May 2008
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Elgin’s Books


  • Christianity and Secularism

  • Evidence for the Bible


  • Rational Evil

    Listen to the MP3 

     

    In my review of Christopher Hitchens’ “God Is Not Great” I was discussing the relationship of reason to evil, which has taken me beyond the scope of Hitchens’ book. So I have decided to make this an independent series of posts, and will return to my review of Hitchens’ book when I am done. To summarize for those who have not read my comments on Hitchens’ book that got me here, I looked at how reason, unguided by moral values, can result in great evil, in particular how the secular evolutionary worldview when applied to society and culture resulted in Social Darwinism and Eugenics which supplied the rational underpinning for the Holocaust. 

     

    After the holocaust these sciences were rightly rejected. Yet they were not rejected for the normal scientific reasons. At the time the Judeo-Christian worldview still held great influence even if many were beginning to reject its underlying foundation. As such, these sciences were rejected more for the result they produced than any new scientific discovery that showed them to be wrong.  

     

    More importantly people embraced the Judeo-Christian based concept of Human Rights a concept developed from the beliefs that we are all created in the image of God and are all equal in God eyes. Human Rights stem from this, as not even a King has the right to interfere with what God has given.

     

    As the Judeo-Christian worldview weakened in the decades since WWII, so did the foundation of Human Rights. What does it mean to be equal in the eyes of God, if there is no God? Worst, the underlying rational of secular evolution remained in a question few would dare to seriously ask:  If evolution is true, and we are just animals why shouldn’t we treat each other as the animals we are and order society on the principles of evolution; on survival of the fittest?

     

    To avoid having to deal with this question, a number of strategies have developed over time; all with their own serious problems.  Most seriously, reason itself was depreciated, replaced instead by emotion. Thinking implies thought, questions, examination, contemplation, analysis. Express a thought and people are libel to ask you what you mean, and worse, they might ask you to justify your thoughts, to back them up, with the simple question: Why? Feelings need no justification, they just are. “That’s just how I feel about it” is a perfectly acceptable emotional answer to the question: Why?

     

    As a result, we normally do not ask people what they think about something we ask them how they feel about it.  To be sure, the avoidance of the implications of secular evolutionary thought has not been the only factor in this or the other things we will look at.  Here for example, there has also been the rise of the importance of visual media (which appeal first to the emotions), and the corresponding drop in reading (where symbols must first be process intellectually to be understood). Still, the avoidance of the implications of secular evolutionary thought have not only been a factor but also a unifying principle.   

     

    The depreciation of reason in favor of emotion meant that uncomfortable questions and implications could just be ignored and thus avoided. But the attempt to avoid the rational implications of secular evolutionary thought through depreciation of reason resulted, not too surprisingly, in considerable irrationality.

     

    As the foundation for Human Rights was rejected, equal in the eyes of God, became merely equal, which may sound good to those influenced by modern post WWII thought, but what does it mean to be equal? Equal in what sense?

     

    I am certainly not equal with Tiger Woods when it comes to playing golf, and perhaps it is just my vanity, but I like to think that there are probably a few things where he is probably not my equal. In sports, work, knowledge, background, illnesses, health, in virtually every aspect of life equality is the rare exception if it exists at all. Each of us is different. Each of us is an individual with different strengths and weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages. So in what sense are we equal?

     

    For the Judeo-Christian worldview this is not a problem. God transcends all of this.  Thus to be equal in his eyes is far more important and transcends any of the differences among us. To be a better golfer, or have more knowledge of history; to be taller or faster; to have more money or power all may show a lack of equality in these areas, but the equality before God, is an equality of worth that transcends everything else. It can transcend everything else, because it is based in God who transcends everything.

     

    But the secular worldview does not allow for God. Thus there is no transcendant equality, because there is nothing transcendent in which to base such an equality.  More importantly survival of the fittest argues strongly against equality in the first place. Therefore the question, and thus the problem remain.

     

    Normally the question has been answered with dogmatic and undefined statements of equality. We are equal just because we are. But with such an unthinking approach, the differences among us become an ever present danger, lurking in the shadows threatening to bring the whole system down.  Next time we will look at how the attempt to avoid this danger has changed how we look at everything, often with very negative effects.

     

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.a

    4 Responses to “Rational Evil”

    1. Running Toward the Goal » Blog Archive » Rational Evil Says:

      […] Rational Evil    Rational Evil [6:17m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download A transcript is available on the Consider Christianity Blog. […]

    2. Rational Evil IV Says:

      […] strategies produced a number of absurdities that if given any serious thought would quickly undermined the entire system and many did think […]

    3. Ed Darrell Says:

      Of course, claims of moral values, unguided by reason, also produce harm. Thus we get Christians arguing that the Bible endorsed slavery, Christians arguing that electricity use is evil and to be avoided, Christians arguing that the Bible endorsed corporal punishment and so requires opposition to domestic abuse laws, laws against spousal and child beating.

      In each case, reason has won out, for the most part.

      A kid in one of our Sunday school classes made a poster — gee, it’s been 18 years ago! — “Jesus came to take away our sins, not our minds.” There’s much wisdom there.

    4. Elgin Hushbeck Says:

      Ed,
      I largely agree though I would somewhat differ when you said that “In each case, reason won out for the most part.” For example, if you look at slavery, there is not a “rational” position on slavery one way or the other. Reason can be used to defend it or to reject it. It all depends on the framework in which argument are make.
      The abolition of slavery was for the most part a Christian movement solidly grounded in the teachings of the Bible. Yes supporters of slavery tried to defend it from the Bible, just as some critics still try to claim the Bible supports slavery. But I believe abolition won, because based on teaching of the Bible, it was the rational position.
      For example, I know of no case where those who claimed support of the Bible for slavery, actually implemented the regulation of slavery in the Bible. Those regulation were so strict that it resulted in a Hebrew proverb which, if my memory servers correctly, says “he who buys a slave gets a master.”
      This is why slavery disappeared in Ancient Israel, and disappeared in Europe after Christianity came to dominate society, only to reappear as Europe expanded out and came in contact with cultures that still had slavery. But with it reintroduction into Europe, religious opposition began to appear that eventually resulted in abolition.
      So it was not that reason won out, but that reason guided by Judeo-Christian values won out. I believe both are important.

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