The Soul and Human Nature

Some weeks or months back now, I had some brief exchanges with one diligent reader, known as Hephaestion, about human nature. Heph contends that the Biblical view of humanity distorts our thinking about ourselves, contradicts what we know from science, and has seriously undermined the progress of the species. I promised that I’d respond properly to his thoughtful comments, but have put it off for so long because of the scope of what is required for a satisfactory answer. Seeing that I am unlikely to meet those requirements any time soon, I have to opt for an unsatisfactory answer instead.

The short answer to the supposed conflict between Christian and scientific views of human nature – in my opinion – is firstly that science is not infallible nor objective (so that its conclusions are devoid of speculation and opinion), and secondly that Christianity has often misunderstood what the Bible says about humanity, or ‘filled in the gaps’ in what the Bible says with Plato or Aristotle or whatever else is fashionable. In consequence, the lack of harmony between Christianity and science is often only apparent, and where conflict exists, there is no reason to think that the ‘scientific’ view is cold, undeniable fact and therefore preferable to the Christian one. The interpretation of the evidence gleaned from science is not necessarily and freer of speculation and metaphysics.

Christianity and dualism
Referencing Pinker’s Blank Slate (which I have not yet read, unfortunately), Hephaestion aligns Christianity with a doctrine of human nature labelled ‘The Ghost in the Machine’, translated in Christian terms into the doctrine of the soul, particularly, the idea that people are flesh suits that spring to life (eternal life, no less) when they have a soul inserted into them.

Although the Creation story gives superficial support to dualism when it pictures God creating us from mud and breathing life into us, it is very unlikely that dualism is a Hebraic way of thinking. Certainly, dualism is far from consistent in scripture. Scripture represents the whole human being from multiple perspectives, not simply body and soul. We are described as body, soul, mind, spirit and flesh, each of which refers to an aspect of the whole person rather than a divisible part. ‘Flesh’, for example, refers literally to our meatiness, but also to our relatedness to those things that are fleeting, sensual or sinful, which is (in dualist thinking) a soul activity. Soul (whatever that is) and body are a unity.

Furthermore, some key doctrines seem to oppose dualism. Outsiders to the faith often don’t realise that spiritual existence in heaven is not the eternal resting place of Christians. The Bible teaches a resurrection to bodily life in a new earth as our final state. Certainly, any notion that the physical is bad and the immaterial is pure and eternal comes from Plato, and not from Christ.

Science vs the soul
In terms of the scientific arguments against a soul, these seem also to be problematic.

According to Heph, dualism between mind and body (and by extension soul and body) is refuted as follows:

“But, for all our wishes, it seems there is no mind-body dualism – one gives rise to the other. As Michael Shermer cheekily put it, hit yourself over the head with a brick and see what faculties you lose. All the evidence indicates that our minds arise from our brains, and our brains are a complex neural network. Destroy the network and you destroy the mind.”

One could add to this the recent research that discovered a zone in the brain responsible for moral thinking. By merely applying magnetism to this zone, subjects became incapable of reaching ethical conclusions that they had uniformly agreed upon before in the absence of the magnetism.

It is fact that destroying the brain destroys the mind (and the soul to the extent that those are synonymous), but the implications of these facts depend very heavily on the presuppositions that one brings to the table. Even though killing the brain kills the mind, it does not follow that brain and mind are the same thing. Smashing my radio puts an end to the music that it plays, but the radio itself is not the musician. It is a conduit for music, but not the source of the music. Similarly, crackly radio speakers play crackly music, even if the original broadcast was perfect quality. In the same way, one’s soul/life may be considerably more than brain function, yet the soul may interface with material existence by means of the brain. This means that its ‘transmission’ will be played only as effectively as the brain is functioning.

The scientific facts do not allow us to say anything with conviction but that the brain is important to our thinking. It doesn’t even rule out the dualist belief in soul/life independent of the body; it only shows that the brain is an indispensable point of interface between the two.

So whatever one’s objections to the idea of soul, science has not proved anything this way or that, and certainly nothing has been scientifically demonstrated that would compel us to worry that upholding the Christian view is backward or damaging to society.

What is the soul?
We tend to speak about the soul as though everyone knows what it is, but I’m convinced that virtually the opposite is true. There is so little consensus over what a soul is that we simply find it less tiring to take its definition for granted than to try and hammer out an answer. I’m not sure that scientists have ever thought that ‘soul’ might be something empirically discoverable (perhaps some soul ‘stuff’ kicking around our pipes, or a measurable force within a person, like an aura, except real), but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some who have thought it possible. For others, the soul is by definition immaterial, and so the search would be absurd.

