As most folk who are acquainted with me know, I am a firm believer that the basic nature of every single person is that of genuine goodness. I write and converse quite often on the topic. I recently made the acquaintance of an Internet friend who has posed a series of thoughtful questions pertaining to my assertions regarding the basic nature of all humanity. I am all too happy to do my best to answer sincere questions, and thus today I will address the following such inquiry:
If humans are naturally good, why does Christianity beg to differ?
This question allows for a most practical discussion on the matter, for my thoughts regarding basic human nature do indeed contradict the Christian perspective on the subject (or vice versa, depending on one’s frame of reference). This question has arisen before, as one might well imagine, since our culture is so heavily influenced by the Judeo-Christian philosophy (a fact with merits and demerits from time to time). In order to do this topic justice, I must do the following:
-Review my thoughts regarding our basic human nature
-Discuss my thoughts regarding Christianity
-Conclude the discussion by answering the question as best I know how
A REVIEW OF MY THOUGHTS WITH REGARDS TO BASIC HUMAN NATURE
The basic nature of each and every person is that of genuine goodness. Most entities of the cosmos function quite consistently in accord with their basic nature, yet we of the human species differ somewhat in that we are free to make select choices based upon calculated reasoning and conditioned thinking. Consequently, individuals can and very oftentimes do function contrary to their basic nature of genuine goodness. Such inconsistent behavior clouds the true nature of the person, and furthermore creates difficulty for we who maintain the case that all people are genuinely good to support our thinking on the matter. Yet, the key is to realize that our actions do not always reflect our nature. Hence, in this case, the proof of the pudding is not necessarily in the tasting of the product thereof, but rather by way of reflection upon the recipe.
Our natural function is that of genuine goodness. Our actual function oftentimes is quite the opposite. Yet, I maintain that every person, regardless of our many diverse personalities, conditions, situations, cultures, upbringing, and yes; even our religious beliefs; all share a common mind with regards to certain matters and situations, and that this common mind inwardly reveals and innately manifests our true nature in the most spontaneous of all settings. I have come to believe that we do not know our basic nature by observation of the actions of others, for the inconsistency thereof clouds one’s true nature. Rather, we know our actual nature by intuition, for every person (I do believe) innately feels certain inclinations in certain situations which reveals to us for a brief moment our own true basic nature.
Spontaneous inclinations are based upon spontaneous feelings, which in turn reveal our actual basic nature. Once the brevity of the moment passes, our mind then calculates thoughts which leads to our actions regarding the setting at hand. The actions that we choose to take, if any at all, do not necessarily reveal our nature, but may very well reveal our character, which is an altogether different subject.
As an example, let us say that a person walks into a room that is empty save for one person. A young lady is seated on a chair, with her purse on the stand which is beside her. The young lady is weeping, head in hands, with sobs and moans which move us. I repeat: “WHICH MOVE US”. That moment; that SPONTANEOUS moment, is the setting when our basic nature creates within us a feeling over which we have no control. Is there any person who can deny that FOR A MOMENT that person would not be inwardly moved by the scenario at hand? The fact is, that our nature is such that we are momentarily disturbed by the moans of a lady sobbing or even an animal moaning in pain. I maintain that this momentary feeling, over which we have no control, is our true nature innately moving us.
Now, the moment that we begin to think this situation through, we are no longer feeling the natural inclinations of our basic human nature, but rather we are contemplating thoughts and calculating our decisions. Consider a hypothetical example of four different individuals who enter the room and encounter the circumstances just as I described them. There are a variety of courses of actions that each might pursue at the point of contemplation thoughts and calculating decisions:
a) One person might move across the room slowly, sit next to her, and quietly inquire as to what is wrong and whether they can assist her.
b) Another, wishing not to get involved, and out of respect for the lady, might quietly leave the room, hoping neither to have disturbed her, nor to have been noticed.
c) A third person might sit down, and merely do their best to ignore the young lady.
d) Another person altogether might realize an opportunity at hand, and thus grab her purse and flee the room.
