a deep hole and you will fall to your death” Am I being judgemental by telling you you can’t walk wherever you please,or am I warning you of a consequence that will happen if you rebel against my advice?

  3. agnophilo says:

    @Inspectorgrampy5 - Judging contempuously and warning out of concern are two different things.

  4. @agnophilo – Are you not judging someone yourself if you decide they are judging you and not warning you.How do you know sir if  it is a warning or just them being contemptuous?Man’s sin convinces him anything it’s told is wrong is being judgemental.If we could see each others true heart,we would see just how wicked and twisted sin is.Sin will deceive and defy however it needs too to survive.

  5. phantomFive says:

    Pretty sure you misunderstood that scripture

  6. Gay people, pot smokers and people who fuck on the first date rock my world. “Goddy” loves you, me n everybody else, too. She is cool 🙂 We need no fundamentalists. Amen.

  7. In the West people need to be able to tell right from wrong, not necessary understand that the particular legal act was wrong.There is a saying, “Ignorance is no excuse”.This happens all the time with traffic tickets. People inadvertantly speed or roll through a stop sign and get ticketed.So though it is necessary to learn the law and learn morality, the Church teaches that God does not condemn those who act in ignorance or compulsion.

  8. agnophilo says:

    @Inspectorgrampy5 – “Are you not judging someone yourself if you decide they are judging you and not warning you.”Everyone judges everyone, we have to evaluate people to know if they’re going to be nice or naughty toward us.  But there is a difference between that and looking down your nose at someone or treating them with contempt.”How do you know sir if  it is a warning or just them being contemptuous?”By whether they are doing it in a contemptful way.  Whether they are condescending.  People often look down on others to build themselves up, not just to “warn” them.”Man’s sin convinces him anything it’s told is wrong is being judgemental.”I don’t agree with that.  There’s a difference between condescending and disagreeing.  I’m disagreeing with you, but I’m not treating you like pond scum while I’m doing it.”If we could see each others true heart,we would see just how wicked and twisted sin is.  Sin will deceive and defy however it needs too to survive.”I’m not so cynical.  But this mirrors what mark twain once said, that in his private heart no man much respects himself.  I don’t agree.  Though of course I’m sure it’s true of many people.

  9. agnophilo says:

    @phantomFive – And how is that exactly?@love4meislove4U – I think if there were a supreme being it would be better than us, not just a cobbled collection of our faults which is how many people depict him.@RoaminCatholic@revelife – There is a big difference between laws and morals, and ignorance of the law is not considered a valid excuse simply because it is not practical, every criminal would plead ignorance and the law would be meaningless.  Worse actually, because only the honest people would go to jail.  As far as an action based on a compulsion not being a sin according to the catholic church, this interests me – do you have any material or references to this?

  10. @agnophilo – From the Catechism:1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest. 1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest. LINK

  11. musterion99 says:

    So we see that “sin” in both a secular legal framework and a christian framework is dynamic, it’s not simply the act itself but the thought behind the action.  So if someone honestly in their heart of hearts doesn’t think being gay is sinful and gets married to a person of the same gender then even if we grant that it is a guilty act, without a guilty mind there is no sin.Yes and no. If a person commits murder and in their heart didn’t think it was wrong, they would still go to jail. Even if what you’re saying about people being gay is right, they still have committed other sins which need to be forgiven. Any more than adam and eve tromping around the garden nekkid was sinful before they understood it was wrongNowhere does the bible say it was sinful before they ate from the tree.  Remember when Jesus said “judge not lest ye be judged” he didn’t say we would be judged by his standards, but by our own standard of judgement.  By our own conscience.The bible says that God will judge us.

  12. @agnophilo – I can’t argue with that superior means better, it’s just that in my world love and forgiveness is better than obaying some fascistic rules of the fundamentalists.

  13. When the Bible speaks of sin as an act, it does talk about it in the sense in which you describe – failure to uphold moral obligations that we knew we should uphold. But it also speaks of sin as a kind of nature, namely, the nature we have as we’re separated from God or the “flesh”. Our failure to keep those moral obligations is partly due to this separation. Galatians 5. It also seems to hint at sin as being separation itself, both at work between people and God and between people and people. The point of our moral obligations is not just to do loving things, but to be loving and good and right with God and with each other. So while it’s true that people aren’t held accountable to obligations they did not know they had, they still lack a better life that comes from knowing God, from our Christian perspective. This better life isn’t necessarily easier, but it conforms to the life that most enriches and builds us up. 

