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



  1. Estella B. Avatar
    Estella B.

    I’m tracking with you. Yes, please send your new book, MAKING THE WORLD HUMAN AGAIN. Thank you.

  2. Steve Avatar

    I am sorry but I disagree with you. We are not animals, we are fallen men. God created us below Him, but above the animals. Our real problem is sin. Repentance is useless we enter into relationship with The Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance is useless without the blood of our savior cleansing us of our sins. Repentance is useless unless our response to His call leads us to dying to ourselves, so we can begin to live unto Him.

  3. Alex Avatar

    Thanks, Estella. You can order the book on

    Steve, Why are you sorry? You don’t believe Man is an animal.
    I do. The word “animal” is (in popular usage) reserved for non-human animals. So, you’re right. But biologically speaking, Man is part of the Animal Kingdom. I think that reality needs to be kept before us if we’re to understand what it means to be human.

  4. Alex Avatar

    Katie, Thanks. The next installment is on Directionality. Realignment only works if you have something or someone to align with.

  5. Katie N Avatar
    Katie N

    hi alex! this is good.
    i need to reread it again, though.
    congrats on your book! i can’t wait to read it!

  6. Alex Avatar

    Eric, exactly. I wonder why Dawkins wants to “throw off” our Darwinian past? Why not applaud it?

    In general terms, human beings evolve both biologically and culturally. Cultural and biological evolution both pivot on cognition. Biology may give the necessary conditions for the emergence of human cognition but it does not give us sufficient ground for the emergence of morally oriented human culture.

    It may be that Dawkins advocates a “realignment” because of the influence that the Judeo-Christian experience has had on all of the world, including anti-theistic westerners like Dawkins.

    In terms of the mystic…it is the energy of the persona behind the Judeo-Christian experience that is influencing us all.

    Thanks for the input.

  7. Eric S Avatar

    Alex, good to see you “thinking out loud” again. Interesting to me that someone so “anti-God” (Dawkins) recognizes the troubles without some sort of moral compass or direction, which then leads towards the “animalization” of humans. It seems that the human compass will realign naturally if the two, the heart of God and people, are close enough to each other…

  8. Parepidemos Avatar

    “the energy of the persona behind the Judeo-Christian experience that is influencing us all” — yup, that’s what defines the essence of human (vs. “unrepentable animal” vs. “demon”)… and also what pulls at each human heart, hinting at how it must be realigned.

    Yet it’s even more than the silent mystic appeal of The Persona. It is knitted into our DNA, woven into the hyperstrands of multidimensional space, it is the very texture and direction of the tide of time. As Paul said, “When outsiders who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation.” (cf. Romans 2:14 or thereabouts)

    This is why the non-sense of evil, and its implacable strength, apparently at a similar level of inherence in reality, is so confounding and disturbing to me.

    It seems that a whole lot must go into this “realignment”, and that when such realignment happens, something fundamental changes in the fabric of the world in which we live. Something worth celebrating, even if we don’t grasp its entirety!

  9. […] McManus offers “Realigning the Soul to the Heart of God“. He offers a creative engaging essay on the need for humanity to […]

  10. Ken Storey Avatar

    I heard a argument, that we are just animals, and most animals kill their mentally challenged babies and this professor said so should we.

    We are animals in one sense, yet this one box fits all idea is flawed. Just a person can be more than one role, we as a race can be in more than one role.

    Do you think ‘realign’ is as serious of a word to use instead of repent? Repent is such a loading word, do you think realign is as loaded? I do like it, its much easier to use in conversation than repent. Repent is christian lingo anymore.

  11. Alex Avatar

    Ken, Different animals treat their young different ways. Perhaps the professor (of which you speak) has not observed how the human animal treats their young in the wild. Some of us kill the weak or defective. Take the Spartans as an example. Others of us care even more for the vulnerable. Examples abound. He advocates nature’s way. That’s nature’s way when it comes to the human animal.

