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lenten reflection

7 February 2008 no comment

As a nonbeliever now, I listened to yesterday’s prayers about how
awful humanity is, and I have to wonder of the truth of these
lamentations from a humanistic point of view. Is humanity broken? Is
there something wrong with us? Do the newspapers and CNN bear this
out daily?

Imagine a Serengeti newspaper – ever-increasing leonine “gang”
violence, including rampant infanticide; poverty and hunger on a
plains-wide level; overcrowding at local hydration centers
(notwithstanding seasonal outages); is this a fundamental breakdown of
the morality of the animal kingdom? No one I know would say yes. But
is there something (and if so, what) about the human animal that gives
these actions a moral quality? Is it pure rationality? Sentience?
Self-awareness? Species taxonomy refers to us as Homo Sapiens
– are we really that wise?

Christians and Humanists alike have developed theories of Natural Law.
Indeed, Aristotle is said to be the “father” of Natural Law, and his
precepts were a main influence in Aquinas’ Summa Theologica.
But from an approach that depends neither on eternal punishment or the
submission to any divine authority, the exploration of what is “right”
and “wrong” in nature, specifically applicable to humanity, is tricky
at best. Most would shy away from moral relativism as a basis for
analysis, especially when one’s own morality (and the foundation
thereof) can be called into question. My own concept of Right And
Wrong, of course, has been shaped by my Christian background, but now
that a divine reward/punishment no longer looms overhead (below?), the
need to understand it becomes imperative.

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