Wednesday 1 September 2010

Three sinners and an agnostic walk into a recording studio… Unbelievable? — 28 August 2010

In response to last Saturday's Unbelievable? programme hosted by Justin Brierley on Premier Christian Radio I have started a discussion on the Premier Community Forum. Here's my initial post:
…and the four of them discuss the "Fall", which must be one of the most depressing and disempowering aspects of Christian theology. 

(I'm reminded of my paternal grandfather — probably the first independent thinker I encountered. He objected to being labelled a "miserable sinner". He was prepared to accept he was a sinner, but he declared he was far from miserable.)

The concept of the Fall is supposed to be based on the story of Adam and Eve, which is obviously allegorical. The author of Genesis could not have known it as fact as he wasn't there. Norman Nevin's claim that Adam and Eve were actual historical figures because Jesus said so was like saying the Old Testament is true because it says so in the New Testament. It must be obvious (that word again!) that the New Testament authors took the truth of the Old Testament as a given. But then to say it must be true because otherwise the rest of New Testament teaching wouldn't make sense, is just wishful thinking.

Apart from the story's manifest status as myth, there's something seriously adrift with using it as the basis for the species-wide guilt-trip of original sin. According to the story Adam and Eve are shamefully set up. They are created without knowledge of good and evil, and forbidden to obtain that knowledge. Yet without that knowledge they have no way of knowing that disobedience is classed as belonging to one of those two categories. When they disobey, they are punished (along with all of their descendants) for a crime they didn't know existed. Ignorance of the law is no excuse of course, unless — as in this case — the obtaining of knowledge of the law is the actual crime. In effect God told Adam and Eve, "Heads I win, tails you lose — suckers!"

The doctrine of the "fallen" nature of humankind is a despicable slur. I'll have none of it.
Early in the thread I was asked to state where my own moral standards come from. I posted the following:
My views on the origins of morality are straightforward: we evolved in social groups, by co-operating with kin for common benefit. Similarly, individual social groups evolved within the larger human race as a whole, and while there are different moral values particular to specific groups within the whole, the individual humans, and the individual groups, are all part of the entire human race sharing essentially the same DNA. Moral values cover a spectrum within humanity, but generally fall within a bell-curve. Keeping the extremes of that bell-curve within limits is the job of mutually agreed moral law.
The discussion is ongoing. You can follow it (and join in!) here:

The relevant Unbelievable? programme is available as an mp3 download here: