Related to my last post having to do with the Middle Ages and the prejudices many have toward that time-frame, is the issue of Christians, presently and in the past, not living up to their own confession of faith, i.e., Christians being bad. The materialist/atheist/naturalist (From hereon MAN) is quick to bring up a litany of past and present wrongs committed by Christians.
Of course, the fact that Christians haven’t lived up to their faith for the past 2000 years is hardly news. I haven’t lived up to mine today, and it’s only about 11am. The distance between Peter making his confession as to the identity of Jesus (“You are the Christ”), and Jesus then addressing Peter as Satan, is negligible. Christians live in that tension. Christians know better than most the reality of their failures partly because a core component of why they are Christians has to do with the need to repent. Yes, we make our poor attempts to live our faith and thus confession and repentance are woven into the very life of the Church. Based upon a narrative that compels a real belief (as opposed to the “better illusions” one interlocutor has suggested) in an objective good and evil, we at least have something by which to judge and be judged in these matters.
And of course there is always the issue of tolerance or more specifically the “intolerance” of Christians toward others, which is also tossed out at some point. As to the “intolerance” of Christians, I would say, yes, in many instances, guilty on all counts.
Putting aside for the moment that after the 20th Century, the MAN has little business preaching to the rest of us about “intolerance,” the deeper question is on what basis does the MAN even evaluate these matters? How does he know what to tolerate and what not to tolerate? How does he judge between two “moral” choices? When the MAN, who believes that matters of good and evil are ultimately illusory and subjective preferences like choosing cotton prints over plain, offers us his intrepid ability to judge, such an offer should come under some suspicion, not the least for it being nonsense on stilts given his metaphysical views.
We are continually told two things simultaneously by the MAN. One, there is no objective morality, there are only subjective choices made by creatures who are reducible to matter-in-motion who inhabit a purposeless, amoral, meaningless universe (Okay, got that?); and, second, by the way, we still know what is good, evil, and intolerant (Huh? but you just said…!). And they will tell us all this while frothing at the mouth, with finger waving in the air and fist pounding the pulpit.
And of course, more often than not, they are pointing that finger at religious people/Christians. And that is fine. Point away. Since we actually believe one could be guilty in a true sense rather than an illusory emotional sense, we are compelled to recognize our faults, confess them, seek forgiveness, and move on. We often fail to do this, but at the least the very nature of all this is real to us. The point, however, is the entertainment value of seeing the wild-eyed fundamentalist MAN sitting on the branch with which he needs to sit (so there is a way to even judge such things—thus his pronouncements against) as he saws it off at the same time (by pointing out how there really is no such branch called morality)! What is one to make of such nonsense?
The default response wheeled out by the MAN when such a gaping contradiction is pointed out, is usually something along the lines of, well, we can make decisions about morality using “reason” and our own desires, since most of us know what we like and don’t like. One can hardly imagine a weaker or more ridiculous answer. Once we deconstruct “reason,” unpacking all the metaphysical ligaments, showing its contextual situational position in history culturally and otherwise, removing its universal autonomy, such an answer gets us nowhere. Further, there is the little problem of how a tool like “reason” is supposed to manage something (morality) that, according to the MAN doesn’t truly exist to begin with. What can “reason” do with Santa Claus? One could be the most reasonable person in the world, and such will not produce the Tooth Fairy. If morality is not a true oasis, but as the MAN tells us- a mirage, then “reason” has nothing to act upon. What can “reason” do with “better” illusions? Someone, somewhere, (Nietzsche?) will simply point out that the emperor has no clothes, so let’s all go home, eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. One would think the point too obvious, but if something is an illusion, “reason” is not going to be of much help and, in fact, it might have just flown out the window.
As to the “knowing what we like and dislike” argument, one only has to peruse history. Hitler “liked” having Jews exterminated. Many people “like” getting their way over the “likes” of others. If we cannot appeal to something greater than our individual “likes” and “dislikes” then we are left with might makes right. Only power is left in such a conception—the survival of the fittest—the one who can make his “likes” everyone’s. If we cannot talk about what we should “like” or “dislike” as opposed to the raw emotion linked to, say, being hungry, so I would “like” some food right now, then game over, welcome to the jungle where there is only authoritarian power.
So to the MAN out there, indeed, please keep pointing fingers and noting the moral failures of others; after our confession and repentance we will continue to watch in amusement as you continue to keep sawing. And how ironic if it turns out we are the ones who catch you when you fall.