Friday, April 27, 2007

Christianity and Ego.

One of the main critiques I hear/read on evolution or secularism is that it reduces man to only focusing on him/herself. Religion, on the other hand, helps man focus on something higher than himself.

I’m wondering how true that is, though. Because in some ways, Christianity seems very ego-driven. After all, think of what many people would lose if it turns out Christianity was just a myth.

The concept is that this infinite, all-powerful Being created man to completely glorify Him. However, humanity sinned, and so could no longer be in paradise. But God still guided all of human affairs and history. God also hated sin with an incredibly intensity, and so either showered blessings or wrath on humans. It places God as very much focused on humans, and what humans do, and that humans get God angry enough that He punishes them for sinning. It makes man be God’s crowning achievement (because of free will and the fact that unlike animals, humans have a soul), and then says that this infinite, perfect, just, loving Being cares about us. In a way, it somewhat makes humans the center of God’s universe – which would be reflected in early Christianity, on the belief that the Earth was the center of the universe. It states that this infinite Being actually cares if people believe in Him or not, or cares of people love Him back.

With no God, humans lose the fact that humanity should glorify God. Humans lose the sense that they are so loved by this Being so much higher than themselves, and they lose the sense that the Being made the ultimate sacrifice for them. They lose the sense that this infinite Being cares about them. They lose the sense that an infinite Being has invited them to take part in His purpose, or has invited them to play a special role in creation. Just look at the Sinner’s Prayer:

"Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ, died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey you, and to do your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen."

Look at how incredibly people-focused that prayer is. ‘I have broken the laws, I am sorry, I want to turn away, Jesus died for my sins, hears my prayer, I invite Jesus …’ The entire focus here is on the person, not God. It’s on how the person made God respond, and the fact that God is influenced by His emotions towards humanity.

Really, in a certain light, can’t religion be the most ego-driven of all? It makes humans feel important, in a way. It makes humans feel that there is a special purpose behind why they were created.

15 comments:

SocietyVs said...

"Really, in a certain light, can’t religion be the most ego-driven of all? It makes humans feel important, in a way. It makes humans feel that there is a special purpose behind why they were created." (Heather)

Religion is ego-driven and this much is obvious. It doesn't need to be about myself - it could be more about others - but life has this weird way of going back to us and we have this problem in many arenas. I think as humans we realize that we do have problems that need to be fixed - somehow and someway - and sometimes religion gives us that little 'uumph'.

I find very little wrong with the idea of a creation that matters. I like that idea we are important to God, not just me or you, everyone has that same value (although we all are different). I think that idea is a quite nice one to be honest.

Heather said...

SocietyVS,

** like that idea we are important to God, not just me or you, everyone has that same value (although we all are different). I think that idea is a quite nice one to be honest. ** I like the idea, too. It's comforting. I guess the 'danger' I see from that viewpoint is how ... well, scared, almost, fundamentalists are of science, and what it says about the origin of life. This can work for fundamentalists of any religion, and the backlash against learning. They're very fearful of being dislodged from their sense of 'importance,' in that out of all the Universe, and out of everything that God created, humans are first and foremost and affect this infinite, all-powerful being to such a high degree. In a way, it does exactly what fundamentalists say secularism does -- places the emphasis on self and how everything in the Universe is designed or reacts to one's self.

SocietyVs said...

"This can work for fundamentalists of any religion, and the backlash against learning. They're very fearful of being dislodged from their sense of 'importance," (Heather)

I agree and I have seen adequate proof of this in the past few years easily. I really do understand your point - one just has to read some of John Schuck's blogs and comments on there to see this exact thing in motion (he is a liberal dude and some of the conservative dudes rail him a little hard). But this is more in regards to protecting the religion - which I think is good for discussion and bad for the battlefield.

I have my issues with a self-centred Christianity since it is not exactly the Jesus I read about in the gospels. I have almost come to the conclusion that we work on ourselves and problems first, then move forwards to standing on our own (In Christ) to work closely with others - or that eventually our faith should become more 'love your neigbor' as compared to 'as I love myself'. I agree Heather completely and we can change these tides.

Roopster said...

Heather,

Sadly, you are right that religion is very ego-driven. However, I think we are missing the point. It should be about showing others compassion and kindness.

Paul

Heather said...

SocietyVS,

**I have my issues with a self-centred Christianity since it is not exactly the Jesus I read about in the gospels.** Same here. Jesus was about as far from self-centered as one could get. The type of Christianity we both don't like is where the person starts going, "Look at all these things God has done for me!" It's right up there with God providing the perfect parking spot. It's the difference between seeing what a Creator does as a whole, contrasted with what a Creator does for the invidiual and what the individual gets out of it.

