Friday, January 14, 2005 the outer...: is the West morally superior? the outer...: Your take

Short answer: No.

Long(er) answer: No, and the fact that it thinks it is is probably in itself one of the main reasons why it isn't. But you mentioned the Judeo/Christian element in the question as well. That is an important element. I've attended a number of churches over the years, but the last one I attended was a local Pentecostal church. I observed there a trend which I'd seen in other churches as well, although probably not to as marked a degree as at this particular church. The observed phenomenon was a large percentage of the congregation being afflicted with varying degrees of mental/emotional instability...hysteria and symptoms associated with panic/anxiety disorders were probably the most common. The other thing was, the people in question knew they had problems...but they simply believed that if they continued to pray and engage in the activities of the church, they would eventually recover. The problem is that they did not, and when I suggested they seek secular therapy (simply because what they were currently doing obviously wasn't working) I began to be seen by some of them as evil.

The bottom line is, I believe Christianity as it has been traditionally observed and practiced, has been found to both be rather oblivious concerning certain aspects of human nature, and therefore incapable of dealing with certain aspects of contemporary human life. Homosexuality is probably the greatest single example of what I'm talking about here. Although there are a lot of people who probably still don't advocate it for their own reasons, the fact is that quite a large number of people want and are going to be gay, irrespective of heterosexual desires/opinions. The original Christian answer to this would apparently simply be to kill the people in question. Given the number of people currently on the planet who fall into the homosexual category, I hardly think that is a humane or civilised response, even coming from people who may still oppose homosexuality as a concept. This is only one example however...There are many others which illustrate issues that I believe Christianity in a formalised sense has become theologically ill-equipped to deal with.

I think it is very important to emphasise here that this is in no way a statement about Jesus Christ as an individual at all...Rather, the disenchantment that I have experienced in the last few years has been a product almost entirely of the extraneous theological framework which has grown up *around* Christ in the two thousand years since his departure. Christianity as a complete religion has adopted and integrated a lot of other elements over the years...Paganism has almost always been a tremendous influence on Catholicism, as one example. Southern Baptists and various other hardcore Evangelicals should be aware of that. For anyone who is interested, there is a fantastic site here which talks about the possible pagan origins of the concept of Hell in particular, and notes the similarities to the Greco-Roman depiction of Hades/Tartarus. This would also tend to bear out my observation that the more ardent/fanatical an Evangelical or Pentecostal Christian is, the less likely they are to know about these kinds of things...Precisely because they are taught that independent research and thinking is the height of evil. I dismiss this however as the worst form of spiritual and intellectual cowardice. The very first criteria of any religion worth preserving in my mind is its ability to withstand critical analysis. Another question I think Evangelicals would do very well to ask themselves is, "What is my internal emotional state?" The reason why I mention this is because although the apostle Paul writes about one of the fruits of the Spirit being love and soundness of mind, what I experienced at church myself was customarily almost exactly the opposite. The usual stance, as Karen Horst Cobb puts it, was "so much to fight, so much to destroy." It's normal and entirely appropriate for people with some sort of code of ethics and conscience to have certain things that they are opposed to the idea of...but I tend to think that such can also be taken to a deeply ugly extreme...Especially if you're trying to validate the concept in your own mind that you're a member of some kind of supposed last bastion of human morality.

I know I am a sinner. I know like everyone else, I screw up on a fairly frequent basis. However, I also know that it is completely self-defeating and worthless to base my entire life around a preoccupation with that fact. The other thing Evangelicals need to have a good hard look at is...if we were originally sinners, and Christ dying/being ressurected removed our sin, then the concept of it is not something we should have to continue to be obsessed with. This is just another of their countless logical inconsistencies...but then again, it's probably worth remembering that in reality their belief system exists within a complete vacuum as far as logic is concerned, anyway.

Moving away from Christianity, another point I could make about the inferiority of contemporary Western society is, among other things, it's overwhelming reliance on oil. The nihilist in me thinks it's going to be extremely amusing to watch everyone start running around like chickens with their heads cut off once peak oil hits. The infuriating thing about this is, given hydrogen's availability, the only real reason why society is still dependent on oil is the amount of money certain people would stand to cease making if we weren't.

Yet another argument that could be made against the moral superiority of Western society is the existence of wonderful places like this, and other such cities where seemingly almost the entire local economy is based on pornography and prostitution. Given my recent critique of Christianity, people are probably going to wonder why I would bring this up. My answer is that I don't like extremism on either side of the fence. I don't believe in damage being done to human beings in any form, whether it's Christian psychological/spiritual abuse of the likes of this on the one hand, or something closer to the Vegas kind on the other. The story pointed to by that last link is fictional, but I believe it does a good job of portraying at least one type of underlying mindset that accompanies pornography.

So...Corrupt, damaging, filthy, exploitative, demoralising, and Western society morally superior? Hell no.