Sunday, April 22, 2007

There is No Morality Without God

There is no morality without God. Without Him we wouldn’t know right from wrong, or good from evil. Millions of Americans believe this, and I am one of them.

Without God I would have no idea that it’s OK to kill adulterers, witches, and wayward sons. Without God I would have assumed that selling my daughter into slavery was wrong, and committing genocide was evil. Without God it would never occur to me that Shi’ites have a moral obligation to murder Sunnis and vice versa. Slavery, too, would have been labeled immoral in my book had I not the guidance of God’s Book.

I need God to instruct me in His ways because left to my own devices I would probably choose a more live-and-let-live lifestyle, following the advice of Rabbi Hillel, “Do not do unto others what you would not want others to do unto you.” He isn’t quoting God, just figuring things out for himself.

God also teaches us to love our neighbor and the stranger, to feed the hungry, and see to the welfare of the poor and powerless. These are great ideas, but I suspect I would have come up with these on my own. It is good to know God approves, but I probably didn‘t need Him to tell me to care for others in the first place. After all there are many godless societies that practice the Golden Rule. What they have to learn is how to wage genocide.

What I find troubling, however, is the fact that God didn’t want us to know good and evil. When Eve eats of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden she is not rewarded but punished. So is Adam for doing the same. If God wanted us to be moral He would have offered us the fruit Himself, but He didn’t. I can only draw one conclusion from this: God would rather us not be moral.

You see before Adam and Eve became moral they were naked and unashamed. As soon as they knew the difference between right and wrong they were ashamed and afraid. The fruit of the Tree didn’t supply them with moral insights, just a sense of guilt over having eaten from the Tree itself.

This is made clear when the First Folks leave the Garden and become the First Family, only to have their son Cain murder his brother Abel. If Adam and Eve knew that killing was wrong you would think they would have taught that to their kids, but Cain seems to be clueless in this regard. So the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was really the Tree of Knowledge of Shame and Fear, and I think this is why God didn’t want Adam and Eve to eat from it.

People who are naked and fearless are rarely a threat to others. If I don’t fear you I might get to know you. True, I might not like you, but I without fear I won’t try to enslave or kill you. Fear is the root of most evil for fear drives out love, justice and compassion.

So I am glad we have God to scare us and teach us how to be scared of others. Without Him I might not hate homosexuals, be obsessed with women’s hair and menstrual blood, or hope to kill an infidel now and again. Thanks God.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

The tree of knowledge of shame and fear. Sigh. I suppose that's the tree that supplied Lucy with the boards for her makeshift psychiatric clinic in Peanuts. I've often read the expulsion as a metaphor for humanities coming to self-awareness and the birth of duality in consciousness. Good and Evil aside, the system the fruit teaches is one of binary logic. Good/bad, yes/no, me/not me. There is knowledge here, and danger. Shame and fear are the danger, but there is nothing in the system itself that necessitates this. Adam and Eve prior to the apple were naked, unashamed, and unaware. After the apple, they might have been naked, unahsamed, and awake. That they weren't is a human failing, but one that speaks to the need for humilty. We cannot hide from what is, nor can we hide from what we are. Adam hides behind a bush to fool God, and behind a fig leaf to fool himself. He wants to be as otherworldy (As Godlike?) as the genital-less angels, but he is flesh, clay--he is of the world. To be of the world and still face God, that is my hope.