Paul,

**It should be about showing others compassion and kindness.** I very much agree with you -- and I've found in most of the blogs I've read from former Christians, they have become more compassionate and kind. The type of Christianity they were formally practicing was all the ego-driven kind. And that's one of the things that troubles me when the standard response to athiesm is that the person wants to sin, or focus only on him/herself -- in general, that is very far from the case. There are selfish athiests, yes. But there are selfish people in everything.

Roopster said...

I'm getting ready to start a new blog that will simply focus on the philosophical teachings of Christ without the mysticism of Christianity. I believe there are a lot of nuggets here that get lost in the midst of trying to understand the mystery of the Trinity and all the issues we struggle with in Christianity.

Paul

Heather said...

Paul,

I look forward to reading the new blog, because I agree with you in terms of losing much when too focused on a certain set of beliefs. I'd say that the philosophical teachings should be easier, but it's amazing how quickly arguments can start over any element of Christianity. :) It does generate some excellent insights, though.

Mystical Seeker said...

One of my big complaints about certain strands of Christianity is that it is so focused on the afterlife. This is, to my mind, a big example of an ego-driven religion, where it is all about getting a ticket to a blissful afterlife--in other words, what's in it for me?

Heather said...

Mystical,

That would also be a big complaint of mine, as well. I know one of the reasons why Christians see athiesm as pointless is because that means this life as all there is, and thus there's no purpose. Whereas a Christian is assured a perfect, blissful eternal life. The problem I have with the eternal life as the focus -- aside from the 'what's in it for me --' is that there is less of a drive to try and make this life better for oneself, and others. Whereas an athiest would treasure this life, and do all s/he could to make it better (in theory. I'm sure there are those who don't).

Brendan said...

People worship themselves, no matter who they think they are praying to or praising. "God" as a Creator is merely a shadow of the creative process of language. Religion that concretizes the creative ego "out there" in some imagined form, and then proceeds to worship it, is still pure ego.

Heather said...

**People worship themselves, no matter who they think they are praying to or praising. ** And I think therein lies an element of danger, if not watched properly. I think pride is considered one of the most subtle sins, just because it's so easy to be disguised as humility and such. The focus can then be on how horrible a person is and how wretched and so on, but the person is so loved that an infinite being came and resuced the person and now the person is saved.

Mike said...

Heather,

I think you're right on here. Christianity cannot escape egocentrism. God is the epidomy of a "self" focused individual. The thing is, God's focus in Christianity is "Christlikeness", thus denying any other type of personality besides his own. You can't get more self centered than that!

I wrote a post about this on my blog: www.waughthinks.wordpress.com
right after I finished Dostoevsky's Notes From Underground.

Heather said...

Hi, Mike.

**The thing is, God's focus in Christianity is "Christlikeness", thus denying any other type of personality besides his own. You can't get more self centered than that!** I've seen responses to this that basically say since God is All/Sovergn (sp?), He can focus on Himself, because it really is all about Him. Okay, but given my finite viewpoint, how can I see that as anything else but self-centered? Especially since we're specfically told follow Christ -- and Jesus said to deny ourselves and follow God. But then who does God follow?

marie said...

I agree with you Heather. When I was a christian, I thought I had the key to a purpose in life, and that my narrow idea of daily living was the most superior. The Bible and Christianity can show people how to live versus how not to live--and that allows Christians to separate themselves from others and judge based on what they see as divinely inspired choices in themselves, and outward rejection of the divine in others. (i hope that made sense)...Thinking back to when I was a christian it seems that I lived in a God dart board, where my faith and theology was the Bull's Eye.

But now, I am one of billions of us who are just trying to survive on this earth--that makes it seem way more important to be a compassionate and radical actor in this life.

I do believe that Christianity can influence certain people to be selfless...but I cant help but wonder if those people would have acted similarly even without faith.

I'm glad to read your blog!

Heather said...

Hi, Marie!

Welcome. :)

**Thinking back to when I was a christian it seems that I lived in a God dart board, where my faith and theology was the Bull's Eye.** I tend to find that among certain areas of Christianity -- I no longer feel like a person, but more of a target to think as they think.

** do believe that Christianity can influence certain people to be selfless...but I cant help but wonder if those people would have acted similarly even without faith. ** I believe that it has changed people for the better, as well. But in my cynical moments, I actually wonder who's more moral: a Christian who does right because s/he has been forgiven and wants to please God, or the athiest because it's simply the right thing to do? The Christian actually seems to 'get' something out of it, in a selfish way.