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26 July 2010

What's So Great About Christianity | Ch 22

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This is part of a series of notes in response to "What's So Great About Christianity" by Dinesh D'Souza

Chapter 22 | The Imperial "I": When the Self Becomes the Arbiter of Morality

D'Souza presents here an argument that seems to aim at the slippery slope of subjective morality. As I have already stated, moral systems is not my strong point at the present moment and I do agree that allowing everyone to simply decide for him or her self what is right or wrong will not fly. At the highest level, government enforces for the people (or should) what is most beneficial. We have laws against countless things in order to protect the health of society.

At a far more local level, though, we have social constructs. Individuals are rewarded for being nice. They are outcast and/or simply ignored and avoided for being jerks. There is no law against being a jerk, but generally the repulsion of friends seems to help course correct for these types of attributes.

D'Souza also tries to work in the concept of the fall in order to establish that only it adequately explains human nature. I think it creates more issues than help for several reasons. First, there seems to be no plausible explanation for even a figurative fall scenario (when did we obtain souls, what species of the homo genus constituted the first "man", how were we protected from death/pain/harm as opposed to everything else, etc.?). Second, it presupposes being irreparably damaged at the core and needing a fix. Is it not more accurate to see our tendencies in light of evolutionary and cultural principles? We evolved to genetically reward love and kindness, however anger and a desire to hurt threatening outsiders are also present. Perceiving ourselves as high-functioning mammals with a mix of evolutionary traits and desires seems far more plausible than needing to believe that we were at one point literally perfect and lacking all negative traits and as the result of one choice we fell from this state and have managed to pass it on through sexual reproduction ever since. How in the world might that have happened? It goes without mentioning that if the fall does not hold, Christ's resurrection is pointless; there is nothing to redeem.

D'Souza ends similarly to his chapter on Natural and Divine Law, appealing to the atheist to listen to his conscience, the "impartial spectator" to be his moral guide. I hardly doubt this will suffice and am surprised that this is to what D'Souza appeals after such a denouncement of subjective morality. Has he really failed to consider that the "impartial spectator", the "little voice inside", is simply a manifestation of our past experiences, inclinations, and moral instincts "speaking" to us in the face of a choice or action? Has history not shown that this "impartial spectator" can lead to horrendous evil while feeling fully justified? I was not expecting this to be the conclusion to this chapter.

To Ch 23: Opiate of the Morally Corrupt >>

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