There’s a scary paganism to the unbridled blood lust that appears wherever Judeo-Christian ethical monotheism is in retreat.
Unlike pagan gods, this God is not a larger than life human (complete with human foibles) nor is He an animist spirit endowed with the attributes of whatever earthly thing (whether animal, vegetable, or mineral) He happens to represent. In addition to being the creator of all things (see Genesis) and a covenanter with the Jewish people (something that has been a mixed blessing for them), He is also the absolute and only fount of the core moral values that have governed the Western world for two millennia.
The Judeo-Christian concept of absolute moral values flowing from a creator in whose image we are created, means that there is no moral relativism. There are nuances, as for example in the distinction between murder and self-defense, but the dictates of the Ten Commandments make it perfectly clear what is and is not core ethical behavior. Murder — the cold-blooded killing of another without extenuating circumstances — is wrong. Stealing, whether stealing someone’s life, liberty, or property, is wrong. Coveting, not in a way that makes one try harder to achieve some through ones own efforts, but in a way that makes one greedy, resentful, and dishonest, is not only wrong, it is soul-destroying.
The God of the Jews can be a harsh task master, obsessed as He is with justice and moral virtue. Christ tempered that harshness with a concept I’ve always called, for want of a better word, grace. The combination of the two — moral justice and grace — led the way to the end of slavery, a condition existing since time immemorial; the end of child labor, a condition existing since time immemorial; the elevation of women to shared status with men, something that got a huge boost through the cult of Mary worship; and, most importantly, to the amazingly important idea of individual worth.
To the extent that we are all children of the Judeo-Christian God, shaped in His image, we have an unparalleled value. We are not merely cosmic dust. We are not the products of some Greek god’s ego. We are not meaningless animals. We are something exceptional and precious. Moreover, history has shown that, when we are given liberty, coupled with that ethical monotheism, we will thrive, creating societies that are safer, happier, and more prosperous than most in history.
Having said all that, I know that, more often than not, we humans, being fallible, have fallen far short of the purest Judeo-Christian dictates. Whether as nations or as individuals, we have enslaved, killed, robbed, cheated, and done all the things the Ten Commandments tell us not to do. But would we have been better had there been no Ten Commandments at all? Would the human condition have improved if we weren’t constantly, one generation after another, trying to learn and figure out how to optimize the rules of ethical monotheism? And most importantly, would the world be a better place if we hadn’t slowly, slowly, crept towards an understanding of individual worth? I think not.
All of the above is a predicate to a couple of news stories, a short history lesson, and a long-ago comment from my friend Danny Lemieux. [Read more…]