6/21/2015 | Share this article: View CommentsBy John Shores ~
In the Christian vernacular, "sin" carries currency of some sort. "The wages of sin" is one phrase that supports this notion. The idea that "Jesus died to save you from the consequences of your sin" also sounds rather like a rich uncle bailing out a nephew who is deeply in debt.
What makes this currency of sin somewhat nefarious is that in the Christian worldview sin is not in fact the same thing as behaving immorally. In Matthew 5, Jesus states that things such as anger and lust are up for "sin" status and can land one at the judgment seat.
This idea of elevating thoughts and natural impulses to the status of "sins" really crosses any lines of reasonableness.
Born in sin?
Christian doctrine is founded on the idea that humans have a "sin nature." What does that mean?
If you read Romans 7 ("…For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want...."), you get the picture of an extremely tortured soul.
One does not get the sense that Paul is trying to suppress an insatiable desire to torture puppies or to burn down orphanages. Rather, his struggle is against his thoughts ("inner man").
Said another way, he struggled against being human.
Contrary to Christian doctrine, our default nature is not immoral. We have succeeded as a species because of innate qualities like cooperation, fairness, and reciprocity.
By nature, we care about the other members of the group. As we grow we come to understand that the group is important to our survival.
There are certainly some things that cause damage to both the group and individual members of the group. We have identified these things and given them a label of "immoral" or at least "unlawful."
The Christian doctrine of sin, if accurate, would have to be stated as, "By nature, we all want to do that which will harm the group." But this is not the case.
No human is born a racist or a murderer. Humans mimic by nature. Hence those things that plague us (racism, tribalism, religious adherence) are things that are taught. They are not part and parcel to human nature.
Being Human is Bad
Being horny is a normal human condition. Re-label it as "lust" and it suddenly becomes something sinister.
Anger is another common human quality. No normal person can go through life without experiencing it. And yet this is also a sin in the Christian vernacular.
The Christian message can be summed us as: "You are a piece of shit. Our remedy is your only hope."Telling someone that he's an idiot is perhaps the most common of the human communications (certainly on social media). But according to Jesus, to say such a thing is enough to land you in Hell.
The reality is that Christian doctrine seeks to neuter a person of all that makes him or her human.
They call it "elevating mankind." The reality is that Christian doctrine criminalizes human nature.
You is Kind. You is smart. You is important.
The Christian message can be summed us as: "You are a piece of shit. Our remedy is your only hope."
Is it any wonder that Paul was completely neurotic? (I was too, for over four decades!)
Tell people that they are good, that they are smart, and that they are important and watch what happens.
Rather than behaving morally to escape some punishment, people behave well so that they don't disappoint themselves or those whose opinion matters to them. To know that one has done something to benefit humanity is one of the loftiest motivators.
Add to this a heaping dose of realism. Your natural impulses are not in and of themselves evil. You are not full of "sin." You are full of chemicals and electrical activity in your brain.
It is not what you think but how you behave that matters.
Arrogance and Condemnation
My first year of college, I was approached by one of my classmates about midway through the year. He told me that he was gay.
"OK," I replied.
"I'm not hitting on you or anything," he said. "It's just that I know you're a Christian and I wanted to see how you'd respond."
"Well, Jesus hung out with the sinners and outcast you know, so I don't see any reason why I should judge you," I replied.
As noble as that may sound, it isn't. I thought I was being benevolent and liberal. In fact, I had just labeled that guy as a "sinner." I had judged him and my response was in fact arrogant and condescending.
As an ex-Christian I can see that now. As a Christian, I could not.
There Has To Be A Better Way
Is this belief system that is predicated on the idea of "sin" really the best we can do?
Isn't it better to accept that people are essentially people without twisting that into meaning something bad?
Isn't it better to elevate people, to tell them that they can do great things, and to encourage them to do their best in this world?
Telling them that they are sinners is shackling them from the outset.
People do not need to be freed from the shackles of sin. They need to be freed from the superstition that uses the label of "sin" to enslave them.