I talked to a man who cheated on his wife. In his mind what he did was natural. He did nothing more than any animal in the wild would do, he explained to me.
Photo: Performers Jason Sharp and Ansus Berkana with part of the Crew from Thousand Oaks, California at Voxtropolis 2008
I get that we’re animals, I told him. I just wonder if we’re more than that.
Certainly our species, Homo Sapiens, belongs on the chart of animal life resident on planet earth. Mankind is part of the animal kingdom. The majority view today (at least within the scientific community) is that all living things emerged from a single celled common ancestor. We all have a common origin.
My friend who cheated on his wife had a point. We are animals. And, with him in mind, I ask the question: do animals ever need to repent?
Oddly enough, I recently heard input on this issue from one of the more entertaining anti-theists, Richard Dawkins.
In a conversation on morality, Dawkins stated his belief that we “get our immorality largely from our Darwinian past.”
In a strategic and bold statement, Dawkins asserts that when it comes to morality, the “first thing we should do is throw out Darwinism. We should regard Darwinian natural selction as a great evil. It’s out there. It’s true. It’s what is causing the whole living world to be the way it is (including ourselves) and we humans have uniquely the power to gainsay it.”
He argues with great vision that we can “throw off” our Darwinianism past. While Darwinianism would remain true in terms of understanding how the world got to be the way it is, we can make a world which is anti-Darwinian in terms of morality.
I hear Dawkins saying that the human animal needs to repent. Well, almost.
At very least, it seems that both the Theist and the anti-theist can deduce from humanity’s current state of affairs, that we must change.
In Dawkin’s view, as our biology caused us to act like ruthless, cruel, self serving animals in the past, now our rationality can cause us act like compassionate and loving animals. We present day humans are just victims of our ruthless bipedal ancestors. But the human animal today can choose to align himself with “good” and throw off “evil.”
In an evolutionary framework, man does not fall he rises. (See Making the World HUMAN AGAIN: the quest to save the future from religion by Alex McManus). But now we see that if man rises, he does so to “throw off” evil.
Interestingly enough, the anti-theist, Dawkins, agrees here with Jesus. Humans do need to repent. My friend Brian Russel, during the last IMN 7-Day Immersion, used “realign” as a synonym for repent. ‘Realign yourselves” were among the first words of Jesus’ first message. Jesus’ concern was the realignment of everything with the heart of God.
Dawkins envisions making a world that is anti-darwinian in terms of morality. Jesus, on the other hand, already announced a world that is anti-darwinian in terms of morality. Mr. Dawkins, welcome aboard.
One difference may be that what Dawkins sees as the “cause” of evil may actually be the context of evil. Neither evolution nor environment cause women and men to be evil. Evolution and environment may indeed be the context in which we are evil, and it may contribute to facilitate our evil, but, as much as we may wish to blame our nasty biological ancestors and crummy prehistorical living conditions, they are not the cause of our evil. The pivotal factor in human evil is what we do with what we want.
According to the philosopher, Mick Jagger, “You can’t always get what you want.” But that’s never kept us from trying. According to the Genesis story, it seems that we choose betrayal over loyalty, murder over contrition. Rather than embrace our God given place as the lovers of creation and people, we prefer to be the exploiters of nature and of strangers. Rather than be co-creators with God, we prefer to be consumers and sluggards. What we want and choose to do about it is the cause of evil.
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I’m not sure how Dawkins defines evil nor how this category works in his mind. It doesn’t make sense in my mind. In fact, seeing evil as “non-sense” is the only way evil makes sense. It is absurd. It’s not supposed to make sense.
Somewhere in the ancient past, some early unnamed human, picked up a rock and (out of jealousy or greed or pride) struck his brother on the head. After his fit of rage subsided, he realized what he had done. His brother would rise to walk no more. He was now forever a part of the ground.
Whatever he coveted was now his. He got what he wanted and he was ashamed of it.
The more I think about it, the more convinced I am. Animals do need to repent. The only animals who can repent are the human ones. The human animal is the only animal who can choose to be less than he was intended to be. So we both can and need to “throw off” the lesser self. We can turn from evil. We can realign ourselves towards God.
My friend who cheated on his wife reminded me of something really important. Because of morality, the human species does not live on a spectrum between animal and human. When the human animal turns rogue, we do not become animals. That’s what we already are. When we go bad, we become demons. The question then is, how can we become human again?
We realign ourselves. We repent.
What do you think?
If you liked this post, you may appreciate my book, Making the World Human Again: the quest to save the future from religion. Order now and you’ll receive a pre release discount.
See you …in the mystic
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