Now, I leave the assessment of the character of each person in the hypothetical scenario at hand to the reader’s own reasoning, but I assert my thoughts on the nature of each and every person. I maintain that every person, regardless of the actions which they pursued, who encountered the scenario of a young lady weeping would MOMENTARILY be inwardly moved. I furthermore maintain that our true basic nature of genuine goodness is that which would in fact be inwardly moving us with regards to the circumstances. Thus, I assert that each of the four hypothetical persons so described share a common nature of genuine goodness, which spontaneously moved them each inwardly, even if for a brief moment, before they contemplated, calculated, and chose their respective courses of action.
THOUGHTS REGARDING CHRISTIANITY
Christianity is an agenda based philosophy which is based upon certain concepts which I cannot accept as reasonable (though at one time I most definitely did). I furthermore maintain that its realm of thought is that of speculation which accepts certain theories as alleged facts. Amongst such theories:
-The theory that there is a supernatural realm
(I deny that such is reasonable. I do not necessarily deny conclusively that such exists, I merely maintain that there is no evidence that allows that I can know conclusively that such does exist. Hence, I deny that such is reasonable)
-The theory that there is a “heaven” and “hell”.
(I obviously deny that such is reasonable, for such would be of the aforementioned supernatural realm.)
-The theory that the Judeo-Christian writings (the Bible) are supernaturally inspired.
(I find the Bible more fascinating now than even when I believed such to be inspired material. There are some wonderful philosophies therein; and there are some grossly misapplied and misinterpreted writings, and some clear discrepancies therein. All such when followed as a way of life have historically created social hardships and shed innocent blood. Inasmuch as I love certain concepts taught therein, all the while loathing others, I deny the notion that any or all such writings are inspired by the supernatural, for I deny that the belief in the supernatural is reasonable)
-The theory that humankind is inherently evil or that we are eternally accountable for our earthly discrepancies, and thus in danger of eternal hell fire and brimstone.
(I deny such as reasonable. There is no evidence of the aforementioned realm to satisfy my intellectual reasoning, AND there is the aforementioned evidence of our own intuitive tendencies which reveal that our true basic nature is that of genuine goodness)
-The theory that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, and that he saves those who believe in him from eternal punishment in hell
(I find it reasonable to accept the historicity of such an individual. Assuming that he actually lived, and assuming the accuracy of his basic message, I believe that he was a social reformer. In fact, his “golden rule”, which was very close to the teachings of Confucius some 500 years earlier, is actually an appeal to a universal principle of social reciprocity which in order to be applied, merely requires that one function in accord with our basic nature of genuine goodness. Like most social reformers, his message was rejected by the established thinking of the day, as evidenced by his execution, assuming such to have actually occurred. As to his relationship to a deity, or as to his being a deity, or as to his role regarding salvation from hellfire and brimstone, or regarding deliverance of his faithful followers into the eternal “sweet by and by”, I reject all such as unreasonable since there is no evidence to support the theory of a supernatural realm whatsoever.)
The conflict between the Christian view that human nature is evil (“there is none righteous, no not one”), and my view that the basic nature of all humanity is that of genuine goodness; is owed to the fact that in order for the general story of Christianity to be accepted, one must adopt the view that we are naturally bad and our only hopes are to be spared from eternal damnation by the atoning effect of the sacrificial blood of a perfect Savior.
I, on the other hand, maintain that it is more reasonable to trust my own intuition rather than to trust the alleged written revelation of another.
In closing, I would assert that there is a synthesis of my philosophy of the genuine goodness of our basic nature with that of the Christian philosophy. In fact, I have not changed much as a person since my days as a Christian. I have always been sensitive to the plight of others, but at one time I thought that I was fulfilling a “mission from God” in so feeling. Actually, I was listening to my intuition. My closing point is this:
I maintain that the most natural of all experiences and the most noble of all endeavors is to develop from within the natural goodness which is our true basic nature. The Christian who lives a good, generous, sensitive life; with the aspirations of living throughout all eternity in heaven after this life, does indeed develop from within the natural goodness which was always there.
The perspective differs in that the Christian attributes to God that which I believe is merely natural. But the process of moral self cultivation of every individual would be most desirable and beneficial for all society, regardless whether the one party does so believing he is merely developing his natural goodness from within, or whether the other party does so in order to do “God’s will”.
And such concludes my thoughts on “The Genuine Goodness of Human Nature and the Christian Perspective”.