    Being an animal is not a role. It is what we are in the natural order of things. What kind of animal we are is up to us in a way not possible to the other animals. We are the praying animal, the animal that worships, the animal that is open to the future and can shape it by the decisions she makes and actions she takes. This may be why some from among us treat the weak with hope. The professor you speak of chooses a darker view of reality. There may be some rationale for aborting a life that will be one of suffering. But, If we kill the mentally handicapped, then why not kill the physically impaired? Or those of us that are ugly? Or those of us that are too short? Or too tall?

    Yes, I think realign is as serious a word (as “repent”) and a more accurate word as well. It is more accurate in the sense that repent feels more serious to some of us because of the meanings and experiences we attached to it. But (because of our experiences with the uses of the word “repent”) “repent” has particular moralistic and emotional nuances that can obscure the meaning.

    Thanks for your input.

  12. Parepidemos Avatar

    I think Steve, the second poster (whom no one replied to yet), sheds some light on this “animal” and “repent vs. realign” stuff.

    > The problem is one of semantics. (stay with me here: “semantics” is not a synonym for “hair-splitting” but the science of understanding the meaning of words in various contexts) Humans are animals in the pragmatic sense– as opposed to being mineral, vegetable, or viral. We do in fact belong in the “animal kingdom”. So I disagree with Steve’s offhand rejection of the animality of humans.

    But I understand where Steve’s coming from: we are distinct from all other known life forms in that God tells us we are made in His image– He sees Himself reflected somehow, in a genuine way, when He looks at a human. All the rest of creation reflects its creator in other ways, but humans alone are “like God”. That’s why humans are so precious: because God is infinitely valuable, and we in His image are, in some sense, godlike.

    > Right. And what is that? “Missing the mark”, failing to align with divine perfection. (that God would hold us to such a standard speaks volumes about how godlike we were created to be)

    Steve, thank you for so powerfully illustrating exactly why Alex is suggesting “realign” is a better term than “repent”. The repentance you decry as useless is that moralistic “gosh-I-feel-bad” + formulaic “say the magic prayer and you’re set” idea of repentance that obscures the whole-life realignment which you so eloquently define as being REAL repentance.

    The other penny of my two cents: talking about aligning, or realigning, ourselves with God begs the question– what are God’s passions and values? Where is God headed? It constantly puts the focus of discipleship back onto God, and off the disciple or the discipler. (or it could, anyway– I plan to use the term that way)

  13. Curtis Avatar

    I’m coming a bit late to the party, but here are some thoughts…
    1. Morality isn’t the only “economy” of right vs. wrong in the world or in the Scriptures. For instance, you have the notion of honor vs. shame in Fuedal Japan and the Chivalry Code in Europe during the Middle Ages.

    2. From a Biblical standpoint, the question of right vs. wrong (or Holiness) is addressed first in terms of purity (hence the rules against intermarriage, crossbreeding animals, etc.) From a metaphysical standpoint humans are a “hybrid” and crossbreed of personality (a la God) and animality. Post Fall, without a mediator (the abiding presence of God) humanity is hopelessly locked in this metaphysical uncleaness. I believe the fact that we are “created” on day 6 along with the rest of the beasts of the land, or the fact that we are created at all, lends creedence to the notion of being “animal” in one sense or another. Yet, at the same time, we are God’s image. So, again, we are hyrbids

    3. From the NT perspective (in the Roman world at least, and perhaps in the OT as well) there is something very akin to the honor/shame calculus in the Client-Broker-Patron relationship. Where the client’s job is to bring honor and glory to the Patron, and the Broker’s job is to find more clients for the Patron. In this economy whatever brings the Patron honor is “right” and what doesn’t is “wrong.”

    All that to say, morality isn’t as cut and dry as Dawkins or most Christians like to think it is.

  14. Andrew Avatar

    Hey guys,
    It seems to me, and perhaps I’m just not deep enough, that repent and realign are not terms describing the same feature of human-ness. It seems to me, at least in the common usages of the words rather than the literal, that repentance would be the starting point of realignment. Man will not have reason to realign himself with God if he does not come to the realization that there is any need for him to. Jesus called both for repentance and to follow (realignment?).

    I am also curious how an anti-theist can even refer to “evil” without acknowledging an absolute Good. Did this come from one of Dawkins’ books or from an actual conversation? If a book which one? It would be interesting to see how he defines evil . . . .

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