The Friesian philosopher doesn’t understand that Jesus spoke as a guru, not as a legalist

overthinking

There is a really awesome philosophy site at:

http://www.friesian.com/why.htm#why

but I totally disagree with the philosophy on it.

 


Example:

The passage below is quoted from the Friesian philosopher; it talks about how he can’t bring himself to believe in Christianity.


This fails as an approach to Christianity for me because I think that Christian morality contains grave flaws:  Some of the most striking teachings of Jesus involve fallacies of anaesthetic moralism and judicial moralism. Thus Jesus says, “But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:22) and “But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has aleady committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27). In the former, since anger is a feeling, not a choice, it cannot be a matter of moral obligation. It is not anger as such but its causes, its circumstances, and especially what one thinks and does about it that involve moral issues. Someone who thinks ill of his brother for stupid reasons, or who does violence or other wrong because of it, he is the one liable to judgment. In the latter case, looking on a woman “lustfully” (something to which Jimmy Carterfamously and embarrassingly admitted before his election) simply means perceiving and feeling the attraction of her beauty. Again, it is the circumstances and what one thinks and does about it that involve moral issues. Beauty itself and natural sexual attraction are intrinsically goods, not wrongs — though some people, all the way back to St. Augustine, are personally troubled that the sexual response is caused and not under the control of the will.

My suspicion is that Christianity in some way almost deliberately makes impossible demands. Anger is something that comes spontaneously, as is arousal to erotic stimulation. These are functions of personality and of sexual reproduction, neither of which is something consciously chosen. If one sins by innappropriate feelings and reactions, then sin is ineviable and cannot be remedied by ordinary means. Thus, Christianity, having condemned normal people to hopeless guilt, offers the solution:  Forgiveness and Redemption by the sacrifice of Jesus in the Crucifixion. If guilt is neither felt nor believed, and one is not troubled that feelings or the sexual response are independent of the will, then the Christian promise gains no traction. Now, I do not feel free of guilt, I tend to agree with the Christian view that the world is a vale of tears, and involuntary feelings and responses certainly can be matters, as even Kant believed, of immoral temptation. It is a matter of degree, and I do not condemn such joys as the world offers, even lust, as entirely unworthy. So, even if flawed, I do not think that the Christian worldview is without merit. At the same time, one might think that I would dismiss Jesus for the flawed nature of his moral teaching. However, my response is just the opposite of Jefferson’s. He dismissed Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Light — the means of Christian Redemption and Salvation — only endorsing the moral teaching. For me, however, Jesus is more likely to be the Savior than to be a perfect moral teacher. This attitude would probably be incomprensible to most Christians, and non-Christians, but it follows naturally from my view of religion.

More specific, less technical, and more famous kinds of impossible demands involve non-violence and poverty. Thus, Jesus says,

 

Matthew 5:39 — But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

This and similar passages are generally interpreted to mandate non-violence and pacifism for Christians. Since few Christians are, or have ever been, actually non-violent and pacifistic, they and the religion in general are commonly upbraided, as byBertrand Russell himself, for hypocrisy. There is at least one religion, Jainism, that does enjoin non-violence on all its members. Christianity has really never done this. The success of Christianity may even be said to have begun with a battle, the Battle of the Milvian Bridge where the Emperor Constantine put the Chi-Rho symbol on his soldiers’ shields. Truly an odd deed to honor a religion of non-violence. Constantine wasn’t actually a Christian yet, so perhaps he didn’t understand. But then neither did any other Christian Emperor, King, or ruler in subsequent history. So there is certainly some kind of disconnect there.

While there are appropriate contexts for non-violence in what might otherwise be violent political struggles, as developed by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, pacifism in general, if I may be excused for saying so, is a foolish and unrealistic principle, as it was in Russell himself. What is going on in Christianity may then be construed in a couple of ways, both based on the devaluation of the world and the dismissal of its values — something in common with Jainism, Buddhism, and other world-denying religions. Thus, Christianity may just be making an impossible demand. We cannot avoid violence, so we are hopelessly guilty and must depend absolutely on grace, forgiveness, and redemption for salvation. The “hypocrisy” in the Christian is thus simply revealed as the weakness and fallen nature of the human. On the other hand, an ethic based on the denial of the world is properly implemented by, perhaps, the denial of the world. Thus, non-violence and other impossible Christian demands have always been much more successfully practiced by renunciates — by monks, nuns, and priests. This would be conformable with the practice of religions like Hinduism and Buddhism, where not everyone is expected to observe the rigors of asceticism, but only those few who are born to it or ready for it.

Equally foolish and unrealistic is the injunction stated here by Jesus:

 

Matthew 19:21 — Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come follow me. 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. 23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

A rich person following this instruction will be able to help the poor just once. And once the poor are helped, once, they will remain poor. Rich Christians, however, or at least rich Protestants, have long believed that remaining rich not only enables one to help the poor over and over again, but also that remaining rich enables one to hire or capitalize the poor so that they will cease being poor. Thus, John D. Rockfeller, the richest man in history to his day, ended up not just having more money than anyone had ever had, but giving away more money than anyone had ever had. This only sounds peculiar to people who think that being rich involves taking wealth from others. If the rich are only rich because others are poor, then being rich certainly involves no virtue.

 


 

All of the above seems to assume that Jesus was speaking as a legalist.

It is obvious from a cursory examination of the Gospels that Jesus was a miracle-working exorcist who spoke in the veiled, allegorical language typical of gurus. He had little patience for laws and legalists.

All the same, I like that philosophy site and I might comment on some of its other essays in the future.

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