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Only Human

By Carl S. ~

There's a special dispensation from liability reserved for clergy. It goes by the name, "He's only human." It explains why a pastor, who has been in one or more adulterous relationships (while preaching, at the same time, virtue and honesty to his congregation), is forgiven: he's only a human sinner. Somewhere behind this is the empathy of, "If I was in his position with his power, I might do the same."

Christians used to have a saying, "Not perfect, but forgiven." Maybe it's because people didn't know how to interpret what it meant that led to its demise. Nobody's perfect, so what's the point, and doesn't being forgiven make you superior to the rest of us unforgiven ones? Doesn't forgiveness give you free reign to be "not perfect" in the future? This may be one more example of us vs. them, or rather, we vs. you. Being not perfect is, I'm guessing, supposed to be an admission of humility.

Since the beginning of religions on down to the present time, priests of every god have preached humility before the god. Dogmas preach humans are created to bow down, admit their sins, and beg forgiveness of the god. They must prostrate their Wills to the god, admit they are continually either offending or in danger of offending the god. If they do not, they would be punished by the god or his representatives on earth. (Remember, the original sin of three religions is that of knowing, meaning a will to be as god.) This is what has passed for "humility" for eons, and is held up as highly virtuous by religions. (The word “Islam" means "submission.")

Religions teach that humility means becoming obedient children of god, of becoming as a child to enter heaven, that we all are children of god. But, as one nurse told another when looking at the uncovered body of a young patient, "This is no boy, this is a man." Real humility is admitting we're adults. To explain:

The original meaning of the word "humility" has no religious connection. It refers to an honest self-assessment of one's place in nature and among other humans. There is nothing self-degrading nor arrogant in this attitude. In fact, it can include a realization one knows more than, or is better at making decisions than others. It can also mean that one recognizes that one might not even have average qualities. It means looking around and experiencing that one's not that much different than anyone else in not only achieving, but in screwing up. (And that others are merely better at covering up their mistakes than you are.) Inasmuch as you can be objective about yourself, it is a method of determining whether you are lying to yourself or not.

Religions have seized on the human need for group identity and used it to their advantage. They have created group/ cults that societies identify with, with the added benefit for clerics of demanding loyalty and a relationship on a par with that toward the god. The cult identity becomes so strong that when one leaves it, one is considered a traitor and immoral.

“I know in my heart it's true, therefore it is," or "You can't test, or judge, or question god." But doesn't that mean, "It's what I believe, so don't question or test or judge me?"Religious/group/cult membership has made for itself a "special humility" unrelated to honest assessment of the individual's place in nature, amongst other members of the human race, etc. This it replaces with the god-given vain and arrogant "us versus them" mentality. It elevates belief- membership to a virtue. (As one woman would say, "What's so virtuous about that?" It's a comment I keep finding very useful whenever I hear of religious forces at work.)

Religious "humility," compared with honest humility, is like comparing scientific fact-finding to belief in the illogical. The scientific method, for example, admits new evidence even if it contradicts current understandings, and rejects the old in accepting the new. This is not only "humble" but what currently is referred to as "humbling." Religious humility, on the other hand, gives rise to such well-known religiously-impregnated aphorisms as, “I know in my heart it's true, therefore it is," or "You can't test, or judge, or question god." But doesn't that mean, "It's what I believe, so don't question or test or judge me?"

People who say they have faith really mean they hope. Those who say, "I believe" are really saying, "I hope," and when they say," I'll pray for you," what they really mean is," I'll hope you recover." Their faith in salvation, in heaven, their savior, their prayers being answered, etc., all mean that their gut-feeling hope makes these things true. It's hope. Gambling. When gospel Jesus says, "Anything you ask for in my name shall be given you" (The realist scoffs: "You hope."), it's wishful faith, of "When you wish upon a star...your dreams come true." People don't want to give up their personal faith because they fear their personal hope will leave. It's really silly, but it's what humans do.

Of course, there is: "No amount of evidence will convince me my beliefs could be wrong," or, "No amount of evidence will convince me to (even) think differently." That's not being humble, but it has everything to do with personal feelings, which can include real fear of knowing otherwise. These two feelings, that of inexplicable inner "knowing," and fear, determine how much control the cleric and tyrant and dictator have over their followers. What's so virtuous about that?

Virtue and religion. Do the true believers automatically assume merely believing confers virtuous status? Apparently so, judging by their actions. In that assumption, many non-virtuous attitudes and injustices are forgiven and/or overlooked.

Ray Norris, in writing about an evidence-based world in which beliefs are replaced by working hypotheses, says: "Racism, sexism, and all the other nasty-isms could probably not survive without belief. Unless I believe I'm superior to you, it's very difficult justifying killing you, or discriminating against you."

Look around the world and you'll find beliefs poisoning everything. Of course, that's only my humble opinion. I'm only human. I do not know in my heart that god wants me to destroy unbelievers and infidels, that women are inferior to men in every way, that god demands that I deny essential healthcare to women and girls because the clinics that provide such care may also provide abortions. I am not a reincarnation of a god who spouts platitudes and lives off the fruits of other people’s labors. I am not the holy man who speaks for god while wearing a "Conehead" hat and a dress, or who believes that his very words have just changed a cracker into a living man who died two thousand years ago. I'm a humble realist.