  14. YouToMe says:

    @agnophilo – I don’t think Grampy was being contemptuous, and I agree, we do not always know a person’s heart. We may be assuming their bias towards us.

  15. thisx100. Why can’t more people understand that ‘you make your own reality’ applies to religion as well?

  16. agnophilo says:

    @RoaminCatholic@revelife – The link is unclickable, but thanks for the reference.  I was wondering about that because I’m still befuddled by the molestation scandal and what the leadership could’ve possibly been thinking – I thought it might shed some light on it.@musterion99 – “Yes and no. If a person commits murder and in their heart didn’t think it was wrong, they would still go to jail. Even if what you’re saying about people being gay is right, they still have committed other sins which need to be forgiven.”If they didn’t understand that what they were doing was wrong at the time they would be considered legally insane and not guilty of homicide, and sent to the bug-house.  If they are deemed dangerous to themselves or others they will be locked up for the protection of themselves/society, but in a psychiatric hospital, not a prison.  And as a matter of practicality, not to punish them.”Nowhere does the bible say it was sinful before they ate from the tree.”It’s the same action.  How would it “become” wrong afterward?  Bear in mind I’m trying to distinguish between wrong and sin.  A wolf can kill you (ie do wrong), but it is not capable of sin because it doesn’t understand what it is doing.”The bible says that God will judge us.”By the standards with which we judge others.  Of course other parts say we will be judged by other standards, but the bible is a bit of a jumble of different messages if you really look at it.  I can find passages telling you to lay down your life out of love, and others telling you to set people on fire.  I think it’s up to us to work out which ones to follow, and I think we do a decent job of it.  When we try anyway.

  17. agnophilo says:

    @nyclegodesi24 – The stuff about separation strikes me as extremely zen.  According to eastern thought we are one thing (god, the universe, whatever you want to call it) broken off into pieces and experiencing itself subjectively.  The thing about sin being separation from god and also from each other made me think of the beatles song “within you, without you”:”We were talking about the space between us alland the people who hide themselves behind a wallof illusion, never glimpse the truththen it’s far too late when they pass away…We were talking about the love we all could share when we find itTo try our best to hold it there-with our loveWith our love we could save the world – if they only knew…Try to realize it’s all within yourselfNo one else can make you changeAnd to see you’re really only very smallAnd life flows on within you and without youWe were talking-about the love that’s gone so cold and the people,Who gain the world and lose their soulThey don’t know – they can’t see – are you one of them?When you see beyond yourself then you may find peace of mind is waiting thereAnd the time will come when you seewe’re all one and life flows on within you and without you

  18. agnophilo says:

    @love4meislove4U – I disagree with fundamentalism as well, preaching to the choir : P@YouToMe – I don’t think he was either, I didn’t mean to give that impression.@UnrevealedTruth_xo – True.

  19. musterion99 says:

    @agnophilo – If they didn’t understand that what they were doing was wrong at the time they would be considered legally insane and not guilty of homicide, and sent to the bug-house.There are people in jail who don’t believe they were wrong for the crimes they committed. They justify it to themselves.It’s the same action.  How would it “become” wrong afterward?C’mon. You know the bible better than that. Almost everything changed after the fall. And there are some, such as @TheTheTheologiansCafe, who don’t think the bible says nudity is a sin, even now. He debated people on that on one of Mtngirl’s posts a couple years ago.“The bible says that God will judge us.”By the standards with which we judge others. Not merely by that. This is the typical atheist tactic of isolating one verse of scripture instead of taking all of scripture into play. There are many times God has judged people for disobeying him, and not for judging others. Of course other parts say we will be judged by other standards, but the bible is a bit of a jumble of different messages if you really look at it.I don’t see it that way, but if you know that other parts say we will be judged by other standards, why make it look like we won’t? What you wrote makes it appear that we will only be judged by how we judge others.