In the Biblical languages, soul is rendered by nephesh in Hebrew, meaning literally the throat, and by extension the soul, self or life. Greek typically uses psuche (a cognate of ‘to breathe’ and referring to the soul or self), and possibly pneuma (rational soul, spirit, breath, mind). It is questionable, therefore, whether it is necessary to think of soul as something separate from one’s life and personality. Some have gone so far as to say that the soul is no more than a blueprint in the mind of God for who you are, a personality to be recreated at the Resurrection at the end.

The Biblical data is also not as supportive of an eternal soul as one might imagine. It is again more on Plato’s account that we have long believed that souls are eternal in themselves (his argument for the eternity of soul towards the end of the Republic is a quaint example of the limits of rationalism). Scripture by contrast teaches from the start that life is breathed out by God and sustained by ‘the Tree of Life’ in the garden (the death sentence upon man is carried out by barring him from access to the Tree, not by actively killing him). Eternity for souls, then, depends upon God granting them existence, and ‘eternal life’ in the New Testament is a gift that is carried out by Christ drawing man up into the life of God. Eternity is seemingly not something that man possesses by virtue of being human, but only by relationship with the Eternal One.

On this account, one that I favour, the soul corresponds to the Image of God given to man in Creation, and refers (simplistically speaking) to our capacity to relate to Him. Our existence after the intrusion of death is only possible because relationship with God persists if He chooses to persist with it. Indestructible life will be given as a gift by the one who possesses life within Himself. Souls per se do not.

A brief comment about one additional critique

“Christianity subverts this notion of personal responsibility and accountability through such things as inherited punishment, divine providence, future punishment (post death) and vicarious redemption. Ultimately, responsibility is conceded to the absolute sovereignty of God. Beyond even the most extreme form of totalitarianism one can imagine, in Christianity one’s thoughts are under constant surveillance (giving rise to thoughtcrime, in which thinking “sinful” things is equivalent to doing “sinful” things), and punishment lasts for eternity.”

Christianity holds in tension God’s sovereignty over events and human responsibility for our own behaviour. Whether or not one finds this to be an acceptable paradox or a gross contradiction is happily besides the point here, which is merely to assert that Christianity (in its Biblically dependent form at least) repeatedly holds people to account, and never adopts a fatalistic position towards human behaviour. Even Judas, though he was a necessary figure in God’s plan, is held responsible for betraying Christ (Mark 14:21 “For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”). Future judgment is also never used as a licence for immorality. It is used as a motivation not to take revenge and as a comfort that injustice will not rest, but it does not ever function as an excuse for injustice.

On ‘thoughtcrime’, it is not the case that thinking is made equivalent to doing. Judgment in the Biblical law is only levied against actions. Jesus makes lust and anger akin to adultery and murder not to suggest that they are exactly the same, but to show that our inner life demonstrates what we truly are. We cannot consider ourselves to be morally perfect merely by maintaining a clean public image, because lust and hate belong to the same family as adultery and murder. We can’t claim to be holy (‘other’ with regards to sin) if our inner life bears the family resemblance of moral depravity.

James 1:15 says that temptation fuels inappropriate desire, and “desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin” which clearly indicates that the primary moral concern remains with how we act. Nevertheless, in scrutinising our thought life, God demonstrates that it is our inner being that requires transformation, not our external behaviour. Conversion of the heart (i.e. the will) is what matters, and a transformed will ultimately issues forth in transformed behaviour. As James goes on to say “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” Superficially good behaviour from a rotten source is not truly good. God cares about who and what you are, ultimately, not that you did this or that, or refrained from doing this or that.

In this regard, pejoratives such as ‘totalitarianism’ cloud the issue here. ‘Big Brother’ watches everyone intently, ready to punish any variation from the regime. By contrast, God knows all of our deviations from the straight and narrow – all the things that we have stolen without anyone seeing, all of our physical, verbal and sexual abuse of one another, all of our lies and hate – and in spite of that He invites forgiveness and reconciliation. “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” A totalitarian regime loves its power and its ideals but not its people. They’re like cattle to be kept in check. God has power and perfection, but sets it aside in order to be incarnated as Good Shepherd and to die for His flock.

