Magazine article The Humanist

Whose Fault Is the Human Condition?

Magazine article The Humanist

Whose Fault Is the Human Condition?

Article excerpt

There is a famous story about an essay contest in England in 1910. The topic was, "What is wrong with the world?" The British writer G. K. Chesterton wrote the winning entry. It consisted of two words: "I am"

In addressing the question, "Whose fault is the human condition?" I'm not going to focus on individuals, as Chesterton did. Instead I'd like to address larger human institutions or frames of thought. In particular, I want to consider science and religion: Which of these two institutions or frames of thought has had more of an impact on the sad, bloody human condition? The answer is religion. I refer herein to conventional, orthodox religion. Every reader of this magazine knows this, but I wish to present some reasons you may not have heard before.

From the conventional religious viewpoint, either God created human nature or else God allowed Satan to create human nature. Either way, our nature is God's will. That's what makes it human nature; we cannot change it. We can be "saved" they say. But most of the people I know who claim the Holy Spirit lives inside them live in just as worldly a fashion as do those whom they vilify. At the very least, even "saved" people still have human nature.

Therefore, from a religious perspective, "is" and "ought" are the same in human nature. Consider this example: men are more violent than women. According to religion, this is the way things ought to be; God made us that way. As a matter of fact, it's bad for men to suppress their violent nature. I vividly remember a radio broadcast in which James Dobson, a major voice of the religious right, condemned the Berenstain Bears cartoons because they depicted a father bear who was not sufficiently assertive and masculine. It is always men who start wars and who do most of the fighting--and this is the way God made it, religious people claim. …

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