  20. @agnophilo -yeah the idea of human estrangement is all over literature – there’s a poem about how love makes us want to be closer to each other, and how that points to the idea that we were meant to be at one. no coincidence that God is love, and God is a plurality and a unity. (and that the same hebrew word for one in “they became one flesh” is not one as solitary, but unity – also used in “our Lord is one”) 

  21. agnophilo says:

    @nyclegodesi24 – The bible is so much more thought-provoking and profound when taken metaphorically imho.

  22. agnophilo says:

    @musterion99 -“There are people in jail who don’t believe they were wrong for the crimes they committed. They justify it to themselves.” To quote a character from the original law and order, there’s a big legal difference between crazy and insane : P  For legal purposes we try to distinguish whether someone is guilty and was sane when they committed a crime, it’s not a perfect process.”C’mon. You know the bible better than that. Almost everything changed after the fall.” It never happened though.  Even if I were christian there is far too much evidence of the actual history of the planet, solar system and the development of humanity to believe a  literal 6-day genesis account took place a few thousand years ago.  I mean dinosaurs went extinct about ten thousand times as far back as the beginning of the universe, and they were definitely predators and death definitely existed, unless, as one parody once put it, those long legs and razor sharp 6-inch claws were so they could chase down and kill any vegetables that tried to get away, lol. “And there are some, such as @TheTheTheologiansCafe, who don’t think the bible says nudity is a sin, even now.  He debated people on that on one of Mtngirl’s posts a couple years ago.” He’s just trying to justify his annual peepshow.  I don’t think nudity is wrong, merely taboo.  But within the context of genesis it is wrong, they felt shame at their nudity after obtaining the knowledge of good and evil.  I discuss it above simply as a literary element of a parable, not dogmatic “Truth”. “Not merely by that. This is the typical atheist tactic of isolating one verse of scripture instead of taking all of scripture into play. There are many times God has judged people for disobeying him, and not for judging others.”Actually I talked about that too in the very next sentence – I did not misrepresent scripture at all – but you misrepresented my words in order to attack them.  Kind of crappy of you.”I don’t see it that way, but if you know that other parts say we will be judged by other standards, why make it look like we won’t? What you wrote makes it appear that we will only be judged by how we judge others.”Well jesus says the whole of the law is love god and love your neighbor, then says that he is not coming to destroy the old laws (that say stone thy neighbor) and that anyone who doesn’t follow the least of them (until the end of heaven and earth) will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven, then says let he who is without sin cast the first stone.  According to his biographers jesus was all over the map.  “Blessed are the peacemakers” one day and “I come not to bring peace but a sword” the next.We pick and choose which bits we agree with, the bible is scattershot and is easily tailored to any philosophy.  Maybe that’s just the chewed up remains of it after 2,000 years of politics and abuse, it may have been more consistent once upon a time.

  23. musterion99 says:

    @agnophilo –  For legal purposes we try to distinguish whether someone is guilty and was sane when they committed a crime, it’s not a perfect process.Sure, but there are people that can justify themselves but should still be accountable and punished for their crimes.Musterion – “C’mon.You know the bible better than that. Almost everything changed after the fall.”Agno – It never happened though.Then your whole point is moot about Adam being naked, if it never happened.He’s just trying to justify his annual peepshow.You’re right, he is trying to justify it. That’s what the whole post and debate was about. I have to say that he did a good job of defending himself. You should read the post if you can find it.Actually I talked about that too in the very next sentence – I did not misrepresent scripture at all – but you misrepresented my words in order to attack them.  Kind of crappy of you.No I didn’t misrepresent you. Kind of crappy for you to say that. Here’s what you said and the very next sentence.  “ Remember when Jesus said “judge not lest ye be judged” he didn’t say we would be judged by his standards, but by our own standard of judgement.  By our own conscience.”You didn’t say there were other standards we were judged by.Musterion – “I don’t see it that way, but if you know that other parts say we will be judged by other standards, why make it look like we won’t? What you wrote makes itappear that we will only be judged by how we judge others.”Agno – Well jesus says the whole of the law is love god and love your neighbor, then says that he is not coming to destroy the old laws (that say stone thy neighbor) and that anyone who doesn’t follow the least of them (until the end of heaven and earth) will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven, then says let he who is without sin cast the first stone.  According to his biographers jesus was all over the map.  “Blessed are the peacemakers” one day and “I come not to bring peace but a sword” the next.That didn’t answer what I asked you. You just repeated the same thing and left the question unanswered. I’ll repeat it. If you know these things then why make itappear that we will only be judged by how we judge others?”

