Religion versus Human Nature

hand of god

I saw an interesting tweet the other day. I’m paraphrasing, but it said something to the effect that Christianity is flawed because it holds that humanity is flawed. Therefore, any belief system that holds this flawed nature of humanity as a fundamental principle is destined to fail.

I reject this sentiment wholeheartedly. Hold on; there’s a lot to unpack here.

First, this sentiment logically implies that, if Christianity is flawed for this reason, so should the other two well-known Abrahamic faiths, as at least one of them is based on the same creation story. Second, I have to wonder about any religion that does posit humanity as perfect and complete. Even the pagans praying to rocks or whatever were seeking some kind of help that they couldn’t get on their own.

I’ve already discussed how Christianity is different from paganism, as Christians don’t pray to God to persuade him to do stuff for us. But that’s not the important question. What I’m thinking about is the fundamental nature of human beings.

If you ask me, any religion that doesn’t recognize the flawed nature of humanity is not worth your time.

If humanity truly is perfect or perfectible, then how come we are yet to create that elusive Heaven on Earth, Utopia? Isn’t that what’s the Soviet Union for example, tried to do ? How did that work out? Or how about the Nazis who, let me say it again were not Christian!? They sure did a bang up job of achieving their ideal society, didn’t they? These are but the two best-known examples.

Believing that the right laws and regulations can perfect human beings really only leads to death and destruction.

Religion on the other hand–and I’m discussing Christianity because it is the belief system that I am most familiar with–focuses on how we should treat each other with an eye towards the fact that our base instincts aren’t always good. That’s why you have things like the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule. “Thou shalt not kill pretty much admits that human beings have a natural inclination towards murder, doesn’t it? Isn’t the majority of western civilization based on these principles? Don’t these principles, also embodied in the US Constitution, take into account the fact that human nature needs to be mitigated instead of amplified?

Human beings are capable of wonderful things as well. Being human is not in and of itself evil. I think this is what the original tweeter was trying to say. But it only attacks a part of the issue. Human beings are great. Especially individuals! But when we gather into large groups, lead by somebody with ill intent, we become truly horrifying.

Far from denying the good things about humans, Christianity and its teachings is an attempt to encourage the good while controlling and redirecting our flawed natures towards positive ends. Kind of like all laws and legal systems. I see this as a positive thing, and so has much of the world for the past few millennia.

Religion is the reaction of human nature to its search for God - Alfred North Whitehead

I’m not going to get into the Crusades or the Spanish Inquisition or any of that other stuff that people like to bash Christians with, because first of all, that stuff happened in the past, and second, this post is not an apologia for all negative things done, ever, in the name of religion broadly or Christianity in particular.

As an aside, I’m still waiting for the anti-Christian types to attack with the same rancor towards the belief system that does currently subjugate women, murder apostates and gays, and kill anybody that refuses to convert.

Yeah, I’m not one of those relativists. I will defend my faith to the death, because why hold onto any belief system, religious, political, or otherwise, if you didn’t think it was right?

I’m digressing here, but you get my point: By recognizing that being human is not some state of perfection but that humans are a bundle of good and bad, Christianity–many religions, actually–does more to elevate us towards something slightly divine than a system that believes the right set of laws will create heaven on earth.

In sending his only begotten son to die for our sins and defeat death by death, God cloaked us with a little bit of divinity. He removed the stain of our flawed nature and showed us the way to overcome that. It still takes a lot of work, but it’s better than languishing in the grip of the enemy.

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If it wasn’t for something holding us back, what would keep humans from simply using violence to get whatever we want? Why not, right? Why not steal? Why not kill people that get in our way? Why not forcibly “know” every attractive person you see if your passions dictate it? If there’s no consequence to anything, why not follow these ugly human instincts?

If we evolved towards altruism as a survival mechanism, why? Altruism seems like a pretty awful survival mechanism, considering it includes protection for the weak. Why not, say, just eliminate the mentally and physically handicapped? Isn’t rule with by iron fist more efficient and less messy?

I’m not trying to convert anybody. I just think that lots of people are wrong.

So to those who have a problem with Christianity’s recognition that human beings are not perfect, I challenge you to find me someone who is perfect, or a society that has succeeded in perfecting itself. I’ll be waiting.

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade

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2 thoughts on “Religion versus Human Nature

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