God’s knowledge of our darkest secrets is not an invasion of our privacy, it’s a fact of His being. Another fact of His being – His love – means that He has responded to our darkness by doing something about it.

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “The Soul and Human Nature

  1. Lesang says:

    “Our existence after the intrusion of death is only possible because relationship with God persists…”

    Hmmm..what about eternal punishment? The soul can surely still exist in eternal ‘death’?

    • Jordan Pickering says:

      Yes, that is a fair point, and so perhaps when we are made human we are also granted eternal existence. Nevertheless, there is significant discussion over whether scripture intends us to understand final judgment as eternal punishment of varying intensity, or as an eternal verdict with limited punishment (i.e. you can’t outlast or escape that verdict, but after the allotted time, the soul is annihilated.

      Either way, whether or not souls are eternal, for a soul to have ‘eternal life’ in the sense promised by Jesus, one needs to be gathered in to the life of God. Perhaps eternal judgment requires the sustained initiative of God too?

  2. LG says:

    A very detailed and interesting blogpost, thank you.

    Lesang raises an important question. Surely that’s what Christianity believes? Eternal life or eternal death for the soul?The rest I tend to concur with what you are saying. Not sure about us all living bodily again on earth though, unless I misinterpret something. The body is dead, gone, burned or eaten by worms. The souls inhabit somewhere, no one knows ‘cos none have returned to tell the story. To me the whole Christianity religion is based on eternal’salvation’ dependent on your beliefs and actions you took on earth. I understand God forgives those who led a not so exemplary life and then beg His forgiveness on their deathbeds, but the purpose of Christianity forme is more to lead the life He wants us to lead while on earth than perhaps eternal life after death…

    • Jordan Pickering says:

      Thanks for reading, LG.

      1Corinthians 15 is a helpful passage about our final state. It says first of all that Christ’s resurrection is all important for Christians, because it is the sign that death and sin have been defeated, and so if Christ was raised, we can be raised too. It also describes our resurrection as in the pattern of Christ’s (which was bodily – he ate and could be touched), but it is an imperishable, ‘spiritual’ body (as opposed to a bodiless spirit).

      The passage also reminds us that if there is no resurrection, then we are the most pitiable of all creatures (because we cling onto hope, but it’s false hope). So, I agree that living a righteous and obedient life is one of the goals of the Christian faith, and I agree that living forever per se is not the issue. But Christianity is much much more than being more moral. Christianity is about discovering that we are created to belong to a relationship with our Creator, yet our lives get lived in self-imposed isolation and alienation from the source of true, complete life. So we chase after things that are meaningless instead of belonging to the family for which we were created. Living for eternity is only good if we live reconciled to our life-giving Father. Christianity is about restoring and cultivating the start of that relationship.

  3. LG says:

    Yes, I certainly agree with the last part, Christianity is more than living just moral lives (some non-Christians do a pretty good moral life as well). We need to live reconciled with God, daily.

    I’m still not sure about the spiritual body, interesting point you have raised. (please note my knowledge is limited!). So if we are truly to resurrect in our bodies, are you telling me that the old decayed or even non-existent (burnt as in cremated?) physical bodies will be resurrected’cos that is not what I understood (I am not being facetious either)

    • Jordan Pickering says:

      No, I don’t think so – there aren’t enough atoms to go around apparently!! We’re all recycled.

      Resurrection presumably will involve God recreating us as we were intended to be (that’s why some argue that our ‘soul’ is a pattern in God’s mind). I guess we’ll find out one day.

  4. Hephaestion says:

    The short answer to the supposed conflict between Christian and scientific views of human nature – in my opinion – is firstly that science is not infallible nor objective (so that its conclusions are devoid of speculation and opinion)…

    Science is obviously not infallible, and makes no such preposterous and plainly bogus claim – it is simply, and indisputably, the best method mankind has yet devised for understanding and explaining things. There is a perfectly accessible and easily understandable description to be found on Wikipedia.

    The scientific method has evolved to diminish the effects of personal, religious and cultural biases. That is not to say its practitioners (whether they be Christian, Muslim, Tongan or Zambian) are not subjective and emotional people. Part of the reason that the method works is this very countering of subjectivity. The prankster, juggler, safe cracker, bongo player, artist, geneticist, Nobel Prize-winning physicist and all-round good guy Richard Feynman (currently burning in Hell, according to “true” Christians, for his lack of belief in gods) explained it thusly: “Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”

    There are a number of reasons why we are easy to fool: 1) we prefer stories over statistics; 2) we seek to confirm, not question, our beliefs; 3) we over simplify our thinking; 4) our memories are often unreliable; 5) we struggle to appreciate the role that chance and coincidence play in shaping events; and 6) we can misperceive the world around us. (See Don’t Believe Everything You Think: The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking by Thomas E. Kida.)

