As I will argue, below, if a prerequisite of “true” Christianity is to follow Jesus, then nobody is a true Christian. The very reason for this also reveals our tacit acknowledgement that religious morality is subordinated to our innate human morality.
Nobody in their right mind, Christian or not, would fully obey Jesus. Do you know any Christians who abandon their worldly goods and rely on God to feed, clothe and shelter them? Of course not! But that’s what Jesus tells us to do. How many Christians actually turn the other cheek; or love their enemies; or forgive transgressors 7 times 70 times? There’s no question about it: nobody is a true believer in, or follower of, Jesus.
So how can there be billions of people who claim to be Christians? What else can it be? They’re selective Christians: they cherry-pick what they want and ignore or deny the rest. It’s a good thing the Bible actually contains some wise and virtuous ideas; otherwise Christians would be cherry-picking from slim pickings. Actually, there are so many contradictions in the Bible, it’s not even possible to follow it absolutely.
So . . . ALL Christians are selective Christians. There are virtually no true Christians willing to commit to the instructions Jesus urged upon us. But that’s not surprising, it’s the only way there can be any Christians at all. Show me a bona fide exception and I’ll recant.
Once you accept this fact, certain other truths become evident. First of all, what do you think cherry-picking is? It’s our true morality, deciding what is worthy of following. We use our true morality to cherry-pick what is acceptable from the Bible.
What we reject from the Bible tells us a lot about our true morality. How many of us (Christian or not) cherry-pick values like: the subjugation of women; slavery; battlefield excesses; or blood sacrifice (real or symbolic)? Almost everybody rejects these things (although many Christians do accept symbolic blood sacrifice) despite the fact that they’re condoned, supported, or even encouraged, by the Bible (a.k.a. ‘the holy, immutable word of God’).
By overruling biblical morality, we decide what is religiously worthy. WE decide what is religious: so, why do we need religion in the first place?
And what, exactly, is this “true morality” I keep repeating? It’s the morality born of experience and empathy. I know what hurts me (experience), so I know what hurts you (empathy). It’s a morality that crosses racial, religious and cultural divides because it’s a part of the human condition.
Science tells us that empathy is a survival mechanism that evolved as a consequence of our need, as social animals, to cooperate. It’s a natural part of the human condition. Basically, the Golden Rule, is a seed within us all that grows and matures as we gain experience which, in turn, informs our empathy. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you . . . because we all need each other to survive.
Hopefully, you won’t suffer the kinds of abuses that might subvert your humanity; your innate morality. For most of us, it takes a lot to corrupt our humanity. People are resilient. But enough physical, sexual or psychological abuse might affect us in ways we’re not even totally aware of. Perhaps, the most common threat to human morality is the religious morality that tries to replace it. Given all the wrongs committed in the name of God, God’s followers need to be careful that their religious morality doesn’t stand in the way of doing what is right. Abdicating your human morality to your religion means surrendering your responsibility to decide which morals are religiously worthy. That is a recipe for atrocities.
Our true morality is an expression of our humanity and is vastly superior to the cold authority of religious morality.
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If you’re interested, there’s a related post (‘Confusing Morality with Religion‘) available in this blog.
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