One of the problems with Christianity is that it is a very pessimistic belief system which pretends to be optimistic. It starts with the claim that human beings were created special with a particular purpose, but this quickly morphs into the view that no one is perfect and that we are all evil sinners.
Some Christians take the Genesis story literally and insist that we are all inherently evil because of the fall of Adam. Others take the story to be metaphorical, but the metaphor still seems to be that people are inherently evil and that this story was simply a tale told to try to explain this.
No matter where a Christian falls on that sliding scale, the concept of original sin is there and it claims that no one deserves the eternal reward, but because God is so awesome he loves us even though we are the most wretched creatures there could possibly be and so we are “saved” by grace alone.
As a result of this reasoning, we see people thanking God for the talent and hard work that they, themselves ought to be thanked for. This isn’t modesty, it is self-hate. In addition, the view that everyone is inherently evil or sinful leads to a distrust of other people. It makes people more paranoid and less likely to give others the benefit of the doubt. It also makes us feel more comfortable doing immoral things. “We can’t help it, because we are inherently evil after all. It is just our sinful nature. Besides, everyone else is doing it too and we are forgiven out of the grace of God” These types of reasoning remind me of the old adage that a thief believes everyone steals.
Christians can’t hide the fact that this is again a very pessimistic view of human beings. It seems that the only way around such pessimism is for Christians to reject those aspects of the Bible both literally and metaphorically. One would need to water down Christianity so much that it no longer really is Christianity, but rather some form of deism. For the record, that would certainly be a step in the right direction, but one would be best served by taking more steps and rejecting belief in gods all together.
Then there is atheistic Humanism. This is a view that human beings are evolving, progressing, and are working toward becoming better people. As a result, we tend to treat others as working toward that goal as well (whether they realize it or not). This makes us more understanding, more empathetic, and more compassionate. We often think the best of people before we jump to the conclusion that people are inherently evil and just did or said something out of hate.
Sure, people make mistakes and do horrible things sometimes, but we don’t need to be perfect. We just need to be trying to be better. When people feel discouraged from working to become better people, they resign themselves to immorality and let’s face it; religion is pretty discouraging on that front.
Often times, religious believers will point to the actions and attitudes of very young children as evidence for humanity’s “sinful nature.” Toddlers for example lie, steal, hit, etc. all with smiles on their faces. But this isn’t evidence of our evil nature; it is evidence of child development. It isn’t that their souls have been “tainted with sin” it is that they like adults are soulless. The brains of children haven’t fully developed yet. They are still learning and progressing.
Still, one study conducted by Dr. Jessica Sommerville of the University of Washington in Seattle found that children as young as 15-months-old understand the concept of fairness and prefer it. And once human brains do develop normally, there is evidence to suggest that even in the absence of social rules and laws people still have a tendency to be moral for its own sake. Here is a study done using an online game as a model.
Contrary to the beliefs of the religious, humans are not inherently evil. We are not broken or fallen. We are what we are. We have a tendency toward being good. So rather than accept the pessimistic Christian view which stands in contrast to the facts, I prefer atheistic Humanism which views everyone as people trying to be the hero in their own story, but getting sidetracked along the way sometimes. People want to be good, but sometimes it is difficult to know what that is. Sometimes our emotions cloud our judgment and we lose sight of our goal of being better people.
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