Argh. I just tried to read a book that I was really interested in. Huston Smith is a genius, as far as I’m concerned, and I loved his The World’s Religions. And so last night I started reading The Soul of Christianity, which is intended to describe “a path between culturally rigid, intolerant evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity and nontranscendent, liberal Christianity.” Sounds fascinating, right? Right.
Well, I ran into a snag right away. Smith begins with a discussion I’ve often heard, how science purported to replace religion and turned out not to be able to do that. I actually agree, but I’m of the opinion that science and religion can work together and that proponents of religion don’t need to be all “na na na na na, science, you suck!” any more than proponents of science need to claim that religion is irrelevant.
But the real snag was something he mentioned in passing. He described proponents of science as “conveniently forgetting that humanity is fallen and in need of redemption from its sinful nature.” It occurs to me that this might be Reason # 11 for why I’m an agnostic. I know the Biblical basis for this belief, and I know the historical basis for it. But I simply can’t share it.
I don’t think that human beings need God because they’re fallen. I think we need God because our job in life is to rise. Whatever you think about evolution, history tells us that we’ve been trying for millenia to be better and failing pretty frequently. But it also tells us that our belief in God has made a huge difference. Or our faith in humanity, or innate sense of justice, or the prophets who have come forward to push us forward by a few centuries in terms of justice and compassion.
But I object to the idea that humanity is fallen. A child needs help, instruction, and time to learn to be a good person. They start out with nothing and they improve and fall back, improve and fall back, and do their best to transcend the amoral state they’re born into. Or they don’t, and cause harm. But how deeply negative to think that humanity needs to apologize for some fallen state! We may need to be saved from ourselves, often from a catastrophic failure to transcend ourselves. But fallen? Can’t go there. However, I also can’t be very articulate about why. So I’ll return to this subject later when I’m less spluttery.