    The remarkable thing is that we have brains that can recognise these shortcomings (and explain them) and find ways to overcome them. That is what science does for us.

    Hint: if you want some small inkling of what science is and what scientists do, keep away from Christian web sites, Christian science books, Christian blogs, Christian TV programs and Christian podcasts. And whatever you do, don’t listen to the likes of William Lane Craig, Ken Ham and Kent Hovind – they will debauch your brain, slay your women, rape your cattle and make you incapable of recognising satire. Rather be informed by the likes of Richard Feynman and Carl Sagan.

    In consequence, the lack of harmony between Christianity and science is often only apparent, and where conflict exists, there is no reason to think that the ‘scientific’ view is cold, undeniable fact and therefore preferable to the Christian one. The interpretation of the evidence gleaned from science is not necessarily and freer of speculation and metaphysics.”

    In short: a scientific explanation is no better or worse than a ‘Christian’ (or Hindu or Muslim) explanation.

    It’s hard to believe that someone using a computer, a cell phone, the Internet, who has been vaccinated, who has a life expectancy over 25, who is aware of the structure of the solar system, of general relativity, plate tectonics, evolution and quantum physics, who must be aware that the sun is a huge nuclear fireball, who must be aware that unseen germs spread disease, who almost certainly eats farm produce, who must be aware of DNA and the double helix, and so on, could make such a demonstrably uninformed claim.

    But, of course, in reality you do, through enjoying the fruits of science, accept science as a better way of understanding, investigating and explaining the world. Why, then, is it so difficult to acknowledge? Why is there this need to drag science down to the level of religion? By denigrating science and refusing to be scientifically informed you are tacitly acknowledging the threat that it poses to religion and hence exposing the lie that there is a harmony between the two. Science is antithetical to religious dogma and has been since Galileo.

    Although the Creation story gives superficial support to dualism when it pictures God creating us from mud and breathing life into us, it is very unlikely that dualism is a Hebraic way of thinking. Certainly, dualism is far from consistent in scripture… Soul (whatever that is) and body are a unity.

    You are advancing a meretricious argument where there is none to be made: dualism pervades Christian thinking, whether body and soul, supernatural and natural, spiritual and material, good and evil, light and darkness, heaven and earth, sacred and profane, this world and the next, the corrupt and the holy, and so on. No amount of fancy theological footwork should divert us from this unremarkable observation.

    Cartesian dualism (the ghost in the machine, the body and the mind, etc) is implied as soon as you suggest that there are two ontologically separate categories of a person’s being. You may call them a “unity” but this is to render words meaningless.

    Even though killing the brain kills the mind, it does not follow that brain and mind are the same thing.

    The mind is synonymous with the brain, whether we are talking about awareness, intellect, attention, memory, consciousness or character. It is a broad encapsulation of what the brain does.

    None of this suggests that the mind and brain are the same thing – one gives rise to the other. That should not be taken as a reason to think that the mind can exist without the brain (or some means by which the processing can take place). One of the biggest problems that advocates of dualism face is that not only is the mind affected by damage to the brain, but the effects can be predicted based on which parts of the brain are involved. The conclusion is at once simple, stark and obvious: without the brain there is no mind.

    Given that we have an intimate understanding of how brains work at the neuronal level, and that there is, in principle, nothing to prevent us understanding how they work at higher levels, your logic reduces to an argument from ignorance.

    Imagine a hypothetical future in which artificial brains have been created. These brains have minds and characters as we do (something we might loosely call a soul). Since we’ve built these devices from the ground up and know precisely how they work we know that their minds arise purely from the physical interaction of atoms. At this point the theological argument (from ignorance) becomes untenable. This is a hypothetical future scenario, but not an unrealistic one. And this is the threat that science poses for the theologically minded: it progresses, it improves and it doesn’t wait for clerics to catch up.

    We can come up with any number of thought experiments. Imagine a scenario in which artificial neurones are created. Nanobots slowly, over perhaps several months or years, begin to replace biological neurones with their intelligently-designed, and superior, counterparts. Is there a point at which the mind becomes different in some theologically interesting way on the path to total artificialness? Does the soul get driven out as these scientifically-created interlopers displace God’s makeshift efforts?

    We know that brains are the product of evolution. There is no need to employ any supernatural mechanism or godlike entity. These are distractions.

    The scientific facts do not allow us to say anything with conviction but that the brain is important to our thinking. It doesn’t even rule out the dualist belief in soul/life independent of the body; it only shows that the brain is an indispensable point of interface between the two.

    Though science does not rule out the possibility of a soul (which we may define as a non-material thingy that continues to exist after the body has died) this cannot be used as an argument FOR the existence of souls (an argument from ignorance). Science simply has nothing to say about souls, and will remain mute until they are defined, made testable and/or mathematically modeled.

    Science most emphatically does not show that “the brain is an indispensable point of interface between” the soul and the body. How can it if it has nothing to say about souls and that souls aren’t even known to exist?

    In the same way, one’s soul/life may be considerably more than brain function, yet the soul may interface with material existence by means of the brain. This means that its ‘transmission’ will be played only as effectively as the brain is functioning.

    In much the same way as the soul may be a single supernatural neurone in a vast divine network of holy Connections that give rise to the glory we know as our Father, His Son and the Holy Cosmic Intelligence.

    See, two can play at making things up. It just doesn’t get you very far.

    So whatever one’s objections to the idea of soul, science has not proved anything this way or that, and certainly nothing has been scientifically demonstrated that would compel us to worry that upholding the Christian view is backward or damaging to society.

    You’ve gracefully leapt from “science shows that the brain is an indispensable point of interface between the two” to “science has not proved anything this way or that.” You can’t have it both ways (though in your Christian parlance both ways would be seen as, what, another unity..?)

    Furthermore, given that science has nothing to say on the issue you imply, again, that this gives one reason to believe in souls (or less boldly, does not give one reason not to believe in souls). This is simply an appeal to ignorance.

    It’s precisely because these religious claims (souls, gods, demons, etc) can’t be proven that faith becomes a necessity. Outside of religions, good reasons for believing in something require positive evidence. If we don’t have good reasons then all we can do is remain agnostic on the issue. “I don’t know” is a perfectly good answer. But religious people do “know,” and with unshakable certainty.

    Also, it’s not that believing in souls is necessarily backward or damaging to society – it is simply that there is no evidence for their existence, so why believe? A person may choose to believe in unicorns and leprechauns without damaging society. It simply indicates that they are credulous, and someone might take advantage of the fact (by, for instance, contriving to take 10% of their earnings, every month, years after year after year).

    We tend to speak about the soul as though everyone knows what it is, but I’m convinced that virtually the opposite is true.

    Indeed, if only we had a definition…

    On this account, one that I favour, the soul corresponds to the Image of God given to man in Creation, and refers (simplistically speaking) to our capacity to relate to Him. Our existence after the intrusion of death is only possible because relationship with God persists if He chooses to persist with it. Indestructible life will be given as a gift by the one who possesses life within Himself. Souls per se do not.

    A definition in terms an image of something that cannot be defined given to something that cannot be verified (metaphorically speaking, though “Creation” has been falsified in its literal form) and referring to our “capacity to relate” to this thing we cannot define, followed by a veritable segue of godly incantations.

    That may be acceptable as a definition in theological circles, but not so in less forgiving quarters. That is not to say that we must *start* with a rigorous definition before investigation can take place – the gene was only vaguely understood before Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the structure of DNA. It does mean, though, that it must be possible, at least in principle, to examine or test or model the subject in question so as to better understand it. This is not possible with souls.

    Perhaps, given another 2000 years, theologians might come up with a working definition. (The mind boggles at what science might achieve in the next 2000 years, or, indeed, the next 50 years).

    But it can never be possible to define and understand and demonstrate souls (and gods and demons and so on), not even given 2 million years, because that would negate the need for faith. And because of this, the conceit that faith (in lieu of demonstration) is a good thing must be maintained at all costs.

    I’m not sure that scientists have ever thought that ‘soul’ might be something empirically discoverable (perhaps some soul ‘stuff’ kicking around our pipes, or a measurable force within a person, like an aura, except real), but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some who have thought it possible. For others, the soul is by definition immaterial, and so the search would be absurd.

    “except real” – And said with an earnest expression too, no doubt.