  24. agnophilo says:

    @musterion99 – Agno – It never happened though.“Sure, but there are people that can justify themselves but should still be accountable and punished for their crimes.”  Depends entirely on the situation.”Then your whole point is moot about Adam being naked, if it never happened.”No, a character in a parable being fictional does not change the meaning or moral of the parable, most parables are fictional.You’re right, he is trying to justify it. That’s what the whole post and debate was about. I have to say that he did a good job of defending himself. You should read the post if you can find it.”Not worth wading through his posts/comments.No I didn’t misrepresent you. Kind of crappy for you to say that. Here’s what you said and the very next sentence.  “ Remember when Jesus said “judge not lest ye be judged” he didn’t say we would be judged by his standards, but by our own standard of judgement.  By our own conscience.”No, you lying tool, here is the exchange:You: “The bible says that God will judge us.”Me: “By the standards with which we judge others.  Of course other parts say we will be judged by other standards, but the bible is a bit of a jumble of different messages if you really look at it.  I can find passages telling you to lay down your life out of love, and others telling you to set people on fire.  I think it’s up to us to work out which ones to follow, and I think we do a decent job of it.  When we try anyway.”You: (quoting only the first sentence):”Not merely by that. This is the typical atheist tactic of isolating one verse of scripture instead of taking all of scripture into play. There are many times God has judged people for disobeying him, and not for judging others.”You misrepresented what I said and are being a complete and utter tool.  And when called on it you lie and say that I didn’t say what I said.”You didn’t say there were other standards we were judged by.”I said (in the next sentence) ” Of course other parts say we will be judged by other standards, but the bible is a bit of a jumble of different messages if you really look at it.”[Agno – Well jesus says the whole of the law is love god and love your neighbor, then says that he is not coming to destroy the old laws (that say stone thy neighbor) and that anyone who doesn’t follow the least of them (until the end of heaven and earth) will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven, then says let he who is without sin cast the first stone.  According to his biographers jesus was all over the map.  “Blessed are the peacemakers” one day and “I come not to bring peace but a sword” the next.]“That didn’t answer what I asked you. You just repeated the same thing and left the question unanswered. I’ll repeat it. If you know these things then why make it appear that we will only be judged by how we judge others?”I already answered that before this section, and you did the same fucking thing and cut out the bit where I get to my point:”We pick and choose which bits we agree with, the bible is scattershot and is easily tailored to any philosophy.  Maybe that’s just the chewed up remains of it after 2,000 years of politics and abuse, it may have been more consistent once upon a time.”You cut out what you don’t like then berate me for not including it.  Why be such an ass?

  25. musterion99 says:

    @agnophiloNo, you lying tool, here is the exchange:You: “The bible says that God will judge us.” Me: “By the standards with which we judge others. Of course other parts say we will be judged by other standards, but thebible is a bit of a jumble of different messages if you really look at it.  I can find passages telling you to lay down your life out of love, and others telling you to set people on fire.  I think it’s up to us to work out which ones to follow, and I think we do a decent job of it.  When we try anyway.”I’m done with this. I was speaking about your post, not the comments, you tool. When someone reads your post, how would they know what you’re going to say in the comments? You’re something else. You wrote the post with the appearance that we are only judged by how we judged others. Once again, you prove yourself not worthy to continue a discussion.Why be such an ass?Pffft

  26. agnophilo says:

    @musterion99 – You were responding to my comment, you know, the bit that you quoted right before criticizing it for not saying what I just got done saying.And what you criticize me for doing is what every christian I have ever met does every single day.  Or have you set many people on fire?Take a good long look in the mirror.I, unlike you, was not claiming that this was god’s infallable will, I was just discussing one idea in scripture that I found interesting and saying that from that perspective judgmental moralistic nonsense seemed like a waste of time.

