On Joan of Arcadia, Joan asks her dad, Will Girardi, if he believes in God. Will responds that his parents continually tried to shove religion down his throat, but he always wondered something: Why’s God beat up on him, when God’s the one who made us flawed?
We learn in other episodes that Will was raised a Catholic. I often hear the words “Catholic” and “guilt” in the same sentence, which may explain why Will felt God “beat up” on him. At DePauw, I had a class with a student who called himself a “recovering Catholic,” and my professor replied, “That’s the best kind.” Personally, I’ve felt more guilty in evangelical settings than I do at Catholic mass, but that’s just me.
But, in any case, Will’s comments reminded me of something I read on an atheist web site, which has forums for ex-Christians. On the “lust and pride” forum, someone says the following:
“I don’t know whether to put this in the rants section or here, but I think I’ll put it here just because I think it makes absolutely NO F[***]ING SENSE why one should be made guilty for experiencing things we were programmed to feel.
“Honestly, out of all the things that make me RAGING MAD about religion, this would be at the top. When a man sees a good looking female, he’s going to get excited if you know what I mean. He’s going to experience sexual feelings and he may even want to act on them. And I’m sure the same could be said for females.
“Now Christians will say that we all acted on our desires, we would be out raping and killing. THAT’S NOT WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT HERE. I’m talking about ‘thought’ sins which harm absolutely NO ONE. NO ONE IS HARMED BY FANTASIES UNLESS THEY ACTUALLY ACT ON SOME OF THEM. Next, we have the sin of pride, another one which seems to be at the top of some Christians list (at least the ones I experienced). Now, obviously prideful, arrogant people who brag about all their accomplishments can get annoying, but according to some of the religious, if you even give yourself credit or feel good about something you did without a[cknowledging] god, that falls under ‘pride’. The only way not to feel pride is to consider yourself so lowly that you’re dirt compared to the almighty.
“Of course, these are both extreme examples, but that’s the point. NOT EVERYONE IS THE SAME, THERE’S ALWAYS SOMEONE BETTER OR WORSE THAN ANOTHER. It’s like a speedomiter, if you press the gas pedal just a little bit, you’re not going to be going 100MPH. You can go 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, or anywhere over or in between. I could never fathom a world with no moderation because that world DOES NOT EXIST!!! Yet according to most Christians, one who looks at a woman lustfully is no better than a serial rapist.
“What crap! And oh yeah, just to clarify, I know the answer that will surely come my way, Jesus already paid for our sins, yadda yadda yadda. Well, that could start an entirely different thread, but that’s out of this question. Even with Jesus, the belief is still the same, all sins, even the small ones, merit the same fate, eternal damnation. So we shouldn’t even try to do good. What a crock of s[**]t.”
See Lust And Pride.
I think atheists can be pretty dogmatic and narrow-minded themselves, but this quote resonated with me. I know there are Old Testament and Jewish quotes that criticize pride and lust, but I like the way that Judaism emphasizes correct behavior as opposed to having the exact right motivation, and also its acknowledgement of human nature. There’s one midrash that says God gave humans the yezer ha-ra (the evil inclination), since, without it, they wouldn’t have children or start businesses. My impression is that Judaism says we should keep our base nature under control, whereas Christianity believes humans need to kill that nature by embracing Christ or receiving baptism. I think Judaism is more realistic about how humans actually are. I’ve not seen too many Christians who lack a sinful nature!