    It was once thought that rainbows were proof of God’s existence, so too with fossils (God had created these animal figures in rock as a frivolous display of his power). It was criminal heresy, in England at least, to question such notions. But brave and curious people did. We now know that they are not evidence (or even proof) of any god. We understand them in terms of physics, with no need to invoke a god. Science is free to investigate anything that is open to investigation. If souls do exist then, in principle, science is free to investigate them. However, if they are not open to investigation then we cannot say whether or not they exist – no one can. The fact that there is no evidence would seem to push their likelihood towards “does not exist” rather than “does exist.”

    By contrast, God knows all of our deviations from the straight and narrow – all the things that we have stolen without anyone seeing, all of our physical, verbal and sexual abuse of one another, all of our lies and hate – and in spite of that He invites forgiveness and reconciliation.

    You forget to mention the small print: this “forgiveness” is only given to those who drop to their knees and show absolute reverence and adoration; those who don’t (such as the majority of today’s elite scientists, and 66% of the world’s population) get to burn in damnation for an eternity. Never, given the thousands of gods that mankind has created, has there been one this malevolent.

    “… our physical, verbal and sexual abuse of one another, all of our lies and hate…”

    Eish… That’s a bit too much self-loathing for this time of day, even for a Christian.

    Consider lies. They are indicative of higher-order thinking and reasoning. Healthy children begin to lie early on. You should expect your child to have this skill by the time they are two years old, but only if they are gifted. By about 4 even the children of average intelligence have developed this skill. A curious thing also happens at about this age: children develop a theory of mind; they have an idea of what other people are thinking. Without a theory of mind or the ability to lie (and many other things too) we should worry that our children are mentally handicapped.

    Of course, it does not follow that lying is necessarily a good thing. (And, it should also be noted that there is no relationship between lying in childhood and a tendency to cheat as adults.) Lying is an ability that can be used for noble, nefarious or just mundane purposes (like a lot of our skills). It is an essential skill for a species such as ours that is very social, communicative and competitive. Every one of us has, at some point had to lie to either protect ourselves or someone else. Sometimes it may have been done to avoid embarrassment or censure, or perhaps to prevent someone’s feelings from being hurt, or merely to avoid a tedious meeting. There are fibs, white lies, big lies, shameless lies and being economical with the truth. This is not a skill you would want to be without.

    It is only by knowing ourselves, by understanding how and why we evolved to be what we are, that we can make sense of the fact that we lie and cheat, as well as love and care for one another. These things have nothing to do with Vishnu or Zeus or any other god. We are a product of evolution and that is where the answers are to be found.

    On ‘thoughtcrime’, it is not the case that thinking is made equivalent to doing. Judgment in the Biblical law is only levied against actions. Jesus makes lust and anger akin to adultery and murder not to suggest that they are exactly the same, but to show that our inner life demonstrates what we truly are. We cannot consider ourselves to be morally perfect merely by maintaining a clean public image, because lust and hate belong to the same family as adultery and murder.

    “But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

    “For lust is a shameful sin, a crime that should be punished. It is a devastating fire that destroys to hell. It would wipe out everything I own.”

    “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. ”

    To claim that such disapproval merely “show that our inner life demonstrates what we truly are” seems to purposefully avoid the unconcealed message: thinking things that your god does not like is judged very much as if doing those things. To suggest otherwise is to engage in more theological legerdemain in an attempt to downplay a rather unpalatable truth. But it also claims that you know “what we truly are,” and, given that the Christian view of human nature bears no resemblance to the picture we glimpse from science, this is clearly open to argument (to be charitable).

    Thoughtcrime is the enforcement of ideological correctness though mind surveillance. The horror of any totalitarian regime is when the people become part of its surveillance mechanisms. The horror of Christianity is that its adherents are their own thought police. We would not countenance the state’s scrutiny of our thoughts, and yet with our gods we positively cavort at the chance to collaborate in the violation.

    God’s knowledge of our darkest secrets is not an invasion of our privacy, it’s a fact of His being. Another fact of His being – His love – means that He has responded to our darkness by doing something about it.

    Wonderful doublespeak in the best Orwellian tradition: “it’s not an invasion of our privacy – it’s a fact of His being.” Replace “Him” with Zeus, Vishnu, Big Brother, the Internet, Google, your local bishop or the CIA and it’s an invasion of privacy, no matter how much love, kindness, compassion or truth they proclaim.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s