  27. musterion99 says:

    @agnophilo – Wrong again! In my first comment I was responding and quoted from your post. Remember when Jesus said “judge not lest ye be judged” he didn’t say we would be judged by his standards, but by our own standard of judgement.  By our own conscience.The bible says that God will judge us.Give it up and just admit you’re wrong for once instead of slinging a bunch of insults.

  28. agnophilo says:

    @musterion99 – I admitted freely that the bible contains other moral standards and elaborated on it before you even asked me to, then you responded by accusing me of claiming the exact opposite was true and acting as though I had done something dishonest.In the blog I did not attempt to say that it was the only standard in the bible, but that it was an idea in the bible I found interesting, and in light of it the idea of judgmental moralizing didn’t make sense.  I think that these quotes attributed to jesus make more sense than the other “you’re all gonna burn if you don’t know me” bits.  If that is what you meant you sure did a bangup job of getting your point across poorly, and as obnoxiously as possible.

  29. agnophilo says:

    And no, when you accused me of singling out scripture you did so in response to my comment, not the quote from the blog.

  30. musterion99 says:

    @agnophilo –  I admitted freely that the bible contains other moral standards and elaborated on it before you even asked me to, then you responded by accusing me of claiming the exact opposite was true and acting as though I had done something dishonest.That has nothing to do with what I said you’re wrong about and you know it. You just continue to avoid it and admit you’re wrong. I showed you from my first comment that  I quoted from your post and was speaking to that. You lied and then quoted from your comments and tried to insinuate that it originated from your comments and then insulted me because of your lie and failure to read. I quoted from your post. You did not show in the post that there we were judged by other moral standards. And as I quoted you, you said we were judged by our own standards and how we judged others. That was what I said in my first comment  to you and to question you about, which you have miserably failed to comprehend even though I have to keep saying this over and over.In the blog I did not attempt to say that it was the only standard in the bibleI didn’t say you did. i said you made it appear that way by what you said and then I asked you that if you knew that wasn’t the only standard, then why did you make it appear that we are only judged by our own standards.

  31. agnophilo says:

    @musterion99 – Nowhere did I lie, you did not express your criticism clearly.  And by your standard no one is allowed to express any interpretation of the bible because the bible is so riddled with contradictions virtually any interpretation can be contradicted by cherry-picking out opposing passages.I don’t believe the bible was written by god, I was not speaking for god when I wrote this.  I was speaking for myself and giving my thoughts on a few sayings attributed to jesus.”i said you made it appear that way by what you said and then I asked you that if you knew that wasn’t the only standard, then why did you make it appear that we are only judged by our own standards.”I didn’t, jesus did.  I was trying to elaborate on what I thought the idea behind that sentiment was.

  32. musterion99 says:

    @agnophilo – You did lie by falsely accusing me of lying and then insulted me on top of your lie.

  33. agnophilo says:

    @musterion99 – I misunderstood what you were saying and honestly thought you were lying (and being an asshole).  Not a lie.

  34. musterion99 says:

    @agnophilo – That didn’t make being insulted by you because you misunderstood me, any less disgusting. When you accused me of it, it was still you lying to me at the time you said it.

  35. agnophilo says:

    @musterion99 – And when I insulted you from my perspective you had just twisted my words in order to call me a liar.I’ll start by saying I’m sorry for insulting you.  At the time I thought you were being very shitty.

  36. musterion99 says:

    @agnophilo -I didn’t twist your words. To repeat again, I was speaking about what you wrote in the post. You misunderstood that. I don’t see where I twisted your words.I’ll start by saying I’m sorry for insulting you  I accept your apology.

  37. agnophilo says:

    @musterion99 – Big of you to accept the apology and say nothing in return.

  38. musterion99 says:

    @agnophilo – I didn’t say nothing in return because I didn’t need to. You said I twisted your words. I explained that I didn’t.  If you show me where I did, I’ll apologize. It was you misunderstanding me and insulting me because of your misunderstanding.

  39. agnophilo says:

    @musterion99 – I misunderstood you (because you communicate poorly) and insulted you because I thought you were being an asshole.  You then did the exact same thing except now that I tried to be the bigger person and apologize you actually are being an asshole.I’m done with this.

  40. musterion99 says:

    @agnophilo – Good, I’m glad you’re done with it.

Speak yer mind.

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